The Waikiki Aquarium Critter Encounter

IMG_0654I have lived on Oahu for over 9 years and somehow I’ve never made a trip to the Waikiki Aquarium… until now. When Moms In Hawaii reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing the Critter Encounter at the Waikiki Aquarium, I jumped at the opportunity. Our family has participated in reef walks twice, visited the Living Art Marine Center a few times, and we regularly explore the creatures in our local Hawaiian waters. So I guess you could say I wasn’t expecting to learn much new information on this visit to the aquarium. My girls were excited, of course, but I figured we wouldn’t be adding much to the base knowledge we’ve acquired over the years of these little critters. Fortunately, I was very, very wrong!

IMG_0662Mary, our critter connoisseur and guide, met us soon after our arrival and escorted us to the touch pools. As we walked she spoke a little about the aquarium’s two resident seals, stopping to let the girls watch them swim around. She answered all of Bean’s questions then continued to lead us to the touch pools tucked away at the back of the park. We felt quite special being led into the “Authorized Personnel Only” area, which by the way, highlighted the beauty of the location. Just look at that view! Aquarium trip followed by beach day, anyone?

Once inside, Mary took a few minutes to give Bean and Bella a little teaser about what they would be seeing during our encounter and the rules they’d need to follow. She went over what kinds of critters they’d be allowed to touch, hold, and even feed. She primed their little brains quite well and didn’t just tell them the basics, but instead spoke about the details, what made the critters alike and different. Next, clearly knowing how intimidating it might be for a child to get up the nerve to touch at a living sea urchin, she showed them a shell and spines while explaining that they had once been a part of a living sea urchin.


Bean touched the shell of a sea urchin, as well as a fallen spine. Mary showed how the spine was once attached to the urchin.

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Logic of English: Essentials 2nd Edition Review

Some days I really realize just how very blessed I am. Every time I pull out our Essentials manual I am reminded that I was blessed by Logic of English with the opportunity to review it. After I posted my review of their Foundations program I was approached to join their affiliate program and was later given a special opportunity to receive a copy of the NEW Essentials 2nd edition Volume 1 for review. How cool is that?! So blessed. So grateful.

Essentials is designed for children ages 8 and up. When I originally wrote this review, it was divided into two volumes, but is now available in four, smaller sets. My review covers lessons 1-15 at level A. Now, Lessons 1-7, the complete set, runs $149. Once you have the Lessons 1-7 Complete Set (with the various card packs and game tiles), Lessons 8-15, 16-22, 23-30 are only $49 each. If you’ve used the Foundations program, you may already have much of the materials needed as well and can start with the upgrade set for $77, adding additional items al la carte. I ended up purchasing Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive as well to use for the Pre-Lessons (more on that in a minute). Lessons 1-7 Complete Set contains all you see here.

Essentials 1-7 Complete Set

I took the teacher’s manual to my room with me the first night after receiving it. This is my happy place- laying in bed propped up on my reading pillows, all alone… In the silence and comfort of my own room. Silence is rare in a homeschool house, am I right?! It took about two or three evenings spent reading to get through those first pages, being sure I was understanding it completely.

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Reading 101

Once upon a time I was a teacher. A reading specialist, actually. I pulled children out from the classroom and held small group and one-on-one instruction with them. I watched second grade students reading at the kindergarten level (still working on letter sounds) advance to their proper grade level over the course of a semester. It was incredible to be a part of that transition for those children!

Sometimes, though, I think I learned more than they did during that time. I learned that the BIGGEST contributing factor to reading success is not instruction time, flash cards, or hands on techniques. It is simply time spent reading together. Working out those sounds, together. Encountering new words, together. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t have to be a teacher and student interaction. It can be parent with child, classmates, siblings, friends, and even stuffed animals.

I have a memory of reading in third grade… My teacher put us in small groups of two or three to read together. She must have seen the future teacher in my eyes, because she whispered to me when she partnered me with the child reading at the lowest level, “I think you can be a great helper for Tina. Can you help her read today?” I will never forget the pride I felt being able to help my friend.

