Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner

I'm so excited to have had the opportunity to review this neat little cookbook. Cherilyn Dahlsten has created more than a cookbook here. She has facilitated a new way of making dinner happen while also providing a way to teach our children to be helpers in the kitchen and prepare them for one day being in their own kitchens.



My daughter has been wanting to start cooking for a while now. I couldn't wait to try out this cookbook because it looked like the perfect material to make that happen. I was not disappointed. I think the strength of this cookbook is its format, even though the recipes we tried were very tasty. Every detail of importance is noted. For instance, every recipe begins with "Wash your hands." Redundant? Anyone with pre-teens and teens knows the answer to that is no. The instructions walk them through each step of the process which gives them the confidence that nothing will be left undone. They are even instructed to throw trash away.



Each recipe has two parts: meal prep and final steps. Whenever baking is required the child is instructed to stop until the parent is home. The book is directed towards children home before parents get in from work, but of course this is easily adaptable for families where a parent is already home. The child could either have the meal prep done and allow the parent to complete the final steps, or complete the entire recipe themselves with a little more supervision in the final stages.



The two recipes we created to share in the review were Spaghetti and Uglies. Both were ground beef recipes. The spaghetti recipe was very similar to our own, so we naturally enjoyed it. The uglies were a big hit.They were fun to make and fun to eat, though I will caution future uglies eaters that the meat gets really hot when cooked in these. We thought our uglies turned out rather pretty, and my daughter suggested that perhaps the name comes from the ugly words one might say when discovering just how hot that meat is.



I was very impressed by this cookbook, and I know we will be using it regularly. I can see that it will help to build my daughter's confidence in the kitchen, and I'm already planning to use the extra pages in the back of the cookbook to lay out some of our favorite meals in this format. We don't have any special dietary needs, but some of the recipes are gluten free or give advice on how to make the dishes gluten free. I believe the author intends to make more recipes available through her personal blog in time.

The only con I would mention is that there is a learning curve. When my daughter was following the recipes, dinner was quite a bit later than we usually eat. That is not the fault of the cookbook, but it is something I will mention as you need to be patient regarding the schedule as they become accustomed to the kitchen. The author gives a great plan for an introductory weekend to introduce them to recipes and kitchen basics. As they develop confidence and skills they will also develop speed.

Although I was given a copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it, this review is my own personal opinion. Without any reservation, I can highly recommend this book for any parents of preteens and teens. You can purchase this book at the author's website or through Amazon.com. I will be giving away a free ebook to one reader of my blog, so be sure to leave a comment about the first meal you ever cooked to enter. There is also a rafflecopter below that you can enter to win several prizes.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bible Memorization Made Easy




I am very excited to tell you about a new product I was able to review. The title of the curriculum is Bible Memorization Made Easy, and there are currently four books available to aid in the memorization of the Sermon on the Mount, selected Psalms, Galatians, and Ephesians. This material is created for 6th grade and older. Currently the books are only available with scripture in the King James Version.

The edition I chose to review was Memorize the Psalms for Praying. This curriculum contains 24 weeks worth of daily lessons. The psalms to be memorized are 1, 8, 23, 27, 51, 91, 121, and 139. The setup is both simple and ingenious. Each week follows a pattern. During the course of the week, the student will read the passage multiple times, both aloud and silently. They will meditate on the passage and make sure that they understand it. If necessary, they are prompted to look up words that are unfamiliar. The student also writes the passage completely several times and fills in the blanks to complete the verse. As I said, this is a simple pattern, but a very effective one.

