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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Home School Navigator (A Homeschool Crew Review)


For the past month, the kids have been working on a new reading and language arts curriculum. 


Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum  is the brainchild of Ashley Lenhart and Beth Strock, who students will become very familiar with through the program as both Ashley and Beth are featured in video lessons and read aloud for the program. Home School Navigator is a comprehensive curriculum that offers 36 weeks of learning per level.  Each level offers word studies, vocabulary, book units, video lessons library and review games. 

There are six available levels with Home School Navigator - Red (which is leveled for approximately a kindergarten reading level) on through Indigo (approximately a fifth-grade reading level). For this review, we will be focusing on Level Green (3rd Grade) and Blue (4th Grade) because they are the levels my children used. However, I was able to look at all six levels before making a final decision on these to levels and can say that all six levels are structured the same way. 

Upon logging into the Family Dashboard, you have access to all enrolled students. Students can customize this area with their photograph.  This screen also displays what level the student is currently working on as well as the percentage of the level they have completed. Each level is comprised of 9 months of instruction with 4 weeks each month.   Each student has their own individual password and once that is entered, will bring the student to their currently assigned level and their assignments.


Assignments are listed out by month and week format.  So, 2.1 would be the 1st week of the 2nd month of lesson.  Clicking on a particular week will then bring up that week's assignments using a month/week/day format (2.1.3 would be the 3rd day of the 1st week of the 2nd month of assignments).  This screen shows the day's assignments as well provides the day's videos and lists all worksheets to be done that day.  

Each day starts with a schedule provided by Home School Navigator. This schedule lists what books and handouts will be used that day, as well as what each of the assignments will cover.  Having this schedule helps for the parent to determine which assignments they want the student to work on that day if they choose not to complete all assignments and it also works well as a checklist to mark of what has been completed. 


For many of the read-aloud books, Home School Navigator provides links to videos of the books being read aloud either by Ashley or Beth.  This is optional but works well for those like me who do not have access to a well-stocked public library and allows for the student to still enjoy the read-aloud books. 




These read-aloud links are hosted by YouTube, but again, are completely optional and are not required viewing (the child reading the physical book is preferred) to use Home School Navigator.  They include a wide selection of books, many of which I have never heard of prior. For levels Green and Blue, the kids will read (and reread on the following day) 58 books, including 4 chapter books that have an Interactive Notebook element included with it (more on that in a few).  Authors featured are Laura Numeroff, Eric Carle, Paul Galdone, Tomie dePaola, Steven Kellogg, Patricia Polacco, and Chris Van Allsburg among many many others. 

At the end of each day's assignments, there is the option to upload all physical work into the database for recordkeeping, or to mark the assignment completed without scanning and uploading the work.  Marking the assignment complete allows for the progress bar for the level to advance. However, forgetting to mark the assignment complete does not restrict the student from moving on to the next day's lesson so if the student forgets, they can still continue with the lessons. 


Most assignments are planned for the first 4 days of the week. Day 5 is typically a light day to be used for catching up on work that might not have been completed. 

Students are also encouraged to read a minimum of 30 minutes a day from a book of their choosing.  The program does teach the student how to select a book that is "just right" for their reading level.  These books are independent from the program and are selected by the student based on their preference. 


How We Used It:

After taking a bit of time to look over the levels that I might possibly want to use with the kids and decide on Green for Garrett and Blue for Ashleigh, I downloaded the individual files that contained all the paperwork for those levels and printed out the first weeks worth of work.  We decided to start at 1.1.1 for both levels. 

Unfortunately, my laptop took an unfortunate tumble and I have been left without a computer for some time (I am still without at the time of this writing) and I worried how we would be able to efficiently review an online curriculum.  Because of this, I want to approach this review a bit different because you might find yourself in a very similar situation.  I am happy to report, I was able to use this program without a computer.  Yes, you heard that correctly -- I used a completely online curriculum without a computer, using my television, a Fire TV, and a Kindle. 


I have tried to use a few other online curricula using my Fire TV since the loss of my computer and unfortunately, it proved to be nearly impossible.  The format of the websites would not allow for the Silk Browser on my Fire TV to properly render the buttons for videos or the text would be extremely hard to read.  However, the Home School Navigator website runs smoothly on the Silk Browser, allowing me to enter passwords, click on videos and check work as completed easily.


