Learning Basic Language Arts with Eclectic Foundations (Review)

Eclectic Foundations Review

I’m at an interesting place in my homeschooling career. My two older boys are in 7th and 5th grades – one in middle school, and one nearly there. And then I have the two little boys. Small Fry is 4 years old (nearing readiness for Kindergarten), and Dragonfly is just 15 months old. Because of the age gap between Munchkin (5th grade, 10 years old) and Small Fry (age 4), it’s easy to automatically dismiss review opportunities that fall between them as “not a fit based on my kids’ ages.” I almost did just that with Eclectic Foundations. I saw the information provided by the leadership team at the Homeschool Review Crew and immediately thought that my boys were beyond needing something like this. And the older two are.

But then I looked at the website and got to thinking, “You know, Small Fry is wanting to learn to read. Maybe a lower level would work for him.” Once I allowed myself to think about him instead of just the older boys, I realized that Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A would probably be a good fit for us. And I was absolutely right.

There are 4 components to this program, and you need them all to run it successfully: the Student Workbook ($24), the Teacher Manual ($12), the Appendix booklet and word cards ($20) and the McGuffey reader (public domain book that’s available in numerous places for cheap or free). You can also purchase a PDF download of the entire program for $30. The thing you can’t do is try to get away with skipping any of the components. Some programs allow you to suffice with just the student book or just the teacher book, but this is not one of those.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Each of the books is a softcover, 8.5×11, spiral bound book. The Student Workbook is consumable, so you’d need one for each student, but all the other components are reusable in the event you have multiple students (whether at the same time or one a few years after the other). The Appendix workbook was something unique to this program – I’d never seen anything quite like it with any other language arts curriculum. It is a workbook very similar to the others (8.5×11, softcover, spiral bound), but every single page in it is laminated. These pages are used for some of the games in the program, and are designed to be written on in dry erase or Vis a Vis markers (when playing Tic Tac Toe or filling in letters around vowels, which happens in later lessons), or in some cases, just to have your child point to the correct image (during the “Starts with” and “Beginning, Middle, End” games – details on all of this later). We’re not at a point yet where we’ve needed the word cards (they start at about lesson 65, and we’re only at 21), so I can’t really tell how they work yet.

Because Small Fry is just starting to show interest in learning letters and reading, we started at the very beginning – Level A (there are A, B, and C), lesson 1. So far, each week follows the same routine, which is nice. It allows him to anticipate what’s coming next.

Thanks to its "open and go" style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

Thanks to its “open and go” style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

This is an open-and-go curriculum, which is very nice. There’s virtually no preparation required. It’s based on a 4-day school week, and each lesson takes under 20 minutes – perfect for new learners. Each day starts with a recitation of the alphabet, and then moves on to the student workbook pages. The workbook has a wide variety of activities to keep young minds interested. On the first day, they get to fill in the “letter of the week” with Play-Doh (or pipe cleaners for a mess-free experience). This day we also play the “Starts With” game. For this, there’s a list of words that you read to your child (in the teacher’s manual), and the child determines whether or not the word starts with the letter/sound of the week. The appendix book is used for this – there’s a page with smiley faces on it, and a happy face means the word does start with the sound, and sad face means it does not. The student points to the correct image.

Eclectic Foundations review | Ladybug Daydreams

A portion of one of the letter mazes. Click to enlarge.

Other days have other activities, including but not limited to determining whether the sound of the week is found at the beginning, middle, or end of a list of words, finding all occurrences of the letter in a faith-based poem, writing the letter and simple words that include it, and reading simple words using sounds that have already been introduced (so far, we’re up to “man,” “Nan,” “fan,” “ran,” and “Sam”). And then there’s Small Fry’s absolute favorite activity: the maze. This happens on the third lesson of the week (depending on our week, usually Wednesday or Thursday). The maze looks a lot like a word search, but instead of finding words, students are instructed to follow the path of whatever the letter of the week is, from a smiley face at the top to a smiley face at the bottom.

