Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Super Duper Family Fun Night!

By Friday, we are all dog-tired -- especially lately.  I'm really getting another sense of the Soccer-Mom-Taxi lifestyle recently.  {Thankfully, we are not playing any sports right now, or it would be 10 times worse!}

So, when Friday hits, we like to crash on the couches, on top of one another and veg with a movie.  We recently had a Super Duper Family Fun Night because we miss each other with all of the busyness of life.

This made us happy:

Pizza:  1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni + an Athena pizza for Dave and I

Game:  Wits and Wagers Family  is still a big hit here.  Tonight the boys asked me, "Do you want to play Monopoly of Wits and Wagers?"  Monopoly is just too darn long of a game. Besides, it just isn't as fair to Luke and Levi. Wits and Wagers is the perfect length game and we can all be competitive.

Then it's.....

Movie!  We're in a Pirates of the Caribbean phase right now.

I had planned to make popcorn for the movie -- a nice treat.  But then I decided that family night needed to be Super Duper, so I made these:




And I scored big Greatest Mom points.

It was awesome to cuddle up with all my men and enjoy such a great night. {Please ignore the exhauted mom who fell asleep 15 min. after the movie started.}

I am richly blessed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Year

Another year of dandelion bouquets. I will never tire if them and will undoubtedly cry when (if?) I stop being blessed with them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Crew Review: Inference Jones

I have yet to come across a Critical Thinking Skills product I haven't like.

And Inference Jones: Beginnings is no exception.

This book came at a perfect time for us.  Luke's reading has really taken off this year.  He's really doing well understanding the factual information of what he is reading.  But I am noticing that he is not always getting the higher level content:  the cause/effect, main idea, the inferences.

We really need this book.

This is the first of two Inference Jones books.  It is available for $11.99.  The beginnings book is targeted with a 3-4th grade reading level;  the second book (level 1) is a 5th-6th grade reading level.

Before I tell you about our experience with this product, I thought I'd include this bit from the website which explained why inferential reading comprehension is important:

 "Research shows inferential reasoning is a prerequisite component to superior reading comprehension. ..The reader’s interpretation is the result of inferential analysis which includes drawing from personal knowledge and experiences, social values, and cultural conventions. The interpretation connects a meaning to the words, providing the reader with an understanding of the character’s actions, circumstances, or events in the story."

Each of the 18 stories in this book is fairly short:  approximately 20 sentences (each sentence is numbered).  A small black and white drawing accompanies the story.  There are 9-12 questions for each story.  Some questions are true/false, some are multiple choice, and the last three or so encourage integrating personal knowledge to evaluate whether a statement is probably true or not.


The reading comprehension skills addressed in the book include comprehension skills such as:  cause/effect, distinguishing fact/ inference, identify main idea, compare/ contrast making generalization, reading for detail.   Literary analysis skills of analyzing character traits, identifying theme and setting, and sequencing events.

This as been a great addition for Luke's work on reading skills over the past few weeks.  It is not easy for him at all.  I find that he has to read the story twice, and that helps him.  I appreciate the last set of questions that ask him to determine if a statement is probably true or not and to incorporate life lessons and personal knowledge.  This is something that is hard for Luke, but I know with practice, he'll get better.

Critical Thinking Company allowed Crew members to review a variety of products.  I encourage you to head over to the Crew Blog to see other what my crew mates thought of other Critical Thinking Company products:

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Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Life is a Stage (right now) & a Bit of God Spotting

This has been quite a week for Ben.  A drum gig (his teacher's bi-annual recital for all his drum/ guitar/ rocker students) was held on Monday at an old-church-turned-bar.  It was a great experience for the whole family.  Drummers from age 5 or 6 through the teens played, sometimes with accompaniment of singers and guitarists (Ben's teacher always plays along on his base guitar, but some drummers had additional help as well).  It was adorable to see a 6-year-old sing along to his 8-year-old brother banging out a Beetles song!







