Timberdoodle Kit: Final Review

Well, here it is! My final review of our Secular Kindergarten 2017 Timberdoodle Curriculum Kit (Elite). If you didn’t read my initial “out-of-the-box” review, you can check it out here. We have been using the kit since August and I’ve decided that I’m comfortable enough with it to give my final review. Hopefully this will give people some time to think about it before the 2018 kits are released.


Again, I’d like to start by commenting on Timberdoodle as a company. Their customer service, as always, far surpasses that of many other companies I have worked with. The best thing about Timberdoodle though is that they are constantly striving to find the best educational toys and games out there. Their site is always the first place I look when people ask what gifts the kids would like. It’s a great place to find stuff that’s fun for the kids, but feels good and purposeful for me too. The only negative thing I really have to say is that I would love site-wide free shipping (I’ve been spoiled by Amazon).

Moving on to the kit. I’m sure the burning question is: Would I buy it again? YES. Bottom line, if I could do kindergarten over again as a first timer, this is still the route I would take. I will, in fact, be doing kindergarten a second time around with my daughter. Will I use the kit? Most likely. But maybe differently. My daughter has a drastically different personality than my son, so I don’t quite know what her needs will be in a few years. But the best thing about the kit is that it’s so flexible. I am still a believer that this particular kit can work for almost any kid, because the materials are fun. It also helps that much of it can span across different age ranges. Baby Lady already gets involved in our activities as much as she can.

I bet you’d also like to know if I will use the first grade kit. Yes and no. I have grown and learned so much this year (with the help of having a pre-made curriculum) that I now feel that I can pick and choose and tailor our curriculum to fit all of our needs. But there are still many items from the first grade kit that I intend to use. I will update sometime next year with all of our first grade choices.

Now, since there are so many products included in the kit, and they sort of span different subjects, I’d like to just give some information on my most and least favorite items.


1) The Reading Lesson – Bug has gone from having a basic understanding of the alphabet (in August), to now (in December) being able to read almost anything with very little assistance. I attribute a lot of this to The Reading Lesson. Of course reading, like anything, requires practice, so we still spend a lot of time doing other reading together; us reading to him, and him reading to us (from all different levels of reading materials). But The Reading Lesson is what helped him learn to put sounds together and start decoding the words. He LOVES that he can read now, and the instant gratification from The Reading Lesson is a huge plus. I cannot recommend it enough.

2) The Usborne Big Drawing Book – This book is filled with fun, colorful step-by-step drawing how-to’s. Bug used to dislike anything to do with drawing and now he asks to draw on a regular basis.

3) Little Red Riding Hood – A very neat little one-player game that promotes problem solving. I also love that even when Bug isn’t solving the puzzles he still uses it to pretend and make fun stories and scenarios.

4) Developing The Early Learner – While I’m normally not a big advocate of workbooks, this set provided a huge insight into some skill areas that Bug was struggling in, and corrected them with fun activities.

Least Favorites:

1) What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know – We used this maybe three times. This the one thing that I would absolutely leave out if I could do it over. Not because there is anything wrong with it, it just isn’t necessary. It’s overkill. The kit already has everything you need (and maybe more). And while the book does have some good stories, I could find better versions of them at the public library.

2) Geo Shape Lacing – I actually have mixed feelings about this one. The concept is great. It’s excellent for developing coordination. But we struggled with it. The instructions are (maybe purposefully?) vague. This makes it difficult to complete some of the patterns. We had tons of problems with not know where to start and running out of string, while this is good for problem solving, for a kindergartener it makes it extremely discouraging. It may be something Bug will like later, so we’ve put it away for now. I’d also like to say that I’ve read other reviews for it that are very good.

3) ThinkPlay Gears – While this may be on my least favorite list, Bug actually enjoys it. I dislike the instructions. They aren’t color specific, and they’re not as clear and directive as Lego sets. Meaning he needs a lot of help with them, which he’s not used to. My other issue is that it takes forever to find the pieces you need for each project, even after I sorted them all into their own ziplocks. But it is still actually a neat way to show how gears work.

So, overall, I am still really happy we chose this kit for kindergarten. It’s fun, easy to use, and doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Which are the things I wanted most out of our kindergarten curriculum. And it’s a good sign that we haven’t just trashed the whole thing and decided to do something different (haha!). It’s also a good sign that if you ask Bug if he likes kindergarten he always says yes, even with the bad days. For the record, he says his favorite thing is science.

As a final note, would I recommend it to others? As always, I believe that depends entirely on you, your child(ren), and your family. But I don’t think you can really go too wrong with it no matter what. Kindergarten is a great time for exploring how you’d like your homeschool to be, and I think this kit provides a good opportunity for exploration because it offers so much variety. Hopefully this will help some of you make a good choice for your homeschool.