Using this curriculum was a breeze. The teacher manual spells everything out for you, and the student book is full of fun activities. We’ve been using it for just over a month now, and Small Fry (who’s not even 5 years old yet) is already able to read simple words. And he’s gone from being able to copy his name down to writing it all by himself. On top of being effective, it’s really fun. It’s not at all stressful, and my son absolutely adores having his own school to do. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks if he can “do school today.” And the days that have the maze are even better!

Needless to say, we absolutely love this curriculum. I’m so glad I looked closely at the website before just assuming it wouldn’t be a good fit for us, because it absolutely is the perfect fit for my precocious 4-year-old!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all three levels of Eclectic Foundations this week. Click the banner below for more information!

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}
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Rose City Comic Con

This post is a long time coming, but now’s the time. It will be fairly light on words because I didn’t go (Dragonfly wasn’t even a year old yet when they went, and it didn’t seem like a good thing to bring a baby to), but I do know that Will and the boys (the 3 oldest ones) had a great time. The four of them, plus Will’s dad, went. It was a fabulous bonding time for the men in the family.

Most of the pictures of Small Fry meeting different characters because it was his first time going to an event like this. Plus, he’s at such a fun age that everyone was thrilled to let him have those experiences. Others will include the rest of the family. I’ll include captions as I’m able, based on the little knowledge I have of the event.

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With Thor

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In front of the Batmobile (from the 1960s show) with Grandpa

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Meeting Iron Man

With a Storm Trooper

With a Storm Trooper

I'm not sure what this guy is lol

I’m not sure what this guy is lol

In his homemade Buzz Lightyear costume before the event

In his homemade Buzz Lightyear costume before the event

And meeting the "real" Buzz

And meeting the “real” Buzz. I’m pretty sure this was the highlight of the trip for him.

This is what Dragonfly was doing while everyone else was away for the day: "learning to knit." :)

This is what Dragonfly was doing while everyone else was away for the day: “learning to knit.” 🙂

Blessings,

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Book Club: The Girl on the Train

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori and I decided to do “Freestyle.” This means that we’ve read different books; I chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This was one that Lori didn’t want to read, so I decided to do it on my own.

Questions come from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in affect.

1. We all do it—actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosy, all-too-human impulse? Is it more extreme in Rachel than in the average person? What is so different about her?

I think a lot of us, even though we might be happy with our own lives, like to imagine what it would be like to lead a different one sometimes. It is definitely more extreme in Rachel than in the average person, though – others might imagine things, but she actually acts on them. As far as what’s different about her, I think it’s something as simple as her alcoholism taking its toll. She might not be this “crazy” if she wasn’t a drunk.

2. How would you have reacted if you’d seen what Rachel did from her train window—a pile of clothes—just before the rumored disappearance of Megan Hipwell? What might you or she have done differently?

I’m not sure I would’ve thought much about a pile of clothes on the ground. While it could be sinister, it isn’t automatically so. Therefore, I don’t think I would have done anything.

3. A crucial question in The Girl on the Train is how much Rachel Watson can trust her own memory. How reliable are her observations? Yet since the relationship between truth and memory is often a slippery one, how objective or “true” can a memory, by definition, really be? Can memory lie? If so, what factors might influence it?

It turns out that a lot of her memories aren’t so “false” after all. It seemed to me that her bigger problem was the inability to remember anything at all, not the fact that her memories were incorrect, especially near the end of the book.

I think memories can lie, yes. A lot of the things we “remember” from our own childhoods are actually the memories of our parents, and though they often mean well, parents will often smudge the truth to make themselves out in the best light. Therefore, our memories are lies woven by others in some instances.

4. One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story?

Rachel’s inability to have children is the entire reason for her breakdown. In a book full of lies, that much is made very clear. If she’d been able to have a child, I don’t think she would have lost her mind, become an alcoholic, and potentially been left by Tom (although, based on how he turned out, that last bit is up for debate). Outside of that one example, I’m not sure the “topic of motherhood” is necessarily a driving point in the story.

5. Other characters in the novel make different assumptions about Rachel Watson depending on how or even where they see her. To a certain extent, she understands this and often tries to manipulate their assumptions—by appearing to be a commuter, for instance, going to work every day. Is she successful? To what degree did you make assumptions about Rachel early on based on the facts and appearances you were presented? How did those change over time and why? How did your assumptions about her affect your reading of the central mystery in the book? Did your assumptions about her change over its course? What other characters did you make assumptions about? How did your assumptions affect your interpretation of the plot? Having now finished The Girl on the Train, what surprised you the most?

