Forbrain ~ Review

When AJ (13) reads out loud she often mispronounces larger words. When I correct her, her response is almost always, “That’s what I said.” I don’t know if she says that out of embarrassment because she doesn’t want me to correct her, or of she really thinks that she says the word correctly. She also has a hard time reading at a decent pace. She will read part of a sentence and pause and then other times she will not take a breath and smash three of four sentences into a single breath. When she reads like that it makes it hard for me to understand what she is reading and makes it hard for her to remember what she has read. It is something we have been working on and we have seen improvements, but not very quickly. I didn’t think there was anything to help her, but then I learned about Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is a bone conduction headset. The child, or adult, puts on the headset on and adjusts the microphone the needed distance. Then they simply read, talk, or complete a variety of exercises. In very simple terms when you speak into the headset you are able to hear yourself. I recommend looking at the website where the science behind the product is explained because it is very interesting. It claims to help with reading difficulties, speech issues, attention issues, and memory issues. After learning all about Forbrain I thought it would be a good fit for AJ.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is designed to be used daily for six to ten weeks for the best results. When it arrived we plugged it into the computer to charge and then I just let AJ play around with it for a little bit. She instantly liked how it felt and how she could hear herself in her head. After she got use to it I had her read out loud while wearing it. I also had her work on things she was memorizing while she was wearing it. She enjoyed just wearing it around the house sometimes.

I instantly noticed that she was more focused on her work when she was wearing the headset. I didn’t have to constantly tell her to do her work. I also noticed that the longer she wore it the more she began to read at a consistent rate. She also seemed to catch herself and correct herself when she would mispronounce a word. I didn’t notice any difference in her reading comprehension so far, but it is recommended to be used for six to ten weeks, so maybe we will see more improvement when we get closer to the ten week mark instead of the six week mark.

The issue that I noticed is that while she had improvements when she was wearing the headset, I didn’t see those same improvements once she took the headset off. When she took the headset off the same issues seemed to return. I was expecting to see results that would transfer even when the headset was off.

Even though she seems to need the headset on to improve, I plan to have her continue with Forbrain after summer vacation. I plan to have her wear it during poetry memorization, some reading out loud, and when she is working on learning the places for different countries in her geography course.

AJ says she doesn’t notice any difference in her reading, but she does like to wear it because she likes that she can hear herself better. She says it does help her to focus though and I never realized that she had problems focusing. Overall we are pleased with the results that we have seen so far and we hope to see more in the future.

Forbrain is an expensive product, but I think it would be a lot cheaper than speech therapy. If your child has significant difficulties this may be the answer.

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

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
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Poetry Memorization ~ Review

AJ can memorize any song or commercial, but she has a hard time remembering math facts and dates that she needs to remember for her school work. When I heard about a new poetry memorization product from Institute for Excellence in Writing, I was a little torn. AJ made great progress with their writing curriculum, but I didn’t know if I wanted to add extra work to our already busy schedule. After reading through the samples on the website, I decided that having AJ memorize poetry would be beneficial to her.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
We were given Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization. It includes; five CDs that have all of the poems the student is to memorize, a DVD of the seminar “Nurturing Competent Communicators“, and a Teacher’s Manual. Inside of the Teacher’s Manual there is a page that tells you how to download the 170 page student book, and seven audio MP3’s of wonderful workshops. We were given a physical copy of the Student Book, but it is sold separately.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
I don’t know what it is about Andrew Pudewa, but his seminars and workshops are always enjoyable to listen to and watch. It often seems like he is talking about AJ! I haven’t listened to all seven of the seminars, but the ones that I have really changed my thoughts on teaching and language arts in general. I had a few light bulb moments when I was watching the DVD about Nurturing Competent Communicators. If you have a struggling student at all, I recommend listening to any seminar or workshops of his.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
There are five different levels of poetry that your child will memorize over the years with this program. Everyone starts at level one and moves on at their own pace memorizing nineteen provided poems and a personal selection for each of the first four levels. The fifth level has twenty different speeches for your child to memorize.

The poems in level one are fun and silly most of them are between one and five stanzas long with short sentences. AJ’s favorite poem that she has memorized so far is called Celery by Ogden Nash.

Celery, raw

Develops the jaw,

But celery, stewed,

Is more quietly chewed.

As the levels progress there are longer poems and some that are more serious, but there are short and funny poems sprinkled throughout as well. I was very happy with all of the different selections. Some of them are poems that I remember reading when I was younger and others are poems that I remember dissecting in English class. There are also quite a few that I have enjoyed reading for the first time.

The program is very simple to use. I decided to learn the poems along with AJ (I don’t know if I will stick to that when she gets to the speeches though, they look hard!) and it has become a fun activity for us to do together. Each day AJ and I both recited all of the poems that we had memorized. If she could recite the newest poem that we were working on, then she would color the picture at the bottom of the student page and highlight the name of the poem on her progress page. Then we would start working on a new poem. If she had any issues or missed any words then we would simply continue to work on the same poem. After reciting the poems we listened to the CD of the poems being read aloud until we came to the poem we were working on. We would listen to the poem we were currently working on a few times and then read through it in the student manual. Then AJ would put a check mark on the progress chart to show that she practiced them that day.