Having a wireless printer that connected to my wifi network helped in being able to print the materials that I needed each week, however, for those without this capability, it would easy to go to a public library to print the necessary materials.  Parents have the option of downloading all the worksheets at one time or they can print directly only the ones they want from the assignment list for the day.


I will admit that the printer will get a workout from this curriculum.  Some weeks require more printing than others do, however, on average I print about 10-20 pages per level each week.  Month two includes even more printing with the introduction of the Interactive Notebooks that are included in Levels Green, Blue, and Indigo (more on this in a moment).  Since we opted to do all the assignments each week, this meant more printing than would be included when picking and choosing assignments.  Each week, I would print out the necessary papers for both Green and Blue, staple them together and the kids would work through their pack.


An optional component of Home School Navigator includes journaling.  Each day, students are asked to journal in their notebooks for roughly 20 minutes a day.  I had both Ashleigh and Garrett to use work on this journal at least once a week (depending on how much writing other assignments we were working on that day included), sometimes more.  They could write whatever they wanted, and I told them I would not focus on correct spelling so long as they actually spent that time writing.


  I was actually surprised that Garrett didn't seem to mind doing this portion of the curriculum and I'm going to end up keeping these early journals for fun memories when they are older.


Garrett also enjoyed doing the optional cursive practice for his spelling words each week.


I originally thought Garrett wasn't all that thrilled with the curriculum (Garrett hates language arts) and he didn't seem very enthusiastic with the selections for the first few weeks, where the read-alouds focused mostly on variations of Cinderella and elements of fairy tales.  However, I was pretty surprised when he filled out this Venn Diagram comparing the original Cinderella to a story entitled Abelita (A Mexican/Spanish variation of the story).  I realized he was paying much more attention to the stories then I had originally thought.

My son filled out a Venn Diagram!!!
This was further confirmed when, on Monday, we worked on another language arts assignment and Garrett asked if we could work on Home School Navigator.  Garrett NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) asks to do anything that involves reading books or writing in journals..  Yes, Garrett, you can do homeschool navigator.



In the second month of the upper levels (Green, Blue, and Indigo), students are introduced to Interactive Notebooks which are similar to a lapbooking element but without the cutesy pictures and bright colors. Instead, it gives students an interactive way to focus on elements in story writing, vocabulary, and provides a platform for a deeper, more meaningful discussion in regards to the story being read.  The components of the Interactive Notebook brings the child's focus on specific elements in the story as well as encourages the student to learn to recognize those elements in other writings.  While they are included with the Home School Navigator curriculum, they can also be purchased individually to be used with independent book studies.


Ashleigh is in the 2nd month of the Blue level and for week one, she was introduced to the Interactive Notebooks. Her first notebook is The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  After I printed out the pages for her notebook, she had fun cutting each piece and placing them into her composition book.  Then, as she reads the assigned reading for each day, she retrieves her composition book and works through the elements that correspond with her reading.  So far, besides her reading book, she had only needed a dictionary to help fill out the vocabulary sections.



Each Level includes four Interactive Notebooks through the course of the curriculum.  With Blue, Ashleigh will also complete Interactive Notebooks that on Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr (a historical fiction selection), Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (two realistic fiction selections).  Garrett's Interactive Notebook assignment begins next week in Month 2 Week 2 with the Green Level.  His first notebook will be for the selection  Ahyoka and the Talking Leaves by Peter and Connie Roop (a historical fiction selection). Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (fantasy selection), Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan ( a second historical fiction selection) and finally a memoir entitled 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola.  Each of these Interactive Notebooks, as well as the 4 selections for the Indigo Level and a few selections for younger students, are available for individual purchase from the website.

Now, for the sticker shock. I almost never mention the price tag on a curriculum.  However, I know as a parent on a fixed budget, there is curriculum that while I really like it, I cannot justify paying a hefty price for.  Home School Navigator is NOT one of these curricula.  At $97 per student, my initial reaction would be that it is a bit pricey. HOWEVER, I want to stress that there is so much to this curriculum that I do believe that the price is a bargain. Between the video lessons, the video read alouds, the completely planned out curriculum with hundreds of handouts, and the four interactive notebooks (typically priced at 8 dollars each), I find that Home School Navigator provides plenty of bang for your buck.

