The Sunshine Collective – Brilliant Box Review

If you are looking for ways to support your child’s learning or you need something extra to add to your homeschooling curriculum, I have found a wonderful resource for you from The Sunshine Collective called Brilliant Box. The Sunshine Collective is run by two busy Australian mums who were looking for ways in which they could support their own children’s learning while using real-life, practical, screen-free, everyday learning experiences. So let me tell you more about Brilliant Box.
 
 
Erin and Lisa have created a range of Brilliant Boxes for students from foundation/kindergarten level to grade 6. Each box comes delivered to you door with everything you need in it. The boxes contain 14 educational activities that are linked to the Australian Curriculum.
 
 
My little Miss 5 was excited to open up her foundation/prep box (picture above) to find pom poms and counters. This little pom pom game (pictured below) was all about counting at a foundation level with the added benefit of building fine motor skills in the process.
 
 
The foundation box, like every box, contains parent information cards (pictured below) which is very easy to follow and helps parents support their child with each of the fourteen activities in the box. The activities in the foundation to year 2 boxes, contain seven math focused activities and seven English activities. However in the level 3 to 6 boxes, there are five math and five English activities as well as four activities on curriculum themes such as history, science, arts and more. Each box comes with some worksheets, game boards, cards and any other addition material that is needed for these activities.
 
 
Even though each box is aimed at supporting the Australian Curriculum for that level, each activity can be easily adapted to suit your child. For example, this game (pictured below) called Bag of Numbers from the foundation level box, gave the option of using numbers to one hundred however, Miss 5 is not up to that stage in her learning yet so I adapted the activity to focus on the numbers that she knew and worked up from there.
 

The Sunshine Collective have only one Preschool Brilliant Box and are looking to expand this collection next year. However, for each primary school level, there are 10 Brilliant Boxes that are sent out across the year each with different learning activities in them such as the time activity below (from level 1 Brilliant Box). 


There are three different ways to purchase Brilliant Boxes:
 

  • One-off Box for $30 – You have the option of selecting any box and level that you would like to try.
  • Two Term/6 Month Subscription for $140 – This subscription is a two term subscription that gives you 5 boxes (two boxes per term) and a review box. This subscription can be used in term 1 and 2 with a mid year revision box or used for term 3 and 4 with an end of year revision box.
  • 12 month Subscription for $280 – This subscription gives you ten boxes with two boxes per term plus a mid and end of year revision boxes. This subscription also gives you a bonus quarterly newsletters for parents with additional activities and articles. With this subscription you have the choice to pay either full subscription or in quarterly installments of $70 every three months for 12 months.
If you would like to know more about the Brilliant Box, you can follow the link to their website.
 
 
The Sunshine Collective gave me three Brilliant Boxes in exchange for this post while all thoughts and ideas expressed here are my own.

Developing Literacy Skills with Educational Bricks

Over the last year or so I’ve had lots of questions from my readers about where I got our set of alphabet blocks from that I shared here on my blog. As my blocks are no longer available, I’ve been on a mission to find the best alphabet blocks that are out there to hopefully answer your questions and give you an opportunity to get some for your learner. And here they are! I want to introduced you to Educational Bricks
What are Educational Bricks?
Educational Bricks are a hands-on learning resource that supports learners to build their literacy skills and understanding through a multisensory approach. Each brick has beautifully printed letters on it which uses foundation font. The bricks are recommended for ages 3+ and are easy for little hands and big hands to manipulate. Educational Bricks come in a range of different sets that varying in the number of bricks per set.  

Each set is accompanied with a CD which has a printable word lists and worksheets as well as teaching notes. There are eight different Educational Brick sets that support the development of literacy and these sets include:

How can Educational Bricks be used?
Whether you take a structured approach to your learning or a more natural learning approach, Educational Bricks are a wonderful learning resource that can be added to any curriculum or use in an interest-led learning environment. There is no right or wrong way to use them, just simply follow the learner!

We have been using Educational Bricks to support the development of phonics and decoding skills. Decoding is done when the learner deciphers print into speech by matching letter or graphemes (combination of letters) to their sounds (phonemes) in order to identify the patterns that make syllables and words. 

I present Educational Bricks to my learners by using a systematic, explicit approach. For example, I use the Lower Case Bricks together with Vowel Rhyme Bricks to present one vowel block at a time to build a few different but simple CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words using the lower case bricks. Once this blending of sounds and making of CVC words has been mastered, I introduce another vowel brick until all the bricks have been introduced (at the learners pace) and my learner can construct a range of words using both the vowel rhyme bricks and the lower case bricks.

