Category Archives: Uncategorized

Paragraph Writing Program From The Crafty Classroom ~ a Crew review

types of paragraphs

Miss J loves to tell stories but writing them down is not her favorite thing. When we were offered the opportunity to use How to Write a Paragraph from The Crafty Classroom, I felt like it would be a very good thing for us to do. The product is cheerful (colorful if you can print in color) and fun looking, drawing us in right away.

How To Write A ParagraphThe Crafty Classroom is a resource for tons of ideas, printables, and crafts. Visit the site and you immediately see plenty to go exploring. Looking for Bible information? Perhaps the Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook will work for you. Geography needed? Check out USA Activity Bundle. Have a preschooler? Alphabet Curriculum Notebook might work but if you have one a tad bit older check out Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack. And these are just the things the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing right now. There are tons more. (I have my list to check out!)

But, on to what we worked with: How to Write a Paragraph. I have let Miss J (8 years old and entering 3rd) skip over a lot of her writing because the physical part was getting in the way of her actually being able to express what she wanted to say. When I saw the samples of the paragraph writing curriculum, I thought it looked really doable, something that would be thorough yet easy enough that she wouldn’t get too frustrated. It works gradually up to the whole paragraph thing and I really liked how it gently moved the student forward. This program is a 12 week, day-by-day curriculum that includes little prep. (I hate saying no prep because you do have to print it and know what you need poster-wise for that week.) It is very easy to follow.


It arrived as a PDF, which was easy to download and save. I read the introductory materials and began printing the first week’s materials. The overall program is simple: there is a page of discussion ideas and activity suggestions for the teacher, a daily work page for the student four days a week, and a “poster” to print that has the week’s topic or theme. For example, in week one, I printed off the poster that reviews what a sentence needs, the teacher page and four work pages for Miss J. In week 3, the posters (there were two) were about types of paragraphs and the other printed pages were about that.

Each day, I would start by reviewing the posters from previous lessons. Then we would do the activity from the teacher’s page for that day. It might be writing example sentences or having the student find what was wrong with an example. It is always interactive with the student. Next we worked on that day’s work page. There is a little box in the top left corner reminding the student of important things to remember about her writing and a list of directions in the top right corner for completing the page.  This generally took only about 15 minutes (unless she took a long time with her drawings). Quick and easy.

By the time the student gets to week 5, it is time to begin writing complete paragraphs. The program walks the student through brainstorming on the topic and has gentle reminders to create a topic sentence and good supporting sentences. The posters help the student remember what kind of paragraph they are working on and how to write a good paragraph. There is also an editing checklist for older students who are ready to begin editing and writing final drafts of their work.

weekly schedule

part of the week 1 visual schedule – I like this.

The PDF contained a visual schedule of each week, showing exactly what to print for each week. (I think week 3 should have shown both pages of the types of paragraphs, though. I had to make a quick computer run once we got started because I had not looked ahead to make sure I had it all and had only printed the first poster.) This visual schedule was easy to use, which makes this program appealing to the teacher who has limited prep time. All I needed was the printed pages and I was ready to go. If I wanted to be on top of it, I could print the whole file all at once and then not have to worry about whether I had printed everything I needed for that week’s lessons.

opinion paragraphI am pleased to continue on with this curriculum as we are beginning to build more complex sentences and complete paragraphs. I like that Miss J is writing, reviewing the things she needs to write well, and getting more skilled at putting her thoughts on paper. Miss J likes that there are a variety of activities – we have written on the white board, drawn pictures, cut and pasted, colored, and more – while she is working on something she isn’t crazy about. She doesn’t balk at doing this program because she knows it is not going to be too hard and she can take baby steps to get it done. Win-win.

At Home.

Read more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew about the other products we are reviewing, as well as other families who have been using How to Write a Paragraph.