*This review is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Timberdoodle.



Aise Shawl

Pattern: Aisé

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Lace (this is a discontinued yarn, but I have linked to the Ravelry page to provide further information)

Needles: US 6 (I use ChiaoGoo Twist)

Measurements: 66in. x 14in.

After over 2 years I have finally finished! Just in time for fall!

This truly seemed like a project I would never finish. Not because the pattern was difficult, but because I always put this one on the back burner. I turned it into an “in the meantime” or “on the side” sort of project. I did a row here or there when I had nothing else to do. I completed several projects in between working on this one.

I like to gauge the ease of a project by what I can do while I’m working on it. Can I watch the Blacklist, or House Hunters? Can I listen to Bug read, or will it take too much of my concentration away from him? I have done some shawls where I have to turn the TV off, and only listen to music, so I don’t make a mistake. The actual pattern of this project requires almost zero focus, but I still wouldn’t say it’s the easiest project. It’s eight inches of stockinette between simple eyelet sections. Because it’s lace weight, and the yarn is so fine, it’s going to take you a while to get to the eyelet sections. So it’s a pretty relaxing knit. The border takes a second of concentration, but that’s about it. On the other side of the coin, because it’s lace weight, it’s a lot harder to feel the yarn and individual stitches than if you were using a worsted weight yarn. It takes a little while to get used to the feel of it, so I wouldn’t start this one while watching Sherlock.

It’s slippery. I used my ChiaoGoo needles, but if you’re comfortable with using a bamboo set (or just a set that doesn’t have quite as smooth of a finish) I would suggest trying it out. I had a LOT of dropped stitches. And they’re tiny, so it can take some time to pick them all back up.


Overall, I am really pleased with how it turned out. I would say that mine could maybe benefit from a little better blocking. It should really be about an inch wider and about two inches shorter. But that’s an easy fix. Would I do it again? Probably. But it would always be a side project. I would like to try it with a solid color yarn though.

If you absolutely love this shawl and would like it for yourself, please contact me via my Etsy shop. And as always, I am taking custom orders.


Falling In Love With Charlotte Mason? Me!? Really!?

Books! Books! Books!

I had heard a description of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy during an online homeschool conference quite some time ago. And from that, I was convinced that it wasn’t for us (I know now that the brief description I heard wasn’t the best). Since then, I had more brief encounters with some of Charlotte’s ideas; and I maintained that it was a good option, but a little too old-fashioned and stuffy for us.

Emily Cook changed my life. I saw a talk she gave for the SEA Homeschoolers online conference and her emphasis on literature was everything my book-loving heart was after. I immediately bought her book (A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling). It arrived two days later (who doesn’t love Amazon Prime?). I finished reading it two days after that. Her modern touch was just what I needed to feel like Charlotte Mason could work for us. It was also reassuring to feel like it’s ok to have a relaxed environment. In fact, it’s even encouraged. It’s so much better to have a comfy, warm, nurturing environment for our homeschool.

At my core that was always what I wanted most. I mean, we chose to homeschool for that reason. To be different than the public school environment. So far, I haven’t had any real problems doing that. This young age is easier. It feels fine for us to spend the majority of our time playing, and dedicate a small amount of time to important concepts like learning to read. I have worried about how to continue this calming, comforting set-up as the kids get older, while still providing them with a superior education and the tools they need to succeed in whatever adult life they choose for themselves.

Emily showed me the light. Her book has so many amazing suggestions. It’s an amazing guideline to follow. But the best thing is that she doesn’t make you feel like you have to follow it. Many of the homeschool guide books I have read, or talks I have seen (and there have been a lot), have been very “my way or the highway.” I think most of you know that I don’t like being told what to do, haha. Emily has a way of convincing you that she is absolutely certain that she’s doing what is right for her family (an incredible feat I must say), and then in turn making you feel like you can do it too; but you don’t have to do it the exact same way.

Because of this, I have decided that I am capable of adapting the bits of Charlotte Mason I love (the literature, the nature, and others) to fit our family. I’m still changing and putting together ideas right now (I’ll give an update in the future), but now I feel confident that I don’t need a boxed curriculum. I CAN DO THIS! I can have exactly the environment we want, and do it all myself! I’m not naive, I know that it won’t always be smiles, and sometimes it will be hard. But we can do it. It’s an amazing feeling. Emily, I cannot thank you enough.

If you’re reading this, or you’ve read Emily’s book, and you feel like you want to follow Emily’s footsteps to a greater degree, she has put together what looks like an amazing curriculum guide for each grade over at Build Your Library.

And don’t worry, we’re still big fans of Timberdoodle. It was definitely the right purchase for our Kindergarten, and we’ll have more products from them in the future.


