5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Homeschooling

We all decide to homeschool for a reason. Maybe that reason has to do with health issues or scheduling. It might be because of bullying or poor school choices in your area. And it could be a decision that you made long before your child was ready to start school. Whatever your reason, you have decided to take this unconventional path. There will be good days and bad, and some days you might question your decision.

When you start on your homeschooling journey it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many different options, just picking curriculum can be daunting. I know when I was first looking into homeschooling I felt stressed. I wanted to make the “right” choices and do the best for AJ. If I could go back, the first thing I would do would be to relax. We are now in our sixth year of homeschooling and I have learned quite a bit along the way.

With the knowledge I have now, here are five things I would tell myself six years ago at the beginning of our homeschooling journey.

5 Tips For those who are starting to homeschool

1. You Don’t Have to Do it All!

Some homeschoolers are able to teach all of the core subjects along with art, logic, Latin, Spanish, and do huge hands on projects. That is great for them, but it isn’t for everyone. When you are starting out, focus on what you have to teach according to your state laws. Then if you have the time and desire add in an additional subject or two. If your third grader isn’t learning Latin, it isn’t the end of the world. Focus on your child and what is best for them. Give them a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math, and the rest will follow.

2. Ask Your Child for Input.

Giving your child options about their learning can change their entire attitude. If your child is not enjoying their current history study then give them a few options for what historical period they want to study next. I don’t give AJ final say, but I will ask her what topics she wants to study. In the beginning I made all of the decisions. Now I have a list of things I want her to study and give her the choice of what to learn about next.

3. Sometimes it is Worth the Money to Buy a Good Curriculum.

Writing has been a difficult subject since she was in public school. I tried a few free and cheep options to help her improve. We tried daily journal writing, but nothing seemed to help. She hated writing and it was a subject that brought constant tears. We were finally blessed to review IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) and it has changed the way she views writing. I wish I had spent a little bit more money in the beginning. I can’t imagine how much better her writing would be by now if she would have been using it from the start.

4. Start Independent Work Early.

This was one of my biggest mistakes! Independent work is important. The child needs to be able to practice what they have learned on their own. Since it was just the two of us, I usually was close by to help AJ when she needed it. That made her very dependent on me. It got to the point where she wouldn’t do any work unless I was sitting right with her. I am glad we have moved passed that point, but if I could go back I would make her do at least two subjects by herself daily. They wouldn’t have to be major subjects. It could be writing spelling words or working on math problems. Copywork is another subject that can be easily done independently. Find something your child can practice on their own. It will help to build their confidence and improve their work ethic.

5. It is Okay to Make Mistakes.

Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Let kids know that they don’t have to be perfect, that they need to work hard and do their best. Sometimes failing a math lesson or a spelling test is a good thing. It lets them know they need to work harder. It may mean they need to approach a task from a different perspective and try new methods. This goes for parents too. You might make the wrong choice on curriculum or feel like you are not getting through to your child. It will be okay. Try something new the next day and learn together.

Homeschooling is a journey. You will have hard times, but there will be so many great times. You will get to see your child grow and learn. You will see them preserver through subjects that are difficult. The best part is you get to be with them as they discover the world and how it works.

What is something you would go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your homeschooling journey?

Educeri ~ Review

We are always looking for new ways to help AJ learn, so we were excited to have the chance to review Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri …….  Educeri a division of DataWORKS .

What is Educeri?

Educeri is an online based program designed to help teachers teach specific learning objectives to their students. There are currently 1108 lessons and resources for kindergarten through high school levels. The majority of the lessons cover math and language arts topics, but there are other lessons available depending on the grade level. When you subscribe to Educeri you are given access to all of the lessons and resources.

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews
In addition to math and language arts there are, 21 Science lessons which are mainly for middle school students and 26 History lessons mainly for grades five and up. There is also one lesson in Art, Music, PE, and Spanish.

The site is set up so you can search for your desired grade level or subject. You can also search by the concept that you want to teach.

For all of the Math and Language Arts lessons there are downloadable student handouts that you can print off for your student. Your student works on the handout while you are teaching them the lesson. Then they complete some independent work after the lesson is completed.

How We Used Educeri

When I logged onto the site I decided to simply go to the 8th grade section. I found 73 lessons and resources for the 8th grade level. I was surprised to see that the 8th grade section also had a few different history lessons. Since we are not using a complete Language Arts program this year, I decided to check out the Language Arts lessons first.

There were lessons covering:

Analyzing Analogies

Symbolism

Analyzing Themes in Literature

Literary Devices

Analyzing Conflicting Viewpoints

Writing

Grammar and

Vocabulary

One of the lessons AJ worked on was on Idioms. I decided not to print off the student hand outs, instead we discussed the information.

