Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sugar Creek Gang

Hello there,

I want to share with you about something my family has absolutely fallen in love with. Let’s start at the beginning.

Can you talk about an item arriving just in time?  We were on our way out of town to make an 8 hour drive to Yellowstone.  We were getting fuel and I asked my husband to stop back by home to check the mail.  We did and in the mail was a package from Beloved Books.  It was Volume 1 of Sugar Creek Gang which includes 6 stories.

  • The Swamp Robber
  • The Killer Bear
  • The Winter Rescue
  • The Lost Campers
  • Chicago Adventure
  • The Secret Hideout

Each character building story is approximately 2 hours long.  That would leave each volume with 12 hours of character building stories.

The Sugar Creek Gang was written by Paul Hutchins beginning in 1939.  

We hit the road and about an hour into our drive we decided to begin listening to the stories of the Sugar Creek Gang. 

We met a gang (or group of kids) that share a loyal friendship. 

Bill Collins, Poetry, Tom Till, Big Jim, Little Jim, Circus, and Dragonfly are the main characters of the Sugar Creek Gang series.  You will get to know these boys and begin to feel like you are a part of the “gang”.  These boys “choose the right” throughout the stories which leaves me feeling comfortable with my children wanting to be a part of “The Sugar Creek Gang.”

  This was so much different than an audio book to us, these stories felt like they were actually being told to us not read to us.  The narrator does a great job of portraying each character through altering his voice to each boy. 

The stories are have funny parts and serious parts.  Each story includes at least one morally good lesson to be taken from it.  We all found ourselves learning something during each story; things like a bear’s behavior, to a new poem, and much much more. 

My entire family loves The Sugar Creek Gang, so much in fact, that we listed to the entire Volume 1 on our trip!  The next time we took the 4 hour drive to grandma’s house, they asked for it again.  NO JOKE!   

Each volume of The Sugar Creek Gang is $54.95 individually.

You can purchase all 6 volumes, 72 stories, over 100 hours of listening for $279.70.  Less than $3 an hour of character building stories.

You can try out the first story for FREE!  I highly recommend doing this. 

Just in time for Christmas, Beloved Books is offering my readers a great 20% discount on your order.

Use code FAMILY-STYLE-20 to save 20% off your order.

To see what others think of this check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Disclosure: As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I review products, like this, which I receive for free in order to be able to share my honest opinion.  No other compensation is provided. 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Samson’s Classroom~ Sight Words, Spelling and Reading

Samson’s Classroom is a company that offers online practice in 3 separate areas; sight words, spelling and reading.

Samson’s Sight Words works by having a preset list of 224 of the most common words broken down into 4 levels, which are then broken down into 7 easy to digest groups of words each.  Each group of words includes 8 words.  In order to learn the words, you go through 5 steps. 

  • Learn words – where you see and learn the words 
  • Build words
  • Identify the words
  • Spell words
  • Missing Words


Each of the steps is in a game form, however there is not any fluff of a game.  It is more a basic and to the point game.  There is a scoreboard for both the parent and the student to see.


When Katey gets a word correct she is usually giggling as the funny stuff Samson does to show her she was right.  She also enjoys working toward a black belt. 

Notice above I said 224 most common words, this is because some of the words can be phonetically sounded out.  Words like big, see, it, dog, can, etc.  This hasn’t been a problem for us as I see how repetitive practice of these common words has really boosted her overall reading ability.  

There are also offline resources to use, such as games and worksheets to cement these words within the student. Our favorite game was Kaboom, which you play using the flashcards you print out along with some Kaboom cards.  There are also many other games you can play with the flashcards.  There is a variety of worksheets to go along with each list of words.  These offline resources have really been a gem for us.  PA020741


Samson’s Spelling has over 5000 words.  These words are broken down into a variety of lists.  There are 3 lists for each grade level K- 5th.  There are also lists divided out by topics, such as Days of the Week, Commonly Misspelled, Furniture and more.  There are also lists broken down by word families, such as it, up, og.  You may also create your own list.  I chose to do this option most of the time.  I chose words based on the ones Katey was misspelling in her morning journal prompts. 

