Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Catbird Baby Pikkolo Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow"Attached Mama" Susan Scantland Littleton

I was really excited for the opportunity to try out the Catbird Metropolitan (solid black) Pikkolo from our babywearing group's local lending library. My experience with SSCs (soft structured carriers) was zero; I’ve been using wraps since my son was born. So this gave me a chance not only to try a new SSC, but also to try a whole different form of babywearing. 

 The Pikkolo is designed to be ergonomic for front-facing in and front-facing out carries as well as back carries. As there are few carriers that allow ergonomic facing out, this will be an appealing feature for some wearers. Catbird advises facing out will be less comfortable after about 20 lbs., but I found it surprisingly comfortable with my 25 lb. 10-month-old. I wouldn’t want to carry him that way for long, but my son seemed to enjoy the new position for the twenty minutes I had him in it. By the end of that time, my back was protesting.

While designed to be ergonomic with knee-to-knee coverage, my 31 in. boy’s legs were dangling a bit. I had a friend with a slightly smaller one-year-old try on the carrier for comparison, and it was still knee-to-knee on her daughter. It certainly provides a closer to ergonomic fit than a narrow-based carrier, but my son seems to have outgrown it relatively early. It’s designed for carrying 8 to 40 lbs., and I felt no back pain carrying my son in either the front, inward facing position nor in a back carry. The padded straps are cushy without being overly bulky, and the chest clip is easy to clasp in both front and back positions.

During the two weeks I borrowed this carrier, I used it for lots of chores around the house, some 60-90 minute walks, and for errands. I appreciated the ease with which I could get him up and comfortable, compared to how long it takes to achieve a supportive carry in a wrap. My son always seemed comfy, and I never had to worry about him “popping his seat” the way he can in a wrap. It’s not possible to get him up as high on my back as I can with him wrapped, even buckling the waist belt directly under my breasts. He likes to see over my shoulder, and if he can’t, he tries to lean down under my arm. He was secure enough that when he leaned around my side to see what I was doing, I didn’t have to worry he could go anywhere, but it made me off balance.

Overall, I think the Catbird Pikkolo is a great option for the first year of babywearing. It may not fit as long as a Tula or a Kinderpack, but it’s also a less expensive option. The ability to forward face will be really appealing from babywearers crossing over from narrow-based carriers as well as those with babies who are only happy facing out. I was impressed with how it felt, even with such a big baby. Because of the size, I won’t be purchasing a Pikkolo for this baby. But it did make me think an SSC may work for us someday, and it’s definitely one I would check out if I were shopping for a smaller baby. 

NOTE TO READERS FROM CATHY:   Catbird Baby VERY generously donated the carrier used in this review to the community's local lending library in exchange for a fair and honest review.   The opinions expressed in this review are the author's own and have not been influenced by the donation.  I wish to thank Catbird Baby for their generosity.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Baby K'tan Review

The following review was written by guest blogger and fellow"Attached Mama" Samara Sauls  
I recently had the opportunity to review the Baby K’Tan with my baby, who is 3 months old.  I’ve been curious to try it, since the K’Tan is advertised as essentially being like a wrap, without any wrapping.  While I am rather new to the wrapping scene (but I love it), I have been using soft structured carriers (SSC’s) and ring slings for several years, so I was curious to see how the K’Tan compares to my experiences with other carriers.
Simple design
Easy to transport
No tails, buckles or rings to hassle with
Easy to put on/take off                 

Thin fabric isn’t the most supportive
Sized – only fits one body size
Limited in carries

