Beautiful Handwriting ebook (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

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Many people dislike their own handwriting. I am not one of those people. But I was interested in reviewing the Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting ebook from Everyday Education, LLC anyway because it promises to be able to teach you how to write in italics. The idea of that really appealed to me, and that was my intention of how to use the book. But then when I started working on it, a couple of my kids (Grasshopper, age 7, and Scorpion, age 13) showed some interest too, so we went back to the beginning and worked on it together. And that made it even better!

Janice Campbell, the owner of Everyday Education, used a book when her first child was young that taught reading and handwriting at the same time. She loved its approach, and was excited to use it again when she had another child ready for that teaching. Imagine her dismay when the book was out of print! Many of us would have given up at that, perhaps feeling sorry for ourselves for a few days, but we would have eventually moved on and found another curriculum. Janice didn’t do that. She tracked down the author, Caroline Joy Adams, of her beloved book and convinced her to republish the book with Janice’s company. This way, Janice was sure to have the book in print for a very long time, for any homeschooling families who might want to use it.

55FF7DC5-F0BE-4953-B071-56DBAE28E15DThe book has six chapters, and the first five are primarily teaching a child to read (although the writing is intimately involved with that process). Chapter 1 is an overview for the teacher. Chapter 2 teaches the alphabet. Chapter 3 is basic English sounds and blends and words that use them. (For example, “short a,” “short e,” “sh, th blends,” “compound words,” etc). Chapter 4 is similar to chapter 3, but with different sounds (long vowels, more complicated blends, etc). Chapter 5 are the most complicated parts of English: silent letters, endings, contractions, and more). Chapter 6 is where the author suggests starting if your main goal is to simply improve your own handwriting. This is the chapter for people who already know how to read and are learning more beautiful handwriting techniques. This is where I would have spent most of my time except that, as I mentioned before, my kids joined me. Even if it had just been Scorpion and me, we would have worked there, but Grasshopper doesn’t read very strongly yet, so we started at the beginning with all of us.

The PDF ebook is printable, and because of the nature of the book (lots of practice pages), that would be a great approach for a lot of families. For us, I just set up my iPad on the table to the right page, and we all worked onto regular paper instead. When you’re learning the alphabet (which I actually recommend, even if you’re mostly interested in the italics portion of the book), the instruction/practice pages teach you the letter, an example of a word with that sound, and how to write that letter, stroke by stroke. It’s that last part that makes me recommend going through the alphabet pages even if you’re already a proficient reader. Most of these were “normal,” but a couple of them were different from the way we (my family) normally write. I’m thinking specifically the lowercase e, the capital M, and the capital Q.

I have really enjoyed doing these handwriting lessons with my boys. It gives us something to do together during the school day, and those types of things can be few and far between when you’re working with as wide an age range as I am. And for me to be able to join them was really special too. Because Grasshopper was joining us, we moved slower than we otherwise would have, but that was okay too. I fully intend to keep going with these lessons, and we’ll make it through the entire book soon enough.

Don’t forget to read more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew.

Blessings,

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Reading at 4 years old! (Reading Unlocked review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

Sometimes as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, you get assigned products that you’re unsure will be a good fit for your family. Part of being on the team means you do your best to give those products a fair trial, and in that process you are sometimes right about it not having been a good fit. But sometimes you are very, very wrong, and a product ends up being an amazing asset for one or more of your children. Reading Unlocked has been such a product for us.
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Because I didn’t want to mix things up for Grasshopper now that he’s finally getting the hang of reading, I decided to use Reading Unlocked with Dragonfly, who is just 4 years old. I was really hesitant to start him out because he’s so young (in fact, I asked specifically to not be on this review because of that). And there were moments in the early days when I was sure I was right. It was really frustrating at first. But, as we kept on it (admittedly too slow and irregularly for a while), things started to click for him. I was stunned, and ridiculously pleased. But let’s back up a bit and talk about the program itself.

39E87083-CA5E-4168-8334-6EAFD4B7719BWhen you first go to the website, you have to log in (of course). When you do, you’re taken immediately to to the lessons. There are 3 levels of the program, and by going to the settings (which are available straight from the lesson page; there is no “parent portal” as near as I can tell) you choose which one is best for your child. The choices are given in examples rather than descriptions. Because Dragonfly has never had any sort of reading instruction before, we started at  “a b c d sun red pot mud.” Also in the settings, you can choose which lesson within the level (each stage has 25 lessons) and whether you want a British or American accent. 

