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Saturday, March 28, 2009

FIAR vol. 3 winner

Thanks to all who participated in my first blog give-a-way.

The winner of the FIAR vol. 3 book is.... Emily S.!

Congrats Emily; this is a marvelous curriculum for gentle, thorough learning. Hope you enjoy it, and thank you, Lambert family, for furnishing me with this volume to give.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Better with age?

Byron taught us in high school English lit class that "The days of thy youth are the days of thy glory." Ain't it the truth?

I found out in the early part of my twenties that I had some hearing loss. Not damage per say but loss due to continual allergy drainage and a clogged head.

By age 30 I saw this lone, scraggly, frizzy, albino hair peeling out of my brown tresses. He moved in and brought all of his kith and kin with him. "The White Family" now numbers about thirty strong and, like the descendants of Abraham, I think soon they will be too many to number. Did I mention they have an aversion to hair color? And they are "just as proud" (as Bill Cosby once said of his own collection). They stand straight and tall so everyone can see them. I tried plucking them one at a time but true to my mother's old wive's tale, two grew back in that place.

So lately my migraines have been increasing, despite being a frequent user of Maxalt and being on YAZ. I have tried to make sure I get enough sleep, have good lighting when I read, etc., but nothing really stops them. After over a year of almost weekly headaches, I decided it might be time to pay a visit to the eye doctor, mind you, JUST IN CASE I needed glasses, not that I did of course. My eyesight is stupendous. I could shoot an ant out of a tree down in the woods behind my house....well, okay, so that might be an exaggeration. But I can see a bird on a branch in a tree pretty far into our backyard.

My eye-doctor is super-nice. He knew I had an aversion to wearing glasses from the moment I walked in the door. He says I have 20/20 vision and my distance vision is excellent, but that my eyes are straining to do up-close work. So in I go to pick out my new "reading" glasses. I veered straight to the hip, trendy, silver-pink "chrome with mucho-blingage" glasses. Meanwhile, the poor man who was trying to help me, grabbed a different pair and said, "Why don't you try these on?" I did and turned to see my grandmother's face with cat's eye glasses looking back at me from the mirror. "Nice," he says. And you know what? Sadly enough, he was right.
In two days I go back to pick up my glasses, and then I'll officially look like all the girls from a 1950's yearbook.

To top things off, a few days ago I awoke from sleep with such an intense leg cramp in my left calf that it brought tears to my eyes. It actually left my leg sore for a few hours. I hobbled into Walgreens and went to look for Potassium pills as I was always told people experiencing cramps need more potassium. Along the way I discovered a pill especially formulated for leg cramps. I eagerly grabbed it and read: "Relieves leg cramping associated with lack of potassium and leg cramps experienced by the elderly."

After that I just turned and went home. Then I crawled into my favorite rocker, pulled my shawl around my thin shoulders (is it cold in here?) and squinted at the evening news through my faulty eyeballs. I'm suddenly craving prunes....


Homeschool in the Woods New Testament Hands-On Activity Pack

What a nice lapbook kit/activity pack download I received from the Homeschool in the Woods company! Our somewhat eclectic but mostly unit study oriented family happened upon our first lapbook about three years ago. Although we don't make a lapbook for every single unit we cover, I do find that we enjoy making them and we retain more information when we do.

A lapbook is simply a file folder that has been opened and refolded, plus extra parts of file folders added, to fold shut in a new way, like a little book. inside the flaps are great places to glue in small bit of information, trivia, coloring sheets, facts, mini books, etc. These become nice for reviewing information learned, for wowing the relatives, for paperwork "proof" of learning, and for fond keepsakes. They are a bit scrapbooking, a bit coloring, part cutting and gluing, and lots of fun to make.

Used to be when a homeschool mom wanted her kids to make a lapbook she'd have to sort and dig through websites, reproducibles, magazines, etc. to find cute cut-outs, clip art, and facts sheets to reprint for the books. I'm sure there are families who prefer to do it this way but hey, I'm a cheat...on top of a busy day, last thing I need or want is to spend hours net surfing for lapbooking resources. Nowadays they are right at your fingertips. For a minimal price, mom can just download an entire lapbook onto the family computer and voila! Lapbook central.