#hsreviews  #readingsuccess    #readingstrategies   #makinglifelonglearners

For more information, please visit the Home School Navigator website. You can also find Home School Navigator at the following social media sites:

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Picket Project (Week 2)


Its now been a little over a full week since we found Picket in the middle of a four lane road and wow, how much she has grown in that little bit of time.

First, we found out that Picket is actually Pickette.  So, from here on out, while we are still referring to her as Picket, she is indeed female.

We are still feeding her goats milk at this point.  She has been doing very well on this and is growing strong with it.  She eats on average four times a day, drinking around an 8th of a cup of warmed goats milk from a pipette at each feeding.


She loves her feeding time and gets really excited when its time to come out for a meal. I had purchased a bottle for her and while we will probably use it in the future (she'll be eating milk for at least another 4 weeks) I'm hesitant to use it at his moment because of risk of aspiration with her. With the pipettes, I can see and control the flow of the milk easier.


On Wednesday, we started her on a probiotic supplement to help prepare her gut for eating solid foods. In the wild, she would have normally eaten the cecotropes (a special type of poop) of her mother. While it sounds gross, it's very important to establish the healthy bacteria colony that a rabbit needs in their gut to process solid foods and without it, she could get very sick.  Since I don't have a momma Jackrabbit on hand and no access to cecotropes from other rabbits, I instead ordered a supplement called Bene-Bac that supplies the bacteria needed.  She's had three doses mixed in with her goat's milk and will continue to receive doses for a total of 5 doses (one every other day).  Following that 5th dose, we will give her one dose a week just for maintenance.


Today we started her on some pureed bananas which she really enjoyed.  Over the next few days we will start introducing a variety of vegetables such as bok choy and celery. We have also introduced Timothy Hay and Orchard Hay for her to start nibbling.  This week, I will be dehydrating some sweet potato and apples to mix into her hay in hopes to get her to start foraging.

LOOK AT THOSE EARS!!!!
She's definitely grown quite a bit since we found her. And her face is beginning to take on the classic hare shape.  I'm curious to see how different she will look between now and this time next week, both in size and in her shape.
I woke her from a nap with the flash

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

PandaParents (A Homeschool Crew Review)



Today, I have a bit of a different review for you guys.  This is an all in one style curriculum for preschoolers and kindergarten kids that focus on reading, writing, and S.T.E.M. skills. Designed for children ages 3-6 years old, MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS designed by PandaParents takes a different approach from conventional screen-based learning programs. Each month, families are given a course that includes an online video, downloadable PDF storybook and a printable PDF workbook.  At a pace of 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time, each course provides plenty of materials for learning each month.

About PandaParents

PandaParents focuses on what they call "M.E.S.S.Y. Learning". Believing that "stepping stone curriculums" that videos, digital games, and flashcards that focus on one subject at a time of focuses on rot memorization miss the mark for providing a solid learning foundation in brain development, PandaParents wanted to provide a better learning experience that instead build vast neural connections at an early age. The M.E.S.S.Y. learning program instead blends multiple subject material together in a creative manner.

Each letter in M.E.S.S.Y represents ParentParents way of learning:
M - Mixed subjects and activities for integrative learning
E - Engaging questions what challenge young children's brains
S - Simple 1-2-3 steps: read, learn and create
S - Smart designs for creative learning
Y - Yeah, a New Way to promote brain growth.

The process of M.E.S.S.Y. learning is fairly simple and follows a three-part format. One,  the student reads a story from the storybook or the story can be read together with the parent.  Second, the student can watch the story in video format. Third, activities that correspond with the story are provided in the workbook.  The workbook provides printable activities that range in subject from learning colors, letter recognition, and math concepts.  The curriculum is designed in a format that allows child and parent to work together.



For this review, I was able to look over three different months worth of curriculum, each focusing on a different letter or concept.  The first was A Jolly Jingling Journey.  This particular book/video combination was Christmas themed and featured two stories - a Jubulent Journey and An Epic Journey.  This unit focused on the letter J and introduced young students to the sounds J makes as well as to J words.


The second unit I was able to review was Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound.  This story follows the adventures of a cute little stunk as he tries to make his way home and focuses on the letter S and the sounds it makes.


The final unit was Mommy's Baby which focuses on first words, shapes, and animals. There was much repetition to this book and video, making it very easy for children to catch on and read the child part in response to the parent.


A page from the Mommy's Baby workbook

While the program was a bit too young for me to use with my own children, I do really wish I could have used it when they were younger, especially with Garrett.  The bright, vibrant videos and storybooks would have definitely appealed to him as well as the various activities from the workbooks.

