Friday, 31 August 2012

Piper Reed Forever Friend - Book Review/Giveaway

We've had a great opportunity to review a book by Kimberly Willis Holt - it's the latest in her Piper Reed series called Forever Friend.
The Piper Reed series explores ten year old Piper's adventures with her family, their moves to new towns (her Dad is in the Navy), the friends she makes along the way and the lessons she learns. Her latest book focuses on their move to Norfolk, Virginia and Piper learns the importance of believing in yourself, spotting new opportunities and the benefits of individuality.

This book was well written and thoroughly enjoyable, we couldn't put it down and the girls were  eager to find out what happened next, so much so that they read the book in two days. They loved this book so much that the earlier five in the series are all on their wish lists for Christmas - though I probably won't be mean and make them wait that long : )

Not only did we get to enjoy this book but Rose and Sunflower were able to put together a couple of questions for Kimberly.

  • What made you start writing?

When my second teacher read my story about a family of bunnies to the class, I felt proud.           I'd always loved reading and my mom always made me feel good about my writing. Then          in junior high I had some wonderful teachers (including a science teacher) who encouraged me to keep writing. But it wasn't until 18 years ago that I made a commitment to become a writer.

  • How do you feel when you have written a book? 

It's a mixed bag of emotions. I question if it's good enough for the world to see. And I miss           the process of writing it.  So there is joy and sadness together, a bittersweet feeling. 

  • Is it hard to finish writing about your characters – does it feel like a friend has left? 

Absolutely! But when I visit schools or libraries, I usually talk to audiences that have read         my books, and I get to visit my characters all over again.

  • Why did you make Nicole allergic to chocolate? I am allergic to chocolate but I’ve never met anyone else that is. 

I'm sorry that you're allergic to chocolate. I've heard of people who are allergic and I put myself in their shoes. I wanted kids who had food allergies to have a character they could relate to.

  • Did you get your inspiration for Sam and Tori from your own family? 

Yes, and Piper, too. Piper is inspired by my middle sister. My baby sister inspired Sam.          And yes, I admit it. I'm a lot like Tori. (Only I'm not so mean and bossy. At least I don't think so.)

  • Will there be more Piper Reed books? 

I'm afraid the sixth one is probably going to be the last. But you never know! I'm certainly willing to keep telling stories about the Reed Family.

If you are looking for a fun read full of inspirational learning experiences I would suggest you check this series out. MacMillan also have some free downloadable lesson plans and activities available to go alongside the series.

As a special treat for you we are hosting a giveaway for three signed Piper Reed books - Piper Reed Forever Friend, Piper Reed Navy Brat and Piper Reed Rodeo Star.
Entry is simple - leave a comment below and like Kimberly Willis Holt on Facebook. Three winners will be drawn at random and sent one book each, if you have a preference for a specific title please leave a note in your comment below. 
The giveaway will close on Sept 14th 2012 and winners will be contacted by email - please ensure you leave a contact address.

Disclaimer - I was provided with a free copy of the book so I could provide an open and honest review.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Costumes with Character - TOS Review

Rose is currently enamoured with history novels (her favourite being Lady Grace set in Tudor times) and every couple of sentences I hear - 'can I make a bum roll' , 'what is a kirtle' etc. so this review has come at the perfect time for us. Costumes with Character by Golden Prairie Press is all about fashions through history and includes the patterns to sew them. The real plus are the history pages for each era, describing what people of that time wore and why (great for sneaky History lessons).
Periods covered include:
  • Colonial - Pilgrim & Puritan 1620-1700
  • Quaker 1681-1860
  • American Revolution 1775-1783
  • Young Republic 1800-1820
  • Romantic Era 1820-1848
  • Pioneer 1800s
  • Civil War 1861-1865
  • Sailor 1865-1905
  • Victorian 1880s
  • Victorian 1890s
  • Turn of the Century 1900-1910

Each costume consists of accessories to add to a basic dress - things like cuffs, collars, aprons, petticoats, bonnets, collars, vests, etc. Most just require basic sewing skills. I love the concept of having a basic dress and creating all the costumes around it - it makes it very easy to have multiple costumes without a massive outlay.  

The patterns are all included in the book but they are on a grid and need to be enlarged. Luckily we also received the new pattern e-book with the patterns already enlarged. They are sized for a 16yo so need to be adjusted for your child's age (the adjustment formula for this is included) 

This is a fantastic concept - the costumes combined with the historical information really brings it all to life. 
Rose has loved sewing these costumes, loved learning all about different eras and thoroughly enjoyed herself - in her own words 'These are the best sewing lessons, ever'. Sunflower can't wait until I unpack my sewing machine from the move so she can have a go too.

