Monday, September 14, 2020

Weekday Meal Planning


Sunday:  Jamaica Beef Patties with spicy mango slaw and rice and beans

Monday:  Chicken Divan with broccoli and pasta

Tuesdays:  Slow cooker barbacoa tacos with pineapple slices

Wednesday:   Leftover Barbacoa stuffed poblano peppers with quinoa, corn and cheese

Thursday:   Somosa Pie

Friday:  Homemade pizzas - Caprese and Hawaiian

Saturday:  Pulled Pork Hawaiian sliders with spicy roasted Brussels sprouts and mac and cheese

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Our cat Newton seems to think he's part of our class and often sits on the table watching the kids doing their assignments.  Often time, he likes to play with their pencils and interrupts our class when he bats them off the table onto the floor.  But he sure is pretty to look at ;)

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Last week, the base offered all families a free fajita dinner.  Simply get in line, they bring a bag to your car with chicken, tortillas, rice, beans, chips and salsa.   I was glad I got there early because the line was unreal long.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Reading Eggs (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

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If you’ve done any research on affordable reading programs for younger students, you’ve probably come across the website Reading Eggs from Blake eLearning Inc.  It’s been nearly 6 years, when I first started homeschooling Garrett, that I came across their website and it caught my interest.  At that time, it was only one program, the original Reading Eggs program.  I remember signing up for a free trial at that time, Unfortunately,  Garrett had issues with sensory sensitivities and couldn’t work with the program.  However, some years later, we tried again and Reading Eggs quickly became a website that we came to enjoy in our household.

RE-logo-abc6 years after that first attempt, the Reading Eggs website has grown considerably and now consists of Five separate portions that target students at different levels of their reading journey.

Reading Eggs Junior is designed for those students just beginning.  Using funny animation, this portion focuses on toddler games and preschool activities for children 2-4 years of age using alphabet games and songs to develop phonemic awareness.

Reading Eggs is the original Reading Eggs program designed for students aged 3-7.  This program uses many activities such as games, songs, animations and quizzes to help students learn phonics, spelling,  and develop strong reading skills.

 Fast Phonics is designed for children ages 5-10 who are either beginning to learn to read or might be struggling with their reading skills and need some extra instruction.

Reading Eggspress is for children ages 7-13.  This portion of the program helps to improve reading comprehension as well as to help students improve their Lexile reading level.

Mathseeds is designed for ages 3-9 and focuses on math skills.  

 For each program, students follow a designated learning map.  Each map follows a fun theme to keep learning interesting.  As they progress down the map, they build upon what they learned on previous maps.  Each lesson is numbered and picks up where the student left off on the previous session. For each activity they complete, the student earns golden eggs, a digital currency that can be spent on digital rewards on the website.

The child friendly dashboard makes it easy for students to either continue with lessons (the center button), visit the library where they can read leveled books, visit the arcade to play games, go to the mall to spend their golden eggs on clothing for their avatar to wear or for furniture and pets for their digital apartment.  In the stadium, students can compete with other students on the website in games involving grammar, spelling, and reading.  (Students are not able to chat or communicate, so no worries of inappropriate contact with your student).

Fast Phonics is a new feature that teaches and reviews foundational phonics for kids ages 5-10 as well as older students who are struggling with reading.  Using a yeti theme, each of the levels, or Mountain Peaks as the program calls them,  covers one set of letters in great depth, and includes a series of interactive activities, animated videos, and decodable books.  These activities help to book letter sound recognition and to build key phonics skills quickly using a systematic, synthetic phonics approach.   The program has 12 “peaks” or levels for the student to work through, and levels can be adjusted by the parent if needed.  


Another recently added feature to reading eggs is the Mental Minute drills.  If you are unaware, Reading Eggs also has a math portion of the program called MathSeeds which helps teach students aged 3-9 the core math and problem solving.  It’s also a great option for those who have older students who struggle with math facts and need extra help. As a new addition to the Mathseeds portion of the website, REading Eggs recently added Mental Minute Drills.  These are 1 minute drills for students to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Students have 1 minute to answer as many problems as possible.  Each drill is over a particular math fact family, such as multiplying by 5, subtracting from 6, ect.

Parents can easily keep an eye on their student’s progress with the Progress report found for each student.  These reports show the progress made for each program (Reading Eggs Junior, Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress and Math Seeds).  With this report, parents can see how many Lessons have been completed, how the student did on the quizzes they have taken, How many books they read through the program.  Parents can also track their child’s Lexile level and see how it has improved over the course of the lessons.



In addition to the various Reading Egg programs, the website also offers a nice selection of leveled reading books that students are able to access and read on the webpage. Books can be searched by reading level or subject of interest such as fairytales, Cats, nonfiction and more.  Students read these books on their own and are awarded golden eggs for reading a book and then taking a comprehension quiz over it.


How We Used It

Garrett and Ashleigh have both used Reading Eggs in the past.  Ashleigh had used it about two years ago but we continued our subscription for Garrett for another year afterwards.  His membership lapsed a few months ago, so he was very happy when he was able to log back into the program.  He noticed that there had been some changes since he last used the program – most notable the addition of the Fast Phonics option.