Crafty Classroom {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

Paper Mache Help from ACTÍVA Products ~ a Crew review

Activa crafting kit review

Crafting seems to be a constant around here and the idea of having some new ideas and products to work with is always exciting. When we heard about ACTÍVA Products and their Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit, we were excited. Miss L loves to create all sorts of things and these materials would be just right. And to make it even more exciting, Activa is offering everyone a copy of their free ebook ACTÍVA Products’ Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS, which has full-color pictures and directions for creating a number of projects with the kit.

ACTÍVA Products is a company that specializes in crafting materials. They offer paper mache products as well as other several other clay products, colored sand, casting materials, and even a few flower arranging materials. Their site also offers a huge number of ideas and instructions for creating projects with their offered materials. I got a lot of inspiration and have lots of ideas that I want to create.

The Kit

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit
We received the Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit for this review. When they arrived, there was a lot of excitement and we immediately pulled out the packages to look things over. In the box, were unlabeled packages and a photocopied instruction sheet. I’ll admit – these kind of dampened the excitement because I had to tell the kids that I had no clue what any of it was or how to use it. Labels would have been good and instructions on each product of how to use it would have been good.kit contents

After some research, I figured out that we had two rolls of 4 inch wide Rigid Wrap and one 8 oz package of CelluClay. But I still had to do some reading and researching to figure out how to use them. There was, on the copied sheets, instructions on the Rigid Wrap but I had to go to the website to find a sheet of instructions for the CelluClay. (I found it by searching for CelluClay. There is a link to the sheet on the page for the 1 lb package towards the bottom of the page on the right hand side.)

We did finally jump into projects but it was a bit intimidating. It was also very messy. I was very glad I had covered the table with a plastic cloth. And the kitchen floor had needed mopped anyway. These products create a lot of dust and very fine particles.

Rigid Wrap

Rigid Wrap

Miss L chose to use the Rigid Wrap and created an angel and a rose. Sculpting those from the Rigid Wrap took some patience.

Miss L working

To create the angel, she had to build up the biggest part and add the details slowly, The White Angelallowing a bit of drying time in between. The wings took some finesse but she just patiently molded and shaped until they were as desired. Then she held them in place and I fanned until they would hold their shape. After she got it how she wanted it, she set it aside to air dry. This took about 5 days to fully dry and it dried to a matte finish white. She has a collection of angels that she loves that are minimally colored and for now, she will leave this one white, as it fits fairly well into the collection.

For the rose, she cut each individual petal and one strip about 6 inches long. Dipping the roselong one into warm water, she then rolled it up for the center of the rose. Dipping each petal into the water, she would add it to the center, adjusting each petal to the shape and placement she wanted. She would then hold it in place while I fanned it to help it set and dry a bit. With so many pieces all on top of each other, it has taken a long time to dry. She had to leave for camp before it was dry so it will be painted when she returns.

I wasn’t as brave but I did want to try the snowman starproduct myself so I took on the star and snowman ornament from the ebook. Using a cardboard star cut from a box, I cut strips of Rigid Wrap and placed them over the star. Using my fingers to smooth it out and down over the edge, I covered the cardboard. After letting it dry for a bit, I took some of the scraps we had from other projects and used them to scrunch and fashion a snowman. I got the strips a bit wetter so they would stick better to the flat form. I was able to create some definition and depth by twisting and scrunching up the strips as I placed them. After it was fully dry, I painted it. While the yellow paint was wet, I shook some gold glitter down over it to add some sparkle. I hot glued the ribbon onto the back. I kind of like this little snowman. He brought some cool to the hot summer!



The CelluClay, a recycled paper product for instant paper mache, I was a bit leery of. I didn’t feel like I had good instructions. But knowing I needed to at least try it out, I dove in. This product feels like the lint from a dryer. It is just as dusty, too. Please take precaution; inhaling this is awful, causing a lot of coughing. I guessed at how much I would need to make three ice cream shaped pieces from a candy mold I have. I put it into a plastic ziplocking bag and added a bit of water. I added just a bit of water at a time, zipping it closed, and then mashing it around through the plastic to mix it up. Once I felt like it was well mixed, I tried to use it. It was like pulling soggy paper apart and I had to add additional water. I was finally able to get it to a consistency I could use.