In the back of the teacher’s manual there are optional lesson enhancements. Some of them are poetry and literary elements to talk to the student about while others are activities like learning about worms when she memorized the poem, Ooey Gooey. We talked about different elements of each poem, but we didn’t decide to complete any other enhancements because our days our fairly busy right now. I like that they are there if I need them.

The entire process takes us less than 10 minutes a day, and it is a time that AJ enjoys. When I first told her we were going to memorize some poetry she wasn’t excited, but now if I forget to have her do it, she reminds me.

One of the reasons that this product interested me was that AJ has a very hard time writing poetry. She is a very literal thinker and writing silly verses was a hard concept for her. I hoped that introducing her to different poems would show her that not all poetry had to rhyme and that they were not all suppose to be read in a sing song tone. Having the poems read correctly with the correct pronunciation was wonderful! I am very glad that we had the opportunity to review the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization , we plan to continue with it for years to come.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
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Writers in Residence ~ Review

Writing is the subject that AJ hates the most. We have tried numerous writing programs that seem like they would be a perfect fit, but once we start them AJ dislikes them for one reason or another. We have seen a lot of improvements in her writing recently, but our lessons were taking over our day. On days we had too much going on in other subjects, writing got pushed to the side. I knew we were both ready to try something new. When I heard that Apologia Educational Ministries had a new language arts based writing program, Writers in Residence, I was intrigued. When I heard that it was authored by Debra Bell, I thought it would be a hit.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Writers in Residence is a new product that combines a writing curriculum with grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation practice. Writers in Residence is perfect for kids in grades four through eight. The student book is huge! At over 550 pages there is plenty of room for instruction.

There are six units that each take about four or five weeks to complete. There is a schedule included that has your student working for four days a week, but that can easily be adjusted to fit your own needs. This curriculum is very flexible!

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
After opening the box we found a small teacher guide and a 2 inch thick Student Text and Workbook. I read through the beginning of the student book and decided we would try to stick to the four day week. The lessons all looked short and to the point. AJ enjoyed the lessons the first week, and by the second week she was reminding me that we needed to work on writing.

AJ worked on Writers in Residence almost every day. One thing that she really enjoyed was the variety. Some days she would write sentences about a favorite memory and other days she would pick out the verbs in the sentence and then practice walking a bunch of ways to help her learn that the more precise her verbs are in her writing the better. I think the variety in the assignments kept AJ guessing what would come next. It also meant that when she saw the writing book, she didn’t automatically assume that the work would be boring and tedious.

Throughout this review AJ has completed a lot of writing and grammar exercises. One thing that is stressed throughout the program is that writing needs to be practiced. AJ was expected to make mistakes in her writing and to fix them. Each unit is broken up into a number of modules. At the end of each module you and your child go through and grade all of the work they did based on their effort and the quality of their work. Even little things like acting out vocabulary words are included. Knowing that she was getting credit for all of those fun tasks as well as the harder ones really seemed to help motivate AJ.

What We Liked

  • We both liked that the book was spiral bound. That made it easy to write on at all times.
  • We liked that so many subjects were covered at once. It made our day go a little faster.
  • AJ liked that there was plenty of room for her to write in the workbook. She writes way too big for most workbooks, so that was a big deal to her.
  • We both like that the instructions were written at a level that she could easily understand. That made assigning writing work easy for me.
  • We both liked the bright and colorful text throughout the book. It was enough to be fun, but not too much that it overwhelmed her.

The only thing AJ didn’t like was that it was so big. I think if this could possibly be broken up into two books it may be easier for a child to handle.

If you are looking for a solid writing curriculum that incorporates other aspects of language arts into it then this is what you are looking for. It is well written, provides plenty of practice, and promotes independent learning. We will be using this for the rest of this year and all of next year. I have already seen a big improvement in her writing and look forward to how her writing will change in the future.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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Read, Write & Type ~ Review

Read, Write & Type, learn them all at once with this online program!

Typing is a subject that we have had no luck with at all. Right now there are three programs on my computer and two online typing programs that AJ has tried. Not one of them has worked for her. She gets bored with the repetitive typing of home keys, and soon typing practice becomes more of a hassle than it is worth. Since we haven’t had any luck with a program that she enjoyed using I was a little hesitant to try any other typing programs. That was before I heard about Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.  and it looked very promising. As I was looking at the website, AJ walked by and said she really wanted to try it because it looked like fun. AJ is in 7th grade and way above the recommended age level for the program, but I thought that the way it was set up would keep her interest and finally help her learn how to type. I was right!

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Read, Write & Type is way more than a typing program. It is an online reading program that is geared for kids ages six to nine. While teaching letter sounds and reading skills it also teaches how to type each letter. During the first few lessons they learn the sounds that letters make and they type the letter while hearing the sound.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
The story behind the program is that the letters on the keyboard want to write down their stories. Each letter is represented by a character, like Ann the Ant for the letter A. But the evil Vexor wants to steal all of the letters to prevent them from writing down their stories. In order to win back the letters the child has to complete a series of typing games. Some are things like typing out words, and other are things like typing the letters “th” if the picture starts with the “th” sound. After each activity the letter character seems to return but Vexor steals it again. After playing a few different games the letter is finally returned to the keyboard.

