First Start Reading Program Review
The homeschooling world is filled with methods, curricula, online programs, and every imaginable learning tool in between. In my own experiences, I recall feeling so overwhelmed by trying to find the right program that compliments my child’s learning style, especially when it came time to teach them to read. With another emerging reader in our home and so much on the market, I was so relieved to find Memoria Press through the Homeschool Review Crew.
Memoria Press offers curricula that accompanies the tried and true classical learning style and makes products that are high quality, simple and accessible for all. The last few months, we have been trying out Classical Phonics with the First Start Reading Program, and I have fallen in love with the ease, beauty, and simplicity that this program offers.
We received student workbooks A-E, a copy of Classical Phonics, the Teacher’s Guide, and a separate Teacher’s Guide for workbook E. The student workbooks are intended to be used by one student, and of course the guides can be used over and over again. Classical Phonics, is a simple book that consists of letters and word families to help young learners practice the phonics skills and is a great confidence-builder after their lessons!
*Fruit not included
When I first pulled the Teachers Guide out of the box, I was a bit intimidated. It was a big book, and I’m a mama with very little time. Once I cracked open the book, I realized my fears were widely misplaced because the Teachers Guide makes the instructors job so clear cut, easy, and fun. It also accompanies books A, B, C, and D so it covers a tremendous amount of content. First Start Reading Program covers consonants, short and long vowels, 45 common words, hand writing practice, and space to color and draw. As the lessons advance, students begin to work on their listening skills through comprehension activities and dictation assignments.
We started with book A, which was perfect for my 4 ½ year old beginning reader. Lesson one covered the letter “M,” in two we learned “A” and by lesson three we were blending the sounds together and forming the start of a sentence, “I am…” My daughter especially loved the drawing activities that accompany the lessons, below is her self-portrait for lesson three:
Books A-D provide a tremendous first start for kindergarten-aged children while Book E and the separate Teacher's Guide provide more advanced materiel suitable for 1st grade. It features 8 different lessons and a variety of activities varying from copy work, vowel teams like “ai” and “ie”, dictation assignments, and reading comprehension activities.
One thing I feel that this program does incredibly well is placing commonly confused phonetic sounds right next to each other so that students can learn the differences early on and avoid the pitfall of simply guessing the words. My older student needs to work on that, so we plan to use Book E with him to make sure he has a firm grasp on the different sounds vowel pair make.
I have loved our journey through Classical Phonics with the First Start Reading Program. I wish that we started with this program from day one with my oldest child. It's simple lessons build upon each other to create a firm reading foundation that children will benefit from for the rest of their lives. I've also fallen in love with Memoria Press and can't wait to see what else they have to offer as we continue homeschooling.
The Homeschool Review Crew checked out many more programs with Memoria Press - be sure to check out what they reviewed and thought below!
Back in July, we participated in the Build-A-Bear fiasco of 2018. While we waited on a line that wrapped around the mall with seemingly thousands of people for the “pay your age day”, I stood next to a rather opinionated woman. We started chatting to pass the time. She was trying to bring her grandchildren to get bears and I was waiting with my two-year-old, three-year-old, and pregnant belly. When she learned I had another child at home, and that we homeschooled, the questions started rolling:
“Are you like the Duggars?” she abruptly asked.
I stood there perplexed for a minute, completely unsure of how to answer that question.
“Am I like the Duggars??? I asked myself. We might have a few things in common, but 4 kids is A LOT different from 19...
“No,” I awkwardly chuckled, “we’re not like the Duggars.”
Then, she motioned to my denim skirt,
“Do you wear pants?” She asked.
“Yes, I wear pants all the time, just not as frequently when I’m pregnant and its July,” I answered, trying not to seem rude.
Once she was sure we weren’t completely crazy, she began to divulge all sorts of concerning information.
I wish I was making this story up…
She told me how she once knew a young, newly married couple who assumingly was homeschooled. They went to a doctor’s office after a year of marriage because they had yet to conceive a baby. To make a long and mentally scarring story short, the couple was doing it wrong because they had never been taught about the birds and the bees.
Yeah … I wasn’t sure what to say to that either.
But, I felt the need to assure her that we weren’t homeschooling our children out of a misplaced fear of the world around us, rather we felt they could obtain a deeper and more impactful education through homeschooling.
