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Using Reading Eggs to Supplement Reading Practice

Disclaimer: I received these products for free in exchange for my review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

We’re relaxed homeschoolers. We don’t follow a daily schedule or have checklists that need to be done every day. Instead, we read aloud, explore together, and chase our interests.

In things like reading and math, so much of what we do is based on context, and while that’s good, sometimes we need extra practice. As a former English teacher, I’m rather picky about what materials we use. This year, Reading Eggs came out with some great workbooks which were just what I was looking for, especially for my twins, who are almost five and starting kindergarten this year.

Why We Chose Reading Eggs

As I started thinking about my girls’ kindergarten year this year, I knew I wanted them to feel like they were discovering language and reading themselves, not overwhelming them with repetitive worksheets. We’ve been talking about sounds and words since they could talk, and they’re figuring it out, slowly but surely.

Since I have twins, and they both have different strengths, I was looking for something that could individualize practice without making them feel singled out. The app and online portion of Reading Eggs does just that. It’s fun, moves at their speed, has different options for activities, and doesn’t feel like repetitive worksheets.

The pages in the books are similar. I appreciate how clearly Reading Eggs has broken down reading into individual skills, so it’s easy to find which one to practice.

How We Use Reading Eggs Workbooks

My girls have most of their sounds and some sight words figured out already, so we don’t need to work through the books sequentially. Instead, as I notice that one of them is working on a particular skill but needs extra practice, we turn to the book. It’s well-organized, easily accessible, and I don’t have to scroll through pages of PDFs looking for the content I want. Who has time for that?!? (I don’t)

Beginning phonics
Kindergarten phonics practice

Using Reading Eggs and Mathseeds Online

We’re a family that limits our technology time – to less than 1/2 hour per day. It’s a personal choice, not a judgment, but when we do let our kids get on the computer or tablet, we want to know that what they’re doing is safe and meaningful.

I was impressed with the Parent Portal for Reading Eggs and Mathseeds for a few reasons.

  • It let me easily have an overview of all 3 of my children, what they’ve been doing and what progress they had made.
  • When my son (7) intentionally got questions wrong on a placement test, I was able to manually go in and override his placement. This is amazing. Or if my daughter has passed a level but a couple weeks later seems to be struggling again, I can manually take her back to that place and let her redo it.
  • While they earn points, it’s not overly “gamified”. Last year, my son tried another online math program, and he basically skipped the content to play the games. This one, the content is meaningful enough and presented in a way that he wants to try it. I was particularly impressed with how thorough their presentation of symmetry was. Kids have to get 7/10 correct to move on, but they push towards 100% mastery, which I think is great.

Overall, I know there are lots of great resources out there. It’s hard to know which one is best for your family. Reading Eggs is a solid program with both online and paper materials which correlate well together and are easy for a parent to navigate…. and the skills the kids are practicing are logical, thoughtful, and not tedious.

As a special bonus, Reading Eggs and Math Seeds are offering a free trial (4 weeks!) on their online learning platform, which can be accessed both on the computer and via the app store, interchangeably.

Discount offer: click here for a four week FREE TRIAL, which offers access to everything in the Reading Eggs Suite

  • Reading Eggs Junior: 2 – 4 years
  • Reading Eggs: 4 – 7 years
  • Reading Eggspress: 7 – 13 years
  • Mathseeds: 3 – 9 years

If you’re interested in the workbooks, use Promo Code WK105KZU7TE for 10% off both the Reading Eggs and Mathseeds Essential Skills Workbooks.

 

About homeschooling and parenting

Something I wrote for the iHomeschool Network about our relationships with our kids and what takes precedence:

The main point is this, but click above to read what else I had to say! 🙂

“The emotions and beliefs about themselves that children experience while they are learning will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If they associate learning with a warm, supportive environment and a feeling of competency, those connections will stay with them. If they connect math, or writing, or (fill in the blank) with feelings of stress and opposition, that will stick with them as well.”

Get Out of Those Desks! Learning Can Happen Anywhere!

As a classroom teacher for 10 years, let me let you in on a little secret: classrooms are organized for the benefit of the teacher, not the students. When I taught a group of 35 10th graders, I needed to be able to move quickly through the space, have every student in my line of sight, and distribute papers and materials in a quick and organized fashion.

Because teaching high school English in 50 minute blocks required efficiency and organization, we sat in rows. I even created seating charts with the students’ faces on them to help substitutes know the kids weren’t playing tricks on them.

Homeschool, although still called school, should NOT seek to emulate a classroom designed for challenges that home environments simply do not share.

