Monday, September 30, 2013

{Crew Review} Fundanoodle for Cursive Instruction


Did you know that cursive handwriting has been pushed out of the standard public elementary school curriculum?  I’ve been involved in a couple online discussions about this, and I find that this is not a good thing.  There are many benefits of cursive and in spite of keyboarding, I think that cursive is a valuable skill.

So do the people at Fundanoodle, who sent Levi and I their newest handwriting book, I Can Write Cursive ($8.99) for 2nd graders (ages 7+) to review.  Educators and an occupational therapist developed this program to allow teachers to still teach cursive in a semi-independent way while integrating some of the facts necessary for Common Core alignment.

What We Received: This is a 70-page top coil-bound book that will be appreciated by lefties as well as righties.  The paper is a heavier stock that holds up to erasing quite well (ask me how I know – we do a lot of erasing here).  Lower case letters are presented in a unique order – according to a child’s development of visual and motor skills:



i, t, c, a d, o, g, q, e, l, h, b, k, f, p, j, n, m, v, y, z, x, u, w, s, r

Upper case letters are presented in a different order:

A, C, E, O, Q, D, L, U, V Y, Z, X, N, M, P, B, K, H, S, G, T, F, J, I

As you can see, simpler shaped letters are taught before more complex ones. 

The first two pages are instructions for teacher/ parent to review grasping and positioning.  Students are guided by a monkey named Max who provides action cues on letter shape – things like “buzz around” or “swoop.” The next two pages help students begin to make the transition from reading print to reading cursive.  Two more pages of simple one-line exercises help students “keep their pencil moving” in a series of repetitious movements. 

Then, it is time to learn cursive!  Lower case is introduced first, and students trace the letter, then write out several lines of the letter by themselves.  AT the bottom third of the pages, student practice sets of two letters as well as several small words that should help them not only incorporate the letter into their connected writing but help them decode and read cursive:

Here’s a blank page which is typical for lower and upper case practice Here is one of Levi’s completed pages.  I like that the directions ask the student to evaluate their work and find their best letter.  Levi likes to use stickers!

After lower case letters are addressed, a page each for upper case letters is provided.  These pages only have one line of letters for tracing, a blank line for forming capitals on his/her own, and a non-fiction factoid about history or science or geography for students to copy. 

The last few pages extend copywork into lists, such as days of the week or the names of planets, and recall of facts (like the names of the continents).

My recommendations & thoughts:  I’ll admit that this program did not excite Levi initially;  He’s a slightly older 2nd grader (late birthday) and thought the monkey was silly.  The hook for this program, however, is that it doesn’t take us too long to complete – may be 10 minutes per page – and he likes it when we try to spy out his best letter or word.  Amazing that such a little thing like  sticker could endear a whole writing program to Levi. And when you consider that you’ll get an entire cursive program for less than $9 – well, it is worth looking into.

Fundanoodle has also produced a number of other preschool and early elementary books to help with basic motor skills and academics.  Our Review Crew had the opportunity to review many of them.

Click to read more reviews about Fundanoodle products from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekly Report: Week #5 - They Won't Stop Learning!

This was Luke and Levi's 3rd Foundations and Essentials class and my 5th week as a Challenge II tutor.  It has been a good, good week, and I'm happy to say that Luke and Levi are goind so well in CC.

My plan to have the boys work on their memory work using a lapbook/ notebook from A Journey Through Learning.  It is just enough to add to our morning:  copywork, some mini-books, and some notebooking pages.  I've been able to find some additional resources to expand on science (a worksheet here and there) and I'm trying to find at least one thing that will help us with history.

I pulled out two games I have for the Middle Ages: Professor Noggins' Medieval Period trivia game and this discontinued product I picked up at a curriculum sale:

My purpose in having these games is just to inject some fun into our routine -- and it is working:

Our studies this week included watching a YouTube video about the Bayeux Tapestry.  We learned this week about William the Conqueror and I thought this video, in which some of the characters sewn on the tapestry come to life, would be a good tool to introduce life in the early Middle Ages to the boys.  At only about 13 min. long, it was a perfect length.  Sadly, nothing to add into our history notebook but I'm not going for filling a book as much as filling a mind this year {italics are for my own reminder, because I'm sure I'll forget in a few weeks}.

