Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 Educational YouTube Channels

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.


We are slightly addicted to YouTube, in a good way. We can spend hours learning history, art, science and more just by watching quality YouTube videos. YouTube is a valuable resource for children, but it is one that is often overlooked. So today I thought I would share with you a top 10 list of our favorite educational YouTube channels. Be sure to subscribe to these amazing channels so you never miss a video.

1. TEDx Talks and TEDTalks - TEDx is an international community that organizes TED-style events anywhere and everywhere. These events are produced independently of TED conferences and each event curates speakers on their own, but they follow TED's format and rules. And TEDTalks shares the best ideas from the TED Conference with the world, for free: trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses, all giving the talk of their lives in 18 minutes
2. Arvind Gupta - Arvind believes that children learn by doing so on his channel he shares simple DIY toys and activities to help make math and science fun and interesting. All of his experiments and models use common household materials which every child should have access to. They enhance learning and are relevant for adults and children ages (primary school, middle school, high school).
3. Art for Kids - Rob shares fun, simple art lessons with children.
4. Crazy Russian Hacker - The Crazy Russian Hacker shares cool science experiments and other hacks to make everyday tasks easier.
5. Have Fun Teaching - Free educational songs and videos for teachers, parents and children!
6. So Cool Science Show - Make science so cool with these fun, fascinating videos. All of the experiments can be done right at home.
7. DariaMusic - DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) is an award-winning multicultural performer and has traveled the globe performing, collecting and studying music in over 18 different countries. Her website was given a Parent's Choice Award for its role in sharing global culture with children!
8. History with Mr. Histor - Explore history with Mr. Histor. The Cool School is a safe video network for kids which hosts inspirational, educational, and informational videos for children.
9. Make Me Genius - Make Me Genius believes that science education should be accessible to everybody so they make these fun, animated science videos for children.
10. Smarter Every Day - Explore the world using science with these awesome videos.

Be sure to follow our YouTube channel too, we share product reviews, travel adventures, cool science stuff and more.

What are some of your favorite YouTube channels?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Breakfast On The Go - Gluten Free Muffin Pancakes

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.


We are always on the go, as a matter of fact this week we are on a South Georgia Adventure. So for us on the go breakfast items are a must. But finding easy, healthy breakfast items can be quite a task. These Paleo Egg Muffins are what we normally take with us on the go. But thanks to a recommendation from my mom we now have another healthy on the go breakfast item. These can be made in advance and eaten cold or popped into the microwave for a few seconds before heading out the door. The kids absolutely love them and can easily devour an entire batch in one morning.

Gluten Free Muffin Pancakes
Makes 12

Ingredients:
-1 cup of gluten free all purpose flour
-1 tablespoon ground flax seed (flax meal) (this can be omitted if you choose)
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-4 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
-1 cup of milk (or non dairy)
-Favorite topping (chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, raisins, cooked bacon, etc)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.
3. In a separate bowl, mix maple syrup, vanilla, applesauce, and milk.
4. Slowly pour 1/2 of the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Continuously mix until all the lumps are out of the batter. And more liquid as necessary being careful not to make it too runny or too thick.
5. Pour the batter into a 12 cup muffin pan (I use this silicon muffin pan and get great results). If you are not using a silicone pan be sure to grease the cups or use paper liners. Top with your favorite topping (blueberries, chocolate chips, strawberries, raisins, cooked bacon, etc).
6. Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure they are done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mile Marker News - Our South Georgia Adventure

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.



Welcome to my first of hopefully many "Mile Marker News" posts. So what is this post all about? Well we have a big dream to travel the United States and eventually the World with our children. But for right now our travels are mostly in the South East. Since we are a single income family, with one car our trips always have to be done on a tight budget and require LOTS of planning. But thanks to the many wonderful attractions, visitors centers, travel pr companies and some amazing friends our travel dreams are able to become a reality. I started this blog in 2011 as a way to share about our homeschool journey and traveling and learning through hands on experiences is a huge part of that journey for us.

The "Mile Marker News" will include details about our upcoming trip, the preliminary itinerary, the planning process, travel tips, and more. And of course there will be many posts to follow after the adventure when we share our reviews and other travel articles pertaining to our trip.

Remember to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/or Google + so you can see snapshots of our adventure.

South Georgia Adventure:
In a few days we heading out on a South Georgia Adventure. We have lived in Georgia for 13 years now, but we haven't had a chance to explore South Georgia. South Georgia may seem like a desolate place compared to Atlanta and Metro Atlanta, but once you start researching you will find that South Georgia offers families so much.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Here are just a few of things South Georgia offers:
  • Rich history - there are tons of great historical places to visit in South Georgia where you can learn about the Native Americans, plantations, agriculture, Spanish explorers, Civil Rights movement, Civil War and much more
  • Beautiful landscapes - South Georgia boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Georgia. There is the largest Georgia canyon, the beautiful coastline and of course the largest, intact, un-fragmented, freshwater and black water wilderness Okefenokee Swamp. 
  • To die for food - several South Georgia restaurants have gained national recognition like Nu-Way Weiners in Macon which is America's second-oldest hot dog chain. It is no secret that you will get to experience some of the best traditional southern foods including fried chicken, fried okra, boiled peanuts, and pecan pie while visiting South Georgia. 

Here are the cities we will be making stops at: Macon, Fargo, Waycross, Albany, Lumpkin, Warner Robins and Cordele. Planning a trip with this many stops takes lots of patience especially when you are trying to do it on a tight budget. This trip was sparked by an idea for a blog post and from there it grew. Sorry you will just have to wait to find out what the post is about or perhaps you will be able to make a guess after you read our itinerary.

Itinerary:

And there you have it our upcoming adventure! 837 miles and a total of 14 hours and 4 minutes in the car (assuming we don't hit any traffic).


I know this will definitely not be our last time exploring South Georgia. During our research we found tons of other great places we would like to visit. You can find many of these exciting places on my 200+ Things To See And Do In Georgia or in the Kids Love Travel books (review coming soon on this book).


What adventures do you have planned for the rest of the Summer?

Tips:
Recently I discovered two amazing travel apps which have helped me greatly with planning this trip. What are some of your favorite travel apps?

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The first app is called TripIt and makes planning an itinerary a breeze. You can easily organize all of your travel details including plane tickets, car rentals, train schedules, hotel reservations, activities and more. TripIt "automagically" creates a single itinerary from all your trip details. Access your TripIt itinerary on your smartphone or tablet when and where you need it. When you book a travel reservation, simply forward your confirmation e-mail to plans@tripit.com. TripIt instantly recognizes reservations from more than 3,000 booking sites including cruises, restaurants, concerts, and much more. And best of all, you can easily sync your TripIt itinerary with your calendar and online at tripit.com. You can also share trip plans with family or colleagues directly, or let Facebook and LinkedIn contacts know where you're headed and when you'll be.

Seriously BEST APP ever check out these screen shots.


There is a FREE TripIt version (w/ads) and a paid TripIt version which is $3.99 (w/o ads).


If you are a history buff you will love this 2nd app. This app is called History Here. This app is an interactive guide to thousands of historic locations across the United States, brought to you by HISTORY. The easy-to-use interface, photos, video and dynamic maps bring history to life anywhere in the country. Whether you're on vacation or just running errands, the app makes it simple and fun to get the facts on the history hidden all around you, including amazing architecture, museums, battlefields, monuments, famous homes and much more! They are continually adding points of interest to make this app even better.

One of our favorite things to do before a trip is learn more about the places we are visiting. So we head to the library and check out all the books we can that pertain to our destinations. For this trip we are reading books on Georgia history, swamps, geology, Native Americans and the Civil War. So far some of our favorites have been Leaping Lily, Geology, Deep in the Swamp, Wild and Swampy, Encyclopedia of Biomes and The Very First Americans. Do you read books to plan for your upcoming trips?


One of our favorite camping activities is playing board games by the camp fire. Here are 4 of our favorite camping games: Camp, Animal Tracks, Sci-ology and Suspend. What are your favorite camping games?


Special thanks to my amazing friends who helped us in one way or another with this trip Ben and Me, Almost Supermom, Holly W., and Cassandra R., Cleve W.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Simple Lesson Planning With Lessontrek - Review, Giveaway and 50% Discount Offer

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.


Lessontrek is an online lesson planner for homeschool parents and classroom teachers. This easy to use program was created by a team of designers, engineers, writers, teachers, homeschoolers, grandparents, project managers, and team players from all over the country. Though their backgrounds were diverse they all had one common goal, to develop a better online lesson planning program that met the needs of the modern day homeschool parent and classroom teacher. Each team member brought a unique view to the creation of Lessontrek. And in 2013 Lessontrek accomplished their goal and launched their amazing lesson planning program which offered easy lesson plans for all!

A moms review:
If you read our blog often then you know that we unschool and therefore I don't do any lesson planning or give my children grades. With that being said I am required by the state of Georgia to keep records for 3 years of what the children learned. Up until now I have had a very hard time with lesson planning and record keeping because I have yet to find a program that fits our family's needs. I have tried paper planners, computer software programs, online programs, spiral notebooks, mobile apps....you name it I have probably tried it. I even tried creating my own customized form. So when I was contacted by Lessontrek to review their online lesson planning program I was a little apprehensive. 

First let me tell you about the Lessontrek features then I will tell you how I utilized the program for our unschooling family and if it worked!

Lessontrek features:
Lessontrek is still fairly new so they are continually adding to their program to make it even better. Based on user feedback Lessontrek has several additions in the works including gradebooks, shared subjects across students, attendance tracking (I am really looking forward to this) and transcripts.
  • Lesson tracker - create detailed daily lesson plans for each subject.
  • Grade recording - use the "assignment feature" to create individual assignments for subjects. You can also indicate grade settings and hour requirements for subjects.
  • Drag and drop lessons to another weekday - easily move lessons to another day by dragging and dropping. 
  • Copy/paste individual daily lessons and weekly lessons - save time by using the copy/paste feature to easily recreate lessons across days or multiple weeks.
  • Print weekly lesson plans - print weekly lessons for children to utilize or for record keeping purposes.
This is what the printable version looks like.
  • Secure information storage - secure years of records online safely and securely
  • Customer support - get quick customer support when needed. And provide feedback on features you like, don't like or would like to see added.
  • Help feature - enable help feature to view info bubbles while learning to navigate Lessontrek.
  • Example student - view the example student to easily learn how to use Lessontrek.

How I used Lessontrek:
The first thing I fell in love with was how easy it was to use. The program is really simple and doesn't over complicate the process of creating lessons and assignments. There is lots of flexibility so you can utilize the program with virtually every homeschool and classroom method. In just minutes you will have your children and lessons set up.

Since we unschool I decided to use Lessontrek as a journal for recording what the children do each day. At the end of each day I simply add the subjects they covered along with a description of what they did for that subject. I even created a subject specifically for fieldtrips, since we do a lot of roadschooling. 

There is a very helpful "example student" which assists you in learning how use Lessontrek. After taking a few minutes to read over the "example student" lesson blocks I was ready to get started. 

First I created two student accounts. I simply clicked on the add student button and completed 2 simple steps. First I entered the child's name and chose a label color (I chose my children's favorite colors). Next I set up their grade level, school year dates and subjects. You can also set up grade report periods in this section too. I love that you can tailor the lesson planner to meet your needs by creating your own subject lists.



On the left side of the screen you can easily see and toggle between each student. To edit a students planner simply click on their name. To add lessons under each day click the little plus button at the top right corner of the lesson block. Then select a subject and add a description and assignment details if you wish. If you wish to copy a lesson to other days of the week just select the copy feature at the bottom of the lesson block. To copy an entire week select the copy week button, move to a different week and select paste. When you paste to another week you can select keep all, remove all or keep/remove individual daily lesson blocks. At this time you cannot copy and paste between students, I am hoping this feature is one that gets added soon because in our case there are a lot of things both children do together. Navigating between weeks and months is really easy thanks to the date timeline at the top of the planner. When you set up your student you can choose to have weekends be visible or hidden. Since we believe learning happens all the time (even on the weekends) I choose to have the weekends visible on our calendar.



And there you have it! I created a simple weekly record of what the children learned for a week and it only took me a few minutes each day. 

