Thursday, April 12, 2018

Traditional Spelling II - Memoria Press Review

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Spelling is a tricky area for us. Madison reads well, comprehends well, and enjoys reading. Her strength is "whole language". She's intuitive with a good memory and although she hated every moment of phonics, she flew through the programs because of those other skills. However, phonics is still key. Realistically, she spells and writes . . . less well. We found a literature program we love, but it is definitely the reading/understanding/grammar/vocabulary side of language arts. There is no phonics and no spelling, and we need to get that part in. We've played around and had varying success with different programs, but I wouldn't say we have found that perfect fit yet. We got a chance to try Memoria Press last year when we experimented with Latin, so I was definitely up for trying the classical approach to spelling. So far, Madison enjoys her spelling lessons with Traditional Spelling II from Memoria Press.


Memoria Press

The question I always have now is, "what level?"  All homeschoolers eventually learn that grade levels are fluid and it can take some experimenting to find the right fit. Madison is about three quarters of the way through second grade. Traditional Spelling I is intended for grade level first graders coming directly out of Kindergarten.  Traditional Spelling II is geared for 2nd and 3rd graders already on the road to mastering phonetic skills.  We went with Traditional Spelling II since Madison is definitely beyond the first grade phonics stage, even though I wouldn't call her a strong speller for her grade. This was a good fit. She had the tools.
Traditional Spelling II



The set we received included a teacher's manual, a student book, practice sheets, Phonics Flashcards and Classical Phonics, a book of phonetically arranged word lists.  There are 34 lessons, each of which can be easily split into four days (perfect for our four day weeks). We started at the beginning with Lesson 1 where she was introduced to a list of words by categorizing them by a particular phonetic component, such as words that end in -ly or begins with a consonant blend (very similar to the word sorts we use with another program, which made this transition easy). The next section requires the student to color code each part of the words to reinforce the phonetic components. Each lesson continues in the same way, with the following page being some kind of at-level reading that includes several of the lesson's words in it. Following that is a section of fill in the blank using list words.  The final activity is dictation that includes all words and a final sentence (which we used as a spelling "test").

This curriculum had a lot of pieces I knew I'd like, and I was generally very happy. I liked the set up, where different patterns were introduced together. I also appreciated the reading section and fill in the blank section that truly gave the words a context, something that is easily left out in spelling. Our favorite spelling curriculums so far have been the ones where the students are really manipulating the words, looking for patterns and learning how to apply what they know to what they don't.

The passages incorporating the words were one of my favorite parts.



It was also not an overwhelming amount of writing or copywork. Madison will do those things, as she's generally pretty obedient, but I also know when she is totally vegging out while writing. She could copy a list of words three times each, but immediately afterward would have absolutely no memory of what she'd written. She wasn't absorbing a thing. Because of how the written work is set up, the students can't let their minds wander. They have to think as they write. But since it's less actual writing, Madison was totally up for it. It looked shorter than what she was used to.


I have to admit, in our few weeks, we didn't really use the Classical Phonics book or flashcards all that much. They were more a reference tool that we referred to occasionally. I think that I could probably brainstorm a better way to use the flashcards that will work for us. At any rate, I am glad we have them, and that they were included in the set.

Overall, I think this will be a good thing for us to continue to use this year and to carry over to the beginning of third grade. I'm looking forward to reading some of the other reviews, especially of  Traditional Spelling I. Next year, I'll have a first grader, and I do want to make sure we're getting that spelling addressed right from the start.


Spelling, Music Appreciation & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}





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Monday, March 26, 2018

Carole P Roman Book Review

When we do our history and geography, we love to focus on how things may have been for the kids. What would a six and seven year old do 200 years ago - or today, but across the globe? A lesson may touch on the idea, but we fill those gaps with books.

Children's books like those written by Carole P. Roman can be such a fun way to explore history, or culture or even practice reading.  We received 3 more books from the Carole P. Roman books and collections to add to our home library. We really do love Carole P. Roman when we do our history and geography work, so I am excited to share three more tittles from the Carole P. Roman books and collections.


Carol P Roman Children's Book Author


Last time I reviewed books, our focus was on the historical side - ancient civilizations. This time, we got to explore the world culture books from this collection.

IF you were me and lived in ...

We received and read:




These books were specifically written to introduce children ages 4-8 to other cultures around the world.  Younger children can listen as they would to a story, and it can be used with older children because you can ask them to do more research or read more about the country.  Our current geography program focuses on one country at a time, so I chose three books that fit right in with what we're doing. The girls both loved looking at the words in the other languages, and we were thankful the pronunciation is in the book too! You get some basic facts about the country and capital, and then you get into the culture. What your name might be, what food you might enjoy, what you might be doing in your free time. They aren't a thorough history, obviously, but they pique the interest to learn more about the country. Madison loves working these facts into their play time - suddenly their play dance competitions have turned international! These books were definitely within the reading level of a second grader, and I love when I can have Madison read one to Reagan.

Favorite facts? A bunch!

For Egypt, it was all about the holidays. Sham-al-Nessim was fascinating to them. They made comparisons to how we celebrate Easter, and thought it was very interesting that holidays can be about different things but still share ideas of celebration.