I’m sharing this story because it encapsulates so many of the stereotypes homeschoolers deal with. Lawmakers, the media, and a huge portion of the general public view homeschoolers as some religious cult that keeps their kids locked away in a basement.
I’ve been in awe of all the voices speaking out to try to end these prejudices, so I’ll add some of my thoughts by contributing my five biggest stereotype pet peeves:
Homeschoolers are sheltered from reality:
Most homeschool kids I know have an incredible sense of the world around them, they explore topics their passionate about through hands on approaches, spend days experiencing museums, and travel daily outside the walls of a classroom. It’s not surprising that they often excel academically and vocationally and go on to live fully successful lives in society.
Homeschoolers are religious extremists:
Homeschoolers are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Atheists, and everything in between. While many families are influenced by faith, many are not. Faith influenced our decision to homeschool, so did concerns about our children’s safety and emotional health in public school settings, but we do not all share the same ideologies. Often times, the only thing we have in common with other homeschooling families is the mere fact that we chose to homeschool our kids, and that's a wonderful common ground to share.
Homeschool kids don’t know how to socialize:
Every time I turn around, someone makes a comment about making sure my kids get enough socialization in. This gets a tad bit irritating and grows old fast. We socialize, we’re a part of homeschool groups, and my kids have the ability to communicate with people of all ages- not just their peers. Just the other week, my two-year-old hopped out of the car at one of our meetups, and looked at one of the other moms and said, “Hi, what’s your name?” She has/had no shyness or concern that the person she was talking to wasn’t in her age range, she’s just happy to chat with everyone and anyone.
And yes, we talk about all the ridiculous “socialization comments” we receive while we socialize.
We all know each other:
Maybe it’s because people fear that we don’t know enough people, but I’m always asked if I know someone’s neighbors cousin who homeschooled her kids in 2003-2004. No, no, I don’t. We might live in a small town in an even smaller state, but we don’t all get together and know each other. Normally, we group up through interests and activities, and while I’m sure your neighbors cousin is an amazing person, I don’t need you to send me their number.
We think we’re better than other families who don’t homeschool.
Homeschooling allows us to take an individual approach to each child’s education. But that journey doesn’t come without bumps and trials and error. Just as a parent who sends their kids to public or private schools may wonder if they’re doing the right thing, homeschooling parents have their days when we wonder that too. Regardless of schooling choices, we’re parents who give their all 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I don’t think that, “I’m doing it right,” while others aren’t. We simply all do our best in the unique situation that we’re in.
What about you? What’s your biggest homeschool stereotype pet peeve?
Two weeks ago, I shared about my Facebook being hacked and destroyed. Realistically, hacked is the wrong term. It started as hacked and ended as hijacked for some strange purpose.
After the hackers logged in from Algeria, changed my name, email, and cellphone number so that I couldn't log in anymore, they continued on to change my gender, location, religion, and interests, but they kept my hometown and my friend's list. They also scheduled for all of my Facebook business pages to be deleted. I have no idea what their motivation was to take control of my account. It really doesn't make sense to me...
I did, however, get my account back with no help from Facebook, discovered how they were able to hack me AND just how much personal information they obtained. I hope what I learned can help you stay safer online too.
So let's start with the how:
As my account was being accessed from Algeria, I was receiving messages from Facebook asking if I had logged in from a new device. I'd click "no" and change my password, thinking everything was safe, but then it would happen again and again. It turns out I had malware on my cellphone so the hackers could track everything that I did. We first scanned my laptop for some kind of bug, and it was clean, so then I downloaded AVG for androids and discovered the malware on my phone.
I also made the huge mistake of having really easy passwords and using the same password for different accounts. This allows hackers easy access to so much information. I’ve since changed my passwords for everything and recorded them in a booklet. I also stopped allowing Google to keep track of my passwords in case my google account is ever compromised.
Once I removed the malware and changed my passwords across all of my accounts, I still had no access to my Facebook. The hackers had reported all of my help messages to Facebook as spam. They deleted the last month of my own posts, as well as my profile picture. With a different name, I couldn't even search for myself and when I'd search for the name they changed me into, a long list of possibilities matched it. My old account seemed lost in a sea of billions.
Thankfully, my husband had made a note of the handle they had put up on my account though: Douma Ali.