There are 40 different lessons representing the 40 different sounds. After each set of four sounds your child is awarded a certificate that they are able to print out.

Since AJ already knows how to read I decided to just let her do the program completely on her own. I checked in on her, but she never needed any help. She would work on it until I would pull her away because she thought the program was a lot of fun!

There were a few things that I really appreciated about the program.

    • Right away the child is typing words, not just random letters.
    • They learn to make capital letters and basic punctuation as well as the letters.
    • When ever the child makes a mistake, whether they mistyped something or were misspelling something, the computer corrected them right away and showed them the correct way to stretch their fingers to type the correct letter.
    • There are activities that also involve the mouse, so the child can rest their fingers for a little bit while continuing to learn.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

  • If the child doesn’t know what a picture is, they can click on it to hear the word. This was a big deal for AJ, because often a picture could be a few different words. For example if she saw a mouse and wasn’t sure if it was a mouse or a rat, a simple click of the mouse lets her know which one it was.
  • There was constant encouragement along the way. The different characters would cheer when she would type something correctly.
  • It was an entire reading program. There were books to download after she met certain requirements, activities that focused on beginning middle and end sounds, and sentence writing. There is even a fake email section where she was able to type stories. She really dislikes writing, but I found her typing stories in that section at least once a week.
  • She was actively engaged while learning and wanted to do a good job. She was always giggling, and when she was trying to test her speed she would do very well.
  • It uncovered a few issues I didn’t know she still had. When she was younger she had a hard time differentiating between the different vowel sounds. Even now when she sounds out a word, there are times that she picks the wrong letter. But this program helped me to see that she does that with simple words still. I never mentioned it to her, but since completing the program I have seen an improvement in her spelling abilities.

There were a few times that she said that the program was too easy, but she asked to do it every day and even though she passed all of the levels she still goes in and plays games for about fifteen minutes a day.

Read, Write & Type has improved her reading, spelling, and typing in just a few minutes a day. The only real complaint that AJ had was that there were not enough levels.

I don’t know if this program would be the best for most seventh graders, because it does start at the basics, but I do think kids in about fifth grade and lower may benefit from Read, Write & Spell. But if you have a child who is looking for a fun an interactive way to learn to type I would recommend checking out the sample lesson. If they like that, they should like the program.

When AJ was learning phonics and letters she used a program on the computer. It was fun for her and she learned a lot. I think if I would have had this program as an option back then that she would have learned to type and read a lot faster. I think this is a well made program that will help out struggling readers and those who are just learning to read.

I look forward to trying another typing program from Talking Fingers called Word Qwerty in the future. Since AJ enjoyed this so much, I am sure that it will be a hit as well.

AJ was on the older end of this review, click on the graphic below to see what other members of the crew thought.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
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Memoria Press Literature ~ Review

When I was in middle school and high school I really enjoyed literature. We would spend about a month on a book and by the time we were finished we learned so many things. We talked about all kinds of literary terms and often would spend an entire class period marking up passages in the books. Since I loved diving into good books I wanted AJ to have the same kind of experience as I did. Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a great literature curriculum that I could afford, so I decided to make up my own literature guides. I enjoy doing it and she loves them, but they take a long time. I knew I need to find a few well written study guides before next year, but I didn’t know where to look.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
 

As I began looking for literature curriculum to use with AJ next year, I came across Memoria Press. We enjoyed a history study from them last year, so I thought that AJ would enjoy their literature. A few weeks later I was blessed with the opportunity to review the Eighth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. AJ is in 7th grade right now, but the books in the 8th grade set looked like ones that she would really enjoy.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

 

I was thrilled when I opened the box from Memoria Press. It included Student Study Guides and Teacher Guides for; The Wind In the Willows, As You Like It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Treasure Island. Each Study Guide was a little bit different.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island Literature Guide

The Student Study Guide for Treasure Island is 89 pages long. It begins with two pages of directions explaining how to use the literature guide and then a two page introduction about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The guide is broken into lessons that cover either one or two chapters. Each lesson follows a similar layout.

  • Reading Notes – This section gives information about unknown characters or terms.
  • Vocabulary – In this section your child gives definitions for an average of eight to ten words. Then they are asked to do additional dictionary work for two of the words.
  • Comprehension Questions – Your students answer five or six questions about the reading in complete sentences.
  • Quotations – A quote from the chapter is given and your student writes which character (or if it was the narrator) said the quote.
  • Discussion Questions – A few questions are listed for your student to discuss orally. Some of the questions are opinion based where others focus on morals or the reasoning behind a characters action.
  • Enrichment – The Enrichment section is not found after every chapter. It includes additional activities to go along with the reading. Some of the activities include; drawing, map work, finding definitions, research, and composition activities.

