Product Review – Your Life Belongs to You: A True Story About the Birth of the United States

Your Life Belongs to You: A True Story About the Birth of the United States, written by Charlotte Cushman, is a history book for children. The book explains America’s early history, why the idea of individual rights was unique, and why this idea is the foundation of everything we consider to be “American”. 

Your Life Belongs to You: A True Story About the Birth of the United States Product Review – Book Basics

  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool – 3
  • Paperback: 82 pages
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Language: English

Per the author – if you read the book to pre-schoolers, only read a few pages each day or as much as they can absorb, then the next day verbally review it before going on to the next pages. Reading the entire book in a day would overwhelm them with too much information.

Your Life Belongs to You: A True Story About the Birth of the United States Product Review – What Do I Like About This Book?

  • This book is for children, but adults will enjoy it too. 
  • It’s educational – for your kids and for you.  I have to admit, I’ve forgotten a lot of early American history.  For instance, I didn’t know that the difficulties with Britain started in 1750 – decades before the defeat of the British army in 1783 – or that the Boston Massacre was started when colonists threw snowballs at British soldiers.
  • It’s inspirational.

From the book – They all stood in the field, the French in their blue uniforms with plumes in their hats, the British in their red uniforms, and the Americans, who on this day were triumphant at last, stood without uniforms.  They stood there with bloody rags on their feet, torn pants and hunting shirts, filthy hats, bruises and scars on their skin.  Yet they stood tall, proud and silent with their rifles at their sides.  They had just become victorious over the greatest army on earth.

  • The book highlights the importance of tenacity.

The captain of the British ship asked him (John Paul Jones) if he was ready to give up.  Jones shouted back, I have not yet begun to fight! He hadn’t either. The battle ended with the British captain giving up.

  • The book also highlights the importance of wit.

George Washington tricked the British into thinking he and his troops were going to attack New York, but instead, they blocked the British at Yorktown. The British could not get out of Yorktown.  They were trapped.

  • The subject matter offers many opportunities for discussion.
  • The story is followed by suggested activities and two appendices, one listing a detailed timeline, the other a question and answer game.  This adds to the educational (and fun) aspect of the book.
  • The book is written in a voice that kids can appreciate.  For instance –

People were getting tired of obeying kings.  They thought they were bossy.  All kids relate to “bossy! 

Another example – There were no houses or schools or stores.  The people would have to build and make everything they needed in order to live. 

And yet another example – The Americans loved to drink tea, but they weren’t going to pay to drink the tea and that that tax!  No way!

  • The book touches on Pocahontas – and the power of a child.  This is inspiring for kids – especially for girls.

  • I like the format of the pages – there is very little text on each page which makes it easy to read to kids/and easy for kids to read to you.
  • The font is large, which again, makes reading with children a breeze.
  • Every other page has an illustration or color photograph of the narrative.  Kids (and parents) love pictures!  I do wish the pictures included an explanation – the painter, where the original painting can be seen, etc.
  • BTW – it gets FIVE stars on Amazon!

Your Life Belongs to You: A True Story About the Birth of the United States Product Review – In Closing

The United States of America was the first country to protect the rights of the people and to be free of kings.  It was a new country with a new idea, the idea of freedom, the idea that your life belongs to you and to no one else.  Not to your neighbors, not to a king, not to any government, but to you.

About the Author

Charlotte Cushman is a retired Montessori teacher.  She has a B.S. degree in elementary education and both AMI and AMS Montessori certifications.  She speaks to parents, teachers and the general public on Montessori and discipline.  She and her husband have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren.  She has also written the book, Montessori Why It Matters for Your Child’s Success and Happiness.


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Our Silly Street Product Review

Silly Street makes character-building and social emotional learning products that help kids develop skills like grit, curiosity, empathy and creativity – skills that support their cognitive learning and help them throughout their entire lives.  Silly Street products include games, a Silly Street app, and so much more.

Silly Street Games (Silly Street and Animal Act)

Silly Street –

Playing Silly Street helps kiddos with all kinds of things like social skills, communication, creativity, resilience and confidence.  It includes many types of play: dramatic, communication, creative, interpretive, competitive, and teamwork.  The game comes with 1 giant 40″ puzzle board, 55 silly cards, 4 solid wood pieces, and 1 cotton storage bag.

Players move down Silly Street by choosing a card and simply performing as the card suggests.  Sounds simple, right? Not so!  Some cards award YOU points, some cards make you COMPETE for the points, and some cards have you award points to another player!  ALL cards encourage silliness!  🙂


Material: Cardstock, cardboard
Playing Time: 15-20 Minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Suggested Age: 4 Years and Up
Number of Players: 2 or More Players


Here’s an explanatory video


Animal Act

Animal Act creatively combines verbal and physical communication in a game that celebrates and fosters bravery and creativity.  Animal Act is a fun way for kids to explore their creativity and non-verbal communication skills, flexing their brains to try new ways of expression and movement. Using a variety of performance styles (like acting, singing and miming), players try to get the group to guess their card before the time runs out.


Material: Cardboard, cardstock
Playing Time: 15-20 Minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Suggested Age: 4 Years and Up
Number of Players: 2 or More Players
And here’s another video


BOTH games teach:

You can purchase the Silly Street game here

and you can purchase Animal Act at this link.