Mom Life


I suffer greatly from an affliction I like to call “momsomnia.” I’m sure I didn’t make this up, it’s probably already in some dictionary. Basically, I never truly sleep. Though I am fortunate enough that both children now sleep through the night more often than not. This does not mean that I sleep. I think moms everywhere will agree that we’re conditioned to only ever half sleep. We must be able to easily hear when our children need us. Dad’s aren’t quite as adept at this, my husband used to be easily roused by our son, but that’s not the case anymore. Add to that my husband’s snoring, and the fact that I am a constant worrier, and you have a recipe that’s better than a five hour energy shot. Of course, this magic only happens at night. During the day I am a zombie if I don’t have coffee (and sometimes even if I do). Last night was no different. I just couldn’t sleep. So when Baby Lady decided she needed to cuddle with Mommy at 4:30 in the morning, I expected it (as it sometimes does) to make me even more cranky. Instead it turned out to be exactly what I needed too. I laid there with her on my belly and just took it all in. Her warm body, her small breaths, her giggles, and her heavenly baby smell. I had a moment where I remembered that one day I won’t get to feel the weight of my babies curled up in my lap anymore. One day I wouldn’t have those quiet moments alone with them. My sweet girl had been the calming force I needed, and eventually I got back to sleep for a few minutes. But not before this thought: We moms spend all of our time thinking about what we’re bringing to our children’s lives, and what more we can do to enrich them. We don’t spend enough time really enjoying the fact that, without even trying, our babies bring so much to our lives. I always feel the joy my kids give me, but I really don’t spend enough time thinking about it and enjoying it; I don’t spend enough time being present in the quiet moments, or the loud ones. I spend too much time thinking about what else I should be doing, and not seeing that my children are happy and healthy. So last night my “momsomnia” turned out to be a good thing. And I plan to work harder to be more present in the moment. So for all those moms also suffering from this affliction: remember that you are not alone, and there will be coffee in the morning.


Tiny Polka Dot Review

Hi Everyone! I am pleased to announce that I am now a part of the Timberdoodle blog team! This exciting news means that Timberdoodle will occasionally be providing us some products in exchange for our review of them. And first up is Tiny Polka Dot!

Bug really needed his Lego T-Rex to be in this picture.

This bright little box is filled with 66 cards and instructions for 16 different games! All of which are geared toward mathematical development. One of my favorite things about the game is that it includes a “Guide for Grownups” which had some really helpful tips. The last thing written in the guide is: “when your child plays and has fun, they are laying the foundation for a lifetime of mathematical success.” I think everyone who reads my blog entries can see that this product falls right into my play-based learning style. Anyway, continuing on with what’s in the box… I mentioned before that there are instructions for 16 different games. This is great, but I did find some of them to be little vague, especially some of the more difficult games, so you kind of have to (or maybe get to) make it fit to whatever seems to work for your little one. The cards themselves though are physically incredible. Baby Lady preferred to  make a mess with the cards and in all of our time playing so far (which has been several different occasions) we have only had one bend, and it’s hardly even noticeable. This is a huge plus because finding games we can let her play with too is actually very difficult.

The bright colors really appealed to her, she had a great time just looking at all of the cards.

Now, getting down to some specifics. The whole set has games for a wide range of ages from 3+ – 7+, but I could see some of the games being captivating for much longer. The problem for us is that Bug seems a little too advanced for about half of the games and not quite ready for the other half, so they don’t hold his interest for as long as some of his other card and board games. I actually found myself really wishing we had this last year for Pre-K. The good news for you (and for Baby Lady) is that I just found out that it’s part of the Timberdoodle Pre-K Kit. Though I would recommend it for anyone, not just homeschoolers. I love that it is a fun way to really enforce the most important mathematical basics. Just in the second time we played I noticed and improvement in Bug’s subitizing (which means being able to recognize a number of objects without having to count them). I’m extremely excited to be able to use this in Baby Lady’s curriculum in the future. For Bug it certainly wasn’t one of those games he obsesses over (like Monopoly Jr., which we have played no less than 100 times), but this is probably a good thing because it keeps me from getting bored with it. I would say the reason he didn’t obsess over it was because the games lend themselves toward being one player games (especially Hungry Numbers, which  he says is his favorite), and he tends to prefer multi-player games. But this is actually a plus for me because it keeps him occupied by himself for a few minutes, so I can fold a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher.

Bug playing Hungry Numbers. We adapted this one by using all of the cards.

Alright, alright, at the end of the day you’re wondering: Is this game worth $14? My opinion: Absolutely. The longevity alone would make it worth it. Add to that the number of games and the ability to adapt those games to your child’s interests, and you’ve got a winner. If you’re interested in buying this game for your family you can get it here, and start earning yourself some Doodle Points for all the other awesome Timberdoodle stuff you’re going to want.