Ashleigh decided to work using the Reading Eggspress portion of the program, while Garrett used both the Fast Phonics as well as the Reading Eggspress portion.  Typically the kids worked with the website 15 minutes three times a day.  This allowed for me to complete our daily spelling test with one kid while the other stayed productive while working on Reading Eggs.  This allowed for the kids to complete 2-3 sections of the portion they were working on for that day.  With roughly 9 sections for each Lesson on the map, this had the kids completing a lesson every week.

For those who have used the original Reading Eggs that is for ages 5-7, Reading Eggpress is completely different. Where Reading Eggs focused on letters and phonics and learning to read, Reading Eggpress is designed to help students who are reading to improve their Lexile reading level and develop comprehension skills. Both of my kids are reading well enough to use the Reading Eggpress program rather than the early learning programs.


Some lessons would take a bit longer, with the only completing one section per day.  This was on days when they were required to read a section of a chapter book and then answer questions about what they read. Garrett especially would take longer on these sections as he tried to pass the quiz without actually reading and learned that he could not do that. Once he slowed down and actually read the passage, he could answer the questions, but reading the passage often took him the entire time and he would return the following session to complete the questions.

Garrett works on reading one of the books.


Comprehension Quiz following reading

From the parent’s dashboard, I was able to easily adjust the reading level for each of the kids so that the material being presented to them either wasn’t too easy or too hard. That way both kids could work at their own level since Ashleigh is at a much higher reading level than Garrett is currently at.   There is an assessment test available on the Reading Eggs website that can be used to place students in their proper level before starting with the program.

As mentioned, Garrett also used the Fast Phonics portion of the website.  The aim of it is for younger students than himself, but I think him reviewing phonics is a good thing as there are many letter blends that he still has issues with. 


We were a bit late finding the Mental Minute drills, but once we found them (They are found on the Math Seeds Dashboard), Ashleigh quickly took a linking to them.  We already do daily math drills with our current curriculum, but I’m not going to complain if Ashleigh decides to use a few minutes practicing her math skills.  These drills are exactly that – one minute is placed on the timer and students answer as many questions as they can.  They must get at least 10 questions correct to complete the level.  


I think Reading Eggs has been a great addition for a supplement for our homeschool. However, it would be very easy to use it as a dedicated reading program for younger learners.  For students who are more sensitive to sounds and busy animations, it might not be a good fit as the programs feature lots of flashy animation and songs, but outside of this, I would recommend it for those looking for a proven program  to improve elementary reading and math skills. The website still offers a 30 day free trial, so it's easy to try it out to find out if Reading Eggs will work for you. 

#hsreviews #readingeggs #eggsplorer

For more information about Blake eLearning Inc and Reading Eggs, be sure to visit their website.  You can also find them on the following social media platforms:



 Members of the Crew were given a one year subscription to the Reading Eggs website to use with their families.  Be sure to click the banner below and read their reviews as how they used the program with various ages and grade levels.

Reading Eggs Subscription {Blake eLearning Inc Reviews}

Monday, August 24, 2020

Weekly Meal Planning


 Monday: Kung Pao chicken wings with fried rice

Tueday:  Tex Mex pasta with ground beef with spicy cumin roasted broccoli

Wednesday:  Char Siu pork sandwiches with cucumbers and Orzo quinoa with roasted vegetables

Thursday:  Char Siu lo mein with snap peas, cabbage and carrots

Friday:  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad and peaches and cream fruit salad

Saturday: Adobo Chicken with sauteed Bok Choy and rice


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Structure and Style for Students (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.



When one purchases a product from Institute for Excellence in Writing®, also known as IEW, you can be assured that you IEW-logo-1are buying a quality product that is the end result of research from educators to create a comprehensive Language Arts curriculum.  Structure and Style for Students is no different.  So when we were given the opportunity to review Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level B (grades 6-8), I knew going into the review that I would be receiving an amazing product and it did not disappoint.



  Structure and Style for Students is a 24 week writing curriculum designed for Grades 6 through 8 that teach the original Structure and Style method but where the original Structure and Style material is taught to the instructor to teach their students, this option is designed directly for the student to use.  Three levels are available – Level A for grades 3-5th, Level B for grades 6 through 8th, and Level C for high school level students.  The curriculum composes of three components – The student binder that contains all the materials for the student to use the curriculum, the teacher’s manual and an online component that contains all the video lesson material for the student to use. 

Each week of instruction is broken down into an easy to follow schedule.  Students watch the video instruction taught my Mr Andrew Pudewa (videos are roughly an hour to an hour and a half long broken up to view over the course of two days).  Through the lessons, students learn important writing techniques such as using a key word outline, stylistic techniques used for writing such 20200706153259_IMG_5112as the use of –ly adverbs, who/which clauses, strong verbs and quality adjectives, learning to reduce/eliminate weak words such as “said”, “saw”, “thought” and “good/bad”, and using proper writing mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, and spelling).