Simple Design & Transport
My initial impression of the K’Tan can be summed up in a word: minimalist. It is comprised of 2 thin, stretchy pieces of fabric held together with a loop, and an additional “sash” of the same material. Cleverly, the sash also doubles as a carrying bag. The K’Tan is easy to throw into a bag and transport; while many carriers share that fact (such as a ring sling), others can be a mess of buckles, tails and straps, and may not come with anything to store or carry them in (but this is easily remedied with a simple drawstring bag, like a shoe bag). The double-function sash-and-bag feature, combined with the simplicity of the K’Tan’s design, is appealing.
Of key importance is that K’Tan is that it comes in sizes. It suggests to size down if you are between sizes, which I did. While the sizing is necessary for such a design, I do think it is a negative aspect as well, because the carrier can only be used by another person of the same size, whereas SSC’s are generally adjustable for multiple people to wear baby (such as both moms and/or dads), and wraps are completely versatile and customizable. I found sizing down to be the right fit for me, though I cannot imagine it would grow well with my baby, even with the stretchy fabric.
Easy On/Easy Off & Supportiveness
Putting on the K’Tan looked a bit confusing, but a quick look at the website provided easy instructions, and I proceeded with the “Hug” position. My tired baby quickly fell asleep. At 15 lbs, he is a big baby for his age, but I still felt fairly supported in the carrier. (I do think if I had a smaller baby I might find it not quite supportive enough and too stretchy – mine fits pretty snugly.) The thinness of the fabric does make it a little less supportive than I’d like, and so while it was comfortable, it was not enough for me –the ring in the back that connects the loops also prevents the fabric from being completely spread out (to distribute baby’s weight and maximize comfort, which can be done with a wrap).  It also lacks the padding of SSC’s or the width of wraps, and I doubt I, personally, would find it comfortable for a child much larger than mine. (I did see someone at the zoo recently wearing a much bigger child, so maybe it would be fine!) However, he slept happily in it, and I did not really get sore the way I do with a ring sling. It is also extremely easy to take off, which not all carriers are – a fact I appreciate when baby wakes up crying and I need to get him out right away.
While the sash was convenient doing double-duty, and is “required” for certain holds as added security and support, I actually found it to be pretty pointless as far as my experience was concerned. I can see the safety aspect of it – if my baby were older and arching away from me, the extra fabric tied around will help keep them safe. I did not feel any extra support from using it, though...maybe that comes into play later.

Conclusion: great for some, but not for me
In sum, I found the K’Tan to be moderately to very comfortable and easy to use, with a basic design that makes it quite appealing as a cross-over carrier, if you can accept some limitations. It’s a good option for those who are fine with the limits and cannot purchase multiple carriers, who do not want to deal with the learning curve of wraps, the buckles and straps of SSC’s and mei tai’s, and want something more physically balanced than a ring sling. But, while I think it is a great hybrid carrier, it will not replace, or be added to, my existing stash. I still find wraps to be more comfortable, and I appreciate the versatility of them, which, for me, makes the trial and error of learning worthwhile. While both SSC’s and the K’Tan are limited in the types of carries that can be used, I find SSC’s more supportive, and they’re usually adjustable; I don’t like that my husband could not use the K’Tan. I also feel my ring sling is far more supportive for a big baby with its silk fabric than the stretchiness of the K’Tan, and is just as easy to transport. Thus, I am happy enough with my current stash to not add the K’Tan – but I’d likely buy it for a friend as a shower gift, since, while limited, it encompasses many good features from several types of carriers.

NOTE TO READERS FROM CATHY:   I am lucky to live in a community with a great babywearing support group!  Our support group offers free help and support to caregivers wishing to learn how to wear their babies.   It also offers a lending library of carriers where people can try a carrier out before they buy.  Baby K'Tan VERY generously donated the carrier used in this review to the community's local lending library in exchange for a fair and honest review.   The oppinions expressed in this review are the author's own and have not been influenced by the donation.  I wish to thank Baby K'Tan for their generosity. 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014-2015 Sonlight Blog Roll

May I proudly present.......  (drum roll)

The 2014-2015 Sonlight/Bookshark Blog Roll!

This blog roll will give fellow "Sonlight-ers" a place to connect and meet.  Feel free to bookmark or pin this page and refer to it anytime you need some inspiration. 

Are you a blogger using Sonlight for the 2014-2015 school year? 
If so, we would love it if you would join the Sonlight Blog Roll.  You don't even have to be using a 'complete' sonlight core.  Anyone using and blogging about Sonlight is welcome to join.

UPDATE:  I received an email asking if "Bookshark" users are welcome to join.  The answer is...yes!  We would love to have you included in our blog roll.  

Here's how to do it:
STEP 1)  Scroll down and grab the button code below and display it proudly on your blog.  All entries must have a link to this blog roll somewhere on the main page of their blog or you will not be allowed to participate.  This is so we can get the word out about the Sonlight Blog Roll. 

STEP 2)   Next, use the Linky Tool at the bottom of this page to link up your blog.  There is absolutely no weekly posting requirement--just link up and have fun.

NOTE:  Please include your blog's name with the core(s) you are using in parenthesis (if applicable).  Example:  The Attached Mama (Cores P3/4, B, and F)

STEP 3)  Leave a comment on my blog letting me know you linked up so I can come check out your blog. 