When I clicked to teach the lesson I the first page lists the objective of the lesson and the prior knowledge that students should know about the topic. The following slide went on to explain the difference and give a few examples of literal and figurative language.

educeri-review-1

Then there is guided practice. The answers are all blank and then as you click the mouse answers are revealed. There is a highlighting and pen tool to use so you can interact with the lesson. Once the guided practice is finished there is a section about the relevance of the skill and then a review of how to use the skill. The lesson ends with the independent practice. In this section the answers are again blank, and with each click of the mouse an answer is revealed.

I decided to spread the lessons out over a few days. One day we would introduce the concept and do the guided practice. Then another day we would go over the relevance of the skill and how to use it. At the end of the week I would have her do the independent work.

I feel that she learned some new skills through this review. We mainly used the Language Arts lessons, but she did use a few of the math lessons.

What We Thought About Educeri

While I felt AJ learned a few new skills, I felt that this product was much more than we needed in our homeschool setting. There was a lot of focus on objectives and how each skill would help the student preform better on tests. In a school setting where they have to stick to standard based learning, this would be perfect. I just felt it was a little over kill.

AJ thought that the lessons took too long and didn’t like that a single part of the answer would be revealed at a time. She didn’t like the way that math was taught and felt that there was a lot of unneeded steps when she could easily figure out problems. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the lessons are common core aligned, and it is not at all what she was use to.

I see this product being a better fit in a group setting. Since we do so much one on one learning, the set up of the lessons was just not the right fit for us. In the future I think I will just print of the hand outs for her and teach her off of them.

If you want to ensure that your child is learning all of the skills that their peers in public school are learning, then this might be exactly what you are looking for. The best part is that you can try it out for 30 days risk free! See if it is something that will work for your family.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought.

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service
Crew Disclaimer

Working It Out ~ Review

One subject that I enjoyed learning about in school was poetry. I enjoyed breaking down poems and trying to figure out what they meant. It was always an enjoyable experience, but something that took some effort. When AJ started to learn about poetry however, she hated it. She was a very literal thinker and the idea of nonsense poems was hard for her to understand. We worked on poetry for a while and eventually she started to enjoy it. She even wrote some decent poems of her own. Now that she is older, I have been trying to incorporate some poetry that has more meaning. It has been a little difficult to find the right balance for her.

We were recently given the chance to review a product from Everyday Education, LLC called Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert. I thought that it would be a great product to help AJ learn more about poetry.

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

What is Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert?

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

This book (we received an e-book) contains over 50 poems that were all written by George Herbert. He was a poet who was born in 1593. George Herbert lead a rather fascinating life even though he didn’t live to see his 40th birthday. He was a well educated man who ended up becoming an ordained minister.

Working it Out is a collection of poems that can be used as a devotion. The interesting thing about this book is that it is written in a way to help even those who are not poetically gifted to understand and enjoy the experience of reading poetry.

The poems in Working it Out are broken into 12 main categories.

  • Looking Back, Moving Forward
  • Letting Go
  • Confession
  • Grace
  • Separation
  • Petition
  • Praise
  • Depending on God
  • Grief
  • Prayer
  • Special Blessings of the Church
  • More Insights

The number of poems in each section varies, as does the length of each poem. Some are only a few stanzas long where others are pages long.

After each poem there is a breakdown of the poems meaning. I like how the breakdown lets you see the poem as much more than just words on a page. Each poem has the following explanation:

  • The Big Picture – This section gives an overall meaning of the poem.
  • The Parts of the Picture – This section breaks down the poem by stanza. Literary elements are discussed in this section.
  • The Parts of the Picture Come Together – This section explains the movement throughout the poem. I personally felt this was one of the most helpful sections.
  • Reflections – These are questions about the poem that ask you to reflect about the meaning of the poem.
  • Scriptures for Further Reflection – These are additional scripture verses that relate to the poem.

How to Use Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

You can simply read through the book and learn a lot of information. After reading each poem you learn about the meaning of it. Through this process you and your student will be able to grow in the knowledge of poetry while becoming closer to God.

If you want deepen the learning process there are ideas in the book to help take the learning to the next level.

You are encouraged not to rush through this book. It is actually meant to be used over a school year by learning about one poem a week. There is a lot of flexibility to help you make the process of learning about poetry enjoyable.

How We Used Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

Learn the meaning behind poetry while growing closer to God!

We started off by reading through a poem at the beginning of the week. Then the next day we would read it again and discuss what she thought the poem could mean. The process was difficult for AJ so we would read through the meaning of the poem a few times.

After learning about a few different poems I could see AJ was just not ready for this book. Instead we have decided to just read through a poem each week and talk about any literary elements she can find. I have also had her color code a few of the poems. She would highlight words that had to do with love red, and words that had a sad connotation grey.

