I’m pretty sure that it’s a commonality among homeschool moms that when we’re shopping for Christmas, birthdays, and other gift giving times, we love to find items that are both fun AND educational! (Can I get a witness?!) Well, I hit the jackpot when I found out about UGears last Christmas, and boy-oh-boy, I’m so excited to tell you about this company and the cool stuff they’ve got.
Originally from the Ukraine, UGears specializes in creating mechanical model kits. So, think of something like model airplanes or a ship in a bottle, except way cooler, because there are working parts and things that go!
UGears are made from quality wooden materials and go together without any glue. Clear step-by-step instructions walk you through the assembly process. One part puzzle, one part engineering marvel, each UGears model offers the fun and challenge of creating a moving item that is fun to play with and makes an interesting decorative piece as well. These 3D models are really interesting to put together because you get to see the inner workings of the piece, often including gears, pendulums, and other machinery parts.
UGears offers a wide range of models, ranging from items simple enough for younger kids on up to items that would be challenging for adults, or perfect for dad to put together with the kids!
We have several UGears pieces in our home now, so I wanted to share with you our experience with them.
UGears U-Fidget Tribiks This is one of the sets that I purchased for Christmas last year. There are four different miniature models that are fun for holding in your hand and spinning around a bit. They were pretty easy for my 14 year old son to put together in a short amount of time. They are a good starter project for kids (recommended age is 14+ but my son and I both think younger kids could make these) and make a cool little display on a shelf. They don’t do a whole lot, but it is fun to see the gears move and work together. UGears Dynamometer
This is the other model that I got for my son for Christmas. I selected this because it looked interesting but not too difficult for assembly. (It is rated Easy and is recommended for ages 14+) The Dynamometer uses the same principle as a pneumatic engine, and includes a lot of gears and the mechanical junction known as a Geneva drive. Pretty neat!
UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car We were excited to get the Grand Prix Car from UGears recently, and my son (now 15 years old) had fun putting together this more complex model. The inner assembly of this car is really interesting, with a 16 valve V8 engine and fan, a transmission that can switch between gears, and many more fascinating features! The wheels are rubberized to give it extra grip as it rolls along, too. It’s a beautiful and eye-catching piece to have on display, and after spending nearly 10 hours assembling it, it is something my son enjoys and feels a sense of pride and accomplishment about.
All of our models have been fairly sturdy, but of course they are not meant for rough play. While they all do “go,” the ones we have are not self-propelled. You can definitely enjoy and appreciate the movement of the working parts, and the nicely-designed finished product to have on display.
To us, the assembly process has been a really fun experience. If your kids can follow Lego instructions, they can work with UGears, while gaining valuable perspective on the way gears and other mechanical pieces can work together to make things do what they do. To end up with an attractive keepsake at the end makes it even better! I think UGears would be wonderful for homeschool families because it’s one of those fun-while-learning items that you can provide for your children as a true delight-directed educational opportunity. I also think the more complex models would make great gifts for dads that would enjoy working with the kids on a project like this in the evenings or weekends.
Overall, I highly recommend UGears as a wonderful option for educational fun and gift-giving!
Here’s a great video showing off some other great UGears products:
This review and giveaway have been sponsored by UGears. Opinions expressed in the review are my own.
Today I am really excited to tell you about a cool opportunity for you! My friend Ana Willis from They Call Me Blessed recently found out that many of her readers were interested in teaching their kids Hebrew, which Ana happens to know quite well! She has lived in Israel, two of her children were born in Jerusalem, she has studied Hebrew and has degrees in theology, Biblical studies, Jewish studies, and more.
Well, we have a golden opportunity, because Ana decided to offer a class series for homeschoolers that want to learn beginning Hebrew! The course will cover things like
the Hebrew alphabet
Bible verses in Hebrew
This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for homeschool families, and it’ll work for all ages, anytime you want to watch, at one price for the whole family. Live classes via video will be offered, but you can always watch replays if you can’t be there at specific class times.
If you’d like to check it out, you can see the simple registration form and instructions here. As a special bonus to those that register for this class through my referral link, I’m offering a fun Bonus Gift! Register by April 15, 2018 by clicking here, and I’ll be giving you our Books of Moses Fine Art Pages collection for FREE. This whopping 44-piece collection of art coordinates with stories in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, and offers a valuable and intriguing look into how artists throughout history depicted creation, the flood, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, the life of Abraham, and much more! This collection normally sells for $14.95, but will be my gift to you. Simply shoot me an email after you register for the Hebrew class, and I’ll hook you up. 🙂 Erica@EnrichmentStudies.com
One of the things I’ve loved about being a part of a homeschool support group is that my kids have had opportunities to take part in regular school experiences like competitive sports teams, proms, groups classes, yearbooks, clubs, and graduations. Last year our third child, Jacob, graduated, and it was our first experience with a homeschool graduation ceremony. I was so impressed at how lovely and meaningful it was! All of the graduating seniors were decked out in cap, gown, and tassels, and received diplomas, and I loved that it was in no way a second-rate experience for them!
With three remaining high schoolers to graduate from our homeschool, I was delighted when Homeschool Diploma wanted to send me some of their products to review! I noticed during our senior year, many parents in our group did not know where or how to find graduation supplies for their homeschooled senior, and I ended up kind of cobbling together items helter-skelter, so I know this is a common need. Being able to see the large assortment of options, and experience the quality of the products available at Homeschool Diploma has been impressive, and I am so excited to share about this with you!
Homeschool Diploma offers all the supplies and products you need for your seniors, from the actual diplomas and diploma covers, to caps and gowns, announcements and Thank You cards, gifts, and even class rings! If you’ll have a graduate within the next four years, you will definitely want to get in on this.
The first item I got to check out was a beautiful customized diploma. Since I don’t have a graduating senior this year, I made one up for a friend of ours, and it really turned out lovely. You can choose from really nice standard, simple diplomas for as little as $29.99, or choose from many different options to create a more personalized keepsake that reflects your homeschool and student.
The one we got has the graduate’s name and school name on the front cover, a beautiful engraved seal, a Bible verse, and a diploma cover tassel.
It’s wonderful quality and I love how it offers parents the opportunity to convey their joy and accomplishment in graduating their child in ways that reflect their own style and personality.
In addition to the diploma, we also opted to get an extra, archive copy of the diploma. This is great so that your graduate can take their actual diploma with them, but mom and dad can keep a spare copy for their records in case it’s ever needed. It’s high-quality and enclosed in a clear, archive envelope to protect it.
We were also able to get a cap, gown, and tassel set, which is a must-have for any graduation ceremony. Homeschool Diploma offers two fabric types (matte or shiny) and a wide variety of colors. Gowns are sized by height, so it’s quick and easy to choose one that’s right for you. Plus sizes are also available. I was really pleased to see that the quality of the gown is quite nice. The fabric has a soft, comfortable feel and a nice weight and drape, and the zipper works smoothly and feels like it is good quality. The cap is also well-made and sturdy.
I especially liked the charm on the tassel, which is a good weight and definitely feels like a quality keepsake, and not some cheaply made trinket. Certainly you could save and reuse these caps and gowns for future graduates in your family.
The final item I was able to check out was the personalized notecards. We opted for a navy blue card with Matthew’s name in gold on the front. The paper used for these notecards is a nice weight and quality. These cards are perfect for post-graduation thank you notes, as well as an ongoing stash of personalized stationery as your student goes on to further education, job interviews, and so on. Since the cards are completely navy blue, you will want to get a white gel roll pen to use with them, and thoughtfully, Homeschool Diploma offers one for a nominal fee.
All-in-all, my impression of everything that I got to experience from Homeschool Diploma was care and quality. Each item is something I would be so pleased to use with my own graduates, knowing that every item is well-made and high-quality and reflective of our excitement at having reached this milestone with our child!
Any Christian homeschoolers that spend time on social media have surely heard of The Good and the Beautiful by now. This relative newcomer to the homeschool curriculum scene has been quickly accepted as a favorite by many, and is known for their integration of fine arts into their materials, which I know is a special interest for Enrichment Studies readers, so I’m always eager to check out their materials and see what might be of interest to my peeps. When The Good and the Beautiful asked me to review their Creative Writing Notebook and their Nature Notebook, it was an easy yes from me! They have generously sponsored this review.
Creative Writing Notebook
The beautiful Creative Writing notebook does a terrific job of leading children through various aspects of creative writing in a way that is engaging and interesting. Designed for students in grades 4-12, my own high schoolers have been using this on all the days when I didn’t have something else planned for their writing. Even without my involvement, my students can easily move forward onto the next writing activity and they have enjoyed it.
This 89-page spiral notebook includes five sections:
Descriptive Writing Practice
I like how simply and effectively the student is guided on how to develop and improve their writing. The subtlety of it makes it feel less like school work, and more like a guided writing journal, which I think is wonderful for so many kids. I have reluctant writers and dyslexic kids, so this is an area we have struggled in. I’m happy to say that with the Creative Writing Notebook, I’ve seen each of my remaining high schoolers improve in their writing skills AND enjoy it! Pretty awesome!
Enrichment Studies families and others that value the integration of the arts into other subjects will appreciate that writing poetry and the process to get you there is included in this book. There are also several works of art included in this book that are used as jumping off points for observation, description, writing poems, and other aspects of writing development.
This is one of my favorite things that we’ve been using this school year, and I feel you really can’t go wrong with it for any child that is ready and able to do some writing. The fact that it’s presented so simply and in a non-intimidating way is a plus, and it doesn’t run on a lot of Mom Power, which I know we can all appreciate. It’s very affordable, at just $14.99, and will work with all learning styles.
One final note: The Good and the Beautiful is a non-denominational Christian program, but I found that the Creative Writing Notebook does not add in religious or spiritual messages. With the possible exception of the first page, it stays focused on writing skills alone, which makes this a great option for all families, including those that prefer to share spiritual beliefs with their children on their own, rather than with educational materials. As always, The Good and the Beautiful materials are wholesome with no objectionable or inappropriate content. It is well-done and stays on topic in an appropriate and professional way.
Nature Study is a popular buzzword in homeschool communities, and Charlotte Mason circles in particular. Whether you are already spending time in nature study, or if (like me) you kind of don’t understand where to start or what to do, you will love the Nature Notebook from The Good and the Beautiful.
This 117-page spiral bound nature notebook makes it fun and easy to get into nature study! Sections are divided by the four seasons (plus one Any Time section) and there are clear activities suggested for you to do, such as leaf collection or drawing, scavenger hunts done on a nature walk, description prompts (seamlessly pulling writing skills into the process), drawing and observation prompts, tie-ins with poetry and illustration, collection ideas (Seeds, rocks, flowers, leaves, etc.), and much more.
True Confession: I have always loved the idea of getting the kids out in nature, but honestly never understood what purposeful thing we were supposed to “do” aside from just take a walk and see things that we might talk about, etc. Having these suggested activities is a terrific way to get started and get over that hump of not really knowing what to do. The fact that you can jump around from one activity prompt to another is handy for families since it flexes with your needs and wishes. You can easily let the children pick what they’d like to do for your outing, and there is plenty that the kids can do as self-led nature study right in your own back yard! I also appreciate that there are plenty of things in the Nature Notebook that you can do indoors. Whether you have weather or personal needs that keep you inside, you can definitely keep going and let nature study be a part of your everyday school life.
Any age child can use this notebook, and you could use a fresh Nature Notebook year after year, since the observations you make and collections you form, etc. will be fresh and different. I also appreciate that you don’t have to finish this in one year. If you aren’t avid nature walkers, if you’re having a baby and not able to get out much this year, or simply had nature study fall of your radar for awhile, each child can still enjoy and treasure their Nature Notebook over several years and get so much out of it!