I have always wanted to make scripture memorization a priority. I'm blessed with a student who has an excellent memory. However, on my own I could never put together a consistent routine towards memorization of the Word. This program provides that consistency and more, in an easy to follow layout. I was astonished by how quickly my daughter responded to this method, and by the third day of the first week she already had the passage memorized. The author also takes this to a new depth with all the meditation built in. This leads to a true hiding of the Word in the heart as opposed to a superficial, temporary memorization.

video


I was given this material to review in exchange for an honest review. I can say without reservation that I highly recommend this material to any parent interested in making scripture memorization a priority. I loved it so much that I immediately bought the other three books as soon as they became available. You can also purchase them at Brookdale House and receive 20% off by using the coupon code 20percent.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What We're Using for Bible



My daughter and I are working through The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study by Starr Meade. This program will last us for several years, probably. We started with the New Testament section since we have already spent a lot of time in the Old Testament stories. The workbook offers valuable introductory information for each book and highlights major points of each chapter to ensure comprehension is occurring. The program is a survey of both the Old and New Testaments, and by the end of the program the student will have studied all the books of the Bible.

Recently we've gotten the opportunity to review an soon-to-be-released Bible memorization material. I am excited about it and can't wait to review it in late February.



One of my very favorite Bible materials is My Father's World First Grade. MFW First Grade is a complete program, but I've only ever used the Bible portion. I used this with my daughter and loved it. Now I'm using it again with my son. The Bible portion of this program includes Bible stories in the teacher guide to read to the student, a Bible reader with the stories for the student to read themselves, and a Student Bible Notebook with space for an illustration and copywork for each story. These multiple approaches to studying the story provide a great foundation for any student. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year Speculations




Around this time every year I start making plans towards the next school year. In part, it is an extension of evaluating where we are and where we will be at the end of this school year. However, I think it is also a way to beat back the winter doldrums that can set in here at the midpoint of a school year. Thinking about and researching new materials is fun. Well, at least it is for me.

Right now, I'm debating what to use for history. We are using and enjoying Sonlight Core W this year for an overview of world history. I am planning to begin the classical history cycle again with Ancients next year. I had originally planned to use Veritas Press' Omnibus series, but now I am seriously considering Tapestry of Grace. I am both excited and frightened by the prospect.

Why I am excited:

  • Tapestry of Grace (TOG) is a very rich history program that also incorporates the Great Books. History is taught from a Christian worldview, and there are great discussion questions to facilitate deeper studies with older students.
  • TOG makes it possible to include multiple students. Although I only have two students, there is a wide age gap between the two. The idea of being able to teach them both history from one source is very attractive.
  • Once I have purchased the program I can use it again for subsequent studies within the same time period. My oldest will only be able to go through the rotation once, but my youngest would be able to use this program twice more, for the dialectic and rhetoric years.
  • I'm impressed with the depth of study in the later years. TOG would provide an excellent college prep foundation.
  • Other subjects are included within TOG besides history: literature, church history, government, geography, and writing (if the writing aids cd is purchased). 
Why I am frightened:
  • Many people have expressed frustration with the sheer amount of resources included in the program. This doesn't seem like it would be a problem, but it has the potential to be overwhelming.
  • Implementation is not as clear-cut, apparently, as some other programs. Being that I have no personal experience with implementing TOG, I cannot speak to this with experience. However, from reviews I have read, another frustration is that the teacher has to do a lot of prep work regarding what to cover, what to weed out. For some of us who are box-checkers at heart, this could also lead to becoming overwhelmed. I am a box-checker, so I am concerned.
As we investigate materials for our future school years, we often have to take a leap of faith. We weigh the pros and the cons, the good reviews and the bad, and we decide to go forward or to take another path. I am still in this stage with TOG. Part of me wants to make sure the path we take is level and straight so as best to insure I don't trip or stumble along the way. On the other hand, though, I am aware that the most adventurous and challenging paths can lead to the deepest levels of growth. I'll be sure to keep you posted on which way we go...and if we do choose to use TOG, I will post a knowledgeable review once I am able. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: History


Merry Christmas and welcome to the final edition of "A Few of My Favorite Things" for homeschooling. In this edition I will be covering another favorite subject: history. I will include some of my very favorite history materials. These products have worked very well for my family, and I hope you will find some useful for yours as well.