Tonight, Ben had his final class for his middle school writing class.  The students had to research a famous author and then give a 1000 word monologue about the person's life in character. Ben chose Tolkien for his report:


He did such a great job remembering his lines and answering questions (in character) afterwards.  I'm thankful for his friend Jesse who let him borrow dress shoes to complete his 1950s British college professor outfit (though Dave and I agree that Ben's outfit would do equally as well for a newspaper boy hawking papers in downtown Boston in the 30s or 40s).


Next up is Ben's theatrical debut in our local homeschool play.


And here's a bit of God Spotting:  After a beautiful opening prayer, Ben told us that he prayed twice that God would help him get through his monologue.  God was so faithful (of course).  Praise you, Lord, that in moments of need, Ben is turning to You!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crew Review: Amazing Science! Vol. 1

I love it when the mailman brings me manilla envelopes.  It means either a Crew Review product or another book from Amazon.  Either way, I'm happy.

But the boys love it when I pull out a DVD (which doesn't happen too often) from a manilla envelope.  And they were extremely excited to see a science experiment DVD:  

This is the first volume of a new series called Amazing Science, from the same aeronautical engineer, Jason Gibson, who brought us MathTutor DVDs last year.

Available for $19.99 as a physical product or $17.99 as a digital download, this 2-disc Amazing Science DVD demonstrates 23 experiments in electricity, physics, air pressure, magnetism, heat and more:  


You can purchase the DVD as an immediate download for $17.99 or as a physical 2-DVD product for $19.95.

As a mom who needs to plan ahead, I only had one complaint:  Jason did a great job showing which materials are needed for each experiment at the beginning of each video (including optional supplies), but I sure which I could get a printable master list of supplies needed so I could plan ahead.  My guys want to do the experimet right after watching the video!

Luke and Levi loved watching and doing the experiments:  Here's our color changing milk:

 Levi and I also lifted ice cubes out of the water with a string only.  He made a video!





Watch out, Jason; Levi might call you about making science DVDs someday! lol!

The video inspired us to keep asking questions and we set up our own mini-experiment afterwards.
My thoughts:  I love this product, and am so happy to add it to our collection.  I've gone back-and-forth over my 8 years of homeschooling with the question: Should science experiments match the subject of study or not?  {This is a debatable point for many who chose to follow The Well Trained Mind sugesttion of in-depth science study of one branch of science per year}.  I've gotten to the point in our homeschool journey that I don't care what our formal science curriculum is {astronomy right now}, I just want to enjoy in on the excitement of watching my boys discover God's amazing creation.

Read what others thought:

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Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Precious

I have to record this here so I do not forget, because someday I might need this as evidence:

Said to me today by the world's most adorable 6.5 year old:  "Mom, I want to do writing like Ben and Luke."

"What is it that they do that you want to do?"

"I want to do spelling.  It looks like fun."

Honest, I'd kiss him to pieces if I could.  Oh, that he would stay so sweet.  
{He's not always sweet.  The kid has a stubborn streak in him, but that is a different post.}

Crew Review: God's Great Covenant by Classical Academic Press

I am going to sheepishly admit a HUGE hole in our homeschooling program this year:  systematic Bible study.  My year started out with great intentions.  We had a resource for Bible verse memorization and group reading ---- and it lasted exactly 6 weeks.

This is not something I'm proud of at all. 

I hope, then, that you can appreciate how grateful I was to be offered the opportunity to review Classical Academic Press' New Testament study:  Considering God's Creation by Claire A. Larsen. It is written from a reformed, covenantal perspective.


I received the Teacher and Student workbooks ($56.96; additional student workbooks are $26.95) as well as the audio files add-on product ($9.95).  This seems like a good study for upper elementary (and maybe middle school-aged).

The teacher book has reproductions of each student page in it, with lots of notes for teachers to add more detail.  There are also answers to the chapter quizzes.

