Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Journal Your Way Closer to God {A Review}

When I was offered a chance to review the
Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens by Spiritual Circle Journal, I was excited.   

Spiritual Circle Journal

Journaling is a habit that my children and I have actually built and stuck with in our home over the past several months.   Typically, before breakfast, as a part of the children's "Five Before Breakfast", each child writes the date and a sentence to a page in a blank journal with half of each page blank and half ruled.  Sometimes, the children draw pictures, too.  Then, over breakfast when we are home for breakfast and not taking it to-go in our minivan, we typically center much of our reading and conversation on topics of faith.  So, when I saw the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens, I thought:

Perfect!  Either my oldest or my middle child can use this to connect morning journaling and faith pursuits.  I'd love for each of my children to begin keeping a prayer journal and this could be a perfect way to begin drawing them all into doing so.  When it comes in, I will let the children see it and see which child seems most interested in beginning to use it.

With that, I signed up for the review and eagerly awaited the arrival of our review journal.

Simple, Sturdy, and Filled with Opportunities to Help You Listen to Spirit-Speak, as I Call It

When our
Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens arrived, I was impressed with its practical simplicity and sturdiness.

The journal is spiral bound with a binding that does not unravel.  journal and has heavy paper pages, which allow kids to get creative without so much worry about bleed-through.  There is a protective, clear page over the front cover and a design-your-own cover page underneath the first paper page in case children wan to personalize the journal.  After that, there are parent pages, journal pages, and summary pages.

At the front of the journal, several Parent/Teacher/Leader pages offer information on how to use the journal with recommended ages (8 and up).  In this
brief, but thorough section, the author explains the concept of the journal - to provide kids and teens with clear direction on how to connect with God during a fulfilling quiet times from a young age through the use of the journal as a tool.

Within the tips, the author of the journal encourages grown ups to actually sit down with children to complete some journal entries in order to provide examples, ignite excitement, and prevent frustration.

While sitting together with children to use the journal, parents are encouraged to share stories of how God has worked in their own lives with their children.  You know, the "more is caught than taught" theory: If children hear grown ups talking about how God has moved them, witness them praying, recognize them listening for what I call "Spirit-speak" and, then, see grown ups acting on what they have heard, then children will follow suit.    

The author makes other good points in the introductory pages, too.  One that stood out for me was an explanation of the connection between writing with real pen and ink and the ability to focus. I always loved writing long hand as a child and still enjoy it as a grown up, but sometimes, it seems easier or more convenient to tap and type.  Perhaps, though, when prayer journaling, pen-and-paper is the way to go! 

By actually sitting down and physically writing, we often maintain more focus.  For children writing long hand in their journals, such focus may help them to to make real and relevant connections with God and better understand how the Spirit is guiding them along life's journey.

I dare say, we could all use a bit more guidance from God, or rather understanding of His will in our lives and motivation to make His will our own through thought and deed... prayer and action. 

Building a habit of using the
Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens creates a tool for children to talk and listen to God, as well as to reflect upon, and, in turn, understand and act upon, what God wills of them.
Journaling to Build a Relationship with God
In 10-15 minutes a day, once a week (or at whatever interval a child finds works), kids and teens can deepen their relationship with God through using the specially designed pages of the
the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens.  

After the parent pages and a personal page, each of the main pages of the journal look alike.  They contain nine graphic images, each meant for a specific type of talking to or listening to God.  A key and a filled-in sample page provide children with memory-joggers for what each of the nine graphics is for:

  • Journal Entry- what's going on in your day; what you're thinking about
  • Lyric/Verse- a line of a song or Bible verse that has caught your attention
  • Message- the most important thing you learned from your Bible reading
  • Confession- anything that you need to confess to God
  • God Moving- something you are seeing God do in your life
  • Lesson Learned/Lightbulb Moment- any lesson you've learned lately
  • Prayer- what you want to ask God for
  • Thank you/Adoration- what you can praise God for
  • Actions- something you think God wants you to do


Of course, these category prompts are just suggestions.  Children may use the blank graphics for whatever they wish according to how the Spirit speaks to them.  They may also leave some graphics blank or, if feeling particularly inspired one day with more to write, draw, or color than will fit on a particular graphic page, they may use blank pages between each graphic page to express their creativity and thoughts.