What can you learn with Educational Bricks?
Not only do Educational Bricks support the development of phonics and decoding skills, they can also help build phonemic awareness.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes (sounds) in spoken and written text. Although phonemic awareness is usually developed through auditory activities some learners will require a visual representation (letters) to support their development of phonemic awareness and Educational Bricks can do just that. Educational Bricks also support the development of Blending. Here is a great post about Blending – the what, why and how

Why use these bricks?
There are many reason why Educational Bricks are beneficial to learners. These bricks create a multisensory learning experience where the learner is able to physically manipulate the blocks to rearrange the letters and work on constructing different words. This helps build critical thinking skills along with phonics and decoding skills. By using a hands-on approach where the learner can manipulate the focused concept or in this case, a particular spelling rule, there is greater potential for the learner to retain, and later recall, the concept being taught. Plus, Educational Bricks make learning about words fun! 

Where to purchase them from and how much? 
I have purchased our sets of Educational Bricks from the lovely Kirstie at Starfish Education Center in Kiama, New South Wales. Kirstie runs a tutoring services from her shop and sells great variety of educational resources, products and supplies as well as a wide range of items for special needs. The Starfish Education Center have all their resources available online and this is where you can find the full range of Educational Bricks. You will also find the Maths range of Educational Bricks which include Numbers 1-10, Numbers and Symbols, great for learning addition, subtraction, division and multiply, and the Fraction Families.

Kirstie from Starfish Education Centre gave me a generous discount of 20% on my purchase of the Educational Bricks in exchange for this blog post. All ideas and thoughts expressed here are my own.

Sumblox – A Multisensory Resource for Learning Maths

I am always on the look out for great learning resources that encourage and support hands-on learning especially when it comes to maths. The use of manipulative resources provide the learner with a multisensory learning experience and this has been proven by research to be the most effective way to acquire knowledge and skills on a deeper level of understanding. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across these multisensory, wooden number blocks called Sumblox. Krystal from Sweet Elephants introduced me to Sumblox last year and I want to share with you how awesome these wooden number blocks are. 
What are Sumblox?
Sumblox is a set of 43 solid hardwood beech blocks that are beautiful crafted. These numbered building blocks are uniquely shaped and sized to teach a range of maths concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and fractions as well as problem solving, symmetry and creative play. This resource is aimed at learners between the ages of 2-11 years however I’m sure that older learners and special needs learners would benefit greatly from these blocks. 


Early Number Learning
For early learners, Sumblox offers an unique prospective for learning early maths concepts. Each number block varies in size according to their value making the number block gradually getting bigger depending on their value. This gives the learner a deeper understanding on numbers and supports self-correction as well as independent learning. Other early number concepts that these blocks help teach include:
  • number recognition and identification as they learn the names of each number
  • number value when ordering numbers from smallest to biggest 
  • number ordering using before and after
  • counting both forwards to ten and backwards to one
  • making new larger numbers such as teens and tens

Addition and Subtraction
Just as the size of the blocks assist learners in their early number discoveries, it also supports the development of problem solving skills when looking at addition and subtraction. Adding two number blocks together, or stacking them on top of each other, the learner will be able work out the answer of their sum by comparing the height of bigger blocks while self-correct. The same thing can be done for subtraction but in reverse, such as eight take away five equals three, just like a turn-around sum!
As learners grow and advance in their understanding of addition and subtraction, adding or subtracting three or even four numbers together can be done using Sumblox.

Other ways to learn about addition and subtraction can be done by exploring the different number combinations that add to ten, or numbers that add to eight or whatever number you would like to focus on. Learners are able to use the self-correcting blocks to solve the sum which builds confidence in their own ability as a learner.
I found this beautiful little addition to eight set up of our Sumblox next to our window. My daughter, who is 6 years old, has really grasped the concept of addition using these blocks and loves building them with our Rainbow Blocks too.

Multiplication
The first steps to introducing multiplication to learners starts with skip counting followed by making “groups of”. Both of these early concepts can be supported with Sumblox. Stacking the blocks on top of each other to make three groups of two will or 3X3 you can easily work out the answer.  

I absolutely love the unique size value of Sumblox as it really supports working with larger multiplication numbers too. You can see the multiplication 3X7 and the stacked blocks will equal to 21 and this can be self checked by looking at the height. 

Creative Play

Sumblox offers learners of all ages a new prospective on problem solving through open-ended play. Although these blocks are shaped like numbers they are also really great for supporting creative play. Constructing and building towers, bridges or even fences in an imaginary story encourages learning through play.