For Australia, the discussion centered around how things are on the other side of the world! Summer in January? Winter in July? How does that happen? What a great way to show how "normal" is completely influenced by where you happen to live in the world!

For Mexico, the girls loved learning about Chichen Itza! They recently had a friend take a trip to Mexico, and were confused when she told them about chicken ease-a, so this cleared that up a bit. Now they want to go too!


There are so many of these books to supplement an elementary geography study. We could spend a whole year using these books to take us around the world and learn about what life is like for the young people living across the globe.

IF you were me and lived in ...


Carole P. Roman writes so many wonderful children's books on so many topics. I loved reading about what other crew members got to read, and now our wish list is growing! And check out more about Carole P. Roman and all of her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}



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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Zirrly Super Bead Review

March is not my favorite homeschool month. We're usually all cranky and tired and just not feeling it like we are in the fall and spring. To combat all this negative energy we've been trying to do more arts & crafts, so we were thrilled to try Super Beads from Zirrly.  We choose the Mega Pack to get a good variety of templates to work with.

Both girls ADORE crafts. They will paint, draw, cut, glue, assemble and make lovely, learning messes. I, however, am not a fan of the mess nor the time it takes sometimes for me to be involved. I want them to be independent, but I also don't want chaos or tears. My girls have used bead crafts before. In fact, we went through a few months this past fall where they were downright obsessed and I had an ironing pile that was shockingly large waiting for me daily. These beads were intriguing because they require no ironing - just a spritz of water and a little wait time. The girls, at 6 and 7, could (theoretically) do this project start to finish with no help from me.


*******
Each kit comes with everything you need.
  • beads
  • spray bottle (ours came with two, which is great with two kids)
  • puzzle trays (for laying out your bead creation)
  • plastic alignment tool
  • pattern cards (the mega set came with only four designs with five cards each - better for a class than a family)
  • instruction manual

Super Beads Spinning tops


The girls spent a happy morning with the beads. Madison chose to do the apple, and Reagan, who is loving elephants right now, went for the elephant. Madison finished quickly, but Reagan got frustrated quickly. At six, she's at the low end for the fine motor skills of these beads, and probably would do better with help. Madison said it was pretty easy to make, but the one thing she didn’t like was that all of the beads have to be facing the same direction.  There’s a little lip around one end of each bead, and all of those must be facing up. It's a fine distinction that she didn't always get, and it was a little frustrating for her to place a bead, notice it was "upside down" and have to remove and replace it. The bead kits that use ironing don't have that issue, so it was an adjustment. As the girls get more accustomed to this particular kit, I'm sure that issue will fade away.

4500 beads is a LOT of beads!

We've found that these trays from IKEA are ideal for any bead crafting.

Ready to be sprayed!

Definitely proud of her creation!

There are enough beads for plenty of creations, and the girls loved that the trays could snap together to accommodate bigger creations too. They were planning on a "giant rainbow", but a glance through our beads did show that we'd be a little constrained by how many we had of each color, so they adjusted. There was definitely a surplus of red, blue and white. I'm sure different packs have different colors to create with.


Super Beads

Overall, the girls had fun and are already looking to see which set they'd like next. They are leaning toward the Jewelry Set, but they also loved the idea of the 3D projects (which I'm sure I'd need to help with).

Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}


Other members of the review crew reviewed different sets. It was very cool to see how each family made these craft kits their own!

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Slowly, painfully slowly, Adam and I are chipping away at our "list of things that really needs to get taken care of". We finally replaced our broken family room furniture. We finally got the family room carpet replaced. We've scheduled our new patio door (which is an entirely different story I'll tell another day - probably not until it's finished, since, you know, tempting fate).

And now we're looking at what's coming up next. We need to replace the front door too. The roof needs replacing. The girls' bathroom needs a facelift - badly. The kitchen floor is on the list. I'd love to do the upstairs carpet. The interior needs painting. And my car is on that list in a BIG way. Now that Subaru has FINALLY released the model I've been pining for, I'm ready to send my car shopping liaison to go get me one (only halfway kidding. I am terrible at big purchase shopping and my father in law used to sell Subarus. He is totally my proxy for this experience. I care about the color).

Our list is a lovely thing, but after getting burned a few times, we're being very cautious with how much we do at once and how carefully we do it. We had some beautiful landscaping and stonework done a few years ago, paid for it from our savings, and then got thrown into a really awful situation with Adam's business. A few years after that we'd just started to rebuild that nest egg and got knocked down again. So although we are back on track, I'm very opposed to taking on loans or wiping out savings to do it. It might drive us crazy (and we each have our pet project that we're willing to thrown out the rule book for), but we're being smart. If the past ten years have taught us anything, it's that you truly never know when life is going to knock you down, and you don't want to already be in a vulnerable spot when it does.

Plus, there are the extras. With a new car comes a change in our insurance. Big home improvement projects always seems to include an add on or another project uncovered. With Adam working at home and me homeschooling, any work on the house is a huge disruption that we need to plan for.

And everyone has an opinion about what we should do and who we should use and why we should just do it all at once...and that's fine.