In a very basic sense, Rachel is successful in manipulating people’s assumptions about her. At least at the beginning. Her roommate, Cathy, has no idea that Rachel had lost her job a long time before the novel begins, for example. Her riding the train and pretending to be a commuter was a successful ruse. As far as the rest of the questions, I’m not really a good person to answer those; I don’t make assumptions about characters. I tend to read a book with nothing in mind, and I let the author take me on the journey they wish to tell.

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Lori read what looks like a really interesting book: Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz. I hope you’ll read her post to learn more about it.

This month, Lori and I are back to reading the same book. We’ll be working through The Whistler by John Grisham. He’s my very favorite author, so I’m excited about this one.

Blessings,

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Math Mammoth Review

We’ve tried a lot of different math products over the years. A lot. And there are very few that my kids don’t complain about – usually the ones that are “fun,” meaning game-like. When a review opportunity for Math Mammoth came up earlier this year, I had the older two (7th and 5th graders) take the placement test to figure out whether this would be a good fit for us. Color me surprised when Seahawk (7th grade) barely understood anything in a test below his official grade level. (I don’t remember offhand whether I had him take the 5th or 6th grade placement test.) I decided at that point that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to request this review in order to fill some learning gaps that apparently exist in our homeschool.

Math Mammoth review from Ladybug Daydreams

In order to work with both of the kids, I requested the Blue Series, which is a set of books (available as PDF downloads or physical print books) that focus on specific topics. We received

Seahawk has been working through the “Percent” worktext, and Munchkin has been doing “Multiplication Division 3.” I’m saving “The Four Operations” for later, and they will both do it when they’ve completed the book they’re currently working through.

Math mammoth explanation sample

A sample of an explanation section. This is the very first lesson in the Percent worktext. Click to enlarge.

Each day, I would take turns sitting with the boys in turn, working through the problems. The explanations were clear, and there was very little I needed to explain beyond what was actually in the textbook itself. The boys didn’t have any difficulty understanding what they needed to do, and they required minimal guidance from me. I was mostly there to keep them on task and see how the program worked for the purposes of being able to write the review later.

We’ve been using the texts nearly every school day for several weeks, but they still have plenty of work to do before they finish these. Seahawk is about 1/4 of the way through Percent, and Munchkin is about 1/5 of the way through Multiplication Division 3. Their slow progress isn’t because the concepts are difficult or the program bad, though. Rather, it’s because the concepts are taught and practiced so thoroughly that there are loads of problems in each section so that children can have ample opportunities to practice what they’ve learned.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That's part of why it's taken us a while to work through this program.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That’s part of why it’s taking us a while to work through this program. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I opened the PDF, it would remind me that “This PDF can be completed using the Add Comment tool.” I took that to mean that it was an interactive PDF, meaning that the child using the product would be able to fill in his answers right on the computer. I didn’t find this to be the case at all, and a Google search led me to looking at the settings on the PDF, which told me that it wasn’t an interactive PDF after all. I’m not savvy enough to know about the Add Comment tool or how that’s different from an interactive PDF, so we treated the PDFs like a textbook: the kids would read the information and problems on the screen and write their answers down on notebook paper kept in their binders. I could have printed the pages out for them (and I did one day when I wasn’t available to sit with them individually), but for the big picture, that would have been cost prohibitive to do all the time. In the end, the notebook-paper-approach was the right one for us.

I mentioned earlier that we’ve done a lot of different math curricula over the years. What I didn’t mention was that Math Mammoth is one of the best. Not only is it very thorough with clear explanations, but my kids don’t complain about doing it. In fact, quite the opposite has proven true: every time we finish a lesson, they tell me that they really like this curriculum. With the prices being so reasonable ($2.20 to $7.40, depending on what the book is), I can see us buying more of these. When used together, they make up a full curriculum for grades 1-7. Math Mammoth also offers an “official” full math curriculum for these grades called the Light Blue Series. I haven’t seen this, so I’m not entirely sure how it differs from the Blue Series. The Light Blue curricula costs $37.50 per year, and the final year (grade 7) is a full-fledged Pre-Algebra curriculum. Upon completion of that year, your student is ready to tackle high school level math.