The student book is over 300 pages of lessons  and helpful maps and charts. Each of the 36 lessons has scripture memorization suggestions.  Each lesson has a narrative retelling of a portion of the Gospels.  These retellings are story-like and are not passages of scripture (scriptural footnotes are provided in case you wonder from which books the narrative is being taken).  The mp3 download has these full stories so you can listen to them (Dr. Perrin has a great radio voice -- it is very pleasant to listen to!).

Each Lesson opens with a Memory Page.  This is a one-sided reference which tells you the theme of the lesson, from which passages the story is taken, the memory passage for the week and some sort of chart that contains helpful information used to break-down the passage(s) for learning.  You can see samples here.

After the story, there are Review Worksheets like this:


Each of the chapters has a 6-7 or so sectioned worksheet to review the facts and meaning of the scripture. Sometimes there is matching, other times fill-in-the-blank questions. Often times, you'll be asked to look back at the chart from the Memory Page at the beginning of the lesson.    Best of all, the "Think About It" portion asks the child to really think about the theme and how God wants that child to respond to Him. 


I think this is a great, detailed, in depth study.  It is a little too much for Luke (a 3rd grader). I do wish that it was laid out more for homeschool use.  The teacher's guide does not have any suggestions on how to implement the program for a week long study (not that it takes rocket science to figure out, but I like a guide and then I adjust for my family). As a matter of fact, when I got the program and opened it up to use it on a Monday morning, I was greeted by  6 chapters of (great) introductory material. But it was a lot of information, before I finished the 2nd or so page (of 30+ total), I noticed the eyes-glazing-over-and-I'm-no-here look from Luke.  It was just far too much detailed, in depth information for my guy. So, I cut my loses and we just jumped into the first lesson.

Would this have worked with my 7th grader?  I think so, and wish that I'd picked up the clue phone a bit earlier in the review period to lasso him into using the book as well.  It is a solid program, but for his age, I prefer to use scripture instead of this book's  narrative retelling. (As a matter of fact, Luke has been reading the Bible himself and I prefer to use scripture at this point for him as well).

Read what others thought at The Review Crew!

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Monday, April 16, 2012

God Spotting: Easter 2012

This has been a very challenging and wonderful Lenten season.

Our church's adult Sunday morning program is working through Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Dave and I have both been inspired.  For me, I have had to look critically at the way I've compartmentalized God.  He doesn't want a lukewarm part of me, He wants all of me.  This is hard, but I'm working on it.

We used Amon's Adventure to work through Lent with the boys this year.  It is a great story!  Unlike the Advent books  in which you read a portion of the story nightly through the season, this book has only 28 chapters.  If you want to use it during Lent (and I highly recommend that you do -- especially if you've read the Advent triology),  You'll want to read nightly during Holy Week.  That leaves 20 days of readings for the first 30-ish days of Lent.

The author's devotional messages at the end of each day's reading have dovetailed amazing well with the Crazy Love book. I know that God is talking directly to me when He does that!

On Palm Sunday, our church had a family Easter celebration and we made a variety of crafts:
The tomb; rock is covering grave.

Making a foam palm leaf.  We also folded a palm leaf into a cross.


The Last Supper.




And Easter morning the boys woke up to bunnies and jelly beans in our family Easter basket:


It is tradition here that we get a "little" something that has to do with Jesus on Easter -- usually books or Adventure in Odyssey CDs.  Ben has been wanting a cross, so I found a teen-looking nail cross for him.  Of course, he sets the tone in the house, so Luke and Levi got shield/ cross necklaces, too.  And, to complete the trifecta of God speaking about fully surrendering to Him this season, we purchased Francis Chan's Halfway Herbert book for the kids (it'll be a  young for Ben, but the message is spot on).

I'm so grateful to God for this season in my life when I am seeing and feeling Him.  There have been many dry spells -- but this is not one of them.  As Dave and I begin to discuss new adventures for our family, we are trying to remain open to God's leading.  I sorta, kinda like to control things, and I'm re-learning that God's plan is always better than mine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crew Review: Christian Kids Explore Biology

We've had a great time this year looking at a lot of different types of science programs this year -- and it has been great to touch on a few different topics and subjects (I'm blessed with flexible kids!).  Not only has it added variety, but it has helped me to assess the sorts of curriculum I want to use with my middle and youngest boys.