I went to the Facebook login page and started typing a variety of Douma Ali @ gmail.com until Facebook actually recognized an email address and then allowed me to change the email from the hackers account to my own, then they sent a link to reset my password. Once I received an email to MY Gmail account, I was able to regain access and change everything from a secured internet connection.
When I logged in, Facebook had a message stating that I should block “Alexandra Kulick” for harassment and reporting the Facebook as hacked… thanks! Then, I immediately removed all of my bank information that had been stored on Facebook for business pages and alerted my bank as well.
Since all of this, my relationship with social media has drastically changed. My husband and I would use Messager to chat throughout the day and share photos of the kids, and some creep had access to all of that, not to mention 11 of year’s worth of photos that I had completely forgotten about.
I've been taking the time to download all of my photo albums to preserve the memories, but I won't be putting much up anymore. OR, accessing social media from anything other than my laptop. Even with antivirus protection on my phone, the reality that someone else can be watching and tracking is alarming, and the motive for it is still so unclear.
Facebook is simply too big to provide protection for any of us. Even as someone who has invested money with them for advertising, they simply didn't have the time or the ability to respond to my messages when my account was hacked with anything other than a generic reply. I would have been flat out of luck had I not guessed the hacker’s email.
Recently the founder of Whatsapp has been urging people to abandon Facebook, as the creators exploit the users for their own gain. But for many of us, deleting Facebook just seems impractical so my advice is to make sure all of your photos are backed up safely. Facebook allows you to download entire albums in zipped files instead of individual photos to make that process easier. Also, make sure your password is unique to Facebook and contains letters, numbers, and symbols. Be sure to have antivirus software on your cell phones and avoid using public wifi. Finally, by weary that even private messages in Messanger can be accessed by hackers and facebook alike.
Stay safe out there, friends!
Drive Thru History Review
A lifetime ago, I studied Biblical and Theological studies at Regent University. I love all things Koine Greek and have way more commentaries and lexicons than current bookshelves. When I first heard about Drive Thru History® two years ago, I really wanted to check it out with my kids… except they were all under 5. As amazing and intelligent as I think they are, I knew the material would be over their heads. But this year, with the launch of Drive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation", I felt like we were ready to dive in (or should I say drive in) and learn!
Drive Thru History® "Acts to Revelation" is an 18 part series that covers what occurred from the book of Acts to Revelation. We watched this as a family with my 7, 4, 2-year-old and of course baby. Given my kid's ages, we began by watching the series in 15-minute intervals and then used the study guide questions to talk about what we learned. The study guide provides a summary of each episode along with discussion questions. We found it better to share the questions with our kids before the episode and let it be like a discovery hunt as they watched and listened for the answers.
The videos are visually stunning and filmed on the actual location of Biblical events. The creators incorporate historical paintings to further illustrate the scenes and paired them with Scripture and incredibly upbeat narration from Dave Stotts, who clearly has the best job on the planet. The enthusiasm is contagious, cinematography amazing, and the content is powerful.
Episode 4 was particularly moving to me as the host walks viewers through the Road to Damascus to learn about Paul’s conversion. The actual segment of the road where Paul encountered Jesus lies in Syria and Stotts explained that he wasn’t able to enter into the country and shared that over 900,000 Christians have been martyred in the last ten years in the Middle East. Though this is never an easy topic to address with children, it’s so important that they have an understanding and thankfulness for our own freedom and know the need to pray for our persecuted brother and sisters.
Each episode is incredibly rich in content. It truly had me thinking I must have dozed off in a few classes or am just getting old, but I prefer the former. I loved being able to see the places where the Biblical events occurred. In episode 6, Stotts shows viewers around the remnants of Lystra where Paul was nearly stoned to death. After a brutal beating, Paul and Barnabas fled an incredible 60 miles to Derbe to escape. Reading the Biblical account is inspiring, but seeing the places and realizing just how far that journey was added an entirely new dimension to learning.
The program would make an amazing family Bible study (as we used it) or a stand-alone history class. I can’t wait to get to the final episode on Revelation. My husband wanted to watch out of order and the collegiate systematic theologian inside of me just couldn’t go out of order!
Be sure to check out what the rest of the Homeschool Review Crew thought!
