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.

116474E7-BDC3-49B3-B27D-355FE8B22D5A

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,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

 

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

Meet the Family: Scorpion

Meet the Family: Scorpion

It took me a while to get this post done because my second son took a long time deciding what he wanted his nickname to be. 

Meet Scorpion. 

BC809F8B-9DAB-4AE0-B7E4-FB767844007C

He is 13 years old, and his main interests are dancing (ballet, tumbling, and Irish) and animation. He has been taking tumbling class for 3 years, Irish for 1 1/2, and ballet just since September. He recently started being super into animation thanks to free iPad apps. He makes at least one new animation each week. We bought him the “king of all animation books” (according to my husband), and he’s been reading that like crazy. It’s written by “Frank and Ollie,” two of the original Disney animators, and Scorpion has learned a lot from it. It’s clear he’s been reading it carefully because his animations are getting better and better the more he reads and learns.

He is also a voracious reader, though not as much as he used to be. Sometimes when I don’t have time to read a book that we need to review, he will write those posts for me. His first one will be later this week.

Blessings, 

ladybug-signature-3 copy

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. 

4C919F20-CEA4-443B-89A9-A4EDA7A136B2

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,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 


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!

Christian Apologetics: a TOS review

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

 
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working through The Unbreakable Faith Course from Pilgrim’s Rock, LLC. As you can surmise from my post title, this is a course on Christian Apologetics (defending the faith), and it is very well done.

6F192806-43F5-4305-9640-2654E0232C24The course consists of video lessons and two textbooks: The Box and God the Reason, both written by series creator Craig Biehl. The books (called “textbooks,” but formatted like and as easy to read as novels) are available either as physical copies or PDF ebooks. The video lessons are online. The course is self-paced, but required to be completed within 36 weeks (one standard school year). The course is designed for teens 15+ and adults, and complete enough to earn your teen one high school credit. 

B2EC8C51-1871-4165-B551-6CF8157E33EEThe course has 6 parts, each one with required reading from the texts and several videos. There is a quiz at the end of each part. Like any high school or college course, the best place to start is with the syllabus, and The Unbreakable Faith Course has a very complete one that goes over the expectations, grading scale, and course calendar very clearly.

The first assignment was to read The Box in its entirety. This was easily done because, like I mentioned before, it reads like a novel. The book forms the foundation of the course, and is interesting to read because it has many “conversations” between two characters, called Mr. A (atheist) and Mr. C (Christian). There are some interesting points made by Mr. C, but the one I found most compelling was that atheism requires just as much, if not more, faith as Christianity. The only difference is where that faith lies.

AC112BB1-C59D-4079-BB3B-5095DA77F824Once you finish reading The Box, you work through God the Reason and the video lessons. The videos are usually in the 10-13 minute range, and I usually watched either after the kids were in bed or while I was cooking dinner. Those are typically the only times I had a few minutes to myself (as other moms understand!). The information contained therein was really solid, and I enjoyed the singing of hymns at the beginning and end of each one.

Overall, I think this is a very complete course, and definitely doesn’t skimp on information. I can understand how it earns a full credit for high schoolers!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 


Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing The Unbreakable Faith Course this week too. Head over to the Crew blog to find links to those reviews; if you’re even a little curious about this course, you don’t want to miss the other reviews! 

Crochet Ripple Blanket

A few days ago, I finished making this crochet blanket. I absolutely loved making it; the colors are so pleasant, and the pattern was easily memorized, so it was great for show-watching and car-riding. There are countless versions of the pattern online (I’m guessing it’s one of the oldest crochet patterns around), but I followed the one by Jayda in Stitches on YouTube. My blanket is 10 repeats wide (140 stitches, 144 starting chains), and 3 repeats plus one segment tall. I consider each height repeat to be 8 rows of gray, 4 teal, 8 black, 4 teal. I finished it out with 8 rows of gray, because otherwise it felt like I’d “stopped” rather than “finished.”

D1AE9DE8-5DF9-46C1-A168-06CF637FBF98
Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy 

Meet the Family: Ballet Boy

When I asked the kids what they wanted their new “blog names” to be, our oldest chose Ballet Boy. It’s rather fitting, seeing as though dance is his main “P.E” and extracurricular right now.  So, without further ado, let’s meet Ballet Boy.

