Thursday, April 16, 2015

Memoria Press Review

     I have recently had the opportunity to review a cursive writing curriculum from Memoria Press called New American Cursive:Penmanship Program Workbook 1. Cursive writing is not often taught in our school systems today and I was eager to teach my own homeschooled children. Though Memoria Press includes this soft-covered, spiral-bound workbook with their first grade classical curriculum, I decided it would be the best fit for my third grader.

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     New American Cursive is a workbook with fun interactive lessons that are engaging to young children. Some of the letters are somewhat simplified from classic cursive writing, making them easier to write. As they learn each new upper and lower case cursive letter, there is a space for their own unique artwork. My son used this are to draw pictures of the cursive letters going on extraordinary adventures. It worked out to be a great way to capture his interest and provided him with extra practice on his letters!

Memoria Press Review     I think this workbook will be a great introduction to cursive for any young child K-3 depending on the child. My third grader has some fine-motor delays/ dyslexic-tendencies and handwriting has always been an area of struggle for him. I know that often children who do struggle with printing can improve when taught cursive. I hope this is the case for him, he did really enjoy using the workbook and mommy enjoyed that it was simple for him to understand what was required of him so he could do the work independently. I also really like the format of this book. the spiral binding is at the top of the book making it equally effective for left and right handed children. This is an aspect often overlooked by publishers and so I really appreciate the forethought that went into New American Cursive.

     There is a teaching guide at the beginning of the book which gives several suggestions on how to make this program successful for your children. It also talks about why cursive is important for your children. I didn't know that cursive can improve the neural pathways between the left and right side of the brain! I'll be eager to see how this benefit my strongly left-brained child. The work samples of some of the 6 and 7 year olds that did this program are very impressive, however I know that not all children will be capable of such excellent penmanship so early on and I am happy with the age we are starting at as I feel it's perfect for our situation.

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     New American Cursive is $22.95, there are several pages you can look at and try out on their website if you would like to see the format they use. There are also additional levels that Memoria Press offers for more advanced cursive practice.

     If you would like more information, please go check out Memoria Press' website and the other reviews by Review Crew members (click the link below). Memoria Press also offers lots of other classical curriculum materials on their website, so be sure to check them out as well.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Egglo Entertainment Review

     Easter is on it's way! My kids are always excited about celebrating Easter with an egg hunt, and we got to have one early this year as we tried out some fun Christ-centered products from Egglo Entertainment.

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Egglo Entertainment sent us several Easter products to try out in our home including a set of their glow-in-the-dark eggs, The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book, Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls, and their downloadable event curriculum. Here's our family's impression of each of these items:

 photo Egglo 2.jpgEgglo Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs : These eggs are a stronger, more durable version of what you'd typically find in the stores. Plus, if you charge them well (instructions come in the box) they have a very strong glow!! We had an indoor night time egg hunt since it's been very warm here and there are LOTS of creepy crawlies outside at night. =)The eggs were easy to spot in the dark, even for our 2 year old. It was really fun to have a different kind of egg hunt at night, the kids had a lot of fun with it. There are some pre-made scavenger hunts on the Egglo website if you would like to make your egg hunt into a scavenger hunt.

 photo Egglo4.jpgEgglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls: Each Scripture Scroll had a shortened version of a Bible verse written on it, many with the theme of Jesus being the Light of the World to tie into the theme of a glow in the darkness. The inventive little scroll design made these different and fun for the kids. The paper is a thicker on these, which makes them more durable for rolling and unrolling. I do wish these had the full Scriptures written on them as they would make a wonderful Bible memorization tool if they did.  

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Bible Verse Scroll Stickers These are a sticker version of the Scripture Scrolls. You can use them for decorating your eggs, for Easter cards for friends, or even inside the eggs as a little treasure to discover. These are quality stickers that are thick enough to not rip easily as you remove them from the backing.