There are enough graphic pages for children to use once a week throughout the year, with a few to spare.  Then, there are summary pages (for use once a month with a few to spare), which contain nine circles in which children are encouraged to record:

  • lessons learned over the time period of the journal
  • favorite verses to memorize or focus on
  • "God Stories" or things God is doing in your life
  • Bible characters you want to learn more about

I think it could also be fun to use these pages to:

  • write notes on feast days and saints studied throughout the year
  • track prayer requests from friends and family
  • jot down what comes to mind during Adoration hours
  • key into Sunday Gospel readings
  • record notes on monthly liturgical year dedications

There is definite flexibility within the loose structure of the nine circles.

How We've Been Using the Journal

Flexibility is key in my family's life.  In fact, it is so key that sometimes I feel like a poster child for not using things as intended - and, in saying this I mean not using resources as an author intends nor using them as I initially intend to do so.

For example, I intended to receive our
Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens, to introduce it to my children, and to let whichever child was most excited about it claim it as his or her own, going to town with it as a once-a-week-or-more alternative to his or her regular journal.  Instead, I received the journal, read the introductory materials, introduced the journal to the children during a post-breakfast Together Time, and did a page together as a sample.  I did the same thing the next day.  Then, the next time I pulled the journal out, I asked who might like to have it.

My children, not being "children" as they often are did not clamber, "Me.  me.  ME!" when I asked who wanted the journal, and it was not because none of them wanted it.  Rather, it was because they liked to do it together, or so they told me.  It was not until I began writing this review that my oldest confided in me:

I  like that it is easy to switch from a one-person thing to a multi-person thing.  I liked the journal as a multi-person thing and do not want to use it as a single-person thing yet, because that would be unfair to my brothers and sisters.  I might like to use it myself if we all got one.

My heart melted when he did this since he is not always the most selfless person.  The fact that he did not vie for solo use of the journal on the day I asked who wanted to claim it as his or her own evidences his personal growth in character and virtues. (Praise God!)  My lack of awareness that that was what was going on attest to... um, Mommy fail!

Or maybe it attests to obedience.  For, if there are two things the Spirit has been saying to me lately, they are "roll with it" and "listen and act". 

In rolling with the fact that none of my children asked to take possession of our Spiritual Circle Journal, I opted to continue use of it collectively until someone wanted to use it individually as intended.  Using it together, over breakfast as a part of our Together Time Bag, the children dictated responses to the journal prompts to me and I voiced and wrote some of my own.  We, then, chatted about our thoughts before one child each time took a turn at coloring the day's page.  Using the journal this way may not have developed a habit of personal prayer and quiet time for any of my children, but it did deepen both our relationship with God and connectedness with one another

My children told me more than once that they liked the new habit of our directed collective prayer and reflection together.  Likewise, I found hat as I wrote down what the children said, I got better at listening and acting.  Sometimes the Spirit spoke to me through the children's words, I listened, and, later, found ways to act on what I heard.  Other times, the Spirit prompted me to model how to talk to and listen to God through my voiced responses.  Always, the time was fruitful.

My 10-Year-Old's Thoughts on the Journal

My oldest son was the only one awake when I began writing this review, so I asked him what he thought about the journal.  He said:

It's good.  I like the symbols in it. 

The symbols are a smart idea and great to get people to do it.  It would be boring if it were all in boxes.  The symbols make it more interesting. 

He tends to be a visual learner and to express himself in drawing or through demonstration more than through writing, so his comment made total sense to me.

My oldest son went on to say: 

I think it is good to use once every two days at least.  That gives you a chance to think of things in between, but still to use it a lot.
(The author actually suggests using the journal only once a week, but sometimes we used it more often.)

Finally, when I asked my son what maekes this journal different than other journals he has used, he said

This journal is for your soul unlike other journals.  It helps you become closer to God.
That is certainly the truth.  The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens was designed to help children grow in faith.  In my family;s experience, it meets that goal when used together as a family (as is NOT intended) or when used individually (as IS intended.)

Rolling with It
As I look ahead, I know I want to continue to use the journal.  

As I reflect upon my son's thoughts, I intend to find a quiet moment to speak 1:1 to my daughter and my youngest son about the journal and its current use in order to glean if each really wants to continue to use the journal as a collective morning practice or if they would like their own journals.  Pending what each says, I will either:

  • carry on as we have been doing, periodically asking if anyone wants to take over the journal personally,
  • give the journal to my oldest letting him know his younger siblings are totally okay with me doing so and he is therefore not being "unfair",
  • or take advantage of the 2-for price on the journals to by each of my children and me new copies of the journal so we can each go solo at last (as I initially intended to do so.)

Yes, basically, I intend to just keep rolling with things, listening and acting in the moment, and letting the journal (or journals?) bless one or more of us with directed prayer time.  T
he Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens certainly is worth continuing for me and mine and, I'd say, worth trying for you if you have a child that likes to color, write, and pray and could use a tool for building a habit of connectedness with God

Learn More

Spiritual Circle Journal
You can find Spiritual Circle Journal on social media at:
Spiritual Circle Journal

The Spiritual Circle Journal can be found in an adult version or the Kids/Teen version I have reviewed here.  The Kids/Teens journal costs $15, or two for $26.   There is also a bulk rate price for homeschool co-ops!  Contact Spiritual Circle Journal for more information on the bulk rate.

Spiritual Circle Journal

Forty Schoolhouse Review Crew families had someone center prayer time with the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens. Read all the reviews by clicking through the banner above.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Homeschool Health and Wellness Studies YOUR Way {A Review with COUPON CODE}

There is irony in the fact that the summer my family opted to review the
WAY Comes Home Kit by HomeSchool Scholastics, an i4 Learning Company is the same summer we ended up being plagued with health issue after health issue.  I can assure you, though, that our less-than-well state has been no fault of the learning and review offered in our WAY Comes Home Kit

In fact, just the other day, as my children and I re-watched video clips from the DVD provided
in our WAY Comes Home Kit, we could have dummy slapped ourselves for not being more attentive to the health and wellness tip in the video about not sharing combs

Trust me on this, folks, unless you want
the tedium of making stroke-after-stroke with a nit comb through each of your children's hair, do not continue to share combs ... or beds.  While doing so may be habitual and seemingly easy for a family to do, it can result in the spread of - gross alert - little critters!  For, yes, I do not know where the bugs that I've been combing out of my children and my heads this week came from, but I have no doubt that they passed from one of us to another through comb and bed sharing.  Yuck!  

Luckily, we have listened to time-proven advice about hand washing, that is reiterated in WAY program materials better than we have that about not sharing combs.  Thus, we were able to avoid having all five members of our household pass the terrible high-fever virus that some of us came down with earlier in the season and, using hand-washing in combination with other preventative measures, are currently being proactive about not sharing the sore throat and cough that one of my children seemed to have developed overnight.  Even though, we are quarantined together so as not to pass any sneaky lice to onto others, we are being quite careful and fully intend to get our one throat-sickie healthy instead of ending up with the rest of us joining him as sickies  (Wish us luck!)

With healthy habits, nutrition and exercise, I think we can succeed.  Indeed, I am convinced that by placing more focus on keeping our "Inner WAY", "Interactive WAY", "Physical WAY", and Nutrition WAY" healthy this summer, we have managed to get through unplanned setbacks with more grace than we  have when faced with similar things in the past. 

Case in point:  This summer, my son contracted Lyme's disease and I faced a second bout of it.  Years ago, when I was on meds for Lyme's, most of my days were filled with nausea and complaint.  This time around, only a few days have been "bad" days and life has continued on mostly "as normal".  Having better attitudes, activities, and nutrition already underway helped my son and I cope  with meds and recovery better. (And, for the record, yes, we do frequent tick checks in our home, but, oddly, the people who we removed ticks from are not the ones that got Lyme.  One son and my daughter have had ticks caught and removed.  However, my son and I, who had no visible ticks found during tick checks, ended up as the unlucky ones with bullseye rashes and other symptoms.)

But, enough about what has ironically ailed my family this summer.  Now, onto sharing more about how we have been and can continue to enjoy learning about health and wellness with our
WAY Comes Home Kit.

A Plethora of Resources

WAY Comes Home Kit

The WAY Comes Home Kit was field-tested by homeschoolers and designed with families in mind.    It is well-organized with portions aimed specifically at K-1, 2-3, and 3-4 grade level students.  That means families with multiple elementary school-aged children's can study health and wellness together. 