After about every six chapters there is a Mastery Word Review where your student completes vocabulary activities based on vocabulary that they learned in the previous chapters.

At the end of the book there is an Appendix of Nautical Terms. This section is really neat. It not only has terms, but types of knots, parts of a ship, and sailing directions. I think this section would really come in handy while reading the book.

The Teacher Guide is an exact copy of the student guide with all of the answers filled in. The back of the guide includes answers to some of the discussion questions. There are also six reproducible quizzes, a final exam, and answer keys.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Adventures of Tom Sawyer Literature Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Student Study Guide is 79 pages long. While it is similar to the Treasure Island Guide there are some notable differences. This guide starts with a short one page guide about how to use the book and then it goes into a section about how to mark a book. This section made me smile. It is very basic, but it shows the student how to read closely and mark important things in their book.

After the section about marking the book the student is instructed to read the preface of the book and answer some questions about it in the Study Guide.

There are 36 lessons in this book, one for each chapter in the book. Each lesson follows the same layout.

  • Reading Notes
  • Vocabulary – They are only asked to define about 5 words, there is not any extra dictionary work.
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Quotations – This time they are asked who said the quote and who it was spoken to or about.
  • Discussion Questions
  • Focus Passage – In each Focus Passage the student is asked to find a certain paragraph in the chapter and answer questions about it. The first few have simple comprehension type questions about the paragraph. As they move through the book they are asked to list words that describe mood, or for phrases that show certain things about a character. At times they are asked to paraphrase parts of the paragraph or to describe what was going on.

Like Treasure Island, this Teacher Guide has all of the student pages with the answers filled in. It also has six quizzes and a final exam.

As You Like It

As You Like it Literature Guide

The Student Guide for As You Like It is 42 pages long. Since this is a play by Shakespeare the Student Guide is a little different than the others. It begins with a two page introduction to Shakespeare followed by a two page introduction to the play. Following the introduction is a Character Log with the name of twelve characters from the play. The student has to describe each character and their strengths and weaknesses as they read the play.

The rest of the Student Guide is divided into seven lessons, a question about the Epilogue, and 80 short answer review questions.

Each Lesson has:

  • Vocabulary – Ten to fifteen questions where they are only asked for the definitions.
  • Journal Prompts – Three to five activities including some fun activities like; making the family tree of a character, comparing and contrasting characters, diary entries from different characters, monologues, pictures, and more.
  • Quotes – The student is given three or four quotes. The need to tell who spoke it, who it was spoken to, the situation, the meaning, and the reaction.
  • Comprehension Questions – There are about fifteen questions in each lesson. Many of the questions have multiple parts.

The Teacher Guide is similar to the others. It has the Student Guide with all of the answers filled in. Well, almost all of the answers were filled in. The Character Log was left blank. I wish that it would have been filled in because Shakespeare is a hard topic to teach. Having those filled in would have helped me explain things to AJ a little easier. At the back of the guide there are answers to the Review Questions along with a Midterm Exam and a Final Exam. The exams both include required essay questions.

I think that this guide will make teaching Shakespeare a lot easier for me. I have not read this play yet so I think it will be helpful to have the basic answers at my finger tips.

The Wind in the Willows

Wind in the Willows Literature Guide

The Student Guide for The Wind in the Willows is 53 pages long. It has twelve lessons, one for each chapter in the book. This guide didn’t have any directions or introduction. It just starts. Out of all of the guides, this one seems a little all over the place. But it provides quite a bit of variety.

Each lesson is a little different and may have:

  • Reading Notes – These are not already filled in like in Treasure Island or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Instead the name of a character, a place, or an unknown term is listed. During the reading the student is to fill in information that they find. Often the information was not found in the book and we needed to look it up.
  • Vocabulary – The student only writes a short definition.
  • Comprehension Questions – Some lessons only have a few while others have twelve or more.
  • Quotations – The student lists who said it, when they said it, and who they said it about,
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities– These range from drawings to reports. There is room right in the guide for most of these activities.
  • Focus Passages

The Teacher Guide is similar to the others and has answers to almost every question. It also includes five quizzes and a final exam.

How We Used It

Since there was no way AJ could finish more than one of these during the review period, we had to pick one to start with. AJ decided to start with The Wind in the Willows, after I told her that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney Land was based on a character in the book. I ordered two copies of the book from the library and after receiving abridged and junior additions, we were finally on the way home with two copies of the the original version.

When the box arrived AJ was anxious to see what was in it. At that time I didn’t look at the other guides. We opened the guides for The Wind in the Willows and looked over them.

Memoria Press

I was disappointed that there wasn’t a schedule or pacing guide at all. There wasn’t even any instructions. When I tried to find out how long the study would take I couldn’t find information for this guide, only for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After looking at that I decided that we would take the study slow. AJ has improved a lot in her reading and writing, but I knew it would be too much for her to read the entire chapter and answer all of the questions at one time.

I decided to have AJ look up the vocabulary words and then we would take turns reading for about thirty minutes. After the reading she did any written work (except for the activities) that she was able to based on her reading. Following that schedule she was able to complete about two lessons and the quiz each week. On the day that she took the quiz I would also have her do a few of the activities from the chapters. At first I was a little uncomfortable taking that long on a book, but AJ was learning a great deal. I felt that the questions were well written and on an eight grade level. One thing that I really appreciated is that the Study Guide gave plenty of room for AJ to write.

What We Thought

The one thing that really frustrated me was that the quizzes and tests are all in the Teacher Guides? The only guide that states that the quizzes and tests are reproducible is the guide for Treasure Island. After reading the copyright on the front of the other guides I assumed that they were not reproducible. Since I didn’t want AJ to have the Teacher Guide I ended up giving her the quizzes orally and that was very time consuming. When I read that the quizzes and tests in Treasure Island were reproducible I assumed that the other ones were probably too. Knowing that would have made the quizzes easier for AJ.

At first I thought that reading four novels in a school year was just not enough. This year I planned to have AJ read eight. I quickly realized that these four Study Guides made for a very complete curriculum. The vocabulary in each one is challenging but doable and I think it will stretch AJ’s abilities. For each book the student focuses on a different element. This makes each guide unique and will keep the work interesting.

AJ’s favorite part was the Quotations section. She enjoyed hunting through the chapter to see who said each quote. I found that having her look for the quotes made her read closer. There were even a few times that she asked to do the work by herself. Normally she doesn’t enjoy study guides unless I create them, but she enjoyed working on The Wind in the Willows.

I love that this set has her starting to read closely and having her mark up the books. I think it is a great skill to learn.

While we read through this book together I think that she should be able to complete the guides for Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with very little help from me. I was very reluctant to teach her Shakespeare already, but the way the guide is written makes me confident that we will be able to read and understand it.

These guides look like they will make a great literature curriculum. We are going to set the other three novels aside for now and use them next year. I am sure that with just one or two more books added AJ will have a very full year of learning.

If you are looking for a solid curriculum, that is easy for the parent, and has plenty of variety, then I think Memoria Press is something you should check out.

Other Members of the Crew reviewed different levels of the Literature Guides. Find out what they had to say by clicking on the graphic below.

 

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
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Phonetic Zoo ~ Review

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that AJ and language arts just do not get along. Writing, spelling, reading – she dislikes them all. Amazingly, the Institute for Excellence in Writing was a hit with her for writing. After years of struggling, their program really helped her. So when I was given the chance to review their spelling program Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] I jumped at the chance. I actually begged for this product! We received a set of 5 CDs, lesson cards, personal spelling cards, teacher notes, zoo cards, and online access to a seminar called Spelling and the Brain.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

What is Phonetic Zoo?

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling. The normal spelling curriculum has your student work with a word list for a week, then they test on the words on Friday. The student may memorize the words for the test, but the skill doesn’t always translate over to their writing.

Phonetic Zoo gives your kids a spelling rule, or a group of words that are somehow related. Your student goes over the rule and learns a little saying to help them remember how to spell those words.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

Each day your child goes over the spelling rules and then takes a test. They listen to the words on a CD and simply write down the words. There are 15 words in each lesson. After the test they go to the next track on the CD and write the correct spellings of the words. They hear the word and how it is spelled, so the person would say, “either e-i-t-h-e-r either.”

Then they count how many words they spelled correctly, and spelling is over for the day. It takes about 15 minutes total each day, and should be able to done independently once the new rule is introduced.

Once the student gets all of the words correct twice in a row they move on to the next lesson.

It is incorporating aspects for audio, visual, and kinetic learners.

How we used Phonetic Zoo

While the program didn’t work out as intended, I still think it is a great program. The issues we had with the product were due to cheating, a lack of effort, and a poor attitude, not the program its’ self. Now that the review is over, we will be making slight changes that I think will make a big difference.

We did a simple placement test to see what level AJ should start with. Age wise she should be on level B, but according to the test she should start with level A, the first level. I assumed that AJ would breeze through the first few lessons since the words didn’t look too difficult.

The first day she sat down and we went over the spelling rule. Then she numbered her paper 1 to 15 and we listened to the introduction together. She had a big issue when the speaker on the CD announced that this was the first and lowest level.  I think she felt bad that she was in 7th grade and in the lowest level, but we went on. She listened to the words and corrected them. She was excited that she didn’t have any other work to do.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

The first lesson took a few days for her to get the words correct twice in a row, but she seemed to enjoy it. Each day we went over the rule and then she would do her spelling at the computer with her headphones.

Then we went on to the second lesson, and frustration hit. The second lesson is on “i before e”, and it includes words that follow the word and those that don’t. The first lesson she only had 6 words right. The next day she had 13 words right, I was impressed. But the following day she only had 6 words right again, and I couldn’t figure out why. It turns out she was cheating! She was just waiting to write the words down until she heard the answers.

spelling zoo 4

At that point I made her write in two different colored pens, one for the first try and one for the corrections and I had the pen she wasn’t using. She still was cheating and changing words so that she had a higher number correct. Obviously this is an issue we have to address, and there is nothing wrong with the curriculum, but if you have a sneaky kid, you might have to keep an eye on them.

