Tag Archives: printables

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book “A Light for My Path”

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review disclaimer1We love picture books in this house, so I was glad to get the chance to check out a new one from Apologia called A Light for My Path. Written by Davis Carman and beautifully illustrated by Alice Ratterree, this ABC book is based on Psalm 119.

A Light for My Path picture book

A Light for My Path picture book by Apologia

Both of my kids already recognize the letters of the alphabet, but they still enjoyed naming each corresponding animal or plant as we got to it (and learned a few new ones as well!). Additionally, the book teaches both uppercase and lowercase forms of the letters, so it’s a good book to reinforce that concept. Their favorite part was looking for the animal from the previous spread on the current page.

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

After the ABC pictures that describe attributes of God’s Word and Law, A Light for My Path contains Psalm 119 divided into individual stanzas that start with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I pointed out the picture and name of the Hebrew letter at the top of each page as I read them to my kids, and noted how the letters looked different than our English alphabet.

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

What I love:

  • Although it’s a paperback, the book is well made and the thick pages seem like they will hold up pretty well.
  • The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and my children loved searching out the different animals throughout the book.

Potential pitfalls:

  • I was expecting a bit more text in the main part of the ABC section, rather than a repetitious phrase and a one-word attribute. I think I had initially expected the verses from the Psalm to be incorporated on the ABC pictures, instead of at the end. But the book states in its introduction (a “how to use this book” section, essentially) that this is intentional and I can see how this approach would work well for young kids still learning the alphabet.

If you’re interested in checking out A Light for My Path (available here for $14), there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site. And read more reviews from the Mosaic team at the Mosaic Reviews blog!

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Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book How Do We Know God is Really There?

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review disclaimer1Our homeschool year has been finished for a few weeks now, so I’ve been away from the computer for a bit as we enjoy our free time together as a family. But I’m back with a couple of Homeschool Mosaic Reviews in the next week or so, including this picture book from Apologia that tackles a tough question: How Do We Know God is really There?

My kids love sitting out under the stars and listening to their dad tell them about what they are seeing in the sky (he loves astronomy!), so I was excited when Mosaic Reviews offered the chance for me to review this picture book about a boy and his father talking about the evidence of God’s existence through His creation of the cosmos. It seemed like it would fit in with the talks they have already had.

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

How Do We Know God is Really There? by Melissa Cain Travis is the first in a series of picture books “designed to introduce kids to important questions of the Christian faith,” according to Apologia’s site. In the picture book (available here for $16), Thomas and his father are enjoying viewing God’s creation through a telescope, but what he sees prompts Thomas to go even deeper with his questions, because a friend told him God didn’t exist. His dad converses with Thomas to explain about how science proves God’s existence because something (the universe) cannot be created from nothing. 

I’m not sure the science part of the book quite resonated with my kids yet; my 4-year-old in particular was antsy before we got to the end of the book. But it did prompt some good discussions, and the kids loved the pictures. They thought skateboarding on the moon and racing around Saturn would be fun, and they laughed hysterically at Thomas’ poor cat.

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Thomas scares his poor cat!

 

What I love:

  • The book is well made. The hardback cover and thick pages seem like they will hold up well, which is important in my house where my kids don’t treat books as nicely as their mom (yet).
  • The colorful and fun illustrations by Christopher Voss engaged my kids and they liked to leaf through the book and talk about what they saw in the pictures.

Potential pitfalls:

  • Even though it’s a picture book, some of the content seemed just a bit over the heads of my 4 and 6 year olds. However, I think it’s a great conversation starter even for the younger ages and talk with them about the subject in ways closer to their comprehension level. For those with a bit more science background, I don’t think this would be a problem at all.

If you’re interested in this fun and educational book, there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site–go check it out!

Homeschool Mosaics Review: Ooka Island Adventure Reading Program {+Coupon Code!}

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review disclaimer1Over the past several weeks, Homeschool Mosaic Reviewers have had the chance to use a pretty fun tool for reading: Ooka Island Adventure. Ooka Island’s program is geared toward pre-K to second graders and teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Due to the nature of the program, children are introduced to a new skill only when they have mastered the previous one.

