Category Archives: homeschool

Geoboards: A Timberdoodle Review

Mr. Man uses Geoboards as part of his Occupational Therapy. Every time they come out, Monkey wants to be part of the activity. So, we decided to get a set of our own geoboards from Timberdoodle and post a review on them.

The Timberdoodle geoboards come with 4 boards, 20 activity cards, and 96 rubber bands. The boards themselves are of good, sturdy quality. They are smaller than I have seen with other boards, at 7.5 inches square. However, I found that I actually preferred this compact size. The cards are brightly colored and fit onto the frames well. There was one card that was not usable because the holes were not punched correctly. I really liked that the rubber bands were colored and could coordinate with the patterns. In comparison with other geoboards I have seen, I definitely prefer the boards that include patterns. One problem I had with this particular set of geoboards was many of the rubber bands snapped the first use out of the box. I don’t know if this is typical or if we simply got a bad set of bands, but it was very disappointing. After one use, we already need to replace the bands and this was not due to excessive roughness on the boys part (for once!)

This kit was a bit of a flop for us. Mr. Man sees them as a chore, so he wasn’t overly excited about this set. Monkey played with them but tired quickly. So overall, they serve their purpose but were not a huge success. My biggest pro was the quality of the boards themselves and my biggest con was the low-quality rubber bands. My overall feeling towards them was that they are typical geoboards, nothing overly exciting. They do their job. If you are looking specifically for geoboards this is a good sturdy set that looks like it will take some wear and tear (with back up rubber bands), but in the end, they are simply geoboards.

Disclaimer: Timberdoodle provided me with a discounted set of geoboards in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and received no further compensation.

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Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently reviewed Artistic Patch Cosmos Foil by Djeco. This craft kit, for ages 6-10, is sold by Timberdoodle and is included in their 2020 First-Grade Curriculum Kit. This Kit would be an excellent addition to your Space themed units. The kit includes 8 sheets of glue patches, 10 foil transfer sheets, and 12 background pages.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of pages that were included with this kit. There are enough to allow several for several crafting sessions.

 

The boys enjoyed the effect created by the metallic foil. They loved picking out their glue patches and watching the foil bring the design to life. A somewhat softer touch is required to rub and transfer the foil onto the glue patch. This was hard for the boys, who have no idea how to use soft hands. When they went to rub the foil, they often ended up crumpling it. I also noticed they had a hard time placing the foil in a way that would allow them to get the most uses from the pages. This required spatial planning they have yet to master.

Overall, this was a fun project which allowed the boys to practice a variety of skills in a fun and creative way. We would love to get some of the other Artistic Patch Kits by Djeco, as well. Hopefully, Timberdoodle will start carrying a variety of these kits, because they are so much fun!

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Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit: A Timberdoodle Review

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We had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s new product Deep in the Jungle Sticker Mosaic Kit by Djeco. This kit was a lot of fun. The kit comes with 4 Jungle pictures and metallic foam stickers which are added to the pictures to create a sticker by number style work of art. Each boy picked a picture and set to work. The instruction booklet was easy to follow and showed which numbers/colors should be completed first. My only complaint with the kit is that the sticker sheets are not labeled in any way, so you have to guess which sheet is which color/number. Some of the colors are very similar and it was quite tricky. I was concerned that if we used the wrong sheet we would run out of stickers for the other two pictures.

IMG_2223I was pleasantly surprised that this activity caught Mr. Man’s attention ard REALLY kept his focus. He was persistent, despite the fact that this activity is challenging for him due to fine motor weakness. This ended up being a great activity for him! It really had him working on many of the skills he focuses on in OT. He was able to work on fine motor skills, processing/planning skills, and it slowed him down enough to help him work on his difficulties with impulsivity. I would definitely purchase more of these for Mr. Man.

IMG_2222Monkey, on the other hand, surprised me for a different reason. Monkey loves art, but he showed little interest in this activity. In fact, he did one color (with much encouragement) before walking away completely. Monkey usually loves art, but I think this project was a little too structured for him. He enjoys a more free and messy approach when it comes to his creativity. Monkey is also a bit on the outside of the 7-13 recommended age range for this activity, so that may have been part of his disinterest, too. Although, Mama is definitely beyond the age range and I wanted to do my own design!

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Overall, the Beans were very impressed with the quality of the Deep in the Jungle Mosaic Kit and would love to see more kits similar to this with a variety of designs. Like I mentioned, my only improvement would be for the sticker sheets to be labeled with their matching number. Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed this activity and will be proudly displaying Mr. Man’s final product.