It the poem, “The Flower” I had her mark the words about spring in yellow and the words about winter in a dark color. The poem is about renewal, and while she may not understand that yet, I know that the next time we come to this poem and try to understand its’ meaning it will be a little easier for her.

What We Thought About Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert.

It is a well put together study, but it ended up being too far over her head. She is in 8th grade right now and I think she will be able to get far more out of the study in another year or two. She is able to read the poems fine, but even when I help to explain their meanings, she seems a little lost. I look forward to using it with her in the future though, because it is a neat way to learn about poetry.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to teach their child about poetry. It breaks everything down and makes the process a lot easier. It is also great for personal growth and reading too. I have read through quite a few of the poems and have enjoyed them. The best part is I can see the meaning behind the poem and compare it to what I thought the poem was talking about.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say about Working it Out and two other products from Everyday Education, LLC

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
Crew Disclaimer
 

If You Were Me And Lived In… Book Review

Post Contains Affiliate Links

While AJ is a reluctant reader, she loves books that teach her things. If she was able to only pick books out of the nonfiction section of the library, she would. But give her a text book and she normally finds it boring because of the lack of pictures. We were asked to review a few books from the, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.  This review came with a fun twist, we were able to pick two books from the series and the company sent us two of their choice. It was a hard decision because there were so many great options. In the end AJ and I decided on, If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty and If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3). We picked the book about China, because we haven’t learned very much about that country in our history studies. We picked Elizabethan England because AJ will be reading her first Shakespeare play this year (YIKES!) and I wanted her to learn more about that era.

AJ’s first pick was If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2). She fell in love with Italy when she studied the Renaissance in 3rd grade. She was thrilled to see that the company decided to send us the book about the Renaissance! We also received If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4).

About the Books

The books all follow the same format. They begin with a picture of the country today and the country during the time period that the book is covering. The books cover all different things from the food that was eaten, the clothes that were worn, the types of homes, and other interesting information. Then at the end of each book there is a list of important people during the time including dates and detailed information. Following that there is a glossary in each book.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 55 pages long. It is illustrated by Silvia Brunetti. The pictures in the book varied. Some were lifelike, some looked more like paintings, and others looked like cartoons. We enjoyed the variety. It began by reviewing a little bit about the Middle Ages. It talked about the wealthy Medici family and how the family encouraged changes in architecture and supported many artists.

The book explained that girls were expected to be married by the time they were 16 and were expected to act like adults from a very young age. It also talked about how the clothes that were worn were a symbol of status in the town. In the end of the book there was a short section about art in the Renaissance. AJ was happy to see the Hands of God &Adam by Michelangelo in that section. That was one of the first pictures she ever saw in real life. I still remember when she was 9, we walked into a doctor’s office and a replica of it was hanging on the wall. She was so excited to see it and told everyone in the waiting room what it was and who painted it. Her only complaint about the book was that it needed to have more art in it. She learned a lot of new facts and was thrilled to remember things she had previously learned. This was her favorite of the books.

If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 50 pages long. It is beautifully illustrated by Paula Tabor. The pictures are lifelike and vivid. The book starts off by explaining why the time period was called the Elizabethan Period. Then it went on to explain what your life would be like if you lived in a bakery with your family. One of our favorite parts was learning where the expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” came from. We also learned that most people ate with their hands. Then we learned about the acting companies and how the boys had to play girls. The book ended by talking briefly about how the religion you were able to practice depended on who was leading the country.

We simply read through the book and learned quite a few new things. AJ loved that it was simple to read and full of both pictures and information. The important people section in the back of the book was really helpful. It let AJ easily learn more about the time period.

 If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4)

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This book is 61 pages long. It is illustrated by Sarah Wright. While the pictures are colorful and cute to look at, they are cartoonish. Since we have learned about Colonial America a few times, I didn’t think that AJ would learn very much from it. I was wrong! The book starts off where volume 3 ended. It explained in a lot more detail about how the ruler of the country decided the religion in England, and how a lot of people were unhappy. Then it goes on to talk about the Mayflower Compact and how hard the first settlers had it. It explains how corn became a very important crop and how becoming allies with the Indians helped everyone. This book is full of information.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
This is a long book. It is 76 pages long and the writing is quite a bit smaller than any of the other books. It is illustrated by Mateya Arkova. The pictures in this book look like they were painted in muted watercolors. AJ and I both felt that a lot of the pictures seemed blurry.

This book (and the Colonial America one as well) is told from a male perspective. The other two we have were told from the female perspective. It starts off by explaining that the Han Dynasty was a very important dynasty in China’s history. It also explains that it is often called the Golden Age of Ancient China.