After all of the cheating I decided that I would have to be in the room with her when she did the spelling, that made a program that should be independent, more work for me.

After doing lesson 2 for 17 times, and that is not a type-o, she still was getting words wrong. It was crazy, one day she would spell a word right, and the next day she didn’t come close. We worked on the words even more, but it didn’t seem to help.

I tried giving her the words, instead of having her listen to them on the computer, again there has been no change. She has been on lesson 2 for 24 lessons now, and I am convinced that it is an effort and attitude issue. This hasn’t been the only subject where she has not made expected progress in the last few weeks.

What We Thought of Phonetic Zoo

I think this is a solid program that will help struggling spellers. I think it is perfect for students who learn best with audio. It should be fairly independent and a simple part of your day. Yes we are sticking with it even if she is on lesson 2 for 100 days. I think that it could be the program she needs, but for whatever reason she doesn’t want to put in any effort.

These are the changes we will be making. Each day after she takes the test she will be required to do normal spelling activities with all of the words she gets wrong. Things like writing them 10 times each, using them in a sentence, abc order, and pyramid writing. I think that will give her the motivation to get the words right. Also, she will be doing the test and turning it in, and writing the correct spelling of the words on a separate paper.  We  are going to continue with this, and I will have an update with our thoughts on the program after the few changes.

IEW Review
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Writing Through Medieval History ~ Review

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Over the last few years we have been given the chance to review quite a few products from Brookdale House, and almost all of them have stuck around after the review period. When we were given the chance to review Writing Through Medieval History Level 2 Cursive, I was excited. We reviewed a different Writing Through History book a few years back, and AJ enjoyed it.  Since we are focusing on Medieval history this year, I thought it would be a great fit. For this review we were given a digital copy of the book.

 Brookdale House Review
 

What is Writing Through History?

The Writing Through History series is a writing program created by Kimberly Garcia. It is based off of the Charlotte Mason Methods. Using narration, copywork, and dictation this program combines penmanship practice, thinking skills, writing, grammar, and history. According to the website it is appropriate for children in 1st through 5th grade, but I feel they are appropriate through 8th grade at least!

There are 4 different books based off of the four year history cycle, and each history period is available in 2 levels. Level one is for younger students, where level two is for older students. Each level is available in either print or cursive. You are also given the option to receive the book as a soft covered book, or as a downloadable version. If you only have one child, I would highly recommend the soft covered book. Everything is laid out for you. On the other hand, if you want to use the same book for more than one child, the digital copy might be the way to go, but there will be quite a bit of printing involved.

What is Writing Through Medieval History?

Now that I have explained a few of the overall basics, I can explain more about the book we received. Writing Through Medieval History (the downloadable version) is 405 pages long.  It is broken into four different chapters. The first chapter has 29 different historical narratives. These are each about two pages long and then have assignments to follow. Chapter two contains 15 primary source documents that vary in length. Chapter three has 11 different poems, and Chapter 4 has 15 cultural tales  from or about Medival History.

A Charlotte Mason approach to writing and history.

There are not any lesson plans included, however there is a suggested daily schedule. Day one your student reads a passage and completes both oral and written narration. On day two your student works on grammar and copywork, and day three they work on studied dictation. On the fourth day they do oral narration and copy work, and on the fifth day they do more studied dictation. You can really use the book however it best suits your needs. Detailed information on what to do each day is included in the book.

If you are not familiar with the Charlotte Mason methods, there is plenty of helpful information in the book to help you along the way. The front of the book has explanations of what your student should do each day along with ideas on how to adapt if your child finds the material too difficult. I found this section helpful as it goes into detail on what your child should do during dictation and the correct way to do narration.

How We Used Writing Through Medieval History

Since we have previously reviewed Writing Through Modern History, I knew that the suggested schedule didn’t really work for us, so I decided to try a different way.  While this is a writing program, we used it as a history supplement. Of course, AJ is still getting the benefits of the different writing elements while we learn history.

Each week I looked over the topics that we were studying in history to see if there were any narrations or primary source documents about any of the thing we were learning. One week in history we were learning the very basics about the Justinian Code. Her regular curriculum glossed over the subject, but I found both a historical narrative and a primary source document about Justinian the Great.

The first day I had AJ read the historical narrative about Justinian the Great. Then she narrated about the reading. She has a little trouble retelling what she reads, so this was good practice. After she was finished she did a written narration. The next few days AJ and I read through the Justinian Code, it was a long document so it took quite a while. Each day she read a little bit and then did some copywork.

The grammar element is added by marking the parts of speech after copywork and dictation. AJ has the hardest time picking out each part of speech in a sentence, so each day we focused on a single part of speech.

She worked on copywork, dictation, and narration about Justinian the Great and the Justinian Code for about two weeks. By the time she was done, she had a very good grasp on the concept.

When there wasn’t a historical narrative or primary source that fit our current historical studies, then we would work on a poetry selection or a myth. AJ enjoyed reading about the different myths. Some of the poetry she enjoyed and others she didn’t understand very well. After each selection she would do dictation, narration, and copywork.

