Monday, March 30, 2015

Awesome Lunchbox and Water Bottle Review!

**I am an affiliate of PlanetBox, they provided me with a BottleRocket water bottle at no cost to me in return for an honest review. I purchased the Rover complete system myself and am sharing my review because I choose to. This post contains affiliate links, if you click on a link to Planetbox and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, this will not affect your purchase in anyway. Thank you for helping support this blog.**

I have a fun new product to share with you all today. I know many Montessori and Homeschooling families are often also interested in environmentally friendly and health conscience products. A while back I shared another product from the same company and I will also do a follow up on that product. 

Planetbox Rover lunchbox with BottleRocket water bottle. T's lunch includes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, cheese crackers, carrot coins, fresh mozzarella balls, strawberries and kiwi, plus a few reese's pieces. 

We have been using the Rover lunch system from Planetbox for about 8 months now. T (8) takes it to his Montessori school with him every single day. I can not even tell you how many little plastic baggies were saved over the course of this year. I also didn’t have to bother with a bunch of smaller containers that would each need to be cleaned separately. The Planetbox systems are made of stainless steel and its all connected so you just open it up and place it in the dishwasher or hand wash super quickly. I have not been disappointed with this product at all, its awesome! T loves using it and it makes it easy for me. When I make lunch, it takes about 5 minutes to place it all into the divided spaces in the single tray and close the lid. When I used baggies or separate containers, it would take triple that amount of time. 

We purchased the complete Rover system which includes the tray with attached lid, two water proof containers, carrying bag and magnet set. T used the magnet set for about a month and decided he didn’t really care for them. While it is cuter with the magnets, I think it looks really nice without them. I also was quite happy because they are just an extra step when cleaning because you have to remove them first. The small water proof containers are great for things that would leak like yogurt and juicy fruits. I also have placed things like taco meat, pasta with sauce and mac & cheese in them (of course you’d either have to eat these cold or place them on a plate before reheating since the containers are metal). The lunch bag is the one part that I am not totally thrilled with. I do think its held up nicely but its not perfect. The insulation on the bag gets bent when a water bottle is placed in the pocket. The front pocket next to the water bottle could be a bit bigger (i like to put fruit in it and its a tight squeeze). It is difficult to clean making it not look new for very long. I think that while the metal lunch system will definitely last years and years, the bag will most likely need to be replaced each year to keep it looking nice. I still think this is a good deal because most fabric lunch bags need to be replaced at least once a year. When my son was in primary Montessori he went through 3 lunch bags in one year because the zippers broke or the fabric ripped. These hold up nicely, they just look a bit dingy after a while. I also think he’ll want a new color next year anyway.

The new product I want to share with you is their new water bottle. When it first came out, I wasn’t planning to buy it. We have been using the Thermos Funtainer water bottles for years and love them. Planetbox offered to send me a bottle in exchange for a honest review so we gave it a try. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this water bottle. It is about the same size as the Funtainer bottles and has a similar button pop lid. The Planetbox BottleRocket (goes along with their space theme) has a little metal latch that locks the lid so it won’t pop open in transit. This is a necessary part because this bottle is NOT spill proof. The BottleRocket has a silicone spout that opens directly into the bottle so you tip it to drink rather than suck through a straw. It also has a rubber piece in the lid to keep it from leaking. I have found this bottle to be totally leak proof even when laid on its side. In the past my son would bring home his lunch and lay it flat on the counter leaving his Funtainer on its side, it would leak out the top all over his lunch bag. When he does the same with the BottleRocket, it will not leak. Another big benefit of the BottleRocket, is that it has no straw. I know I’m not the only one who hates trying to clean those Funtainer straws! No matter how well I clean those straws, they never quite seem clean enough. No straw in the BottleRocket makes it so I know it is clean, and it can all go in the dishwasher.

The Gray Planetbox BottleRocket compared to a blue Thermos Funtainer

Planetbox BottleRocket has No Straw

No Straw, easier to keep clean

The price tag of the PlanetBox BottleRocket is a bit steep, but that is true for the food systems as well. This bottle costs about $10 more than most Funtainers but the benefits may make it worth the cost. I personally, never paid full price for the Funtainers I bought. I paid about $5-10 for each of our Funtainers which I thought was a much better price for what I got. If I had to pay more than that I think the BottleRocket would be a better quality bottle for the price. I definitely think our Rover system was well worth the cost for the year we have already used it and will use it again next year. 