Are you a NEW SONLIGHT user?  If so, follow this link when registering for your Sonlight account.  It can save you $5 off your first order of $50 or more.  (ENTER REWARDS ID: DH20271164.)

Post a link to your blog here after grabbing button code (below):

Button Code:
Please select the size of button/banner you prefer by copying and pasting the code onto the main page of your blog. 

200px by 200px Button for Side Bar
2014-2015 Sonlight Blog Roll - The Attached Mama

150px by 150px button for Side Bar:

2014-2015 Sonlight Blog Roll - The Attached Mama

125px by 125px Button for Side Bar:
2014-2015 Sonlight Blog Roll - The Attached Mama

200px by 600px Banner:

2014-2015 Sonlight Blog Roll at The Attached Mama


Do you still have questions?  Please feel free to contact me in the comment section below.  I would be glad to help!

Thanks so much!
Cathy aka The Attached Mama

My blog and the blogs linked to this page are not affiliated with the Sonlight Curriculum company in any way.  We are just fans and users of the curriculum.   The views expressed in these blogs do not represent Sonlight or their employees. 

Sonlight Curriculum

Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentine's Day Boxes

Doug was in charge of helping the kids with their valentines day boxes this year.  They use these in their homeschool valentine exchange party.   I think they turned out great!  (They sure look better than the red shoe boxes covered in glitter glue and heart stickers that I used to make.)

Marcus helped create a purple minion box. 

And Sophie helped create an R2D2 box.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Beco Babycarrier Makeover and Nursing Cover

Hi There Everyone,

For those that don't know, we are expecting our third child sometime in September.  SO--I have been doing some sewing/nesting in preparation. 

The first thing on my list was to find a way to spruce up my old Beco 4G babycarrier.  Marcus and Sophie pretty much lived in this carrier from the time they were babies until they were as old as 3 or 4.  It had seen a lot of use to say the least.  The straps were faded, and I had sort of fallen out of love with the fabric.

Here are the before pictures of the carrier:


And here are the after pictures:

 I starting out trying to dye the carrier with rit dye in the washing machine.  I was trying to re-darken the faded, black straps.  That didn't really do much.  (Just made a mess in my washer!) I probably should have used a better type of dye, but I was impatient and just wanted to get this project finished.
Here is me doing my "Vanna White pose" with the baby carrier.  I always feel like such an idiot getting my picture taken for these sewing projects.  :) 
I had some gorgeous Japanese fabric in my stash that I was going to turn into an apron.  (Echino for all of you fabric nerds.)  However, I figure I need another apron like a whole in the head---so I used the fabric to recover the carrier.  This was actually amazing fast and simple to do.  I just appliqued the new fabric over the old...and voila...a new looking baby carrier.  (I like this new fabric so much better!)

I had enough fabric left over to sew a matching nursing cover.   

Here's the matching nursing cover.  As you can see, I only know one "Vanna White" pose.  You can also see that I haven't gotten around to weeding much this pregnancy. 

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sewing for my Mama

Here's a little sewing I did for my mama for Mother's Day.....

The first thing I made was a fabric journal cover.  This cover was made to fit just a standard sized memo book you can buy at the store.  (I wanted to make it fit something standard and easy to come by so you could replace the journal easily when the paper was used up.)

I used a natural colored linen for the main fabric.  Then I quilted a little "strip" together out of some pretty scrap fabrics I had in my stash.  I then embroidered it with a retro looking kitty and added her name. 

The inside of the journal is lined in one of my favorite Heather Bailey fabrics.  (It is called "Church Flowers" and it is from her nicey jane collection.)  I also added a ribbon bookmark just because.

I had some extra fabric, so I also made a simple fabric bookmark that was personalized for her.
Fabric Bookmark Front

Fabric Bookmark Back
Finally, I stitched up some flour sack towels and embroidered some cute, colorful animal sayings on them.

Well, that's all folks!  Thanks so much for looking!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Reading Lesson-My Review

When it came time to teach my children how to read, I did a LOT of research on the various theories, methods, and products available to teach reading.   One product that I liked right away was The Reading Lesson.  
The Reading Lesson is a complete reading program created especially for young children.  Before beginning the program, children need very little prior knowledge of the alphabet or phonics.    Everything is taught within the context of the lesson.  Lessons are also taught in a way that makes learning to read very simple.   In other programs I have tried, they make learning to read very complicated.  Children are expected to memorize long lists of phonics rules—and then all of the exception to these “rules” that we have in the English language.   Children will not need to do that in The Reading Lesson.   Yet, they somehow manage to give a very thorough introduction to phonics without making it so complicated.

