Monday, January 22, 2018

RE-vibe Anti-Distraction Wristwear: Our Review

I am not employed by the FokusLabs company, nor have I been asked by them to write this review. I am receiving no compensation or free products from the company to write this review.

Do you have a child who struggles with paying attention?

Does your child have difficulty focusing on their school work?

Is your child easily distracted and often getting off-task?

If so, you're definitely not alone! Big Brother, though we have never sought out an official medical diagnosis, is one of the many children who struggle with symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

To help him thrive despite these struggles, we have used many helpful solutions (restricting food dyes, using visual daily schedules and lists, providing motivation and incentives, teaching time management skills, etc.). He is always changing, so we are always using trial and error and coming up with new solutions.

Over Christmas break, my mom, who specializes in working with children who have learning differences and has studied ADD/ADHD issues extensively, introduced me to the RE-vibe ™ Anti-Distraction Wristwear device as something that might be helpful to Big Brother.

Re-vibe ™ is a specially designed vibrating reminder device created by FokusLabs in an effort to help children who have a hard time paying attention get back on-task.

The device is worn on the wrist like a watch, but it has no distracting displays and is silent. Depending on the severity of the child's distraction at any given time, the RE-vibe ™ can be set to one of four different modes. Each mode setting gives the child gentle vibration reminders at a different reminder frequency. The reminders are designed so that the child does not simply dismiss or get accustomed to them.

For the Re-vibe ™ to be helpful, the child should be taught to stop and ask him/her self "Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? " every time they feel a vibration reminder. If the child is on-task, he/she should keep up the good work! If not, the vibration is a gentle reminder to get back on track.

So now the big question:


I will admit, at first I was slightly skeptical that this device was going to help very much. Big Brother has worn his RE-vibe ™ during school time for over two weeks now. He only wears it until school assignments are finished for the day so as not to have it interfering with his free time in the evenings.

I asked Big Brother if he felt like the RE-vibe ™ had been helpful, but he said he really wasn't sure. So we sat down at the end of the first two weeks with the device to take a look at what he had been able to accomplish.

We were both pleasantly surprised!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say.

He was shocked when I showed him that in the two weeks he has worn this device, he has been able to complete an astounding amount of school work! We realized that Big Brother has very successfully completed in just TWO weeks the amount of work that had been taking him at least THREE weeks to accomplish so far this year!

THEN, we realized that his success was actually even more astounding, because during these two weeks we had actually taken two unplanned days completely off from school due to sickness AND we had been back and forth to no less than four of my OBGYN appointments.

So once we looked at the big picture, we realized that, indeed, the RE-vibe ™ device has most certainly been helpful!

These devices are available with different styles and colors of wristbands. We chose NOT to get the Velcro band because we thought the Velcro might prove to be a distraction of its own (if you have an easily distracted child, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about!).

We plan to continue using the RE-vibe ™ to help my son stay focused. I would definitely recommend it to anyone else who has a child with similar struggles.

Learn more and order your own RE-vibe ™ device on Amazon!

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission anytime you place an order using these links at absolutely no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Homeschool Morning Basket November 2017

Since the beginning of this pregnancy, we had kind of slacked off on doing much of a real "morning basket" or "morning time" routine in our homeschool. But we have missed it very much, so I have decided to bring the morning basket idea back!

Our morning basket routine will change some from month to month, and some days it may look totally different from another. But I want to share what is currently working to help start our homeschool day off right.

With the 6 year age gap between Big Brother and Little Brother, my goal is to make morning time something that they can both benefit from and enjoy together.

Morning Music

I have gotten back into the habit of turning on a music CD when we get up in the morning. It really helps us wake up and greet the day on a more positive note. A few days this week we have listened to a Christmas album by The Singing Echoes (a family Gospel group we were able to see in concert recently), and this morning we pulled out the ABeka Sing Unto the Lord 4th Grade CD and listened to the hymns and choruses designated for the month of November. We keep the music playing through morning chores and breakfast.


We are privileged as Americans and homeschoolers to have the freedom to begin our school day with prayer and worship. And the day just goes so much smoother when we exercise that "privilege to carry everything to God in prayer." (Joseph Scriven - "What a Friend")


We also have the privilege to build the education of our children on the sure foundation of God's Word.

While Big Brother is working independently through his ACE Bible Reading PACEs daily, I also want to start our day with some Bible time together.

A couple days this week I have chosen to read the boys a short Scripture related to thankfulness. This morning I asked Big Brother if he had anything he had been learning in his own Bible reading that he wanted to share. So today he shared with us that he had learned where the longest and shortest verses in the Bible are located (Esther 8:9 & John 11:25 respectively) and read them to us. Then we went down a short rabbit trail because Esther 8:9 referred to the Persian kingdom stretching from India to Ethiopia so we had to grab the globe and show this area to Little Brother.

For Little Brother I pulled out a sweet little book called Bible Forget-Me-Nots that features beautiful pictures, short stories, and poems to help with learning short KJV verses. We read about Jesus and the children and discussed Luke 18:16.


Next for Little Brother, I quickly handed him a capital letter A flashcard and a lowercase letter a flashcard (these came from ABeka) and let Big Brother help introduce each one to him. He already knows most letter names, but I think a quick reminder each morning might be helpful to him.

Then we worked on a ten-sentence oral exercise from our ABeka Oral Language Exercises booklet. I love this book! It teaches good grammar skills so gently, and it is so easy to implement. The exercises are perfect for any age, so both boys can participate in repeating the quick sentences aloud.

Zoo Animal

Our boys both LOVE animals, so I thought some type of animal study might be fun for them to do together. We have Answers in Genesis's Zoo Guide: A Bible-Based Handbook to the Zoo, and the boys were delighted to start reading through it one animal at a time. The book is spiral bound, and each two-page spread features a full-color picture of the animal and a page of interesting facts about it.


With Thanksgiving coming up soon, I wanted to include an interesting read-aloud book related to this season. So we are reading Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving a few pages at a time. This book is so well-written and beautifully illustrated that both boys can enjoy it.

U.S. Presidents & States

This last part of our morning time was at Big Brother's request. He wants to learn the names of the U.S. Presidents in order and relearn all the states and capitals.

So I included one flashcard for each in our morning basket. I just say the name of the President or state and the boys take turns repeating them. Little Brother is such a good copy cat right now, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ends up memorizing these right along with Big Brother!

Once our morning time is over, Big Brother gets started on his school goals for the day, Little Brother heads off to play, and I pretty much grab some water and go put my feet up to rest for a while. For now this simple morning basket routine is working nicely for us. Eventually I hope to change it up and include some different books and activities.

Do you do a morning basket or other special morning routine in your homeschool? I would love to hear your ideas!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Homeschooling Through Pregnancy

The student body at Shield of Faith Homeschool is growing: we will soon be adding a new student!

At this writing, I am almost 6 months pregnant with our third child, Baby Sister. Since this is my second time homeschooling through a pregnancy, I thought I would share a few tips and insights on how we have made it work.

While some women seem to love pregnancy and go on and on about how great they felt... that's not me!

For me "morning sickness" is more like "24 hours a day sickness," and I suffer from symphysis pubis dysfunction (which is just long, fancy words for "it hurts to move...a lot"). I swell up like a balloon, I get terrible migraines, I always feel so tired, and I am at risk of developing both gestational diabetes and pre-ecclampsia (I had both with Little Brother).

I am thankful my body has no real problem with making and carrying healthy babies, but it definitely does not like me very much along the way.

So how does homeschooling happen when mommy is expecting?

Independent Learning

So if you followed us last school year, you know we used a very teacher-heavy unit study curriculum. It involved lots of time spent reading aloud, learning together, and doing many really neat hands on projects. It was absolutely awesome, and I am SO glad we took last year to do that!