A month or so ago, we received Christian Kids Explore Biology from Bright Ideas Press.  They have a whole multi-aged elementary/ middle school science program including:


Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space
Christian Kids Explore Physics
Christian Kids Explore Chemistry

The Biology program I received is recommended for grades 3-6.  It is available for $34.95. It was very easy to include my 6 year old in the reading and activities.  He is one who does not like to be left out.

For $7.95 (currently on sale as of the date of this post) you can purchase a CD of  all the student pages to save you the time of photocopying the coloring pages, fill-in reviews and activities in the book.

There are 35 lessons in eight units:

  1. Biology Basics (creation, cells, taxonomy, biosphere, food webs)
  2. Plants
  3. Birds
  4. Mammals
  5. Humans
  6. Reptiles
  7. Insects
  8. Water Creatures
There are many homeschool friendly features:
  • Vocabulary lists at the beginning of each unit
  • Materials needed for each unit
  • A unit coloring page 
  • Appendices full of reproducible maps, memorization lists (including scripture), coloring pages and supplemental activities and resources.
  • It is unabashedly Christian.  I appreciate that scripture and the awe of God's creation is included.
I appreciate how the lessons are simply crafted:  a TEACHING TIME, which is a reading section that you can complete in just a few minutes.  The next section is called the HANDS ON TIME.  This is a craft or activity or even a mini-Bible study that corresponds with the topic.

Here's pictures from one of our hands-on times when the boys made cells out of candy and jello:



I'd have to say that the boys really liked it because they love being read to and learning science stuff.  I, on the other hand, felt that it was a little "light" in comparison to some of the other science programs we've used in the past.  The entire human anatomy and physiology is in one lesson (except reproduction, which is in it's own optional lesson).  In another example, the boys were super excited to make the cells, but after gathering the materials, I realized that the book hadn't really described all the organelles that we wanted to include in our jello/ fruit roll-up cells. After a few internet searches, I found elementary-level friendly explanations of the various cell structure functions, which satisfied my need to expose the boys to higher level information.  I guess I just assumed that this one book would have enough information in it that I wouldn't have to supplement with outside resources. So for our family, we can use this program, but I just have to remember to do my homework ahead of time and gather any additional library books, videos and websites to beef it up.

Since I mentioned that this book does have a lesson in reproduction, I'm sure you'd like to know what it involves.  The TEACHING TIME draws a parallel between flower fertilization and human fertilization of the egg by sperm (but doesn't get into specifics about how that happens).  Vocabulary terms include uterus, womb, placenta, umbilical cord, sperm, ova, faternal twins and identical twins.  It is very basic.  

I really appreciate that the CD of student pages was created; It is hard to get quality copies from a nearly 300 page book on my printer.  I do wish the PDF pages were more aesthetically designed.  The pages are exact copies from the text book, but with all the text removed except the review/ student activity questions.  Here's an example:

page in the book
from the CD
If you'd like to learn what others thought of the biology and other science courses, please read more Crew Reviews:

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Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Crew Review: Writing with World


I am so excited to be reviewing this new middle school writing program from World Magazine.  I think it has great potential (for my son and for others), and I'm really looking forward to getting into it more!

There are several things that I think are really unique about Write with World.  You can read about World's purpose in developing it, but here are my thoughts:

1.  This first year's course builds from the foundation up:  ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs.  I think that beginning with the thinking component of writing is distinctive.  Here's a quote from the teacher's guide:
"...We want [the students] to understand from the very beginning that good writing begins with the thoughtful arrangement of details, ideas, and words.  We want your young writers to become comparative readers:  students who can not only see but also explain why one sentence is better than another, why one paragraph works and another paragraph fails, and why one essay  captures a reader's interest while another essay loses the readers interest."
2.  The program begins with images!  What a great way to catch this generation's attention!  We are surrounded by a million images begging for our attention. Why not use them as a teaching tool?
3.  I like that there is a critical reading component to this program. Although we haven't gotten far into this course, at each step of the writing process, students are asked to engage in critical reading to help them be better writers.
4.  Some grammar and vocabulary is included in this course!  It's functional grammar, such as distinguishing the correct usage of its and it's. There is one grammar concept presented in each of the lessons.   Looking up vocabulary and discerning meanings is included in nearly every capsule.