I packed it into the mold until it was level on the back and I felt I would get good definition on the front detailing. I then removed it from the mold and added a red bead to be the cherry and to put a cord through. Then, I let it dry. It took about three times as long as I expected for it to dry. I even tried to speed it up, as they recommended, by using a hair dryer. I did that for about 15 minutes and felt like it did not really make much difference. So I left it to dry overnight at that point. When they were dry, I painted them and added the string.

ice cream necklaces

I can see several possibilities for CelluClay now that I have used it. I would love to see the company add good instructions to the kit’s box, either printed on the box or a sheet inside that addresses both products and is easier to read. The project ideas are fantastic and I would love to see more product ideas for CelluClay come with the kit, as well.

ACTÍVA Products has some interesting products and ideas. The  Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit is a great way to introduce your kids to the opportunities that abound with these products.

At Home.

Others have been creating some amazing projects with this kit, as well. Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog by clicking on the banner below to find other projects.

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit {ACTÍVA Products Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Story Spiels – Middle School Monday

We all have something that we love and when someone messes with it, it bothers us. Literature is this way for our family. We love literature. Reading is as necessary as air and water for us, it seems. (OK – a tad bit of exaggeration but you get the idea.)

When we began homeschooling, we did literature the way “schools” did it – read the book chapter by chapter and answer questions on vocabulary and themes, characters, setting, etc. Very quickly, we began to see the joy fading out of stories. So we changed.

We allowed the girls to pick from themes at the library and we did a lot of read alouds. This broadened their reading tastes, even if they didn’t like it, and we got a bundle of good discussions out of the family readings. We still do the read alouds (getting back to them after a busy summer!) but the girls have free range in the youth section at the library. We visit once a week and come home with lots and lots of stories.

Once in a while, we had a review product or I did some reading that suggested that perhaps they really needed to work with literature guides. So, we’d try that again. Writting answers to questions = frustrations and lack of joy in the story = lack of learning vocabulary and themes. This resulted in us stopping the use of literature guides.

**Side note: I like lit guides and I think they have their place. I am not saying we won’t be pulling them out again at some point, as I am sure we will for one reason or another. However, it is not going to be our main curriculum for literature anymore.**

Story Spiels

Which brings me to our current plan – Story Spiels. We are still working out details but here is the gist of the plan:

  • Each girl will pick a book from a predetermined listing, provided by At Home Dad and me.
  • We will divide the book up into four sections. One section will be read each week. At Home Dad and I will be doing the reading, as well, if we have not recently read the book. (There are some books that may go longer than 4 weeks due to difficulty level, length, or interruptions.)
  • On the given day each week, the girls will present their Story Spiels to the family. They will be expected to present main characters, settings, and important details (conflicts, resolutions, themes, struggles, etc.). Once in a while, we will also be requiring a creative product related to the story in some way.
  • At Home Dad and I will have prepared a list of thoughts that we want to have a discussion about relating to that week’s reading. These will be done with all three girls present so that the younger can learn from the older and so that the older can contribute to the discussion with the younger when they have read the stories.

We are going to start this next week, so I am off to get the lists finalized. I will definitely be sharing those with you all, hopefully next Monday. I am excited about the Story Spiel idea. Our hope is that it will do all the things that a literature guide does but with more discussion and family interactions. Here’s to the ideas!

At Home.

Driveway Art

Driveway Art whatever inspires

Do your children pretty up your driveway with art? I just love it when I walk out, or am backing out of the drive, and see it all cheerful and colorful. Lots of bright images and plenty of things to make me smile.

It brings a smile to my face when I see artwork that welcomes daddy home from work.

It makes me grin to see a funny drawing.

