Lightning Literature ~ Review

Finding a literature curriculum for AJ wasn’t easy. Most of the programs that I looked at wanted her to read ten or twelve books for the course. While that may be a good fit for some students, it isn’t a good fit for AJ. AJ is a reluctant reader who is a little bit below grade level in reading comprehension. She can usually read and understand any book that I assign her, but it takes her a little longer and she may need to read a section a few times to completely grasp it.

When I was about to give up and make my own literature program, I was blessed with an amazing review. We were given the opportunity to review the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature book from Hewitt Homeschooling.  It looked exactly like what we needed.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century

This is a high school literature and composition course. It is designed for students who are new to Lightning Literature. It can be used by a student at any level in high school.

The course is designed to last for one semester, but it can be used for a full year long course if you add in your own grammar program.

The main part of the course is the student guide. The student guide is a 170 page soft covered book. It is written by Elizabeth Kamath. The book starts with an introduction and is then broken into four units. The end of the book has discussion questions, additional reading lists, project ideas, and a course schedule.

Introduction

The course introduction does much more than explain how to use the course. It is full of information on how to properly read and write both poetry and prose. It has basic writing guidelines and is a good place for the student to reference throughout the year.

Unit 1

In this unit your student will read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The literary lesson will focus on theme. Your student will also read selections from the poem, Leaves of Grass. They will learn about sound and imagery in poetry.

Unit 2

This unit has your student learning about humor while reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They will also read a short story, “The Outcast of Poker Flat.” While reading the short story they will learn about local color.

Unit 3

Your student will learn about register (or tone as I was taught) while reading a selection of poetry written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. They will also read through The Red Badge of Courage while learning about description.

Unit 4

The final unit teaches your student about figurative language while they read through poems written by Emily Dickson. They will also study point of view while reading through The call of the wild.

All of the poetry and short stories are included in the Student Guide. You will need to purchase the four novels separately.

How each Unit is Set Up

Each unit begins with an introduction. It includes a short biography about the author and a little bit of information about the selection your student will read. It includes things for the student to think about while they read.

There are comprehension questions for the student to answer as they read. The questions are fairly easy and most of the answers can be found directly in the text. Some questions do require the student to think critically about the selection.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

The student then reads through the literary lesson. In this section the author explains concepts while using examples from the reading selection. The lessons are very well written and self explanatory. I was impressed that after reading through the lesson, AJ was able to understand how the setting of a story can affect the theme.

The final assignment after each reading selection is the writing exercise. The student is given a choice of five or more writing assignments. There is a variety of options including; opinion papers, compare and contrast papers, augmentative papers, short stories, poems, and more. For each novel the student completes two of the writing exercises. They complete one exercise after poems or short stories.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

I also received a teacher guide. It included additional information about the course and scheduling. The main perk of the teacher guide was that it included all of the answers to the comprehension questions.

How We Used American Mid-Late 19th Century

Since AJ struggles with literature, we decided to follow the full year plan. We added in a grammar program and followed the schedule in the back of the book. Most weeks it had her reading five chapters in the book and answering the comprehension questions.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very long book, so we were not scheduled to get to the literary lesson or writing assignments during the review period. I wanted to provide a full review, so I had AJ read through the literary lesson on theme for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She hasn’t completed a writing assignment yet, but she thinks that they look interesting. Right now she thinks she will answer the following question.

Write a paper focusing on any character other than Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Discuss the ways Stowe used that character as an argument against slavery.

The year long schedule gives her a week to write and revise each paper.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

What We Thought About American Mid-Late 19th Century

American Mid-Late 19th Century is the literature and composition course that is perfect for AJ. It would be too much for her to complete two student guides in a year, but one guide is very doable. This option is a huge selling point for me! The novels, poems, and short stories offer a good amount of variety. We both enjoy that there isn’t any busy work. The student reads and writes quality material that is related to the lesson.

I like that she is challenged to write in so many different ways, and that she is given enough time to do a good job on her writing. I do wish that there was a bit more writing instruction in the book. The introduction is great, but there are some writing types that it doesn’t cover. That is our only complaint about the program.