This particular pack from Homeschool in the Woods is geared toward teaching children about the New Testament of the Bible. This is a good one. it is packed full of resources and the graphics look nice too.

Your kids will cover topics such as the lineage of Jesus, miracles of Jesus, the Beatitudes, Fruits of the Spirit, Armor of God, parables of Jesus, last Supper, Crucifixion and Ascension, the prophecies Jesus fulfilled, and even delves into Paul's missionary journeys. This project pack is amazing! I would highly recommend it to anyone...homeschool parents, anyone who works with children through missions or church activities, those involved with backyard Bible clubs, etc.
I especially like showing the kids all the prophecies that were fulfilled proving Jesus is the Son of God. Another part of the pack I enjoyed is a little Bible Times Newspaper" that has some cute illustrations and captivating headlines filled in; students must use their creative writing skills to be journalists and write in the rest. This is almost a test of sorts as they fill in what they have learned.

Lapbooks are great for so many learning styles. They are very affordable. They can become treasured keepsakes as your children grow. I cannot recommend them enough to go along with a unit, or just to veer off for a vacation from your regular texts and do more hands-on learning.

This grade 3-8 level hands-on activity pack download only costs $18.95; a CD version is available for $19.95.
Visit http://www.homeschoolinthewoods.com/HTTA/AP/NewTestament.htm to see more details or to order.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

review of products from Bonnie Terry Learning

From http://www.bonnieterrylearning.com/ I received 4 spiral-bound books to review: Making Spelling Sense, Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills, and Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, both student and teacher editions.

It was quite a bit to go over, with such a large package of information (I also received a CD-ROM video of Bonnie Terry herself, reviewing the ways she teaches. I would've really enjoyed watching more of the video but mine must have had a slight glitch in it; the volume of her voice would not increase and so it was hard for me to hear it over the background music).

Allow me to begin with the book we were able to use most, the Making Spelling Sense book. This is a simple approach to teaching children to be able to spell any word by using 8 basic spelling patterns. You learn to spell the 500 words in the book and then are enabled to spell thousands of other words using the same patterns. This book incorporates visual, auditory, and tactile learning and is phonetically and sequentially based. Next year we will try this as our sole spelling curriculum. If it had arrived earlier in the year before we got so engrossed in our current curriculum, we would have used it this year. I really don't like my third grader's text anyway, but am loathe to changing directions so close to the year's end.

I like the fact that I can use it with all my children who are of writing and spelling age. It does start off very easy, as it is sequential. So your first lesson contains words like "if" and "has". By the book's end you're spelling words like "distance" and "usually".

Each day's lessons are so easy to teach and incorporate.
I used a white board to post the list of words that we were going over and also gave each child a copy of the sheet to write on directly. I taught the lesson on the white board, showing them the pattern. For example, the first few lessons use the vowel/consonant pattern. After writing the words on the whiteboard and teaching the pattern, then I allowed to boys to help me work through the lesson, them on their papers, and me on the board. They simply write the words once each and the write them again, labeling the pattern parts the second time. After this they get a handout of little puzzles to do to quiz them over the spelling words. My 8th grader was finished in about 2 minutes and it only took my 3rd grader about 5 minutes to do. They easily learned the patterns and liked the puzzle pages. The tests are done a little bit differently than I am used to. There is a sample test plus reproducible test pages in the book as well.

At the end of the lessons you'll find additional sections on over 300 suffixes, open and closed syllables, and prefixes, also homonyms, antonyms, and synonyms lessons. I didn't make it far enough to try those pages yet, but it looks like there are some fairly simple activities for teaching these concepts.

I hate to write reviews when I didn't have adequate time to really dig into a product. Its just difficult to try to work with new products coming in while still getting regular work finished. I will try to come back and update my Bonnie Terry review in the next school year. I have high hopes that if we start with this curriculum next fall and use it faithfully, I will only have to teach each child spelling once in his lifetime. Then he would retain most knowledge needed to spell most other words. Wouldn't that be amazing?

I can't wait to go see what others are saying about this. I'd love to hear more from moms who were able to really dig into it and give it a deep testing.

Now on to the other books.