Ooka Island is divided into three sections, called the Learning Flow Cycle by the creators. Guided Play focuses on phonic development through skill-building instructional activities;  the e-Reader book series focus on fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension; and  Free Play allows children to play activities that reinforce what they have learned, reread e-books or just do fun games. Guided Play lasts for 20 minutes, the e-Reader for up to 10 minutes and the Free Play for about 8 minutes. The structure and sequence of these different sections help the children stay engaged in the program.

Ooka Island's cast of colorful characters

Ooka Island’s cast of colorful characters

My kindergartener (age 6) is already a reader, but she’s a brand new one and still learning. I liked that we could use Ooka Island to reinforce concepts she’s already learned and to improve her reading fluency and comprehension. She loved playing all the games, unlocking various rewards after completing certain levels and enjoyed listening to and reading the stories. Her favorite games were the soccer ball one and the submarine one, where the pigs are dropped into the water. My 4-year-old also used the program, but his attention span for the game was not as long as my daughter’s. He also had a more trouble maneuvering the mouse in the game, but as he practiced more, I could definitely tell he improved in that area. All the games are point-and-click based, so it was more of a physical skill of moving the mouse for him to learn than the interface being difficult. He would only play for about 10 minutes or so at a time; my daughter could probably spend all day on Ooka Island if I let her!

Ooka's books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

Ooka’s books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

What I love:

  • Ooka Island’s colorful graphics and fun games entertain my kids as well as help teach them phonics and reading skills and computer skills.
  • Because it’s not a streaming online program, I don’t have to worry about either of my young children accidentally surfing to something I wouldn’t want them to.
  • The Ooka Lighthouse assessment on the web site helps me keep track of which skills the kids are learning and their percentage of correct answers in the games.
  • The freebies online, including motivational tools like certificates and book paths to track your child’s progress.

Potential pitfalls:

  • A few times, the program would freeze up, and once or twice it kicked my child off in the middle of play. Part of the reason for this might have been our computer, which has been locking up more over the past month. They didn’t seem to lose their progress, however.
  • Due to the way the game is set up, players have to wait until they progressed in the game to certain points and unlocked features and places to use during free play. Not a big deal, but it took some convincing of my four-year-old who desperately wanted to go to the volcano first thing. 🙂
Ooka Island's map filled with areas to explore

Ooka Island’s map filled with areas to explore

This was the first time I’ve used a computer program in our schooling, and it’s been a good experience so far. If you’ve got a child in the 3-7 age range, or a slightly older child who could use reinforcement in reading skills, I invite you to check out Ooka Island. For home and homeschool editions, you can pay monthly ($12.95 for 1 student/$19.95 for up to 4) or annually ($124.95 for 1/$149.95 for up to 4). There is also a school edition.

Ooka Island has given Mosaic Reviewers a coupon code good for 30 percent off your annual or monthly subscription! Offer valid until June 1, 2013. Simply copy and paste this URL when you order:

http://offers.ookaisland.com/inblog?purl=wnOve

Edit: More Ooka Island experiences at the Mosaic Reviews blog!

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Spanish for You!

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I’ll never forget the day when, out of the blue, my 3 or 4 year old daughter counted to 10 in Spanish. Her pronunciation was a bit off in some cases, but the intent was very clear. I was so proud of her–and so astonished! I wasn’t teaching her another language. But, as it turns out, she was internalizing more of those Dora the Explorer shows on Netflix and Dora books that we were reading more than I realized. During that time, she also picked up a few more random words, which was fine by me, but other than clarifying pronunciation now and again, or refreshing her memory on what the words meant, I didn’t really push her to learn more. At her age, I just didn’t see the need.