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My Epic Life Word Book: A Timberdoodle Review

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We recently had the opportunity to explore and review Timberdoodle’s new My Epic Life Word Book. Mr. Man has always had a difficult time with vocabulary, he struggles to use a variety of words when speaking. The My Epic Life Word Book is a 235 page 2019 National Parenting Product Award winner and a 2019 Tillywig Award winner. It is a IMG_2208colorful and simplistic way to introduce children to a variety of new words. Each page is illustrated with engaging and fun cartoons that easily capture the children’s eye. The vocabulary words are clearly visible and the definitions are simple and straight forward. I really liked the use of the appropriate amount of empty space on the pages so the words do not get lost in the illustrations. The book is divided into eight different sections by topics such as Words for Time, Words for My epic everyday life and Words for My epic outdoor adventures. I will likely add using this book into our school day by using it to illustrate a “Word of the Day”.

Monkey thoroughly enjoyed looking at the illustrations and loved the humor in them. IMG_2205Both boys loved the word cartoons section located in the back of the book. In this section, you are able to scan a QR code and watch a short cartoon video that shows the meaning of the words. This was very engaging for them. However, I do wish that these codes were located on the pages with the words throughout the book, instead of all on a two-page spread with reference back to the page number which included each vocabulary word.

If you are looking for a simple way to incorporate vocabulary building into your day, My Epic Life Word Book is an excellent resource. For extra fun, Bogart (the bookwork larva) is hidden throughout the book. There is also a QR code to scan that will take you to an Epic Word Adventure game. At the time of our review, this game wasn’t available yet, but it looks like a fun way to reinforce the vocabulary and we will definitely be checking it out when it becomes available.  IMG_2186

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Things To Remember About Homeschooling…

I wanted to post this sooner, but let’s be honest, it’s been a weird week. Even though my children haven’t had the disruption of school closures, they have had every other activity and event in their schedules canceled. No therapy, no music lessons, no church, no going anywhere. Monkey is having a hard time with the idea that food isn’t free range. This is a bad habit I’ve been meaning to tackle for a while now. We have enough food, but with store shelves empty, I want it to last more than 2 days! This Mama has been on poop patrol because SOMEONE decided to swallow a dime…..worst treasure hunt ever! Needless to say, we’ve been pretty unmotivated.

DSC_0748I wanted to share a few things with those who find themselves home with their children all day and aren’t sure what to do with them. First, remember, when homeschooling there is a period known as deschooling. This is a time of transition between school and homeschool. Learning at school is entirely different than learning at home. Let’s be honest, how many kids actually respond well when Mom wants them to do work? Most likely, they will fight you. They will whine, complain and turn on the tears. We’ve homeschooled for two years and we still turn on the tears regularly.

More than likely, if your district isn’t supplying work or online classes, then the students will be required to make up this missed time. So don’t feel you need to teach them everything they would do at school. Instead, focus on reviewing what they were learning so they don’t forget. Practice spelling, read, review math facts, watch documentaries, and read more.

But my kids are bored and stir crazy!? IMG_1923Allow them to create and tell stories, build with legos, cook (so much can be learned in the kitchen). Play board games. I cannot stress enough the amount of learning that happens through board games and they don’t even realize they are learning!

 

It’s also important to keep in mind that a typical day at school is FULL of interruptions, transitions, and disciplinary moments. It will not take you 6 hours to do a day’s worth of work at home. Please don’t try… you will burn out your child quickly. Schools typically move at the pace of the slowest child. Teachers have to wait for everyone to get on the same page before continuing. When you only have your children, things go much faster. Remember, most homeschoolers only do a few hours of work a day. We are almost always done before lunch.

IMG_1807Remember to give yourself grace and your children patience. None of you were prepared for this! Today, it’s 3:00 and I am still fighting my kids to finish their math. Yes, it happens to the best of us. What have we done today? Mr. Man spent the morning reading to Monkey. He read him the entire first Press Start book. Then, we took turns working on our new Osmo Detective Agency app. and worked on our Timberdoodle Smart Cookies logic game (I will be posting a review for this shortly). After that, we spent some time working in the garden and playing outback with their new bunny, Oreo. Will we get to the math? Eventually. It just didn’t seem that important today. Remember, it’s important to look at the big picture. Think about what’s important, TODAY. One step at a time….we want to emerge on the other side of this and still enjoy each other.

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Please take a look at our page of things we love for more ideas.

