Friday, August 31, 2012

More Free Stuff! Unreal Candy Review

As I mentioned on a previous post, I'm a Bzzagent.  Because of this, I get to try products for free.  My most recent campaign was for Unreal candy.

 My review is below:
I had the opportunity to try all five varieties of Unreal candy. It was difficult to find - the first Kroger I went to did not carry Unreal (I even went to customer service and they said they had never seen the product). The second Kroger I went to had them, but I had to ask customer service for help; they had to ask a manager to help me find the product. I had expected to find it in one of three places - 1) the candy row, 2) the natural foods section, or 3) the checkout. It was in none of those places, rather it was an end cap (which even as the manager was pointing to the product, I couldn't see it easily). I say all this to recommend that Unreal change how and where they display their product, I walked right past it and didn't notice it (while searching for it), I'm sure many other people have walked by without seeing the candy. I decided to try all five varieties since my store had all of them in stock. Below is my review on each product.

1 - Unreal 41 (candy coated chocolates). When I first picked up the package, I was surprised at how light it was compared to a bag of M&Ms. The serving size of Unreal is smaller than the serving size of M&Ms, so I feel that it would be very easy for someone to be misled by the nutritional content if they just compared the labels of the two candies without taking size into consideration. I do like the packaging, it's attractive. Upon opening the candy, I found that the colors of the actual candies were quite different from the colors on the wrapper. I was surprised by that. My kids (3 and 5) actually said they liked the colors of Unreal better than the colors of M&Ms (and I liked the source of the colors better!). The taste was very good. It was less sweet than M&Ms and tasted more like dark chocolate, which I really liked. My kids said they prefer Unreal to M&Ms.

2 - Unreal 8 - chocolate, nougat, peanuts, and caramel. This one was my favorite. It was so good. The salty and sweet were balanced very well. The nougat reminded me of a Mars bar, (which happens to be one of my favorites). The texture was fantastic. I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about this candy bar. All good!

 3 - Unreal 54 - candy covered chocolate with peanuts. These were very good too. Again, the colors on the packaging were much different than the actual colors. There was a good salty/sweet balance and the chocolate again was less sweet than what we've come to expect in candy. I actually prefer this level of sweetness. I did feel that the serving size was small. My children devoured them, so it could just be that they ate so quickly that I only got a couple.

4 - Unreal 5 - chocolate, nougat, and caramel. This one was also very good. The caramel is milky and soft, almost buttery. Very good. The nougat is a little denser than what I would have expected, but still delicious. This candy also tasted more like dark chocolate (again, as I would prefer).

5 - Unreal 77 - chocolate covered peanut butter cups. When I first opened them, I was surprised that there was no liner on the peanut butter cups (as I was expecting Reese). Now that I think about it, it's smart to not have the liners - less packaging = less waste. I also noticed the logo on the bottom of the peanut butter cup, I thought that was a nice touch. The actual cup was thinner than a Reese cup, and at first (before tasting), I was disappointed in this. Once I tasted the peanut butter cup, there was absolutely no disappointment! The candy tastes rich, almost like a buckeye. The peanut butter was smooth and tasted more like peanuts than Reese cups. The texture and balance of sweet and salt was perfect. I am now a fan of Unreal. I was shocked at how delicious the products are. This has (to date) been my favorite BzzCampaign! Before trying the candy, I thought, "why would they pick the name 'Unreal'? Since there's no artificial ingredients, shouldn't the name be 'Real'?". Then I tasted it, and one word came to mind: Unreal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Much Needed Change - Science Curriculum

Today was the smoothest day so far.  It went so well that we actually finished our school work before lunch (we normally have an hour or two to do after lunch). 

Yesterday went pretty well too - except, we started at 10:00 instead of 9:00.  Oh well.  My friend Emily brought us a ton of vegetables from her parents garden, so we ended yesterday with making zucchini bread (used this fantastic recipe but left out the walnuts since Lou isn't a fan).  That counts for math, right?!  The bread is almost gone - even my hubby ate some (and asked if I would make some more).  If you know how picky he is, that's saying a lot.

Today I was not looking forward to Science at all.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Science - it's been my favorite subject for as long as I can remember (except Chemistry.  I HATE Chemistry).  But, our first day of Science was rough.  We purchased Apologia's Astronomy book and the issue is that the book is for K-6th grade.  In order to make it though the book in one year, there's four or five pages of textbook reading per lesson.  Plus there's a journal and experiments.  I could tell on the first day that the book wasn't going to work for us.  At least not this year. 

I consulted with another homeschooling mom, and decided that I'm coming up with my own Science curriculum. We're going to study space, but in an easier, kindergarten appropriate way.  I want him to LOVE Science, not dread it.  So, I have a ton of small books about space, and we have a very extensive public library. We'll read two books about space per week.  My parents also gave me some of my favorite books from when I was a kid (Just Ask books by Weekly Reader).  So, today, we read "What is A Star?".   The kids LOVED it!  They know the order of heat intensity (blue is hottest, red is coolest), size classification (dwarf up to supergiant).  And learned so much more than they did using the textbook last week. 

We also made our own stars.  We each decided how hot we wanted our star to be (X-Man wanted the hottest - blue, and Little Lou wanted a star with mid-range heat - yellow).  Then, they decided which size (both wanted supergiant).  I helped them trace a circle on construction paper, they cut them out on their own (more fine motor work!).  Then on one side, X-Man wrote the name of his star, how hot it was, and the size.  On the front we swirled glitter glue to signify the gasses that swirl on each star.  It was amazing to me how much information they retained.