I feel the lessons about poetry will really help AJ to finally grasp some of the difficult concepts. Poetry can be difficult to teach, but I think this will make it possible.

If you are looking for a literature and composition course that is flexible, free of busy work, and cost effective, then the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature may be exactly what you are looking for. Click on the graphic below to find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about Hewitt Homeschooling.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

It’s Okay if Your Child is Average

Sometimes when people find out that AJ is homeschooled, they expect her to be brilliant. It is almost like there is a stereotype that homeschooled kids are either far behind their public schooled peers or that they are mini geniuses.  It is easy to get caught in a comparison trap, even if you are just comparing to an unrealistic ideal. In the beginning I would feel like I wasn’t doing enough with her because she was just average. She doesn’t know Latin and isn’t going to be on Jeopardy any time soon. She has subjects that she excels in and subjects that she struggles with.  But, that is okay!

Coming to peace with the fact that she doesn’t have to compare to anyone else has made our homeschooling journey go a lot smoother. Part of the reason I brought her home was to give her the best education possible. That means doing what is right for her, not what works for others.

As I prepared for her freshman year of high school I knew I needed to keep her strengths and weaknesses in mind. She struggles with writing and vocabulary so I knew that a College Prep English class was out of the question. She needed something that would push her and help her grow, but not set her up for failure. On the other hand, for math she needed something that moved quickly because she finds the subject easy.

As we picked courses for AJ one thing we kept in mind was her end goals. After high school she wants to become a veterinarian technician and then go to school to be come a veterinarian while working in the field. Of course we know that this dream can change, but it has been her goal for a while now. She will need a lot of math and science courses to fulfil her goal. Thankfully those are her two favorite subjects. She will need to be able to read and write well, but analyzing books and poetry probably isn’t something that she will find very useful.

It's Okay if Your Child is Average

Our plan is to expose her to the subjects her peers in public school take so that she knows the basics. She will write some essays and analyze a few books each year. But we plan to really dig deeper into the topics that she enjoys and the topics that will get her closer to her end goal of working with animals. Instead of pushing creative writing, which she really dislikes, we will work on reports and basic writing. Instead of using only fiction books for English, we will add in plenty of non fiction ones.

That is the beauty of homeschooling. You get to tailor your child’s education to their needs. Don’t stress out about what everyone else is doing. If you are raising the next Einstein, that is great. If your child is average and struggles with some things, that is okay too! As long as your child is growing and learning, that is what matters. Don’t get caught in a comparison trap.

I will be sharing our choices for the 2017 school year soon. I think AJ and I will both learn a lot.

Have you decided what courses your child will be studying next year?

Captain Absolutely ~ Review

When I was younger we didn’t watch many videos in children’s church. But every few months we would watch a video that taught a Bible story. If we were really lucky we would get to watch a video from Adventures in Odyssey. Those were always my favorite. They were full of action, taught a lesson, and were entertaining. Now there are so many great choices when you are looking for a movie or video that helps to teach God’s word, but Adventures in Odyssey will always hold a special place in my heart.

AJ has had the chance to watch a few different videos from Adventures in Odyssey and listen to some of their audio dramas. She has also willingly read a few of their chapter books. That’s saying something, because she doesn’t like to read. She has enjoyed everything that she has tried from Adventures in Odyssey. When I learned about an exciting comic book based on the characters from Adventures in Odyssey, I knew AJ would love it. We were blessed to receive Captain Absolutely from Focus On The Family, the creators of Adventures in Odyssey.

Focus On The Family

What is Captain Absolutely?

