Thursday, October 19, 2017

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit & The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors ~ A New TOS Review!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Over the last few months I have been concerned about the way my youngest holds his pencils. So when I had the opportunity to be on this newest review for The Pencil Grip. Inc., specifically for The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit, I jumped at the chance. Both my older girls have used pencil grips from this company and still use the basic pencil grip.  We were also sent The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors as part of this review.
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

As I started to really watch the way my son was writing I realized it was really bad for his hand. And he has been complaining of his hand hurting much more in the last few months then he had been before. I also saw that he holds his pencils very tight. Here's a picture of his regular pencil hold.

See what I mean? So we started with what is called The Crossover Grip, which is the first step in The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit. This grip has a "superhero cape" which has wings to help the fingers from crossing over. Here is my son using The Crossover Grip, which is one we are still using. He still tries to cross his fingers if he uses a pencil that does not have the grip.

The next step is The Pinch Grip. This one has less of a cape and is used in the transition stage of the grips. It allows for the person to see where their fingers are and have a bit more freedom, but still gives firm structure of placement for your fingers. Here is a picture of my son doing his work with the pinch grip.

The last step is when they 'graduate' to The Pencil Grip. This grip can be used all the time because it provides tons of comfort and still allows the pencil to be controlled properly. My girls each have their own of this 'original' grip and use it whenever they feel like they need.

The other product we received were The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors, which I had hoped to be able to show a toddler/preschooler using them. However, my son really likes these scissors. He thinks they are so cool since they have a safety shield to protect small fingers from being placed under a scissor and cutting their finger accidentally. You slide the paper in and use a regular cutting motion to cut paper.
The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors

However, as my son demonstrated if you cut really small pieces of paper, they can get stuck inside the shield. Thankfully, he was able to pull that out. These scissors are much sharper then your average "safety" scissors, which I find would be less frustrating for younger people who don't always like the safety measures.

There is also a small yellow lever that helps the blade spring back so it is easier for little hands. Even with all the safety features for The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors your child could still attempt to cut their hair. For this reason, I wouldn't leave them hanging around or let my little one use them without some supervision. But I see no way they could cut their fingers or hands with the awesome shield.
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
As always there were many other Crew families who were a part of this review so I urge you to check out their thoughts as well, just click the link below. And if you'd like to connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs - A New TOS Review!

I have used and recommended one program over others for years for an online reading program built for kids and full of reading games to help your child learn how to read. But I hadn't used it with my youngest. And he was very happy to finally be able to experience the Reading Eggs program he has heard about from his older sisters.  My younger daughter was also excited to use the program again, but this time she was able to progress to Reading Eggspress (created for help with reading comprehension) and check out the new MathSeeds section.  And you can check out this online reading program yourself with a free 4 week trial! (But make sure you sign up for it by November 30, 2017.)
Reading Eggs*

So what is  Reading Eggs? It is an online self-paced reading program for children ages 2 - 13 that helps to teach a child to read and reading comprehension skills through a series of learning games and rewards. Depending on your child's skill level there are three levels for reading --

     Reading Eggs Junior - created for the youngest readers, your preschoolers aged 2 - 4. It has a variety of alphabet games to help your child recognize letters and the sounds they make. They also have a variety of read aloud books.

     Reading Eggs - the focus here is for ages 3 -7 and struggling readers. Your child takes a placement test to start and then continues at their own pace earning golden eggs as rewards as they complete games and activities. The golden eggs can be used to purchase items for your avatar and to play other games.

     Reading Eggspress - This part of the program is for your older students ages 7-13 (1st - 6th grades) that helps build their reading comprehension skills and vocabulary as they continue to hone their love of reading. It includes a huge library of online books that also have games and activities to build your child's confidence of reading. You will also take a placement test to see the right place for your child to begin.

     MathSeeds - is a math program created for ages 3-9 to help them with their math skills. There is a placement test for this as well and will place your child in their proper spot to practice and hone their math skills. Both my children using the Reading Eggs program love spending time in the MathSeeds area.

