Friday, May 26, 2017


Five minutes of writing on today’s prompt: visit

visit, five minute friday writing prompt

“Come for a visit.” Have you ever heard those words? Do they sound too old fashioned? Did you accept the offer? Too often we hear invitations to visit, to take time for fellowship, and we decide that we are too busy to accept them. How has that happened? If we, with the modern conveniences of indoor plumbing, not to mention electric washers and dryers for our laundry, cannot find the time to accept an invitation to visit for an hour or two, what have we done?! 

Life is too short, and fellowship with other believers too precious, to miss out on a visit, a time of refreshing. Those other things can wait. Frankly, if they can’t wait then they probably were not that important at all. The Bible warns us to not forget the assembling of the saints. (Hebrews 10:25.) While the directive there is for weekly worship and study of God’s Word, it can also be applied to our daily lives. We need to be a part of a community, even a small one, to thrive in this life. Perhaps your friend or relative invited you for a visit to refresh you, or maybe, because they needed to be refreshed. You won’t know God’s purpose for the visit until you go.

Go for a visit. If you haven’t been invited for one this week, then find someone to invite to visit you. Take time for fellowship, community, and a visit.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Typing Coach ~ A Crew Review

learn touch typing, typing for kids

How good are your typing skills? I’m not asking how good you want them to be, or even how good you pretend that they are, but how good they really are. When the opportunity to review The Typing Coach Online Typing Course from The Typing Coach appeared, I knew it was time to give it a try and work on my own typing skills. The Typing Coach is designed as an audio course with some visual elements to guide the students. After all, I wanted to learn how to type something that wasn’t already on the computer, so I knew I needed a serious program, not just a fun game to entertain myself. In a little over a year our youngest daughter will graduate from High School. I don’t know what God has planned for me after that, but I figure knowing how to type correctly might come in handy!

The actual lessons from The Typing Coach are taught by listening to the audios and following the instructions. The lessons include a lot of repetition to help you memorize the keys, and then they suggest at least another 20 minutes a day of practice. To help the student (of whatever age) succeed, there are a few things the parent or classroom teacher needs to do before the student begins. Even though this program was originally geared for school aged students, I knew that I needed to be the student this time. So I read all the introductory things, and watched all the videos myself. If I were using this with one of our girls, I would have had them watch the introductory video alongside me. Then, there is a student packet and a learning checks packet to download and print. I found a folder to put the pages into so I could use my cookbook holder to keep it at a comfortable angle to read from while I practiced typing.

The Typing Coach, also known as David Kimball, is really encouraging, but with the caveat that the student needs to practice exactly as they are taught. Cheating by looking at the keyboard will not help you learn to be a better typist, it is just lying to yourself. Better that the student work towards doing their typing practice correctly, but slowly, than to go fast and continue to make errors. The Typing Coach does not allow the student to use the backspace/ delete key because he wants them to stay focused on the task at hand, and learn to type error free. A good typist is more concerned with accuracy than speed. The goal upon completion of the course is to be able to type 10 words per minute (WPM) with zero errors. After completing the course the students skills should continue to improve and their speed should increase as they continue to practice. 

I have wanted to learn touch typing for a couple of years now. I realized that it would help me more easily get my thoughts down in the computer, and then, up on the blog, if I could type directly to the computer without needing to look at the keys. Let me tell you right now that it is possible to learn to type when you’re older, but it takes a lot of patience with yourself… and maybe your spouse. Kurt made fun of me when he saw me sitting at the table with my great posture, practice pages, and paper to cover the screen. But don’t you worry, I will continue on through all ten lessons, even if he laughs again!

As I followed the instructions from The Typing Coach on the audios, I realized a couple of things. First, I have developed a lot of incorrect habits over the years by typing while looking at the keys. Secondly, these extra long fingers of mine might just cause me more than a little frustration while typing. This is the one time I wished I didn’t have such long, tapered hands. It took a lot of practice for me to be able to hold me hands correctly on the home row without accidentally hitting another key… and I have to keep my fingernails cut really short. Sigh. Ok, moving on.  :)

learn touch typing, typing for kids

As I mentioned before, there are ten lessons in the online course from The Typing Coach. It is designed to be completed over ten weeks, or less if you memorize the keys easily and pass the learning checks without errors. Here is the reality for me: lesson one was posture, and it was easy thanks to having a good Chiropractor. Lesson two was the home row keys and it took me a little over two weeks to master. I not only had to learn which key to type with which finger, I had to learn how to properly hold my hands over the keys while still being relaxed enough to type. That was really difficult for me. If you look at the picture below you can see just how arched my middle finger needs to be while the others are on the keys. That’s because my middle fingers are about half an inch longer than my index and ring fingers, and an entire inch longer than my pinky finger. So if you have stubby hands, this skill will probably be easier for you to master. Lesson three was the top row, and I’m ready to try my learning check to see if I mastered it. Because it is combining the letters from two rows, I really, really have to slow down and concentrate. It used to be easier to memorize, but now in my 40’s, it takes longer. 

learn touch typing, typing for kids

Now, IF I could have devoted twenty minutes every day to practicing, instead of just three or four times a week, I am sure I would be further along. But’s let’s just be honest here: I’m a working mom who home schools a high schooler and is a 4-H leader. Three nights a week of practice is more time to myself than I usually get without interruption! Anyone else in this boat with me? Than let me assure you that you too can learn how to type with The Typing Coach, just know it will take you longer if you cannot devote time to practicing five or more days a week. 