 Captain Absolutely
Captain Absolutely is a 108 page soft cover comic book. It starts off in Metroplitanville, a city that has no sense of right and wrong. Two friends, Darren and Josiah, are working in the library. When all of a sudden, there is a powerful nuclear explosion. Josiah is suddenly in a section of the library that he had never been to before. The area had a bunch of copies of the same book, the Bible. While Josiah was waiting to be rescued he read the Bible and learned God’s truths. That is when he is transformed into Captain Absolutely. His new mission is to share God’s truth with the people of Metroplitanville. He soon realizes that he wasn’t the only one who was transformed by the nuclear explosion. His friend Darren is now his arch-nemesis, Dr. Relative. Darren had been thrown into the philosophy section of the library and discovered relative truth – where there is no right or wrong, everything is relative.

While Dr. Relative and a handful of other villains try to further corrupt the city of Metroplitanville, Captain Absolutely uses God’s Word to help save them. Like most comic books it is filled with battles, problems, and super powers, but this book doesn’t glorify violence. The bad guys are put in jail and there isn’t any blood or gore. Captain Absolutely even tries to help the bad guys learn about God’s truth.

Throughout the book you will run into familiar characters. The back of the book gives a list of all of the characters and a little information about them. It also tells the story of the real Josiah in the Bible, a person who changed his life after finding God’s Truth.

What We Thought About Captain Absolutely

AJ loves this book. The pictures are amazing! They are full of vivid detail and the characters seem very life like. Often the pictures seem as though they are going to pop off of the page. I like that the book teaches morals and values in a fun way. There is a scene where all of the clothes in the mall are replaced with very short shorts and skimpy tops. The scene points the child to look up 1Timothy 2: 9-10 which says:

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

There are many other examples throughout the book that teach important lessons.

The end of the book even has a list of Big Questions the reader should discuss with their parents or youth pastor regarding things in the comic book. Some of the questions include; is it okay to steal a Bible, why can’t you scare people into following God, and does God love bad people. It is a great starting point to some in-depth discussions.

If you are looking for an entertaining book for your child to read that is full of God’s Truth and morals this is exactly what you are looking for. It is also great for reluctant readers and those who love comic books. Both AJ and I would highly recommend Captain Absolutely!

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

Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}
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Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set ~ Review

Over the past few weeks AJ and I have been reading and studying Homer’s Iliad. We received the Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set from Memoria Press it has made the process of learning about these ancient texts a lot easier. We looked forward to reading these Epics and were excited to get started.

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set

The Iliad

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
We received a copy of the Iliad translated by Samuel Butler. The book is 447 pages long and is broken up into 24 books. The print size in the book is nice. AJ commented that she didn’t have to squint to read the words and that she could actually see them easily.

Along with the book we received a Student Guide and a Teacher Guide. For each book in the Iliad there are two pages in the Student Guide to complete. The first section lists important places and characters and gives more information about them. The next section has comprehension questions. These vary in difficulty. Some are simple answers that are pulled straight from the book while others require a little more thought.

The third section is Quotations. A few quotes from the book are listed. The student is expected to become familiar with these quotes and know them for tests. The final section is Discussion Questions. These questions are mostly opinion based. An example from book 15 is;

 Who is the better warrior- Ajax, son of Telamon, or Hector. There isn’t a correct answer but the questions do force the student to think about the story on a deeper level.

Since The Iliad was written so long ago, it can be a difficult read. The Student Guide tries to make it as simple as possible. In the appendix there are genealogical charts and other helpful information to help your student keep track of who is who and which side different cities are on. We found this section very valuable.

The Teacher Guide for The Iliad is different from other Memoria Press guides we have used in the past. While the Teacher Guide has all of the information contained in the Student Guide, it has so much more.

Each book begins with Background and Drill. This section gives more in depth information about important topics. There are also sections on Discussion Help, questions the students should mark for tests, Teacher Notes, and additional assignments for the student to complete. There are writing assignments for almost every book. These include memory work, summaries, compare and contrast, opinion, and more.

There are three tests included in the Teacher Guide. These tests are not easy! When your student is able to pass the tests they will have a great understanding of The Iliad.

The best part of the package was the Instructional DVDs. Sean Brooks gives a video lecture for each book in The Iliad. The lectures were not boring, in fact AJ enjoyed watching the lectures. Mr. Brooks is excellent at explaining what is going on in each book and why it is important. I felt the DVDs were what made me feel confident to teach these books. They really took the study to the next level.