We learned that the most important area in the home was the shine and that it was very important to the Confucianism religion. We also learned that clothing was important and that only the Emperor could wear the color yellow. One fact that AJ thought was amazing was that the process of making silk was so secretive that a person could be put to death if they told the secret.

There is so much more for AJ to learn in this book. She still isn’t finished with this one because I want her to take her time and really process the information.

The book covers so much! Some of the things she will be learning about are; the different social levels, the importance of honoring their family, their school life, the process of making paper, the three main religions, calligraphy, and a lot more.

What We Thought

All of the books were full of information. They are well written making an often boring subject interesting and easy to learn about. I feel that these books can be the basis of a period study for a child in elementary grades. You can easily add crafts and activities to make it a very fun study. They would be perfect for older children to review a subject or to go over the basics of a new topic. I admit that I learned a few new facts too.

If you are looking for a great book to learn about history, any of these would be a great pick.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
Crew Disclaimer
 

 

 

10 Unit Study Ideas for Fall

Whether you celebrate Halloween, despise the holiday, or fall somewhere in the middle, the fact is that decorations and costumes are in almost every store. Is there a way to use some of these seasonal items to liven up your child’s learning during the months of October and November? There sure is! Here are 10 different topics you can easily study and have fun with this fall.

Fall Unit Study Ideas

1. Bones.

Grab a plain skeleton and do a unit study on the human body. Depending on the age of your child, they can learn a few bones, or learn all of the bones in the human body. It is also a great time to talk about healthy eating and keeping our bones strong.

2. Spiders.

With a pack of spider rings and a package of spider webs, you can do so many things. Make a sensory bin with the spiderweb and fall items, use the spiders as counters for math, sort the spiders by color. Use the spiders to practice position words like: over, under, in, etc. For older students, you can find the mean, median, range, and mode of the spider colors, and even do graphing activities. This site has numerous spider activities to do with your little one. Round out your study by reading a fun book like Charlotte’s Web.

3. The Moon.

Autumn is a wonderful time to study the moon, and there are so many different activities. You can chart the phases of the moon each night, calculate your weight on the moon (you can use this website), make moon pies, and so much more. Here is what we did when we studied the moon.

4. Mummies.

You can learn all about Ancient Egypt and the science behind mummification. You can even mummify an apple. Find the directions here. Another fun activity is to take a roll of toilet paper and mummify yourself. There is so much to learn about Ancient Egypt, you can stop at just mummies, or take it further into a full on history study.

5. Frankenstein.

Not a good choice for the younger crowd, but if you have an older student it can be a fun study. There are numerous study guides available, and after you read the book, you can compare it to one of the films by the same name. (Use caution with picking the film.)

6. Owls.

They are often portrayed as spooky and scary, but owls can be a very fun subject to study. Add a hands-on element to your owl study and dissect an owl pellet. Students learn so much by hands on learning, and dissecting an owl pellet will be an unforgettable experience. We did it this year, see how it went .

7. Cats.

Another animal that is often made out to be scary or spooky is the cat (especially the black cat). Learn all about cats with a free lapbook from Homeschool Share.

8. Harvest.

You can learn about farming and harvesting. A great read aloud for a harvest study is Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It appeals to both boys and girls and gives a great look at how harvesting and farming were in the olden days.

9. Pumpkins.

Study the life cycle of the pumpkin from seed to plant, decorate pumpkins, make exploding pumpkins, even make homemade pumpkin pie. Here are 40 fun filled activities involving pumpkins.

10. Candy.

You can take a candy study in many different directions! Learn about it from a nutritional point of view, learn how candy is made, make your own candy, and so much more. No candy study would be complete though without reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or at least watching the movie.

There are many other topics to study during the fall, no matter what you decide to learn about, have fun!

The Cat of Bubastes ~ Review

We were recently given the opportunity to review an audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. This time we were blessed with The Cat of Bubastes which is based on one of G. A. Henty’s most popular novels. This is the second audio drama that we have received from Heirloom Audio so we were excited to listen to it. It did not disappoint us at all and definitely lived up to our high expectations.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
The Cat of Bubastes is set in Ancient Egypt. The life like sound effects and cast of very talented actors draw you into the story and make you feel like you have magically traveled to the ancient city of Thebes. The story follows Prince Amuba and his friend and mentor Jethro. The two are captured by the Egyptians and face numerous challenges. Their faith is tested as the two make difficult and dangerous decisions. AJ and I were on the edge of our seats waiting to see what was going to happen next.

There always seems to be themes of morality in these audio dramas. You learn much more than history! Heirloom Audio Productions is a company who is very passionate about bringing Christian history to life. One major theme of this story is that God will take care of the future.