The Silly Street App

This app helps kids build creativity, grit, empathy, curiosity, bravery and communication through movement, song, storytelling and again, major silliness.  🙂

Kids can play alone or with friends. Up to 6 players – Pass ’n Play utilizes technology to facilitate interaction with friends and family.
Game play involves the real world, not just the digital world.
It’s a narrated game, so pre-readers and readers alike can play and lear.n
Additional Card Packs can be purchased to keep play fresh and to help kids with specific developmental needs.
The Silly Street Learn & Play App can be used as digital decks of cards alongside the Silly Street board game.

A variety of card packs, including:

A Wild Cards pack that lets kids explore animals and build creativity, communication and grit…oh my!
A pack of Big Heart Cards that are all about love and empathy.
The deck of Pirate Cards…these cards let kids take to the seas and prove their courage.
The Into the Woods deck helps players build creativity and adaptability.
A deck of Boardwalk Cards which takes players on a stroll and encourages challenging performances.
The pack of Sensational Cards tickles the senses, and uses each sense in funny ways to help kids build awareness.

The app is available in the App Store for iPhone…and for a limited time, it’s FREE!




Again….a video!

“I love that this is an app that gets my family up, moving and laughing together! We spend less time looking at the screen and more time looking at each other.”

“A great way to get your kid motivated to get up and be goofy, instead of simply staring at an iPad. Now I wish more mobile games had a physical play component like Silly Street does.”

“We have the companion board game and we love it. This app which expands your card deck and allows you to play on the go is fabulous!”


Silly Street Character Builders Toy Set

This theater-themed set encourages emotional exploration through pretend play.  And it develops creativity, confidence, empathy and communication skills.  Kids can create their own mini-performances featuring mix and match magnetic wood figures which express 6 distinct emotions.  This toy is made in partnership with Mindware.

The set includes: 3 double-sided, mix-and-match wooden figurines, 8 costume accessories, 6 cardboard backdrops, 2 floor options, 1 stage, 2 plastic clips and instructions.



What do I like about ALL of these products?

  • They focus on character building and social emotional learning.  Play challenges are designed  to help kids build important character skills like empathy, grit, resilience, creativity and bravery.
  • They’re fun.
  • And silly!
  • And charming!
  • Kids can play on their own or with others.
  • Since the games are for kids 3-7 (and beyond), this is a great game for kids of different ages to enjoy together (think siblings).
  • Think parents too!  My kids love seeing me (and their Dad), doing silly things/being uninhibited.
  • The physical products are of very good quality (they’ll last).
  • Great artwork….very colorful.
  • Really fun voices on the app.
  • I love the magnets on the wood figures/Builders Toy Set.
  • Kids can curate games based on things they like (Cats? Unicorns?  No problem!)
  • And parents can personalize the experience to their kids’ needs.  So, if you really want to focus on empathy you can.
  • The app’s password-protected Parent Portal is nice.  It ensures kids won’t run into an annoying purchase opportunity anywhere in the game. Plus, adults can access the Parent Portal to download new card packs. This keeps the game fresh.
  • No two games are alike.
  • The app’s interactive game allows parents an opportunity to help their kids build a healthy relationship with technology.

In conclusion

Kids benefit from being silly.  And from character education.  The combination of the two is MARVELOUS!


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Our Nilo Toys Review – Multi-Use Play Tables

Nilo Toys produces quality, sturdy, multi-use play tables and accessories.  I am so impressed with:

  • the quality
  • they’re multi-functional
  • the storage options
  • the customizable options (size of table, table holes, mats, accessories)

Their motto is “Buy once, Buy right, Buy Nilo®!”  And honestly, this is a great motto for this company!

Here are some pics of the table I received – after I assembled it.  BTW – assembly was a breeze.

Now, I’d like to discuss the quality of the table, the multi-functionality of the table, the storage possibilities and how you can customize the table.

Nilo Toys Review – Quality

All of the Nilo Toys tables and accessories are made out of solid hard wood (in a variety of finishes) and they are built to last for generations.

Look how sturdy this table is!!

Nilo Toys Review Multi-Functional

  • Tables are 19 inches tall, ideal for toddlers and children (low enough to do puzzles and other activities).
  • Leg extensions are available as kids get older/taller.
  • The height of the raised border on the table keeps small manipulatives on the table top.
  • Its ideal to use as an LEGO table or a DUPLO table, thanks to the baseplates /Block Mats (more info on these below).
  • Also, its the perfect height for wooden train use (wooden train track is 1/2″ thick, and the table borders are 1 1/4″ high).

Nilo Toys Review Storage

Look at the possible storage!  I have to say – I love storage – and this is really efficient/space-saving storage!  Woo Hoo!!


Notice some of the customizable options below. You can also choose between the 34″ table or the 48″ table. You can also choose between holes/no holes in the framing, the frame style, and whether you’d like mats.


Here are the Table Specs for the 34″ Table

  • Measures 25″W x 34″L x 20″H
  • Play surface 24″W x 32″L
  • Solid hardwood construction
  • Easy to clean double-sided melamine surface
  • Each baseplate is 12″ x 32″. They simply drop into the raised border of the tables
  • Easy to clean baseplates – you can remove them and wash them
  • Fantastic LEGO/DUPLO table, puzzle table, etc
  • Super train table
  • 24″ Leg Kit available for this table as an add-on
  • The table design allows seating – and you can choose between stools/chairs and benches
  • The Nilo storage bins fit easily underneath
  • Made to last for generations

Table Options

With Holes in Framing: Holes in frame are compatible with  Nilo-Jax (Extreme trestle set great for wooden trains and other track sets), Rok-Jax (Rokenbok use) and their Nails also work with Zoob (a construction toy), Fiddlestix, Brio-Mec and other toys.