Lessons are divided into five modules:

  1. Getting Started establishes to value of learning about health and wellness and introduces the idea of journaling.
  2. Where Do You Begin helps student document where they are as they start the program, doing self-analysis and enjoying age-based tools and activities.
  3. Let's Get Active motivates children and their families to get moving.
  4. The Nutrition WAY stressed the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and introduced MyPlate Guidelines.  (This is the only part of the program I do not relish, since I am not a fan of MyPlate, preferring to move my family toward a more nutritarian way of living.  However, I found that there was enough cross-over between the ideas and activities in this section and in what I teach my children is healthy eating for this portion of each module to still be helpful to us.)
  5. Health-It's Personal focuses on everyday hygiene and health practices and ways to evaluate health behaviors.

Each module offers a wide variety of written and hand-on activities for each themed age level of the program.  The themed age-levels are Health Safari for children in grade K-1, WAY Me Mysteries for children in grades 2-3, ad WAY Innerspace Adventure for children in grades 4-5.  There is enough within these plans to do something every day, including weekends, for five weeks, to abbreviate lessons, or to stretch the program out to use over the course of a few months.

As the Parent Guide for the program stated, "You're in charge!"  Lessons are prepared and field-tested so that the sections in each lesson deliver a complete elementary health and wellness program for children, however "YOU will make all the final decisions as to whether or not to do a lesson, how to do it, and how much time to spend on it."

In making those decisions, you can rest assured that you won't have to chase down any special materials to enjoy lesson activities.  The WAY includes all specialty items in the kit!  Honestly.  There is so much there.

The kit comes with:

WAY Comes Home Kit

  • a 144-page softcover, full-color, color-coded Parent's Guide that includes clear instructions for teaching all three levels of the program and has wonderful supplementary suggestions, including a handy booklist!

    (I do love booklists!)
  • 3 consumable journals, one for each age-level
WAY Comes Home Kit 

  • a DVD with program segments for each grade level, including basic workouts

  • a packet of WAY Vocabulary Cards and Illustrations already printed on cardstock and ready for cutting
  • a plastic balance scale  (Which is fun for math, sceince, and playtime, too.)
  • 2 foam balls  (We love tossing these around.)
  • a bunch of plastic eggs (like Easter eggs)
  • 3 plastic baskets (So handy!)
  • a tape measure
  • glitter
  • an ink pad
  • a colorful poster
  • counter chips
Truly, all you need once you open the box is a place to store the materials when not in use, some pencils and coloring utensils, some scissors and a few other common items.

Such a Complete WAY

As I already mentioned, lessons are presented at three different age levels and can be used with one level a a time, or with multiple levels together, but with different video clips and journals.  Each lesson is written with a clear 10-part layout:

  1. Parent Prep offers a quick overview of what the lesson is about, giving background on the subject.
  2. Lesson at Glance offers a brief summary of what the lesson is about.
  3. Get Things Ready provides your "brain" for prepping for delivering an actual lesson - listing tools and supplies needed from the kit and your home, as well as optional recommended reading, etc.
  4. WAY Vocab Words are listed.  Displaying these conten-correlated words can help children with reading, writing, and journal assignments.
  5. What To Do offers step-by-step instructions for each grade level as well as "Include Me Too" ideas for using activities with other age groups.
  6. Art Attack encourages the joy of artistic expression through connected art activities using markers, scissors, and such.
  7. Weekends with WAY provides fun extension ideas to get friends and family going in healthy WAYs, too.
  8. Pray/Reflect (a favorite bit of mine) provides Bible verses and inspirational quotations to add spiritual and moral value to lessons.
  9. WAY More Resources lists related websites, ideas, and investigations.
  10. WAY More Fun offers "odds and ends" to enjoy as you see fit, like the poem below, which I had never heard before, but loved!

Truly, there is a ton there for you to pick and choose from or just follow along with step-by step!  If doing the latter, the WAY provides the extra bonus of being proven to increase academic performance in math, science, reading, and writing in addition to, of course, health and wellness studies.  Love that!

The WAY Our Way So Far

As I described at the beginning of this review, our family has had health bump after health bump this summer between Lymes', fevers, an ear infection, a throat thing, and lice.  We have also had both our laundry machine and dryer break down and our kitchen pipes explode, among other things.  So, the way I intended to use the WAY and the way I actually did have have differed some.