6037B4A8-715A-4D8E-96FB-61EBA0CE755FLessons at level one teach letters and simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. Each instruction and teaching moment is spoken by the program itself, and children are instructed to do things like “say it with me” followed by a letter sound, touch the correct picture associated with a specific beginning sound, write letters on paper, read words and match the right picture, and more. 4C8395B8-E16E-435C-9827-F4EAB2EF6739Periodically, parents are asked which of the recently taught sounds the child knows. You “give” the answer by toggling the switch red or green. Any letters that are left red are reviewed one more time before moving on to reading words.
It’s a very simple program, but it works! A month ago, my 4-year-old could recognize an A (because it’s the first letter of his name), but that was as far as his “reading skills” went. Now, he can easily tell me the sounds of 5 letters and read words like “can,” “pan,” “nap,” “cat,” and “cap.” My skepticism about this program, even for young children, is gone, and I can’t recommend it enough.

3658CF68-3B41-4583-8F7E-17875FA2FCF0Now, all that gushing said, there are a couple of issues I need to address. Earlier, when I mentioned there was a choice between a British and American accent, that is technically true, but I must have changed the setting to American and clicked save a dozen times or more. But every time a lesson started (immediately after clicking save), it had reverted to the British accent. That didn’t cause too much trouble, but that could be because I was super involved and basically repeated everything for my son (much slower than the program). Because it wouldn’t allow the American accent setting to stick, it used British phrases too, like “draw” instead of “write” in reference to letters and words. Also, the recording of the voice wasn’t the same from slide to slide, which I found a little distracting, but it didn’t seem to bother Dragonfly. And finally, you could hear the white noise on the recording a little before and after each instruction. Again, not a deal breaker, but potentially an issue for some kids.

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So, in conclusion, Reading Unlocked is a fantastic program, but it has a few minor bugs that would be nice to see adjusted. That said, will we continue to use it? Absolutely! 

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 
As always with my reviews, other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are also discussing this product this week. Make sure to click through for more information!

Math Apps for All Ages ~ Math Galaxy review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

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I don’t know about your kids, but my kids love having iPad time. I have to be pretty strict with them, because they would spend all day watching movies and playing games if I wasn’t. When I found out about Math Galaxy, I requested this review so that I could “reclaim” some of that time for productivity. I selected apps for each of my three school-age kids (3rd Grade Math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra), as well as 2 supplemental apps (Word Problems Fun and Addition and Subtraction Balloon Pop). Part way through the review period, I received an email from the founder of Math Galaxy letting me know of new app they’d just released, Preschool Math, so I downloaded that one for Dragonfly (4 years old). I will talk about each one in turn here. Math Galaxy also offers ebooks, and I will touch on those at the end of this review as well.

3rd Grade Math

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This was for Grasshopper (surprise, surprise – he seems to be becoming a large part of my blog these days!). He is technically only in 2nd grade, but I thought he was fairly advanced in math, so I wanted to try this with him. The screenshot above shows the main menu, and each of those categories has many lessons. For example, “numbers in base 10” has lessons in adding, subtracting, estimating, and place value. “Operations and Algebraic Thinking” is mostly multiplication and division. And so on.

Because this was officially above his “pay grade,” we stuck mostly with the Base 10 category. As I had hoped, he really enjoyed it. He needed a bit of instruction because we haven’t used base 10 blocks much (he knows the concept of place value, he just didn’t recognize the blocks), but then he was off and running.

Pre-Algebra Fundamentals

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Scorpion has been working through Pre-Algebra this year, so I requested this as a supplement for him. Because he’s done some pre-algebra already, he jumped around a bit, spending time mostly in Decimals and Word Problems.

Scorpion tells me that the program was neither too easy not too hard. It covered the material well and was enjoyable to work through. He would recommend to other students as a good option for extra practice.

Algebra Fundamentals 

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Ballet Boy has done Algebra I off and on (usually depending on what curriculum we have at a particular time), so he, like his brothers, had a bit of a jump start on his app. He picked up where he left off in previous math book, Linear Equations. He had to be reminded somewhat about the math, but it came back to him quickly. He too quite enjoyed using the apps.

Preschool Math

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Dragonfly is 4, and he’s at the age where he’s really interested in learning. He was so excited to get a math program of his own, and he’s been the one to actually use it the most! Because he’s only 4 still, I haven’t done a whole lot of formal education with him. For this reason, we avoided things like Matching Sums and focused instead on keeping things fun with Tracing Numbers and Froggie Count. His favorite activity was Tracing Numbers, specifically the 5. I’m not entirely sure why, but he gravitated to the 5 every time. 

Addition and Subtraction Balloon Pop

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This app is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Choose the difficulty of problems you want to work, and then pop the balloon with the answer to the problem at the top of the screen. This is more game than work, and my kids treated as such – Grasshopper loved it!

Word Problems Fun

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This app is an adventure game for one to four players. You select a player and move around the board, exploring “caves” and answering math problems along the way. The screenshot above is from just “inside a cave,” where we’ve just answered the problem correctly and now have the option of going inside properly. This wasn’t our favorite app.

Ebooks

In addition to these apps, we also received over 30 ebooks from Galaxy. The books are large workbooks full of practice worksheets. I didn’t use these as much as I wish I could have, but we did use a few pages from the ones that matches our studies. 

Each worksheet is a riddle. There’s a question and a series of boxes along the top, and math problems in the bulk of the page. Students solve the problem and then find the correct answer from the answer bank, each of which is assigned a letter. Put the letters in the boxes to solve the riddle. (For example: What do you give a snake at bedtime? A good night hiss.)

The ebooks were fantastic to have on hand to quickly print off some extra practice for the kids, especially on days when I wanted them to go screen free. My only complaint is that the answer page for each one came directly after the work page, unlike most books where you get a book full of worksheets followed by all the answer keys together. That’s not really a big thing; in fact, as I think about it while I’m writing at this moment, it’s probably just that it was an unfamiliar way of doing things for me, and therefore I didn’t like it much.

Overall, we have had a good time working with Math Galaxy over the past few weeks, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to do so!

Blessings,

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Math Galaxy has tons of different apps, and members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing them all this week. Some members are even focusing more on the ebooks than the apps (which, by the way, are available only for Apple, not Android). I highly recommend you head over to the Crew blog to learn more about the huge variety of apps and books offered by Math Galaxy!

Diorama

My husband recently got a new pair of shoes that came in a really nice box (hello, Nordstrom!), and he have that box to Grasshopper for the express purpose of making a diorama. After he read the Boxcar Children books, Grasshopper decided that he wanted to make his diorama of a scene from the first book. He chose the scene where the kids are having a picnic supper and they find the dog that adopt and name Watch (because he will make a good watchdog). 

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We started by rereading the section. Then Grasshopper tried his hand at drawing the dog, but he was extremely unhappy with the way it turned out (“it looks like a slug with legs!”), so I helped him out. I’m not much of an artist myself, but I was able to look at the picture in the book and put lines in equivalent places on a sheet of paper. We also made a “blanket,” and Grasshopper painted the inside of the box to blue for sky and green for grass. He also made pictures of food for the blanket, and we worked together on the blueberry bush. I sent him outside with a big brother for a few minutes, and they gathered some real grass and pine cones for the diorama as well. When they came back in, we put everything together. 

F3BE4364-59A9-4438-BBFF-06CEED805EECFirst, we glued the grass to the bottom, then added the blanket. For the pieces that would stand up, we made sure to leave tabs on the bottoms when we cut them out. When it was time to attach them to the diorama, we folded the tab over and taped the tab to the bottom of the box. It still didn’t work super well (we had to make sure the bigger pieces were leaned against one of the walls), but it gave us a place to start. 

All in all, this was a really fun project! It was great to be able to take a book he had read and reinforce the story with an art project. 

Blessings,

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Learning About the Past: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I’ve read a few YWAM Publishing books in the past, but always with my older boys. I was excited when the opportunity arose this time because Grasshopper (7 years old) is old enough to listen. We chose from the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, Corrie ten Boom: Keeper if the Angels’ Den. I chose this book for two reasons. First, Corrie ten Boom was used as a sermon illustration by our pastor at church a few weeks ago (around the time we were selecting the book we wanted to review). Second, Grasshopper and I had read another true story from the WWII era this school year (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), and he wanted to learn more. 
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About YWAM Publishing 

YWAM Publishing started in 1972 as an outreach of YWAM (Youth with a Mission), printing and distributing gospel tracts during the Munich Olympics. Within the first year, they had expanded to books, distributed all throughout the Eastern Bloc countries. Now located in Seattle, they have over 300 titles of their own. They also work as distributors for other Christian companies, selling books, DVDs, and resources for homeschooling families. 