Samson’s Spelling breaks each list down into 4 fun steps. 

  • Study Zone – where you and Samson learn and study the words.
  • Missing Letters – where you have Samson karate chop the missing letters.
  • Spelling Scramble – where you help Samson run around and find all the letters to spell your word before getting caught by a spider. 
  • Crunch Time – where you spell all the words on your list correctly to keep Samson warm and away from Wally the Walrus.

Samson’s Reading is a place where you can practice reading comprehension.  You read a story and answer a variety of questions about it.  For each question you earn a chance to play a game called “Hammer Time”.  This is one of those carnival type games where you hit the button on the ground with a hammer and see how high you can get it to go.  Katey does love earning chances at this game.

Some of the reading passages in the level one where way to hard for her, while others were just right.  One thing is that the reading passages are not in order of easiest to hardest within a level, this made it hard for me as well as her to know if the passage was going to be to hard.  Also once you click on the passage you must complete the entire thing then.  There is no way to preview it and see if it is at your child’s level.   I did find a way around this by going into the parent dashboard and deleting the scores so that your child may start over. 


A subscription to Samson’s Classroom includes all 3 Samson activities for $30 per year for one student or a family membership which includes 4 students is $50 per year. Need more students?  They have school options too.

To see what others think of this check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Disclosure: As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I review products, like this, which I receive for free in order to be able to share my honest opinion.  No other compensation is provided. 


Busy Bag-A-Thon ~Week 4~


Here we are in our 4th and final week.  Thank you for joining me each Sunday with our Busy Bag-A-Thon.  In case you missed Week 1, Week 2, or Week 3 check them out!

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  1. Simple coloring book page puzzles.  Color and cut out a simple coloring book page and turn it into a puzzle.
  2. Bucket of animals into an egg carton.  Have your child use a spoon or tongs to transfer objects to an egg carton.
  3. Shape sewing.  Thread yard through a simple shape.  Use a hole punch around a theme picture.  Have child thread yarn through each hole.
  4. Magnetic letters.  Spell words or practice letter or sound recognition.
  5. Put the fire out.  Color a fire on a small sheet of paper and write a number on it.  Your child needs to use that many toy plastic firemen to put the fire out.  (Firemen are available at the dollar store.  Other ideas here could be how many Indians fit in the Tee Pee, how many soldiers fit in the tank, etc.
  6. Simple children’s board games like Topple, or Jenga.  Then child can play these games alone.  Think about what fun quality time this would be to spend with your child.
  7. Homemade number flashcards
  8. Melting beads.  Even if you don’t melt the beads every time, or if your child doesn’t finish the project, think of the hand dexterity used for this activity.

Thanks so much for joining me this past month.  I hope you gained great insight as to activities that will keep your toddler/preschoolers entertained and more!

Don’t forget to follow Family Style School.

This is linked to:

We are that Family / Works for me Wednesday

Tot School

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crossbow Education

Crossbow Education is a company that is passionate about helping children and adults who suffer with Dyslexia and other reading difficulties. 

One way they help them is with their most popular product – Eye Level Reading Ruler- on sale at the time of this posting for $16.95 for the variety pack of 10, which I received.  The colors included are: yellow, celery, grass, jade, aqua, sky, purple, magenta, pink, and orange.  One side of each is gloss and the other side is matte.

These rulers:

  • reduce glare
  • improve focus
  • assist in tracking
  • a narrow window isolates a single line of text
  • a wider window for reading paragraphs
  • can be used in a paper book or with an e-reader

Let me share with you why I wanted to try these for my family.