Last year we used a self-paced online history program from Veritas Press. My daughter was in the second level of American History, 1815 to Present. She loved this program, and I loved that there was minimal teacher input. I actually love teaching history, but sometimes it is helpful and even necessary to have a subject that you don't have to teach. Veritas Press did a fantastic job putting these classes together. I'll list the pros and cons for us:

Pros

  • The program did an excellent job of review, and I was greatly impressed with my daughter's retention level. There are many games worked into the program for this purpose as well as the popular memory song and cards.
  • My daughter was always engaged in the lessons. While I sometimes found the "helpers" who were teaching the lessons to be corny or annoying, she was entertained and listening. 
  • This is a very thorough program. Not only does it do a great job of covering the important topics of the time period, it also provides glimpses into every day life.
  • The program has weekly tests and stores the grades so you can monitor your child's understanding and comprehension of lessons covered.
  • I love that more companies are providing self-paced online options. These programs are much more affordable than regular online classes while still providing many of the same benefits. Also, you are able to schedule it yourself instead of having to be on someone else's schedule.
Cons
  • Although the games provided excellent review, occasionally they added too much time to the lesson.
  • At times, though not often, games would have glitches that made it difficult to move from that section of the lesson to the next. The program requires completion of each section before moving forward. Veritas Press has wonderful customer service, though, and any issue was quickly resolved.
  • These classes are still expensive even though they are less than regular online options. If you are interested, sign up for the Veritas Press newsletter as they offer significant discounts (generally if you join together with a group) throughout the year. 


This year we are using Sonlight's One Year World History (Core W) to provide an overview of World History before beginning again in Ancient History next year. I have always used Sonlight as a source for books for our library. However, this is the first year we have followed their history program as outlined in their instructor guide. I have to say this style is a perfect fit for my daughter's learning styles. She adores being read to, and Sonlight combines independent readings and read alouds. We have had such a wonderful time with this program, and my only regret is that I didn't try this sooner.

Pros
  • As I said, this has been a perfect complement to her learning style and personal preferences. She loves to read and absorbs what is read to her. Consequently, this is one of her favorite parts of the day.
  • I love how Sonlight has lined up sources and books to cover the same topic from different angles. It is so fun to see the light go on for her when she makes these connections.
  • Cuddling up on the couch to read has become one of my favorite parts of the day as well.
  • We have greatly enjoyed almost all of the books selected. It is so nice to have a student who doesn't want to stop reading for the day because she is enjoying the book so much.
  • The instructor guide is very simply laid out and easy to follow.
Cons
  • I am not a big fan of reading aloud past the picture book stage. I understand the importance of continuing to read to them after they are reading themselves, and we include this in our day because it is so important. However, if the book is slow and dry I have a very hard time pushing through. Thankfully, we've only had to skip one book. I'm sure it was a fantastic book...but I.could.not.do.it.
  • There is so much reading that it is easy to get overwhelmed if you fall behind...which is sure to happen on occasion. It is important in these times to remember that you are the boss and in control of the schedule instead of it being in control of you.


Lastly, I want to recommend Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World series. We use these in a supplemental way, though many use them as a full history program during the grammar years. I've mentioned before how much we adore Jim Weiss. He narrates the audiobooks for this collection. We listen to them as a family while we are in the car because we enjoy them so much. My husband loves the way she weaves history together using the whole world instead of focusing on one geographic section. It is very interesting to be able to see what was going on in multiple areas during a time period to get a better grasp of why things happened as they did. I try to correlate this program with whatever program we are studying so we can continue to expand what we are already learning. Listening to these cds together has definitely become one of our favorite things.

Thank you so much for joining in for this series. I've enjoyed sharing some of my favorite homeschool materials, and I hope you have found some things to help you in your journey. May your Christmas be a blessed one and your 2014 full of joy and grace.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Latin




Latin is one of my favorite subjects we study. It has also provided the biggest headache for me when picking curricula. Each year I have a panic attack over which Latin material to move on to. I think I have finally discovered a material I will be happy to stick with for a while...but I'll tell you more about that later. In this post, rather than tell you my favorite materials for Latin study, I am just going to share with you about our journey in this favorite subject. I'm going to share some things that worked for us, some things that did not, and things I plan to do the second time through. I'll also share why I love this subject so much and why I've chosen for my family to study it.