These I used a little less. Again, perhaps next year or over the summer I can really dig into them more deeply. I know my 8th grader can definitely benefit from the study skills book. He is really lacking in this area at times. This guide teaches students how to take notes (he severely dislikes note-taking, yet he needs to use it daily in his studies), how to write paragraphs, and how write essays. In part I she teaches students how to get started studying. You know, as parents we assume this all comes naturally to kids; after all, everyone just knows how to study, right? Wrong! Ever see an ADHD child trying to work in a room with a preschooler playing noisily while the tv blares and someone else is talking? It doesn't work. Sometimes we have to start with step one and teach children how to set up a study area with room to work and essential items nearby.

Once children have gathered the listed items for studying and cleared out an area that meets his needs, then a planning calendar is given. It breaks down the afternoon and evening into hour-long increments. There is also a monthly calendar given. Copy them and give them to your students to use. This will help them to become more organized and set a regular study time.

Part II has lots of reproducibles to aid students as they work through their regular workload. There are cause and effect sheets, book reports, outlines, a text book note taker sheet, compare and contrast sheets, and more. Each type of page has a sample page, filled in, and with explanations as to when to give that particular page to your child for use.

For example, at this point my boys are studying colonial America via a unit study. I could give my younger son the book report form to use with one of the many books we're reading on the 13 Colonies. My older son could benefit from using the Text Book Note Taker sheet to sift through the history texts we use as supplements to each unit. The formal outline page looks very helpful for high school essay writing.

Part III has more study tips and note taking tips. It also has tips on test-taking (no more panic!) and writing better paragraphs.

Part IV is a handy-dandy little reference section to look up spelling patterns, capitalization rules, punctation rules, helping/being verbs, clauses, how to write a bibliography (whoa!), and much more. This book is a keeper and I highly recommend it for students who really need to learn to write and study more efficiently, or for students entering middle and high school.

Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills:
I am ashamed to say that I never got to use this one with my 3rd grader, although he probably needs it. I was able to look through it numerous times and am aiming to really give it a go this week. Once I do, I'll post an update.

This book contains short (as in five minute) lessons called "drills". You use these with a student at least twice a week but you can use them daily. These drills begin by having students read aloud a list of words. You'll notice the drill list word characters are spaced further apart than in normal reading; this extra spacing of the letters helps students with visual perception difficulties. After the pre-reading of the list, the child is given a "one-minute timed read". The teacher has forms to use to log how many words were read correctly, plus how many words were read per minute and how many errors were made per minute. The goal is not only to be able to read fastre but to have accuracy. The mastery guide lets teachers know when to move the student on to the next drill. This program can be used for grades 1-adult because you can adjust the words-per-minute mastery level.

Bonnie Terry Learning carries other products such as The Sentence Zone, The Math Zone, Super Spacers, and more. She is a Board Certified Education Therapist who started Bonnie Terry Learning in 1992 as a way to help share her learning support materials with teachers and parents around the world! Ms. Terry says, "Our philosophy is that all students can learn; they just need the tools and the encouragement to find their wings to reach their goals. And we have results to prove that this is true."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Noah's Ark Toy

As if one free play set weren't enough, the people over at http://www.one2believe.com/, who sent us a nice Nativity playset earlier this year, surprised us a second time with another tales of Glory playset, Noah's Ark.

As before, my preschool daughter couldn't wait to tear it open. I had to remind her that the box has a bonus points coupon printed right on it to help you save money on future purchases (and who doesn't like to save money?). So we carefully removed the playset, then she flipped out! She likes it, well, because she knows the Bible story and of course, all little kids just like new toys.

Mom likes it because it's cute, helps me "tell the tale" in a touchable, hands-on fashion, and best of all, all the pieces store inside the ark! Easy cleanup. Another TOS Crew mom mentioned it floats so we'll be trying that out at our next bath.
I also like the fact that inside every box is a guide to assist parents in teaching the gospel and Bible stories to their children, based on the age of the child. Plus the children get a mini storybook that contains the Bible story relating to the toy. Just open the box and read aloud as the children interact with the 3-inch PVC characters and build not only Bible understanding, but imagination.