We received a physical copy of the audio drama along with many fun filled bonuses. The bonuses were all online products and included:

MP3 Set – It is very helpful to have both the CD and the MP3 version of The Cat of Bubastes. It provided us with more options regarding where we were able to listen to the audio drama.

E-Book – This is 350 pages long!

MP3 Soundtrack – We aren’t usually interested in soundtracks, but this one was great.

Printable Cast Poster – The cast includes some well known actors including: Brian Blessed, Anthony Daniels, Sylvester McCoy. Elizabeth Counsell, Russell Boulter, and John Rhys-Davies.

Printable Inspirational Verse Poster – 1 Chronicles 17:20 is typed out on a beautiful background. This would be a great gift if you put it into a nice frame.

Study Guide – This can help turn this audio drama into a great deal of learning.

The study guide is 47 pages long and is full of information. It includes background information on both G. A. Henty and Moses. There is a study guide section for each track of the audio drama. The study guide is divided into four sections.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Listening Well – These are questions about what is happening in the story. You will have to listen carefully because it is easy to miss something.

Thinking Further – This section lets you expand on what is happening in the story. There are questions that make you think deeply about Biblical principals. Other questions may have you look at a map or figure out why something about the Ancient Egyptian’s culture was important in regards to what was happening in the story.

Defining Words– This is a list of words that your child should understand before going on to the next track on the CD.

Expand Your Learning – This section doesn’t occur for every track, but it was a favorite for us. It gives more in-depth information about things in Ancient Egypt. From animals in Ancient Egypt to hierarchy and different Pharaohs, there was information about a variety of subjects. The section is something you simply need to read, but it would be a great jumping off point for a unit study of Ancient Egypt.

If you will be learning about Ancient Egypt or are looking for an action packed audio drama to keep yourself and your kids on the edge of your seats, I highly would recommend The Cats of of Bubastes. Be sure to check out the other audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions as well!

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Crew Disclaimer

Ultimate Phonics ~ Review

We have had a difficult time with AJ’s reading. She was reading at four years old and loving to learn. Then when she went to kindergarten we were told that the school was no longer teaching phonics. Instead they wanted the students to simply memorize words. And I am not talking about sight words, I mean she was expected to remember words that could be sounded out. She would even get in trouble for sounding out the words! It was a huge issue and it caused AJ to really hate reading. We have come a long way since then, but I still see her just guess at words she doesn’t know. She also struggles with spelling because she doesn’t know all of the phonetic rules.

I have been looking for something to help reinforce and improve AJ’s reading, but most of the programs I have come across seem too young for AJ. When we were given the chance to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning I was a little hesitant. I had AJ take their reading test and she missed seven words. The test stated if the child missed ten or more words they were missing advanced phonics decoding skills. I decided that using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program could probably help AJ’s reading.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

What is the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?

This program is quite different from any other phonics program we have used. It is computer based, but it is downloaded to your computer so you don’t need internet to use the program on a daily basis. It is not gamed based and it doesn’t have animated characters or bright colors. Instead it focusses only on phonics. The program is simple to use and can be used for the entire family. It has 262 lessons that teach different sounds and blends to help your child become a better reader.

The first lesson covers the alphabet and the basic sounds of the consonants. After the initial lesson, the rest of the lessons follow a pattern. Since AJ knows a lot of the basics we jumped to level 150 to start. It is recommended that everyone start at the beginning to make sure they don’t miss a concept, but I felt comfortable skipping ahead. We may go over some of the beginning lessons in the future.

Each lesson begins with  an Idea or Pattern. In this section of the lesson your child is introduced to a sound, a letter pattern (eigh, oll, ue, exc.), or a phonetic rule or idea. This is simply a page where the idea or pattern is explained. The child can read this information to their self or have the computer read it to them.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The next part of the lesson is the Word List. In this section words that follow the pattern are listed. The number of words varies depending on the lesson. Your child can hear each word read to them by hovering over the word with the mouse. The child should read each word at this time.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

The third part of the lesson is the Words. There is a slide for each word on the word list. The child can hear the word, see it broken into syllables, and hear how each letter comes together to form the sound of the word.

spencer3

The final part of the lesson is the Sentence. There are a few sentences that the child should be able to read. The sentences are made up of words that the child has learned up to that point.

Ultimate Phonics can help your struggling reader.

Once the child has finished listening and reading each section they can move to the next lesson or repeat the lesson if needed.

How We Used the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

When I started to show AJ the program she didn’t like it. She thought that going over phonics was boring and for younger kids. Then I showed her how easy it was and she willingly gave it a try. The first lessons I had her do took five or ten minutes each. She went through each word quickly and then hurried to read the sentences. I made her slow down and not only read but spell each word so that she would remember what she was learning. I haven’t noticed an improvement in AJ’s reading yet, but I have noticed her looking at the words and thinking about them before guessing. I think we will continue with this program because it is well done. I think AJ would have liked to read if she had used a program like this.