I had hoped to use
our WAY Comes Home Kit slowly in order as written, as a relaxed and fun cross-curricula summer study.  Instead, I have been pulling bits and piece to use between bouts of sickness, disease, and mini-disaster.  

On a healthy day, I introduced the kids to the first module and they made their journal covers.

Then, we proceeded on, only to take a break, and, then have a marathon viewing session one day when the kids were not feeling up to anything but watching lessons.

On other germ-free days, we used the hands-on supplies freely, did some of the exercises, and proceeded with other activities and journal pages. 

Then, just the other day, we had another marathon (re)viewing session of the video.

So, for us so far the WAY has been a rather hodge podge experience, not because of the way the WAY is written, but because of the way life has been going.  Some days we has no energy to move much.  Other days we were too germ-ridden to touch things.  Still, because the
WAY Comes Home Kit offers so much, we were able to carry on doing something from the kit regularly and ended up dipping into portions from every level and module of the program (albeit not in order and not completely). 

Approaching the WAY this way may not have been ideal, but it has proven one thing for certain:  the program is flexible.  The WAY can be done YOUR way (or in whatever way life allows).  With leveled journals, the DVD, hands-on supplies, extension ideas, and more, there is plenty of room for customization.  With well-organized and complete lessons plans, there is also a map for structured learning. 

My family has been enjoying fun and learning in a flexible way this summer, and, I look forward to using the program again in a more structured way again later, filling in our experience with some of the hands-on activities and extensions we have yet to enjoy together.

GET A DISCOUNT and Learn More!

The complete WAY Comes Home Kit with all print materials normally is well worth checking out if you're looking for a fun, interactive way to present health lessons to your elementary-aged children.  It sells for $49.95, but is on sale for $39.95, plus an additional discount of $15 when you apply the Coupon Code: GC0737011.  

Forty Schoolhouse Review Crew families tailored the
WAY Comes Home Kit to their own family needs.  Read how by clicking through the banner below.
  WAY Comes Home Kit Review

You can find
WAY Comes Home Kit at:

WAY Comes Home Kit

Might using the WAY Comes Home Kit help you and yours focus on health and wellness with flexibility and fun?

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Life Is What Happen When You're Making Other Plans - A Gift!

During my college days, I had a quote from a Salada tea bag taped to my dorm-room desk: Life is what happens when you're making other plans.  So many times in my life, that quote has proven true, including this summer.

Ah, yes, this summer.  The summer I had planned to be filled with productive mornings at home and afternoons and evenings out enjoying the season.  The summer I had thought my family and I would spend ample time swimming, hiking, visiting family and friends, while also catching up on some learning skills and getting clutter under control at home. This summer, which was going to be "one of the best ever" in my children's lives...

Has it been?  I don' know.

I do know it has been the summer during which both my son and I contracted Lyme's disease and had to suffer through the side affects of the strong medications prescribed for that... It has been the summer when a camping trip ended in one child with a fever that turned into all three battling a virus which resulted in a couple fright-filled nights of super-high temps, including one reading that hovered at about 105 degrees... Ah, yes, and the summer when swimmer's ear hit one of my children for the first time ever.

Not only that, but this summer was when our clothes dryer konked out followed by our washer, and, just when we replaced those, it was when one of our cars needed major work done...  Oh, and, then the pipes under our kitchen sink let go, requiring me to be tutored in plumbing skills and our cupboard to need a significant repair...

Yes, it's been hat summer when the children's hearts were broken by Nana being so sick that we were asked to send only Daddy down on a visit to family that we had all had planned and had been looking forward to for months. 

Indeed, this summer has not gone as planned.  It has been filled with unplanned obstacles and challenges hitting one right after the other.  It has, literally, been life happening as we've been making other plans.

But, am I complaining?  Nope.

I am actually smiling.  I am recognizing that life has been something more than all that stuff I just mentioned.  It has been what the Lord has gifted me through all "the stuff"

It has not been all sickness, brokenness, and challenge.  It has been together time, hope, opportunity, and grace. 

This summer has been rainbows chased on an evening when the children were missing Daddy, Nana, and Papa...

It has been wild things tried with new friends...

...stories snuggled up for regardless of who is not feeling well...

...triumphs shared even as night falls on another day that did not go as planned...