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Hide & Seek Polar Bear: A Timberdoodle Review

My boys LOVE playing hide and seek. However, this can be challenging because it’s often too hot to play outside and our house is very small, with few good hiding places for growing boys. Timberdoodle’s Hide & Seek Polar Bear is an amazing solution!

bearThis cute little bear connects to your phone using an app and BlueTooth. You hide the bear and use the app to send pre-recorded (or you can use it walkie-talkie style) clues to those who are looking for the bear. This puts a fun spin to the typical hot/cold style game of Hide and Seek!

The app was easy to use and we were off laughing in no time! My husband even got involved and we all had a great time. The boys constantly ask to play with the bear, it definitely has a high replay value. You can adjust the volume on the bear itself which is nice. We also realized that you can use it as a BlueTooth speaker and play your music through it. The boys loved this discovery.  My only complaint, and really it’s just the nature of BlueTooth, is that occasionally there is a slight delay between clicking the phrase on the phone and when you hear it out of the bear’s speaker. Usually, this isn’t too much of a problem, but when the boys start moving quickly some of the ‘you’re getting closer’ or ‘you’re almost there phrases’ don’t fit very well.

The boys both enjoyed taking turns hiding the bear, making the bear talk and finding it. The best was when it was hanging on the wall in the entryway and the boys kept running back and forth down the hall, passing the bear completely, as they heard the clues go off. This kept them going for quite some time and gave mom and dad a good laugh.

See it hanging above their heads as they look through the backpacks!

I was pretty sure my boys would like this item. I am so pleased that it surpassed my expectations. The Hide & See Polar Bear is also waterproof (up to 3 feet), so playing in dewy grass or snow is no problem. I am looking forward to trying this outside, as well.

When I asked the boys what they thought about the Hide & Seek Polar Bear, Mr. Man responded, “So fun!” and Monkey said, “It’s SO good!” Hide & Seek Polar Bear definitely gets 4 thumbs up in the Bean house. This would make an excellent gift for any child who enjoys Hide and Seek. I can especially see this being nice for a single child family. The child can still learn valuable problem-solving skills through play and mom and dad don’t have to hide. This is also a good solution for families who want to discourage children from hiding from their parents. Hiding the bear is a much safer alternative.

The Hide & Seek Polar Bear is part of Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots curriculum kit, but clearly it can be enjoyed by children much older, as well.

*Disclaimer: I received this product at a discounted rate to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

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Natural World Workshop: A Timberdoodle Review

 

The boys and I had the opportunity to review Timberdoodle’s Natural World Workshop by Djeco. My children are always very excited to have the opportunity to paint, so when our box arrived they quickly claimed their pictures. The kit comes with beautiful opaque watercolors, a high-quality brush and four prints to paint. I was very impressed with how vibrant the paint was, not at all washed out like standard watercolored paint. The pictures are on boards that are more like a canvas (though not quite as thick) than the cardstock you would expect. The items were definitely of high quality.

 

Both children (Kindergarten and Second Grade) were able to follow along using the instruction book and color-coding on the canvases. Occasionally, they would miss part of the painting and have to go back, but this was a minor problem due to their own oversight. I liked how the order of painting started with the lighter colors and moved to the darker. This allowed for two things. One, less color mixing. I don’t know if anyone else has the same issue with watercolors that I do, but the color mixing is awful and pretty much makes the typical watercolors a one-shot use. Secondly, when multiple colors are needed close together, like on the turtle’s back, using the lighter color first allows the second color to cover any out of line mistakes easily. Both children enjoyed this project very much and look forward to completing their second pictures.

My only complaint about this kit would be that the brush needs to be smaller. My boys had a hard time staying inside the shapes because the brush was too large. This is easily fixed by switching the brush out with a smaller brush. Overall, I felt that the kit was very high quality and the final products are definitely something we plan to frame and hang in our home. The boys really enjoyed this project. The Natural World Workshop is currently part of the Timberdoodle 2nd Grade Curriculum Kit.

 

“It was great. I like it when it is all colored.” Mr. Man, age 7

“It’s good!” Monkey, age 5

 

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Turing Tumble: A Timberdoodle Review

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In a generation of computers, coding, and engineering, Turing Tumble appears to be a wonderfully fun and unique hands-on learning experience for our children. I was given the opportunity to review this product and am eager to share what the Beans think.