It is hard to say how long each lesson took. The writing, copywork and dictation exercises took about twenty minutes to complete, but the reading time varied depending on the document.

What We Thought About Writing Through Medieval History

AJ doesn’t love dictation, and some days she felt there was too much reading, but overall she likes it. I think it is a wonderful book. And plan on using it as a supplement throughout the year. Honestly, if you have a child around fourth grade, I think Writing Through Medieval History (or any time period) could be the backbone of their curriculum. In one book your child learns a great deal of history. There is reading practice that is fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. With a few supplemental books from the library, this could cover history and all of language arts.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the large amount of printing, but as I have said before, I prefer physical books. If you are looking for a Charlotte Mason approach, then I highly recommend this series.

Click here to see other reviews I have done for Brookdale House.

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed a lot of different products from Brookdale House. Click on the graphic below to see what they thought.

 

 Brookdale House Review
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Super Teacher Worksheets ~ Review

When we study different topics in history and science, I often try to find worksheets to help AJ understand concepts a little bit more. One site that I have found very helpful is Super Teacher Worksheets. They have quite a few free worksheets available that AJ has enjoyed using, but to access all of the worksheets you need a membership.

Super Teacher Worksheets is a quick and easy way to supplement what we are learning!

We were recently given a year long  Individual Membership  from Super Teacher Worksheets. I use the free version all of the time, so I was anxious to see if the paid membership was worth it. It is!

What is Super Teacher Worksheets?

Super Teacher Worksheets is a website that is full of different printable resources. Most of the worksheets are geared for kids up to sixth grade with some for seventh and eighth grade.( I think a lot of the worksheets that are geared for fourth and fifth grade can easily be used to help older students learn topics.) AJ is in 7th grade and we have used  dozens of worksheets over the last few weeks.

While there are plenty of regular worksheets, there are also flash cards, puzzles, maps, graphic organizers, holiday worksheets, and worksheet generators. There are worksheets for almost any topic. You can browse by subject or use the search bar and find what you need in seconds. Once you find a worksheet that you like you can print it right away, or save it to your file cabinet and use it when you need it.

The site is easy to navigate, and extremely fast. You really have access to thousands of worksheets right at your fingertips.

How did we use Super Teacher Worksheets?

Each week I make out our schedule on Sunday night, depending on what we were learning I would look for a few worksheets to go along with our studies. Normally that would be time consuming, but not with Super Teacher Worksheets! It took me just a few minutes a week to find and print worksheets to supplement her learning.

There are a lot of science worksheets on Super Teacher Worksheets!

This week AJ is learning about food chains in science. I typed “food chains” in the search box and it brought up 50 different results. Some were articles to read, some were math or phonics activities, and others were exactly what I needed. I found three that went along with her lesson perfectly. They were geared for 3rd through 5th grade, but they helped her practice the vocabulary and concepts that were explained in her regular lessons. When she was studying cells there were a few different worksheets that helped her memorize the parts of a cell.

In math she is working on algebraic equations, and was struggling a little. I found a worksheet for her to have a little extra practice. For fun I also printed her off a math mystery puzzle where she plots points on a coordinate grid and makes a picture. She thinks she is just having fun, but really she is practicing math skills.

Spanish worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheet mask learning fun!

There is also a section with Spanish vocabulary. I printed out flash cards and an activity for her to do each day this week. I was even able to use the worksheet generator to create a quiz for her.

Plenty of history and geography supplements at Super Teacher Worksheets!

We have found a lot of great worksheets! In history she was learning about castles. I found a really fun map activity where she had to follow directions and find different rooms in the castle. I also found a multiplication mystery puzzle that was a castle.

I have used the worksheet generator at least once a week, I make a lot of worksheets up for AJ and the worksheet generator has made it easy.

What we thought of Super Teacher Worksheets

I loved it! There is only one thing that I would change about the site. When you want to view a worksheet it takes you to the PDF and off of the website, I would rather have the PDF pop up in a new window so that I could easily compare multiple worksheets. Other than that, the site is perfect.

I love the fact that I can type in a topic we are learning about and I have numerous worksheets available at my finger tips. AJ is a child that likes worksheets and workbooks, so this has been a great fit. I can add a few worksheets each week to keep her engaged, but I don’t have to spend a lot of time searching for them. I like that I can print off a worksheet on a topic like longitude and latitude and have a short lesson on something I wouldn’t have thought to do.

There are so many worksheets that I plan to use over the next year. From science worksheets, to book studies, Super Teacher Worksheets will be a huge asset to us over the next year.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
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Grammar Workbook ~ Review

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Grammar is not a favorite subject in our homeschool. To be honest we have put it off quite a bit. We normally stick with a grammar book through sentence structure, then we end up putting the book on the shelf and never look at it again. I think the problem with a lot of the books that we tried previously, was that they were too repetitive and AJ easily became frustrated.

The Grammar Workbook is a great way to teach your middle schooler grammar!

