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My dream is to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement is the key to high quality education.

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Dare U 2 Open This Book


Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a 90 day religious devotional for boys by Carol McAdams Moore. It’s extremely visual-spatial and only a little bit verbal. By this I mean Moore asks kids to draw pictures, doodle and mess around with crayons and pencils in order to journal their thoughts, instead of write a bunch of paragraphs. I think this format works great. We should give boys the opportunity to do visual-spatial activities as much as possible.

Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a devotional, so it’s heavy on religion. Each section starts with a Bible verse and then asks boys to think about it. But unlike so many other religious books for kids, Moore doesn’t tell boys how to think. She doesn’t cram a particular dogma down kids’ throats. I appreciate that tremendously.

Now for the harshest critic of all. I gave this book to my nine-year-old son and he thought it was pretty cool. I asked him if it was something that he thought he would use and he said “Not right now, but if it’s laying around the house I’ll eventually read it.”

Good enough for me.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Book Look in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

 

“Survival Colony 9″ Makes Boys Want to Read

In a post-apocalyptic world turned to dust, Querry Genn’s amnesia is either his greatest strength–or his downfall–depending on whom you ask. That’s the premise between Joshua David Bellin’s brilliant debut novel, Survival Colony 9. I was so excited to read this book that I preordered it from Amazon. Survival Colony 9 was everything I hoped it would be. … Continue reading

Falling in love with picture books, all over again

The most gorgeous book arrived in the mail today called Noah: A Wordless Picture Book. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it. The artist,  Mark Ludy, raised a $36,000 Kickstarter campaign to get this book published. That shows you: 1) how darn expensive it is to publish a book these days, and 2) how much … Continue reading

Afterschooling at the beach

Half-day Kindergarten is only 2 hours and 40 minutes in Washington State. So every day after Kindergarten my daughter and I do “Mom School”. (Check out my full plan here.) On Tuesday we took Mom School to the beach.       One of the great things about sand is that it works on fine motor skills as … Continue reading

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain is a mash-up of Brother and Sister Bear, Romeo and Juliet and the Beatitudes. The story hangs together okay, but not in a very engaging way.

I was pretty disappointed by how the whole peacemaking thing was handled. This was such a rich opportunity to offer children real problem solving skills they could use on the playground. Instead, they were offered an example of Cousin Fred jumping into the middle of a fight and quoting a Bible verse. That’s not how things usually go down at recess.

Also, I’m not entirely sure I agree that the meaning of “reap a harvest of righteousness” is “get a rich reward”. I think I would probably explain it as growing and gathering good things in our community.

In fairness to the book, there were some thought provoking questions at the end in “Activities and Questions from Brother and Sister Bear”. Hopefully parents and kids discuss these questions at length.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

“Wheels of Change” by Darlene Beck Jacobson

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I am so excited to introduce you to Darlene Beck Jacobson’s new middle grade book Wheels of Change. Some of you might recognize Darlene as the author of the popular blog Gold From the Dust: Bringing Stories to Life.

Wheels of Change tells the story of sixth grade Emily Soper who lives in Washington D.C. at the turn of the century. For a twelve-year-old, Emily faces some pretty heavy stuff. Her favorite teacher is a suffragist, her frenemy’s mom is racist and Emily herself is embroiled in a daily battle with her mother over “acting like a proper young lady”.

I especially loved how relatable Emily is. She’s passionate about fighting for justice, but not in a stuffy way. You better be careful around this girl and a teapot!

The historical tidbits peppered into the story were fun too. In one instance, Emily’s mother is delighted to discover Corn Flakes because it means she doesn’t have to fire up the stove for breakfast.

Boys and girls alike will relate to this coming of age story set against the last days of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. They might actually learn something along the way–without even knowing it. That’s the best type of historical fiction as far as I’m concerned.

Interested in finding out more? Check out the trailer:

 

Putting the sense in Number Sense

The best teaching happens when you make a lesson visual, spatial and auditory. That’s why I love teaching kids number sense with a math balance. Utilizing a math balance in a whole-class setting of twenty-seven kids would be tricky, but at home with one child it’s easy. The  balance we own came from Right Start and costs $25. 5 does not … Continue reading

Better Handwriting Paper

I love-love-LOVE this new handwriting paper I’m trying out with my five-year-old daughter Jenna. It’s called Smart Start K-1 Story Paper and I bought it from Amazon. What makes this paper genius is the colored lines. The blue line at the top is the sky, the green line on the bottom is the ground, and the … Continue reading

Destined for Doon

Destined for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon is the second book I’ve read in the Doon series. (See my previous review here.) Both books are YA meets Brigadoon the musical. Two modern girls from Indiana, Veronica and Mackenna, are magically transported to the world of Doon where dancing, fashion, evil curses and two Scottish princes await. In this second installment Mackenna is brought back to Doon to assist Veronica in defeating a zombie fugus that is invading the land.

A real positive of the series is that both Veronica and Mackenna are intelligent, take-charge young women attempting to make good decisions for their lives. Veronica is more studious, but Mackenna is career driven. The story alternates chapters from each protagonists’ viewpoint.

I especially loved the line from page 220 “In the meantime, do what you can, and when you canna do any more, pause to honor the people in your life that make it worth living.” What a beautiful sentiment to share with young readers.

Not being a teen girl myself, a question I have is whether or not a fifteen-year-old would pick up all of the Broadway references that are packed into the Mackenna chapters. Almost every other thought she has is a clever allusion to “Tell Me on a Sunday”, “The Chorus Line” or “Les Miserables”. One of the funniest sections was a mash-up of the beginning of “Into the Woods”. If you’ve seen “Into the Woods” this is hilarious, but otherwise you might be confused.

