Sunday, May 27, 2012

Choices, Choices

I'm just back from the FPEA, Florida Homeschool Convention in Orlando, FL!  This was my second year venturing out to the Gaylord Palms Resort for another relaxing, overwhelming, encouraging and moving weekend. 

This time I vowed to spend more time in the speakers' sessions and less time in the Exhibit Hall shopping.  But you know how that goes......All in all, we made it to three seminars all weekend.  But how many hours did we spend perusing curricula in the Exhibit Hall?  I lost count.

Here are the things I was looking for and the things I'm still contemplating for 2012-2013:

Core/History:  Tapestry of Grace, Year 3 (the 1800's).  I've used this curriculum for two years in a row--hoping to use it for a third if I can find it used at the right price (or borrow it--hint, hint).  I love the classical model for education and Tapestry is the ultimate in my opinion.  It's overwhelming to look at, but I use it as a foundation for history, literature and activities. 

I like to use Story of the World alongside Tapestry and this year we will be vaccilating between Volume 3 and 4.  The booklist for this year is exhaustive, consisting mostly of books on the Louisiana Purchase, Westward Expansion, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad and the Industrial Revolution.  Lots of good titles for history and literature in this mix!  I also purchased two of Greathall Productions storytelling CDs for history (Lewis & Clark and Abe Lincoln).

Math:  Continuing with Teaching Textbooks.  This year, Math5 and Math6. 

Science:  For the first time, I'm farming this subject out with a local Young Anatomist Class in a nearby town.  Looking forward to letting an expert who is passionate about science take the reigns from me for at least one subject!  We will continue to stay engaged with quality science documentaries as we have time.

Grammar:  First Language Lessons has come to the end of its available levels, so we are moving to Winston Grammar.  Also keeping with Daily Grams for daily grammar warm-ups.

Spelling:  This one has been the bane of my existence since the beginning.....the first program we tried was called Spelling Power, but it wasn't the "genuine" Spelling Power that everyone loves.  It was some knock-off brand of workbooks with (you'll never guess)....spelling errors!!  I was appalled.  We switched to Sequential Spelling, but it wasn't sticking with them.  We have used a Harcourt workbook from Barnes and Noble for the rest of this year and it's worked okay.  My 10 year old flew through the 6th grade book with hardly any errors.  My 12 year old, who struggles with spelling, was having a lot of difficulty, though. So I have two problems.  To find a better hands-on method of teaching basic phonics to my 12 year old so that he can fill those mental gaps and become a better speller.  And also, to properly challenge my 10 year old, who seems to have a photographic memory! 

This year, I'm trying All About Spelling Level 5 for my struggling speller.  I'm still learning the program, but it appears to use letter tiles to incorporate a kinesthetic element.  It is promoted by IEW as a forerunner for Phonetic Zoo.  I'm hopeful.

For my spelling whiz, I'm hoping to take a closer look at MegaWords, or just have him study the Abeka Spelling Challenges book, which is designed for Spelling Bees and Competitions.  Still accepting suggestions in this area!

Handwriting:  Cursive Connections

Bible/Worldview:  I thought we'd read through Ken Ham's Answers, Books 1-3, as well as go through God's Great Covenant (New Testament), which was a product I reviewed this year.

Critical Thinking:  My kids go cuckoo for analogies and logic puzzles, so I didn't want to deprive them.  Thought we try Inference Jones, and continue with the next level of Perplexors by MindWare.

Writing:  I have to admit, we fell off the IEW wagon around Christmastime, due to my taking a second job.  It just felt like too much.  By doing so, I've noticed a significant drop in the quality of the kids' writing.  We are getting back on the straight and narrow and going back to basics with Student Writing Intensive A.  As we move through the year, I thought "All Things Fun and Fascinating" or "Fables, Myths and Fairy Tales" would be a good themed unit to use with the program.

Reading Comprehension/Test Prep:  McCall-Crabbs Reading Comprehension booklets are so cheap $3.95, and the lessons are short and sweet, I couldn't resist.

Vocabulary:  Worldly Wise 3000, Grades 5 and 6

Foreign Language:  So excited for the whole family to try Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish, Level 1!  I absolutely loved the look of it at the convention.  It's tried and true--I hope it works for us!

Typing:  Typing Instructor Platinum, Version 21 for PC.  The Typing Instructor for Kids, from the same company, looked a little cutesy for my boys, so I thought I'd bump them up to this level which still looks fun.

Art:  A friend and I are toying with the idea of an art/art history co-op.  Looking at God and the History of Art or Simply Draw with Bob Parsons.  There really isn't that great of a selection when it comes to drawing programs.  Still dilligently looking!  This year, I want to study Chagall, Matisse, Hopper, Rockwell, Warhol and O'Keefe.  I know I'm going to use Mike Venezia's "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists".  Just need something of quality to help them with art instruction.

Memory Work:  Continuing with my Poor Man's Classical Conversations program that I created, memorizing any of the History Sentences that correspond with what we're studying or the Science Sentences that pertain to our topics.  I'm so proud that we've learned so many pertinent dates in history, scripture and poetry this year (and they actually UNDERSTAND what they've memorized!)