It has been quiet moments relished late in the day when the sun is low enough that it won't be a danger to us on our Lyme medications...

It's been silliness captured when we've actually been able to get out on a hike...

...waning hours enjoyed, with Daddy capturing two children at play as Mom and another child chat...

This summer has been waters navigated despite having to be well-covered and slathered with sunscreen... shared daily, sometimes at special events...

...obstacles climbed - and just hanging on with a smile no matter what comes along...

This summer has been new trails explored with children I am ever so grateful to share adventuress with...

...delight captured during free events where there's been enough shade for us to enjoy a day out...

...challenges met with friends that we treasure... built even when one person is home sick...

...pastimes partaken in (even as Dad sneaks off to take a call where we learn our trip to see Nana and Papa will have to be postponed)...

This summer has been paths ridden together - literal and figurative, with some trepidation at times, but many smiles, too...

...traditions savored as a treat...

...time spent together outdoors when energy allows...

Indeed, this summer has been pausing for a weekend, a day, an afternoon, a moment... to give thanks to God for the beauty interwoven in the busyness of life... It has been time to recognize the miraculous among the mundane... to relish the glorious between the will-we-ever-get-through-this moments.

This summer has been a repeated choice to stop persevering on what is wrong and to focus on what is right, good, and beautiful instead.  It has been life - planned and unplanned - and oh such a gift!

Life - ALWAYS a gift, regardless of how that gift comes wrapped or how it is received. 
For, I admit, I am not always a gracious and grateful as I unwrap the gift of each day.  In fact, at times, I twist my face in displeasure, spit out ugly words, or stomp and slam like a petulant child.  Yes, I am not proud to say that I grump about life at times. 

Yet, when it all comes down to it - when I pause, look, listen, and, then, act and react, I realize just how very blessed I am.  How good our Lord is to gift me as He does each and every day - with another moment to become a better version of myself than I was the moment before, another opportunity to get it right with gratitude this time, another chance to share all that life is- the planned and unplanned - with the folks He has so graciously placed around me.

Life.  It is what it is.  A gift from our Lord.  Perhaps belatedly this summer, I say thank you for it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

There Is So Much You Can Do with Can Do Cubes

I love, love, love practical, hands-on tools for literacy and learning and appreciate them even more when they are solidly made with beautiful natural materials. Thus, I was delighted by the opportunity to review Can Do Cubes from (just2ducks LLC).
What Comes in a Can Do Cubes Package?

I was thrilled when my Can Do Cubes arrived, and I realized how well packaged the cubes are and just how many helpful goodies came with them.  In one sturdy cardboard box, I found:

  • 1 Tray of 27 Cubes in Stage 1 which present the simple alphabetic code:  These finely polished, laser-engraved, 1-inch wooden blocks contain one spelling for each of the 44 different sounds that make up the English language.  Six number one cubes include the letters t, p, s, n, i, and a.  Three number two contain c, c, ck, e, h, and r.  Three number three contain m, d, g, o, u, and l.  Three number four contain f, b, ai, j, oa, and ie. Three number five cube contain ee, or, z, w, ng, and nk.  Three number six cubes contain v, oo, y, x, ch, and sh. Three number seven cubes contain th, qu, ou, oi, ue, and er,.  And, three number eight cubes contain ar, ve, se, ce, ge, and y.  As children learn the sounds on each numbered set of cubes, they quickly begin reading and writing a growing number of words using a synthetic phonics approach.  (Synthetic phonics is basically learning to decode and encode words using the smallest sounds a word can be broken into.  So, for example: th-a-t as opposed to t-h-a-t and c-oa-t as opposed to c-o-a-t).