One aspect of the Nature Notebook that I found myself questioning was that there are some nature “scrapbooking” type activities suggestions that I am not sure how they would practically work. For example, gluing leaves onto pages seem like they would make it hard for the book to close, the leaves would eventually dry and get crushed and make a mess, etc. The bark rubbing activity seems like it has great potential to get the book pages ripped and would be awkward to accomplish with the page still attached to the book. I love the inclusion of these activities, but I think I would copy those particular pages on my home scanner/printer and provide a fresh stand-alone page for the kids to do those activities on instead. A 9×12 plastic storage box might be a perfect spot to store your Nature Notebook, plus all collections, nature treasures, and three-dimensional projects where they are more protected and can be enjoyed again and again.
Like the Creative Writing Notebook, the Nature Notebook doesn’t directly include any religious elements, so this is an item that will work for all families and all ages. The Nature Notebook sells for just $12.
Get The Good and the Beautiful annual reading list for FREE!
Each year The Good and the Beautiful publishes a popular reading list, and subscribers to their newsletter can get it for FREE! They also sometimes give away freebies, so this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss a thing. You can subscribe on their home page by clicking here.
You can read my other review of The Good and the Beautiful here:
It seems like kids always love arts and crafts, and the new trend of stone painting is super popular and so fun for all ages! What’s more–you can really elevate the crafty side of this activity and use it across all areas of learning! I was incredibly inspired when I got to readthrough the book Stone Painting for Kids and saw so many possibilities for homeschoolers to mesh the creative with the academic! Read on for lots of creative learning inspiration, sponsored by Dover Publications.
Included in the book are ideas like:
Geometric shapes (teach your young kids colors and shapes!)
Numbers (early learning and math opportunities)
Letters (early reading, spelling, and writing opportunities)
Faces (including fun cartoon styles that kids will love learning)
Mushrooms (SO cute!)
Dominoes (yes! You can make your own dominoes game!)
Shell painting (fish, butterflies, and more!)
Chess sets (make your own set and then learn to play!)
Multi-pebble rabbits and other animals and people
Words (make sentences, poetry, verses, inspiration pieces, and more!)
Flowers (combine with your nature studies!)
Houses and Vehicles (you can make a whole town scene and create vehicles to cruise around!)
Memory Match game! (perfect for your young kids)
Sky scenes (including the solar system!)
Animals of all sorts
Chalkboard paint stones
Washi taped stones
Math and counting game ideas
Scenes and themes you can make
The tons of photos of painted stones and the process to create them are wonderful, and really help you understand the steps you’ll need to take to make something similar yourself. I really like it that stone painting can be as simple as your preschooler would need it to be, but also complex enough to challenge and excite high schoolers and adults.
I spent a few enjoyable hours painting stones with the help of this book, and was delighted to see that even someone like me, that doesn’t have great original ideas for thinking something up, could replicate some of these adorable concepts and end up with a fun little treasure to enjoy!
My favorite items that I successfully made were a sleeping fox, a cute birdie, a ladybug, and a pink and purple A to give to my little granddaughter whose name starts with A.
The other thing I super loved about this book is all of the inspiration to enjoy the creative side of this process, but then use the creations in the learning process in your home. Imagine how fun it would be for your kids to paint stones with letters and numbers, and later use those to learn sounds and math! You could work together with your younger children to paint simple stones with just one color per stone, and end up with a wonderful set where you could practice sequencing! For older kids, you could make a solar system set of painted stones, or write out one word per stone from a piece of poetry or Bible verse that you’re memorizing, and enjoy putting them into the right order or creating displays. History lessons can be enhanced by painting stones with homes from different cultures and eras. Nature study can be enjoyed on a rainy or too-cold day by painting stones in ways that remind you of things you’ve seen in your nature walks! Truly, the possibilities are endless, and this book is a wonderful resource for inspiring you and helping you get started.
The author, F. Sehnaz Bac, is a stone paint artist who sells her creations on Etsy, and in this book she takes us by the hand and provides all of the basic advice on how to get started with stone painting, such as choosing stones and preparing them, what materials you can use to paint and decorate them, technique tips, and more. I appreciated that the information in the book was straightforward and to-the-point, and that the step-by-step instructions were helpful without being tedious.