Overall, I like The Typing Coach program, and I plan to keep working away at it all summer until I master all of the keys and can pass the Final Assessment with no errors. I really think this would be a solid program for school age students to use, with some oversight from their teacher and/ or parent. If you are doing this at home, please make sure you place your student somewhere where they can clearly hear the audios without being distracted. Getting them a set of headphones might be the easiest way to accomplish this in a large family. The motto of The Typing Coach is “making the complicated simple” and this program does that. It does not make it easy, but it breaks down the complex skills of typing into simple steps that the student can continue to practice until they master them.

To read about the other Crew families’ experiences with The Typing Coach, click on the banner below.

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors ~ A Crew Review

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

Have you been avoiding doing art with your children because of the mess it usually creates? Are you ready to have some mess free art fun? Then you really need to check out the Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors from The Pencil Grip, Inc.! Arlene and I received a set of these awesome tempera paints to review as a part of the Homeschool Review Crew. While these are geared for kids ages 4 and up, they are truly fun for all ages! 

Back when I was first introduced to tempera paint in elementary school, it was a treat. We only got to paint in art class, only once every two weeks, and the whole class had to march down the hall to the art room because it was way too messy for our teachers to consider doing in our regular rooms. We wore old shirts backwards over our clothes to protect them, and we had to wait for the art teacher to mix up the paints for us if we ran out because it came in powdered form. Fast forward 35 years to today and the art world has changed. Just a few short years ago The Pencil Grip, Inc. first introduced their Kwik Stix. These stubby little tubes of pre-mixed tempera paints introduced a new generation to the fun of using paint... without all the mess! They resemble glue sticks, and are just as easy to use. Then, after people fell in love with the ease of mess free tempera paint, The Pencil Grip realized a longer, thinner stix could open the door for older students who wanted more control, but still without the mess.

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

Arlene and I decided we wanted to try these new Thin Stix out on a variety of surfaces and see how they handled. The results amazed us. They offer a simple solution for young children whose parents want to offer art, but cannot stomach the thought of paint all over the floor, and yet, they have the ability to be used by high schoolers while studying impressionists like VanGogh. The above picture of Sherlock's hat was Arlene's attempt to use them like a small child would, just for fun, and quickly. The tempera paint in the Kwik Stix dries in about 90 seconds, so there really is very little wait time until the child can take their picture elsewhere safely.

Arlene will turn 17 on Wednesday, so I challenged her to try something more difficult. Since we both enjoy many of Vincent VanGogh's works, she use the Thin Stix to copy his famous Sunflowers painting. I think she did a fabulous job.

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

After working on her sunflowers for a few minutes, Arlene asked for a color I was using and looked over at my picture. I heard her say, "Mom, how are you making Starry Night with art supplies designed for Kindergarteners?" I replied, "It's actually pretty easy. These things are amazing!" And no, it does not look just like VanGogh's original work, but we only had the 6pk of colors, and I was doing my impression of an impressionist. It was fun!

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

We had been having fun with using these on just regular white printer paper. They worked really well, but we realized as they started to dry that the edges curled up a little bit. So note to self: once the 90 seconds is over, gently put the paper between two plain sheets of paper between two books for the final drying cure to prevent curled pages.

Next up, we tried using the Thin Stix on canvas boards we found at the local art store. These are canvas stretched over heavy cardboard, so the texture is the same as regular canvas, but without the thickness of a frame-stretched canvas. After all, we were stretching these kids' art supplies and seeing how well they worked for older students. 

Arlene has been on a Dr Who kick recently, so she used the Thin Stix to draw the T.A.R.D.I.S. on her canvas board. 

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

We definitely noticed the difference in how they handled. They were fun, but required much more patience to get the desired effects since the surface was textured. Still good for impressionist work, but probably harder for a small child to use. 

Below are my pictures, the top one is a rough copy of VanGogh's Wheatfield with Crows done on textured scrapbooking paper. The bottom picture is my copy of his Vase with Red Poppies done on the canvas board.

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

So what did we think of Thin Stix? Arlene would recommend them for little kids, on non-textured paper. She said she would like them better for older students (like herself) if we had the larger set with more colors. Remember, they dry in 90 seconds, so if you want to mix the colors, you have to be quick.

Then I heard another Crew member mention they had used theirs on rocks... and I was intrigued. How would these work for summer art projects, like flowerpot rocks or decorating picture frames? So I sent Arlene and her older sister outside to get a couple decent sized rocks and clean them off. Once dry, Arlene used some inspiration from a recent baseball game to paint hers, and Emily said hers already had a light spot, so she used it for the cloud in her landscape picture.

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

I'm pretty sure the uses for Thin Stix are only limited by your imagination. If you have small children, you probably want the original Kwik Stix since they are shorter and faster. For upper elementary ages and above, try these Thin Stix for your Spring and Summer art projects. We have not had them long enough yet to tell how well the paint will stand up to the weather, once their rocks go back outside, but they're definitely fun to use.

Original Kwik Stix, and these newer Thin Stix are available on Amazon, on The Pencil Grip's website, and at other stores like Toys R Us. There are a variety of size and color options. The original Kwik Stix are about the length of a regular clue stick, but thicker at 3/4". These Thin Stix are almost 5 &1/2 inches long, but only about 1/2" thick like a glue stick.

If you're going to be in charge of crafts for VBS, summer camp, or just to entertain your own children this summer, get yourself some great mess free fun with Kwik Stix!

Mess Free, Tempera Paint, kids art supplies

To learn how all the other Crew families used the Thin Stix, click the banner below!

Find ideas and inspiration by visiting The Pencil Grip on Facebook  or Pinterest, or follow them on Twitter

No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


2 Corinthians 12:9

Scripture Writing, 2 Corinthians 12:9