Even while play learners are exploring maths concepts. My son (10 years old) loves using Sumblox to build towers and after some experimenting, he noted that for him the strongest and most stable towers were the ones that were built using a line of symmetry. Meanwhile, my daughter who is 4 years old, likes to create imaginary worlds so she used Sumblox as a fence for her little animals. However, while she was constructing her fence I could hear her chatting to herself as she named each number as she placed them down for her fence. Learning through play!
Each set of Sumblox comes with an activity card that has instructions on how to play two games, one called the Tower of 10, which looks at combination of numbers to ten, and the other called Sumblox Bridges. Both these games teach the different maths concepts that can be done in a group situation. So this is perfect for any classroom, homeschool group or at home with your kids. You can see an example of both these games on YouTube.
 

The learning opportunities are endless with Sumblox as they also support the learning of measurement (length, height and weight of blocks) and even fractions! So if you are interested in acquiring a set of Sumblox for your learners you can find them at Sweet Elephants online store

HistoriCool – the coolest mag in HISTORY!

I have always been a bit of a history nerd and as of lately, my son (9yrs) has been showing an interest in history too hence my previous post on Aboriginal Australians and other Australian history topics. Because we don’t follow a curriculum but rather follow the interest of the learner, I like to have a range of history resources available to my son so he can choose what he is interested in and where he wants to take his learning. Once I started looking, I quickly found that for his age history resources are limited until I came across HistoriCool magazine. Let me tell you all about this incredible history resource and their amazing discount offer for home educators.

I originally came across HistoriCool on their instagram account and was immediately drawn to the concept of a history magazine. So when Lucy, the editorial director of HistoriCool, got in contact with me about reviewing her magazine I jumped at the chance.
HistoriCool is a magazine that targets readers between the age of 8-14 years old with short, historically accurate stories that are not only educational but inspiring and engaging. This magazine covers history not just in Australia but across the world and throughout history. Each new issue, with one released every two month, provides a wealth of knowledge for the young historians while encouraging a love of history. 

Each issue of HistoriCool has an historical theme with short stories, photographs and pictures to accompany each 64 paged issue. As well as a number of interest articles, HistoriCool also looks at ancient artifacts from history, history timelines and makes various connections to the Australian Curriculum. HistoriCool is also available as a digital eMag which is compatible with most computers, tables and ipads.

In each issue, young readers are encouraged to Become a HistoriCool Junior Historian by submitting their own written articles, research reports or another pieces of writing about history to the magazine for printing. What an exciting way to encourage writing and a love of history!

HistoriCool is more than just a magazine of stories as it also features activities and games such a Wordsearch and Spot The Difference. Wordsearches are such a great way to introduce learners to and help them develop a history vocabulary. Sometimes there are crosswords, letter scramble and other fun games you can play. They also have an HistoriCook section which is also fun.

 
We are mad comic readers in this house which it has a lot to do with the visual aspect of our learning style, so you can imagine my son excite to see comics in HistoriCool. Bernie the Not-So-Bright Historian has a comics in each issue that features his not-so-bright and a little clumsy, recalling of history events and facts. It really gets you laughing. 

HistoriCool also shares a featured section called New On the Bookshelf where you can review the latest historical fiction they have found that would suit readers between ages of 8-14 years and older. There is also a Laugh Out Loud section where they share jokes, a Caption This! section which encourages readers to get involved and a Quiz Time! that has questions based on the stories that the learner has just read (basic comprehension questions).

So now that I’ve told you how awesome HistoriCool magazine is, let me tell you about their fantastic subscription offer for home educators.

A year subscription with HistoriCool will give you six issues of their magazine for a seriously low price of $47.00. Due to the rise in postage and printing costs, HistoriCool is no longer able to offer a $5 discount for homeschoolers however homeschoolers will receive the Teacher Pack for FREE, which is a savings of $35.00 and that’s awesome!! The Teacher Pack comes with every magazine issue and is full of creative ideas, lessons and worksheets that are based on that issue. The Teacher Pack is delivered digitally via your email. 

If you live outside of Australia or would prefer a digital copy, HistoriCool has a package just for you. For $25.00 you are able to purchase a digital subscription of the HistoriCool magazine. In this subscription you will also receive the digital copy of the Teacher Pack and that is a saving of $35.00 which is incredible! 

To take advantage of this amazing offer and get your learners excited about history, click on the image below to take your straight to HistoriCool’s website for more details on this great offer.

This is NOT a sponsored post. HistoriCool gifted me two copies of their magazines plus a copy of their eMag to review. I also received a yearly subscription package. All thoughts and ideas expressed here are my own.