Our official opinion: Math Mammoth is amazing. It teaches the concepts well, is very affordable even for families with multiple children, and is better than a regular textbook (in my kids’ opinion; I’m not sure how it differs other than that they don’t whine and moan when I announce that it’s math time). I definitely foresee us continuing to use this product in the near future.

For more information on different levels, from the Blue Series and the Light Blue series, click the banner below. That will take you to the Homeschool Review Crew blog where you can find 49 other reviews of Math Mammoth from homeschooling families who have actually used it over the past few weeks.

Blessings,

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Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
 

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Picture of the Week: Static!

When I came home from the hospital after Dragonfly’s birth in 2015, I was surprised to find a living room set. Will had spent a reasonable amount of time while I was in recovery working out the details for purchasing and moving furniture (sofa, loveseat, and two tables) into our home. (Before this, we had two chairs, which wasn’t very conducive to having company over.) We have loved having the furniture, but it does have one downfall: it holds static electricity very well. Dragonfly’s hair in this picture shows just how much.

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Have a great weekend!

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Easy Costume Accessory: Cape

Easy Costume Accessory Cape

My oldest two boys have been pretty interested in capes recently, especially Munchkin (10). It started back when Seahawk dressed as Ron Weasley for Halloween last year. It was the day of, and we hadn’t found the right cape to use as a cloak yet. We were at Goodwill, and couldn’t find anything in the costume department. Then I had a brilliant idea: a long black skirt. We found one for under $5, and within just a few minutes of getting home, we had a cape.

20170223_134355A few months later, Munchkin decided he wanted his own. I asked him if he just wanted to have Seahawk’s (since he rarely wears it), but they both said that it would be better if he had his own. So we went to Goodwill again. The good thing about this project is that you can almost always find a long black skirt for pretty inexpensive at secondhand shops. And depending on the kind of fabric the skirt is made of, it could even be a no-sew project. Of the two we’ve done so far, one has been fine without any sewing and one needed the cut edges “serged” (zigzag stitched, since I don’t have a serger) to prevent fraying.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Find a skirt the length you like. An elastic waistband is ideal. If you have one in your closet that you don’t wear anymore, this could even be a free project!
  2. Cut a straight line up the center. Leave the waistband intact; this way, the cape stays on the child quite well without the need of any pins or other sharp solution to keep it closed at the top.
  3. Finish the edges if necessary.
  4. Optional: Attach a pin (for older children) or button (for younger children, over age 3) on the former waistband (now the neck) so it looks like it’s fastened, even though that’s not necessary.
  5. Send your superhero out to play!

Blessings,

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Art from Recyclables

We have a saying in our home: “We don’t play with garbage.” Generally speaking, this applies to everything – paper trash, cans, “real” garbage, and anything in between. Around Christmastime, though, the older boys started turning paperboard boxes (think cereal) into sculptures. Munchkin started this trend with several models of the Eiffel Tower. He gifted some of them to neighbors, attached a piece of  yarn to the top of one to put on our tree as an ornament, and made a bigger one for Will’s home office. (Somehow, I’m missing pictures of the Eiffel Towers, unfortunately.)

Then Seahawk got in on the game. He made a model of the Space Needle, which now resides in his dad’s office as well.

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Finally, Munchkin made one of Big Ben.

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Since they finished the famous landmarks, they’ve moved on to making other things – primarily Star Wars ships (that’s what I’m told they are, anyway; not being into Star Wars, I don’t really know). They’ve purchased aluminum foil to make their creations “shiny,” and even though it’s messy, I like seeing their finished products.

They’ve done a really nice job with these sculptures. It’s really neat to see their creativity flow so well.

Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Snow Ballet

It’s not actually snowy where we live anymore, but these pictures show a really fun time that Small Fry and I had back when it was white. We’d just finished building a snowman together, and he wanted to practice some of the ballet moves that Seahawk had taught him (before he’d started taking his own class, which began in mid-January). It ended up looking like he was just doing jumping jacks. But he was having a blast, and that’s the most important thing!