  • 1 Tray of 30 Cubes plus 2 cubes connected with a string to represent split digraph sounds in Stage 2 which present the more complex alphabetic code:  These cubes show variations of the 44 different spelling sounds, capital letters, double letters, punctuation, and split digraph cubes.  Twenty blocks containing spelling variations have one sound per block.  (See the middle block a the beginning of the video above to see how that works.) There are also blocks with double letters (ss, ff, mm, ll, rr, zz, ertc.), blocks with the capital letters, punctuation blocks and blocks connected with string to use for split vowel digraphs (a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, and u-e).
  • Two Handbooks (one for Stage 1 and one for Stage 2):  These small spiral-bound booklets are chock-full of great information, that take parents through how to use Can Do Cubes with those who are not yet reading, those learning the alphabetic code,  and those that are ready for more advanced phonetic learning including vowel phonemes, split digraphs, consonant phonemes, double consonants, capital letters and punctuation.  A wide variety of games and activities are included, as are plenty of examples, which makes using the cubes easy and effective.
  • a DVD with an Interactive Demonstration for Sounding Out Letter/Sounds Presented by Debbie Hepplewhite, who is a synthetic phonics consultant:  This DVD also offers segments demonstrating how to teach using Can Do Cubes, explaining why synthetic phonics work, and more.  Plus, if you pop it into a computer, you can access PDF files of handbooks and charts in case your paper copies get lost or ruined. 

  • Three Wall Charts:  Two are At-a-Glance Word Charts for Stage One cubes which offer new phoneme/words to be presented and show which cubes will be used with each new set of phonemes and one is a Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart, which contains phonemes that are heard, the simple code for the sound, and the complex code graphemes used for that sound.  
  • A CD of the Teacher’s Guide and Template Book:  The CD contains a complete workbook in pdf format with teaching instructions for Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, the Alphabetic Principle, Blending, Segmenting,Dictation, Handwriting, and High Frequency Words.

Better still, because the box was not too large, I was able to easily carry all the materials from our learning shelves, to other rooms in our home, to blankets outside, to our minivan, and even into waiting areas at appointments, so my children and I could use our Can Do Cubes wherever we happened to be going.  For me - someone for whom "home"schooling may be a misnomer - this was an unexpected bonus. 

Most multi-part, hands-on tools get cumbersome to carry about and keep organized, and, so, they get relegated to home use only.  The fact that Can Do Cubes are packaged so conveniently allowed me to keep them on hand sometimes even when we were out and about this summer.  Hoorah!

How Did We Use Our Cubes?

The beauty of Can Do Cubes is that they can be used in so many ways.  They are designed to be used seamlessly with the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar curriculum that I reviewed the other day, but also can be used equally well as an independent literacy tool or as a complement to almost any phonics program, spelling curriculum, or early literacy efforts.

The first time one of my children and I used our Can Do Cubes, we simply explored them as a stand-alone tool.  I had brought them along with us on a day when one child was at summer camp and another child ended up hurting her leg and, thus, needed to hang with me inside.  So, we pulled up some floor space at a visitor center and simply explored the cubes - reading and spelling simple words with them.
After that, my youngest and middle child sometimes used the cubes in conjunction with Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar lessons.  All three of my children and I also used our Can Do Cubes for a variety of games. And, my children used them independently to work on spelling.

All of us appreciated how well-made the blocks are - smooth and sturdy, feeling good in our hands - and how easy they make segmenting and blending sounds.  The video below gives an idea of how this works.


Why I'd Recommend Can Do Cubes

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
I truly appreciate the thought that went into designing Can Do Cubes and am excited to continue enjoying them with my children's phonics, spelling, reading, and writing work.  I also know that our Can Do Cubes will be finding their way into my tutoring bag as so many struggling learners that I work with appreciate concrete tools for kinesthetic learning. 

It's amazing how beautifully made synthetic phonics blocks can energize learning.

Can Do Cubes are simple, yet engaging - perfect for tactile learners since the engraved letters can be felt.  They also work well for kinesthetic learners, who will enjoy manipulating the blocks to segment and blend.

Because the cubes are made of polished wood (as opposed to obnoxiously colored plastic), they would work well in Montessori-inspired homeschools and classrooms.  

Because Can Do Cubes focus on synthetic phonics, they are, in my opinion, so much more helpful than typical movable alphabets, magnetic letters, etc.  They can truly help developing readers and spellers unlock improved literacy skills.  I am witnessing that happen in our home as I weave the use of Can Do Cubes in with our other literacy endeavors - and even our catechism ones.  (Note the word in the image above, which was spelled after we had been doing some First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion Prep.  He was so proud of making a four letter word all by himself without anyone giving a suggested word to spell.)

Learn More

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

You can head on over to (just2ducks LLC) to find loads more information, some helpful Parent and Teacher Resource Freebies, and information about Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar, which I reviewed the other day.

You can also find (just2ducks LLC) on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Can Do Cubes

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