This week we talked about Consumers, Producers and Decomposers for science.  I have a few things still up my sleeve for particular topic -- because it involves SO much -- but I don't know if we'll get to it. You can see my pin on Pinterest with a few specific episodes that deal with the food cycle.

Language Arts:  This is such an important topic for us this year -- and I have a lot of our basis covered, but am still missing some reading for Luke.  Levi and I broke out his Pathway Reader book from last year.  For Luke, I have Reading Detective.  Additionally, I'm planning on getting several Progeny Press Literature Guides for grade-appropriate literature.  We've reviewed a couple and I think the structure will be helpful for us.  We are going to start with  Farmer Boy.  Others I'm considering: Charlotte's Web, A Cricket in Times Square.  These are in the 3-5 grade range.  I'd like to finish out the year with a book(s) in the middle school range: Shiloh, Sign of the Beaver,  or Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.

Levi is rocking through Logic of English;  the spelling lists are easy right now, but I appreciate the dialectic questions that are part of the course to help him think about how to spell words he encounters.  In this picture he is classifying words for a grammar lesson. 

Challenge B:  Each week, Ben is getting better at managing his time.  On Monday he finished his literature paper a little late, but he proved that he is like his mama:  the pressure of a deadline brings out the best in him.  He had been sweating his introductory paragraph, but ended up crafting a good one. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

High School - XC

I love watching Ben run.
Beginning of most recent JV meet. Ben said there were just SO many runners that in about 50 yards he kind of got cut off. 

Here he is at about 1.5 miles into his 5K
Airborne!  Near the finish. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekly Report: Week 4

Mondays help us finish up our previous week of CC.  Our day is full of memory work, final practices of presentations for community on the next day, and a bit of history work.  This week, we read about Charlemagne.  I found a great coloring page for the boys of Charlemagne and they worked on it while I read about this Holy Roman Emperor in Famous Men of the Middle Ages. This is a book that we have had for years;  I'm determined to use what I have in our personal library to supplement our timeline cards and history sentences. We also have a nice historical fiction story about Charlemagne that I'd love to read to the boys someday called Son of Charlemagne by Bethlehem Books. I'm not planning on doing it right now because we've got another read aloud going on right now (a YWAM book that we are reading for an upcoming review).

So, Classical Conversations' history sentences are providing our structure for our history class this year.  Since the boys are getting some science exposure at CC + are memorizing science facts, I'm not stressing about science right now.  Ecology is the theme right now, so we are using the memory work to dig a little deeper into the topics.  This week, we learned about how God designed animals' teeth to match their diet -- herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore.  I just remembered that I purchased the Science Facts cards for this cycle, and I will need to break those out on Friday, which is our Dig Deeper into Science day.  The pace is quick but we'll try to do some additional history reading each week.  

For his first presentation on Tuesday, Levi chose to tell the story of Adam and Eve and Luke presented a retelling of the conversion of Saul from the New Testament.  As fits their personalities, Luke's was more demonstrative (he had handcuffs because Saul was going to arrest the Christians, ya know) and involved falling on the ground and other theatrics.  Levi, on the other hand, prepared a simple story and held up his old picture Bible. 

Luke turned in his first Essentials writing assignment.  He is enjoying it and I'm enjoying watching him work hard.  I'm playing secretary and typing out his stories;  typing has never been one of Luke's favorite things because of his trouble with spelling, but he is going to have to get over it this year!  I'm hoping by the end of the school year he can do at least 1/2 of the typing for each paper that is due. 