Without Holes in Framing: Basically, a cleaner design, not having holes in the framing.

Mats: You can add green 2-Sided Block Mats, Lego® on one side, Duplo on the other side.

What do I Like about this Product?

  • OMGosh – the quality and the durability!  This table is daycare quality and will last for years – decades! I’ve found that men really ooh and ahh over this table – they’re impressed with the craftsmanship.  I have a friend that’s a professional cabinet maker and he’s really impressed with this table.
  • The flexibility!  In overall table size, table height, use, and storage.
  • It’s very attractive.  Again, oohing and ahhing.  🙂
  • It features an easy to clean solid white melamine top.  The white surface is on the top and bottom of the table so if one side gets stained/ruined, you can just turn it over.  That’s nice.  And practical.  I love practical!  🙂
  • Mats are an option too.  They work for LEGO and DUPLO.
  • The mats are easy to remove and clean.
  • With the mats, your child can start a project on the mat, remove the mat with the project on it – and use the table for another use.
  • You can customize your table.
  • It’s a breeze to assemble.  I HATE assembling anything.  I’d rather pay more for an item and have it delivered ready-to-go – but that’s usually not an option.  If you have to assemble something – hope it’s as easy as this table!
  • You can also purchase other items to go with the table. Check out the stool and the storage bins. And I LOVE their toy chest/bench.  Really….check out the toy chest/bench!  You’ll love it.

  • This is a U.S. family owned business, established in 1992.
  • I don’t usually comment on price – but the price is really reasonable!  Again, this table is daycare quality – I’d expect it to be priced at a much higher price point.
  • On top of their GREAT price, the company is offering a 10% discount to readers.  Just send an email to before you order and they mention HOW TO HOME SCHOOL. This discount will go through the end of January 2019.

Nilo Toys Multi-Use Play Tables Review – In Conclusion

I have to say, I agree with their motto – “Buy once, Buy right, Buy Nilo®!”


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Our Reading Eggs Product Review

Reading Eggs offers a variety of online, research-based, interactive, one-on-one, learn-to-read programs for kids 2-13 years of age. These programs (see below) include 120 lessons, thousands of interactive activities, motivating rewards, songs, and more.

Reading Eggs makes reading fun!

Using the five essential keys to reading success, Reading Eggs focuses on a core curriculum of phonics and phonemic awareness, sight words, vocabulary, comprehension, and reading for meaning.

In case you’re wondering, the five essential keys to reading success include the following

  • Phonemic awareness – children learn the necessary listening skills to become aware that speech is made up of sounds and that these sounds make words, syllables and phonemes.
  • Phonics – each letter of the alphabet is introduced in its own lesson with a focus on reinforcing letter-sound relationships and highlighting the alphabetic principle.
  • Fluency – children develop the rapid word recognition skills essential for reading fluency, including learning to instantly recall crucial sight words that make up 50% of elementary level books.
  • Vocabulary – new words are introduced with visual support to provide context and increase word knowledge and retention.
  • Comprehension – reading for meaning is the end goal of Reading Eggs. The program includes over 2,000 e-books, each with their own comprehension quiz.

Check out a video here

You can try a free sample lesson here.

AND you can register to start a FREE trial.

 Upon signing up, your child should take the free reading placement test that determines where your child should start in the program.  This pre-test is VERY helpful.

More on the Reading Eggs learn-to-read process

Kids learn essential reading skills. Children complete animated online lessons where they learn essential reading and phonics skills. The variety of activities within each lesson provides the repetition necessary for the skills to become part of the child’s long term memory. And children can repeat the online lessons as many times as they need to reinforce key learning concepts

Read books online. Children gain confidence by reading online books that only contain words they have already studied in the program. There are over 2,000 leveled books in the Reading Eggs program.

Earn rewards. Children earn golden eggs as rewards for the progress they make. They can use these eggs to buy fun reward games and items for their avatar or online house. Children can also earn certificates that can be printed out.

Complete quizzes. After 10 lessons, children complete a quiz. This provides you with a report of what your child is learning.

Why is Reading Eggs a good fit for homeschoolers?

  • 91% of homeschool parents using Reading Eggs have seen a noticeable improvement in their child’s reading skills.  That’s a pretty amazing number.
  • Reading Eggs was developed by a team of elementary educators with 30+ years teaching experience.  You can trust it.  You can feel comfortable using it in your home.
  • You don’t have to guess what your child needs to learn. The program starts with a reading pre-test – and the program places your child automatically, depending on the results.
  • Once placed, your child follows the Reading Eggs “map” of lessons – so your child is learning everything in the correct order – and not missing a thing.

Here are the test results for my kids, ages 4 and 7.  Lynn, my 4-year-old knows her letters, but can’t read many words yet.

My son James is 7 and reads pretty well.

As a result of his pre-test, this is James’ program.

Notice his avatar – he was able to personalize it.  He chose a robot theme – while my daughter chose a fish-like theme.