Driveway Art How Wonderful

It makes me proud to see an image about something related to their belief and understanding of God. Especially when that is directed at sharing about him to passersby.Driveway Art Christ

Driveway art just makes me smile.

Driveway Art

May these pictures of our driveway art make you smile today.

At Home.


Doctor Aviation ~ a Crew review

A life of learning. That is what we want to teach our children and one of the best ways to do that is to always be learning ourselves. I took this to heart for the Doctor Aviation review and decided it was something I wanted to learn about, for me. Not because I needed to for one of the girls’ lessons but because I was interested.

Doctor Aviation
Doctor Aviation is an aviation education and history course run by Daryl Smith, aka Doctor Aviation. An Air Force Command Pilot with 24 years of experience flying aircraft and teaching about it, Doctor Aviation knows his stuff. From being an instructor pilot and a research pilot to being an United States Air Force Academy instructor and a published author, Doctor Aviation has dedicated his career to flight and shares his love of flight through this course.lesson dashboard

The course is an online course, intended for ages 16 and up, with instruction done by video through the Doctor Aviation site. There are printable Guided Notes for each lesson that are accessible through the website. Each lesson also includes a printable listing of additional resources to help extend the lesson beyond the video presentation.

Lessons –

Each lesson includes a video presentation. To access it, you log in to your account. You will see a dashboard that shows your next lesson. All you have to do is click on it to launch the lesson. You are then taken to a page that shows the next video, action steps that might be needed, and the printable resources (Guided Notes and To Learn More pages).

video and resources on dashboard

Clicking on the video will launch the next presentation. Doctor Aviation presents each lesson in an aircraft hangar with nothing fancy to cause distraction. Using a clipboard for his notes (boy does this show how well he knows his materials!), he talks the students through all the details of the lesson.

Each lesson is between 45 minutes and an hour long and includes three parts:

  1. Technical Trivia
  2. Notable Innovators
  3. Legendary Events or Aircraft

Technical Trivia is not trivial. It is the meat of the lesson and is kept to around 15-20 minutes. Those minutes are packed, though! Doctor Aviation covers all you need to know in an introduction to aviation. The aviation systems is the very first video. It is followed by section 2, which is four lessons on aircraft, from the major components to why an aircraft flies and how lift works. Also included in these four lessons is information on how an aircraft’s systems are manipulated to cause the movement  on the axes. Section 3 covers air traffic control and Section 4 discusses aircraft maintenance. Section 5 takes on the topics related to airfield operations and the last section is more about aircraft themselves. Aviation education is found in the technical trivia part of the course.

Notable Innovators is second part of the video and it is where Doctor Aviation highlights some of the men and women in the aviation field that have made discoveries or completed feats that allowed for significant advancements in aviation. People like Chuck Yeager, the Wright brothers, and Amelia Earhart are discussed in this section. Many other aviators and scientists are also covered.

Legendary Events or Aircraft is a fascinating section. It takes a look at important moments in time, such as the breaking of the sound barrier, the first powered flight, or aircraft that significantly changed the path that aviation history took.flight education

The Guided Notes are intended to be downloaded prior to the start of the video and completed as the video proceeds. It is an easy to follow, fill-in-the-blank sort of note page and I found it helpful in retaining information. These are links that are clicked on from the website and open in a PDF reader. I just hit print from that and never had an issue.

The To Learn More page is printed the same way and is a valuable resource for extending the video lesson. If you have a student taking this for credit, these pages will be where the additional activities are found for making it a solid credit. There are books to read, videos to watch, and hands-on, creative activities to complete. Many of the videos and websites are hyperlinked, making it simple easy to use; just click on the hyperlink and it will open the page you need. The document is broken down by activity and then with a subcategory on the topics from the lesson. Additional research and hands-on activities are suggested at the end of the document.