Still, Destined for Doon  was smart, fun and engaging.  This book is definitely a keeper for when my daughter grows up. Thank you BookLook for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

Rocky Reach Dam

On our way back from a camping trip in Lake Chelan my husband suggested stopping at Rocky Reach Dam along the Columbia River. “No way,” I said. “That sounds boring.” “Twenty minutes, my husband promised. “Tops.” It turns out we stayed for two hours because the dam was so much fun. First we checked out the fish … Continue reading

Instant Homemade Books

Homemade books are one of the best examples of how parents can help kids learn to read. In a classroom setting, personalized books are difficult to manage. But at home, Mom and child can whip out a book in fifteen minutes. The whole point is to create leveled readers with meaningful content that is sure to engage your … Continue reading

Boulder River Waterfall

Joan Burton’s fabulous book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades has served us well again! Last weekend my family took a trip to Boulder River Falls. Our drive along the Mountain Loop Highway offered us a sobering look at the devastating mud slide in Oso, as well as the tremendous reconstruction work in progress. … Continue reading

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

The adventures continue! My “I Brake for Moms” column today was called Pirates weren’t part of the plan for this camping trip and was about Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Here are some pictures, including shots of the massive die-off of velleas.       For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit … Continue reading

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results

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I wrote an I Brake for Moms column a while ago about my journey back from breaking my wrist and how Zumba had helped. (Please see: What burns more calories, Zumba or kids’ aerobics?)

This post is a specific review of the two versions of Zumba I own, Zumba Fitness Exhilarate and Zumba Fitness Incredible Results. Plus I’m offering a confession: Sometimes I let my kids watch TV downstairs while I’m doing Zumba upstairs. Otherwise, how would I find time to exercise during the summer when they aren’t in school? Yeah, it would be better if they were reading books or cleaning their rooms, but sometimes you have to make compromises. ;)

 

Why I like Zumba DVDs in general:

  • ALL of the instructors are really great. Nice, upbeat, encouraging, and they give clear directions.
  • Usually you have the option of turning the instructions off and just following the music.
  • The sets come with enough variety to keep things interesting.
  • The music is really awesome, even though I’ve never heard it before.
  • Zumba is FUN.

Random Thoughts and Unanswered Questions about Zumba:

  • Is Beto really as nice as he seems? Because he seems really nice.
  • Do you think Beto and Tony Horton from P90x know each other? Because Tony seems really nice too.
  • How does Kass Martin look so different with and without bangs? I think she looks pretty either way.
  • The lighting on Loretta Bates in the Zumba Step video is really pale. At first I didn’t realize she was the same person who was in Rush. Also, how did she get so good a belly dancing?
  • What’s with the wrist bands? Do people really wear random wrist bands when they exercise? What’s the point?
  • Doesn’t it hurt to exercise with big earrings. Wouldn’t they bang around and hurt your earlobes?
  • Was Marcie Gill a former cheerleader? She seems to have a cheerleader’s spirit.
  • Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Mellet looks a little bit like Heidi Klum? Especially in Zumba Step.

But I digress… Now for the reviews.

 

Zumba Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD (Multi, Small)
What you get:

  • Step by Step (an introduction to the steps)
  • Activate (40 minute easy routine)
  • Exhilarate (60 minutes difficult routine both in terms of dance steps and intensity)
  • Rush (22 minute routine that is intense but short)
  • Ripped and Mix (30 minutes of cardio toning with the sticks, plus a 60 minute cardio routine)
  • two, one pound rhythm sticks

Thoughts about Exhilarate:

  • Rush and Ripped are my favorite. Usually I do them together.
  • The sticks are too easy for me now, but were really helpful when I was rehabbing my broken wrist.
  • Exhilarate is really hard for me to do on the carpet. I think it would be easier on wood floors.
  • The costumes are wild. I could imagine conservative people having a hard time with so much skin.

Zumba Fitness Incredible Results DVD with Zumba Max DVD

 

What you get:

  • Quick Start (an introduction to the steps)
  • Step (40 minute step routine)
  • Zumba riser (step)
  • Super Cardio Dance Party (60 minutes difficult routine in terms of intensity but with easy to follow steps)
  • 20 Minute Express (short and fairly easy)
  • 30 Minute Burn (easy to follow steps but no directions)
  • Amazing Abs (17 minute chair workout that is really hard

Thoughts about Incredible Results:

  • I love pretty much all of it, except I rarely do the 20 Minute Express and have never done the Quick Start
  • Steve Boedt in the Super Cardio Dance Party is really funny.
  • The Step workout is my FAVORITE!
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.

 

Final thoughts about Zumba?

Zumba is super fun. Exhilarate is slightly easier I think, but beginners would like Incredible Results too. If you’re going to go for it, I would suggest getting the shoes as well. Otherwise you can’t slide properly on the carpet. The first few times I did Zumba I had my ordinary gym shoes on and I kept tripping. Zumba shoes have a smooth sole and that really helps.

Party on!

Mary Engelbreit’s new book about Friendship

Need a go-to gift book? Mary Engelbreit’s new book “The Blessings of Friendship Treasury” is a fun find for kids and adults alike. It’s a beautifully illustrated collection of poems, sayings and Bible verses about friendship. As you would expect with any Engelbreit product, the illustrations are too precious for word.

My five-year-old daughter loves this book, and it’s an enjoyable bedtime read aloud. She also likes to look at the pictures on her own. The high quality detail really holds her attention.

One thing I noticed about the pictures is Engelbreit’s efforts to include diversity. On the whole, I think the ratio of white kids is still a bit too high, but kudos to Engelbreit for trying. She even portrays a little girl in a wheelchair.

All in all, this is a happy book to have in our collection. Thank you to BookLook for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

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