My favorite things:

I can't believe I am saying this, but I am pretty sure I have found a lesson planner that I will continue utilizing. And here is why....
  • It is easy to use and set up. 
  • It takes just minutes a day to record subjects and descriptions.
  • It offers flexibility and can be used in a variety of ways. Users receive excellent customer service and Lessontrek listens to user feedback.
  • It is affordable for everyone including one income homeschool families. 
  • It can easily be accessed from any computer and even most mobile devices. 
  • It worked pretty well on my Note 2, however there are a few glitches that need to be fixed to improve mobile capability.
  • It stores and archives records for each school year, which can easily be accessed at anytime.
  • It uses coloring coding for children and subjects.
  • It is great for homeschool and classroom use.
Freebies:
Sign up for a FREE 14 day trial to see for yourself how awesome Lessontrek is.

Links to follow:
-Lessontrek Facebook
-Lessontrek Twitter

Where to buy:
Lessontrek is very affordable and costs only $6 per month or $60 a year ($12 savings).

Limited time discount:
Through July 30th you can save 50% off a 1 year Lessontrek subscription. Use code:JULY50BLUE at checkout!

Now time for the giveaway:
One lucky winner will receive a 1-year membership to Lessontrek. Only the first entry is mandatory. Other entries are optional and give you extra chances. This giveaway is not affiliated with Facebook in any way. The winner will be posted on the blog and will be emailed. Winner must reply within 48 hrs with their contact information or another winner will be chosen. Prize will be emailed to the winner via Lessontrek.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway



Disclosure:
I was sponsored by Lessontrek to review their homeschool lesson planning tool and am excited to share my experience as well as an awesome giveaway!  All opinions are mine alone.  For more information please read my full disclosure page

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit Review

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for details.


Rainbow Bandz® is a company dedicated to providing top quality Rainbow Loom Kits which are very fun and beneficial to children. Rainbow Bandz believes in providing their customers with the best satisfaction and best quality in all aspects including  product performance, delivery and support.

A moms review:
A few weeks ago a special package arrived for my daughter. She had been dreaming of getting her very own loom kit since last Christmas. Loom kits were the hottest trend and were on every top 10 toy list for Christmas 2013. Sadly there was no loom under the tree. But her sweet friends provided her with lots of beautiful bracelets which she cherished.

When the packaged arrived I told her it was a present for her....a very belated Christmas present (who says you can't have Christmas in June). When she opened the package and saw what was inside she let out a huge squeal and immediately opened the Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit to get started.

The Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit comes in a lightweight, slim, sturdy black box. This made it very easy for Gwyn to tote it around with her where ever she went, which she totally did. Inside there is an organizer which holds the hook with base opener, durable plastic loom, 24 C-clips, 600 colorful silicone latex free rubber bands, and instruction manual. You can make up to 28 colorful and durable bracelets, necklaces, rings and more. It is recommended for children ages 4 and up.


The instruction manual is easy to follow and provides step by step written instructions and clear close up photos for creating a "single" pattern bracelet. These are the ones Gwyn made the most of. She is 8 years old and was able to read the instructions all on her own. Also included in the manual are tips, pointers, how to for the mini rainbow bandz tool and even a pattern map for creating more intricate designs. We haven't quite figured out the other design options yet.

With this kit you can make single and wide pattern bracelets and you can even combine multiple loom sets together to make even longer and wider combinations. Short combinations make fun rings and longer combinations make crazy necklaces.

This is a great kit for beginners and experts. It helps children develop their dexterity, mental and cognitive skills while having fun and being creative. And the completed creations make great gifts too!

Gwyn sometimes has an issue with keeping herself entertained and unfortunately I hear the words "mom I'm bored" out of her mouth way too much. But thanks to the Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit she has found something that keeps her busy for hours and fosters her creative spirit too.

Gwyns review (age 8):
I love my Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit . I made lots of gifts for friends and my family. Mommy wears here bracelets all the time. I like that I can take it with me in the car to keep me busy on trips.

Where to buy:
You can purchase a Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit on Amazon currently for $9.99. Each kit comes with a complete 90-day no hassle free replacement guarantee. They make a great gift for any occasion.


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
 
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