I will admit that resizing the patterns took a bit of thought as did printing the patterns off onto A4 paper and sticking them together but overall this is a wonderful product that will be the basis of many history lessons and  it's already a firm favourite in our house.

This product would be suitable for most ages, as long as you have basic sewing skills (or know someone who does). The ebook is available for $21.95 or you can opt for a printed version at £37.00. There is currently a 20% off offer through to the 1st September. 

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog where they also reviewed a number of other historical products from Golden Prairie Press.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the ebook so I could provide an open and honest review.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Time4Writing TOS Review

Time4Writing is an online, one-to-one writing programme with a certified teacher giving live feedback.

The courses are divided into eight weeks and each week contains a number of assignments (typically 15 mins). Your child can either read or listen to their lesson. There are interactive quizzes which are graded automatically so your student receives instant feedback on their work. The writing assignments are graded by the teacher, usually within 24 hours (except weekends), with personalised feedback on their writing in the form of comments, any improvements that could be made and grades. The teacher also provides support and is available to answer any questions they have.

The assignment instructions were easy to understand, and Rose was able to do most of the assignments without any help from me. Each time the teacher graded an assignment, I received an email, so I could log in and check her progress. Of course, I can always log in to check, but it was nice to get an email reminder.

Time4writing have a number of courses available and provide a course placement tool to help determine the correct level for your child. They also have some amazing free resources on their writing resources page.

Rose is part way through an 8 week course entitled Essay Exploration - this is an elementary course on essay writing. As an aspiring writer, Rose has loved this course. She has written an expository paragraph about fridges, a persuasive paragraph about the benefits of winter and is currently learning about vivid verbs.

She has loved all the different elements of the course and getting graded work back has really boosted her confidence in her writing skills. She does get a bit frustrated when she makes a mistake and has to wait for it to be re-graded before she can move onto the next assignment, more because she is so eager to progress than anything else.

I loved seeing how her writing has improved and having a third party give input into how she writes has made a real difference. I have really enjoyed seeing her expand her skills by picking unusual topics for her writing assignments and her excitement when she aces an exercise. So far this has been an amazing programme and is definitely something we will explore further as she grows. Being confined to a time frame of 8 weeks is a bit frustrating as life doesn't always allow for strict time frames (we are currently in the middle of a house move so Internet connection is fun).

The courses are targeted at elementary through high school and are priced at $99. Although this is fairly expensive it does come with a 14 money back / change the course offer.

You can see what my crewmates thought at the
TOS Blog

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free 8 week course so I could provide an open and honest review.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Vocabulary Spelling City - TOS Review

Vocabulary Spelling City is an interactive learning based website aimed at elementary to high school students It is a literacy skills builder that teaches spelling and vocabulary through various activities and games. You can even input your own spelling lists : )

When your child opens their individual spelling list, not only does it provide a spelling lesson but you also have the option to assign a vocabulary lesson, flash cards, sentence writing, missing letters, word searchs and much more.  The different activities are fun and engaging for them and they like it a million times more than a boring worksheet. 

I was provided with the Premium Membership which included extras such as synonyms, handwriting worksheets, language arts, teacher training, record keeping, lesson plans and much more

I really liked the Teacher Resources page - these are packed full of spelling lists, ideas and activities to teach spelling and language skills. I also loved that I could personalise my lists, tailor the programme to our specific needs and that I can track each child's progress and see the work they've done each week. 

I asked the girls what they thought of the programme:
"I like that the spelling test will read the words as many times as I need."
"I like that when you get a word wrong, it helps you spell it so you can get it right." 
"It's great that it tells you the meaning of words and how they are used in real sentences."

Vocabulary Spelling City is a great program and very cost effective at $29.99 per year for up to 5 students. They also offer a free membership (this contains a smaller range of all it has to offer) so you can see how it will work for you before you buy it.

You can see what my other crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free membership to this site so I could provide an open and honest review.

3D Shapes mini unit

We've been working on our latest summer mini unit and had great fun this week exploring 3D shapes.

The girls started by revising their shapes by matching them to the correct cards, 
using the 3 part cards,
then drawing the shapes and naming them, 
making the shape from cocktail sticks and mini marshmallows (this seemed to be their favourite activity) and finished by exploring shape nets.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


I've been getting the question 'why do we have blood?' recently so decided to do a mini unit on it. We started by watching the Brainpop video then exploring the different components of blood (with sweets) and the different percentages of each in the blood.
We explored blood under the microscope - mine! the things we do for education : (
I hooked the microscope up to the PC so they could look at things in more detail.
They also explored the circulatory system and discovered the difference between veins, arteries and capillaries - which they recorded on a nice poster.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...