Overview of the Program:
I think it is important for the parent to read the introductory material at the beginning of the book.  Don’t skip over this material!  It is short, well written, and very much “to the point”.  This material also gives suggestions on how to keep children motivated during their reading lesson, and it provides pacing suggestions for children of various ages. 

The book is divided into 20 different lessons.  However, each lesson will most likely be spread out through multiple days (or even weeks).  Parents are instructed to move through the book at their child’s individual pace. 

Another thing you will notice right away in The Reading Lesson is the unique use of font size throughout the book.  In the beginning of the book, the font size is very large, and there is a lot of blank, negative space on the page.  My son (5 years old at the time we went through these lessons) very much appreciated this aspect of the book!   It made it so that his little eye muscles didn’t have to work so hard when learning to read.   It also allowed him to easily complete several pages at each lesson with very little “work”—which gave him a sense of confidence.  As you continue on in the book, the font gradually (and very slowly) becomes smaller and smaller.  There is also more text on the pages as you continue on.   This is one thing I found VERY unique about The Reading Lesson.  I have yet to see that in any other “learn to read” book.

The next thing you will notice about The Reading Lesson is the unique use of symbols and marks on the letters.   For example, many young children struggle with telling “b” from “d” when first learning to read.  So, beginning in lesson 5 when the letters “b” and “d” are both used, they put a little dot inside of the letter b so students can easily tell that letter apart.  Again, my children really liked this!  I was initially worried that they would become overly reliant on these little marks when telling letters apart.   I was worried that once we removed the dots, they would not be able to tell the letters apart anymore.   However, a year later, my children now very seldom mix those two letters up even without the special dots.  So it wasn’t a problem.   

Notice how the letter "b" is uniquely distinguished between the letter "d".

Another symbol that you will notice are the little lines under the letters.  This is suppose to provide a reminder to children about which letters they need to make the sound of when reading.  Another unique feature of The Reading Lesson is that consonant and vowel blends (such as “th” and “ee”) are taught VERY early on.   The children are also introduced to “silent” letters right away (example:  the silent “e” common at the end of words.)   These lines are there to remind children which letters make their individual sounds, which letters need to be blended together, and which letters are silent.  Words are introduced and reviewed over and over again with these “helping” markers.   (There is a lot of built in review which I appreciated.)   After awhile, most children will no longer have to “sound the word out” and will eventually be able to read the word by sight.  At that point, the “helping” symbols are eventually removed, and the words are written normally.    At the end of each lesson they give you a list of “key words” that your children should be very familiar with before moving on.   This list is sort of a warning that after this point, these words won’t be written with a bunch of “helping” markers.   This was extremely helpful.  I knew that if my kids were not fluently reading these words, I should go back and review the previous lesson before moving on.

Notice the lines under the different letters and consonant blends. 

 The final thing you will notice right away about this book are the cute black and white line drawings throughout the book.  Right away kids see that this is a book made for them!  I didn't see that in other "reading program" books on the market.  They were mostly just dry, pages full of text.  Some kids will also enjoy coloring these drawings in when they finish a page in their reading lesson.

What a typical day was like teaching this lesson:
 The thing I like MOST about The Reading Lesson is how easy it was to teach.  It requires next to no prep work.  It is very easy to open up the book and just start using it.   Typically, what I would do is pour myself another cup of coffee, and invite my kids to come and sit with me on the couch.  The book itself would guide me through any teaching that was required. 

If I happened to be starting a new lesson that day, I would very quickly read the one page introduction to the lesson before I called the kids over.  The introduction to the lesson tells you which letters or letter combinations will be introduced.    It also guides the parent on how to properly pronounce the sounds of these letters or letter combinations.   (It is VERY important to make sure you are properly pronouncing the phonemes when teaching a child how to read.) 

I was teaching two kids how to read simultaneously, so my children would then take turns reading directly from the book.  (All teaching and student work comes directly from that single book.)  My kids had about a 10-15 minute attention span when it came to a reading lesson, so we would typically get through 2-3 pages per day.  This was exactly the pacing suggestion given to us at the start of the book. 