The Odyssey

Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set
Our copy of The Odyssey is also translated by Samuel Butler. It is 358 pages long and broken up into 24 books. Like The Iliad, the text size is nice and the book is well made.

The Student Guide and Teacher Guides are set up very similarly to the guides for The Iliad. I appreciate that because when we get to The Odyssey AJ will already be familiar with the set up.

There looks like a lot of fun assignments to go along with The Odyssey. One that I think AJ will like is from book 7. It asks the student to choose a location for Scheria and defend it geographically. They have to describe how to get back to Ithaca from that point. I like that they are forced to think deeper.

I watched a few of the DVD lectures, and they did not disappoint. I am sure that AJ will like them as much as she likes the lectures on The Iliad.

How We Use It

At first we tried to use the program as it is designed in the Teacher Guide. The student reads a book each day and completes the work. Together both books should take around 18 weeks to complete. The study really seems to be written for more of a classroom student with classwork and homework, than for a homeschooled student. It was just too much for AJ. This book is not an easy read and requires a lot of concentration. We are not classical homeschoolers and she had never heard of the Trojan War. I think a student who is use to Memoria Press would be able to catch on a lot faster.

After a few days I decided to change things up. We are currently not using the Student Guide at all. We are reading a book out loud over a day or two depending on the length and then on the following day watching the lecture and discussing the discussion questions.

My plan is to have her read through both books and watch all of the lectures. When she is done and is more familiar with all of the characters and what is happening in the story she will read them again. At that point I will have her fill out the study guides, take quizzes, do the memory work, and dig deeper. I plan to give AJ a high school English credit when she is completely finished.

What We Thought

If you are looking for a way to teach your child these difficult texts, this is hands down the way to go. I don’t think you will find a better study. Between the Teacher Guide and the Instructional DVDs you will have everything you need right at your finger tips.

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Bessie’s Pillow ~ Review

This year AJ has been learning all about modern history. Learning about things that happened only decades ago instead of hundreds of years ago has been really interesting to her. It is amazing how far our world has come in such a short time. Most of the topics we are learning about happened after my grandma was born. Knowing someone who was actually alive when wars and other things happened really puts things into perspective.  One topic that AJ has really enjoyed learning about is the American Dream. And how that dream wasn’t easy for a lot of people.

We were recently given the chance to review the book, Bessie’s Pillow by Linda Bress Silbert. It is an amazing book from Strong Learning, Inc. that is based on a true story of a young immigrant’s journey to America. I thought that the book would be a great way for AJ to get a better understanding of the personal side of history. It is easy to learn facts, but it is nice to get a look into how people felt and handled what was going on. AJ seems to enjoy books that are based on a strong female character, so I thought that she would enjoy this book.

Bessie's Pillow 

What is Bessie’s Pillow?

Bessie’s Pillow is a 276 page soft covered historical fiction book. It is broken into 40 chapters and includes a section called Bessie’s America. This section is full of historical information about the things going on in Eastern Europe that drove hundreds of thousands of people to immigrate to America in the 19th and 20th century. It also includes information about what America was like in that time period.

The book is told in first person point of view. It starts off with 18 year old Boshka Markman waiting to leave her family and everything she knew to come to America. It was 1906 and Lithuania was no longer a safe place for her to live. At such a young age she would leave her family and make the long difficult journey to America on her own.

Just getting to America was a challenge. There are numerous health checks and inspections to make sure she was healthy enough to enter America. Once she finally reached America she was told that her name would have to be changed to make it more American. From that day on she was known as Bessie.

Bessie was a strong woman. We see her grow from a young 18 year old child to a strong wife and business woman. She faces struggles and overcomes them. She is kind, compassionate, and has a strong spirit.

Beyond the Book

Just reading the book will teach you a lot about history. But the author has taken it a step further. She has created a site, Bessie’s America that takes learning about the time period to a new level. There are picture from the time period and tons of information about daily life back in the beginning of the 1900’s.