There is a Better Way

Schools have been recognizing that kids need to move, to use different muscle groups and to help them focus. They’ve been experimenting and innovating with flexible seating options, and while this is a great start, they still have the responsibility of keeping those kids confined to that room for the designated period of time.

Research has shown that students taking tests do better when they fidget, and even more recently, that the ADHD brain tells the body to move because it learns better when moving.

Desks or Tables only when Beneficial

Now, there are times that sitting at a desk or table can be helpful. Formal writing assignments, messy projects, certain art materials or games work better on a raised surface. Any kind of work with a toddler around …. needs to be out of said toddler’s reach.

Desks are convenient because they provide a clearly defined space, but they are not necessary. And we choose not to use them because we want our learning to be as natural as everything else we do, rather than compartmentalized into a specific space that separates it from the rest of life.

We learn in the car. In bed.

On a swing car in the gap between the kitchen and living room.

On the kitchen floor.

At the science center, the nature center, and wherever else our adventures may lead.

On the back deck, even with jackets on.

Our favorite spot is probably this couch.

We learn wherever we are, because learning is a natural, organic outgrowth of waking up in the morning, and we choose to celebrate that beautiful, often messy, truth.

A Lifestyle of Discovery: 3rd Grade Unschooling “Curriculum”

First, a definition:

Unschooling is, for our purposes, an educational philosophy of providing rich, engaging resources and support but allowing the child to set the pace and have significant control over what he wants to learn and how he chooses to pursue this learning.

All analogies fall apart eventually, but it’s like providing a rich buffet including some “make your own” stations instead of cafeteria-style menus with pre-prescribed options and portion sizes.

If you want to read more, Fearless Homeschool has a great write-up here.

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This year, I will have a 3rd grader and two preschool/kindergarteners in the house.

We live in New York State, which requires that we submit a curriculum plan (IHIP) before the start of the year.

The problem is: boxed, do-the-next-page curricula don’t work for us. Based on our kids, their learning styles, and our family rhythms we have chosen an eclectic, unschool-y approach. So far, it’s working pretty well.

My kids wake up ready to learn. They’re reading or exploring before breakfast. They’re asking questions in the car and at bedtime. We don’t have school hours as much as we have an ebb and flow of active and focused time.

It’s what works now. If (when) things change, we will adjust.

What we love:

Read-alouds

I love our library.

LOVE our library.

They’re amazing, and they make this homeschooling journey possible and affordable.

Instead of using a prescribed list, I’m constantly on the hunt for good literature. My son, J, has a very low tolerance for anything suspenseful, sad, or mean. He loves humorous, gentle stories.

We use Give Your Child the World and Read Aloud Revival for inspiration, and I’m constantly on the lookout for good, engaging, gentle stories.

Some of our most recent favorites have included

The Littles

Gooney Bird Greene (Kindle Edition currently free with Amazon Prime)

Curious McCarthy

Zoey & Sassafrass

Math

For the last couple of years, we’ve been using Life of Fred as a math resource. My son loves the books and devours them, but this summer we changed things up and tried Beast Academy.

With Life of Fred, J never wanted to stop and do the “Your Turn to Play” practice questions. With Beast Academy, he seems to enjoy the workbooks and want to complete the puzzles, so when he finishes his current book, he will “earn” the next series.

Gameschooling

We practice lots of skills using games. The kids go through phases about what they want to play, and we have learned not to push it. When they’re ready, they’re ready.

We love single player logic games like Kanoodle and Laser Maze.

We love the Gamewright card games like Sleeping Queens and Too Many Monkeys.

We love geography games like The Scrambled States of America and math games like Prime Climb.

We love language games like Scrabble, Apples to Apples (Kids), and Boggle.

Everything Else

Beyond that, we usually pick one skill to develop (typing, cursive, etc), while periodically remembering to practice the others. One of my hopes this year is to introduce piano and music reading. We tried last year, and he wasn’t ready, so we will try again.

We participate in German school, Sunday school, sports, play dates and field trips.

We have a small homeschool coop where we practice public speaking and collaboration/teamwork in a supportive environment.

We follow rabbit trails and dive deep into areas of interest (like chemistry).

We take care of the house, run errands, and practice kindness in our environment.

Because we don’t have a strict schedule, nice days are filled with beaches, parks, and watercolors on the back deck.

I keep a daily journal of what we’ve accomplished, and it continues to convince me that we’re on the right path. My kids love learning. They don’t dread “doing school”, any more than I regret going to a Thanksgiving dinner. Learning is an amazing feast, and our kids deserve a rich variety of high-quality fare.