YWAM Publishing’s Christian Heroes: Then and Now series has 49 books, and their Heroes of History series has 29 titles. Many of these also have study guides to make the biographies into a complete unit study.

About Corrie ten Boom 

Corrie ten Boom was a watchmaker in her father’s at-home clock shop, the first woman of the trade in the Netherlands. She was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis as a teenager and spent 6 months in bed because of it (turned out to be appendicitis). As a young adult, she created many clubs for other young men and women in her town; within just a few years one of her clubs had grown to many hundreds of members and their annual performance drew an audience of more than 1000. 

The Germans invaded Holland in 1940, when Corrie (properly, Cornelia, makes after her mother) was 48. They promptly shut down her clubs. Two years later, in 1942, a woman showed up on their doorstep, claiming to be a Jew in need of help. Casper, Corrie’s father, agreed immediately. He read the Bible twice a day, every day, to his family and believed with all his heart that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and he would therefore do anything he could to help them. This the ten Boom home, Beje (bay-yay), became known as The Hiding Place.

On February 28, 1944, all of the ten Booms were arrested after having been outed by a Dutch informant. Her father and sister, Betsie, died in custody. 

After the war, Corrie was released and became a world traveler, public speaker, and author. Her most famous book is The Hiding Place. She died on her birthday in 1983, at age 91.

How we used it

As suggested, Grasshopper and I read (well, we are still reading) this book together. I didn’t use the full study guide (of which I received a digital copy), but I have been utilizing the comprehension questions with him. He was very wary about starting to read the book, but from the very first paragraph he was hooked. He has asked to read more regularly since I convinced him to start listening the first time. In summary, YWAM Publishing biographies have found a new generation of love in my family!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of YWAM biographies this week, from both series. Make sure to click through and learn more! 

Product Review: Connections Stationary Kit

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Grasshopper, who you met earlier today in a Meet the Family post, enjoys writing letters. His favorite person to write to was my dad, and even though Grandpa died earlier this year, I want my son to still enjoy writing letters. It was for this reason I asked to review the Connections Stationary Kit (the misspelling is intentional) from Byron’s Games.

FC65F60D-5689-4E9A-9CED-0C42F2AB5EB1Grasshopper was really excited to see the kit when it arrived, and for good reason. It includes everything your child needs to write and send letters (except the stamps). Included in the box is 

  • 25 printed sheets of stationery paper
  • 25 matching envelopes 
  • 36 envelope-seal stickers
  • 2 ink pads (pink and blue)
  • 1 “thank you” rubber stamp
  • 1 pen

I was very impressed when I first opened up the kit. The box feels very high quality, and inside everything is neatly placed in its spot. It comes with a plastic tray very much like what you’d find inside a board game, so that all the items can stack inside the box while not being disastrous and “ugly.” This tray also helps keep the kit organized even as your child uses some of the supplies. The paper and envelopes themselves are also very high quality. It’s not just printed computer paper in there; the stationery paper is thick (no bleed through from the pen), but not like card stock. If you’ve ever used purchased stationery, you know what I’m talking about. 

5D05884D-4D26-41C8-8F32-C65D3D5C392CGrasshopper wrote letters to my parents (mom and stepdad) on one sheet, which we forgot to photograph before mailing. He also wrote a note to one of his dance friends, thanking her and her family for coming over for dinner (before coronavirus!). He hand delivered that letter. This is the note you see in the graphic above. The envelope is the actual one he used; I just covered up her name for privacy (which is the reason for the off-colored box). This particular little girl (she’s 6) has a huge crush on my son, so he indulged her a little bit by using a heart sticker on the back of the envelope.

We treated the letter writing a bit like copy work. We worked together to dictate a letter, which I wrote down on regular paper. Grasshopper then took a piece of his stationery and the page I wrote, then copied the letter down on the nice paper. On top of being a good way for him to practice his handwriting skills, it made him feel good when he was able to successfully write a legible note that made sense.

My son has really enjoyed using this kit. He’s been very picky about who is “worthy” of a letter because of the limited number of sheets he has, but that’s not automatically a bad thing; he’s using discernment and being very careful about not wasting his resources. 

Byron’s Games also makes the Continent Race game, and some of my fellow crew members are reviewing that this week as well. If you’re looking for a fun way to teach or reinforce geography, I recommend you head over to the Crew blog to find out more. 

Blessings,

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Venturing with God in Congo (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

I love the work that missionaries do, so I was pleased to accept a review for Venturing with God in Congo, a book from Conjurske Publishing.

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The book is a very nice feeling, matte finish hardcover book spanning 290 pages. Even my non-reading 4-year-old was fascinated by the cover. “What are those eyes?” “Is that a python?!” So even though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I’d say the publishers nailed it with this cover. And the inside is just a beautiful as the outside, with an African savannah scene on the end pages and easy-to-read font for the text.

DDBD38E9-7B50-4E7E-A098-540C3B88C2DCThe book opens with a quote from Darrell Champlin (the main subject of the book and late husband of the author, Louise Champlin) about missions, followed by the table of contents, pronunciation tips for the foreign (Lingala) words, a timeline of events, and map of Congo.

514EA17E-FFC7-43C3-8F98-9A401F66BFFCUnfortunately, I’ve been very busy lately, so I assigned this review to Scorpion. Being a 13-year-old boy, he wasn’t especially wordy, but here is his review:

Venturing with God in Congo is a fascinating book about Darrel Champlin, his family, and how they grew to become some of the most famous men and women in the Congo. It takes place in the mid-1950s and 1960s. It goes into great detail on all of the wonders of the great African jungles, which I personally love.

2048057F-812F-44A5-AAD5-B38D0294DDA9It has a photo gallery with real photographs from their adventures. It’s full of fantastic adventures and riveting storytelling, combining to make this an amazing, inspiring book. I would recommend this book for any young missionary, or just as a fun read. Please enjoy Venturing with God in Congo.

After looking briefly over the book and reading my son’s thoughts on it, I am looking forward to reading it myself!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 


As with all Homeschool Review Crew reviews, there are loads more people talking about this book this week. Please click over to the Review Crew site to find out more.

The Continuing Adventures of Captain No Beard (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

A couple of years ago, my two littlest kids (at the time) and I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first book in the Captain No Beard series. When the opportunity presented itself recently to choose 4 books from Carole P. Roman’s assorted series, there wasn’t even a question regarding what to choose: more of the Captain No Beard adventures! These are definitely our favorite books by Carole P. Roman.

My kids (ages 4 and 7) have asked to read these books over and over again, and because they are so fun, I absolutely obliged them. 

101F72A8-55F5-4FC2-BDE8-19F05BE17616Book 2 is Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience, and in it Pepper, a new character, has trouble telling her left from right. This causes her much grief, to the point the other characters can barely stand to be around her from all the wailing (screeching, really, since she’s a bird). With a bit of guidance and the old “your left hand makes an L” trick, Pepper learns to tell the difference and more importantly, how to show herself grace when things aren’t as easy as she wishes they were. 

2488FAE4-17A3-4E2D-A2BC-63AEF211E23EBook 3 is Stuck in the Doldrums, and this book takes the crew to the beach. While there, Alexander, aka Captain No Beard, has no problem reminding everyone that he is the captain… he is too bossy! The entire crew gets frustrated with him, prompting him to stomp off on his own. When his ship is attacked, he needs his crew more than ever, and realizes that even though he’s the Captain, each member is important.

8C2EB50E-2327-4126-B636-8FC53EE99BEFBook 4 is Strangers on the High Seas, and we meet baby Cayla for the first time. Captain No Beard doesn’t want much to do with her, but when the Flying Dragon (his ship) is attacked, Cayla has just the weapon to save them all.

6BEF2B1B-050F-40F7-A62C-99AE38C53F61The final book we received is book 5, The Treasure of Snake Island. It starts out on a “red sky” morning, and Polly (formerly Pepper) tells the other pirates that this means the afternoon will most certainly be stormy. She knows this because she read about it in a book. Once the storm calms, the conversation turns to snakes, which First Mate Hallie tells the crew she really doesn’t like. Paying her no mind, Captain No Beard pulls out his map and discovers they are near Snake Island. The crew finds the island and docks the ship, then gets off and begins searching for the famous “treasure of Snake Island.” They find the X and start digging, and as the story ends back in Alexander’s bedroom (as all the Captain No Beard books do, because the crew is really his stuffed animals and the ship is his bed), he, Hallie, and Cayla find the treasure chest, and it is full of books!