First, why Latin? I could give you a paraphrase of some scholarly answers to that question, but instead I'll just share my personal reasons. I love classical languages. When I was in college, I chose to study Ancient Greek to fulfill my language requirement. A motivating factor was that I desired to be able to read the New Testament in its original language. I found the language fascinating--extremely challenging, but fascinating. I have always enjoyed logic puzzles, and Greek is like one big logic puzzle. Though at times it was a frustrating subject, for the most part I greatly enjoyed the study. I was excited to see that there were Greek materials available for children, and my original plan was to teach both Greek and Latin, which is a more popular choice with a larger amount of materials available. Despite having completely different alphabets, the two languages are quite similar.

Although I do believe it is possible to study both of these languages simultaneously, for us it became necessary to choose one to focus on. The time commitment to do them both was just too much for our school day. I decided to go with Latin because of the myriad of choices in materials partly because I wanted to start with an older form of Greek than is common in elementary resources, so it seemed better to shelve that subject for a later date.

Though Greek was my first love, I quickly became enamored with Latin. I found it to be just as stimulating a study. I think the study of the language is its own reward and provides great exercise for the brain. Latin is also valuable because so many of our words, especially stems of multiple syllable words, are derived from Latin. Ninety percent of three-syllable words come from Latin. Much of the vocabulary or science and law is filled with Latin. Consequently, increased understanding of vocabulary is another powerful reason to pursue this language. In addition to aiding the understanding of English vocabulary, Latin greatly helps in the future study of any of the Romance languages as they have Latin as their origin. The study of Latin has also reinforced our grammar studies tremendously. It helps me to understand English grammar in ways I never did before. There are many other reasons I have chosen to add this subject to our schedule, but most importantly we enjoy it. Difficult subjects can also be fun.



With my first child, I began our study of Latin with Classical Academic Press' Song School Latin. At the time, there was only one level available. It provided a very gentle introduction to Latin and focused on practical vocabulary like most modern language programs. That encourages children to begin using the vocabulary in conversation. After she completed Song School, I began using some grammar-based materials from Memoria Press. We used Prima Latina and moved into Latina Christiana. Just when Riley's eyes were starting to glaze over, I discovered Visual Latin. This program was a breath of fresh air. Rather than a parts-to-whole approach, it provided a whole-to parts-one. It helped Riley see the big picture of the language and she began to understand how the parts fit together. She also took part in an online class by the same teacher which focused on the text Lingua Latina. After finishing Visual Latin 1, we floated around a bit trying to figure out what to do next. Visual Latin made me see the value and importance of an immersion-style study of the language, but I still could see the value of the drill and memorization required of a grammar-based study. I tried to use Galore Park's Latin Prep, which I think is a wonderful program, but I found it difficult to stay on track and implement it. At the beginning of this year I had finally decided to go back to Memoria Press and use their First Form program since it had been highly recommended. Shortly into the school year, though, I found a used set of another program I had been interested in at a price too great to pass up. We've only been through six weeks, but I am greatly enjoying Latin Alive by Classical Academic Press...so much so, in fact, that I feel confident planning to continue through the series at least for another year.



My next journey through Latin will be different. Rather than spending time trying to find the perfect program, I hope to spend more time trying to instill a love for the language. Several years ago I found this blog post through a forum, and it resonated with me. Unfortunately many of the links are no longer active, but the sentiment expressed in the post is valuable. Also, similar Latin resources can be found simply by googling. We are going through Song School Latin this year and will continue next year with their recently released second level. Instead of moving right into a grammar-based program after finishing, I plan to continue with some more introductory materials, like Minimus, while adding in some memory work and recitations as the post suggests. We will begin a more intense grammar-based program when I feel he is ready.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Old Faithfuls


Until now, most of these editions have focused on a particular skill or subject. In this edition I want to share a couple of my "old faithful" resources in two subjects: math and grammar. In my opinion, these two subjects rank at or near the top in regards to importance. I started off my journey using other materials in both subjects, but along the way I stumbled upon a resource for each that has become my constant. I know that children are so very different, and I'm prepared for the fact that what works splendidly for one may not work at all for the other. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is being able to analyze your children's strengths and weaknesses and tailor a curriculum that meets their needs. However, I have loved these products enough to trust them for a second time through.