And I am equally glad that even before this pregnancy began I had already made the decision to switch gears and use a student-led program this year for 4th grade so Big Brother could take more control of his own school day.

It has been such a blessing! He has his own dedicated work space (we call it his office) where he does the majority of his work. Each morning he sets his daily goals for each subject and writes them on a goal card. The goal card is posted in front of him in his office, and he marks them off as they are completed.

Many mornings he gets up and gets started before I am even up and moving around. He has realized that the faster he gets started on his goals the sooner they are met and he can move on with his day (reading, doing LEGO projects, watching documentaries, playtime with Little Brother, etc.).

This system works for Big Brother now because he is 9 and has matured so much in the past 3-4 years.

It played out a little differently when I was pregnant with Little Brother, although I still used independent learning to help us get through it.

At that time, Big Brother was 5/6 years old and still needed me to be involved a lot in his school work. But it was at that time that I discovered the workbox system, and it literally saved my sanity and our school that year! I would put everything he needed to accomplish that day into separate boxes, and he would work through them one at a time until he was done. I often put independent activities in his workboxes (art or coloring, alphabet and number puzzles, educational DVDs to watch, etc.) to give myself some much needed breaks and help him get used to working a little on his own.

As for Little Brother, I have allowed him a lot of independence, too. He is 3 1/2 so I am stepping back and not pushing too many "schoolish" activities on him right now. He starts each day immediately grabbing his cowboy hat, boots, and bandana and declaring himself to be The Lone Ranger. He has pretty much free reign of the living room where he pretends, colors, plays with LEGOs and toy trains, and knows how to work the DVD player on his own if he wants to watch The Lone Ranger or Thomas the Train or VeggieTales or whatever while he plays.

Most days I try to find a time when I feel well enough to engage Little Brother in reading a book with me, counting, recognizing letters, working on simple chores together etc. But I have found what he really needs most from me right now is lots of hugs and reassurance that Mommy is going to be OK. He has sensed a lot of the stress and the changes, and I want him to be able to just relax and play as much as possible.

Accept Help

This is SO hard for us moms! We want to be superwomen and prove we can do it all on our own. But I think sometimes the Lord allows these rough times in our lives to teach us that we have to lean on Him and the people He places in our lives.

Mornings are especially hard for me. On days my husband is able to be home, he let's me stay in bed, gets the boys started with their day, and brings me breakfast. He has taken a few extra weekdays off here and there throughout my pregnancy just so he could be here to lighten my load. And because he graduated from a school that used the same curriculum Big Brother has this year, he is really comfortable with helping him with his school work if he needs it.

Most mornings my husband is at work, and Big Brother has been so faithful to bring me a simple breakfast in bed almost every morning and makes sure Little Brother gets his breakfast, too. He feels so grown up and useful, and it really blesses me to not have to immediately get up and rush around in the morning.

While I try to do some very light house work on days I don't feel like a total mess (those days are few and far between, no joke), Big Brother and my husband pretty well do most of what house work gets done. And I am not letting myself stress about it. No, our house doesn't look like it belongs on a magazine cover by any stretch of the imagination (honestly, it never has looked that good!), but some things just are not important right now.

This is also a point at which being a second generation homeschooler with a mom who knows the ropes and lives just ten minutes down the road definitely has its perks! Two mornings a week she takes Big Brother to her house where she works with him on Spelling, Kentucky History, and United States History. He gets some great hands on, one on one focused learning time, and I don't have to feel stressed to put it all together. She makes him lunch while he's there, and that helps a lot, too. She is also available to take him to his piano lessons or drive us to appointments as needed.

While you may not have the luxury of delegating certain subjects to a veteran homeschool grandma, you might find it helpful to reach out to another homeschool mom nearby for help. Perhaps a homeschooled teen in your area would like to get some experience as a mother's helper or tutor. Don't feel the least bit guilty for taking advantage of whatever help is available to you right now!


This is where it is important to have your priorities straight.

My goal right now is mainly survival. If we all make it through the day alive, that is worth calling an accomplishment.