  • There is a Reading Eggspress homeschool literacy program. Key features include:
    • My Lessons – over 200 comprehension lessons which cover five broad levels equivalent to school grades 1 to 6. Learn more about My Lessons.
    • The Stadium – your child can compete against students from around the world or against the computer with four contests that tests skills in spelling, vocabulary, usage, and grammar.
    • English Skills – focuses on common spelling rules, generalizations, and strategies using a combination of teaching videos, engaging online activities and games, with printable worksheets and assessment tests. Learn more about English Skills.
    • The Library – home to over 2,000 e-books, each with their own comprehension quiz.
    • Other homeschool parents really like Reading Eggs.
  • The lessons and activities are carefully paced to ensure your child makes progress.
  • There are assessment tests at the end of each map (a set of lessons) to ensure children have retained what they have learned in the lessons.
  • Homeschool parents have access to hundreds of full-color activity sheets that correspond with the lessons in the program, printable certificates, and more.
  • A comprehensive dashboard details your child’s progress through the program, including how many lessons they have completed, books they have read, their estimated reading age, and what score they achieved on each end-of-map quiz.

FYI – Here is what we did today.

Lynn practiced the letter M today – little m and capital M.

And here are some of the extra worksheets that go along with the letter m – and there are more on this link.  I like that I can print these out.

James practiced all kinds of things today!

Our Reading Eggs Product Review – What do I like about Reading Eggs?

  • It works!
  • The quantity of resources!  There are hundreds of online reading lessons and thousands of e-books in the Reading Eggs library (pictured below).

  • Children love it – at least mine do!  They like the games, songs, golden eggs and other rewards.
  • The online reading lessons are easy to follow and they are self-paced.
  • The program is completely interactive.
  • There’s lots of repetition (in a good way).
  • The audio is very good.
  • The graphics are cute and very colorful.  I really like the graphics.
  • When children start the program, they complete a placement quiz to ensure they are starting at the correct reading level.
  • After that, they are given a program (map) of how to proceed, and everything is automatic.
  • I really like this progression.  My kids are learning what they should – and in the right order.
  • Parents can access detailed progress reports to see how their kids are doing.
  • Also available to parents – hundreds of downloadable activity sheets that correspond with the lessons in the program.  I included links to the letter M sheets previously.
  • Extras!  I’m a sucker for coordinating puppets!
  • A free trial.  And a money-back guarantee.  I appreciate a free trial that’s two weeks in length – so I can really, truly try a product out.  And when a company backs their product with a money-back guarantee, that tells me they believe in and stand by their product.
  • MATHSEEDS!  When you purchase Reading Eggs, you get access to their math program too!  Woo Hoo!
  • Mathseeds teaches kids aged 3-9 math and problem solving skills. As with Reading Eggs, Mathseeds combines highly structured lessons with fun motivational elements that keep kids engaged and enthused about learning.

  • Good customer service – follow up e-mails, etc.

In conclusion

We really love Reading Eggs! 🙂


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A Little Pim Product Review

Did you know that studies show that from birth to age six, the human brain is optimally equipped for learning and producing language (s)?

And did you know, studies show that learning a second language helps kids academically?

  • Learning a foreign language improves memory and analytic abilities and strengthens problem solving skills.
  • Bilinguals, especially those that have learned a second language before the age of 6, demonstrate superior reading and writing skills.

Little Pim makes learning a foreign language easy and accessible to all kids – at the age they learn language best (0-6 years).

Also, Little Pim gives your child access to ALL of their language programs – Spanish, French, English, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Portuguese, Arabic, and Hebrew.  WOW!

Little Pim not only teaches a young child a new vocabulary, but the Little Pim programs help children acquire a near-native accent.  Wow!  

And you as the parent, don’t even need to know the language your child is learning. Wow again!

Don’t speak Spanish…or French?  No problem!  Your child can. 🙂

FYI – some basics regarding language acquisition

Babies hear their mothers’ voices before birth. Because of this, newborns already know the rhythm of their native language.

Also, infants are able to detect different sounds and hear the nuances in foreign languages with clarity and precision. Infants actually perceive these differences better than adults.

Young children’s ways of assimilating language are different from adults too, especially in pronunciation. But as children become “tuned” to their native language, they gradually lose the ability to tell the subtle sounds in foreign languages apart. When people are introduced to foreign sounds later in life, they have much more difficulty hearing the differences, thus making it that much harder to imitate these sounds.

So, you can see why learning languages early, is important.

And here’s more info on Little Pim

Isn’t he darling?  I have to admit, I love the panda.  Also, Little Pim’s voice mirrors “motherese” and the videos use sharp and colorful images of objects and actions. This allows young viewers to connect the sounds they hear with actions and objects in real life.  So, he’s darling and exceptionally educational.  🙂

This is exciting – Little Pim offers a new subscription service in which your child can get unlimited access to all 12 of the Little Pim language learning programs!  WOWZA!!

When you subscribe, you get:

  • Access to all 12 programs
  • 30+ hours of content – no ads
  • Parent scripts
  • Lessons & activities
  • And more!

You can get a FREE 3 day trial (you do have to give your credit card info) and of course, you can cancel at any time

Also, you can check out videos on the Little Pim YouTube channel.  The videos give you a good idea of what all the program offers.

If you decide to subscribe, the cost is just $4.99/month or $49.99/year (17% savings). That’s a GREAT deal!


In conclusion:

  • This is a great program
  • At a great value
  • It teaches little ones when they’re most receptive to learning languages
  • Your little ones will love Little Pim
  • You will too 🙂
  • It’s easy for you as a parent (with scripts and printable lessons and more)
  • You don’t need to be fluent in the language (s) your child is learning (that’s so important!)
  • I really think you should give Little Pim a try!
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Our Kinder Swimmer Product Review

The Kinder Swimmer Mission: To instill a love and respect for the water through experienced instruction.  Daytime classes available for homeschool families!