My father actually wears rose colored glasses while he is working on the computer.  No, not “rose colored glasses”, but actual glasses that have rose colored lenses.  He has always claimed that the glasses help him to read better on the computer screen.   These rulers are the same concept, only much more affordable and they come with the variety of colors to use and choose from.  Plus, I just can’t see my kids being willing to wear colored glasses.  (They do make prescription colored lenses for people to see better with, we are not judging.)

I had each person in my family use these as a trial.  Each of us has a different reading ability. 


The Bookworms

Emily and I are both great, avid readers.  We both found that these helped us keep our place.  We liked the wider side as it allowed us to read ahead as we moved it down our page.  Many of the books we read are not the full length of the ruler.  This made it a challenge to hold along with the book.  This is easily solved by cutting the rulers down to fit the size of your book, however we both chose to both just deal with it.   Emily’s favorite color choice is the celery and she doesn’t care which side.  My favorite color choice is pink matte. 

 The Struggling Readers

Katey and Tommy are not bookworms.  While Katey has been showing a greater interest in reading lately, in fact, I just realized that it has been since she started using these that her reading has taken off.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but these have definitely helped her make less mistakes while reading.  She also doesn’t have to think as hard to sound out each word.  Katey’s color preference is the magenta gloss.  


Tommy is the type of reader that is easily distracted.  He loses his place easily.  These rulers really helped him to be able to keep his place.  Tommy found it a struggle and hassle to hold these while reading a book smaller than the ruler. He has not yet decided on a color preference.  As soon as he does, I will cut one down for him. 


The Dyslexic

My husband has dyslexia.  Often times he struggles to read. While is not a big reader, I had him try these out to share his opinion.  According to him, they did help.  His color preferences are the Yellow, Orange or Aqua matte.


Overall, I would recommend getting this variety pack of the Eye Level Reading Rulers and trying them out in your home, once you have decided on your families color preferences you can order a package of just that specific color.


Crossbow Education offers many other products such as:

as well as they are adding new items to their catalog often.

To see what others think of Crossbow Education’s Reading Rulers check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Disclosure: As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I review products, like this, which I receive for free in order to be able to share my honest opinion.  No other compensation is provided. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Busy Bag-A-Thon Week 3


Welcome to week 3 of our Busy Bag-A-Thon.

If you missed week one and week two check them out!

This week has some ideas for older kids as well. 

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  1. File Folder games!  Many can be found at File folder Fun!
  2. Coloring book and crayons
  3. Stacking cups
  4. Felt Cupcakes.  Cut out cupcake part shapes and have child assemble them
  5. Math games.  This one is from Confessions of a Homeschooler.
  6. Play dough and play dough mats.  Put sheets of paper inside sheet protector for playdough fun!
  7. Simple puzzles from the dollar store
  8. Shape tracing- cut shapes out of foam.  Have child trace onto paper
  9. Mad libs.  You can read and write for younger kids.  These are always great to keep in your purse for older kids.
  10. Sound matching games.  This one is from Kidssoup.com
  11. Sticker sheets and blank paper.  - This is great for those free sticker sheets they send you in the mail.
  12. Kid Song CD’s.  This one is from Maestro Classics.
  13. Small plastic container and lid matching.  This one is for numbers, but can be used for many things, letters, colors, shapes, etc.  These are from the dollar store.
  14. Animal Sorting game.  From Homeschool Creations.
  15. Electronic Flashcards… However, you can make your own version of this by using regular flashcards and playing games with them.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wrapping this one up with an orange belt and some dance in the mix.


Family Life

This week Tommy walked into karate a yellow belt and walked out an orange belt.  We are so proud of him and his hard work at karate.  He has had times when he wants to quit and days he doesn’t feel like going.  He has powered through those and made it.  He is excited to continue advancing in karate.



Katey and Emily both had dance performances at a little craft boo-tique in our town. 



Here is Katey doing her favorite dance move – the coffee grinder.  And of course posing for her photo. 









