A Parent Review of ABCmouse: Keeping Our Brains Working Through Summer

 

Like most moms, I TRY to keep my children from letting all of their knowledge fall out over the summer.

Any “book learnin'” my four boys accomplish over the summer is typically solely because I forced them to do it. Maybe your kids aren’t like mine, I don’t know, but my children never ASK me to do workbook pages and catch up on their reading logs.

When I was a little girl, I LOVED doing workbooks, but that is not my kids. I can’t even fathom that.

Have we read this summer? Yes, tons. Have I recorded half of those books on the required reading logs? Um, no. Like I don’t have enough things to remember to do.

So at the end of the summer, I’ll basically stand there with the boys, wracking my brain, while begging them to think back, to remember what all they read this summer so we can fill out that bless-ed log.

Reading is the perfect start to keeping our minds active all summer long, but there are other skills to focus on in school too, and for that I have been looking for a good phone app that I can put my younger boys on!

After years of hearing of ABCmouse.com, I finally decided to download it and let my younger boys (ages 6 and 4) try it out.

I am happy to tell you it is everything I had hoped for, which means that they cover both letters, numbers, and other topics, and they can even play it unassisted.

You do need to help them at first, so they know where to find all the different things the app or website can do.

Actually, if your child is new to iPad games or is preschool age, I would help them the whole first week that they use it, just so you can guide them to less frustration and point them to the games that they could benefit the most from.

John David is 4, and I sit down and basically just watch him use it, and say things like, “Great job!” as he zips through a map (which is like 6 mini-lesson activities). After that, I turn him loose on it, and he can play with it however he chooses.

It’s a big deal to him that we do it together, and he cuddles in my lap while he works on his activities.

Daniel is 6, and he requires no supervision on the app at all.

My favorite thing about it is the sight word games. I also appreciate that each lesson is age appropriate. Too often, game makers over-estimate the finger dexterity or involvement of the parents.

Daniel’s favorite thing: Getting to play games on my phone

John David’s favorite part: Puzzles!!!

I went through today’s lessons for John David and Daniel and screen-shotted to show you what to expect with this app, a sneak peek if you will.

Actually, I should clarify that ABCmouse.com is not just an app. This entire program can be done on a mobile device or on a computer.

What to Expect

 

A Parent Review of ABCmouse

This puzzle sentence was on a K4 lesson. John David had no trouble dragging and dropping the words into place.

A Parent Review of ABCmouse

This is found on the initial preschool/kindergarten screen. Once you past this puzzle, you get a new one. We focused on puzzles because they were JD’s favorite.

 

Both of my boys love an app where you can color.

 

I forget what section this game was under, but Daniel had to choose the starting letter of each picture to spell the word.

 

There are many books in this app, which they read to your child. As the story is read, they highlight words as they go. This particular one was a lesson on the letter b.

 

In this sight word game, you get to smash the bugs with the correct sight word. I thought this one was so fun that I could have played it myself. Not even kidding.

 

An important lesson!

Choosing Your Kids’ Level

I goofed when I signed Daniel up, and I started him on Kindergarten lessons. When he opened it up to a lesson on “Aa”, he got insulted and put it down, so be careful what level you choose! Haha!! He is in 1st grade now, so I switched it to the 1st grade level.

It was very simple to sign in as the parent and switch his level up one, and then he had better lessons.

John David, on the other hand, is not accustomed to playing games on an iPad, so I put him  on K3 so it would be super easy while he learned how to use the app. Once he got used to it, I upped him to K4 lessons.

John David LOVES these games. He’s already amassed hundreds of tickets, which he can use to buy all sorts of little digital things for his ABCmouse avatar and room. He was even excited to earn his avatar a pair of blue pants. “Oooooh! Blue pants. I wike blue pants!”

I know you’re wondering, and I was too! How much does this cost???

The first month is FREE. Afterwards, it’s $7.95/per month. Nice!

 

me and my little scholars

 

“Mom, can I pway dat game on your phone?” Batman is quite a fan of ABCmouse!

I wish had discovered this website years ago because I feel like it’s truly going to help the boys to keep ahead this summer!

Now, y’all, if you decide to try it out too, PLEASE click on my links in this post or on my website to take you to the ABCmouse.com website because I do earn a small fee for each referral I send them who signs up.

Let me know if you try it and what you thought! Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments!!

 

 

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4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

As much as we’d love to be a Disney family, high tailing it off to Orlando a few times a year, that’s not really practical for most of us, is it? No, and even if you do, there will be plenty of time between to fill up with memories at home.

Here are 3 things I’ve found lately to have a BLAST with my children without spending much money at all and without leaving our house.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family

Retail $34.95 on Amazon. I got it for $3.95 at Goodwill! Hurray!!

Board Games

This one can be even cheaper than you think. I buy almost all of our games at Goodwill or other local thrift stores. Part of Daniel’s birthday gift this year was an Angry Birds game I found for $3.95 at Goodwill. Maybe $3.95 doesn’t sound cheap, but when you figure the whole family could play it, it was in perfect condition, and retail it would have been more like $34, it starts to sound like a steal.

This morning we paid Spongebob Monopoly, and while 3 of 4 boys quit early on from boredom, Daniel hung in there and beat me SOUNDLY.

So did everyone have fun? Sort of. Everyone did for a little while. And one of them had the special honor of beating mom. Also, he learned so much about counting money and making change.

 

We bought this net for ~$40. This one at Amazon actually comes with birdies and rackets.

Playing Sports Outside…..and yeah, sometimes inside

What we play depends on what they are into at the time. Last year it was always baseball. Now it’s mostly basketball, but lately we’ve been all about badminton.

Here’s my best tips for introducing your kids to badminton or tennis:

  1. Buy any racquets at thrift stores. Thrift stores almost always have tennis rackets, and when you are playing at home, you can totally play badminton with big giant tennis rackets. In fact, it makes it easier for the kids to hit the birdie.
  2. If you don’t have a net, designate a line on the driveway as your “net”. By the way, the one above is a nice one. You can also buy super cheap ones, but I can’t vouch for how good they will be, but they might be better than just the line on the driveway. Ha!
  3. Our family just used the crack in the driveway as our “net” until we had time to go buy a net.

Most sports can be simulated at home without actually owning the equipment. In most cases, you just need a ball.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

Charades!

ABSOLUTELY FREE: CHARADES!!!

Alan took some papers, cut them into squares and wrote names of people we know, movies we’ve watched, and places we’ve been to on them. Then he made a paper bag for each category, and put the papers in the bags for us to draw out.

The boys LOVED it. It was more personal this way. We used family members, and then they’d act out what they’ve noticed about those family members. The cutest was when they were being their cousin Wesley, and they got on their knees, to show they were short, and then went around hugging everyone! Ha!!!

For places, we used random ones like the driveway, the pumpkin patch, and places we used to live. Just talking about it makes me want to do this again. We all laughed so much.

Include the little ones too. Just whisper in their ear how to act it out. As long as there’s one person to guess, you’re good. When toddlers get involved, I promise it will be hilarious. They may even announce to everyone who they are being, like JD does, and that’s okay.

Turn something they LOVE into a family activity!

Light sabers? Family jousting tournament

Legos? Building contest! And name a different prize for each kid. Maybe even make little construction paper ribbons.

Dancing? Dance Party.

For example, the ever so obnoxious BOTTLE FLIPPING!!

Does any mom or teacher out there not hate this activity? Why? It’s loud. It’s annoying, and it always spills water.

Did you know they make games for Bottle Flipping? As in board-game like games? They do!

 

We chose this one. It’s $24.95 on Amazon.

 
I decided to give this a shot. This is the very first time I had ever attempted to flip a bottle, and I’m here to tell you it is way HARDER than it looked! I have new respect.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

Best of all, my older boys got a real kick out of me participating in bottle flipping with them. My oldest wasn’t even going to play with us at first, but once he saw us having fun, he joined in and then insisted that we play again.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

Score board, caps, and cards are all included. Cards are funny. One said, put your elbow in your shirt, and flip the bottle like a T-Rex. Haaaa!!!

In fact, I want you all to join in on this fun, so this week we are giving the Bottle Flippin’ Game away for FREE to one of you!

***This giveaway is sponsored by the Bottle Flip Game.***

I love giveaways!!!

To enter just Log in with Facebook or your email below, and click one of the options. If you have trouble, just send me your email address, and I’ll enter ya.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Good luck!!!

Making Do and Yard Sale-ing: How we send our kids to private school

making-do-and-yard-sale-ing: how we pay for 3 kid in private school

Our family is living on a budget for the first time…..since 8 years ago when we read that Dave Ramsey book.

This year was a huge change. We went from paying about $3,000/year in school tuitions to Classical Conversations and preschool to paying about $15,000/year total in private school tuitions. That’s two full school tuitions plus a partial one for my kindergartener, who has a partial scholarship. It was a big jump. We realized we were going to have to make major changes in how we live to pay for all of this.

I want to share what we are doing to make this work:

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#1. We down-sized our house.

We went from a 5-bedroom home in luxurious Monterey, California to a 3-bedroom home in Georgia. The difference is so vast, but I’ve actually enjoyed this change! No more stairs to go up and down. Hmmm Maybe that’s why I’ve gained weight….Plus, our new house still comfortably fits us. It has everything we need, and it came with a way better backyard, so this was not a hardship. This was a win. We only lost about 500 square feet. We ditched a room or two worth of furniture, and all is well.

We do have four kids in a 3-bedroom house, but only one of them complained, and I think it’s good for them.

#2. I took on a part-time writing gig with MontereyPremier.com in September, and I resumed product reviews and sponsored posts here on Stories of Our Boys.

Every little bit helps, and I’m still spoiled because I’m working from home. I still get to be with my three-year-old all day long. I can still cook dinner by 12 pm, and I’m able to pick up the boys from school every day. The only hitch is that I literally get paid by how much I work, so if I spend my day jumping on the trampoline with JD, baking, and sweeping, I don’t actually make any money at all. Ha….yeah, that happens a lot..

#3. We cut the bi-weekly cleaning lady, the gym, the pest control service, and the lawn care service.

Yes, we would like to have ALL of those services, but they are a luxury, not a necessity.

#4. We are “making do” with things that we’d like to replace, and saving up money to replace them later, rather than spending all we have or taking on a car payment.

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My minivan? It’s a 2007. One of the doors has taken on a mind of its own, so you now have to do these special maneuvers to get it to close, and if you do it wrong it will go “Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding!” Only it won’t start all that dinging until AFTER the car is driving, so then you have to find a place to pull over and shut that door to save your sanity. Also, the defroster is having issues. I guess that’s what paper towels are for.

The minivan is paid for, and the engine runs perfectly. Just don’t stand in the trunk putting away groceries too long because it will randomly start to close the trunk door on your head. Nice little adrenaline rush as you quickly remove all body parts and small children out of the way!!!

However, we are thankful that we have two cars that run. That van has never broken down, and it has 4 good tires. We’ll make do another year.

My mattress? 

It’s 14 years old, and my hips were starting to hate, hate, hate my flattened out old mattress. It wasn’t giving much anymore. Soooo…we bought a $25 quilted mattress cover. That didn’t help much. Then we bought a $15 egg crate and put that on top of the quilted mattress cover, and we’re good again! That’ll buy us another year, I’m hoping.

Our sofa?

Well….we’ve only had it for 3 years, but it got ripped in a few places with the move. I don’t even know how because it was all wrapped and padded. I have no idea why we didn’t put in a claim on it while we had the chance, but we didn’t, so now we are stuck with a sofa that’s all hurt looking and sad.

It’s on my list to get replaced first, but not until Christmas is taken care of. Here’s hoping for a new sofa in January or February!

#5. My favorite part: Yard Sale-ing!!!

You might recall that my parents had a house fire this year, so when we moved down here I started going to yard sales with my folks. It is so addictive!!!

Here’s a list of some of my amazing finds:

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I brought this bench home seriously muddy, but I spent an hour scrubbing it down, and it’s lookin’ good!

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My fall porch–Time to re-decorate again! Oh, and that ‘Welcome’ pumpkin door sign? It was only $15 at Big Lots.

-2 benches for $10 each

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$1 wall art. I love this, and I sometimes remember to pray before I hit the sales that I will find things we need at good prices.

 

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$1

 

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Look how pretty!!! Excuse the background. If I cleaned up all these photos, I’d never finish a blog post!

-Large Coach bag in PERFECT condition–for only $25!!!

-5 pairs of boys size 14 blue jeans for $2 a pair! Wow!

ladies shirts $1/shirt

-yoga pants $1

jdbaby

-Mom got a computer chair for $5!

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-Sunglasses $1

-Baseball themed ceiling fan for half of what you’d pay in the store–I can’t remember how much! But it’s in one of the bedrooms at my parents’ new house now!

-Countless costumes, toys, books, and games

This is my new hobby. I’m all about it. Now I do realize that many people are into the Facebook yard sales now, the perpetual bargain fares. But have you noticed how over-priced they are? I can rarely save much over what I’d pay retail on those sites. Yard sales are still my favorite.

Thrift stores can be good too. I recently bought a nice set of shelves for only $15, plus a bag of AR books, all at Goodwill.

I love Aldi.

I love Aldi.

#6. Buying groceries at Aldi

I’m not a coupon-er, so I have to find the absolute most affordable place to go grocery shopping. Aldi is the cheapest store near me. The commissary is usually a great deal too, if you are military. But the best way to find out what place has the most affordable food is to shop a different store each week and make a comparison chart. When we lived in Texas, I was surprised to realize that Walmart actually was the cheapest, even better than the commissary!

I hope I’ve given you some ideas here for ways to stretch your budget. We are constantly looking for more ideas! Please share in the comments or email if you have more ideas for how you save money! How do you “make do” and find discounts?

Speaking of discounts….don’t forget to enter my gratitude giveaway….

parentinghack

Just log in via FB or email, and choose 1 or 2 options! Good luck!!!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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