The reasons your child should learn how to swim are many/varied. 

The most important reason is that knowing how to swim can literally save your child’s life.

Yes – swimming is an essential life-saving skill.

Other reasons include:

  • It’s fun!

  • Swimming provides loads of health benefits. Swimming keeps your child’s heart and lungs healthy, improves strength and flexibility, increases stamina  – swimming even improves balance and posture!  Who knew!?!
  • Swimming is an incredible workout. Swimming involves moving multiple muscle groups in a high-intensity, cardio workout. And all four strokes involve working different muscle groups. (At our house, we even modify/make up strokes to work the different muscle groups).
  • Another great thing about swimming is that children of any age or ability can take part. Swimming is more accessible for children with additional needs than just about any other sport.
  • And because swimming is low impact – it’s ideal for oldsters as well.  My Mom is in her mid-sixties and hates to exercise (she says she doesn’t like to sweat) – but she’ll swim laps and do pool exercises for HOURS at a time.
  • Swimming is a life-long sport.
  • Because of indoor pools, you can swim year round.  Even with snow outside.  So, it’s a great winter sport when running, rollerblading, etc. aren’t possible.
  • Learning to swim also opens the door to a range of other activities including all types of boating  (we love to kayak); scuba diving; surfing, water skiing, wake boarding, etc. (my kids just took up wake boarding this year); and triathlons (one of my daughters is a runner – and a great swimmer – so I see triathlons in her future).
  • Advantages of belonging to a swim team include learning about personal goals (wanting and striving to beat one’s own record); dedication and hard work; teamwork; and more.

Daytime classes available for homeschool families. Product Review – So, how can Kinder Swimmer help your child learn how to swim?  And why do I like Kinder Swim?

Kinder Swimmer can:

  • Help children and adults overcome any fears they may have of the water.  Look at this little guy – he’s certainly not afraid!  🙂

  • Offer personalized instruction (no more than 4 children are in a regular swim class).  That’s a really nice teacher : student ratio.
  • Their students learn up to three times faster, when compared to kids in other community swim lessons. This is because of the small class size, and because Kinder Swimmer uses a float belt method of teaching (which helps kids swim on their own).
  • Kinder Swimmer focuses on safety strokes first – crawl, back, and elementary backstroke and on recovery jumping.
  • Kinder Swimmer lessons are repetitious, which helps kids get the basics down.
  • Once kids get the basic, safety strokes down, they can learn more advanced strokes – including sidestroke, butterfly, and breaststroke.  Speed turns, surface dives etc. are also taught.
  • Kids advance when ready, but Kinder Swimmer doesn’t use leveled classes. This means kids don’t feel bad if they’re in a lower level compared to their peers.
  • Kinder Swimmer offers flexible schedules.
  • Plus, Kinder Swimmer offers additional services beyond swim lessons.

  • They have nice warm pools (92 degrees) in Renton and Spanaway, Washington.
  • The company was started by two moms – about 21 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I like giving my business to female-run businesses whenever possible.
  • In the last 20+ years, the company has watched their students progress from toddlers to proficient swimmers, to Special Olympics athletes, and to members of water polo and swim teams.  In fact, their students have become swim teachers, and parents, and many parents are now enrolling their own children in Kinder Swimmer classes.

On a personal note

I LOVE swimming.  I’ve actually thanked my mom for giving me swimming (That doesn’t quite sound right – but you know what I mean).  🙂  A pool is my happy place.  So is the middle of a clean lake.  I daydream when I swim, I make plans, I think things through – I pray.  I can’t imagine not being able to swim. I’m so glad I have this life-saving skill – that I enjoy it – and that I can enjoy it into my eighties and beyond.  Because I will be swimming when I’m 80!  I know that.

I encourage you to give swimming to your children.  🙂


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Highlights Product Review

Did you grow up on Highlights?  For over 70 years the company has been providing high-quality, developmentally appropriate magazines and more – that engage kids’ brains and imaginations. In fact, their motto is Fun with a Purpose®.

For this review, I received Highlights products that are perfect for young kids pre-school – 2nd grade.  All of the products are educational and of high quality, and all work well in a homeschool setting.


Highlights My First Write-On Wipe-Off Board Books (for kids 3-6)

In these books, Highlights combines their Hidden Pictures® puzzles with number, letter and word activities to help kids develop essential math and writing skills.

The dry-erase, wipe-clean pages encourage kids to practice writing and solving puzzles over and over again, because after all, practice makes perfect.  🙂

The books are made of heavy board stock, each book is approx. 8.5″ X 11″ and they are the perfect size for young hands. The board book pages are so sturdy, kids can play on them anywhere, without needing a desk.  And they come with their own marker.

There are three different selections in the write-on wipe-off board book series.  They include My First Hidden Pictures, My First 123, and My First ABCEach of the three selections is 28 pages in length. 

My First Hidden Pictures

This book contains pre-school friendly Hidden Pictures® puzzles, words to trace, drawing and counting activities, dot-to-dots and more.

See page pics below.  Cute, right!?!

My First ABC 123 and My First 123

So, what’s the best way to get kids to practice writing numbers and letters? By making it fun.  My First ABC and My First 123 activity books do just that. Simple Hidden Pictures® scenes, matching games, mazes and more combine with alphabet and counting activities to make the books entertaining and educational.