It's really cute and very child friendly. The animals are a bit silly-looking but that gives them even more appeal. We've been playing with it for over a month now and it has held up to typical four year-old wear and tear. This set is part of the Tales of Glory collection and contains a Noah figurine, 14 animals, guide, mini story book, and an ark large enough to hold everything inside.
This set costs $29.99. Great for home, church, or preschool use.
www.one2believe.com also sells Proverbs 31 dolls, playmats, and an assortment of other toys. Check out their website for parent and child resources as well.

Monday, March 9, 2009

SpellQuizzer review

This is a neat computer program. So far, neither of my boys have had much trouble spelling (thankfully). But I will still enjoy using this product to help them review their weekly spelling lists.

It is so simple to use and only took a few minutes to download. You can try it free for 30 days by going to
http://www.spellquizzer.com/ and click on Download Free Trial. To buy SpellQuizzer the cost is only $29.95. You can use it over and over, year after year, with new children and new word lists.

How SpellQuizzer works: the parent begins by entering in the child's weekly spelling word list and then makes audio recordings of the list words (using your own microphone---not a necessity..more on that in a sec). The SpellQuizzer software then quizzes the child, playing each word back to him, checking his spelling as he types in the words. SpellQuizzer corrects him when he types in a word incorrectly, and re-quizzes him on any words he missed once the first pass is completed. Just set up the child's list on Monday, and have him spend no more than five to ten minutes a day letting SpellQuizzer quiz him. By the end of the week he will be ready for his Friday spelling test at school. SpellQuizzer is also ideal for spelling bee preparation and even summer-time review.

SpellQuizzer works well for children who don't like to write and is a fun way to review lists of words.

*Note from Lynn--SpellQuizzer works much better in my opinion if you have a microphone for your computer. Reason being is parents can actually type in each word and then say it in a sentence to use as a clue. When the child plays the game, they will be able to hear the word and clue being spoken aloud. Due to a recent computer virus and the recovery of our system, we didn't have a chance to re-install our microphone. So in our case, SpellQuizzer asked me to type in a clue that the child could read to remind them of the word. As opposed to using the pre-made word lists with built-in playback feature, it just wasn't as effective without hearing the words and clues being spoken. While not a necessity to use SpellQuizzer, I'd certainly make the $10 investment and run to the local Wal-mart and grab one.

I liked reading the tips that pop up when you use the software. One tip was to make silly clues to playback. For example, for the spelling word "pickle", your spoken aloud clue could be "Get that pickle out of you ear!" This would be right up my 9-year old's alley.

Overall, a fun and cost-effective method to getting children prepped for spelling tests and bees. I give it two thumbs up. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

review of Artistic Pursuits Senior High level book 1

My oldest son, Nick, is an 8th grader pursuing some early high school credits. One of the latest test products we received is going to be extremely helpful in getting a jump start on that. The product is a complete art curriculum called ARTistic Pursuits. Visit their website at http://www.artisticpursuits.com/ to see their wide variety of complete art curricula.

We were given the first senior high level book called The Elements of Art and Composition. The spiral-bound volume contains enough self-directed art lessons for one full school year. This schedule has a student working on art for about two hours per week.

Each unit is broken down into 4 lessons. The first lesson is always on Building a Visual Vocabulary, followed by lesson 2 on Art Appreciation and Art History. Lessons 3 and 4 always cover Techniques and Application.The book begins with an overview of how to get started. This is written to the student and is very easy to follow.

Nick's first lesson was on the use of space in art. He sat at the kitchen table with his book, paper, and pencils. After reading through the non-threatening one-page lesson he began the first assignment: drawing an outdoor scene with use of both active and non-active spaces in the drawing. After about 45 minutes he was able to not only tell me what he had learned but to show me a very nice sketch he had produced. He also commented on how easy the lesson was to understand and how much he liked it.

The book has some very nice art reproductions in it. I appreciate the fact that Nick can do this on his own and free me up to work with the "littles" at our house.

The back of the book contains two very useful pages: one on how to evaluate the student's work to obtain a letter or number grade, and also how to gain high school credits from this course.

Both senior high volumes only cost $42.95 each. There are volumes for all grade levels each costing $42.95. That's a great price for a year's worth of quality student-led lessons.