Luke has also been working hard at his charts for Essentials of the English Language (EEL).  I know this sounds foreign to many, but through the year, Luke will be memorizing various charts that help him organize his thinking about elements of English grammar.  I'm blessed to have purchased a used EEL set from a CC mom who had the foresight to enlarge many of the charts for ease in copying.  This has been a huge blessing.  To help with the charts, I did download some songs that aid in memorization, and so far, they have been helpful (look for AJT on CC Connected).

I do wish to be more involved with Ben's Challenge B, and I try to insert myself on Wednesdays when he is scheduling his week.  He is not using CC's recommended math program (Saxon) because Math U See works so well for us, so I am more involved there.  I try to engage in conversations about current events, scientist research as well as his lit. papers.  I'm trying to remember to match "glow" comments (positive feedback) with "grow" comments in his writing, since this is an area that Ben really struggles with. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

{Crew Review} The Presidential Game


I’m very happy to be recommending The Presidential Game ($35 sold here) a fun way to introduce the art and science of campaigning to your children.  We had the privilege of reviewing this product (which came out in 2012) over the last few weeks, and I’m pleased to say that ages 8 to 40-something really enjoyed it (it is recommended for ages 11+).

The premise of the game is the national election for President of the United States (we play as teams to include the younger boys so we usually have an Executive Branch Prez-VeeP team up for election).  Players roll dice to accumulate electoral college votes from each state during the election cycle.  The winner, of course, collects more than 270 electoral college votes to become President.

PicMonkey CollageHow to Play the Game: The game is played with with two sets of chips (blue and red, of course) and three dice per team.  It comes with a score keeping pad, but we found it unnecessary when using an electoral college map online.  The folks at The Presidential Game have created a WebMap Calculator to use along with their game;  my iPad was having trouble keeping the map stable, so we just downloaded one of the many free ones from the App Store (I called and spoke with very helpful customer service people at The Presidential Game.  I have quite a few filters and such on our devices and wireless network, so that might’ve caused the instability).

Before rolling the dice, you must decide if you are going to campaign in three states (you have to declare which states) or if you are going to one of the four fundraising states (NY, FL, TX and CA).  Once you’ve declared your intent, you roll the dice – three for campaigning and two for fundraising.  Your dice roll become electoral college votes that help you gain control of a state.   Colored chips represent the number of electoral college.  Just like in real life, the party that controls the state’s electoral college votes can flip flop often, as it certainly did whenever we played! 

The first time we played the game, it took a looong time.  The game is set up to play a 30-week election, which means that each party gets 30 turns.  This took us close to two hours, which is on the long side for all of our attention spans here!  The next time we played we just played to 15 weeks, which was much shorter and more manageable (about 45-50 minutes).  I’ve heard that other crew members are playing to 270 votes – which could potentially make for a very short game.

I really appreciated that the game gave Ben some insight into our election process that he might not have noticed – at least for another 10 or so years.  During our first game, he realized that each party was spending a LOT of time in the fundraising states of California, Florida, New York and Texas.  None of us had gotten close to Hawaii, Alaska, the plains states and especially New England.  We talked about the distribution of electoral college votes and I brought up this past Presidential election cycle’s contentious states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Virginia.  Given our blessing to live in a small but politically popular New England state, it is sometimes hard to realize that there are many, many Americans who might easily feel disenfranchised by our current electoral system. 

My recommendations & thoughts: We really enjoy this game, and I know that next year, when the politicking for president begins in earnest in our state, the game will really get used a LOT!  I am a bit of a political junky around national election cycles, so I’m excited to have a way to explore the blessings (and headaches) of our democracy with my kids.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

Weekly Report - Week 3: Happy Learning Noises


What a wonderful week this was!  After two awkward weeks of Classical Conversations work for Ben and I, this week Luke and Levi finally had their chance to begin their Foundations program, Luke's Essential program, and Levi's afternoon art class.  We were all able to share the day together, eat lunch kinda-sorta together and come home together.  It was lovely.