Want to read about other experienced homeschoolers’ curriculum choices for this coming year? Check it out here!

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Finding your tribe

We went to a Maker Faire last month — one of those beautiful events where hundreds of geeks, scientists, engineers, and other creative types get together to show off what they know or see what others are up to.

It’s glorious. In fact, of all the places we’ve been, it may be one of the places my family feels most “normal”.

There are robot clubs demonstrating their robots, engineering and math professors with cool demos, 3D printers and artists, a vegetable orchestra, violins cut in half so you can see inside, and lots of hands-on creative activities for the kids.

While we were heading over to drive the submersible robot, some random kid started singing my kid’s favorite song: the new Periodic Table Song by ASAP Science.

You should have seen my 7 year old. In that moment, he was normal, or at least not alone.

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Every summer, the lab where my husband works opens its doors to the public for four weeks, for displays, family friendly shows and demos, and tours of the facility. Even though he went last year and it’s basically the same, my son wants to go again. To every single one.

These are his people. People who build buckyball models and can read the notation for nano- and picometers, the people who don’t look at him weird when he starts talking about the elements that make the colors in fireworks but actually join in and have a two-way conversation.

J has his “people” at our church, too, older gentlemen who appreciate and can tell a good knock-knock joke and have time for a seven year old’s sense of humor.

It’s people like his aunt who let him spend 5 minutes describing a math trick over a FaceTime call.

When people find their tribe, it’s a beautiful thing. They’re taken seriously, liked for who they are, and feel connected.

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Unfortunately, for many of our gifted kids, much of their lives are spent feeling different, other. They tend to be hyper-aware of how they don’t fit in but, unless we help them find it, don’t realize there are others out there, like them, struggling with similar things but also with similar interests and strengths.

In a perfect world, we all would have access to a tribe, and not just through online resources, though they are incredible. We would share life together, our kids would find connection and challenge, and know they’re not alone.

This post has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop for August, 2018.

Click here to see other ideas of what the world could be.

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Relationship Rule # 1

“I like you for who you are.”

That’s it. That’s what makes healthy relationships, not

I like you for what you do for me…

I would like you if you would…

If you change this or improve that, then…

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Simply:

I like you for who you are.

Whole and complete acceptance, flaws and all.

This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those around us — unconditional acceptance and a clear invitation to spend time together.


 

We live far away from family, and the last couple months have been full of joyful visits. My kids’ grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are amazing. They make my kids feel valued and appreciated, encourage them in their interests, and give them space to be themselves.

My kids thrive in these relationships. They are open, warm, friendly, and reciprocal. Outside observers, watching my kids interact with these family members, would not be quick to diagnose my kids.

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The same is true with a few select friendships that we have nurtured over the years, people like family who have been part of our lives, seeing the good and the ugly, and still choosing to spend time with us.

Yet.

In other settings, especially with large groups of same-aged peers, my kids struggle. (What am I kidding? I do too!)

Asynchronous (gifted) individuals are often highly perceptive, extra aware of others’ reactions to us. We may not be able to verbalize it, but we pick up on the subtle cues that others may miss. We agonize over awkward interactions and what should have been said/done differently.

I’ve personally been beating myself up for 12 years now over a careless sentence in a random interaction with a former high school student. And it wasn’t that I said anything wrong, just flippant.

For some of us, we become hyper-aware of how we don’t fit in, how our interactions with others don’t measure up to some kind of elusive standard. We continue trying, it zaps our energy, and we continue to feel isolated and “other”.

Others, like my son, tend to disengage. It’s too complicated, rejection or misunderstanding is too likely or overwhelming, so let’s not even try — plus, the likelihood of shared interests is so low that it’s not worth making the effort.


 

My advice? Start slow. Start small. Realize that it’s okay not to be the extroverted life of the party. Find your tribe, even if it takes work. Realize that same-age doesn’t necessarily pre-qualify you for friendship with someone, and try not to beat yourself up over the relationships that, despite effort, just didn’t take off.

When my son was 4, I referred to the children in his preschool as his “friends”. He corrected me and told me he only had one friend.

“Why?”, I asked.

“Because,” he said, “She says yes when I want to do something.”

Our “Yes”ers are out there, people who have shared interests, think in similar ways, are quirky and eccentric. They may be few and far between, but they are there. And they’re worth finding.

 

This blog post has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop for July, 2018 – Relationship Issues. Click here to read about others’ wisdom and experiences.

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