Tag: learning through play

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway

Are you ready for the winter break? The colder temperatures have arrived in Iowa, and we are making a long list of activities that will keep us busy inside over the next few months. We have our favorite educational toys for open-ended play, winter books, and list of 30 boredom busters. We’ve even signed up for online music classes! The winter months are an excellent time to try new learning activities, like a fun unit study.

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway | homeschool ideas, homeschool curriculum, learning activities, first grade, second grade, third grade

Homeschool Complete reached out to us with a free downloadable unit study to try. We love spending time outside at our local nature trails, so the park unit study was a perfect choice! We have not received any additional compensation for this review, and all opinions are our own. This post may contain affiliate links to items that we love and recommend. Thank you for supporting our growing book collection.   

I downloaded and printed off the entire 46-page unit one Sunday afternoon. Each of the four lessons came with a full-color worksheet and reusable resources (BINGO board, hundreds chart, blank calendar, and more), along with a supply list and lesson plan. After looking over the week’s lessons, we made a list of books to get at the library, including one of our favorites: The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks

One of my favorite things about this unit study was how easy it was to print and go. The girls loved it, too! Each day, they asked me which fun things we’d be doing together. And even though we have a full math and grammar curriculum, both my first grader and fourth grader loved each day’s’ language and math activities. It was fun for them to do lessons together!

Each of the four days, we read a library book about one of the U.S. National Parks: Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. We had a blank map to identify where each park is located so we could talk about the weather and landmarks. We also supplemented with regional music from The Okee Dokee Brothers.

Day 1:

Our favorite activity on Monday was learning about open syllables. Even though we love our spelling curriculum, we hadn’t yet learned about this fun rule. We spent the rest of the week looking for words with open syllables.

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway | homeschool ideas, homeschool curriculum, learning activities, first grade, second grade, third grade

Day 2:

Our favorite activity on Tuesday was writing acrostic poems. The girls also built a fort and enjoyed “camping out” while we talked about the Grand Canyon.

Day 3:

Our favorite activity on Wednesday was definitely the geyser investigation. The girls LOVED the activity, even though it was beyond simple to set up and do! They have been talking about Old Faithful ever since.

(Honorable mention on Day 3: learning about onomatopoeia. Our library didn’t have the recommended book, so we checked out a football-themed book instead. My little Packer fans loved it!)

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway | homeschool ideas, homeschool curriculum, learning activities, first grade, second grade, third grade

Day 4:

Our favorite activity on Thursday was the math lesson on area. It’s actually a topic my 4th grader has been working on in her Saxon lessons, and her math-minded little sister was happy to get to measure and multiply, too. After doing the previous day’s lesson, they immediately understood why area is measured in “square” inches, and they loved getting out their rulers and racing each other to solve the problems.

Day 5+:

Even though this product is a four-day unit, we have more than enough ideas to keep the learning going throughout the rest of the month. Our girls want to check out more books about other National Parks and plan a spring break trip to go visit one.  There are additional activities we can do when spring comes around too, like leaf rubbings and kite-building!

GIVEAWAY:

We absolutely adored this unit from Homeschool Complete. My girls are already asking when we can do another one! It was easy to print and find materials, but most of all, the activities were engaging for my six-year-old AND my nine-year-old. I would encourage all of my U.S. readers, whether full-time homeschooling or not, to enter this giveaway!

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway | homeschool ideas, homeschool curriculum, learning activities, first grade, second grade, third grade


Homeschool Complete – Parks Unit Study Giveaway (Valued at around $57)

This giveaway includes a printed copy of the unit study (student & teacher pages) plus all the manipulatives and games included in the lessons for the Homeschool Complete “Parks” Unit Study.

• Parks Unit Study
• Sight Word Flashcards
• Sight Word Bingo Game
• Compound Word Memory
• Student Journal
• Square Tiles
• Spelling Squares
• 100 chart
• Multiplication & Division Flashcards
• Calendar

Click here to enter:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Unit Study: Homeschool Complete Review & Giveaway | homeschool ideas, homeschool curriculum, learning activities, first grade, second grade, third grade


Even if you don’t win the free unit study, you can get 20% off anything at the Homeschool Complete store through December 24th!