So I admit that I was hesitant when asked to review the Spanish for You! language curriculum for Mosaic Reviews, because my daughter’s only in kindergarten. She’s still learning how to read and write in our own language; I didn’t want to pressure her at this point in trying to learn another. I looked over the curriculum I was sent, the Fiestas package, and was a bit overwhelmed with how I would present this material to her. Verb conjugations, vocabulary lists, tests, etc. There are lots of worksheets, but they are text-only and really aimed for a solid reader. All of this makes complete sense, because Spanish for You!’s curriculum is geared for third through eighth graders, not six-year-olds.

s4ulogoSpanish for You! is an affordable, flexible and effective curriculum designed to put your children or students on the path to foreign language fluency. Spanish teacher Debbie Annett created the program to help elementary and middle school students learn key language components through a themed approach.  Spanish for You:

  • Allows students at all grade levels to learn the same material at their own pace.
  • Provides lesson plans, worksheets, audio files, flash cards and other activities to present the material in a fun, interactive manner at a low price point.
  • Builds on material already covered in each book with new vocabulary and concepts, yet also reinforces that which has already been learned in other themes.
  • Has already been tested in a school environment prior to its sale, and many students who have been studying with the program are able to start high school Spanish early or at an advanced level.

I’ve got a pretty good–if a bit distant now–background in Spanish. I took four years in high school, plus a few semesters in college. Most of my classes were taught only in Spanish (unless something was so brand new, it required English explanations). After awhile, it wasn’t really intimidating; I loved my high school classes because the teachers made it fun. I decided, obvious as it is, that was the key in this situation as well. Take what I could from the curriculum and make it a fun mini-unit about Spanish for my kindergartener.

I chose several flash cards from a couple of different lessons in the Fiestas package, and focused on learning just the vocabulary and making the overall experience fun. The flash cards are simple black-and-white line drawings. If they look a little childish, that’s because they are drawn by children. This was intentional, in order to appeal more to the student demographic as well as help keep costs of the overall curriculum down.

For the Fiesta de Cumpleanos lesson (birthday party), my daughter and I created a little story out of the flash cards. The repetition of it helped her identify and learn the Spanish vocabulary. After she had memorized the words and their meanings, I wrote out the story, leaving blanks for her to fill in the vocabulary flash cards. I read the red parts of the sentence, let her pick out the right flash card and say the Spanish word, and then paste the card in the right spot. I added the Spanish words under the flash cards in blue, although at this age, I’m not expecting her to write or spell out the vocabulary.

A fill-in-the-flashcard story about the boy's fiesta

A fill-in-the-flashcard story about the boy’s fiesta

I also incorporated learning the names of some colors in Spanish with this theme, and we listened to the Happy Birthday songs in Spanish from the audio collection in the curriculum. I really, really wanted to make a pinata (also one of the vocabulary words), but haven’t been able to fit it in our schedule yet. I’m putting it on the list of possibilities for Cinco de Mayo. Even though pinatas are definitely more birthday party oriented than Cinco de Mayo.

Another lesson in the Fiestas package is Feria de Abril, or April Fair. This is an annual celebration in Seville, Spain, that lasts about a week and is a time filled with food, flamenco and fun. Aspects of it seem pretty similar to a state fair here in the United States, especially the amusement park rides and the inclusion of animals in the festivities. Two of the vocabulary words for the Feria lesson are paella and churros con chocolate, so we made both of those foods during our study. (Here’s how our paella turned out.) My daughter helped mix up the churros batter, and even though I didn’t have the correct pastry bag tip, the churros were still tasty even if they weren’t quite the right shape.

Churros awaiting their fate: dusted with powdered sugar, sprinkled with cinnamon or dunked in warm chocolate? Would all three be a bit much?

Churros awaiting their fate: dusted with powdered sugar, sprinkled with cinnamon or dunked in warm chocolate? Would all three be a bit much?

In addition to making the fair foods, I found a couple of videos of the most recent Feria de Abril on YouTube (like this one, for example), because this year’s fair was going on right during the review period. I pointed out the horses and the flamenco dresses and style of dance (both of which are vocabulary words in the lesson). When the video was over, my four-year-old son asked, “After Daddy gets home, can we go there?” I told him I really wished we could. 🙂 I think he was excited by the glimpses of the fair rides more than anything else.