DSC_0194First, what is Turing Tumble? Simply, it is a hands-on logic puzzle that will help our children learn how computers work using coding, switches, bits, binary counting and a lot of problem-solving. The students read through a comic book style activity manual and complete puzzles as they go, all while manipulating components on a puzzle board. Turing Tumble is available at Timberdoodle and is included as part of their 2019 Sixth-Grade Curriculum Kit. 

So what did the Beans think? I wanted to love this product, I truly did. The product and manual are gorgeous and very inviting. I think it has a ton of potential, but sadly it is not for us, at this time. I am not saying it’s a bad product, or that I wouldn’t recommend it for the right family It just doesn’t work for my family, right now. Let me explain in more detail…

The good… DSC_0165

The product is beautiful and really well made. My husband even commented on how impressed he was by the inserts that are included to keep everything neat and organized. He’s a board gamer so inserts are very important. The book is inviting and eye-catching. I like how the puzzles introduce new pieces and scaffold the student’s learning to move them along from puzzle to puzzle. My 5-year-old is my logical child, while he obviously couldn’t read the comic or follow the logic, we did have great conversations about the patterns that were created while working the puzzles.

Why it didn’t work for us…

dsc_0183.jpgMy children are a little young for the product. We knew this when we began, the recommended age for this product is 8+. Mr. Man is 7. However, with ASD he sometimes takes to activities such as this in a way that surprises us all. Sadly, he showed absolutely no interest whatsoever. This is the way of our life, everything is “go big or go home”. One problem he had while we worked through the puzzles was that it was very difficult for him to manipulate the pieces or place the tiny balls due to fine-motor weaknesses. I myself became frustrated at the balls constantly falling when trying to insert them in the starting position. I feel like this could easily be fixed with a small piece of clear plastic on this part of the computer board. Perhaps with a hole to load the balls into. The plastic would keep the balls from constantly popping out of place and requiring one to reset the whole system. I also realized, after we started, that this is a hard activity for a child who struggles with cause and effect.

While this activity was too advanced for my children, my husband and I enjoyed working through the puzzles, to an extent. This activity does not work well for someone with a low frustration tolerance (or a Mama who is trying to reduce stress for medical reasons)! I also believe that it will work better for children who do not give up easily. Some of the puzzles require a lot of trial and error and a good dose of patience.

DSC_0195Who would it work for…

I think this product would be great for the right family. I definitely recommend it for older children who have an interest in computers, logic, and coding. Logical thinkers who enjoy solving puzzles will love Turing Tumble. This would make a great cooperative small group activity. Again, probably best for a child who isn’t easily frustrated. I definitely plan on keeping this one on our shelf to bring out again in a few years.

 

 

 

 

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Oh, To Be Organized…

Today, I’m joining in with Timberdoodle’s Home Organization Blog Hop. 69414178_2648680921819462_2915071200889667584_n

I am probably the last person who should write a post about organization! I have great intentions. I feel so much less stress when the clutter is gone and my home is organized. My Pinterest page has tons of pins to help me get my rear in gear and everything works out beautifully in my head. However, I can’t seem to get a handle on it in real life! My garage and children’s room is currently in a state of utter chaos in an ongoing attempt to get organized. My office is a disaster and the homeschool supplies are in a constant state of vagrancy. So instead of writing to tell you all the amazing organizational tips that I use, I am waving the white flag and letting you peek into our chaos. I will share what we are attempting to accomplish (I quite literally just disassembled a bed) and hope that if you have some amazing insights, you will share them! I hope you will not judge my mess… life is chaotic, to say the least! Plus, I feel that it’s important to show other moms that it’s not all Pinterest perfect. Far from!

Here are my before picture. Hopefully, by posting this I will be holding myself accountable to update this blog with finished organized projects (the boys’ beds are scheduled for delivery this week!)

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Before…

You wouldn’t know it looking at our home, but about a year ago we made a decision to work toward creating a more minimalistic home. You can’t tell, but we have gotten rid of a lot (sans books and legos….those were a deal-breaker! They are our joy.) While I am still anxiously awaiting the day when I feel like this goal has been met, I DO notice it when I am at the store. I find that more and more often I see things, get ideas, and then simply leave empty-handed. I may be slow in fixing the problem, but at least I am no longer feeding it! Below I discuss three areas of our life that could always stand to be more organized and what I am doing to accomplish that.

Boys room

Because I work from home and need a quiet space that can be locked to prevent interruptions while on video, it has become necessary for the boys to share a room. I had started by using a corner of the garage as an office, but in the Arizona summers, my classroom was literally melting (and so was I!) Eventually, we moved the boys together and created an office/homeschool room. The problem is, two boys in one small room means very little space to play and very little personal space. We are also finding that having toys in their room is not working out so well. So, in an attempt to create personal space and maintain sanity, the boys’ room will be getting a makeover, which I will proudly show off in an update when the beds arrive. The idea is to create their own spaces and move the toys into the garage, creating an area where they can access their toys that is not in their rooms. However, the garage redo is not happening for a few months as its still well over 100 degrees out there.

Homeschool

DSC_0152I am a planner. I love creating curriculum, planning our days… I just love it. Don’t ask me to create a bulletin board ever again! But, I will plan a unit study for you, no problem. I’m the mom who would spend July planning our entire year. Then get frustrated when those plans were ruined within the first week. I had to teach myself to start planning for a shorter amount of time. I’ve also tried just about every planner on the market (digital and physical). Yet, I always found myself frustrated. Look at all the things we didn’t get done! Then I started something new. Instead of writing down what I planned to do, I wrote down what we actually did each day. While this was a big confidence booster that we do indeed accomplish a lot, it still didn’t quite fill my need to plan. This is our current method and it’s actually working for me. My kids go to an enrichment program on Fridays, so this is my planning day. I use regular old lined paper and write down the lessons we plan to complete in the next four-day loop. Then, as we complete a lesson or activity, I highlight it. This shows me exactly what we accomplished, while still giving me a basic outlined plan to follow. On Friday, I simply move anything we didn’t get to into the first available spots for the next week and we move on with our lives! It is so ridiculously simple. Anyone else LOVE simple?!

Meals

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Tortellini Soup

I am not really sure if this falls under organization or not, but it feels like it should as it has made my life SO much easier. A friend recently introduced me to a meal prepping company called Citrus Pear. You pay for your meals, they shop, you go and spend 2 hours meal prepping and leave with enough freezer meals to last the month, they clean up. I am in love! The meals are reasonable and all I have to do is throw them in the instant pot. Mr. Man has cleaned his plate every night (big deal!!!) and my husband is excited to see a variety of meals (including meat) come across the table again. I love that the meals are prepared using (mostly) unprocessed items and I’ve lost 4 lbs since I started using them (which is a huge deal!… especially since I have changed nothing else). Dinner has never been easier. Check out their site to see if they have a location near you, I highly recommend it.

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“Back” to School

“Back” to school is always an exciting time. As a year-round homeschooling family, I find it important to be intentional about making this time of year special for the boys- and mama! Back to school is a way for the children to mark the passage of time and its a time of renewal. For Mr. Man, moving up a number is a big deal. This year is extra special because Monkey officially joins brother in the ranks of “big”. So, how do we make this time special? Of course, I take advantage of the sales and renew our supplies. I go through the children’s clothes and donate all the things that have become too small. We are sure to take the obligatory first-day photo. My husband thinks I am insane, but its a mom thing.

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All summer the boys have been excited to see the ever-growing stack of new curriculum. We’ve made some changes this year and are excited to dig in. We’ve added a lot of reading books to our shelves over the summer and will be doing a lot more notebooking this year. At the moment, The Bad Guys series is one of our favorites. I’ve also added quite a few in the way of non-fiction, including the Who Was/What is? series. I’ve also worked on adding some fun thematic days into our plans and we will be focusing more on Science and Social Studies this year.  We will be trying out the Masterbooks’ curriculum including God’s Design for Life, Math Lessons for a Living Education, My Story, and Language Lessons for a Living Education. Monkey will start out using the curriculum from Lifepac, as well. These are complete changes from the curriculum we did last year and we’ll see which we decide to continue forward with. I did decide to bring A Reason for Handwriting back into the mix because the boys were getting very lazy in that area.

The boys are excited to have their own assignment boards. DSC_0906This helps give Mr. Man a visual and helps him transition between activities. We will also be implementing a new incentive activity that will, hopefully, eliminate some of the whining I hear when I say the word “school”. Since Pokemon is currently THE thing in our house, the boys will be collecting Pokemon eggs. Each egg contains a Pokemon which they can add to their book as they try to “catch them all”. To earn an egg the boys will collect tokens by doing schoolwork without whining and following the newly implemented Family Rules. Tokens will go onto their token boards and can be traded in for a Pokemon egg when they have ten tokens.

The Bean boys are definitely looking forward to new adventures. What do you do to celebrate the beginning of a new school year? What are you most excited for?

(This post contains affiliate links, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, I never recommend an item unless we use it and love it!)

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