Right now I am considering purchasing a Launch system which is a larger version with a glass dish that is microwavable. I think it would be nice to have two difference systems to choose from depending on the food he is taking. It works well right now for him to put foods to reheat in his metal container since he has plates to transfer foods at school, I think it would be easier to just reheat in the glass container though. Check out the full Planetbox lineup at their website

Not only will I give you my review but I will also share my 8 year old's review since he is the one who uses these products on a daily basis. T says "Tell Planetbox that I love my lunchbox and new water bottle. It works great and its the coolest in my class. Tell everyone on the blog that they should buy their kids these lunch boxes and water bottles because they are fun and make it easy for kids to pack their own lunches. They keep the food separated and nothing gets squished and the water bottles don't leak. The only thing I don't like about it is that sometimes the lids are a little hard to take off." The lids he is talking about are the big and little dipper containers that go with the rover box, they seal really well and are sometimes hard to get off if a tight vacuum has occurred. The top of the water bottle can be a little difficult to remove as well, it twists off but the rubber part inside also create a vacuum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What have we been up to?

Hi everyone! It has been a while since I posted. Life has changed a lot for us and it has not left as much time for blogging. I would like to take a moment to update you on what we have been up to lately.

T is nearly 9 now. He has been enrolled in a local Montessori school in the lower elementary program for 8 months. In this particular school they have a large enrollment and have split the elementary program into two parts, lower 6-9 and upper 9-12. This is a fairly common practice in schools with large enrollment. The year prior to T attending they had fewer students and the group was combined. They had several students move up from primary (3-6) and new students enroll making the group too large for just one classroom/teacher. I really like the way they have arranged things at his school because while they did split the group, they have several activities together.

T absolutely LOVES his school. I am happy to report that our decision to stop homeschooling and put him back into a regular Montessori school was a huge success. He is a super social person and he really needed that collaboration time with his peers. No matter how many groups or outside activities I planned for him with other children while homeschooling, it just wasn't enough for him. He is a strong extrovert. I had a bit of trouble understanding this because I am a strong introvert and the idea of homeschooling over any school would have thrilled me, but it was not the same situation for him. He is thriving in his new school.

We have noticed several improvements in his acedemics while attending his new school as well. He has struggled with handwriting but it has greatly improved this year. It is still far from perfect but it is easier to read and he is not using as many uppercase letters in the wrong places like he used to. He has recently started practicing more cursive writing too. His school has a weekly spelling "test" which I think has really helped him. While they do test the child's knowledge of the spelling of words, it is not a standard test where all children learn the same words, study everyday and pass or fail the test. Each child works through the word cards at their own pace. They do several exercises during the week that incorporate the words so they can learn them through usage rather than studying. If they misspell a word on the "test," they simply repeat the same words the next week and only move on when they have mastered that list of words. I was worried at first because he was always a phonetic speller, but he has really done well with his spelling. He has also improved greatly on his self direction. While homeschooling he would often not know what to work on or he didn't have interest in working on any of the works we had. I think a big part of his motivation is linked to seeing other children use the works in the classroom setting. Also, his Montessori trained teacher has a better handle on keeping plenty of new work rotating in the classroom for when children need motivation.

We have not found much of a downside to sending him to his new school. I feel like it is a good fit for our family. The costs of private school are substantial which is a downside but we are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen. Some things I miss about homeschooling include the lack of commute, our own schedule, field trips, and more family time. The commute is not that bad but I do often feel like I am always running the kids somewhere. T is in school each day, B does a small preschool program for a couple of hours a few days a week, then there is karate three times a week. It can be hectic, I miss the easy schedule of homeschooling. I also liked the fact that we could make our own schedule day to day and holidays/breaks. His new school mostly follows the public school schedule which is  ok, but that means we have to have breaks during busy times. I personally, really miss the field trips. We loved going to all of the places nearby like museums, zoos, etc. Now we can only go on weekends and breaks when they are crowded. I don't enjoy crowds so we do not visit these places nearly as often anymore. Still, the positives for our current situation far out number the negatives so we plan on sending T back to his current school next year.

B turned 3 years old a couple of months ago. She has been working on some tot school at home with me and she has also been attending a preschool program. We had some issues with her before starting preschool where she did not want to be separated from me at all. I, growing up as an extremely shy child, wanted to work on this right away. I have always felt that being shy made it much harder to make friends and I just do not want that for my children. I never had a problem with shyness with T, but I feel like B needed to work on it a bit. I am happy to report that she got over being shy very quickly. She is very happy going to preschool and has several friends in her class. When we first started her she was going for 2 days a week for 2.5hrs, after she turned 3 we increased to 3 days a week. We have decided that she will be enrolling in the same school as T next year and joining the primary class. While I thought about homeschooling her, she loves school so much that I feel like it will be a similar situation as her brother. Both children love going to school so much. I think it will be a fun year when they are both in the same school.

Thank you for reading my long update. I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post. I will try to keep up with posting to this blog more often. We have been doing quite a few fun things on weekends and after school that I would like to share with you all.

If you haven't liked my page on Facebook please click here. I have noticed several new likes on my page recently which I love. I try to share there when I find something Montessori or homeschool related.

Oh.... and we got a new puppy this year! He has grown a bit from this picture, but I had to share.