The Reading Eggs program uses a combination of phonics and sight words to help build strong readers. There are also spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension built into the main program. As they complete games they earn golden eggs to use in games. They can also create an avatar once they begin the program. And as they learn words they will get access to online books they will be able to read on their own with the skills they have been learning.

There are also activity sheets for Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress, and MathSeeds that are matched to each lesson. Coloring sheets are available also but only for Reading Eggs and MathSeeds. For Reading Eggspress there are comprehension worksheets.  Just recently Reading Eggs has created brand new, colorful, printable guides for Kindergarten through 2nd grade. These guides are for a 36 week year for Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies and includes online lessons, books, and assessments to help you fully plan your learning. There are also lists to coordinate with Reading Eggspress reference books in their library.

Our Experience:
When you first start you will take a placement test (unless your child is just starting out - then you could just start at the beginning.) Since my son has been reading for a bit I wanted to see exactly the right place to start him so I had him do the placement test first, but I was nearby so I could make sure he wasn't deducing to answer questions ... he has a tendency to do this and it skews these types of placement tests. Once he finished he was told he would be starting on Map 7 (lessons 61 - 70).

He has asked every day to work on his Reading Eggs and has almost completed the map. Today he will finish that AND then there's a quiz to pass before heading to the next map. There are 12 maps in Reading Eggs and then he will be able to pass to Reading Eggspress. I have recognized that his reading fluency is getting stronger and he has less lag time when reading more complicated chapter books.

Each lesson has between 8 and 13 steps that the child goes through one at a time as they perfect new skills learning words. Once they get to the last step they get an egg and it opens to reveal a new creature and they collect the golden eggs along the way. These eggs can the be used to buy items for their avatar and their house as well as for games. In Reading Eggspress they can use them to collect trophies and digital trading cards.

Placement test in Reading Eggspress

Eggspress book

Quiz of the chapter
He has also LOVED playing with MathSeeds. He took a placement test for that as well and was placed in Map 23. There are 35 maps in total, but each map only has 5 lessons unlike the 10 lessons in the Reading Eggs portion. Both portions he's been using have worksheets that you can print to be used as extra practice. And they come FREE with your subscription!

There are also some appisodes under the Bonus Material tab when you click Reading Eggsperts! These little appisodes are about 7 minutes long and use phonemic awareness, rhyming, and word play to inspire your child. And don't forget there is a Parent Guide to assist you in getting ALL you can with your subscription to the Reading Eggs program.  Reading Eggs can be used online on your computer or on most iPads or Android devices. Just check your compatibility to see if your device will support the program.

Our Thoughts:
These new additions are fantastic and I am so happy about them all. I certainly will be continuing my recommendations of this program to anyone with the need of a complete reading program or as a supplement to help provide extra learning.
Reading Eggs

Many others of our Crew have also been reviewing the Reading Eggs program so be sure to click the link below to read more about each specific area of the program. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and connect with them at Instagram.  And don't forget about the FREE 4 week trial that I mentioned earlier ... you will want to check out ALL this program has to offer, but do that before November 30,2017 when it will expire!

Reading Eggs

Stephen's 43rd

Happy Birthday (to me)

(Warning: blatant attempt to get some kick backs from Amazon)

As an avid bicycle commuter and tinker, I am constantly fiddling with my bike, and shopping form parts a accessories.  Now that our family has joined Amazon Prime, it is so easy to find items for friends and family or set up my own wishlist. (I made a great one for some cycling gear I wanted)

So, I love my new saddle, an Origin8 Pro Sport.  I like a firm flat saddle, but for commuting, it is nice to have some cushioning.  I was worried that it would be too soft for my tastes.  Pleasant surprise, it is firm but not hard, and absorbs road bumps like they aren't even there.  Plus, it looks great.  I paired it with an Origin8 zero offset seat post, I like my saddle forward a bit on this bike.  I also got a Richtey 60 mm stem to shorten my reach, and raise my position. (It does have drop bars, so I can still get a little low if needed/desired)

I also received a new front rack to help even out some of the weight and put my headlamp out front a little more.