For a musical aspect, we also made homemade castanets to go along with the April Fair theme. The vocabulary list included this word, and I liked the chance to include a musical craft in the unit. I followed this tutorial on Education.com. TG used markers and colored paper to decorate thin cardboard, and then I superglued bottle caps on. We also painted the tops of the bottle caps to cover up the root beer logo, but that proved a bad idea because it muffled the sound a little bit. And the paint chipped off anyway. But the kids have had fun clicking and clacking away with these guys.

Quick and easy castanets with cardboard and bottle caps make a fun and musical craft

Quick and easy castanets with cardboard and bottle caps make a fun and musical craft

What I love:

  • The native speaker audio. I think that’s a good resource for in-home foreign language curricula, because it helps emphasize correct pronunciation and allows students to hear the words as they would if they were in a region where the language is spoken.
  • The price: around $65 for a year’s worth of language learning for multiple children and multiple age groups–and maybe even less than that depending on your family’s needs.
  • The freebies offered on the Spanish for You web site are great additional material or can provide a starting point with colors, numbers and other basics.

Potential pitfalls:

  • It took me awhile to understand the file naming system of the lessons and worksheets. I received an all digital package, so I am unsure whether or not this is a difficulty in the physical book. If I were regularly using it with age-appropriate students, I would probably reorganize them into something that fit my personal system better.
  • While I do like the themes that the curriculum is divided into and the flexibility inherent in that, I wondered if it would be difficult to jump into for someone with little-to-no background in the language. Perhaps for the future, the company might consider a beginners package of some sort to help newbies. The freebies offered online do cover some of those initial basic need-to-knows.

Update: Debbie from Spanish for You! has reorganized the worksheet files for the Fiestas and Estaciones themes into folders by grade level, and put audio files into folders according to lessons. These changes should make navigating the information much easier for those who purchase the curriculum from this point on. Thank you, Spanish for You!, for your excellent customer service!

As you can see, I used the Spanish for You! curriculum as a starting point to introduce my daughter to some new Spanish vocabulary, culture and experiences. For a kindergartener, though, that’s pretty cool. And it’s something I probably would not have done had I not been reviewing this curriculum, so despite my initial hesitancy, I’m glad I got the chance to do both. For those of you with children in the recommended age group, third through eighth graders, I think Spanish for You! is worth checking out to see if it will fit your needs for a foreign language curriculum.

 

Edit 5/03: Learn how other reviewers used the Fiestas and Estaciones (Seasons) packages from Spanish for You! at the Mosaic Reviews blog.

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Homeschool Mosaics Review: We Choose Virtues (+ Coupon Codes!)

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I’ve got a great product review for you today–We Choose Virtues (WCV). I had actually seen some of these colorful cards at another homeschool mom’s house one day, but could never remember to ask her about it when I saw her. How thrilled I was when one of the products chosen for our Homeschool Mosaic Review team was a product from this company! With a 4 and 6 year old in the house, we can use the help in teaching virtues and instilling godly character. In fact, we were at a bit of a loss in how to proceed, and then this product review turned up. Perfect timing, I’d say!

WCV uses colorful kid characters, memorable catchphrases and Bible verses to exemplify each of 12 character traits.  Heather McMillan, the creator of WCV and a children’s teacher herself, saw a need to enable parents and teachers to inspire lasting character in their children and students. Three years ago, We Choose Virtues was born out of that felt need.

Heather sent reviewers a set of Virtue Flashcards, as well as a sample of the Parenting cards, and a few pdfs (a family character assessment, coloring pages, butterfly award and a couple other items). We decided to start out with “The Three Rules” in our home, which are the virtues of obedience, kindness and helpfulness. Heather said they were so named because all of the other virtues flow out of those three. We pulled out the flashcard for Oboe Joe, “I am obedient,” and within minutes, the kids had already memorized the sing-song catchphrase: “O.K. Whatever you say, I will obey right away.” We went over the accompanying Bible verse and talked about obedience. Just a few minutes at night, and re-emphisizing throughout the day has made a difference. We’re still working through these three, so I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this program offers. But I’m excited to keep moving through all of the virtues over the coming months.