My boys and I have loved reading these books together the past few weeks, and I’m so glad to have been able to add them to our home library.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

 

Carole P. Roman writes lots of children’s books, not just Captain No Beard. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are promoting a wide variety of them, so make sure to check out the other reviews!

Step into Reading (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I wrote recently about Grasshopper and how he’s finally getting excited about reading. To go along with that, I was excited to be able to offer him The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set from Albert Whitman & Company.

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For this review, we received four beautiful, case-laminate hardcover books: The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, The Yellow House Mystery, and Mystery Ranch. Each one is based on the original Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Because Grasshopper is still not fully comfortable enough reading on his own yet, we read them together. To get him warmed up, I read the first page, but then he took over and flew through the books with flying colors.

The first book, The Boxcar Children, sets up the whole series. It tells the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, and explains that they are orphans. The opening scene is of the four hungry children outside a bakery looking for some food and a place to spend the night. That ends up not working long term (or really even short term), so the children move on quickly. They find an abandoned train car, and while Henry works for Doctor Moore, Jessie and the others make the boxcar “home.” Doctor Moore learns more about Henry and his siblings, that they are orphans who are avoiding their grandfather (the only family they have) because they think he is mean. One day, Doctor Moore introduces the children to his friend, Mr. Henry. The kids think this is hilarious – Henry, Mr. Henry. As time goes on, Mr. Henry earns their trust and only then is revealed to actually be James Henry Alden – the children’s grandfather. The kids are thrilled that their grandfather is not mean after all, and they go to live with him. The book ends with them all at his house, and he’s brought their boxcar to his backyard for the children.

The other three books don’t seem to need to go in any particular order, so we read them in Grasshopper’s preferred order.

In Surprise Island, Grandfather gives the children a big surprise: their family owns an island, and they get to spend the summer there on their own! Grandfather shows them the barn where they live for the summer, then he gets on the boat and goes back home. The children are excited to have many adventures on the island! They end up finding many things from clams to shells to broken pottery, to… their cousin Joe. When Grandfather comes for them at the end of the summer, it’s decided that Joe will live them from now on.

We revisit Surprise Island in The Yellow House Mystery. This time, the children find an old yellow house and when they ask Grandfather about it, he tells them that his friend Bill used to love there, but he just up and disappeared one day. The children explore the house, where they find a note that alludes to the fact that Bill borrowed some money from Grandfather, lent it to someone else, and then couldn’t repay the funds. The note says where to find the repayment, so the kids go on an adventure to that location. When they get there, they find Bill! And the box where the money was supposed to be, and though many years have passed, the money is still there. Bill is excited to be able to repay Grandfather and move back into the yellow house.

Mystery Ranch finds the Aldens at Grandfather’s sister’s ranch in Centerville. Aunt Jane is sick and lonely, so Grandfather suggests the children visit her so they can cheer her up. On the train ride there, Benny meets a nice man who shows him their travels on a map. To their surprise, this Mystery Man gets off at the same stop as them. But then they don’t see him again. After many days of taking care of Aunt Jane and her ranch house, she reveals to them that some men have tried to buy her home from her. They also find a hut on the land that looks like it has been occupied recently. They take this information to the sheriff, who introduces them to Mr. Carter – the Mystery Man! It turns out that Aunt Jane’s ranch is also home to some rare rocks, and Mr. Carter is an expert in such stones and has been hired by Grandfather. He determines that Aunt Jane’s rocks are indeed valuable, so a team is brought in to excavate, which saves the ranch.

We have really loved having these books to read. They are perfect for the stage Grasshopper is at now, and I am thrilled that he is excited to read books! And I imagine that in 3-6 months, when he is ready for his first novel, we’ll be getting a Boxcar Children mystery from the library!

Blessings,

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Please be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew for more information and reviews on these charming books.

Learning to Read: review of PRIDE Reading

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

This post contains affiliate links.

Reading is usually a very difficult thing for students to learn. I’m on my third go-round, and it’s the second time it’s been tough (my second son practically taught himself). With Grasshopper, my 7-year-old, we’ve tried many different programs with varying degrees of success over the past year or two. Our most recent curriculum is PRIDE Reading Program, and for the first time, it seems like he’s making real progress. 