My fb post from Tuesday night:

I'm a bit of a sap right now. Luke and Levi are happily quizzing and helping each other with their Classical Conversations' memory work during their bedtime snack. So precious to hear their voices reciting Latin verb end sings, science facts, history and parts of speech. Their interaction and happiness is making my eyes well with happy tears.
The boys love working on their memory work.  We divided our week up like this:

Wed. & Thurs. - The boys and I practiced memory work for a few minutes, then they did sections of their Binder Builder from A Journey Through Learning. Over the two days, the books wrote out their history sentence and make mini-books for Latin, Science, and Grammar.

Friday - I found a worksheet on Pinterest to expand on the Science of the week -- biomes.

on Monday, we'll read a little about Charlemagne.  Luke and Levi will do some sort of write up.

We also got Luke going on his new spelling program -- Excellence in Spelling from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  I listened to a talk by Andrew Paduwa called Spelling and the Brain.  As I listened, I recognized so many things that make me think that Luke needed to try this auditory-based spelling program.  So, we're trying it.

Luke doesn't usually smile with spelling.  This entire week he has been though.  And he's been doing well.  Two lists down in just over 6 days.  He even has been heard to say the words "love" and "spelling" in the same sentence.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

{Crew Review} Trying to Answer the Age Old Question: “What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?”


I’ve passed on my I-love-personal-inventories gene to my Ben. 

I realized it this summer when we had the opportunity to review a PeopleKeys career test called the DISC Career Style Report ($32, ages 13- adult).  “Ben, you are going to love this,” I said to him, “as long as it doesn’t tell you that you you would be good at anything.” 

Go with your first thought,”  I told him. “Don’t overthink your answers.” And, indeed, he did love taking the test. 

PeopleKeys uses the DISC personality profile to explain personality traits and give people insight into their abilities, interests and values. 


You can learn about the Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Conscientious from the PeopleKeys website.

After taking a short DISC “Lite” assessment (approximately 15 questions), the  combination of DISC strengths reveals your workplace style.

How We Used This Product: This assessment, completed online, was very quick.  Within 15 minutes, Ben had completed his assessment and the results arrived in my mailbox.  I was able to click a link from which I printed his report (and thankfully enough, the link continues to work and I can re-open his report often.)

Photo 3

Ben’s 8 page report consisted of the following:

  1. Cover page with his “style” indicated – pretty self explanatory
  2. Description: Understanding Your Style –  This is the meat of your assessment.  The test taker’s career style is explained in detail.  General Characteristics, Motivations, Idea Work Environments, and details about perceptions and strengths and weaknesses are explained.
  3. Workplace: Your Professional StyleThis section of the report focuses in more detail on the way the test taker’s style will fit within a work environment.
  4. Workplace: Tips For Your Professional Style –Here the test taker will read tips to help them work even better with people and in situations.  No matter where God places us, there is always room for personal improvement. 
  5. Career Match: Best Match & 6. Career Match: Close Match  - I’m not sure if Ben received ‘Best Match’ and ‘Close Match’ because he scored so closely on both the “S” and “I” profiles of the test, but he did seem more interested in the “S” career choices than the “I” ones.
  6. Scoring Data: graph page with a small DISC “Lite” graph
    This is the graph from which the results are derived.  Unfortunately, all that was on this page was the graph – no explanation!
  7. Blank page

Ben was tickled pink to see so many of his most-desired future occupations on his Best Match list:


Photo 1

You can see (if you enlarge the picture) that I encouraged him to find several occupations that he thought were awesome and several that he was curious about.  “What if I don’t know what the career is?”  He asked. 

Well, if it sounds interesting, mark it down as something to explore,” I encouraged him.

Our plan is to discuss these career possibilities in more depth this year and look at what the education and college requirements are for these careers (and others that Ben might discover has he is researching).

Our Experience Using the Test:  As much as I loved Ben having the opportunity to take the assessment, I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with the results we received.  Ben’s report was only 8 pages long, and did not reflect the same types of pages that are shown as samples on the webpage for the DISC Career assessment.  I’m one who likes to understand a bit of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind results, and I really felt at a loss with how Ben’s career style was assessed.  The last page, the DISC ‘Lite’ assessment results, apparently provides the information from which his career style is derived.  However, there was no information within the report to understand the graph or it’s meaning.  