I’ve included pics of both books below.

Highlights Product Review – What do I like about these three books?

  • I like the physical qualities of the books – the size, the thick board pages, the fact that the entire book is wipe-able (not just the cover – pages too), that there’s a compartment for the marker and more.  I LOVE the whole wipe-on/wipe-off concept for learning.
  • I like the content of the books – especially the puzzles and the colorful pictures.  Plus, the activities in the books are educational, and they build fine-motor skills.
  • The books teach kids that puzzles/brain teasers are fun.  I like this because I think brain teasers are incredibly educational.
  • I LOVE that my kids enjoy the books and learn while also having fun.
  • These are really wonderful books for young kids just learning about puzzles, numbers and letters.


Highlights Write-On Wipe-Off Fun to Learn Activity Books (for kids 3-6)

These books are also for kids ages 3-6, but in my opinion, are the next step after the board books.  Whereas my four year old likes the board books, my six year old prefers these books.

As with the board books, kids can write, draw, and complete puzzles  (they come with a marker) – so they can practice essential skills – over and over again.  The pages are thinner and taller than the board books, and these books have a hidden wire spiral binding that lets the books lay flat.  Each book is approx. 8″ X 11″ inches and has 56 pages.

There are three different activity books to choose from: Highlights Write-On Wipe-Off Let’s Trace, Write-On Wipe-Off Let’s Write Letters and Highlights Wipe-Off Let’s Write Words.

Let’s Trace

This write-on wipe-off book makes mastering the fine motor skills of pen control a fun activity for young children. The thick, dotted lines and wide paths are simple to trace and follow, and pre-schoolers can progress from tracing straight lines to tracing simple geometric shapes.

Very cute, don’t you agree?

Let’s Write Letters

Each write-on wipe-off page uses colorful, imaginative puzzles, mazes, and more to help pre-schoolers learn the alphabet.  Kids have an opportunity to identify letters, trace existing letters, write letters from scratch, and add letters to finish a sentence.

 See the pics below.

Let’s Write Words

This activity book helps kids learn sight words.  Each 2-page spread has a puzzle on one side and related words to copy on the other.  I really like this 2-page layout.

Again, you can check out the pics below.

Highlights Product Review – What do I like about these books?

  • I like the physical qualities of the books – the cover and the pages are wipe-able, the books lay flat when they’re open so they’re easy for young kids to work on, the marker fits nicely in the binder, and more.
  • I like the content of the books.  They contain a variety of puzzles (Hidden Pictures® scenes, matching, mazes, etc.), that make it fun to learn to write and read sight words.
  • I like the interactive qualities of the books.  As with the board books, kids can write, draw, and puzzle all over the books – and they can keep practicing essential skills – over and over again. As mentioned previously, I LOVE the whole wipe-on/wipe-off concept for learning.
  • The books help build writing confidence as well as fine-motor skills.
  • Each book has an All About Me page which I appreciate.  I want my kids to have ownership of their work.
  • There are no start and finish pages to the books – kids can start anywhere/select activities that interest them the most.
  • I LOVE that my kids enjoy the books and learn while also having fun.


Highlights Big Fun Workbooks

These books have the appearance of traditional workbooks. Each is approx. 8.5″ x 11″ and 256 pages in length. Although they look like traditional workbooks, they are chock full of imaginative puzzling, humor, and charming illustrations that engage children and help them build academic confidence. Each book  includes a certificate of completion at the end, as well as simple tips to help parents guide their children through the activities.

There are four different workbooks for ages pre-k through 2nd grade (3-8 years old). The four workbooks include: Big Fun Preschool Workbook, Big Fun Kindergarten Workbook, Big Fun First Grade Workbook, and Big Fun Second Grade Workbook.

Big Fun Preschool Workbook

Big Fun Preschool Workbook helps kids practice essential skills for academic/homeschool readiness and success.

Mazes, matching games, dot-to-dots, scavenger hunts, find-the-differences and Hidden Pictures® puzzle activities make it fun for preschoolers to practice the following skills:

  • ABCs
  • Sight words
  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Numbers
  • Patterns
  • Sorting
  • Opposites
  • Math concepts
  • Sequencing
  • And more

Pictures follow:

Big Fun Kindergarten Workbook

Matching games, find-the-differences, scavenger hunts, That’s Silly scenes and Hidden Pictures® puzzle activities let kindergarten-aged kids practice the following academic skills:

  • Alphabet
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Sight words
  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Numbers
  • Patterns
  • Sorting
  • Opposites
  • Math concepts
  • Sequencing
  • Comparing
  • And more

Big Fun First Grade Workbook

This workbook includes essential skills practice – along with puzzle play, to help kids grow into confident learners. With this workbook, kids practice:

  • ABCs
  • Word recognition
  • Digraphs and consonant blends
  • Homophones
  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Numbers
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Sequencing
  • Beginning science
  • And more

Big Fun Second Grade Workbook

The Big Fun Second Grade Workbook helps kids learn in a way that’s fun, by blending lessons with puzzles. Grade-appropriate exercises are incorporated into Hidden Pictures® scenes and other enjoyable activities  Lessons include:

  • Cursive writing
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Map skills
  • And more

Highlights Product Review – What do I like about these workbooks?