Periodically throughout the course, there are also tests available. You receive these by contacting Doctor Aviation; they are not found on the website. If you are using this for a high school credit, these will be needed. It is listed in the action steps when there is a test coming up and then again when you need to take it. For example, the first one appears in Lesson 4 and it says to contact Doctor Aviation for the test, to be taken after Lesson 5. On the Lesson 5 page, it shows in the actions steps that the test is to be taken after watching the video and completing any extension activities.

flight education Doctor Aviation

My Thoughts –

Until I had watched the introductory video and first lesson, I would have told you that I had no desire to learn about aviation or aviation history. But then I watched the video and found myself wanting to learn more. I was drawn to the stories told and the revealing of the “mystery” behind flight. I have thoroughly enjoyed having this course to enrich my own learning and I enjoyed watching the videos at night, after the girls had hit the hay, when it was quiet. I found that I truly enjoyed learning all that Doctor Aviation had to share.

The presentation of the video is simple. I mentioned this before. It is one of the things that drew me to the course. When needed, there are drawings, images, or photos to help illustrate the point. But when they aren’t needed, they aren’t there, causing distraction. Doctor Aviation spoke from the heart about the facts, the people, the places, and the aircraft he was talking about. You could tell that this is something he is passionate about and it comes through clearly.

This simplicity of presentation is one reason this course is definitely better suited to a high school course or adult education course. If you have a younger student (probably as young as about 10) that is just fascinated by aviation, I can see them being able to use the video portions of the course successfully, though there are a number of advanced concepts covered; the Guided Notes might be a bit difficult due to the speed with which the information comes at times.


Absolutely. This is a wonderful and surprising course that will “take you to flight.” And what a wonderful, exciting place that is.

At Home.

Be sure to read the other Crew reviews on Doctor Aviation. The course used was the same but different families used it different ways. So check out the reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Creating a Creative Habit – Middle School Monday

Creating a Creative Habit MSM

How do you encourage creativity in your students? If we don’t encourage creativity, it is so easy for students to not become creative.

“I just don’t know what to do.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m not good at that.”

These excuses and more are often closing doors. But if we encourage them and create opportunities, the creativity will blossom.

I want to share with you 5 ways in which we try to encourage our girls to be creative.

1 – Give them the needed materials. Whether it is needles and thread and fabric for sewing or glue and paper and tape, even glitter (I know some of you are cringing) – we give the girls the materials they need to create whatever it is that their brains are dreaming up. Cross-stitch, sewing, crafts, legos, paper, tape, glitter, sequins, beads, string, googly eyes, and more make up many, many spaces in our home.

2 – Step away. Once they have the materials, let them use them. Let them experiment. Let them read or dream and create. Without interference, who knows where their ideas will take them. At the same time . . .

3 – Provide instruction. After the experimentation, art classes or fiber arts classes or field trips to learn about the materials and how they are used can all help provide instruction and inspire further creativity. Whether it is taking a child to a specific class or teaching them at home, instruction will give direction to their ideas.

4 – Allow them time. Don’t structure their time so closely that they have no time to just create. I fail at this one quite often. I plan to work on a project with them – getting out the paints or coloring materials – and let it go right by without a second thought. Time is a critical factor in creating and seeing ideas to fruition.

5 – Remind them that no one is good at everything and sometimes, it takes a while to find out where their own strengths lie. So try things. Be willing to make and learn from failures. Because in those failures, learning occurs.
Creating a Creative Habit

These are just some thoughts that have been running through my head today as I watch my girls work with their hands on various things – Lego creations, crochet, creating projects from an American Girl book, finger printing with inks, drawing, and more. All of it is a joy to see, even when I end up with 33,000 bookmarks made by one who just learned to braid and another who loves creating with duct tape. Add to it all the drawings and finger printing – well, family just better be looking for some packages in the mail. 🙂

At Home.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah ~ Blogging Through the Alphabet

Z Zipadeedoodah

Are you looking for a good day? Are you having a good day? Are you looking for a smile? This is the song that pops into my head.

Have a wonderful day!

At Home


Please visit A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

%d bloggers like this: