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Magneatos ~ A Guidecraft Mom Review and Giveaway

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I mentioned last week that I will be a part of the Guidecraft Mom Blogger team for the next year ~ reviewing some fabulous educational toys and also sharing some great giveaways with you all. The first products we were sent to review were the 36 piece Magneatos set and also the curved Magneatos ~ and they have been a HUGE hit in our house!

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What are Magneatos?

The name pretty much sums it up ~ Magneatos are magnets and NEAT, making a toy that will provide hours of open-ended exploration for children. Magneatos are recommended for ages 2+, brightly colored and jumbo in size ~ the perfect size for little hands to easily grasp and manage. Each of the magnetic balls is about 2” in diameter. The short Magneato rods are 3” long and the large rods are 5 1/2” long.

36 piece Magneatos set

24 piece curved Magneatos

12 circles

6 long tubes

18 short tubes

8 circles

4 long curves

12 short curves

 

What can you create with Magneatos? It’s only limited to your imagination!

What Do We Think?

We received the 36 piece Magneatos set and also the curved Magneatos to play with {we now also have the Jumbo Master Builder Series set…yes, we love them that much}. I expected that only Kaleb and Zachary would be interested in them. I was wrong!

All of the kids have been asking to play with them and getting creative in how they use them. We’ve been making animals, building structures of every sort, creating shapes, making letters, discovering what the magnets will stick to {ahem}, and just having fun.

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The curved Magneatos are available through the Guidecraft website and also available from Amazon. The 36 piece Magneatos set is also available through Guidecraft or Amazon.

The Giveaway

Do you want to know the best part?? Guidecraft has offered to giveaway BOTH sets of Magneatos to one of my readers!! Ready to win??

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Mandatory first entry: Visit the Guidecraft website and let me know what other product you love! Leave a comment and tell me!

For additional entries after you’ve left your first comment {leave a separate comment for each entry}:

~ Become a friend of Guidecraft of Facebook

~ Leave this message on Guidecraft’s Facebook page:

Guidecraft has amazing educational products! I just entered to win 2 Magneatos sets at Homeschool Creations: http://bit.ly/bbC7Bo

~ Follow Guidecraft on Twitter ~ be sure to leave me your twitter name!

~ Send out a tweet about this contest. You can copy/paste the tweet below if you’d like!

@jolantheerb is hosting a giveaway for 2 sets of Magneatos from @Guidecraft. Enter to win here: http://bit.ly/bbC7Bo. Ends 10/3.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. Please be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. The contest will be open until Sunday, October 3rd at 8pm EST and a winner will be chosen using Random.org.

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As a Guidecraft Mom blogger, I was provided this product to review. I was not paid for this post and all opinions expressed in this post are mine…or my kids.

Guidecraft School Library Cart ~ Review

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When I taught in the school system, Guidecraft was a familiar name to me. My classroom had several products that we ordered out of their catalog, but my homeschool classroom hasn’t.

Until now!!image

Trying to keep all of the kids school supplies, books and whatnots in one location and then find room for all of my teaching books and manipulatives was getting a little tricky. We had shelves, drawers and baskets overflowing with all of our school gear…and truthfully it was beginning to drive me a little more than nuts. When things around me are scattered…I am too.

This gorgeous School Library Cart showed up on my doorstep one day from Guidecraft ~ IMG_5105and our UPS guy was nice to bring it inside for me. Trust me, this is one solid piece of furniture! It weighs over 40 pounds, so I opened the box when a friend of mine came over to visit and roped her into helping me put it together.

 

Overall, it was pretty easy to put together. The assembly instructions for the library cart were easy to follow and all done using pictures. At times, the wheels were a little tricky, but from start to finish we had it put together in about 45 minutes. It is definitely a two person job {ok, maybe one if my hubby would have put it together, but I was too impatient to wait for him to get home!}.

Aside from a screwdriver, we didn’t need any additional materials, but I would highly recommend using a socket wrench to tighten everything…otherwise, you’ll be turning the little wrench that comes in the kit for much longer. Besides, using a socket wrench is fun and makes a lovely little noise that makes you feel handy. :)

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Laurianna was the official photographer since my hands were otherwise occupied, but here we are about 45 minutes into our endeavor with a successfully assembled library cart that was ready-to-use!

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The library cart fits perfectly into the corner of our dining room and is going to be wonderful to use this year. I’ve organized it so that one side has all of my weekly teaching supplies on it {teacher’s manuals, extra books}.

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On the other side each of the kids have space to put their books and extras. Instead of putting shelves on the end, we used some removable 3M hooks to hold the kids pencil cases so they can grab them quickly.  The bottom shelf holds our extra manipulatives, our spelling curriculum bin, reading bin and extra school supplies.

I love that it has wheels and we can move it around as needed during our school time. It takes up much less room that what we had previously {hooray!!} and there is still plenty of room to fill it up as we go through our school year ~ and trust me, we’ll use it!

…..THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED…..

 

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. Please be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. The contest will be open until Tuesday, August 3rd at 8pm EST and a winner will be chosen using Random.org. {GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED}

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Easy Lunchboxes ~ Review

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You might have read the title of the post and thought ~ “Ummmm…doesn’t she remember that she homeschools? Lunchboxes are for school, aren’t they?”

Might I just say ~ absolutely not!

I saw Easy Lunchboxes online and was immediately intrigued. The little organizational part of my brain loved that the eco-friendly lunchbox has three separate compartments {for those picky kiddos who shudder at the thought of food touching other food} and the lid seals the individual compartments.

Genius, I tell you.

Kids Lunch Boxes

I found out about them right before we were heading out for vacation, so my parents ordered a set and another set was shipped to me {one via UPS and one via USPS}. The set from the postal service arrived the day before we left on our trip, so I quickly washed them, packed them and took them along on our vacation.

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They have been wonderful and we used them during our vacation when we went on day trips and again on the return trip home for our lunches {so we could save a little money not eating out}. The kids loved that they each had their own color {the set of 4 containers have lids in red, orange, blue and green} and I love that they were easy to clean up ~ top rack of the dishwasher and they are done! Did I mention that they stack inside each other for easy storage when you aren’t using them {bonus points here!!}.

I am so excited about using these during the school year too!! While the kids are getting ready for school time in the morning, I can pack their lunches quickly and have them waiting in the fridge when our school is finished for the morning ~ taking a lot of the lunchtime stress off from me! On our co-op days when we tend to get home much later than our normal lunch time, I can pack a lunch to take along instead without it all getting squished in a big bag.

While I know that there are other containers available in stores ~ I am SOLD on these!! They are sturdy {not a flimsy plastic} and if you have any doubts, check out this comparison post from the Easy LunchBox blog showing the difference between the two containers. The Easy LunchBox containers will last you for a long time ~ saving you both time and money. :)

Product Specifics

The Easy LunchBox containers {$13.95/set of 4} have four different-colored lids and they are refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher {top rack}, and freezer safe. The containers and lids are made of “non-toxic, food-safe, polypropylene (PP or plastic #5). These are the top-choice safe food containers if you’re looking for BPA-free lunch boxes, phthalate-free lunch boxes and non-toxic lunch boxes.”  They are not leakproof, but each container has three compartments and the lid covers them very well {we had a little dip in one of ours with no problem}.

The insulated cooler bags {$7.95/each} come in five different colors and three of the lunch containers will fit inside ~ or one container with a drink and plenty of extra room for additional snacks. They are made of the “highest quality 300D Polyester for premium durability and toughness, are vinyl free (PVC free) & lead free, with an FDA compliant PEVA lining.”

Buy an Easy LunchBox set

You can purchase Easy Lunchboxes from Amazon {with free s/h} to order your own back to school lunch box. I promise you will love them!!

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For the record: I was sent a set of Easy Lunchboxes and a cooler bag to review. My parents also purchased an additional set and bag…which I promptly confiscated and eventually reimbursed them for.

We Love Wedgits!!

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A friend of ours pulled out a big tub of Wedgits when we were over for a visit and for the rest of the time we were there, Zachary was lost in a world of building and creating. I was fascinated by them too and right after we left Zachary wanted to know if we could get some too.

What are Wedgits?

Wedgits are essentially building blocks that are 3 dimensional. Children nest, fit and stack the Wedgits together, creating designs either from their imagination or following guided cards…and there are hundreds of designs that can be made! They are safe for children as young as age one and up {be sure to check package labels still}.

Zachary was jumping up and down with excitement when the Wedgits showed up on our doorstep. We had to wait a few days before we could pull them out to use them, but it was well worth the wait! The entire time he was working with them, he kept shouting out ~ ‘Wedgits are AWESOME!’.

Here are a few of the creations that Zachary worked on…balancing blocks carefully and getting everything ‘just so’. Do you see in the center picture how the blocks look like they are ‘floating’?

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Wedgits have earned multiple awards including the 2002 Learning Magazine Teachers Choice Award; the 2001 Parents Choice Silver Honor Award and 1998 Parenting Magazine Toy of the Year Award.

This learning toy is one that will be used for years to come in our home and we have purchased several extension packs for the starter set, including additional Wedgit advanced design building cards and a mini set to make more creations. We LOVE our Wedgits!

 

This product was given to me for review purposes, and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.

Our New Math Curriculum ~ Teaching Textbooks

In a few weeks I’ll be sharing our full curriculum line-up for the 2010-2011 school year. I had mentioned a little bit ago that we were already switching over our homeschool math curriculum for both of the girls and they will be continuing with the new program through the summer and then next year.

What did we switch to? Teaching Textbooks.

Are we liking it? Absolutely yes…but this is going to be a lengthy post. :)

We’ve used Abeka since we started homeschooling {and for now Zachary will continue to use it} but during the second half of our school year Laurianna’s frustration was mounting with math ~ and there were many days that resulted in tears for her. In doing the {numerous} reviews for math products this last year, we found one thing that seemed to help her and make it easier ~ the computer.

If I put a worksheet in front of her with 20 problems, she would start, redo, recheck and take f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to complete even five problems. Give her 20 similar problems on the computer and she would answer them in very little time, many times figuring the answer in her head ~ and correctly. Math problems that would have taken her five minutes apiece if done using the worksheet.

The difference? Generally with the computer she is getting instant feedback and won’t sit there second-guessing her answers. If she gets one wrong on the computer, she just moves on without a fuss.

We tried several sample lessons of Teaching Textbooks online, took a few placement test and decided to order Math level 4 for her, even though she is closer to the level 5. Abeka covered different concepts, but truthfully the endless worksheets were killing us.

Our goal was to start her on Math level 4 at the end of the year and have her work on a few lessons each week so she would gain confidence in herself and her math skills {because she is smart, she just doesn’t think she is no matter how much encouragement she receives from us}. Essentially, she is reviewing concepts right now, but we’ll move her into level 5 somewhere in the middle of our school year.

Coughing up roughly $100 for the program was a little difficult ~ but we are loving it enough that we ordered {and are waiting for} the Math 3 Kit for McKenna to use. We also only ordered the cd-roms and not the workbooks to go along with the cds at this point, since they can do any problems on scratch paper at this point.

With Teaching Textbooks, basically you watch the lesson, do the problems and then review any of the problems that you missed or need help on. Each lesson has a guided lecture, Q/A time and it self-corrects. When Laurianna is done with her lesson, I’m able to print off her scores to put into our record book, along with any quiz scores {love this!!}. The parent section of the software allows me to have her repeat a lesson if needed, change answers and also shows me specifically where/if she needs help.

Even though the program is a bit more pricey, it can be used again from year-to-year with the rest of our children {making it $25/child for us}, includes a passcode for 2 computers {you can call if more are needed} and it can also be resold {hooray!!}.

The biggest question is ~ does Laurianna like it and is it actually working for her? She actually asks to do her math lessons now, so that should give you some indication of how it is going at our house.

That and McKenna is upset that her program hasn’t arrived yet.

 

All About Reading ~ What Am I? Review

All About Reading

The folks at All About Reading and All About Spelling never cease to amaze me.

Seriously.

I was thrilled when they introduced their first All About Reading book and now that I have the book What Am I? in my hands…I’m just plain giddy. Especially since I know that there are even more coming!

What Am I? A Collection of Short Stories coordinates with the first 14 lessons of the Level 2 spelling program, but you do not need to use the All About Spelling program to use the books. It is a hardcover collection of ten short stories for beginning readers, each with beautiful illustrations, similar to the first reader that All About Reading released last fall.

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Stories in What Am I?

  1. The Bench
  2. An Elf in the Alps
  3. Broken Robot
  4. The Bake Sale
  5. Matt the Musk Ox
  6. Skunk Hotel
  7. Champ
  8. Pine Tree Pet Shop
  9. Just for You: Poems for Fun
  10. What Am I?

Features of What Am I?

  • Engaging graphics ~ ink sketches that tell enough about the story without giving away the wording to the reader.
  • 160 page hardcover book ~ it’s sturdy and will stand up to little hands
  • Story difficulty progresses through the book.
  • Stories will appeal to both boys and girls ~ the themes range from animals to robots {and our kids enjoy them}.
  • It ties in with the Level 2 All About Spelling program ~ a huge plus if you are using it!
  • There are more coming!! Four more readers are scheduled to release by the end of 2010 along with a teacher’s manual ~ the books are being illustrated right now!

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These books are still a little above Zachary’s reading level {he is working on the Level 1 spelling program and reader}, but McKenna can confidently read them to Zachary and Kaleb, and I’m happy to let her! Because they are hardcover, I know that they will easily survive the bumps and drops of daily life. We love these books so much and plan to own all of them.

Find Out More

What Am I? A Collection of Short Stories by Marie Rippel and Renee LaTulippe is available at the All About Reading website for $19.95. In addition, there are also two more readers available: “Cobweb the Cat (All About Reading Level 1 Vol. 3) $19.95 and “Queen Bee: A Short Story Collection” (All About Reading Level 1 Vol. 2) $19.95.

Shipping has always been extremely fast and I would also highly recommend their homeschool spelling program that we are using with all of our children.

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews about this product.

This product was given to me for review purposes, and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.

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