My Bottom Line:
I compared The Reading Lesson thoroughly with other reading instruction books on the market within this same price range.  (My comparisons included some of the most popular reading instruction books available including:  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons , The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, Reading Made Easy, and Phonics Pathways.  The simple fact of the matter is that all of these books are going to give your child a solid foundation when it comes to reading.  These books are popular for a reason.  HOWEVER---I found that only The Reading Lesson made learning to read a bit more fun for the child.  (Many of those other books were extremely dry and felt like a huge chore for the kids to get through.)  I also found The Reading Lesson to be extremely easy to teach.  I have never taught a child to read before—however, I was able to do so successfully with only this book.  This book required no teacher prep and was able to accomplish a huge amount of instruction in just 10-15 minutes per day. 

So what is my bottom line?  When it comes to finding a reading program under $30, The Reading Lesson is by far the best product out there in that price range. 

The same company, who makes The Reading Lesson, also provides these other products for sale.  Some parents may want to supplement the Reading Lesson with these optional books, DVDs, and CD-ROM s.  Here is my quick “review” on these “extras”--

Letter Sounds DVD--  This DVD (which runs approximately 44 minutes long) teaches children the basic sounds of the letters of the alphabet.  Parents can optionally use this DVD before or during The Reading Lesson.  My thoughts:  This DVD was nice.  However, I personally prefer the Leap Frog learning DVDs for teaching this information.   
The Reading Lesson Animated CD-Rom-  There is also an animated CD ROM available which walks you through every lesson in the original The Reading Lesson book.   Children who like being on the computer may prefer this method of instruction over the book (or along side the book).  This certainly isn’t an essential item to own, but it is a nice addition to the program.   (I should note that we are a mac family and had no problems getting this CD to install and run.  I can’t say that about a lot of educational CD-ROMs!)

The Storybook CD-ROM-  Another cute supplement to the program is the Storybook CD-ROM.  It contains 40 animated short stories for your child to read.  The animations do a nice job of keeping the child interested and motivate them to practice reading.  My children also enjoyed the “clickable” words if they got stuck.  Again, I wouldn’t say this product is essential to teaching your child how to read.  You can do the exact same thing by simply checking early readers out of the library and helping them with words they get stuck on.  However, children who like being on the computer, might be more motivated to practice reading with this product.  This product is also nice because it follows the same letter-sound introduction used in the lessons. (It is nearly impossible to find other readers that follow the exact introductory order used in The Reading Lesson.) 

The Writing Lesson-  The Writing Lesson is an inexpensive handwriting program which corresponds to the lessons in The Reading Lesson.  If your child is ready to learn handwriting when you are teaching them to read, you may want to get this product as a supplement.  This product comes on a CD, and gives you a plethora of writing exercises to chose from.  Parents are able to print just what they need and as many copies as they need for children in their family.  The CD contains three different scripts (primary, script, and cursive). It also contains activities that work on forming of all upper and lower case letters, common words, and even stories.  So this single product could potentially provide handwriting practice for an entire family from grades 1st-4th grade!   

Big Words For Little Kids:  Advanced Vocabulary for Elementary School Children--  This book teaches children specific strategies for figuring out the meaning of unknown words they encounter in their reading.   In this book, they systematically teach children to break familiar words into their individual parts (prefixes,  suffixes, and roots)….then transfer the meaning of those parts to new words.  I personally really liked the approach used in this book.  I have never seen a book like this written to the level of elementary aged students.  I plan to add this into our language arts program down the road. 

The Verbal Math Lesson-- There are two levels of these books which provide a step-by-step math program for children.  The first level is meant for children ages 4-7, and the second level is meant for children ages 7-8.    As the title implies, these books attempt to teach math completely verbally…. without paper and pencil.   So obviously, this program might be a good fit if you have a child who does well taking information in while listening.  If your child has poor receptive language skills, they are not going to do well in this program and may need a more visual or “hands-on” program instead.  As far as the quality of this program, I can see using this with a preschool or kindergartner who I wanted to gently introduce to math.  Many children this age do not have the fine motor skills to complete the more typical “worksheet” based math programs on the market.  As far as for older children (in the 7-8 year old range), I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable using this as my only math program.  I would definitely use this book to supplement another math program.  I found the book to contain some fantastic word problems and activities. 

Disclosure:  The products reviewed here were given to me free of charge in exchange for my HONEST review.   I was not obligated in any way to provide a favorable review.  These are my actual opinions of the product.

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