  • The pure size of the workbooks – 256 pages – that’s a lot of academic practice/learning!
  • The workbooks help kids recognize vowels and consonants, learn sight words, build their vocabulary, and increase their reading and writing skills.
  • The workbooks introduce early math and science concepts, which I really appreciate.
  • In addition to academics, the workbooks build concentration, attention to detail, and critical thinking skills.  What a bonus, right!?!
  • The combination of activities, puzzles, and skills practice helps kids feel academically confident.
  • Answers are included.
  • Wipe-able covers (important in my house).
  • I appreciate the Extend the Learning helpful tips at the back of the books.
  • And more. 🙂


Highlights Learn On The Go Practice Pads

This product offers a travel-friendly activity pad where kids can learn the alphabet, numbers and handwriting skills anywhere, anytime.  There are 4 pad options. The pads include Tracing and Colors and Shapes (pre-school), and Writing Numbers and Writing Letters (kindergarten). Each pad is 6″ x 9″ and contains 64 pages.


Tracing helps kids ages 3-6 develop fine motor skills and pen control through tracing prompts, Hidden Pictures® puzzles, mazes, and more, all in a travel-friendly activity pad format.

Colors and Shapes

Colors and Shapes offers a unique blend of shape-tracing and color-identification activities with age-appropriate puzzles that also build fine-motor skills.

Learning Numbers

This pad helps kids ages 3-6 with number recognition through tracing prompts, Hidden Pictures® puzzles, counting activities, etc.

Writing Letters

Writing Letters offers kids ages 3-6 a unique blend of alphabet activities with age-appropriate puzzles that increase writing confidence and build fine-mot0r skills.

Highlights Product Review – SO, what do I LOVE about these products?

  • They’re Highlights – a name I loved as a child, and trust as an adult.
  • Colorful illustrations and achievable puzzles make learning loads of fun.
  • My kids and I love the colorful pictures and the variety of puzzles.
  • I like the easy-to-go portability – these are great for the car.

And FYI – here is a link to all the Highlights products


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ColorMinis Product Review – Color & Create Real 3D Art

Do you use coloring apps at your house?  Coloring apps help 1. build creativity, 2. color combination skills and 3. overall focus.  Plus, they’re fun – and many are free.  ColorMinis combines the fun of a coloring app with a 3D art project (think of a 3D coloring book but with realistic figures instead of paper). ColorMinis is a great product for just about everyone – and I do mean everyone!  My 4 year old loves it, as do my six and ten year olds. I have fun using ColorMinis – and so does my Mom.
You can check out a ColorMinis Kids Preview below

So, what are the ColorMinis app features?  With the app, kids can:

  • Color and design anime figures, animals, robots, dogs, castles, and more (The app includes a variety of figure styles and themes created by artists from around the world)
  • Create their own color combinations or use designer palettes
  • Combine color with gloss, shine, metal, glass, sparkle and more
  • Tap the materials and color, or pinch to zoom on the HD figure details
  • Swipe the figure to view from different angles
  • Add custom name tags and fill a collection shelf (see our castle example below)
  • Create animated gifs and pictures of their creations


ColorMinis Product Review – What do I like about the ColorMinis app?

There are so many combinations/options!  On the Little Missy figure you can change the dress color, the material, choose buttons or zippers, choose sock and shoe color, hair color, and more.  Here are just a few that my daughter has made.


Kids can also color castles, owls, robots and more.  Again, there are so many color options.

It works on apple and android products, and the app is easy to download.

Kids can work offline. No wifi is needed.

Because of this, this is a great activity when riding in a car, waiting at appointments, etc.

There is also a physical figurine your child can paint!  What do I like about the Simple Missy figurine?

  • After playing with the app for HOURS, my kids were truly stoked when a physical figurine arrived in the mail
  • The figure is made of high quality vinyl and is ready to paint, right out of the box
  • The Simple Missy figurine is great for kids of all ages – even young ones can have fun painting it
  • The ColorMinis figurine is easy to paint as it separates into parts.  Once painted, the figurine is a cinch to assemble
  • You can use any craft store acrylic paint (although the company does recommend Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic)
  • You can test your colors in the ColorMinis app – it’s a great way to choose the perfect color combination
  • You can add stickers, glitter and more
  • Painting the figurine is a fun, creative project
  • The figurine is really cute
  • It arrives in a charming, eco-friendly box

ColorMinis Product Review – In Closing

The ColorMinis app and figurine provide hours of creativity for your kids.  My four year old is so proud of her creations – and watching her focus when she’s on the app, kind of makes my heart soar.  Really!

Out of curiosity, I looked to see how many stars this app gets from other users.  It’s a very well received/well reviewed app.


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My Letters alive Student Journals Product Review

My Letters alive Student Journals Product Review 

I’m SO excited to tell you about and to share my review of My Letters alive Student Journals! Why?  Because I LOVE the products and technology that Alive Studios offers.

As in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!  (And your kiddos will too!)

So, what exactly does the company do? provides augmented reality resources – a “mind-boggling new technology for teaching and learning”.

Mind-boggling?  Really?  

YES.  🙂

The journals are for kids preK- Grade 3,  and for ELL and special needs students.

And since seeing is believing, take a look at the “mind-boggling” video on the company’s home page – 

I reviewed the My Letters alive Student Journals

If your little one is lacking engagement, this will blow her mind!

My Letters alive Student Journals, along with the FREE, accompanying app, uses  the “mind-boggling” technology, to make learning letters, letter sounds and proper letter formation a FUN experience!

I used to think teaching the ABCs was boring – but not anymore!