If you're not our duck, get out of our row.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Know Your Strengths

Everyone has their strengths. And everyone has their...let's call them lesser strengths.

Lately, I feel like I am just full of lesser strengths. I'm in a slump. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the time of year, but I'm just a tired mess. I'm behind on everything. My lists have lists. I have clutter everywhere. I'm just lazy and crabby.

I make great plans to get out of it, but then I don't follow through. I talk myself out of things. I'm super tired tonight, so I'll just get up early tomorrow and be ready to go after a good night's sleep. And then...can you figure out what happens?

I'm getting done what needs to be done. The girls have been ready for their dance competitions, and we're arriving, on time, neatly packed and ready to go. I might be behind on laundry, but (not counting the sock basket), that's getting finished too. Our house is untidy, but it's not in a state of disrepair.

I'm making myself feel a little bit better by employing the "just one thing" method. I am choosing one thing to tackle (theoretically, my plan was one "paper" thing and one "cleaning" thing, but I promised myself I'd be ok if I got one thing entirely). Instead of looking at my lists and panicking, I do one thing. I update the calendar. I clip the stack of coupons. I get the schoolwork piled up organized into weekly assignments.

It's helping. I am nowhere near caught up with everything, but I'm caught up with some things.

Still, even after the worst of my slump, I know my limits. Right now, in this mental state, I should not be making major decisions. That's one of my biggest reasons why I'm basically sending my father in law off with Adam to get the new car, when the time comes. I don't care about the details, they're better negotiators than I am, and it's a giant weight off my shoulders. Vin is really good at this stuff, and he likes doing it. I'm terrible at it and it's a stressful chore.

I'm sure as we crawl toward spring (and I mean weather, not calendar, since the weather is the one who isn't cooperating), I'll get more and more of my mojo back. And hopefully, my "one thing" strategy will leave me in decent shape.

But I'm still sending the boys to Subaru. Knowing my weakness? That's my strength.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Made Practical Review

Have you ever wondered if you're teaching your children what they should know at the various stages of life? For me, it's so hard to get a yardstick against where we "should" be.  For any parent who isn't quite sure, like me, Parenting Made Practical may be just what you need. The goal of Parenting Made Practical is to “Encourage and equip parents to practically raise obedient, respectful, and responsible children in today’s world.”

I reviewed the book What Every Child Should Know Along the Way  and I was also able to check out the DVD Navigating the Rapids of Parenting.  I think every parent could use a bit of encouragement when it comes to raising children so I was looking forward to watching and reviewing Navigating the Rapids of Parenting from Parenting Made Practical.



parenting made practical


This book is intended for parents of preschoolers through college (there's a spread!), and it's written by a homeschooling mom.

To be honest, it was a little...heavy...on the Biblical side for me. I'm sure I'm just encouraging people to worry about my family by saying that, so please know that it's not necessary. I certainly wouldn't classify myself as someone who eschews anything Biblical. We attend church and Sunday school and are bringing the girls up in a Christian way. But it was a bit too much for me and I don't know that I'd be totally comfortable recommending it to my homeschooling friends who are less religious. They may be off put and give up early. In addition, although it's just a general idea, the pages and pages and pages of rules and don'ts were overwhelming. Personally, that kind of list isn't the most helpful for our family. We're more likely to say "you CAN play here" and "these are the things you ARE allowed to use" than give them endless "don't this" and "you can't" that.

However, once I wrapped my head around that and distilled the ideas down to the big picture, the big picture is a good one, and the charts and suggestions for each age are very helpful. I'll keep this book around as a reference.

What Every Child Should Know Along the Way


Although I thought I would only get the book, I was surprised by getting a DVD surprise in my package! Always fun.

In the opening scene Carla says: "During transitions our children are changing and so are we, because they are moving through a phase that for them they are growing into new things that they don't know how to handle." This is exactly the heart of parenting.  It's a road of transitions for you and for your child. I've written about this before - every time you feel like you've confidently figured out how to work through a hard stage, they're out of it and onto the next hard stage. They can't yet make sense of where they've grown into.

I'm running into this with my almost 8 year old. She's growing from little kid to big kid and there are plenty of struggles in there. She wants so desperately to be independent, but she's not quite there yet - but I also know that keeping her down isn't the right choice.

The DVD is about an hour and a half long, but it's broken into four phases. I watched phase one and two, since that's where my kids are, which is the first 40 minutes. We're just out of the birth - 5 phase (very rule focused) and are now completely in the elementary stage (training). The goal is to anticipate these "rapids" before the kids hit them, so we can guide them through, rather than fight our way through with them.

I wasn't shocked to see that it is just as religiously driven as the the book. Again, this isn't a BAD thing. It's just for a very specific audience. Would I share it with our friends in town who are Jewish? Our co-op friends who are non-religious? Probably not, which is a shame, because it's good overall information. It's just a little much.

Navigating the Rapids of Parenting DVD


Other Crew members reviewed different products so be sure to read the other reviews to learn more about the other products available from Parenting Made Practical. When the girls are older I'll be interested in the book and DVD of Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}


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