4H:  Archery and Riflery, possibly Etiquette (LOL)

Music:  continuing with piano for Solomon, guitar for Denver

We are headed toward our last half-week of school right around the corner.  I can't believe how it all flew by.  Looking forward to a summer full of relaxation, reading and beach trips!  I know the kids are ready :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Write Shop Junior: A Review

Write Shop sent me a product to review this month!  It is the Write Shop Junior Book D, designed for 3rd and 4th graders (and maybe 5th graders who rebel at writing).  My Write Shop set came with a sturdy spiral-bound Teacher's Guide, the Student Activity Pack and the Time-Saver Pack.  You could complete this program without the Time-Saver Pack, but it is a nice addition for not alot of extra money and includes ready-made props for games you will use such a cards and spinners.  There are instructions for making your own items in the teacher's guide, though.

This is an example of what's in the Time Saver Pack.
 Each lesson is split into 8 sub-lessons, so you could finish each in 2-3 weeks depending on your schedule and pace. Topics for Junior Book D include:  Letters of Invitation, Humor, Adventure, Science Fiction, Mystery, Haiku, Folktales, Historical Fiction, Personal Narrative and Expository Writing. 

Lesson objectives are clearly stated and any materials needed or preparation on the teacher's part is marked write at the beginning of each lesson.  There are some parts that are scripted for you.  Take just 10-15 minutes or so and look over what you'll be teaching each day before you get started.  It will make everything run smoother!

"Brainstorming Cake"

Lesson Plan example

WriteShop Junior teaches children to:

Discern between fiction and nonfiction
Identify and write in different genres
Narrow a broad topic to a specific topic
Organize ideas before writing
Learn about characters and plot
Write details about story setting
Develop the middle of the story and make it interesting
Choose strong words instead of weak ones
Use descriptive writing
Develop voice and show emotion in their writing
Vary sentence length
Use proofreading marks
Develop and improve self-editing skills
Use reference materials
Write a 5-paragraph composition (Books E and F)

A highlight of this program is that children will make and use 10 Portable Grammar Guides throughout the year which will help them with skills such as punctuation, grammar and parts of speech, as well as self-editing.  The Fold-N-Go Grammar Packs are one one side of the student folder, while the other side holds the Student Worksheets.  They are in a gummed "rip-out" tablet format, which makes it very easy for copying for multiple students to use if you wish.

The Time Saver Pack has cards and game pieces to cut out to play various games that are included in the lesson plans to reinforce the concepts. 

You can purchase Write Shop Junior products at this site.  You will also find Write Shop Primary products for younger students at this site.  The Write Shop Teacher's Guide is available for $39.95 for the print version and $34.95 for the downloadable version.  The Student Activity Pack is available for $39.95/$29.95.  The optional Time Saver Pack is available for $13.95 (same price for print or digital download.

Junior Book D is new for Spring 2012!  Be sure to take a look at all the products they offer and see which is "write" for your child ---(ha ha....couldn't resist..)

Click here to read other reviews of Write Shop from my friends at the Homeschool Crew!

Disclaimer:  I was provided with the products listed above to review honestly.  No other compensation was provided to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homeschool Library Builder

Homeschool Library Builder is an online compay that specializes in helping you build your classroom library without breaking your budget.  This is the time of year that we're all meticulously planning out next year's school year, looking at curriculum and the corresponding reading lists that go with them.  Sometimes I think, "Hmmm.. I could by a compact car for what all these books are going to cost me."  I have already tallied the retail value of the books JUST for history this year and the total was over $700. 

Homeschool Library Builder to the rescue.  They have new and used books in hardcover and softcover.  They also carry rare and vintage books, all categorized by author, subject, or even the curriculum in which they are used!  They have their books currenty categorized by some of the popular curricula:  Tapestry of Grace, Sonlight, Ambleside, Five in a Row and Beautiful Feet.

What sets HLB apart, is that you can build book points for every dollar you spend on their books and redeem them for discounts on future purchases. There is no cost to join their site and start building your points and your collection!

For the month of May, you can also receive 25% off anything on the website!

Go to this site and see how you can start building your classroom library for not a lot of cha-ching.

Disclaimer:  No compensation was provided for this review.

Click here to read what other TOS Crew members thought of Homeschool Library Builder!

Friday, May 4, 2012 has big news!!

Everyone who visits here regularly knows I love notebooking pages, specifically the ones designed by  It is a clearinghouse of notebooking page topics--everything from Marie Curie to Mozart to Montezuma! 

Today, Debra announced an exciting new addition for Treasury Members (and an enticing feature to get you to BECOME a Treasury Member)--Notebooking Publisher!  Here, instead of waiting for her to design a specifically-themed page, you can choose from over 100 templates and add your own photo or sketch from the internet, as well as have your children TYPE their narrations right there on the page!  For example, she is well-stocked in pages from Ancient times, Westward Expansion, Composers, Nature Study, Biographies, etc.  But last week, I had trouble locating a page on the Boston Tea Party.  I made my own, but it looks awful.  With her new Notebooking Publisher feature (set to be up and running by June!), I could plug in a photo/painting/clip art from the internet, type in a snazzy title, and the save it all to a PDF.  Better still, I can now share my notebooking page with the rest of the members! 

So, if you use notebooking pages in your school day, or would like to give them a try (think of them as short summaries assessing your child's understanding of a topic, but done in an aesthetically-pleasing way), then check out the details here!