Use code: ROLLPR20

 

Before you go, tell me:
How would you use this unit in your family?

Jingle Bell Sensory Bin + Activity Ideas

Jingle Bell Sensory Bin + Activity Ideas

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”
“Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock…”
“I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh!”

Christmas is on its way, and our toddlers and preschoolers could not be more excited! But trying to keep their little hands away from the Christmas tree might be a full-time job, and that’s why I love bringing out engaging activities like playdough and sensory bins. This jingle bell sensory bin has been a big hit at our house, and it might be simpler than you might think.

Jingle Bell Sensory Bin + Activity Ideas | Christmas Sensory Play Ideas, Tactile Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers, Learning Through Play

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you.You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

As I mentioned in this post about sensory bin storage, we keep a big basket down in our basement with all of our sensory bin materials: dried corn, peas, and beans, uncooked popcorn, and various shades of rice and noodles. (You can click here for instant access to our favorite tutorials about dyeing rice and noodles.) 

I had dyed a bunch of noodles green for St. Patrick’s Day. The variety of textures between the wagon wheels, rotini noodles, and shells is a lot of fun for tactile play. I thought it would make the perfect base for this new jingle bell sensory bin. (And noodles are a LOT easier to clean up than rice, which was the base of our last sensory bin!)

Jingle Bell Sensory Bin + Activity Ideas | Christmas Sensory Play Ideas, Tactile Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers, Learning Through Play

We have a set of multicolored bells (similar) that are a great size for my 6-year-old’s hands. I also added a few extra accessories to the bin:

  • green and red cups (these are our favorite)
  • ice cube trays
  • a plastic tablespoon
  • and a jar (glass or plastic, whatever your kids can handle)

You can also work on patterning and fine motor skills with this sensory bin! Place the bells in the ice cube tray (use tweezers, if you like), and then lace the bells on a shoelace or pipe cleaner.

 

If you try this jingle bell sensory bin, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


30 Winter Activities | Free School Holiday Survival Guide {flourishwithyourfamily.com}

While your kids are home from school this winter, try out this list of 30 “boredom-busting” activities for the whole family!

Here’s what’s included:

  • a weekly calendar template with tips for creating a flexible family schedule
  • a “menu” of more than 20 low-prep activities to keep your children happily engaged
  • lists of recommended seasonal books to grab at the library
  • a family reading log
  • our favorite resources for learning at home
  • AND 30 winter boredom busters!
Math Apps for Kids: Smartick

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick

About a month ago, Smartick reached out to me to try their math app with my kids in exchange for a review. Since we are always on the lookout for great educational experiences for our girls, I agreed! If you are interested in math apps for your elementary and middle school students, keep reading. (No affiliate links are used in this blog post.)

How Smartick works:

15 minutes a day approach: short daily sessions at maximum concentration. This helps create a study habit and routine, it avoids burnout and keep children motivated and coming back for more. Smartick recommendation is that children do their session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program.

Smartick is available to use with a computer or on an Apple/Android device. I set up our account on the laptop and then downloaded the app to our iPad mini.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Children can customize their avatar on Smartick. My girls also loved buying additional gifts (virtual clothing, typically) for each other using the rewards their earned doing their math exercises.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Addie saved up her rewards to buy this little dog she named Riley. The dog stayed healthy and happy as long as she was logging on regularly and playing her games.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

The game monitors both time left (upper right) and progress (left). Children choose their answer and then press the blue button to submit it. This is an example from my fourth grader’s session.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}   After completing the session, children have the chance to make corrections. What a great opportunity to reinforce to new skills!

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Here, you can see that Addie got 99 questions correct, missed 8, corrected 4, and earned 14 “ticks” (rewards). Smartick also offers bonus ticks for playing consistently. By pushing the blue house, you can enter the virtual world.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}Both girls enjoyed accessing their Smart Club treehouse. They could write notes to each other and buy each other gifts. (I did not allow them to “friend” other children through the game.) Saving their “ticks” for animals and clothing gave them a goal to work toward and motivation to keep playing daily.