If I am not able to do every neat project or spend hours planning out detailed lessons or cooking fancy meals: so be it. At least my children are learning to take some responsibility for themselves. That's got to count for something.

Pregnancy is a time in a woman's life where she really has to make herself a priority. Taking care of myself is taking care of my baby.

It Will Pass

Pregnancy, no matter how long and rough it may be while it lasts, never lasts forever.

Baby Sister will make her arrival one way or another, and this relatively short chapter of our lives will be over.

The postpartum period will bring its own challenges, and then our family will gradually settle into a new "normal."

So that is my goal right now: to make it through this pregnancy with my family and I in one piece and then to enjoy the sweet, cuddly little reward at the end!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

There is No "Best" Curriculum

As a member of quite a few homeschooling groups on Facebook, I cannot tell you how many times a day I see moms posting in these groups asking pretty much the same question:

What is the best curriculum for x grade? or We are going to start homeschooling this year. Where do we start and what is the best curriculum for us to use?

Now don't get me wrong, I fully understand that these moms are mostly looking for helpful suggestions. And it is wonderful for moms in these groups to share ideas.

But there is really no way to give a satisfactory answer to these kinds of questions.

Because, quite frankly, there is no "best" curriculum.

I say this for several reasons.

Every Family is Different

Every family has a different dynamic, different convictions, and different needs.

Some families might be interested in a curriculum that will allow them to combine a wide age range of students for several subjects.

Some moms might have plenty of time and energy to devote to a more elaborate, teacher-led learning experience while others really need their children to be mostly independent in their school work.

Different families run on different schedules due to work or other outside responsibilities. Some homeschool curricula are better suited for one family's schedule than another's.

It is also important that you choose curriculum that aligns as closely as possible with your family's values, convictions, and doctrinal beliefs.

These are all things that can vary widely from one family to the next, and all will play a major role in choosing homeschool curriculum.

Every Child is Different

Even within the same family, what works for one child may not work at all for their siblings.

My brother and I were a good example of this. I was the type of learner who said "Just give me the book and let me read it, answer the questions, write the long reports, and take the tests." My brother on the other hand was the learner who said "Let me choose all my own books and projects, reenact what I am learning in play, make my own costumes, and do all my own stunts."

Obviously when you have such stark differences in learning styles, there is not going to be a "one size fits all" curriculum solution.

Every Subject is Different

Your child might be like me. Growing up, I dearly loved my ABeka Science and History textbooks, but ABeka's math was a disaster for me. Or as another example, while my son has enjoyed using Rod & Staff's math for the past 3 years, we are not the least bit interested in using Rod & Staff for History.

Very few homeschoolers I know use one curriculum across the board for their entire learning experience. It is totally OK, and often quite beneficial, to mix and match according to individual needs.

Every School Year is Different

That program or method that worked wonders for your homeschool this year might very well have you pulling your hair out the next. Why is that?

Because all the time you, your family, and your students are growing and changing.

Schedules change and routines need to be tweaked. New babies come along or grow up to be new students. Activities and interests come and go. The needs of each child change as they grow and mature. Homeschooling is a life thing, and life is always changing. I am thankful God says His mercies are new every morning, because every day definitely brings new needs and changes in our lives as a homeschool family!

I know this may not necessarily satisfy the new mom who is totally overwhelmed by all the multitudes of curriculum options, methods, schedules, and philosophies out there in the wide world of homeschooling. But the best answer I can give is to say:

1. Do lots of research
2. Jump in and try new things
3. Keep what works/Dump what doesn't
4. Repeat #1-3 as often as needed!

Just remember, almost any curriculum out there can be the "best" for you. The key is to keep your end goal in mind and view whatever curriculum or methods you choose as tools rather than masters.

Always focus on teaching the child rather than teaching the curriculum.

So what are your thoughts? Is there one "best" curriculum for everyone? Are you in the process of seeking out the "best" curriculum for your family? I would love to hear from you!