We're also going to spend time each week observing nature (Mason method) and using a notebook to sketch an observation.  I feel so much better about science now.  And less stressed.  So far, we pretty much love homeschool!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Homeschool - Two Days In

Thursday was our first day of homeschool; it went pretty well!  The day started with some french toast casserole that baked in our slow-cooker overnight.  School began with a prayer, pledge of allegiance, and calendar time.  Then we did a short history lesson - it came with a family tree that they filled out (I wrote Little Lou's for her) and colored.   As they were coloring, I did a short interview about their favorite things - I'm interested to see which items change at the end of the school year.

We also read a few pages in our science book.  It was obvious that I can't do science right after history again, too much reading for two little ones. We've changed the order of subjects - they'll also only do science two times a week (they'll do art some days instead).

Then we worked on a rhyme about the animals and which continents they live on (they got to run and jump so they were very excited about that!).  Next we had a short devotion and practiced our first memory verse (Matthew 19:14) - we have a CD which plays the verse in a song which has made it easy for me to memorize the verse (even Little Lou almost has it memorized!).

Next we had our first lesson.  At the beginning of each lesson (one new lesson per week), there is a DVD with a teacher explaining the new material - I LOVE this!  We did some practice with our cuisenaire rods and he did a worksheet  (he got every problem right - woohoo!).  I use a composition book as a math journal for Little Lou.  She practiced writing numbers 1-5 and then put that amount of stickers on each number.

Then, it was lunch time!  We also took a break before heading back to our classroom.

After lunch I had X-Man read a book on his own (he'll read a short book or one chapter out of a novel) while I worked on a phonics lesson with Little Lou.  After that, we did some handwriting - that was difficult.  X-Man has always had delays in fine and gross motor skills, so some things were very difficult for him.  He is also a perfectionist, so if his work doesn't look exactly as he would like it, he scribbles all over the page or cries (Mom, Dad, does this sound familiar?!).  He had a few meltdowns, so we cut the lesson short.  Day two was much better for handwriting - we actually were able to extend our lesson!  X-Man writes the letter 'F' like a champ now.

At the end of each day, all three of us read a book together.  Then we do a mini-book report.  I write the name of the book and author - then there's a place for both of them to note if they liked the book or not (X-Man has to write 'yes' or 'no' and Little Lou circles a happy or sad face).  We keep these on note cards attached to a binder ring.  This can help me keep track of which books we've already borrowed from the library and help me to determine which type of books they'll like going forward.

Then they get free time - I have a play kitchen and a few toys in our classroom they can play with.  They can also read books, or work on a maze/dot-to-dot book I made (printed free worksheets then put them in page protectors so they can use dry-erase markers on them over and over again).  They can also play with some sensory bottles I made, do tangrams, work on geoboards, flashcards, or artsy stuff.  We also listen to orchestral music (they can already recognize some of the parts from 'The Carnival of Animals') and I prepare our lessons for the next day.

After school, we got some frozen custard and then went to the pool - that's homeschool P.E., right?!  We ordered pizza for dinner - pretty much, the perfect day.

All in all, I think (two days in) that homeschooling is going to be a great fit for our family.  It's so nice to be able to customize each lesson to meet their needs.  It's also wonderful to get hugs and kisses all day from my sweethearts.  Yep, I'm a fan of homeschooling!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our classroom!

It's pretty late, but I just finished installing curtains in our homeschool classroom so I thought I'd (quickly) post some photos.

 I love these lights!  I got them on clearance from Target.

 The table and chairs we already had.  There's a reading corner by the beanbag chairs.

 Our crib was recalled, so we turned it into a desk.  The top was painted with chalkboard paint.

 We hung all their school supplies on the converted-crib desk.

 One of our two bookshelves from Ikea.

 Another bookshelf.  You'll also notice there's a curtain rod near the ceiling - this is to display their artwork.  There's also a schedule, calendar, and whiteboard.

 The files on the wall hold their workbooks.  I also made a valence since I couldn't find any that I liked.

Close up of the valence.

We're starting school on Thursday and the kids are SO excited!  I'll update the blog with a first day post later this week.  

As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homeschool Curriculum and Life

Hi Friends,

So let me tell you, I am LOVING life right now.  I've been unemployed for a little over a month, and so far it has been wonderful.  I've been able to spend the days doing whatever the kids want (pool, zoo, museum, etc) and, I'm sleeping during normal-people sleep hours!  It's great.  I feel refreshed and energized, which has provided me with time to focus on our next adventure: homeschooling.  We've received all of our curriculum selections and almost have our classroom in order (photos will be on my next post).  For now, I wanted to share with you what our curriculum choices are for this year.

The core of our curriculum is from Heart of Dakota (Little Hearts for His Glory).  It includes:
  • History For Little Pilgrims
  • History Stories For Children
  • The Reading Lesson (I have a feeling we'll get through this in no time as X-Man has been reading since before his fourth birthday)
  • Thinking Skills - Grade 1
  • Family Time Bible
  • Devotions for the Children's Hour
  • Hide 'Em In Your HeartU Vol 1 CD
  • Several Burgess reading books
For Science, we chose Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy (this was his choice).
For Math we chose Math-U-See - Alpha.
For Writing we'll be using Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten.
Art - Art with a Purpose (this was given to us by a homeschooling friend) - also may be supplementing with some additional books including Drawing with Children.
Music - we'll be learning how to play the recorder and also will be borrowing classical music CDs from our library.
For Spelling, I found a couple of grade 1 workbooks for him to do - he LOVES workbooks!
I will also be using several poetry books, fairy tales, and novels to supplement reading.

We're getting pretty excited - here's a picture of him on our first 'box-day' - he can't wait for school to start!

Thanks for reading!