Currently, PandaParents MESSYLEARNING is available in digital format with downloadable versions of the videos, workbooks and storybooks, however, there are physical versions in the works for purchase in the future.

#hsreviews  #preschoollearning #readingtokids #preschoolactivities #preschoolart #artforkids


For more information about the PandaParents and MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS, visit their website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Kids Email (A Homeschool Crew Review)




One of the hardest parts of being a military family is living across the country from our families. When we move to California in 2010, we left my husband's family in Indiana and
my family in both New York and Texas.  In those years, we have only been able to see my family one time and we haven't seen his family at all since moving here.  However, through both phone calls and writing email, the children are able to communicate with far of family members like their grandparents.  


With the A one-year subscription to Kids Email Safe Email for Kids from Kids Email , the kids have been able to keep in touch with family members as well as to make new friends by exchanging pen pal emails with other Crewbie kids.

About Kids Email


Kids Email is a child-friendly email client that allows up to 6 children in your family to have their own email address.  Parents are able to set restrictions for each individual account as well as restrict who your child can send or receive emails from.  A "Safe" contact list allows for parents to add family members who are trusted that children can email without restrictions.  Parental settings allow control over who the child can send emails to as well as who they can receive emails from.  Parents can also receive a copy of all emails to a parents email account for review so that they can determine if the email is appropriate before it is sent or received.  Other features included are the ability to monitor files and images that are sent as attachments to emails to their child, restrict outside web links, and block profanity within the email their child receives.


Setting up the accounts for the children was super easy.  Parents have their own login which allows them to access the dashboard where they can set up each child's individual account as well as select which restrictions to place on that account.  Parents can opt to set up more restrictions on a younger child and fewer restrictions on an older child.  There is also an option for a Teen account which offers a more "grown up" look and feel. 


Comparison of Child's Account Versus Teen Account
Some features that are accessible from the parent account is a "Ground Child" option, which blocks the child from being able to access their account during a specific set period of time and a "Time Restriction" option that limits the child's ability to log into their email at only specific times of the day- so no checking and sending emails late at night when they should be asleep. 

The child's dashboard is very simple and easy for smaller children to maneuver.  The dashboard consists of the inbox (which is shown as soon as the child logs in), the option to write an email, a folder option for the organization of the inbox and sent emails, as well as quick access to the contacts list. 

Children are able to change the background image of their email screen, allowing them to select from a series of preloaded themes.  There is a settings option that allows the child to change the background image if they so desire.  The teen account is set up with similar options but with a feel more like that of a typical email client.

Some of the background options available

Email can be accessed through the website on any computer or tablet and also through using a free downloadable app available for both Apple and Android devices. A version of the app is also available on the Amazon store for access and monitoring of emails via a Kindle Fire tablet.



How We Used It


Ashleigh and Garrett both had a previous account with Kids Email and they both decided to just keep their previous email addresses.  All of their previous contacts were waiting for us and once I added their new pen pal contacts, they were ready to start writing back and forth to whomever they wanted (so long as Mom had pre-approved them and added them to their contact list). 

 Ashleigh enjoys the fact that she could attach photographs to her emails or that she could receive emails with attachments.  She really enjoyed getting an email that had drawings that one of her pen pals had made and she liked being able to show others her pets, her favorite toys or her own artwork.   They also enjoyed sending their Dad email while he was at work as well as emailing family members just to tell them how their day was going or what they were working on in school.


Having their own email allows for them to practice their language arts and reach out to others beyond our small household and also gives them some independence as they begin navigating the cyberworld. For Garrett, being able to discuss Minecraft with other boys his age has given him a purpose to actually use his writing skills in an enjoyable way as opposed to writing for schoolwork. I was actually impressed with how well he was able to express his thoughts in emails to his friends when trying to write ANYTHING for school is like pulling teeth.  

One of Garrett's emails

As a parent, I enjoy the fact that I can monitor each email that they send or receive and not have to worry about unwanted Spam or potential viruses and unwelcomed emails that I wouldn't want the children to see, so it's a win both ways.



#hsreviews  #parenting  #kidsemail  #emailforkids  #safety #kidfriendly

For more information about Kids Email, be sure to visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media platforms:
Safe Email for Kids {Kids Email Reviews}


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