When we were given the opportunity to review the Grammar Workbook by Kimberly Garcia we were a bit torn. So many of her other products have worked very well for us, and we needed a new grammar program, but I was afraid this one would end up not working for us.

It turned out that the Grammar Workbook was a pretty good fit.

We received a 236 page digital copy of the Grammar Workbook. It is made up of 60 lessons that are divided into 86 exercises. The lessons are broken up into five sections.

  • The Sentence
  • The Eight Parts of Speech
  • Sentence Patterns
  • Clauses and Phrases
  • Punctuation

Lessons vary on length depending on the topic, but most follow the same model.

The lessons start with text about a new topic, followed by an exercise to practice what was learned. Sometimes a new topic if followed by more than one exercise. The exercises are full of variety. There are writing activities, fill in the blank activities, underlining activities, circling activities and more.

After a few new topics and exercises are completed there is a writing lesson. This part of the program is different that other grammar programs we have tried. The student is given a writing selection (a paragraph or more) that has elements that they learned in the previous lesson. They are instructed to study the model and then do one of four activities.

  • Copy it
  • Write it from dictation
  • Rewrite it, keeping the author’s style
  • Create a paragraph similar to the model

The student can decide to do one or more activities.

How we used the Grammar Workbook

We decided to take it slow. I had AJ work on grammar two to three days a week. Each time she did one exercise. I didn’t want to print out the entire book, so we would read through the lesson on the computer and then she would do the exercise. Sometimes I would print out the exercise, other times I would have her write or type out the answers. When she had to make up sentences I often had her give the answer out loud.

As of now she is only copying or writing the models from dictation.

What we thought of the Grammar Workbook

AJ doesn’t love it, but I don’t think she will ever enjoy grammar. She doesn’t see the need for grammar right now. When I asked her what would make it better, her only answer was that nothing could make grammar fun. That being said, she is using it and learning from it.

The lessons are well written and easy to understand. The book takes concepts in a step by step manner and builds off of them. Most days she is able to do the work independently. I feel (AJ disagrees) that the amount of questions for each exercise is perfect. There is enough practice but not too much.

One downfall to this book is the amount of writing. AJ is a reluctant writer so the amount of writing was a turnoff at first. As I explained above, we just did some exercises orally instead.

We both like the variety of exercises, it makes it nice that she doesn’t have to do the exact same thing daily. I think that this program will improve her grammar as she continues to use it.

It is the program that we decided to stick with for her 7th grade year. If you are looking for a well written Grammar Workbook that has a lot of variety this one may be for you.

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6th Grade Language Arts Recap

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I can’t believe AJ finished 6th grade this year. I saw a lot of growth in some areas, and hope for a few areas that she still is struggling with. Before I share our 7th grade curriculum plan, I want to share how her 6th grade year went.

I was blessed to join the School House Review Crew for the second half of our school year, so a lot of our plans changed, but I still think it was a wonderful year.

A recap of our 6th grade year - What worked and what didn't

6th Grade Reading

We didn’t use a premade 6th grade language arts program. The plan was to read 13 books, practice reading comprehension, literary elements, and gain a love of reading. To say I was over scheduling us is an understatement! AJ doesn’t like to read, but I was going to have her read 13 novels along with her other reading? We didn’t finish them all. She read:

In addition to those books she also had three from the Review Crew that she read.

She ended up reading 11 books in all. Most of them included book studies or lapbooks. We did a lot of comparison with movies and comparing different characters from the same author. I feel we really made progress with her reading this year. It has been a long road, but she no longer despises reading!

6th Grade Writing

Writing has been the most dreaded subject of all! But we had some big breakthroughs this year. Honestly for the first part of the year we didn’t focus on writing by itself. She wrote in every subject, but we didn’t practice writing. It brought tears, frustration, and irritability – and she didn’t like it either!

We focused on copywork quite a bit. It seemed to help with her spelling, penmanship, and writing. She started writing more on her own, but we needed more.

Thankfully, we were able to review a writing program from IEW. It was the perfect fit for AJ. She learned a lot from the lessons and seems to enjoy the writing process now!

6th Grade Grammar

The year started off with good intentions. I had a plan for grammar and this was going to be the year that we were strict with it. That didn’t happen. We finished the first 2 chapters in her grammar workbook and then took it in another direction. I figured she needed to understand writing before she tried to pick apart sentences.

She started working on Daily Grammar from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. It was a simple approach that AJ enjoyed. The best part was that it was quick. Once she finished the level she was working on though, we quickly realized she needed more practice before she could move to the next level.

We reviewed a few different grammar programs over the last few months and I think I have found a good fit for us in a Grammar Workbook from Brookdale House|A Homeschool Curriculum Publisher

6th Grade Spelling and Vocabulary

The first part of the year I pulled spelling and vocabulary words from our reading. It worked fine, but when I was able to review Spelling You See she really began to flourish. Her spelling has improved quite a bit and I notice her fixing mistakes before I point them out.

I feel we had a rocky start with language arts this year, but we ended strong. AJ has improved in all aspects on language arts, and I look forward to a great 7th grade year!