WCV flash cards with the kid character, memorable catchphrase and Bible verse on back

WCV flash cards with the kid character, memorable catchphrase and Bible verse on back

When the kids are slow or reluctant to obey something we’ve asked of them, we immediately start reciting Oboe Joe’s catchphrase. They’ll join with us in saying it, and usually that leads into them into obedience. It’s a much better atmosphere instead of a stalemate of disobedience. Like I said, we’re still working through the cards, but we can see an improvement. And the cards aren’t just for kids, either. I find myself thinking about how I conduct myself and whether or not I’m using virtues, too. For example, “Am I using a gentle voice in correction? How can I exhibit more patience?”

What I love:

  • WCV gives my husband and I a great vocabulary to draw from in encouraging proper behavior and good character in our children. We would often say things like “Don’t be mean” or “Stop disobeying,” but, in the heat of the parenting moment, sometimes found it hard to follow up with concrete examples of what we expected. WCV provides us with a well of positive statements to draw from, enabling us to ask “Were you being kind to your sister?” and follow it up with how to change the action–and the attitude behind the action.
  • The boys and girls on the colorful cards are engaging and my kids love to leaf through the cards and ask questions about them. I’ve placed our current virtue flashcard on the fridge as a reminder, and more often than not, I find it removed and being studied. Pairing a visually appealing, named character with a virtue helps it stick better in their minds, I think.
  • The ideas on the parenting cards are invaluable. (Note: I purchased the full set of these after seeing what the sample offered.)  I appreciate the games and activities to present the concepts of the virtues in different ways, and I liked the stories behind each of the Virtueville kids. I plan on expanding the brief story ideas on the cards to offer my kids more ways to internalize the virtues and put a bigger story to the characters.
WCV parent cards with helpful tips and activities on presenting a lesson on each virtue

WCV parent cards with helpful tips and activities on presenting a lesson on each virtue

Potential pitfalls:

  • Most of these materials are made for younger children, around age 3 to fifth grade, which makes it perfect for our family!  But good news for those who have older children: there’s a version in the works aimed for those older kids to help them see how living these virtues can help them become the people they want to be. Additionally, a Spanish-language WCV is also in development. Keep checking the WCV blog or Facebook page for information on these new products if they interest you–Heather said they may be ready sometime this fall.
  • Some of the pricing might provoke a double take, especially if you think (like I initially did) that this is something for which you don’t necessarily need a big program or curriculum. If the various kits are out of your price range, I encourage you to look at some of the individual products. In particular, Heather recommended the virtue flashcards, the kids virtue poster and the 3 Rules poster as some of the top products for families on a tighter budget. I also recommend the parenting cards. They’re a bit more than the flash cards, but the extra information on the back has been so helpful. If you’ve got room in the budget for it, the homeschool kit or family kit provide a bunch of great products in one bundle. (Keep reading for a way to get a discount on WCV products!)
We have a special little place to display our current virtue card.

We have a special little place to display our current virtue card.

I also bought the Kids of Virtueville coloring book, because I was hoping the stories were expanded in it, but as it turns out, they’re the same paragraphs as on the parenting cards. The pictures are the same as the coloring pages, except smaller. Heather had a great idea for the coloring pages: laminate the finished product and create placemats. I love that! Once the kids have colored a few more pages, I plan on using her idea. Also, with the coloring book came an “Official Virtue Kid” pin. One pin, two kids. That’s a dilemma! My husband and I came up with the idea to use the pin to help reinforce virtuous behavior. When we see our kids being obedient, kind, helpful or otherwise virtuous, they get to wear the pin. It’s been a fun little way to let them shine and promote character.