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Logic of English: Foundations A Review

When I taught Bean how to read, we focused a lot on sight words alongside basic phonics. I learned in college that children worked best with a combination of phonics and whole word methods, so we utilized both. It was exhilarating to watch her learn to read before kindergarten with our Preschool Prep Company Meet the Sight Words videos, flashcards, and books. Her excitement over each learned word was infectious.

While Bean is a fantastic reader today, reading at least two levels above her grade level, she struggles with the rules of the English language. She is more likely to take guesses at long unfamiliar words than she is to sound each letter or letter combination. She has a terrible time remembering spelling patterns and has been known to read entire books while mispronouncing names, places, or other words. At some point that will interfere with her comprehension, I am certain.

As I have learned so many times on our homeschool journey, passing time means furthering society’s knowledge about education. As research has continued, data has been collected, and new conclusions have been drawn, the ever-changing world of education, well, changes…

One day last year, I stumbled upon a YouTube video, where Denise Eide explains the logical side of English. After watching it, I sort of had an “aha!” moment and decided I needed to learn more, so bought her book, “Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common Sense Approach to Teaching Reading, Spelling, and Literacy,” for my Kindle and did some reading. After just a few pages, I knew she had the right ideas. I wasn’t even half way through the book before I decided I’d check out her homeschool program.

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Daily Duties

My last post was about discipline and being open to changing your parenting philosophy, rather than living in misery with misbehaving children. So, what does daily life look like in our home with our “well-behaved children”? I’ll start by saying it is far from perfect.

But despite the stressful moments, our home and our homeschool function fairly well. My children know what is expected of them and what the consequences are of failing to do what is expected. They also know they are loved deeply and we all exchange hugs and snuggles and “I love you’s” multiple times throughout the day.

We start the day with our Morning Routine Chart, a marker board with all of our goals for the day written for each child. They know to get started on their list as soon as they are up and dressed. I’m not too picky about this first thing in the morning, though, so if they stop and play a bit, most days that’s okay. They have all day to do school! If it is a busy day though, and I know they won’t have an opportunity to work on it later, I let them know. Continue reading


I often tell parents who are considering homeschool that they should have a good handle on their discipline before they begin homeschooling. It is so important that children do not argue or second guess every direction you give, and you especially don’t want meltdowns! Balancing life at home with the children is hard enough as it is. Adding in meltdowns, arguments, and outright defiance can make the job nearly impossible!

I am sharing our story, but not because I think this way is the best way for everyone. I am sharing it because I often meet people who are unhappy with their child’s behavior or attitude, but for some reason or another are unwilling to change their parenting style. I was once like that, but now I feel it is important to try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working for you. In the cases where parents are not getting the results they want, they need to look to themselves, not their child. All too often parents just give up, saying they have a “wild child” or a “strong-willed child”. The PARENTS are the ones who need to make changes in one way or another to alleviate the problems.

Now, if your child is a little monster and you are perfectly happy with that, then by all means continue down the path you are on, but if you want something bigger and better for your kiddo, then read, learn, experiment. Find what works. Do not give up. You will get there, mama. You will. Be open-minded and find the method that works for you and yours. Continue reading

End of Year Progress Report

Yesterday was the last day of school for the public school students in Hawaii. Some schools are on a track system (they share classroom space, so the student body is divided into 4 groups, only 3 of which are ever attending class at any given time), so they will continue a bit further into the summer, but for the most part, school is O. U. T. What does that mean for homeschool families? It means the lines at the water park will be long, the beaches will be crowded, and the parking lots full. Homeschooling families will have to share our coveted day time playground space, our empty malls and grocery stores, and all the “fun” spots with thousands of other carefree little people. Ugh.

The. struggle. is. REAL.

But I have to say, the WORST part about public school being out for homeschoolers is that we need to get our end of year reports typed up and sent out. In the state of Hawaii, we have to turn in a yearly progress report to our local school to demonstrate that our students have indeed, learned this year. Sounds easy enough, right? But sifting through the laws and the completed school work, plus the way my mind overthinks EVERYTHING, makes this a fairly stressful experience. Someday, I swear, I am GOING to stop overthinking everything, but for now, it works for me.

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