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When we first got word that we’d been chosen for this review, I sat down with him and did the placement test. This was basically going over letter names, sounds, and blends to see what your child already knows so that you can order the right level for them. He tested at the PRIDE Yellow Book Program Kit – Level 1. This is the second out of four levels. The first is Beginning Consonants, followed by Yellow, Orange, and Red levels (numbered 1-3).

I told my son about the new reading program while we were waiting on the mail, and though he’s been a very reluctant reader thus far, he showed some enthusiasm for trying it. He was so excited that even though it was Saturday when it arrived, he wanted to do the first lesson right away. I never expected that from him out of a reading program!

Before I dive too deeply into the lessons, let’s go over what you get in the kit. Each of these items is available for individual purchase, but you really need the whole kit to really teach the program properly.

393D9159-C521-464F-9E56-E75A3E1ADAC1First is the teacher guide. This is available only online; there’s no physical book, so you need to make sure you have internet access. It has a good mobile version, though, so your phone or tablet will work just fine. (I usually used my iPhone.) The teacher guide is vital. You should not try to teach without it. It goes through every single step of the lesson, telling you just what to say and how to guide your student through the activities.

The student book is a physical, spiral bound book with all the different pages needed for the program. There are reading pages, writing pages, and games. The back cover is also utilized, which leads me to 

Letter Tiles. These are very sturdy, high quality, cardboard squares. You have to punch them out like you would the tiles in a new game, and then store them in a bag. There are single letters as well as prefixes, suffixes, and blends.

The sound cards are like a deck of cards, but instead of game values they have letters (same as the letter tiles) in various singles and combinations. 

The final component of the Yellow Kit is the PRIDE Activity kit. This includes a whiteboard with two markers (black and red) and an eraser, a reading tracker (a piece of translucent plastic, gray on the top and bottom and yellow in the middle, to help your student not mix up lines while they’re reading), a game die, and a canvas zipper pouch to keep everything in.

5008E9B7-9413-4A62-814E-DE921B9D44EBThe lessons are completely “open and go.” After you, the teacher, complete the PRIDE Reading training (which took me just about an hour, and I did during the week we were waiting on the mail), all you have to do is gather the supplies (everything I listed above), open the teacher manual on the website, and go through the steps. When you’ve completed each step (there have been about 10 in each lesson we’ve done so far), you verify that your student has completed the module to your satisfaction, and then the next lesson is unlocked.
The lessons (modules) contain a variety of activities, but many are the same each time. You always start by reviewing the letter names and sounds of every consonant plus the vowels that have been studied up to that point. Then there are a few different activities that rotate somewhat from lesson to lesson. These include spelling activities (spelling words on the back cover of the workbook using the letter tiles), phonemic awareness (say a word, then repeat the word but change one of the sounds), blending (divide the consonant sound cards into two stacks with a vowel in the middle and have your student read the words, some of which won’t be real), and more.
Then you move on to “red words.” These are words that can’t be sounded out in English (like “said”), so students must STOP! and focus  on the word in order to read it. You write the word on the whiteboard using the provided red marker, introduce the word, the have the student write, read, and spell the word out loud until they’re comfortable with it.

After red words (of which there was one new one per module), students read. Sometimes they read a list of words, sometimes it’s sentence to two, and sometimes it’s a full story. On the days they read a story, students learn to read silently. My son didn’t especially enjoy this, but it’s such a vital skill that I’m glad it was taught. When your student is reading silently, you have them stop periodically and answer comprehension questions so you can be sure they’ve read properly.

C04B3526-59C1-40AC-B7A5-683FB3FEE093The final steps of each module are writing. This is done by dictation. You say a sound, the student writes the letter. You say a word, the student writes it down, correctly spelled. You say a sentence, the student writes it down. 

There are 3 modules in each lesson: introduction, practice, and reinforcement. These should be done over a total of 3-5 days. Because of time constraints with dance class and a needy toddler, we ended up needing to take 2 days for each 10-step module most of the time. I would’ve loved to move through more quickly, but it just wouldn’t happen for us.

When I first saw the initial lesson, I worried it would be too much for Grasshopper, but I was wrong. He is easily (but not too easily) able to work through every part of every lesson. His enthusiasm hasn’t waned one bit since we first started. And now, he’s finally excited about reading and has actually started to read things on his own. He even finished his first “step into reading level 2” book recently! I couldn’t be happier with PRIDE Reading Program, and I know Grasshopper feels the same.

Blessings,

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Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are telling about their experiences with PRIDE Reading Program this week too. Make sure to click through to read those reviews!