Then there is the drive-train.  I have been wanting to replace my rear derailleur and cassette.  I did so with a new Tiagra short cage and 11-36 cassette.  I am running a home-brew 1x setup.  Shifting is tighter, and the one extra low gear is useful as I tend to cycle up a few 'technical' areas on my way to work.

My only leftover wants are a front rack bag and new bar tape(cloth) to double wrap for more padding.

Lastly, a BIG THANK YOU to all my friends and family for hooking me up.
I love my bicycle.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brinkman Adventures ~~ A New TOS Review!

We love audio drama ... do you?? We were so happy to learn about another company called Brinkman Adventures that produces just that. As a Crew member, our family received Brinkman Adventures Season 4, where we were introduced to their missionary stories packed with suspense, adventure, and drama, all while expanding our faith in Christ as a family.
Brinkman Adventures

The big difference in these audio drama stories is that they are based on real life and real adventures of missionaries in this modern day and age all while using a fictional family -- the Brinkmans. At the forefront of all their stories is the love of God for His children. But you will also have your faith built as you listen to stories of courage, tenacity, true faith, and to follow the leading of the Lord.

In Brinkman Adventures Season 4 there are 12 such stories taking us from Cambodia to the U.S.S. R. to the Congo and back. Along the way we learn about many stories that come from the real life of Carl Ralston and Nik Ripkin's lives and others. On the main website after we have listened to the stories we can check out the "Real Stories" and there are additional links and learning and references to Nik's book called The Insanity of God where you can read the true tales in full.

We also found out that although the Brinkmans are a fictional family they are based loosely after a real life family known as the Bultmans who face the same issues as other families -- like kids not wanting to do chores and getting distracted while working. We see a truly fictional yet fun and engaging story in Episode 44 called War of the Raccoons that deals with exactly this struggle.

Since we had never heard any of the Brinkman Adventures we all agree that the opening episode, called Paradise Lost (Episode 37), was a fun introduction to the Brinkman family. We learned that they were a large family of 10 and during the episodes chaos of torrential rain compacted by a dam breaking near the missionary camp, that Mrs. Brinkman delivers the newest addition, a baby boy. When we read the "Real Stories" of the episodes we learn the truth versus the fiction and where they got their ideas to create this action-packed adventure.

In one of the last episodes (#47), called Cambodian Quest, we hear about the harsh realities that are present in places like Cambodia, where mother would sell her child to a Remember Nhu worker to keep her child from being captured by bad people. We hear other real life situations where children are pursued by bad people and the homes that Carl Ralston, a missionary we learn about in some of the episodes in Season 4, has created to keep these children safe. We learn about sacrifice and what it looks like to BE the hands and feet of Jesus.
Brinkman Adventures

I know that my children will be listening to these again and again. I have also seen them 'act' out some of the situations which I feel is a true testament to really learning something and committing it to their memory. I don't have any pictures of them "listening" to these adventures because we listened to them all online while either eating dinner or lunch. They are also available as physical CD's.

The download link is $25.99 while the CD's are $31.99. The first 4 seasons all include 12 episodes and each episode is about 30 minutes long which will give you approximately 5 hours of spectacular action-packed adventure listening. You can listen to episode previews that provide a brief snippet of each adventure. They also have Season 5, which is only 6 episodes and is slightly less expensive then the first 4 seasons. Or you can order the complete set!

We will certainly be adding a few more of these sets to our Christmas list this year. Audio dramas like these have become a fast favorite in our home. You can also keep up with Brinkman Adventures on Facebook.  And you will want to check out the other blog posts from other Crew members so be sure to check them out by clicking the link below!
Brinkman Adventures Season 4
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