ARTistic Pursuit Review
My grandmother was an artist. She’d travel and paint and make amazing pieces that still live on in her family and friends homes today. That being said, I did not receive the “artistic” gene. In fact, I once felt inspired to paint during a worship service at church and painted a small picture. The first time my boyfriend-now-husband came over to my house, he saw my artwork, and asked me if one of the kids I babysat made it for me… I said yes…
So, homeschool art class in the Kulick house hasn’t been incredibly exhilarating. I love to let my kids explore and create, but when it comes to art, I have very little guidance to offer them. When I heard about ARTistic Pursuit Inc. through the Homeschool Review Crew, I was really excited to check out K-3rd Grade Level, Volumes 1-8 to learn with my kids! As soon as it arrived, my entire family [yes, even daddy] wanted to jump in!
We started with a class perfect for our kindergarten and 1st grader, Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, K-3 Vol. 1. The course comes with a text book, DVD and Blu-ray, and is composed of 18 different lessons with 6 accompanying video lessons. Each lesson has a theme such as “Artists See Shapes.” The theme is carried through into art activities and even incorporated into art history in a way that’s practical for little learners. My four-year-old particularly loved the way the lessons were titled and she instantly began to identify herself as an artist- taking special note of what the artists do.
Our first lesson included a video, which provided special instructions that were relevant for the following three lessons in the book. We learned how to properly use watercolor crayons (something I didn’t know existed!), and saw a demonstration of how the first activity was completed. Watching the lesson made my job as homeschool mom extremely easy, I was able to sit back and learn too!
After the video, we set up our work area and were excited to get to work! We each found an item that was special and practiced finding the lines to create it on paper, here are a few of our masterpieces:
Our favorite lesson so far has been, “Artists Observe.” It provided a wonderful opportunity for my kids to explore nature, observe the world around them, and then create paintings of what they’ve witnessed. The activity partnered with art history as the children get to experience, “In Flanders Field” by Vonnoh and practice their observation skills with the artwork.
One of the things that truly sets ARTistic Pursuit Inc. apart is the love and passion that’s poured into this curriculum, it’s truly contagious! My kids are asking to do "art class" all the time, and this mama is even getting a bit more confident with a paint brush! We’re looking forward to continuing Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, K-3 Vol. 1, it’s truly a complete, easy-to-use, and engaging art program!
Don't forget to check out the other reviews from the Review Crew:
My oldest turns 7 today. So far, each birthday has been a fun celebration, but this year has me feeling awfully nostalgic. SEVEN!?!? The "little boy" season is behind us, and in front of me is a responsible, kind, helpful child. In the midst of all his birthday planning, one moment really caught my attention.
Yesterday morning, he woke up early and said, "Mom, I had a really cool dream!" I love to hear my kid’s dreams and try to interpret them so I asked him to explain it to me.
He said, “I dreamed it was my birthday and I had one big box. I could tell there were Legos inside and the box was wrapped in rainbow wrapping paper."
I was taken back for a moment. See, we got him one big gift this year- a Lego set he's wanted. So the fact that he was seeing his gift wrapped ahead of time was spot on. The part of the dream that didn't mirror reality was the rainbow wrapping paper, so I knew that God was highlighting something with that wrapping paper.
"Rainbows are a sign of God's promises; remember Noah's ark and the rainbow after the flood?" I asked.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool…” he said.
I told him that I felt like God was saying this year would be a year of unwrapping more of God’s promises in his life and that the first one just might be prophetic visions.
This experience really gave me a fresh dose of perspective. In the midst of swimming through laundry, dishes, and lessons, God was revealing love, purpose, and destiny in his life and reminding me to invest in my kid’s future, not merely the present.
Homeschool Complete Review
Does anyone else homeschool with the foreboding sense that they might be forgetting something which may or may not be pertinent to their child's future? That pretty much sums up my homeschooling style...
When my first child started kindergarten, we pieced together simple and free material and maintained a relaxed approach, but by the second year I realized there were some learning gaps. With my next child starting her homeschool journey, and my brain stretched many directions, I wanted to use a complete curriculum that would make my life simpler and keep us on task. We found Homeschool Complete through the Homeschool Review Crew and started my daughter’s schooling journey with Kindergarten Complete Semester One . We received the first semester of Kindergarten Complete as a download, along with the downloadable student worksheet. The teacher’s manual alone is 490 pages, so if you plan to print it and assemble it in a binder, you might save yourself a bit of time by purchasing the pre-assembled bundles!