I was pleased to find that art supplies I already had on hand worked great for my stone painting project! The only thing I purchased for this project was a container of craft stones from Walmart for under $5. (They had bags of sea shells available, too!) Other than that, I used the acrylic paints and the paint brushes that I shared about in this post, plus my collection of sharpie markers and a white sharpie paint marker. Easy peasy!
History is a tricky thing. On the one hand, we’ve got the well-known, “front burner” historical facts and figures that most of us learn growing up. But then there’s all the less-well-known aspects of history that are just as true, just as valuable, yet often hidden from most people as they learn about all the things that brought us to the place we are today.
When I started Enrichment Studies many years ago, right away I noticed the lack of women and people of color in the arts, and that put me on a path of questioning and discovery. Were there any women or non-white people creating music and art through the ages? I learned that the answer was yes! But why don’t we hear more about them? Why haven’t their contributions earned a spot in the history books? If we only look at the surface, it would be easy to think that so many things have come to us solely through the talents and innovations of white men. Indeed, due to the social structures and conquests of the past, white men have often been in the best position to create and innovate, but they are not the only ones that have. Home educators and involved, mindful parents can reclaim the fullness of history for ourselves and our children by digging deeper and learning more than just the surface level with helpful resources like the ones Tamara Shiloh has created in her Just Imagine….What If There Were No Black People In the World book series. Affiliate links are used in this post.
This book caught my attention one day, because the topic matches two we focus on at Enrichment Studies: Inventors and Scientists. I also liked it because this fits in with my desire to help bring about a broader awareness of our diverse history to the homeschool community. I have had the privilege of speaking to Mrs. Shiloh on the phone a few times, and was so excited when she agreed to have me review these books for you. She is also generously sponsoring a giveaway, so be sure to enter at the bottom of this post!
In this sweet story, a young boy named Jaxon is taken on a magical adventure, thanks to his grandmother’s necklace and his curious mind. When he asks himself one day, “What if there were no Black people in the world?” he is taken on a journey of discovery about how his everyday life would be impacted without the many inventions and scientific advancements that were created by the men and women of color that came before him. As I kept learning about these remarkable people, I was filled with gratitude for being able to learn about them, and also filled with a desire to make sure other families get to learn about this too. This isn’t just a book for Black families, although certainly people of color will want to add this delightful book to their collection. But this is a book for every family that truly values history and wants their children to grow up with a broader awareness of our collective human story, and wants to be purposeful in fostering a curious mindset and appreciation for the diversity that is woven into our everyday lives. In the book, one of the inventors says to Jaxon, “We’re your history, and history never goes away.” We have an opportunity to make sure the history and accomplishments of all people is not swept aside and hidden from our awareness, if we are willing to. Change starts at home, and every family has the power to foster greater awareness, compassion, and appreciation for our fellow humans.
In addition to the main storybook, there are three wonderful companion books in the series, so far. Jaxon’s Journal reinforces the information from the main book, while also inspiring kids to create their own journals about things they have learned. Jaxon’s Black History Coloring Book includes the many inventions and scientific advancements from the main book, plus many more. It’s a perfect addition to the book, and provides an activity for younger siblings and students who love to get out their crayons and colored pencils! Jaxon’s Black History Activity Book includes word scrambles, crossword puzzles, word puzzles and games, reading and writing activities about the inventors and scientists, and more. All together this set will provide a lot of fun, historical richness, and reinforcement for your children. It is perfect for a unit study for homeschoolers, or a starting point for research projects. Due to the nice range of materials included in this bundle, I think children from K-high school could certainly appreciate the content, with the elementary and middle school ages probably being most ideal. These books are available at TamaraShiloh.com as well as through Amazon Prime.
Author Tamara Shiloh is on a mission to educate about Black History year-round, and has many other books in this series coming soon! You can look forward to sharing with your children about Black women that were instrumental in science and inventions, Black cowboys, Black people involved in aviation and astronomy atNASA and beyond, and more.