Egglo Entertainment ReviewThe Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Book- This is a paperback story book about a magical adventure that 3 kids and their dog go on together. They follow magical glowing eggs that send them around the world in search of a treasure. Each child learns a lesson through Scripture references about how to put others first, trust in God and listen to others. The illustrations in the book are excellent and vividly colorful. I would have preferred if this story had been a little more realistic personally. I think it's difficult for children to understand the Truth of Scripture when it's written into an imaginary adventure filled with things that couldn't really happen. But the story itself was fascinating to my children and they enjoyed the bright pictures and I found them flipping through the pages again and again. It also sparked a great discussion for us about how we could use the lessons learned in the included Scriptures in real-life situations.  
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The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Event Curriculum: This downloadable curriculum is a great resource for churches, schools or other big Easter events. It comes with several versions of invitation, wall decorations, and lots of ideas. There are crafts and Easter themed snacks to make. We enjoyed the coloring pages that were included. There's also some egg hunt discussion questions, additional game ideas and questions to discuss the book as well.

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 My kids had a great time with these products from Egglo Entertainment. And I know that the glow in the dark eggs will be a perennial favorite with them even after Easter is over. They have already been incorporating them into some of their other toys (they make great "dragon eggs" in a dark nest). Egglo actually has a whole pinterest page set up to come up with more ideas for using your glow in the dark eggs.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

" ... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength." ~Philippians 4:11-13

     We've all been there. Chaos. Too many demands and not enough time to meet them. Too much stuff and not enough place to put it. Too much emotion and not enough time to sort through them. How do you deal with chaos in your life? Do you run from it? Do you ignore it? Do you stand strong in your own strength? 

     Sometimes we can look at our situation and we can remove certain unessential things and make our lives less hectic, and sometimes, it's just not possible. Life is hard. 

      Sometimes, what we need to do is get out of our own head. Seeing someone else's perspective can help us put our own in it's proper place. And often the best way to gain some perspective is not from your friend who looks at everything the same way as you do. Look at a different country or a different time, or get to know someone in different circumstances than you. 

     When I was in college I went on a missions trip to the Mexican slums. We were helping people who lived in the trash heaps of Mexico to build permanent homes, instead of the homes built out of trash that they were living in. During a break in our work, a few of us decided to get in a wrestling match to push each other into a mud puddle. We all ended up more covered in dirt than we were before, but we didn't care, we had fun and we went back to work with smiles on our faces.

      At the end of the day we did a VBS class for the local children. Those of us that had been muddied up left our shoes and socks by the front door of the church and went in barefoot. At the end of our class, we went to go put our shoes back on. A woman who we had been helping build an outhouse came over to me. Everyday I had been there, she had worn the same dress. Her house where she lived with her large family, was about the size of my bathroom back home. She had just received a small bag of donated clothes from the mission and she came over to me to offer me a pair of clean socks because mine were covered in mud. 

     This woman lived in a situation that was "chaotic" by our US standards. She had very little, no running water, dirt floors, lots of people in a small space. But she chose, out of her poverty to be kind and share. With me, who had a drawer full of so many socks back home that I could barely close it. I thanked her kindly but let her know to the best of my ability in my limited Spanish that I would be okay, I had more socks. 

     I tell this story because I think its a great example of the perspective I am talking about. What would your attitude be in her situation? Would you have enough compassion left to be giving to others? Or would you be so overwhelmed by your own miserable situation to feel that you had nothing to give, nothing to offer someone else because your own concerns overwhelmed you? 

     I don't speak from a place of contentment. I struggle with wishing for more. I can get stuck in focusing on the negatives of my life that I wish I could change. There's a dangerous idea in our culture that has even infected the church. The idea that if our life isn't how we want it we can just change it by a conscious effort. That anything that is hard or not how we want it, we shouldn't have to deal with. Tell that to the person who will spend the rest of their life in a wheel chair, or who has lost their child, or who has terminal cancer. Sometimes, things aren't fixable. But our attitude IS. We can always fix our perspective, our compassion for others, our gratefulness for what we DO have rather than our negativity for what we don't. 

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." 
~Philippians 4:11-13

     It's God's strength and not our own who can carry us through whatever difficulty we face. It's God's perspective that will bring us contentment. Knowing that he has placed us EXACTLY where we are for a purpose and a reason.

  "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
~Romans 8:28

     Whatever you face right now, there is hope. No matter how hard it seems and how much you would rather give up. DO GIVE UP! Give up yourself and take on God's strength. Give up your hurt and take on God's peace. Give up your negativity and take on God's hope that your life has meaning and purpose. Be content, not because everything is FINALLY perfect but because there is a job you have right here and now. Do YOUR best and be content, because that IS enough.