What We Thought About the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

This program goes over so many different sound combinations. I think that anyone who goes through the program would become a strong reader. I like that it is easy to use. A child should easily be able to use the program with little assistance. I also appreciated the fact that the program is off line. When AJ was learning to read I would have been a lot more comfortable with her using an offline program than an online one. While the program is phonetically sound, there were a few things we didn’t care for.

  • No Interaction – The student could hover over a word or sound, but they weren’t required to do anything. AJ could easily skip to the end of a lesson without doing anything, and I wouldn’t know. I think this also gives the child a chance to just zone out.
  • Computerized Voice – AJ didn’t like the voice that read the words. She said it made her want to fall asleep. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I did think it was a little monotone.
  • Didn’t Know Where to Start – After taking the test to see if AJ could benefit from the test, I expected to be told a place where she should start. She thought the first lessons were way below her level, and they were, but I didn’t want to skip too much. It would be great if there was a way to know where to start older children.
  • Lack of Fun – With so many fun games and activities available, this program seems boring. I like that it focuses on learning, but if your child needs fun and excitement while they are learning, they may find this lacking.

Overall it is a great program. I learned a few things by clicking through the patterns. If you want a no nonsense way for your child to learn to read, this would be perfect. Even though it is computer based, parental involvement would be needed to make sure your child is staying on task and really reading the words correctly. The best part of this program is that there is a FREE trial. Try it out and see if it would be a good fit for your child.

Click the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
Crew Disclaimer

CHSH Download Club ~ Review

AJ is a kid that enjoys doing worksheets, so I am often on the look out for things to supplement the topics we are learning about.  The problem is that since she is in 8th grade, a lot of  worksheets and unit studies that I find are too easy for her. Sometimes I make up my own worksheets for her to complete, but most of the time I just don’t have the time. We were recently given the opportunity to review the CHSH Download Club  from CHSH-Teach.com. When I first looked at the Christian HomeSchool Hub, I knew that it would be a resource that I would use frequently over the next year.

What is the CHSH Download Club?

I  had never heard of the CHSH Download Club before this review, but I wish I had. The CHSH Download Club is an online resource that gives you access to thousands of pages of educational materials. It includes worksheets, literature studies, full curriculum, supplemental materials, flash cards, puzzles, coloring pages, and more. For one small price of just $25 a year (or $99 for a lifetime membership) you have access to everything on the site. There are materials for grades preschool through high school.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
The site makes it easy to find exactly what you need. The materials are organized by; subject, grade, and month. I have to say that I was amazed at all of the different things available, and I was thrilled to see that there is an entire section for high school. It includes:

  • Literature Studies – Including Shakespeare
  • English Composition and Language Arts – 4 Years of High School English
  • Social Studies – Including a full World History and American History course
  • Math – Including a Collage Level Algebra Book and Answer Key
  • Science – Including Biology and Physics

AJ won’t be in high school until next year, but I looked over a lot of the high school resources and think we will probably use the World History and Biology courses next year.

How We Used the CHSH Download Club

We are studying modern history this year. We have been learning about different important people throughout history. I looked through our history curriculum and saw that AJ would soon be learning about Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. So I looked to see if there was any information on either of the two topics. There was!

I quickly found three resources for Amelia Earhart under the Social Studies topic of “People throughout History.” There is a unit geared for 3rd through 6th grade and a unit geared for 4th through 8th grade. There is also an Amelia Earhart shape book. I decided to use both of the units about Amelia Earhart. The first one she did was the one geared for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. That one basically had her read about Amelia Earhart and then fill in charts and answer questions about the reading. I felt that study would have been perfect for the 3rd through 6th grade age range. After she finished with that unit she was going to start on the 4th through 8th grade unit. Unfortunately, when I clicked on that unit it said that the file was not found. I was a little disappointed about that.

This is just one of the many products from the CHSH Download Club!

 

The next unit study I had AJ work on was Wright Brothers: Bicycles to Airplane. It is an 85 page unit study that has 17 different tasks for the student to complete while learning about the Wright Brothers. It begins with pages of information about the Wright Brothers. There are a variety of different tasks including; creating a magazine cover about the Wright Brothers’ flight, making an anemometer, researching aviation, locating important places on a map, art projects, poems, giving a speech and more. AJ didn’t complete all of the tasks (we still have another week left) but, this unit study is great. It includes so many hands on activities to help students learn about flight. I was excited to see a study that was geared towards older students, and look forward to other studies in the future.

These graphic organizers make learning new concepts fun!