Following the video lessons, students begin to work on their weekly writing assignment.  Students are given a composition checklist to help keep them on track as they use a particular source reference to use.  These source materials are from various types of material: Narrative stories, non-fiction references, pictures, and more. As students progress through the curriculum, they begin learning how to summarize multiple reference materials in their writing, and eventually move towards a more formal essay writing format.  IMG_20200819_093318

Students use the source reference to first write their key word outlines.  Once they complete the key word outline, they begin to rewrite the source material, using only their key word outline for reference.  As they rewrite the source material, they must use the information that they have learned from the lessons to help write their paper.  For example, each paragraph is required to have “dress ups” such as the –ly adverbs.  As they learn the different dress ups in the lessons, each one must be included in each paragraph of their final paper.   Their paper writing follows a fairly standard format of first a rough draft which is corrected to a final draft with their name and date in the upper corner, a title centered at the top of the paper and their paragraphs written/typed in double spaced format.  At the end of the week, the student presents the teacher with a final packet of papers, neatly arranged with their materials together: weekly checklist on top, followed by their final draft, rough draft and key word outline. `

Students are able to keep all their notes as well as their work in the student binder.  The binder is designed that helps with paper organization for ever stage of the writing process, including both coursework and compositions.  As the student completes lessons, Mr Pudewa will tell the student where in the student binder the assignment should be placed.

Very little in terms of supplies are needed for the student to use Structure and Style for Students outside of what is included with the curriculum. Students will need loose leaf notebook paper for each assignment. All source text and handouts are included in the student binder (and can be copied for multiple students in the same family) as well as a pen (Mr Pudewa suggests students write in pen rather than pencil as they learn how to edit their papers without erasing.  it is suggested that students also use Fix It! Grammar to provide a way to reiterate and apply the grammar rules they are learning. 

How We Used It

Out of the gate, this curriculum quickly became a favorite of our family.  The kids are already huge fans of Mr Pudewa and IEW products, so asking them to add another IEW product to our homeschool didn’t take much convincing.  Mr Pudewa is such an engaging speaker and does a great job of engaging his audience.  Getting the kids to sit down and watch roughly 45 minutes worth of videos twice a week proved to be no problem at all.




During the video lessons, the kids would be introduced to the topic for the week, such as sentence dress ups or grammar rules that they are expected to include in the weekly assignment.  Many times they were also introduced to various adjectives that they are expected to begin to use in their own writing to help them take their writing to the next level.  For the first couple of weeks, Mr Pudewa walked them through properly making and using a key word outline, however, after the first few weeks, they were expected to make their own key word outline from the source text without help.

I’ll be completely honest, I knew Ashleigh would 20200618162032_IMG_4985do well with this curriculum.  It was Garrett I was a bit worried about. Garrett hates writing.  Hate would be a major understatement. Garrett often baulks when I ask him to write one sentence and I cannot tell you how many times he’s been reduced to tears when he has to write more than two sentences at a time.  However, after showing Garrett how to use the word processing program on the computer, Garrett was quickly writing his own papers using his key word outline.  His first few papers were fairly short and elementary in nature, but as time has gone on, I have noticed that he’s beginning to type out longer, more complicated sentences and is needing much less editing between his rough drafts and his final drafts. The additions of the “dress ups” have really helped him to expand his sentences beyond just a simple subject and predicate. 

While I won’t get into a review of the Fix It! Grammar curriculum, we did opt to include it along with the Structure and Style curriculum.   This particular grammar curriculum is one that we already use and working it in with this curriculum was simple, as it only takes a few extra minutes.  Using the two together made the kids start paying more attention to how other writers use the various “dress ups” in their sentences, helping them to notice –ly adverbs and who/which clauses more than they had previously.

Overall, we’ve been extremely pleased using this as our writing curriculum for the kids.  The video lessons help to allow me to do other things while allowing Mr Pudewa to take over my classroom for a bit and it’s helped to get Garrett to actually write, something I honestly did not think possible. 

#hsreviews #iewsss, #iewfreelessons

For more information about IEW’s Structure and Style for Students, be sure to visit the Institute for Excellence in Writing® website.  You can also find more information about their products by visiting them on the following social media sites:



 Members of the Review Crew has the oportunity to review their choice of the three available levels of IEW's Structure and Style for Students. Be sure to click the banner below to read their reviews today.

Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A, B & C {Institute for Excellence in Writing® Reviews}

Wordless Wednesday

Yeah, it's been a bit hot here lately!!   On top of that, we have wildfires all around, so the smoke and air quality has been terrible.

Monday, August 17, 2020

What's For Dinner

Monday:  Turkey Taco Salad

Tuesday:  Queso chicken with green rice

Wednesday: Skirt steak with cilantro garlic sauce, Mac and cheese and salad

Thursday:  Forgot to take pictures but we had BLTs.

Friday:  No pictures.  We had a small get together with a friend who visited and we had a small bbq. 

Saturday:  Shake and bake chicken, mac and cheese, and orzo quinoa pilaf with veggies

Sunday:  Hungarian chicken paprikash with roasted green beans


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