Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Reading Eggs

I cannot tell you how excited I am about the latest review that I had a chance to take part in. For quite some time now, I have toyed with buying a membership to the learning site Reading Eggs. I have done the two week trial and liked what I saw but never felt like it was long enough to really invest $49.95 for six months or even $69 for a year; that is until now. For the past six weeks both of my kids have gotten the opportunity to explore and learn on the site and I've seen an explosion in how much my 4 year old has learned. He has actually read at least two sentences this far and is well on his way to reading much quicker than my daughter did. I definitely attribute that to using Reading Eggs. No other site has kept him engaged in the learning process quite like this one.

Reading Eggs is a reading curriculum that focuses on phonetic awareness and sight words to help children learn to read. The games are engaging and just plain fun! Each child can explore and learn at their own pace with the 120 lessons that will have your child reading in no time. Not only do they offer reading lessons, but kids can work on spelling too. The child plays the levels earning eggs which allow them decorate their own home and avatar. One of my favorite features was that it was available for iPad!! Big plus when you have more than one using the computer in your home!

I have to admit, we'd never been able to progress through entire level with my 4 year old, so I really wondered how much he was retaining. This time I got to find out. He progressed far enough that he got to take a test at the end of the map. This eased my worries, because if he had not mastered a particular skill he was forced to stay on that map and continue playing levels until he could master the skill set he needed to move forward. There are even free activity sheets you can print off in order to help reenforce areas where your child may be lacking. And if you want actual books to help your emerging reader, the books your child is learning to read from on the game can even be purchased.

My one criticism is the spelling. We used it to work with my 7 year old daughter and while she did great, I would like to see a place to take each and work with it outside of the game just like the reading. She actually played Reading Eggspress since she can already read. It is set up similar to Reading Eggs, except with it she could focus more fluency and comprehension.

Right now there has never been a better time to find out about if Reading Eggs is right for you and your family! Sign up before March 7th and you can take advantage of a 5 week trial and participate in a great cause. Thousands of children across the U.S. are now taking
part in the Reading Eggs Read-To-Cure Challenge – an effort to inspire children to read while raising funds for The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS). The goal is to raise $25,000!!! With every donation friends and family make to the your reader, Reading Eggs will match it up to this amount! And if helping a great cause isn't enough...there are prizes too! So take advantage of this program now while you can see how great it really works! For more reviews on what others thought of their trial head over to Home & School Mosaics.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Taming the Stuff Monster

For awhile now, I've felt this ever increasing burden that "stuff" and things were overtaking our lives. So this past Christmas we made some drastic changes in our home. It all began the Christmas before, we did the same thing we've always done...have a birthday party for Jesus, hoping to keep Him as the focal point. However, no matter what we did, something felt awry.

As soon as breakfast was over, the kids sprinted to the tree and it was if the birthday party never happened...Jesus was lost in all the mounds of ripped up wrapping paper littering my living room; and as much as I've always loved Christmas it became evident that no matter what I did it meant nothing about the birth of Christ, even in my own church going family. I watched over the past few years as the gifts got out of control and we succumbed to the pressure to do and be like everyone else when it came down to it. For all of 2013, the memory of wrapping paper flying through the air played out over and over in my head, shattering all that I truly wanted Christmas to be.

Over the next 12 months I watched as my kids continued to amass more "stuff"...don't get me wrong it wasn't huge stuff, maybe just a Hot Wheel here or there or a new outfit, but all I could just see was more and more "stuff'!  As I worried what all of this "stuff" was doing to my kids, God began to convict me and open my eyes....we were birthing an appetite of gluttony. Too often we associate gluttony with food, but  is so much more than that. It's a poisonous sin that we are choosing to ignore in our churches and our country. How easy is it to become wrapped up in the things we own or want?  So I began to ask God, "How can I do this differently? What can I do to change?"

So as Christmas 2013 rolled around, I came up with the idea of going on trip instead of buying presents. While it may not have been the most novel idea, it was at the very least a break from the "stuff". Honestly, at first my husband was completely against it and my kids hated the idea, but my burden was so heavy and I was so insistent that I felt like this was what exactly we need to do in order to reclaim Christmas. Reluctantly, they agreed. I'll admit at first. everything seemed was odd and felt like something was missing, but by the end of the trip we realized it was the best decision we'd ever made. We had taken the time to stop enjoying "stuff" and focus solely on each other and it was the best Christmas we'd ever had.

The day after Christmas we decided to give each of the kids one gift. The gifts were nothing elaborate, less than $20, yet their excitement was a bountiful as if they'd just gotten ten gifts. There was a sense of joy, anticipation and contentment that had been missing all those years. In the past with each gift they'd open, their was less and less enjoyment. All the excitement was in what was next, not enjoying what was received. No gift offered any fulfillment.

All year long, I had struggled to find an answer, with God gently reminding we needed to make a change through messages my husband preached. Two things he said stuck with me each time I'd plow through the house cleaning "stuff". The first was, how we spend so much time loving things...things we think we desperately want..."stuff" we never really have room for. Then the second was how much time and money is given to our "stuff" much so that we even go as far as to pay someone else to store the "stuff'. All I could focus on was the "stuff"..."stuff" everywhere...the house was never clean, the kids were never satisfied, there was never enough room, never enough time all because of "stuff". Suddenly I knew the answer...the "stuff" simply need to go, because we were living in bondage.

So I started what would happen if I just took the "stuff" and gave it away, but that was unheard of...taking away all the "stuff" seemed crazy, until I ran across this was totally a God send...and I took the plunge. I sat them down and explained how "stuff" was consuming so much of our time and energy that we were missing out on life's greatest moments, referencing all the fun we'd just had on our Christmas trip. I then asked them to
choose three things to keep while we took a break from all our "stuff". To my amazement they agreed and readily bagged their up "stuff' (more confirmation that I was doing the right thing). I was shocked at how easily they tossed things out that I'd expected them to beg to keep. So we spent the next four days purging it all.

I'm not going to say it's been easy because I'd see things and think....oh man I paid this for that or I remember when
we got that...but I knew I had to focus on what God shown me. After the bags were filled, we loaded up my car and drove to Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) and dropped it all off.

More than anything I started out desperately wanting to change how my family viewed Christmas, yet in the process, transformed our entire world...stopping the gluttony we'd allowed to creep into our lives. I realized all along God was trying to reverse a cycle of sin that we were wholeheartedly embracing without blinking an eye. We still have a ways to go and lots more purging (clothing is next), but the overwhelming amount freedom and joy we are experiencing is immeasurable.

For the record, I think they kept closer to 5 toys but "stuff' now has it rightful place and I'm going to do my best to keep teaching them the blessings in having less because it's far too often overlooked today.

As for future Christmas plans, we made so many great memories that we are even talking about what we want to do next year!! And we haven't ruled out gifts again, however, I don't think we'll ever have more than three...after all that's all my wonderful Redeemer needed.