We'll start with math. When Riley started kindergarten, I chose a math that was colorful, easy to implement, and solid: BJU Math. It fit our needs for three and a half years. When Riley was in the middle of level four, I began to see the setup of the program was not working for her anymore. BJU is a wonderful mastery program, but the mastery method (introducing one concept at a time, focusing on that concept, little review of past concepts) did not provide enough practice, in my opinion, of all the new concepts that were being introduced. My daughter is very conceptual when it comes to math. She mentally grasps concepts quickly. What she needed what enough practice to build up speed in her execution of those concepts.

At that point I knew I needed to find a new program. Because math is a subject that builds incrementally, it is important not to switch around unless absolutely necessary. Although most math materials lead to the same point by sixth or seventh grade, they often get to that point in different ways. Interrupting the flow of that path can leave gaps since this subject needs to be built upon, block by block. Consequently, I wanted to find something that I would want to stick with for the remainder of elementary. I panicked a bit, but eventually I happened upon Christian Light Education (CLE). Their math looked like a solid, thorough program using the spiral method (introducing new concepts while constantly practicing all concepts learned) instead of mastery, and so I gave it a try. I am so happy that I did.

What I love about CLE Math:

  • There is a lot of review. For some people, this is a negative; however, I have found it to be a positive even with a child that is mathematically inclined. My husband and I view math similarly to learning a musical instrument: practice, practice, practice. 
  • This material is very child-directed. I sit with her and teach each new concept introduced, but the material is written to her and encourages independent learning. 
  • There are speed drills in the back of each unit to be done daily. Math requires significant memory work--unit conversions, math facts--and these drills are an excellent way to help children memorize. However, the drills are separate from the actual lesson and could be skipped if the child is sensitive to timed drills or if you find them unnecessary.
I have already introduced my son to this program, and he loves it...the speed drills especially which his sister loathed. I hope it will continue to be a good fit for him as well. My daughter is finishing up level six, and then we will move into pre-algebra with an online program. I feel she will be comfortably prepared for pre-algebra after this level of CLE.



Grammar is another subject I have used multiple materials for. I liked several things, but I always had issues with the materials as well. Rod & Staff English came highly recommended, but I could never get past how textbookish and boring it seemed. Finally, I decided to give it a try in fourth grade. My daughter LOVED it. I had initially only purchased a teacher guide. Once I felt confident the program was for us, I bought my daughter a student book. It was like Christmas when I gave it to her! She hugged it to her chest and jumped up and down. Again, this will not be every child's reaction to this material, but it was a hit here.

What I love about Rod & Staff English:

  • Every item I have used from Rod & Staff has been simple yet thorough. Their books aren't fancy or colorful, but they will cover everything needed...and then some.
  • I love the setup of the teacher guide. An oral review is included each day as well as information for covering the current lesson.
  • Rod & Staff materials are very affordable.
  • We can do much of the lesson orally or on the white board. There are workbooks and test booklets for each level that can be purchased very inexpensively. The student book provides ample practice for each lesson, but I like to purchase these as well. 
  • This material has helped me to understand grammar better than ever despite having been an English major.
Both of these companies are Mennonite companies, so their materials do include Christian references and scriptures. There is more in Rod & Staff English than in CLE Math, of course, but occasional references occur there as well. Rod & Staff does not have a website, but you can purchase from them directly by calling (606) 522-4348. The site I linked above is another way to purchase the books and provides samples of each material. Recently, Rod & Staff have allowed more of their products to be carried by Rainbow Resource; however, you will only be able to see many of these products in the catalog and not online. (If you don't already have the infamous Rainbow Resource catalog, you need to get one. Trust me.) Christian Light has a website, linked above, and you can see samples of most of their products there, except on Sundays when they close that feature down on the website. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Writing


This week's edition of my favorite things is on one of my favorite subjects: writing. I love writing; however, I have discovered that teaching the subject can be quite challenging...even when your student also loves writing. I have used and loved many resources in this subject, but I will limit this post to a few favorites that stand out.