So what is in this program?  I received a beta copy of their year 1 program:  a parent/teacher guide and a student book.  The teacher guide (TG) is one of those extra wide books:




The size of the book reminds me of the teacher's planners that I often see on sale at Staples and other office supply stores at the beginning of the school year.   The TG is a complete reproduction of the student book, but it has extra room on the outside to write notes.  It also includes comments and suggestions for eliciting responses from your children.   I'm not really sure what size the final version will be in.

I often have moms ask me, "Is it worth it to purchase the teacher's version?"  And in this case, I would definitely say yes!  You will want the extra tips, the suggestions, the grading suggestions.  Trust me.


The price for each year is $95 or you can buy the entire two year curriculum for middle school writing for $165.  IT comes with a teacher's book (full student book imprint plus teaching notes) as well as student book  and online access (there is no online portal right now, so I cannot comment on this).

You can view a sample lesson.


The only other thing you will need to provide is some sort of notebook or journal.  They call it "Conversations: Your Writer's Journal" or CWJ.  They encourage students to write down good ideas, bad ideas....any ideas about their assignments.  And, they encourage me as the teacher to read through and make written comments....like you are having a written dialog with your student.  I've read somewhere else that providing written feedback in a conversational journal is a good thing for developing writing -- but have never seen it in practice before.

Oh, I should also mention that assignments will occasionally suggest you pull out a World Magazine or God's World News publication.  For example, in one lesson, the student it to evaluate distinctive characteristics of an essay using one of their publications.  I'm sure you could use another publication with a similar opinion style essay (or even an online publication).  But I just discovered I can download a single issue of World Magazine for $2.99 on my kindle.  They have a variety of digital and print subscriptions if you would prefer to use a Christian publication for writing examples.

Scope and Sequence: This first year is divided into 4 units.  Each unit has 4 lessons, and each lesson has 5 capsules.  Each capsule is a lesson and assignment (you can see the entire table of contents/ scope and sequence for two year program):

UNIT #1: DEVELOPING CRITICAL READERS

Lesson 1: Reading Images and Advertisements
Lesson 2: Comparative Reading: Sentences
Lesson 3: Comparative and Critical Reading: Paragraphs
Lesson 4: Critical Reading: Essays

UNIT#2: DEVELOPING WRITERS: BUILDING BLOCKS AND BIOGRAPHY

Lesson 1: The Paragraph
Lesson 2: Composing and Linking Sentences
Lesson 3: Creating Focus and Arranging Ideas
Lesson 4: Linking Paragraphs: Transitions and Logic

UNIT #3: WRITING AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Lesson 1: Reporting Facts
Lesson 2: Creating Character
Lesson 3: Developing Ideas with Specificity
Lesson 4: Writing Autobiography

UNIT #4: CRAFTING NARRATIVES

Lesson 1: Developing a Point of View
Lesson 2: Showing vs. Telling
Lesson 3: Narrative with a Purpose
Lesson 4: Writing a Fictional Narrative
{I have to admit that I'm not in love with the Unit/Lesson/Capsule system, but this is a picky point. There is   an assignment  to "re-write a sentence in 2.2.2" ~ which is the stuff that makes my eyes roll into the back of my head.  This numeric code means Unit 2, Lesson 2, Capsule 2.  One can hope that in the final version they will just use page numbers!}

My beta copy does not have suggestions for how to plan out the use of this course over the school year.  The beginning capsules are definitely one-a-day sort of lessons.  However, as the book progresses, I would definitely want to give Ben more time for the thinking/ writing process. 