Emily’s dance almost turned into a solo.  Only one other girl showed up and neither of them knew the dance very well.  Out of about 20 that are in the two classes.  The teacher said that it is common for the teen class. They all have only just began learning this dance routine.  Some other girls showed up and together they all showed off their tumbling skills. 

Something we really enjoyed that we didn’t know we would was searching the internet for dance hairstyles and styling their hair.  In fact, Katey is normally an I don’t like my hair brushed, always wears it down kinda girl.  This has changed.  She has let me do her hair each day this week.  As in, more than just brush it.  So happy.

We had rain for an entire day.  I surprised Katey and Tyler by letting them jump in rain puddles when we were done Tommy’s karate testing.  They loved this and were so excited.  I wish I could have got better pictures of the splashing. It was fun and so worth it.

2012-10-12_17-01-22_738       2012-10-12_17-01-08_124

We went home and changed into pajamas after that and had a relaxing night.


School Life

School this week has been a little harder than most.  I think it had to do with the public school kids having “Fall Break”.  It throws our schedule off when they are out, since my kids always want to be playing with them.  I still made them do school in the mornings and they could play in the afternoons, similar to our summer schedule.  We did still get some learning in.

Katey reading has really taken off this week (FINALLY!!)  She is actually interested in reading.  Her confidence is really boosting.


Katey has been doing really great at math.  We reviewed Math Made Easy a little while ago and set it aside after the review was over.  We decided to pick it back up and start back over from the beginning.  She has been loving this.  Actually this has made math her subject.   I am also in the process of creating a morning book for her.  It is basically a book of things she will do first thing in the morning.  She has been working in it each morning, I have decided a few more things I want to add to it and then I will take it over to Staples and get it bound.  I will explain and show pictures of it a little later.

Tyler has also shown interest in drawing instead of just scribbling and in interested in being able to write his name.  The biggest thing he is interested in drawing is trucks and tractors. 


He has got the wheels part down.

We have been loving all the busy activities we have been doing lately.  Check out my month long busy bag activities posts for lots of ideas.


Katey and Tyler both have a love for Jumpstart.  They play on it whenever I let them. 


Tommy is still undecided in his math curriculum.  What I have done for him is given him two, Professor B and Math Essentials.  He has the choice each day as which one to do a lesson in.  Each day he has to do a lesson.  So far I have found that he sticks to one for about a week and then switches it out again.  I believe this helps him feel less overwhelmed about math, and that-is-a-good-thing!

He has also been whipping right through physics.  This has been a great science year for him.  I have also ordered Life of Fred Pre Algebra with Biology.  As soon as that gets here he will start in that.  I am sure he will finish in physics quickly.  So to fit it all together his next science with be biology.  I am still taking suggestions as to which one.  So leave me a comment if you know of one I should look into.  (8th grader with some biology experience) 

Fun School


We went to the dinosaur quarry near our house.  We met some other homeschool friends there.  We had such a good time.  They even all, well except the baby of course, earned their Junior Ranger Badges. 


Real Life

This week we continued our simple machines unit.  We learned about the screw.  We tried to build our own version of an Archimedes’ screw.  I got the idea from Walk Beside Me. PA171203   We tried to move some cereal up it and we did get it to move a little way up.  Then it just got stuck.  PA190021

The kids understood what we were trying to do and we read about it in our encyclopedia.  So that counts, right?

Well, I couldn’t get over it.  I decided to try to make one on my own, cutting and taping my circles perfectly.

I am talking perfectly!  PERFECTLY!   PA171206

I hate to admit it, but the first version that the kids helped me with worked better. Boo HOO!!!

A Collage

Here is a collage with some more pictures from our field trip.

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Our Favorite Resource


This week I don’t know what I would have done without our Usborne Science Encyclopedia.  The resources it provides through the book and internet links on simple machines, saved my epic fail of building the Archimedes’ Screw.  PA190020

This has been linked to:



Homegrown Learners
Favorite Resource This Week


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