My first favorite for writing (handwriting, actually) is proof that you don't have to spend a lot of money to cover a subject. When my younger child was learning to write, I simply found a handwriting printables site (I liked this one) and printed off a sheet for each letter. I then placed the sheets in page protectors, stuck them in a binder, and handed it to him with a dry erase marker. I tried to make it a fun activity and let him pull the binder out whenever he wanted. I have to tell you I was surprised by how effective this was. I choose d'nealian, or modern manuscript, because it transitions well into cursive writing.




My second favorite is truly a delightful resource. Classical Writing Primers are perfect for second or third grade and provide a transition for children from the skill of handwriting to the skill of writing. These spiral bound books have weekly lessons including copywork, narration, nature study, and picture study. They also include a small amount of gentle grammar/spelling lessons. The child narrates by illustrating an Aesop's Fable which he can read or have read to him. The copywork is from excerpts of classic books and poems. Some Christian references are included in the copywork like a psalm or hymn. There are also opportunities to use the copywork passages for memory work and/or dictation. These books are a very gentle way to introduce the skill of writing, and they also make wonderful keepsakes once completed. (A sample week can be seen at the site linked.)



My involvement with this last product is too fresh to label it a favorite, but I have a feeling it will definitely become one. The Institute for Excellence in Writing's Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is a very popular product, and I had seen it recommended often; however, I, for whatever reason, never took the plunge. Thanks to a friend loaning me her copy I have finally seen what I have been missing all these years. I decided to look deeper into the program after Riley completed a lesson from an IEW book while visiting her cousins' co-op. I knew I needed to give it a closer look when Riley came home and excitedly said the following: "Mom, we've done some great writing programs, but this is the first time everything clicked and made sense." The program is an investment at $169, but I do believe it is a worthwhile investment (and it has a great resale value). This particular product is for the teacher and lays out the heart of IEW's writing program. Once you have viewed this, you can implement it on your own or by using one of their many resources.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Phonics and Reading


In this edition of A Few of My Favorite Things I'm going to share some of my favorite phonics and reading materials. Riley learned to read at Twelve Oaks Montessori while I was teaching there, so, although I was next door in a classroom teaching other children to read, I wasn't the one to teach her.  I continued fanning the flame that was sparked there by carrying on her phonics instruction at home. Despite the fact that I had helped quite a few students over those first hurdles of learning to read, I was a bit intimidated to begin again with Sawyer. Thankfully, I found the perfect materials to aid us.



Memoria Press' First Start Reading program is a part of their Kindergarten curriculum; however, it can also be purchased separately. I am so grateful to have decided upon this program, because it worked beautifully and Sawyer was reading before he even realized he was reading. First Start Reading was so gentle yet effective.

Some of the reasons why I loved it, aside from those I've already mentioned:

  • Each time a letter sound is introduced, the child is given the opportunity to create a picture of something beginning with that sound. My child loved this as he is a very creative guy. He loves drawing and coloring, so this became one of his favorite parts of the lesson.
  • Blending is shown visually. The first sound of the word is separate from the second and there is an arrow bridging its connection to the next sound. I really liked having this in illustration form and felt it led to better understanding of the blending process. Being able to use a finger to trace the arrow while blending also helped emphasize what we were doing. This feature helped make the blending process flow more smoothly than I believe occurs in some other materials. 
  • Writing is practiced simultaneously with reading. For some this may be a negative. I do believe the fact that my child could write all of his letters prior to beginning this program was a great benefit. Had he been trying to learn how to write the letters while also learning how to read, this would likely have been too frustrating. However, the program can definitely be utilized without all the writing for a child who is not ready for writing, and the lessons can be done orally.
Most important was the fact that learning to read with this program was frustration-free. It seemed to just happen magically. I recognize that all children are different, and, consequently, some programs work for certain children and not others. I could not have asked for a better program for an initial reading/phonics program.



