Thursday, August 25, 2016

Can Do Cubes ( Review)

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
Disclosure: I received a complimentary Can Do Cubes product from (just2ducks LLC) through Schoolhouse Review Crew, in exchange for a honest review.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

My sons and I were so excited to get to review Can Do Cubes from Earlier this week, we wrote about Jolly Phonics and Grammar (please check out our review here) which is also from We used both of these amazing products together. The Can Do Cubes come with two different levels of blocks, for Stage 1 and Stage 2 (as shown above), and also a booklet for each of the stages filled with valuable information. It also comes with a DVD and Cd-rom, that are Teacher Guides to explain synthetic phonics and ways to use this product. There are over 44 phonemes, or sounds of speech in the English language and over 175 spelling variations of the English writing system. There are also 3 posters included that break this down further and help make it easy to teach, and for children to understand. I enjoyed that two of these posters gave suggested words to build for the blocks.

My sons loved that there was something tangible they could pick up and build. I think this is excellent for Kinesthetic learners, as it is a multisensory tool. They had a blast building with the blocks, and then realized that each side had letters on it began to build words that they knew. They enjoy watching wrestling on TV, and one of their favorite wrestlers is The Rock. This was the very first word they spelled together.

They then began to look at the poster charts included to see which words they knew how to spell already, and began to build those words. I remember how much they enjoyed playing with blocks as toddlers, and it warmed my heart to see them playing with blocks again but also having the knowledge to spell words with them. They then became curious and wanted to know what other words they could build. This helped them tremendously as I went over the phonics of the letters with my youngest to teach him beginning words, and to work on more complex words with my oldest.

I think teaching phonics is extremely important. When I was teaching in public school before my sons were born, I noticed how much emphasis was placed on sight words. This seemed to have students do well until about the third or fourth grade, when they hit a plateau. They had not been taught how to sound out the words, so they began to really struggle with reading. It was at this point, that phonics had to be taught to them so they could learn how to sound out larger words. I think teaching phonics at about the Kindergarten to second grade level, which is where my sons are now is the best time. I think it has them become more advanced readers later down the road.

I also had to become certified this past summer to qualify for my new position as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. I noticed during my study modules and exams, how important the teaching of phonics is. I was excited to apply this knowledge for my sons, and for my students I will be teaching. I am also really excited to bring in the Can Do Cubes to my classroom. I think the students will absolutely love them, just like my sons do. Using this and Jolly Phonics and Grammar as supplements in our homeschool studies, has really helped make reading lessons much more fun.

I love that the Can Do Cubes come in such an organized box. All the blocks are on top separated by the two different stages, and the posters, CD-rom, and DVD fit underneath all of this. It makes clean up very easy, and it is compact enough to be put onto a bookshelf ready for the next use. I would definitely recommend for any classroom or homeschool setting. I take out these products, and my sons smile and have an "Okay, Mom. Let's learn" attitude, and that is the best feeling in the world.
These are just some of the amazing products by (Check out our review on Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar)

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Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Can Do Cubes

#hsreviews #literacy #reading #phonics #interactivelearning

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar ( Review)

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
Disclosure: I received complimentary products from through Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for a honest review.

It has been amazing working on Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from (just2ducks LLC) during the summer, and into this homeschool year.  There are short lessons and each lesson is usually just one page. The pages are colorful and very kid friendly, but also does a wonderful job of teaching phonics on different levels. We were blessed to be able to review the following:

  • Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book in print letters

  • Jolly Phonics Student Book 1, 2 and 3

  • Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher's Book in print letters

  • Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book

  • Jolly Songs in print letters

  • Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

    I enjoyed that the Teacher's Book included the lessons for all three levels. It was very easy to reference because my sons were working on two different levels. My youngest who is five, worked on Level 1 workbook. This also corresponded with Jolly Songs, that taught each letter sound and how to sound it out and write it in the workbook. The Jolly Songs was a fun CD that played songs that corresponded with each lesson. For instance, he worked on letter s one day, so in the workbook, he wrote and traced letter s, and then the CD played a fun song about a snake and reemphasized the phonics of letter s. He enjoyed listening to the songs multiple times. It also had the lyrics to the song in the book with the CD, so my oldest who is seven was able to listen to the CD and also look at the lyrics to help him with his reading.

    Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

    Grammar 1 Workbook was a fantastic middle ground for both of my sons. It had activities in this that both of them could do together. Some of the activities included matching and recognizing words to pictures. Again, the pages were very colorful and allowed them to even color additional pages as part of the activities.

    Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

    My oldest worked on Workbook Level 2, which was perfect for his start in second grade this year. We didn't make it to Workbook Level 3 during this review, but I think this would be a good workbook level for end of second grade or beginning of third grade and he is excited to get to the next level workbook. We also used Can Do Cubes together, which is another excellent product from We will be posting a review on this product this week as well.

    My sons really enjoyed learning phonics using these products. They were an excellent supplement to our normal homeschool reading lessons. I think that any homeschool parent or teacher would be thrilled with the amount of time and effort that went into these products to help make learning phonics fun and easy. We would definitely recommend! Don't forget to come back later this week to check out our review of Can Do Cubes, also by

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    Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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    Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

    #hsreviews #literacy #reading #phonics #interactivelearning

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Raising Samuels Has Gone International!

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. Thanks for supporting my site!

    Hi, friends! You may have wondered where I have been this past month, so I wanted to tell you. I started a process back in October of last year to apply for teaching positions overseas. My Mom has done this for the past 9 years, and it is something she enjoys very much. It is an amazing way to get to know about other cultures, countries and education. I had just missed this hiring cycle in October, so I waited until May. After several attempts at interviews, I had to take an exam to certify that I could teach ESL. (English as a Second Language) I took the exam and became certified, and heard nothing. Then a few weeks ago, I was given a call and told there were openings near where my Mom was teaching in Panama. I had three weeks to sell most of my family's belongings (we kept the important stuff in a small storage unit), get my pets paperwork complete so they could come with us (I think this was the most difficult part), and rent my house. By the grace of God, everything was finished and we have been living in Panama for a little over a week now. I wanted to share all our adventures we have had here this first week. Thanks for being here on our journey with us :)

    1st day of School

    The House (La Casa)


    We rented a house while we wait for placement in a school. It is a beautiful house that is owned by a family who only visits once a year, and this is essentially their vacation home. When they are not there, they rent it out and it is furnished which was a blessing because we did not have to buy many things upon arrival. In the backyard, is a garden that is shared by the family who owns the house and the couple who lives behind us. This couple is the one who takes care of the garden and who watches over their house, as well as the house we are renting. They are also believers in Christ, and it was something we all sensed from each other from the beginning. The husband asked us in Spanish the other night, "Do you believe in Christ?" I think that has been the best question I have ever been asked. They have a restaurant in the garden, and grow many of their own produce for it. This is a picture of the bananas they grew, and have graciously allowed the boys to pick from it whenever they would like, and they also bring us about 5 or 6 bananas every morning. They have been truly amazing during our transition here.


    This is their pet turtle, Michelangelo. The turtle gets to wonder around the garden when he is not in his bin. 


    There is a cement wall or fence in between properties here. The wealthy homes have wrought iron around the windows and entry areas. The less fortunate people here have broken glass on the top of their walls to protect from anyone trying to jump over the wall into their home or property. It is actually really safe here despite these precautions. The police here are scary and no-nonsense. I think the risk of having to run into a police officer or risk going to jail here, has the area very safe. The people are actually really nice and say "Buenos" (hello or good day) when you see them. It is a small community where we are and everyone knows everyone. They sit on their porches and talk with each other, and to the people who pass by. There are mini markets on almost every block where you can buy items that would be in a convenience store in the U.S. and everything is close, so we walk. If things are far, we get a taxi for just a few dollars. The taxis are clean and the boys have enjoyed their taxi rides we have taken.There are also buses to take you into further places.