When we see our kids exhibit positive virtues, they get to wear the Official Virtues Kid pin.

When we see our kids exhibit positive virtues, they get to wear the Official Virtues Kid pin.

Now, for the good news! We Choose Virtues has provided reviewers with a special promo code to offer readers!

If the homeschool kit interests you, be sure to use the code HOME20 to get 20 percent off the kit. This code is good through April 30, 2013.

If that’s still a bit out of your budget, feel free to use VIRTUE15 to receive 15 percent off your total order. There is no expiration on this code.

(Note: These two codes will not stack.)

Edited 4/3/13: Check out more of the Mosaic team’s reviews about We Choose Virtues on the Mosaic Reviews blog.

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! {cultivate}

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This week, I’ve noticed a lot of parents posting pictures of their kids in wacky hats, dressed up as their favorite book characters and other lots of book-related fun. And then I find out there’s a celebration of Dr. Seuss this week! Sounds like a fun day of school to me! I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but we managed to have a Seuss-tastic day of it anyway.

We started our day with some green eggs and ham (well, a version of ham). Thanks to the Daddy of the house, who works from home on Fridays and got to join in the fun. In person, our eggs were a nice, bright spring green. A little more palatable. Our daughter was hesitant, but our 4-year-old little man dove right in. But everyone ate them!

Green eggs and...bacon. It's all we had.

Green eggs and…bacon. It’s all we had.

We did some of our regular math worksheets and I added in a couple of Dr. Seuss-related ones. Seussville.com has a large selection of printables and activities that I snagged one from, and I look forward to using more of their resources for next year’s Suess Day or even if I want to focus on a particular book sometime. My daughter and I read The Cat in the Hat together for reading time, and then, since I had wanted to read Green Eggs and Ham, but every copy was checked out in our library system (including the audio books!), I let Tim Tebow read it to my kids instead. I also had a Dr. Seuss children’s biography book on reserve from the library, but it hasn’t become available yet. I was disappointed in that, but we’ll just have to read it next week when it comes in. The name of it is The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss.

We had a bit of musical appreciation while we did our craft. We stumbled upon some of the soundtrack to Seussical the Musical on YouTube, and the kids had fun dancing around, especially to the Green Eggs and Ham song. I admit that I do not know anything about Seussical, but the songs we listened to were pretty upbeat and fun. I might investigate it further, because I love musicals.

For our craft, we made Cat in the Hat pop-up puppets that I found here at Stuff by Ash. A bit more parent helping required than I usually like for a children’s craft (gluing on the top and brim of the hat, and cutting out of things), but I think our girl liked the project in the end. You can’t see it in the picture, but instead of a dowel rod, I reused a red-and-write striped straw from our Valentine’s Jar of Hearts project. How’s that for great repurposing!)

Cat in the Hat pops up!

Cat in the Hat pops up!

After all that learning and dancing and fun, everyone was hungry, so along with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I made Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs. I saw the idea on Pinterest to make them with strawberries and bananas, but I lacked the bananas and had to improvise. They were a hit!

Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs, with strawberries and marshmallows

Cat in the Hat Hat Kabobs, with strawberries and marshmallows

Fridays are our usual pizza-and-family-movie night, so I think we’re going to conclude our Seuss Day with a Netflix viewing of The Lorax. It’ll be a new one for all of us; I’ve never even read the original story, or not that I remember anyway. I’ve seen so many adorable and creative ideas for Dr. Seuss-themed crafts, food and learning that I look forward to doing this day again next year–or maybe even sooner, when I have the chance to better prepare for it!

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss story?

Homeschool Mosaics Review: Free Blog Planner

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As I mentioned in January in this post, I’m part of a review team with Homeschool Mosaics. I’m excited about the opportunities that will come my way from being part of this group. We are already reviewing products and I look forward to sharing them with you in the coming months. In fact, I get to share the first one today, and the best part is, it’s a free product! Also, it’s the perfect tool to help me get better organized on this blogging and review posting journey: a blog planner.