I used Primary Phonics in addition to First Start Reading as scheduled in the Memoria Press K Curriculum. It was a delight to return to this program as this was a material we used at the Montessori school. I also continued this series with my oldest after we began homeschooling. I was very fond of the program then and my fondness has only grown. With my oldest, I only continued the program through the third or fourth. She was such a voracious reader that I just let her take off reading and dropped phonics. I later regretted that decision when I discovered how big a role phonics plays in spelling. I decided that I would complete all six of the workbooks with my youngest. We are currently in the fifth one.

Each of the six levels of Primary Phonics contains a workbook and a set of ten storybooks, or readers. The workbook does not include phonetic explanations for the teacher or child. There are teacher guides available. However, the phonics is introduced in a logical pattern and the child continues to build on what he has learned. I have not found the teacher guide necessary, and when a word with a new phonics rule comes up, I explain the sound being covered. It is very user-friendly, and we have moved through the series with ease. The workbook has written prompts to inform the teacher that the student is ready to read the next storybook. Color words are given as sight words to be memorized. This is an issue for some but not for me. 

Reasons I love the program aside from those already mentioned: 
  • A group of words that illustrate a particular phonics rule is introduced in each section before a reader, and those words are practiced over and over in a variety of ways--matching the words to pictures, following instructions to color the items a particular color, or unscrambling words to create a sentence that matches a picture. By the time the child reads the storybook, he is very comfortable with the words that will be included in the reader.
  • There is a good deal of writing. Again, that could be a negative for some, and, if so, EPS, the company that publishes this series, has a more popular series called Explode the Code which is very similar with less writing. I love that this program provides another source of copywork and handwriting practice.
  • The readers provide excellent practice and can be used as a supplement to any program.
These two programs have provided a firm reading foundation, and I am very pleased.



Lastly, I wanted to share a source that I have always used to find quality readers for my children: Sonlight. Thanks to the books recommended through Sonlight, I have built up an expansive library for both children to enjoy. Without Sonlight I would have never discovered many of these books which have been such a delight. Though they do start off with their own reader, I love that they quickly move into actual books. We look to Sonlight to find age-appropriate books that will be a joy to read (for the most part...there have been a few we liked less than others, though none we greatly disliked--except for Stuart Little if Stuart Little is recommended there. Take my advice and avoid that one. I'm a big fan of E.B. White, but that book is an exception.).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Supplements


Over the years I have found products that I have loved, and it is my pleasure to share them with you. Although many of these will likely be familiar, hopefully along the way there will be new treasures for you.



We find ourselves in the car...often. Whether we're shuttling to activities or going on road trips, lots of time is spent in the car. It is always a plus to find ways to continue the educational experience during these drives. These trips become an exciting learning experience when I pop in a Jim Weiss cd. Greathall Productions has an ample selection of cds from a variety of historic time periods as well as cds just for fun. My children adore Jim Weiss' storytelling. I have an active six-year-old boy who rarely pauses long enough to pay attention, but he will sit transfixed listening to these stories. What's even better is my children are not the only ones who enjoy them. Sometimes you suffer through mind-numbing "entertainment" for the sake of peace from the backseat; however, my husband and I love these cds as well and have learned many new things through listening along with the kids.

We own quite a collection of these...at least twenty...and my children are always so excited to receive a new one. I hesitate to offer favorites as we can think of none we did not like; however, if forced to choose, I would say Gone West, Thomas Jefferson's America, and Masters of the Renaissance. My daughter had an equally difficult time narrowing the list to a favorite, but finally decided on the Greek Myth cds.



                                                   
When we were studying American History, some of the recommended reading failed to inspire. I wanted to find a presentation that was balanced, chronological, and compelling. Thankfully The American Story series was recommended on a forum I frequent. These books by Betsy and Giulio Maestro met and surpassed that desire. These books are beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written. Though I may have disagreed with some viewpoints, I found the books to be balanced. They are best suited for the grammar stage, early elementary, and provide an excellent introduction to American History. Currently the volumes cover Prehistory through 1815.