We also used various worksheets throughout the review period. AJ enjoyed the blank periodic table that she could fill in. She also liked the different charts and venn diagrams that were available in the Graphic Organizer download. There are 80 different ones to choose from.

We planned on using one of the literature studies for the novels that AJ is reading. There is a study for almost all of the books she is reading this year.  Even though the literature studies are for grades 4 through 8, I found them to be too simple and easy for AJ. They were mainly simple questions about the plot of the novel and didn’t ask any thought provoking questions. I think it may have been perfect for younger students, but not for the 8th grade level.

What We Thought About the CHSH Download Club

After trying out various products from the CHSH Download Club I think it is well worth the cost. There really is something for everyone. Almost all of the resources I looked at were well made and well thought out. I enjoyed how easy it was to use the site and how quickly the downloads came up. Other than the one file about Amelia Earhart, there were no glitches on the site.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
If you are looking for a way to supplement your child’s learning then the CHSH Download Club may be exactly what you are looking for. This would be perfect for those who enjoy unit studies or those who want to dig deeper into a concept. We have tried a few different sites over the years that have downloadable resources, and I think so far that this one is the best, especially if you have older students.

Find out what other members of the Review Crew had to say by clicking the graphic below.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
disclaimer_zps7f3b646c

Planning Your Homeschool Year

Post Contains Affiliate LinksThere isn’t a right or wrong way to make a plan for your homeschool. Everyone is different and as long as you follow any laws your state requires, there are quite a few ways to make your homeschool schedule. Every year I look at our schedule and tweak it based on how our life is and how AJ is doing with the topics she is working on. This year we are  trying a more structured schedule, but we have had several different types of plans in the past.

How to plan your homeschool year

Planning Your Homeschool Year

The first step you need to take when planning your homeschool year is to decide what you want or need to cover. Depending on your state laws you may need to cover certain subjects. If your state laws are lenient then you have a few more options. To figure out what to study you can use books like What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know as a guide. You can also look up standards for students in public school to use as a guideline. If you are using a set curriculum then you should have a good idea of what your child will be learning.

A lot of times you can simply move on to the next concept once your child master’s their current one. After your child masters multiplication the next logical step would be to start division. Once your child can write a paragraph then you can work on writing a story with more than one paragraph. Those type of skills are harder to schedule, because you don’t know when your child will be ready to move to the next concept. For subjects like Math and English I like to have a list of goals and make plans up a month or week at a time based on my child’s progress.

Homeschool Planning- Goals

Once you have a basic idea about what your child will be learning it is time to plan your year. Some people like to schedule out the entire year. Others make a list of goals and once their child has mastered a goal they move to the next item on the list. One thing that I liked to do when AJ was younger was to roughly plan out what we would be learning each month and then each month make more detailed schedules.

Here is an example of how I planned out our year of Earth Science.

  • August – Basics of Earth Science
  • September – Earth Structure, Age of Earth, Fossils
  • October –  Rocks, Gems
  • November – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Mountains
  • December – Water Cycle, Fresh Water
  • January – Oceans
  • February – Earth’s Atmosphere
  • March – Weather
  • April –  Astronomy

Then each month I would make a more detailed list for the topics we would learn about the following month. Here is an example for what we would learn about in November.

  • Week 1 – Plate Tectonics & Continental Drift, Mountains
  • Week 2 – Earthquakes – locations, causes, earthquake preparedness
  • Week 3 – Volcanoes – Ring of Fire, Hawaii
  • Week 4 – Volcanoes – Destruction, lava, Model of Volcano

Then for each week I would find resources I wanted to use. I pulled together lessons form online, books, and activity kits.

Even if you aren’t detailed I feel it is best to have a set of goals for the year so you can stay on track.

A Month at a Time

Another thing we have tried over the years is having a monthly schedule. At the beginning of each month I would look at what we had left to cover for the year and I would make a list of lessons that AJ would need to do. Then we would go down the line and when she was done with the work for that month I would make a new list.

The only real difference between scheduling out the year more at the beginning of the year or throughout the year was time. I spent more time when I made a rough scheduled of my year at the beginning of the year, but I had less to do each month. The downside was that sometimes we would stay longer on a topic than I originally scheduled so then I would need to take time and rework the schedule.

Daily Schedules

We have had a few different daily schedules as well. We have tried block scheduling, a list schedule, and a normal schedule where she completes subject daily.

Block Scheduling

This is our favorite method. We complete a large amount of work in one or two subjects a day. This is how we catch up if we get behind, and how we work if we need to finish the school week quickly. It has some downsides because your child isn’t studying the topic as often. It doesn’t always work well with subjects like reading and math. But we have seen a lot of positive things from block scheduling. It lets is dive deep into learning and lets AJ spend a long time in one subject without worrying about the other subjects that she needs to get finished.