As an added bonus, when you purchase from Timberdoodle, your receipt has an activity sheet printed on the back of it. This time I got a page out of Extreme Dot-to-Dot: Explorers, it was so fun it made me want to buy the whole book for myself.

My dot-to-dot page. I probably could have done a better job. Oh well.

**Timberdoodle provided this product free of charge, in exchange for a review. Our thoughts are 100% our own.**


I Want To Homeschool! Where Do I Start!?

It’s so overwhelming!

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and homeschool. Now what?

This is pretty much how I felt. I knew for a long time that I was going to homeschool; but when it came time to actually legitimately do it, I had no idea where to begin. I just started googling. Chances are though, that if you’ve decided to homeschool, you have at least one reason why you’re doing it. That is your start. What is that reason (or reasons)? Keep that always in your mind as you go forward.

Everything in the world of homeschool depends on your family and your season of life. Are you removing a kid from public school? Are you starting from the very beginning? The most important question, at first, is: Where do you live? You have to first learn the laws for your state (many have different requirements). HSLDA will have all of the legal information you need, plus some other resources.

Alright, now you know the laws, but you’re still wondering “how do I start teaching?” Many people will recommend that if you have removed a child from public school that you take a small break and reset. While I don’t have any personal experience in this area, I would still recommend it. This will give you some time to observe you’re child and work together to discover how he/she best learns.

Ready to dive in? My next suggestion would be to determine your teaching style, if you have one at all. Remember as you’re doing this to think about your reason for homeschooling. Think about your whole family, not just the child or children you’re going to be teaching. If the curriculum isn’t enjoyable for you as the teacher, your children will pick up on that. Even throughout pre-k I could tell that Bug would notice if I was bored with a particular activity.

Next up: choosing curriculum. For me this was (and still is) probably the hardest part. There are SO many choices. For starters, I would say: check in your area to see if it’s possible for you to attend a homeschool convention. They give you the opportunity to see a wide array of curriculum choices in person. If you can’t, don’t fret too much, you can still do this. I didn’t attend a convention, though I would have loved to, and I managed to find something that I’m confident will be a good jumping off point for us. At this point, once you’ve put the thought into how your kids learn best and how you want to teach, you’ll be able to start your search. Knowing these things will help narrow it down the kinds of curriculum you’ll be most interested in. If cost is a bigger concern (as it is for most), I suggest using your local library for most of your resources. As you may know, we chose to use a Timberdoodle kit for kindergarten. If you’re pressed for time and the search for curriculum is feeling overwhelming, I would suggesting going this route for a few reasons: 1) I believe the range of products included in the kit can work for every child, 2) this large range will give you a better idea of what sorts of materials work best for you, 3) you can jump into teaching immediately and give yourself time to continue researching curriculum. But my biggest piece of advice for your curriculum search is to go with your gut and give something a shot. You can’t know until you try, and if it doesn’t work there is always something else out there. Just in the few short months that I’ve started planning our schedule for next year, I’ve already found a few other types of curriculum that are of interest to me.

I’m not pretending to be an expert in this, but this overwhelming feeling is fresh to me, and I’ve made it through. I feel infinitely more confident now than I did six months ago. I can’t promise that it will be easy, it takes time and effort to find what’s right, as does every other aspect of homeschooling. But it doesn’t have to be so scary. So I say to myself, and to you, that as long as you’re giving it your best effort you’re probably on the right track. It’s easy to see that children are always learning something from every experience. The best thing you can do is give them the foundation and desire to continue learning. Just try to have fun and the rest will come.



The Importance of Outside Play

OH MAN! The tears!

We had a freak wave of snow. Snow! At the end of April! Can you believe it? The weather had already become spring-like that month and Bug had gotten used to comfortably playing outside every day. During the winter months he doesn’t get as much enjoyment from playing outside. He tries every day, but the cold always gets the better of him and he ends up back inside after about 20 minutes. When it gets warm enough he’ll spend almost all day out there. When the snow came through I chose not to let him play outside because both kids had just gotten bronchitis and were still getting over it. By the third day the near constant tears were driving me crazy. Fortunately, t-ball practice was later that day.

There seems to be a lot of debate about how much time kids should be playing outside during school hours. I’ve read about many schools even cutting recess entirely from the day. Some other schools were enforcing more outside free play, citing tons of benefits including the kids being all around more focused. Well, here I am with my own little living proof. Our little man (and now even our 1 year old daughter) is happier, more productive, and more focused when he gets to play outside and be free and imaginative. If our back door is open, Baby Lady will just go outside to play all on her own. Being outside fills so many of our kid’s needs. So that’s what we will continue to do as much as possible, and learn so much more because of it.