I did find that customer service was very responsive in directing me to online resources to help explain some of Ben’s results better.  For that I’m grateful.  However, I do think that sufficient information should be on the report so that a parent can read the report and help the student make sense of it all. 

I will say that when Ben and I read through his Advocate style, there were many things than rang true from Ben’s perspective and my own.  So in that sense, I think that the DISC assessment was quite accurate (it wasn’t perfect, of course, but I would not expect it to be).  I do this tool could be better if more thorough explanations were given (I can’t be the only person who likes to know all the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’…right?).

Crew Members had the opportunity to review many of PeopleKey’s products.  Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew .



 All prices are accurate as of blog posting.

Weekly Report: Week 2

{I'm trying this year to get back into the habit of weekly posts about our weeks.  I am close to tears most days as I realize how fast time is flying by, and how old my boys are getting.  A way for me to treasure the days is to write about what we are doing and remember the little things.}
We are nearly complete with our second full week of school -- at least Ben and I are.  Our Classical Conversations community began two weeks ago for the Challenge program.  Life certainly has been different for the past couple weeks!

  • Ben has been so diligent about his work.  Considering some of the issues we had last year, I am so grateful and proud of my son and how hard he is working.  He did get himself into a bit of a bind during the first week ~ we had to be out of town for Labor Day weekend and Ben didn't completely account for that in his schedule.  Thus, Monday night he was up until 1:30 am doing research for his current events assignment.  I cut him a break in that he only found one article about euthanasia instead of two.  I also stayed up with him, because I thought it was best to show him compassion in that way.  Let me just say that I am so grateful that God walked with me that evening and helped me show love  and compassion while Ben lived out his consequences.  It was a period of growth for Ben -- and he definitely has been working this week to make sure he is not up until such wee hours again.
    September 2013 - Freshman Year
  • Since I am tutoring Challenge II, I am working like a dog during the evenings to stay up to speed with my students.  I am completing most of the practice math problems in each of the four lessons students have to complete each week.  I am reading the cultural history books and we are having great discussions - in spite of a such a small class size (two + me).  I am reviewing my Latin during a couple evenings a week.  And pre-reading as much as I can.  I will say that I am trying to survive all this and give my sudents my all.  
  • Luke and Levi finally get to start their Foundations classes next week.  Luke will also be in Essentials while Levi has a 2-hour art class (!! - so excited about this).  In the meantime, I've been trying to get back into a routine with them -- we've started math, spelling, and Bible study.  I'm so grateful for all our reviews over the past few years with The Old Schoolhouse -- a lot of what we've reviewed have become standard curriculum for us this year.  This has blessed us financially right when we needed it and has provided some additional continuity for us. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

One Big Run

Ben ran a mountainous 25K on Labor Day Weekend.  Yes, you read that right 25k, or 15.53 miles.  In. Sane.

Ben participated in the Jay Peak Trail Fest at Jay Peak VT.  It it practically in Canada.  About 100 other crazy people ran with him.  Oh, the other crazy thing about Ben's run....he ran the entire course barefoot.  Some of the other runners nicknamed him Tarzan.

Except when he runs for a school cross country team, Ben usually runs barefoot.  When he was younger, he used to have a lot of foot pain.  This pediatrician said we could go have him fit for orthotics, but at about that time, my husband was reading a lot about barefoot running to help with some of his biomechanical running injuries.  They both purchased those funny Five Finger gorilla shoes and would run in those.  After a while, Dave just encouraged Ben to walk around without shoes on and he's certainly build up some pretty tough feet!  

Ben arrived at the finish line with no foot injuries.  No limping.  No cuts.  Considering the terrain (everything from single track to fire roads to water bars and more), I think that is amazing.

Proud Papa and "Tarzan" Ben.

I am pretty proud of my Ben for setting a goal and accomplishing this feat/ feet.

My hubby designed this logo for the series of races.  Pretty proud of him, too.