Two journals are available – a preK and a Kindergarten journal

My Letters alive Student Journals help your child learn letters by:

  • Introducing/reinforcing letters and letter sounds.
  • Teaching proper letter formation.
  • Teaching a little science a long the way (Did you know that a narwhal whale has a ten foot tooth/tusk? See photo below).
  • Monitoring progress with a sticker badge set.
  • Being entertaining – it’s fun to see the graphics move, it’s fun to sing along with the the Zoo Crew Alphabet music video, and who doesn’t want to take a photo with the 3D animals? (see pic below)

Take photos with the animals and
share with friends and family!

Your kiddo will love the challenges and activities in this Journal, but when they see it come to life in 3D, you might get Teacher of the Year! Haha!

Here’s a video specifically about My Letters alive Student Journals –

BTW – the journal is a complement to the company’s reading program Letters alive Plus, but can be used as a stand alone resource or with other learn-to-read resources you may be using.

What do I like – no- what do I LOVE about My Letters alive Student Journals?

  • With your smartphone or mobile tablet, you can open a whole new world for your early reader.
  • That’s because this isn’t a typical software program where kids stare at a screen and peck on the keyboard.  This is SO MUCH more!  It’s a cross-curricular learning solution that utilizes multiple learning modalities.  Wow!
  • Because of this, children hear, see, touch, and speak – all of which increases engagement and retention.
  • And because of this, the product works well for all different learning styles. Yah!
  • The app is easy to download and use.
  • There are numerous learning opportunities with the app.  Kids can hear the animal’s name, hear the animal’s sound, hear the letter pronounced, and trace the lower case and upper case letter.
  • And, I like the journal.  It has a wipe-able cover.  That’s important in my house.
  • Plus, the child has ownership of the journal – she prints her name right on the front – and there is a badge system right in the journal.  I think ownership is really important.
  • In the preK journal, kids can color the animal and practice writing the lower and upper case letters.
  • In the kindergarten journal, for each letter, kids can do multiple tasks to learn the letter – they can color the animal, draw things that are found in the animal’s habitat, write the letter in the journal,  and draw other items that start with the letter.  So, it’s more than just sounding out the letter and memorizing it.  Additional learning  is taking place – and it’s fun learning (I’ve found that fun learning seems to stick better than rote learning).  The kindergarten – Grade 3 journal contains more structure, printed activities, and opportunities for learning – but both are GREAT.
  • The sticker badges give you a fun and easy way to measure progress for your child.  My child gets a kick out of adhering a new sticker to her chart (again, this promotes ownership, which I’m a fan of).
  • This product promotes family engagement (my kids and I have fun with the journal and app).
  • The cost!  All this for under $10!!  WOWZA!!

Here are some pics of the journal –

Here are some pics from the app (letter N) –

And here are some screen shots from the alphabet song (the animals move in the song, but of course, these are still shots –

Because I love this product so much, I’m dying to try other products (math especially). 


Here is a complete listing of products

You can purchase journals here –  



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Wikki Stix Review

I go to websites all the time – it’s part of my job – and I have to say, the Wikki Stix site is one of the best!  There is so much info, so many fun options – and it’s so easy to see almost everything at once.  I’m impressed.

So, what are Wikki Stix and how do they work?

Wikki Stix are an award winning original waxed yarn creativity toy. They’re made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline, food-grade non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. They are fun and colorful, soft and pliable, and they stick to each other for 3-D creativity and fun.  They are also easy to peel up and re-position so “mistakes” are a breeze to fix. And guess what?  There’s no prep, clean-up, or mess involved.  Gotta love that!

And Wikki Stix are great for educational purposes and for crafts. They’re also great for home room decoration… seasonal fun… and party time!  In addition:

  • They appeal equally to boys and girls and span a wide range of ages (from 3 to 103!)
  • Wikki Stix are perfect for quiet, independent play or interaction with others.
  • They help enhance learning through hands-on kinesthetic involvement.
  • Wikkis stimulate the imagination and creativity in everyone.
  • And…there is no right or wrong way to play.
  • They’re safe! Wikki Stix conform to all US Consumer Safety Standards including ASTM D-4236, CA-Prop 65 and F-963, as well as the European Standard BS5665/EN71.

Wikki Stix for homeschooling

You can check out all the Wikki Stix products here –

Or if you’d like, you can go straight to the Wikki Stix educational link –

Here’s a link for teaching ideas.

And here is a link for an educational manual.

More videos!

Examples of educational projects you can do with Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix for crafts


Not only are Wikki Stix great for educational purposes, they’re also super for craft projects. Everything from greeting cards to seasonal and holiday crafts can be created with Wikki Stix. They’re perfect for preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school arts and crafts. For crafts ideas, you can click on this link –

And here are some examples of craft ideas

And there’s a Wikki Stix activity book (it comes with 72 colored Wikki Stix!)! 

The Wikki Stix activity book has 28 pages of fun and educational activities geared towards school (homeschool) readiness skills, such as visual discrimination, fine motor development, number and literacy awareness, and more.  But Shhhh…. your kids won’t know they’re learning… because they’ll be having so much fun!

The Activity Kit includes:

  • 1 8.5″ x 11″ Wikki Stix Activity Book (28 pages)
  • 72, six-inch Wikkies in assorted colors

Here are some pages from the book.

As you can see, Wikki Stix are really versatile.  You can use them for educational projects (especially STEM and STEAM projects) and for fun craft products. They encourage creativity and problem-solving.  Wow – that’s a win-win in my book!  Yours too?



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