How it works for us.  Like I mentioned, we are only at the beginning of this program, but I think it holds promise.  As I've looked ahead, it is all the way in Unit 3 that the student gets a full-scale writing assignment.  Up to this point, the student has been engaged in a lot of pre-writing and critical thinking and analyzing of writing.  They've written sentences, thought about word choices, and crafted paragraphs.

But in the parts we've, done so far, I haven't gotten the usual oh-I-have-to-do-writing-now? groan. And that says something.


I will continue using Write with World through the end of this school year.  We should be able to make it through about 1/2 of this course when 7th grade ends for the summer.  I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this program as we fold it into our studies, but for now, if you are looking for a writing program that is a a little different and that might grab your reluctant writer's attention, I'd suggest you consider this program.

If you'd like to hear what other homeschoolers think about this please head over to The Crew's website.

Disclaimer:  In exchange for the complementary copy of the product I described above, I was asked to give my honest, frank opinion of the product -- pluses and minuses.  These opinions are my own.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crew Review: Loooking at Lines from AIMS Foundation



Ben has been faithfully and systematically working through a pre-algebra course and doing well.  I'm so happy because math is the one subject that has consistently evoked tears from him or me.  Our new math is tear-free. Praise God!

Despite no-more-tears and good grades, math is still not one of Ben's favorite subjects. He struggles a bit with the age- old question, "What's the point of learning this stuff, anyway?"

I think this is where AIMS Education Foundation comes in:

The AIMS Education Foundation is a research and development organization dedicated to the improvement of the teaching and learning of mathematics and science through a meaningful integrated approach.

For this review, I was sent  Looking at Lines book with CD ($24.95; also available as a PDF for the same price).  The CD was handy to be able to print out the student pages for each of the 32 lessons/ activities.


 This book contains 32 activities to help kids in grades 6 through 9 begin to think algebraically:

[This book] Introduce[s] algebraic concepts in their natural setting with activities drawn from real-world phenomena. Covers three sub-groups of linear functions: proportional relationships, non-proportional relationships with positive slopes, and non-proportional relationships with negative slopes.

It's been a LONG time since I was confronted with functions and graphing equations, so I'm grateful for the step-by-step program this book offers.  And (I'll be honest) much of what is said in the preceding paragraph sounds like Charlie Brown's school teacher: "Bwah, bwah, bwah, bwah, bawha..." But as we worked through several of the activites, those long dormant advanced alegbraic concepts sort-a kinda started to make sense.
 
OK, so the basic idea behind this book is to see that "real-world situations can be modeled by linear functions."  Take, for example, the elevator:

 Using this picture, Ben and I gathered x and y data: when the elevator car (x) is at 1, the counterweight (y) is at 6.  We figured out the values of x and y for each floor and the basement. and made a table similar to this:

x | y
0, 7
1, 6
2, 5
3, 4
4, 3
5, 2
6, 1

After we did this, Ben needed to analyze the variable pairs and see the relationship:  x+y=7.  Pretty cool, he thought to himself.

Then, we talked about what the relationship would be with a 10 story building:  x+y=11.  "How 'bout a 20-story building, Ben?"

x+y=21

"What if our building was n stories tall?"

And he got it!  n+1=x+y

After this, he got to draw a graph, which is something he'd not used to doing.  He loves graph paper, and finally got to use it for its main purpose!

We had a fantastic talk about how algebra problems can be turned into graphs.  {Lightbulbs were turning on, here, people.}  I told him "fun" {as fun as math can be} stories of my high school experiences with algebra 4 in high school {which is when we learned about all this stuff}.  We even talked about how all those cool computer animated graphics could be turn into algebra problems {remember making parabolic graphs from equations?  Anyone? Beuhler?}.  We even talked about what a graph would look like with three variables:  x, y, and z.  Ben was actually excited to understand that that would be a 3D graph!