Snow Ballet

Have a great weekend.

Blessings,

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Review and Giveaway: The Garden by Kari Jobe

I’m not a huge music person, but I knew that when this opportunity came up, my husband would be very interested – he’s a huge fan of Kari Jobe. I was right, and since this is more his forte than mine, I’m going to let him take over the official review portion of this post. First, though, allow me to give a bit of background.

The Garden by Kari Jobe CD Review and Giveaway #flyby #thegarden

(From the vendor)
Grammy nominated Kari Jobe is the premiere female worship leader in Christian music. Coming off her last live album, Majestic, which featured the worship anthem Forever and radio hit I Am Not Alone, Kari Jobe has returned to the studio to record her new album, The Garden, full of brand new worship anthems for the church and for personal reflection. Finding inspiration from life’s joys and hardships, Kari leans into the firm foundation of Christ through it all.

And now, here is Will’s review.

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As Wendy mentioned, I was excited for the chance to get an early copy of the new Kari Jobe record. I’d first come across Kari Job after watching a Michael W. Smith video, and I liked a duet they did so much, I purchased his Sovereign album on vinyl, gave it to my dad, and purchased myself a second copy. While I work, I often run YouTube playlists of her Majestic live shows in the background and I purchased the Majestic Revisited album, which also gets steady play. It’s a tragedy that she hasn’t had a vinyl release yet. I’d be first in line.

This record is very different from Majestic Revisited in tone. I put this one in my player the moment it arrived, and listened straight through, then went back and listened again while reading the liner notes. This album is a lot more lush than the last album, but also a lot more subdued feeling. When I read the liner notes, I understood why:

The Garden is written from a place of lament. Kari Jobe writes that the album was crafted during a season of heartache and that the purpose of the new material is to shine a light on God’s goodness in our moments of despair.

This is unusual in modern Christian pop music, which tends to shy away from lament and focus on more radio friendly themes. Michael Card has commented on this as he notes that much of the scriptures are laments, and he wonders why Christian music neglects this. He’s not the only one to point this out. Fivethirtyeight.com did a complete breakdown on the blissful tenor of most Christian music which was eye-opening for me. Sometimes you don’t notice things until someone points them out for you.

Christian music used to have more laments. Rich Mullins would sing of the bittersweet nature of life and heartbreak. Keith Green would often sing of trials and sadness, especially of those he loved who shied away from God. Twila Paris’ Warrior is a Child comes to mind as another example.

These days it’s not as common.

So, from that side of things, I think the album serves an important purpose in the current music scene. But, with that in mind, it’s not a happy sounding album. If you’re looking for a pop album full of catchy songs, this is not going to do it for you. It’s not that kind of album. It has a lot of beautiful instrumentation, and Kari does a great job with the vocals. From what I’ve seen of her live shows, I can imagine that the road show will be amazing. She knows just how to stage things to really connect with certain emotions. But, these songs are not your traditional pop fare. It’s epic feeling, but there’s not a lot of hooks going on. These songs won’t get stuck in your head.

Some art (books, movies, music) catches your attention immediately. Others take a bit to get into and fully appreciate. But, sometimes, the investment pays off and you find that they become your favorites and become part of you in a way that most things never can.

This album has that potential.

If you’re looking for something a little more mature, and different than your typical Top 40 fare, put this one on. Give it more than a surface listen. Keep it in your player for awhile. The album is about The Garden. Give it time to grow.

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If you’re interested in having your very own copy of this CD, enter the giveaway below. The only requirement is to enter your email address (for contact purposes; I’ll never add you to any lists). The other options are for bonus entries only.

Blessings,

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Legal stuff:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Specific Links for this album:

Book Club: Beric the Briton

Book Club with Lori

Regrettably, I didn’t read this book. I gave it a try, but I just couldn’t get into it; it wasn’t my style at all. I encourage you to head over to Lori’s blog and read her thoughts, though.

For the March edition, we will be doing “freestyle,” meaning that Lori and I won’t be reading the same book. I’m going to be reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which Lori decided was too intense for her. I’m not sure what she’ll be reading. In April, we’ll be posting about John Grisham’s new book, The Whistler.

Happy Weekend!

Blessings,

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