SmartKidz Media {a review}

SmartKidz Media Review

Online streaming for education as well as entertainment is becoming quite popular.  There are so many choices out there and yet I have never heard of SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers before.   I was super excited to have not only learned about SmartKidz Media, but also to use and review a safe, educational and family friendly streaming library.               

SmartKidz Media is an online media library for families.  There are two groups of media:  Family Media (under the dark gray, shown below) and Reading and Learning Center (grouped under the lighter gray).  Within those two groups there are 10 tabs, or topics, to choose from on the homepage.

Under the "Family Media" there is:
  • World of Discovery
  • Music and Fine Arts
In the "Reading and Learning Center" you will find:
  • Mighty eBook Collection
  • Baby Signs Program
  • My Animal Family
  • Quick Find Study Guides
  • Easy Learning for Special Needs
  • Living Skills Program (coming soon)
  • Ready Set Sing
  • Fun Zone
I can't possibly list everything this vast streaming site offers, so I will share what we visited most.  Within "Family Media:  World of Discovery" you will find a number of titles for the whole family to enjoy.  Just some of the subjects to be found:
  • Animals and Wildlife
  • Nature
  • Documentaries & Culture
  • Health and Fitness
  • History
  • Lifestyles and Cuisines
  • Science
  • Travel and Adventure
  • Discovery

SmartKidz Media could be used for education or for entertainment.  There are a number of fun ebooks and a "Fun Zone" that has games.  However, how we used this was mostly for education, staying withing the "Family Media" group.

On a typical day, with SmartKidz Media, I'd start my eldest (who is 8) off on a topic that fit his lesson, such as kangaroos.  More often than not, when the video was over, he was begging to browse around and watch more.  (Of course I said yes)  My lover of documentaries would watch many of the Animals and Wildlife videos, all on his own.  I never felt like I had to hover over him to monitor what he might watch, such as I feel I need to do with other streaming sites.

A few of the titles he watched:
  • The Wild Ones:  Strongest Animals
  • The Wild Ones:  Fastest Animals
  • Wonderful World:  Animal Babies
  • Wonderful World:  Animal Builders
  • Nature Miniatures
  • Aerobics For Kids
The first few weeks I would search in the morning for a show that could match a topic we were learning about, to go along with a lesson.  This is where I have my only minor dislike of the website - it would be so helpful to have a search bar.  However, I do like that when you hover over a video a short description and bolded topics pops up, saving me from having to click over to each one.

Additionally, what I liked about SmartKidz Media is it was wonderful for our way of teaching/learning which is mostly topical (or unit) study and child-led.  For example:  My eldest, Connor, had been asking a lot about Beethoven so I turned on The Greatest Works of Beethoven II, found under "Music and Fine Arts:  Classical Music Vol 1".  Then a wonderful thing happened.  Connor would come downstairs each morning and turn on Beethoven and play with legos and kinetic sand while I finished up my coffee.  I was curious so I asked him why he loved the music so much, to which he replied, "It helps me with my game!  It helped me plan it right and made it fun."  He's definitely a SmartKid!

Connor's finally thoughts:  "I like pretty much everything. I like the music and the animals most.  It's fun learning about animals and listening to Beethoven."

This is something I'd certainly recommend to other families as a nice, safe and educational streaming site.  We used this nearly every day and still didn't visit even half of what is offered.

To read what other reviews, and their little helpers, have said about SmartKidz Media click the banner below:

SmartKidz Media Review

Canada Day Preschool Craft

A fun little craft I like to make with my littles is a Canadian Wind Catcher.  It's quick and simple to do, and the kids love it.  After they exhaust their fun watching their craft fly in the wind, while running around in the grass, I hang it up in my back yard to catch the wind.

Supplies you'll need:
  • white construction paper
  • two  strips of red construction paper
  • red finger paint
  • one little wiggly hand
  • white and red crepe paper
  • tape
  • glue stick
  • stapler
  • string
I usually break this up into two days of quick art, because of the paint drying time.  You could also just paint in the morning, then finish in the afternoon.


  • Take your two strips of red paper and slather them up with a glue stick.  Place them on the white paper.  (I say glue stick because it takes less time to dry and won't crinkle your paper like wet glue.
  • paint one little wiggly hand and stamp it between the red strips, for your cute make-shift "maple leaf".  Stamp again on another piece of paper for a keep sake, if you so wish, since this wind-catcher won't keep.  You now have one Canadian flag!

  • when paint is dry, roll your flag into a cylinder, with your print facing out (red paper touching red paper) and staple or tape it together.
  • take red and white crepe paper and tape strips around the bottom of the cylinder in a red/white pattern.  Length of strips is up to you, we aren't striving for perfection so don't worry too much.  If you wish, you could do a quick math lesson of AB patterning.
  • tape 3 or 4 lengths of string to the top of the cylinder and tie off near the top.
  • hand to your little monkey and let them loose.

See what the rest of the Canadian Homeschool Team has shared for Canada Day over at The Canadian Homeschooler

If you have a post to share of Canada Day, please link up below!


The Red Carpet by Rex Parkin {bfiar}

We "officially" came to the end of our scheduled school year with Katy No Pocket.  But with a little bit of sheer luck, I happened upon one of the rare titles of Before Five in a Row (bfiar), The Red Carpet, for a super fair price.  I kept reading wonderful things about this book and couldn't pass it up, so we squeezed in one more week of fun.
Being that this was suppose to be the start of our summer break, my eldest was not amused and did not want to any school, even if it was play based.  My 2nd born does whatever big brother does, so that left me with little Sam, who is 2.
Sam is into anything transportation related so I was expecting this to be his new favorite book.
We happen to have a road puzzle that had pieces that fit really nicely with The Red Carpet.  We used a crepe paper as our carpet and set it loose over the city, from the "hotel". 
We used a Playmobil police to "chase" the carpet.

That was about all we did with Sam, since he's just 2.  He loved his new motorcycle toy.

Even though my eldest was resistant to more school, I did get him to read a few books on the Canadian Police to tie in The Red Carpet to a 2nd grade level.

Linking up with:
Delightful Learning Hip Homeschool MomsWeekly Wrap-Up

CTC Math {a TOS review}

CTCMath Review

Connor (8) was doing lesson in measurement one day, with CTC Math, while Emma (4) looked on.  Emma started to catch on to the measuring and I encouraged her by saying, "Oh, good math work, Emma!"  Connor stopped his work and looked at me in shock.  "This is math!?  But it's so fun!"

I've never thought I'd hear my 8 year old utter the words "math" and "fun" in the same sentence.  Since we've been using CTC Math's 12 Month Family Plan, for homeschoolers, his whole attitude with math has changed for the better. 

CTC Math is a U.S. based online curriculum.  (For us personally, as Canadians, using a U.S. curriculum doesn't matter a whole lot).  The lessons are all in video format, making it easy for your student(s) to pause or rewind any topic.  For K-6th grade CTC Math could be a full curriculum, beyond 6th grade it is best used as a supplement for those that are struggling and need extra help.  With the 12 Month Family Plan you pay one price for your entire family with unlimited access to all lessons within all grades. 

Each topic in K-6 grade has a standard, as well as a comprehensive, test that your child could choose to take.  If you decide to take the test(s) you are sent a detailed report showing any lessons that need be reviewed.  For my students, we chose to skip the tests and just focused on various lessons.

Upon signing up for CTC Math you, the parent, are given access to the Parent's Area where you can add your student(s) and give them logins.  This Parent's Area is where you can track all progress from when they last logged in, how many lessons they completed, their scores, reports and any certificates earned.

After your student completes each lesson within a given topic s/he is awarded 1 of 4 certificates, Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze  This was my son's favorite part of CTC Math - the boy loves awards.

When your child earns a certificate the parent is notified via email as well as within the Parent Area, where you have the option to print it. 

How we used CTC Math:

My 2nd grader used it 3 or more times a week, on a computer, with me picking topics for him based on our unit studies or on areas he was struggling in his regular math curriculum.   We did try once on an iPad, which worked great except iPads are a huge struggle (distraction) for my child since he knows his games are on there, so we try to avoid using one.

Sometimes Connor would look on as I worked with his younger sister, outside of this program, and he'd sigh and say how he wished he could "do math like that", (meaning easy fun kinder graphing and shapes) so I would set him up on CTC Math with his grade level counterpart.  He was super excited when I bumped him one grade higher for 3D shapes.

Very occasionally I would have my 4 year old test out the program since she works at a kindergarten level.  Being she's only 4 we didn't work at this often as she didn't have the attention span for the short instruction videos.  This is something I'd like to revisit with her for next year though.

My thoughts:

I feel CTC Math is very easy to use with a clean, un-distracting design.  The teacher's voice is clear and easy to understand (and the Australian accent is a nice bonus). 

I love the Parent Area with the progress reports.  Where we live we don't have to turn in grades or anything, but I still like to keep records so this is a super easy way for me to see at a glance where my child is struggling or excelling in math.

Each lesson, from instruction to question, is a nice short amount of time.  I never felt like we were spending too much time on the computer.

Too see what the rest of TOS review crew thought of CTC Math, click the banner below:

CTCmath Review

Dynamic Literacy: WordBuildOnline {a TOS review}

JazzEdge  Review

WordBuildOnline, by Dynamic Literacy, is an online vocabulary course for up to 2 students who would have two separate accounts.

The way I grew up learning my vocabulary was to get a long list of words and memorize them.   With Dynamic Literacy you have an engaging way to learn vocabulary.  Instead of memorizing a long list you are learning morphemes - the roots, the suffixes and the prefixes.  By learning just these parts of a word your child will know many new words, and learn how to figure out meanings of unknown words they might encounter in their everyday reading.

Foundations Level 1 is 25 units of learning for grades 2 to 5.  The child's level of difficulty is automatically adjusted within the program, depending on his/her performance.  Each of the 25 units have 5 lessons, intended to be completed once a day in 15 minutes or less.  We have been using Foundations Level 1 with 2nd grade.

Each account has two (or three if you have 2 students) sections.  One section the student has access to and the other is for the parent.

Within the student access

Each unit is guided by Lexi, a skateboarding dog, with a speech bubble.  Using the speech bubble, the students can read short instructions from Lexi before beginning.  After each lesson the student is encouraged with a speech bubble from Lexi, such as "Stupendous!" or "Nice Work!".

JazzEdge  Review

The 5 lessons for each unit are set up in the same order each week, and they always begin with a short introduction video, on Day 1, explaining the morpheme for the week.
  • Day 1:  Affix square.  Students combine words on the square and then type what they think the definition is for each word they build.
  • Day 2:  Affix adder.  Students combine words, type in definitions, then choose 1 sentence of 3 that is a correct use of the word they combined.
  • Day 3:  Magic Square.  Students match words in a box to the definitions.  When the student has every word matched correctly, every row and column will add up to the same "magic" number.
  • Day 4:  Comprehension Booster.  Students read a "fill in the blank" type sentence and choose from a word bank to best complete the sentence.
  • Day 5:  Assessment.  A short test of 5 multiple choice questions.
Once you complete a lesson you start all over with  the 5 day set up and a new morpheme.

Connor completed his lessons, with me sitting within ear shot, once a day.  After about a week we got the hang of the program.  We had encountered a little user error (on my part), when I misunderstood the lessons being one a day.  Not all 5 a day.  After correcting my mistake, we found the program to be simple, quick and effective in teaching meanings of new words.

Connor, my 2nd grader, had this to say about WordBuild Online: "I like the end parts {days 3-5} because they are really fun and I want to start all over again.  I don't like day 1 or 2.  I don't like the typing."

Under the parent dashboard I can:

  • view a detailed student progress report - shows when your student moves up or down a level (mastery or novice), how much time they took to complete a lesson, and a rating of performance.
  • manage group - this is where you can assign your student a new level of Foundations or Elements (if you had bought additional levels)
  • manage students - add a student (up to 2), or change a password
  • manage notifications - remove yourself from email updates, or add additional people to be notified
  • edit profile - change your password or name
  • view videos - this is where you can view a more detailed video of each of the 25 units, in order of presentation.
My thoughts

Things I like
  • WordBuild Online is a quick and fun way for my child to learn words.  As a kinetic and visual learner, this program is much more effect than staring at a list of words on paper in hopes to memorize them.
  • I have my own log-in as a Parent, where I can view a detailed progress report.  I have the option to reset any lesson, should there be any interruptions, making my child "time out".  I used this once, when he accidentally clicked the "I'm finished" button, moving him forward with only one question answered.

The only things I didn't care for were the email notifications whenever a lesson was completed.  However, there is a way to opt out.  These notifications would be beneficial for children who worked independently, but mine do not at this time.  So I found the emails to be redundant.  Another thought of mine would be maybe an addition of a key for the abbreviations of each unit and lesson in the parent dashboard (and sent in my emails).  I did eventually figure it out, but a key would make that process a lot quicker.

I think the cost is really fair if you only have 1 or 2 students needing the program.  There is a 30 day money back guarantee which is also nice if it ends up just not being a good fit. 

This is something I would recommend as a more engaging way to learn word meanings.  The morphology aspect of this program has really benefited Connor's grasp of words.  One day we were driving home from a store and he was pointing out all the things he could think of for the prefix "re".  We enjoyed our experience and plan to continue with it into next year.

To see what the other reviewers say about Dynamic Literacy, click the banner below.

Dynamic Literacy Review

Throwback Thursday: today as we say a final goodbye

You loved us from our first breaths until your last, and we will love you until our last.  On the hardest day thus far of my life, I want you to know, I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, forever my Grandma you will be. 

"and with all of your love you let go" -Mindy Gledhill

Road Trip with Kids: Audio Books

Travelling with young children can be emotionally exhausting.  We live far away from our families and often travel with our kids, sometimes taking 9 hours in one day of driving.  There are many stops to get wiggles out, to empty tiny bladders, and to fill little bellies.  We've found that no matter how often we stop, after several hours of driving the kids quickly lose their patience.  We've tried packing snacks.  Packing toys.  Packing books.  There's little that works to ease the impatience of the youngest of travelers. 

We've tried packing iPads and Leap Frogs, and that works wonderfully - for a little while.  When you have so far to travel, bad attitudes emerge after so much screen time.  There's fighting and yelling and screaming.  And the kids get upset too.  (see what I did there?  lol)

What I'm trying to say is, travelling with kids isn't always sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

Sometimes it can be, but often it's not.

After many years and many tears we have finally found something that keeps the kids content for a little while longer.  Audio books!

We usually try to wait a few hours, until they show signs of "get me out of this car or so help me!" then I'll turn on a story and there's blissful silence followed by sweet snores.

Our kids' ages are 2, 4, and 8..  The stories they will all listen to are usually from Sparkle Stories.  I get them on my phone's podcast and use the Bluetooth to connect it to the van.  The kids all just adore these stories and have began to request them when we're running errands in town.  Sparkle Stories are a wonderful introduction to audio stories for your youngest listeners.

We are soon going on yet another very long car ride and this time I'm arming myself with several more audio stories.

With the help of our wonderful library's audio CDs and OverDrive we will be listening to:
 Hopefully we can help lure our kids from Screamland into Dreamland this trip.

Does your family listen to audio books?  What's your favorites?


Katy No Pocket {bfiar}

Katy No Pocket, by Emmy Payne and H. A. Rey, is one of the more fun "rows" we've done this year.  As with all year, we are working our way through the Before Five in a Row with a toddler, a preschooler and a 2nd grader.  The "before" units aren't meant for 2nd graders, but I find we get by just fine, since I've been doing this for 5 years now.

We are at the end of our school year, gearing up for a break, so we didn't do a whole lot.  Maybe that's what made this row one of the more fun ones, I don't know.

We read the book, then found our vintage apron with a wee pocket in it.  (It was my mom's when she was a little girl).

Connor was also seen several times with a apron of his own, hopping around like a kangaroo.

We watched several videos of kangraoos with SmartKidz Media (full review to come later).

We read about marsupials and learned that kangaroos can jump more than 40 feet.  So we went outside and I had my 2nd grader count by 5s on our sidewalk blocks.  They were conveniently 5 feet each.  He drew a simple chalk line as he counted, then he and Emma both measured the 40 foot line against their own jumps. 

Connor tried his darndest to jump 40 feet, convinced if he just ran fast enough he could do it.  lol.

We borrowed Delightful Learning's idea of making the Australian dessert, Pavlova.  Ours was topped with sprinkles instead of fruit, as it should be, because sister was very insistent that clearly our Pavlova needs sprinkles. Not fruit.

Unrelated to Katy No Pocket, we had additional fun learning time with hikes in the morning, to see trilliums and a pond.  Later on we went with dad in the evening light.

 Connor also is continuing learning about birds, all on his own.

(My intent with these posts is to just share our experience with the bfiar (before five in a row) curriculum.  I stray away from the manual because this is my 5th year with the company and I feel more confident in my teaching than I did when I started, so I add and adjust depending on our moods and what's available at our library.  Please don't compare your school to our school.  Yours may look different, and that is perfectly okay.)

Linking up with:
Delightful Learning Hip Homeschool MomsWeekly Wrap-Up
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