    This is the back door to the garden. It is a gorgeous garden, and so very peaceful. We have seen butterflies, birds, and even bats at night! They fly right over your head! There are also cats that visit the garden. My Mom had some friends visit the other day, and they were floored to see our kitty living in the house. Most cats live outside here and are not kept as pets,

    This is the kitchen. There is a gas stove and stainless steel appliances. There is running water, and we also have filtered water to drink. Some of the stores, schools, and homes here have air conditioning but we don't. That was quite an adjustment at first, but there is windows that we open to bring air in, ceiling fans and also electric fans. There is also no hot water. This may have been a deal breaker, but after two days of being here the cold showers have proven to be refreshing. It's like jumping into a pool on a hot day. The people here also love firecrackers, and it is not surprising to hear the "bang, bang" of a firecracker in the middle of the night. They usually wait for the weekend to do this thankfully. 

    The Beach (La Playa)

    This beach is a less than 10 minute drive from where we live. The couple who lives behind us offered to drive us there to experience it. When we got there, they taught us how to clam! We all had a blast trying to catch all the clams we could! I greatly appreciate clam dinners now, and the effort that goes into catching them.

    The boys also found many hermit crabs on the beach, and had so much fun picking them up and watching them move. 

    Food (Comida)

    There are no major restaurants here. In some of the nearby towns there are McDonald's, KFC  (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Dairy Queen, Domino's Pizza, and Subway. People where we live have restaurants and cafes they run out of their homes. It is within walking distance, and the food is delicious. This is one restaurant we went to in the center of town. It has a trampoline for the kids while the family waits for food. We each got adult meals, so that is five adult meals (including my Mom), plus two milkshakes and we spent less than $40 including the tip! Here are some of our meals:

    Shrimp with fried plantains 

    Chicken with yuca fries (Pollo con Papas) - The boys love what they are calling "Panamanian french fries." They are made out of yuca, which is a starchy vegetable similar to a potato but full of fiber and much healthier than a potato.

    Pork Chops with fried plantains 

    Remember how I told you we went clamming? That night, the couple who took us brought us these cooked! They were incredibly delicious, and this is just how kind they are. We have been truly blessed by them.

    A field trip to Panama City!

    The boys and I got a chance to be chaperones with my Mom, and visit Panama City with the middle and high school students. This was 6:30 in the morning! 

    The boys ready for an adventure on the bus!

    Here is some beautiful scenery on the way.

    The boys had a blast with the "big kids." The kids were so nice with the boys, and extremely respectful. They invited the boys to play an app called, Heads Up. One child has to hold the cell phone on their forehead, and their friends given them clues as to what the word is. It is a great way for them to practice their English, and the boys had an awesome time with them. They also played Pokemon Go! together.

    Mountains in the distance!

    This is one side of crossing the Panama Canal. We hope to make a return visit, and really get to see more on the history of this.

    This is a picture of what they call "Old and New Panama." The older part is in the front, and then the modern city lies behind this.

    Welcome to Panama City!

    We thought this was a cool building.

    The boys got a chance to learn about Astronomy in Spanish! They were able to recognize some of the constellations and stars, and learn how to say it in Spanish!

    This is the book fair the school was visiting. It was insanely busy!

    We then got a chance to visit the mall there, where the boys found a Nickelodeon store. We have never seen one of these back home, so they that thought this was amazing. There were many stores and restaurants that we recognized such as Carl's Jr., Starbucks, Ruby Tuesday, and Under Armour. 

    This is a picture of my Mom watching the city. The area we were passing here is very poor, and extremely dangerous. The city lays just beyond this.

     This is the other side of the Panama Canal.

    The Talent Show

    We were blessed to be invited by Mom to see some of the kids we met on the field trip, at their talent show a few days later. The kids enjoyed getting to see the boys again. The Physical Education teacher also met my oldest son, and asked him to be on their soccer team!

    The kids did a great job of dancing, and playing music. Many of the songs were even in English!

    This is the teachers waving goodbye to the parents, and also giving them a chance to get on stage to give credit to them all for the hard work they had put into the show. 


    Getting art lessons from Gamma!


    The boys busy working on their reading and phonics.

    It was a busy week! I will be updating this post later with more of our homeschool week, but wanted to give you all a chance to see what we have been up to. Thank you to those who have known about our adventure and for all the prayers. They are greatly appreciated, and we love and miss you all so very much :)



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