There is also a teacher’s guide. The guide includes; discussion questions, a timeline of events, character analysis, themes, symbolism in the book and more. This book can easily be a jumping point for a full on history and language arts study.

Unfortunately, when we were reading the book there were some issues with the website and the links were not working. Now that it is working, we have enjoyed looking through and learning even more about the time period.

What We Thought

Originally the plan was to read a few chapters a day as a read aloud. After the first few days though, it seemed impossible to stop after a few chapters. The book was exciting and AJ didn’t want to stop reading. We ended up finishing the book in a few days. It was well written and really gave insight into what it was like to be an immigrant in America.

There were a few difficult to read chapters, because lets face it, Americans were not always the most welcoming to immigrants. It is sad that Bessie had to face those difficulties, but I am glad that they were included in the book. I feel it is important to share both the good and bad parts of history. That being said, you may wish to read the book yourself before handing it over to your child. I think a 5th grader could easily read the book, but I know AJ would not have been emotionally ready to read it in 5th grade. She is in 8th grade now and the book brought up a lot of great discussions, especially considering all of the talk about immigration in our political world.

Overall, if you are looking for an exciting, well written, inspiring story of a strong female character who overcomes many difficulties, Bessie’s Pillow may be exactly what you are looking for.

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

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}
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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
 

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.

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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}
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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}
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8th Grade English

AJ will be starting 8th grade very soon, but it seems like she was just learning to read a few years ago. Reading and writing are the subjects that she struggles with the most. She has never been officially diagnosed with a learning problem, but I think she has a mild form of dysgraphia. She can make up stories and explain almost anything, but when she is asked to put it in writing, she struggles. AJ has improved quite a bit over the past few years.  This year we are taking a lighter approach with science, history, and Spanish. We are going to really dive into English and Math. Here are our curriculum choices for 8th Grade English.

Our 8th Grade English Plan

Reading

AJ doesn’t enjoy reading short stories, so we stick to novels. This year she will read a variety of books. Most of the books that I picked out are books that we already had. I have study guides for some of them and for others she will be working on literary elements using season 1 of Beyond the Book Report. We were blessed to review it last year, and it was a hit. The lessons are short but they force her to really think about the book. As of right now we won’t be studying poetry this year, but things could change.

Writing

Writing is a subject that I need to be involved in, so it often gets pushed to the side. This year we are making writing a priority! If you have a struggling writer, I highly recommend IEW. AJ likes to watch the lessons. I never thought that she would like a writing program, but I am thrilled that she is enjoying it. When Mr. Pudewa explains something she really seems to understand writing. AJ likes having a checklist to make sure her writing is the best that it can be. I have noticed that the more we use the program the more confidence she has in writing.

Spelling

We have tried a few different approaches to spelling the last few years. Spelling You See was a nice change of pace and Phonetic Zoo was a product that I thought AJ would love. This year I was trying to decide what to use for spelling. AJ ended up asking if we could go back to spelling lists and I thought it would be a great idea. I ended up finding a free 8th grade spelling book online. I had it printed and bound at Staples and it is ready to go for the new year.

Vocabulary

Most of the novel study guides have daily or weekly vocabulary work, but I don’t think it is enough for AJ. She needs a lot of practice so we are going to use a few different products for vocabulary. I found a vocabulary workbook at the same time as the spelling workbook. I decided to have it printed and bound at Staples as well.

Wordbuild Online is great but I wanted an option for those times when the computer doesn’t want to cooperate. We were blessed to review Once Upon a Time in Latin, so we will use it through the year.  I think that between all of those resources AJ will be able to vastly improve her vocabulary.

Grammar

We started Analytical Grammar last year. It is designed to be completed over three years. This year we will finish up the last few units from the first section and complete the second session. AJ doesn’t enjoy grammar, but she is learning. I have learned quite a bit as well. It is a very solid program.

I will be very hands on for AJ’s 8th grade English course this year. Most of the days have her working for an hour and a half to two hours, but I think that the skills she will gain this year will really help to prepare her for high school.