Ben and I enjoyed doing several of the activities -- about one a week.  It was a great supplement for where we are in pre-algebra, because I think it is vision-casting for him:  he's getting a glimpse of the Big Picture of Math.  Each of the activities we completed were finished in approximately 1 hour.  This is a bit longer than a usual math lesson for us, but it certainly is do-able.  As you get further into the book, there are some mini-science experiments that are the basis for collecting the data and then analyzing and graphing the results.  This will be SO cool to do (and I know Ben will look forward to this) -- when we have a little extra time.

From my perspective, I thought the book provided enough support and instructions for me to carry out all of the projects.  However, if Ben ever decides to ask a bunch of questions, I might be in over my head!  I thought the book generally assumed a minimum level of competence with the vocabulary of advanced math.  I'm sure I'll get to a point where all these terms makes sense again -- we're just not quite there yet in my re-education.


I really, really love having this book and think that it will be a great resource to use over the next couple years as a supplement to our math program.  To see what others thought of Looking at Lines or the other AIMS science and math resources, please click on the banner below:

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Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I received the above product in exchange for my honest opinion about it. For better or worse, all these thoughts are my own!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Finding a Groove in Spelling with Ben

This is our second year working through The Wise Guide, a spelling program that accompanies Spell to Write and Read. Generally speaking, people either love SWR (as it is lovingly called) or not. Those who love it:

  • Usually can afford the time and money to attend a training seminar
  • Appreciate the fact that it tries to make sense out of a seemingly nonsensical language 
  • Like that you purchase one kit for all your children for all their academic years
  • Like learning along with their children the intricacies of English.
Along the same lines, people who end up not caring for this program:
  •  Usually want something easier to teach (like an open-and-go  program)
  • Find that the learning curve is just too steep for their life circumstances
  • Don't care for some of the "antiquated" ideas about the English language.
Please, don't hold any of this to a candle -- this is just my observations from online forum discussions and other conversations with homeschoolers.

I decided to switch to SWR because I realized I needed something more systematic and comprehensive to use with my (then) 5th grade, 1st grader and preKer.  I liked that I only had to buy one kit and be set for life (more or less).  And I knew that over time, I'd get the hang of it, despite the fact that there were no local training classes (the nearest one was  2 or so states away).

The main reason I'm writing this post is to shed some light on How We Are Using SWR With a 7th Grader.  My goal is to be able to make it through all the spelling lists by the end of this school year.  Depending on Ben's performance in this last two months of school, we'll decide how to use the program in 8th grade but I really, really need to be done with this program this year so that I can teach spelling to Levi next year.  As much as I really like the program, I do not see how I could teach this program to three separate kids and continue to use our other curriculum at the same time!

So here is what I am doing:

1.  I dictate 10 words to Ben approximately 3 times a week.  That is 30 words per week.
2.  After dictating the 10 words, I immediately give Ben a quiz on those words.  Any that he misses (or any words that were hard for him during the dictation) get put on a fancy piece of paper that says "Trouble Words."
3.  After quizzing Ben on the new words, I quiz him on a randomly selected number of additional words on the "Trouble Words" list.  I'm not sure why, but  decided that he needs to spell the word correctly three times in a row before it can be added to the"Mastered" list on the bottom half of the page. Thankfully, this seems to be working.
4.  If he is really having a hard time with a word, we break it down, discuss the error pattern and then I fall back to the boring technique of writing the word multiple times.  My thinking, though, is based on some motor memory and re-auditorizing the word in his head as he writes it.  This, too, seems to work for him as well.

I do not feel bad at all that we've veered from the traditional presentation of SWR.  He's still getting all the basics.  I'm even finding that we are having more time to work on derivations of our spelling words -- especially practice adding suffixes to his words.

Although he will only have gone through this last part of SWR once (Mrs. Sanseri recommends going through all the lists twice),  I am feeling confident that his spelling is impoving.  Next year I'll likely do something online for him -- something I do not have to manage.  We have reviewed BigIQkids.com before and there is another site called spellingcity.com that I would consider.