Building and Creating with ZOOB

My son is a hands-on learner and like most hands-on learners, he loves pulling things apart and sometimes, he will put things back together again. I have shared the ways to support an interest in engineering that we have done as well as putting together our DIY Tinkering Table for different engineering projects. So I’m always looking for different resources that would support my sons interest in engineering and recently, I came across a fantastic resource called ZOOB. 
 
ZOOB is a open-ended construction set that allows the learner to build, engineer, explore, experiment and create while integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) through play. ZOOB comes with five types of pieces that snap, click and pop together in five different colours too. The ZOOB pieces can join together in more than twenty different ways and can rotate and lock into more than one hundred different positions. How cool is that!

 

ZOOB sets come in a range of different sizes from  15-piece sets right up to 500-piece sets. Each set is compatible with the other and each set comes in its own durable, plastic storage tubs.

ZOOB sets come packed with instruction guides that are provided in order to get your imagination started and inspire creativity. The guides also have information on the different connections, how to care for the ZOOB pieces as well as instructions on how to make basic creations. My son use the instructions to make a spinning top.

But the real fun and creativity is in designing and making your own creations! ZOOB has no limits for the different open-ended ways that they can be used. For example, Miss 5 independently made herself a crown that she used during her creative play while Mr 9 constructed his own robot man. Anything is possible.

ZOOB is recommended for ages 6+ as the pieces can be hard to put together for little fingers. Miss 5 had no trouble building with the ZOOB set so it comes down to the individual and how developed their fine motor ability is.

We were kindly gifted this 250 piece ZOOB set from Child.com.au. Child.com.au is Australia’s online Education Superstore with thousands of engaging and educational toys for children of all ages. The team at child.com.au is made up of former teachers and dedicated educational professionals and many of their products can be found in schools, childcare centers and other educational settings, like homeschool, around Australia. The child.com.au. range covers all areas of the Australian curriculum such as literacy, maths, science, art and music as well as supporting interest-led learning. Child.com.au believe in the power of play and have lots of products that nurture exploration, creation, imagination and play.


As a special offer for my readers, child.com.au are offering 15% OFF site wide when you enter promo code SUZIE at checkout until July 31st 2015

https://www.child.com.au/

They also have FREE delivery (Australia wide) for all orders over $99.90. Click on the image below to go directly to Child.com.au website to take advantage of this amazing offer.

This is NOT a sponsored post. Child.com.au gifted us the 250 piece set of ZOOBS in exchange for a review. All thoughts and ideas expressed here are my own.

Invitation to Create – Puppets

We were kindly gifted the Collage Starter Kit from Clever Patch a few weeks ago and since sharing our independent creativity with clay, my children have been begging me to open the rest of the box. So we unpacked the craft items from Clever Patch and used them to make an invitation to create! 
The Collage Starter Kit comes packed FULL of different craft items that can easily last over a number of different projects and is very reasonably priced. The Collage Starter Kit includes 20x tissue paper sheets, 50x coloured popsticks, 60x corrugated shapes, 100 pompoms, 100x coloured A5 cards, 100 wiggly eyes (10mm), 200 construction paper shapes, 200x foamies, 45g rhinestones, 100g glitter, 100g barrel beads and, last but not least, 100x large sequins. 


I have always approached art as being an expression of the soul, of what you feel and how you see things. We each have our own unique way of expressing and creating art and this is one of the reasons why I encourage independent creativity with my children. So by setting up an invitation to create, it gives the artist the power to express their creativity without limitations.

To start with, I set up the different items from the Collage Starter Kit in easy accessible containers on our outdoor table where my children were free to select and start creating their master pieces. Because this kit has such a diverse range of resources, it gives the artist a variety of objects to work with which is perfect to encourage independent creativity.

I truly believe that all children are born artists each having their own style, design, their own ideas and expressions so it was interesting to watch what items my children chose to use and the different ways they created with each item.

A little crocodile was created by Miss 5 while Miss 4 made a squeaky mouse and Mr 9 made a bee, a square man and a robot lady. While they creating and talking together, my children come up with the idea of making puppets from their creations so they could put on a puppet show. Different ideas were put forward about how to turn their creations into puppets. This collaboration of ideas and thoughts resulted in a lovely set of puppets and a wonderful afternoon of storytelling.

  
I love how each puppet is different, unique and created to reflect the artist and their expression. This is exactly how art should be created. The Collage Starter Kit supports the independent artists and really encourages little artists to express their creativity. I wonder what my children will make next time when I put out an invitation to create!

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso
This was not a sponsored post. I was gifted the Collage Starter Kit from Clever Patch. All ideas and thoughts expressed here are my own.