Kindergarten Complete Semester One teaches essential skills through thematic units. The units include my family, fall, farm animals, zoo animals, shapes and patterns, fire safety, bears, colors, health and nutrition, thanksgiving, behavior, Christmas, transportation, winter, Martin Luther King Jr., and sea life.
Based on the seasonal activities, it’s best to start this program in the late summer/ fall when kids traditionally begin school, or simply plan accordingly! It’s structured based on 180 day school year, working 4 days per week on the curriculum and one day for unstructured activities. I found that this was more than manageable, and my little ones asked to “do school work” even on the weekends!
One thing that I really enjoyed about this program is that it starts by establishing a daily routine. My kids have LOVED starting off our day with the recitations and songs. The daily routine includes reciting pledges, calendar work, days of the week/ months of the year songs to sing, a review of material previously covered, as well as the option to include daily Bible verses and story books. Of course, families can customize and tailor this to their specific needs and children. We decided to add in some declarations from Bethel Church, which I’ll include in downloadable form at the bottom of the page.
This curriculum is truly a "complete" program. It incorporates all of the core subjects, and even includes gym, music, and art activities. Each unit has recommended story books, some might be sitting on your book shelf while others are certainly at the library- and many are on Youtube in case you forget like me ;)
I intended to use this solely with my four year old, but my six and two year old wanted to join in the fun! The downloadable student’s workbook made it easy to simply print out the pages we needed per child, per day, and then my kids assembled their work in binders. The amount of daily work was very age appropriate, and the activities really focused on making learning fun!
One of our favorite class activities has been practicing ball rolling for "indoor gym class." Kindergarten Complete provides so many cute rhymes to repeat as the students roll the ball so kids can get their wiggles out, and learn colors at the same time! This program has really added more fun and structure into our homeschool routine, and I'd highly recommend it!
Homeschool Complete has really thought of everything so you don't have to!
You can check out more reviews from the crew below!
As much as I like to think I don't need social media in my life, this last week has rocked me and changed my perception about Facebook.
If you haven't heard, my account was hacked. Not the send spam messages to other people or duplicated kind of hacked, but essentially destroyed. Here's what happened:
Saturday, I received a notification that my account had been accessed from another location. It asked me to confirm or deny if it was me. I denied it, and then Facebook prompted me to change my password, which I did. This was alarming, but essentially harmless.
The next day, I got another email stating that my account was being accessed from Algeria- Facebook took me through the same process of changing my password for a second time. Then, I was scrolling through my news feed and the hacker remotely changed the language to Arabic. I couldn't read anything or find a way to click for help because it looked so unfamiliar- but I did send out an SOS Facebook post stating what happened and that I couldn't read my page anymore.
Again, Facebook sent me a message asking if I logged in from Algeria, I clicked NO, but then even the message turned to Arabic and I couldn't click anything to secure my account.
I hit the back button a few times and made it back to my news feed in English. I thought maybe Facebook had stopped the hacker by realizing I hadn't headed to Algeria and purchased a new device...
But a few hours later, I tried to access my Facebook and my password had been changed. Then they changed my name to Koehler Stacey and even changed my phone number so that I couldn't request a new password. Now, any of my efforts to restore my account would be sent to email and phone numbers the hacker controlled.
I texted everyone I could to report the Koehler Stacey account as hacked, reported it to Facebook and my wonderful husband spent hours trying to figure out what went down and how to recover it.
Facebook provided an option to send in my license to verify my identity, which I cautiously did, but I haven't heard a word, or gotten any response or acknowledgment from Facebook.
My personal page is gone, my blog page is gone, and my two business pages are gone. My "audiences" that I've spent years building all vanished in a moment.
Our thought was that the hackers were after credit card account numbers. My Facebook was linked to a card for page advertising and we quickly contacted our bank to notify them. But, I don't understand what else hackers gain from hijacking accounts and changing all the information. They would have done better to quietly access my account, steal cars information, and move on.
There motives were clearly more... and I don't understand it.
[Update: I found malware on my phone which the hackers used to track all of my password changes and maintain security of my account}
As I was going to bed last night, and praying about this ridiculous situation, I felt the need to pray for the hackers and God kindly reminded me to not focus my effort on building social media- but to pour my effort into building His Kingdom:
“Your kingdom will never end, and you will rule forever. The LORD can be trusted in all that he says. He is loyal in all that he does.”
Stay safe out there, friends!
is a writer & tired homeschooling mom of five.