A Tale of Two Sisters:

  • Katie LOVES math and has enjoyed another (free) math app occasionally when the mood strikes her. I fully expected her to LOVE Smartick.
  • Addie is more reluctant when it comes to math, but she does love her screen time! I thought having a new game on the ipad would be motivating for her.

After explaining the Smartick process, I told my girls we would commit to playing for 15 days before deciding if we wanted to continue. They both agreed, and we got started with their first day.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}


Using Math Apps: Our Smartick Experience

Addie went first and struggled a bit as the session included concepts we hadn’t yet covered in her math lessons. As a perfectionist, she hates getting things wrong. I sat next to her and encouraged her to do her best. If she got a question wrong, the app showed her the correct answer and the reasoning behind it. Once she finished, she had the opportunity to go back and correct those missed questions for one additional “tick.”

Once her session was finished, she got to explore her virtual world and set up her avatar. Katie was immediately interested in all the options and asked for her turn with the game.

We logged Katie in under her account and got started with her first session. I was surprised to see my ultra-confident “math kid” immediately panic with the timer. She frantically pressed the “I don’t know” answer for each question. We paused the game and talked through her feelings, and she told me she was worried she would push the wrong button. I showed her the double check feature: choose the answer first and then “submit” it when she’s ready.

After her session, Katie also enjoyed setting up her virtual world and visiting the clubhouse with her sister. With both girls, I had to set a secondary timer to tell them when their “extra” time was up, or they would have continued for more than an hour.

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}


Smartick Pros:

  • I LOVED that the girls had to do their math session before they could play in their virtual world. It was a strong motivator to get them interested in playing each day. Since Smartick is built on consistency, I appreciated this!  
  • The parental controls were easy to set up. I let my girls “friend” each other but no one else. I could see that it would be fun to trade gifts and communicate with classmates or cousins who were also using the app.
  • I was glad to see a variety of skills covered in each session (and in the tutorial section as well), including concepts not covered in our curriculum. Addie loved the problem-solving questions presented at the end of her turn. For a child who leans toward not liking math, she certainly enjoyed watching the extra tutorials and playing math games after completing her main lesson.
  • Smartick’s communication is top-notch. I received an immediate e-mail after each girl’s session with feedback about speed and accuracy. They also have a support team available via their website. It’s clear to me that the founders have a desire to see children be successful with the app and fall in love with math.

Smartick Concerns:

  • I’m going to be honest with you–Smartick is not cheap. Subscriptions start at $34.99 per month and go up from there. Realistically, that’s more than our budget can afford as a regular expense. However:
    • Smartick does offer a FREE 15-day trial. It’s a very generous opportunity to see how your children will benefit from the technology before making a commitment.
    • Smartick is built on the idea of consistency. If one of your children uses the program five days a week, the cost comes down to less than $2 per use, which is cheaper than other similar games.
    • Smartick offers a wonderful referral program. You can save $27 by referring a new customer, and your friend saves too!  

Math Apps for Kids: Smartick Review | learning activities, fun games, technology for children, elementary, middle school {rollingprairiereaders.com}

Gamification elements keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. All games in Smartick and scientifically designed to reinforce cognitive skills: perception, attention, memory and logical reasoning.

  • Another concern:
    My children were tempted to rush through their session (which is timed) in order to get to play in their virtual world. Since neither  girl had a particularly “bad” day , I’m  honestly not sure if children have to perform at a certain level to unlock the fun games and activities. On a few days, I had to chat with one of my girls about doing her best work after getting her status email from Smartick.

Final Thoughts

Smartick is a wonderful program. The technology is top-notch, and my children enjoyed their experiences. Overall, I feel the cost is prohibitive for our family, but I the value is comparable to a tutoring center for remedial support or enrichment for an asynchronous child needing more challenge in math. I would suggest trying the free 15-day trial to see if it’s a good fit for your family!

Does your family use math apps at home?