Here is a sample of what block scheduling looked like for us.

  • Monday- 5 Math lessons, spelling grammar
  • Tuesday – 3 Literature lessons, spelling
  • Wednesday – 5 History lessons, spelling, writing
  • Thursday – 5 Science lessons, spelling, writing (This was always her favorite day)
  • Friday – 2 Literature lesson, Art, grammar

Math has always been an easy subject for her, so doing 5 lessons in one day wasn’t hard for her. We did have to split up spelling, grammar, and writing because it was too much for her to do at one time. I think block scheduling can be very beneficial.

List Schedule

We have done a list schedule quite a few times. It is simple for me. I just write a list of all the work she needs to complete during the week and she completes the work in any order. Scheduling with a list helps her to learn time management. It also lets her feel like she has a say in her school day. We did have a few weeks where she did the “fun” subjects first and left the harder subjects for the last day. It was a learning experience and now when she has a list to work with she usually makes smart decisions.

We have also used a list when we have been very busy. At times we have had to do a little bit of school 7 days a week because of doctor appointments or other family situations. When that happens we just work on the list of assignments until all of her work is done then we go to the next week. It may take a little longer, but all of her work gets done.

Regular Schedule

Now that AJ is in middle school block schedules are not as easy. Now I schedule out 1 math, 1 literature, 5 history, 5 science, 5 Spanish, 3 grammar, 3 writing, and 3 Bible and 5 spelling lessons throughout the week. She doesn’t always finish her work on the correct day, but it is a work in progress.

There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Find a schedule that works for your family and have fun learning together. This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop. Check out what other members of the Review Crew have to say about planning!

5 Days of Homeschool 101


CTCMath Algebra ~ Review

I have never stuck to a single math program in the past. I enjoy finding fun ways to teach and normally use a variety of sources. It has worked well up to this point, but now that AJ is taking Algebra I need to find one good program and stick with it for the year. We had the opportunity to review CTCMath last year and AJ enjoyed it, so I was excited to have another chance to review the CTCMath Homeschool Membership.

CTCMath Review
When you purchase the year long subscription to CTCMath you have access to all levels of math from Kindergarten to Calculus. CTCMath is considered a full math program for grades K through 8 and a supplemental course for higher grades. I don’t really agree with that though, because I feel their Algebra course covers all of the necessary topics. It covers things from basic algebra through quadratic equations and graphs.

What is CTCMath

CTCMath is an online program that uses video lessons, online questions, and printable worksheets to teach a variety of math concepts. For each grade level or topic there are multiple lessons for the student to complete. At the beginning of each new section there is an optional placement test. The placement test helps you see which lessons your child needs to work on, and which ones they could skip. One issue I have with this is that in order for your student to earn an award for each section, they need to complete all of the lessons.

CTC MathHow We Use CTCMath

AJ has been working her way through the first two sections of Algebra. Like most programs the first few lessons are review. She watches a video for each lesson. The concept is explained and a few problems are worked out. Once she understands the concept she completes a worksheet and enters the answers into the computer. Each worksheet is a little different, but usually there are 10 to 20 questions that she needs to answer. Then she matches her answer to a list of answers, usually listed A to Z.  The worksheets are multiple choice, but there are incorrect options that the student could chose if they didn’t follow the correct steps.

There are also questions for the student to complete online. I had AJ skip those after the first few lessons because a lot of the questions were on both the online questions and the worksheets.

One problem that we normally have with online math programs is that there are times when we can’t be on the computer. CTC Math makes schooling on the go possible. I had two options when we were going to be away from the computer.  I could have AJ watch the lesson before we left and complete the printed out worksheet while we were out and about. Then she could enter her answers on the computer when we got home. Or I could print off the lesson summary (which is the same information that is explained in the video) and have her go over it on her own time.

The program has let us have a large amount of flexibility. There are times when we don’t print off the worksheets and she simply looks at them while she is online and works them out on paper.

What We Thought of CTCMath

The video lessons are well made, but AJ feels they are a little dull. We both like that they explain math topics in an easy to understand matter. I like that there are plenty of problems to make sure she understands the topics, and that she can watch and re-watch the videos if she has any doubts about how to use the program.

This time around we found a few additional gems in CTC math. There is now a task section where I can assign certain lessons that I want AJ to complete. AJ is working her way through the entire Algebra course, so  I didn’t see the need to use the section.  I know I would have used the task section it when AJ was younger.

I also found games to help your child work on math facts. AJ has enjoyed playing the games.

Overall we both like CTC Math and we plan to stick with it until she finishes the Algebra course.

Find out what other members of the crew thought about CTC Math by clicking on the graphic below.

CTCMath Review
disclaimer_zps7f3b646c