We had several to choose from, and I loved various features from a bunch of them. It was a hard decision! In the end, I picked the one from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • The planner had less than 30 pages, which was a good thing since I was printing it out at home. Saves paper and ink!
  • It was a simple design that incorporated a lot of features, but wasn’t too bare bones.
  • It included boxes to check off whether posts have been scheduled or promoted via social media–helpful reminders!
  • There were sections for post ideas and reviews, a separation which I feel will be helpful in keeping things straight in my own mind.
  • I just liked the flowery design–I felt it matched well with the homeschool planner I’ve been using already this year. This, of course, is not a make-or-break feature. 🙂
Blog Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Blog Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Most of the sites I visited that featured free downloadable blog planners mentioned printing them and spiral binding them at an office supply store. And they looked very nice that way. But I wasn’t sure another booklet to keep up with would work best for me. Since I already had my “life binder” that I mentioned in this post about organizing for our homeschool, I felt the best way for me to use this blog planner was to holepunch the pages and slip them into the binder in between the homeschool planner and the file folders. I put a sticky tab on the top of the first blog planner page that said “2013 Blog Planner” so it’s easily accessible from wherever I may be in the binder. As you can see in the photo, I also holepunched the calendar pages so that they would lay flat opposite the notes page–no flipping back and forth! I love being able to see the whole month and all my ideas and review needs in one glance.

If you’re in the market for a free blog planner, I recommend you check out this one at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She even has two versions of the planner (one with the calendar grid pages, one with a lined format).

Or you could check out these planners (all free downloads) at Say Not Sweet Anne, Mama Jenn or The Flourishing Abode.

Edited on 3/01: Check out more of the Mosaic team’s reviews about these and other blog planners on the Mosaic Reviews blog.

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Jar of Hearts: Acts of Love Valentine Craft Project {celebrate}

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We’re still working on our chore charts, because my D-I-Y lately has been S-L-O-W. But hopefully I’ll have the update to that last post soon.

In the meantime, Valentine’s Day is coming up next week, and awhile ago I pinned this post from MakeandTakes.com. I don’t really go overboard with Valentine’s Day, don’t do a lot of decorations or stuff like that. But we do give a little treat to the kids, and I wanted something fun and different to do this year, especially since we’re homeschooling and my little kindergartener won’t have the fun of exchanging valentines with a class full of other little kids. When I saw the Acts of Love Countdown on Pinterest, I thought that it was a great idea. I liked that it was something that focused on doing kind things for one another to show love, rather than something frivolous or meaningless or sugar-filled.

Jar of Hearts: 14 Acts of Love Valentine's Countdown

Jar of Hearts: 14 Acts of Love Valentine’s Countdown

My apologies for the less-than-great pictures. I’m on a computer without any photo-editing programs and I wanted to get this post up. There are some better pictures and a step-by-step tutorial at the original post you can check out. Originally, I was going to tweak the messages on the back to be more personal to our own family, but I ran out of time and just used the great free printable already provided. I printed it out, cut out the hearts and messages, taped them around our paper straws and stuck them in the jar of rice. Then we decorated the outside of the jar. You’ll probably notice the original take on this project included dyeing the rice red. That is a fantastic idea, but again, I was in a hurry so I passed that up. Maybe next time.

I loved that this is an activity we can do as a whole family. We started it the first day of February, but this is so flexible, it can be started a week before Valentine’s, the week of Valentine’s or the whole month, whatever fits your family’s needs. So far, among other things, we’ve made each others’ beds, cleaned doorknobs, given thanks for one another and shared a great big family bear hug. That’s definitely the way to go in celebrating Valentine’s Day! Love all your loved ones in word *and* deed!

My girl added her own little touch: she shaped a pipe cleaner into a heart and we tied it onto the jar.

I think this project is definitely something we will revisit year after year. I think it would also be fun to do during the week of a loved one’s birthday as well. Do you have any special traditions you do for Valentine’s Day?