A025C4DC-D93D-4E6E-A991-8F06B08C036C

Ballet Boy is 16, and besides ballet (he’s been the lead role in three ballers now, including having been The Nutcracker twice) his main interest right now is medieval weaponry. He’s been doing loads of research and has started collecting swords. In fact, he’s even started making his own! He spends about half his schooldays in my homeschool, and the other half working with/for his dad. As he’s matured, he’s become a fantastic sounding board for ideas, and an invaluable part of Will’s team.

2659CF12-11F1-4D81-AD3C-B4065895361ABallet Boy is a remarkable young man, wise beyond his years (usually), and incredibly responsible. He’s been our go-to babysitter since he was 13, and it’s so nice being able to trust him in that capacity. 

Will does a lot the assigning for Ballet Boy’s school, and under his guidance, our son is learning Earth science and reading Machiavelli’s The Prince (besides the things I assign him as well). They have rousing discussions (so I’ve heard) about his readings. 

In addition to sword making and ballet, he has recently shown an interest in learning to sew; I got a new sewing machine a few days ago, so we’ve had a couple of lessons. 

I think that’s it for Ballet Boy for now. 

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Meet the Family: Will

1BF57B79-27B2-44D3-AAEE-A63CB2D7A3B2

Will and I have been married for 19 years. He runs a publishing and graphic design company. The publishing side deals with his own books (he draws comics and writes and illustrates picture books). He also has a magazine, which features comics, stories, and non-fiction profiles. The goal of the magazine is to promote art and literacy in schools. As such, he offers copies free to schools for their students.

The graphics side focuses on helping other self-published authors get their books ready for print. He takes the text and illustrations (when applicable) and sets up the appropriate title pages, fonts, etc.

Outside of work, his favorite books are Cold Mountain and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. He enjoys mobster movies and spy shows. His favorite beverage is iced tea, and one of our regular date nights is to hit our favorite restaurant, sometimes just to drink tea and talk.

Though he works hard, he also likes to play hard. He isn’t opposed to getting down on the floor to play horsie with the little kids or grabbing a Nerf gun to shoot the teenagers.

He is a great interior designer; our home is beautiful because of his eye, not mine. He prefers his music on vinyl, as is proof by our collection of nearly 200 records.

I am blessed to get to spend my life with him.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Meet the Family: Me

Because I took a long break from blogging, I though it might be a good idea to introduce my family. I’ll do one member a week until we’re all done, and will likely give the three older boys new “blog nicknames,” so if you’ve been here a while, don’t get confused when that happens. (Their current names were chosen many years ago, and their interests/sizes have changed, which was how I chose the names in the first place. Since I’m kind of starting fresh, it makes sense to do so fully.)

Let’s start with me!

I don’t like to spend much time in front of the camera, so you won’t see me often, but here I am.

I don’t like to spend much time in front of the camera, so you won’t see me often, but here I am.

My name is Wendy. I’ve been married for 19 years, and together my husband and I have 5 boys, ages 16, 13, 7, 4, and 1. I’ve been blessed to be able to stay home with my boys since the day our oldest was born. (Actually, I quit my job 3 weeks before he was born.) Four of my boys have been born via c-section, and while I was crushed when I was having my first one (with our second son, an emergency), I actually don’t mind them anymore. The first time we got to “choose” a birthday it was weird, but it’s kind of par for the course now. We have chosen to homeschool our boys, and to help with that I’m a member of the Homeschool Review Crew.

My hobbies are knitting and crocheting. I go back and forth between the two fairly regularly. I like knitting for anything that will be worn, and crocheting for things like blankets and toys. I’ve made many things in many categories over the years. I used to make quilts, but (almost) 3 years ago I got rid of my sewing machine. I’ve recently been bitten by the quilting bug, though, and hope to get a new sewing machine soon.

I sometimes enjoy reading, but it is more for work than recreation these days because I do copy editing for my husband’s publishing company. I also enjoy writing, and a recent children’s story I wrote was published in my husband’s magazine and distributed to over 10,000 elementary and middle school kids.

My favorite animals are elephants (though ladybugs are second place). My favorite colors are pink and brown. 

I think that’s it for now. I’m sure you’ll learn more about me as you continue to spend time here.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy