Jan 042012
 

As classical educators, we’ve invested a lot of our school-time studying Latin. There are many reasons why we’ve chosen Latin as our primary language to study, but we’ve always planned on adding Spanish to our curriculum later. (We did introduce some Spanish early with programs like Jump Start Spanish. And my younger daughter is completely addicted to Dora at the moment, and she’s picking up some Spanish there.)

Recently my older daughter (6th grade) has expressed an interest in adding another language to her studies. When I got the opportunity to review REAL Homeschool Spanish as a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was excited for her!

Homeschool SpanishHomeschool Spanish is designed specifically for the homeschool family to learn Spanish together! It is suitable for elementary and middle school aged children with a high school supplement to be available soon. The curriculum is divided up into units that focus on specific groups of vocabulary words. For example, Unit 1 covers various greetings and asking and answering the question “How are you?”. Unit 2 introduces colors and numbers. It is very hands-on and filled with ideas to incorporate learning Spanish into every day.

The curriculum includes a book, activity book, answer book, and audio files. There is also a Daily Curriculum Guide available. The materials are currently available as a download for $49.95 without the curriculum guide and $59.95 including the guide. The hardcopy book with CD’s for the activity book, answer key, and audio files is $89.95 without the curriculum guide and $99.95 with the guide. You can see more details about the various purchasing options at RealHomeschoolSpanish.com.

I think this curriculum is well laid out. The Daily Curriculum Guide, although not essential, is extremely helpful for implementation since it suggests activities for every day. It does move fairly slowly though, so if you wish to complete the curriculum at a faster pace, you may not find it as helpful. The audio files are absolutely essential for this Southern, non-Spanish speaking mom. The file names make it easy to locate the correct mp3, and the files are divided into separate folders for the book and activity book. The activity book has a variety of puzzles like crosswords and cryptoquotes to practice the vocabulary words. Younger students may have difficulty with these activities. The curriculum includes a wide variety of ideas for practicing the vocabulary such as puppets, board games, journaling, and drawing comics. These ideas vary enough to appeal to students with different learning styles.

If you’re looking for a Spanish curriculum for your children to work on entirely independently, this is not it. But if you’re looking for a gentle, hands-on, incremental approach to learning Spanish for your entire family, you should definitely consider R.E.A.L Homeschool Spanish. You can download samples to see the layout and hear the audio before you buy.

Disclosure: I received R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
You can read what other members of the Homeschool Crew think of Homeschool Spanish on the Homeschool Crew blog.

 


By Kristen H.
Nov 182011
 

I’ve shared some about the difficulties my middle son (9years old) has had with reading, among other things. Because of his difficulties, I’ve done a fair amount of research on dyslexia. Since he displays many of the classic signs of dyslexia, I’ve been trying to implement strategies used in teaching reading to dyslexics. One important method is repeated reading of a passage. This repeated reading increases the reader’s fluency, allowing for greater reading comprehension and better vocal expression. Repeated reading is one of the strategies that I had not yet tried, but I had planned to in the future.

About Read Live–

When members of the Homeschool Crew were given the opportunity to review Read Live, an on-line reading program developed by Read Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. (I may have even begged.) The Read Naturally strategy consists of 3 main elements: Teacher Modeling, Repeated Reading, and Progress Monitoring. Read Naturally is a proven company that is celebrating 20 years of business this year. Read Live is a more recent, on-line version of their proven program and can be used with struggling students of all ages; from first grade through adult. The on-line version allows the student to listen to the passage being read and practice reading the passage without constant teacher interaction. The program is designed for classroom use, and I can see how it would be a tremendous help in providing differentiated instruction to students with varying needs.

As a homeschooler, I’m already differentiating instruction for all my students. But it is very difficult at times to attend to the needs of all my children. I’m often being pulled, quite literally, in 5 directions. So an on-line program helps me by providing instruction that doesn’t have to come directly from me.

I placed my son in the Sequenced Series which focuses on fluency development, vocabulary, and comprehension. There is also a Phonics Series which also improves fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension in addition to working on decoding, but I felt that he is getting plenty of practice with phonics and chose to focus on the other aspects of reading right now.

Upon logging in, the student sees a screen like this one.

After selecting the story, he first is given key words to learn.

Then the student reads the passage, and the program records the reading speed. This is the Cold Timing Step.

The student must listen to the story being read and read along for a minimum of 3 times. After that, the student reads the story again while being timed. Each time he reads it, he marks how far he read in the allotted time by clicking on the last word read. When the pre-determined reading rate goal is reached, the student is allowed to continue. Then there is a brief quiz to check for comprehension, as well as a section to retell the story. Finally, the teacher is required to view the student’s work and makes the decision to pass the student allowing him to choose another story, or continue working on the current story.

What we think–

As I mentioned, this program is designed for classroom use. Setting up the account was a bit cumbersome for one student. I am the school administrator. I also had to make myself the teacher with another user id and password and then assign my student to my class.  Read Naturally did provide thorough instructions to guide me through the process as well as additional help and video tutorials on-line. I was still confused for a while, but after the initial set-up I haven’t had any more difficulties.

Using the program itself is simple. My son was able to figure out what he was supposed to do with little input from me. We didn’t experience any technical difficulties with the program either.

The story selections consist of various science and history topics. My son has completed stories about the sun and polar bears. The history/biography selections are rather politically correct: Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Earhart, George Washington Carver, and Susan B. Anthony are the only ones available on my son’s level. I guess that’s to be expected in a program designed for use in the public schools.

The voice reading the stories may be annoying to some. It bothered my older son, but that was solved by using headphones so he didn’t have to hear it. (I should note that just about everything bothers my older son.)

I didn’t like that the quiz required at least one answer to be typed in by the student, nor did I like the retelling portion of the program for my son. I do see the value at more advanced levels. But I discovered that these can be skipped by just typing a word or two in the space and moving on. The teacher gets to decide whether or not to pass my student. So I can choose to skip the retelling, or have him orally narrate to me while I type.

My son does not like doing the lessons. However, I do not choose curriculum based solely on what my children like. I love seeing his reading speed increase as he practices the stories! I am also seeing improvement in his reading outside the program, both fluency and comprehension. It’s impossible to say how much of the credit for his reading improvement is due to Read Live. It could be a total coincidence, but I doubt it.

Will I continue with Read Live? Probably not now because of the expense. But the program has helped me to see the benefit of repeated reading. If I am unable to implement repeated reading in another manner, I would definitely consider this option.

You can read more reviews of Read Live at the Homeschool Crew blog. Read Naturally Live also offers a 60 day free trial. A 12-month subscription for one child is $149.

PhotobucketDisclosure: As a member of the Homeschool Crew,  I received a trial of Read Live in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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By Kristen H.
May 312010
 

As a classical educator, though somewhat relaxed, we have made Latin a consistent subject in our homeschool. While many people do not see the value of teaching Latin, especially in the elementary years, I have found the study of Latin enhances English vocabulary and provides tremendous reinforcement of grammar concepts. Not only that, but I think studying Latin helps to teach systematic thinking and even problem solving, as students have to attack unfamiliar words and determine not only their meanings, but how they’re being used in the sentence. I am very familiar with two elementary Latin programs that are widely used in homeschools. (My oldest son has used one program and my oldest daughter another. This was not because of my dissatisfaction with the first program, but the second was more suited to my daughter’s learning style and personality.) I had not heard of The Great Latin Adventure until about 1 year ago, after both of my older children were well into their respective programs.

The Great Latin Adventure, a two-year introductory Latin course that can be taught to students beginning as early as the 3rd or 4th grade, is published by Classical Legacy Press. It has been successfully used in homeschools, homeschool co-ops, and Christian schools alike. The series uses the classical pronunciation, but can be modified for ecclesiastical. It requires no prior exposure to Latin, but the student should know some basic English grammar such as nouns, verbs, prepositions, and adjectives, and be able to identify sentence subjects and predicates before starting the curriculum. The teacher also does not need to have prior knowledge of Latin to teach this program, but will learn along with the student.

It is so helpful when a curriculum clearly states not only the strengths of the program, but also states from the beginning what the program is not. I am going to quote the summary from the very first page of the teacher’s manual.

The Great Latin Adventure is for Latin beginners in grades 3 or 4 and up. It’s suited to new as well as experienced teachers. Challenging yet incremental, it’s rich in imaginative translation – from and into Latin. Well-written derivative exercises are built into each chapter. Classical pronunciation is taught, and macrons are provided. The Great Latin Adventure is for every educational setting: for homeschools, homeschool co-ops and schools. Thoughtful features make it a pleasure to use. And The Great Latin Adventure supports the goals of Christian parenting.

The Great Latin Adventure is not a self-teaching program or a video program. It’s not a primarily oral or conversational program, nor is it an immersion program. It isn’t a vocabulary-forms-and-chants program. It’s neither an inductive program, nor a program steeped in any king of educational novelty. And it makes no attempt to be a Roman culture or history program.

My thoughts:

The Great Latin Adventure is unlike any other Latin program I have seen. The first difference to mention is the thorough Teacher’s Manual. The Level 1 manual is 454 pages long! It is not an answer key, though it does contain the answers to all the worksheets and quizzes, but really is a manual instructing you how to teach the material. It has a suggested schedule for how to present the material in each chapter. There are even helpful hints on how to use the manual and an explanation of the page numbering system. The notes are much more detailed than any other program I have used. However, I don’t want to imply that there is too much information in the manual. I randomly chose chapter 7 and counted the pages. It contains 7-1/2 pages of teacher notes. Since there are only 12 chapters in Year 1, that is not an overwhelming amount of reading for the teacher to prepare to teach.

The other huge difference between The Great Latin Adventure and other programs is that it only teaches the first declension noun endings and first conjugation verbs (plus an irregular verb). I realize that if you’re not familiar with Latin you have no idea what that means. To put it as simply as possible, Latin is a language where the ending of a word changes depending on its function in the sentence. That’s not like English at all. In English the function is determined by word order. For example,

The boy loves the girl.

The girl loves the boy.

In the first sentence, boy is the subject and girl is the direct object, while in the second sentence, girl is the subject, and boy is the direct object. In Latin, the word order is not what determines the function of the word; the ending determines the function of the word.

Here are the same sentences in Latin.

Puer amat puellam.

Puella amat puerum.

In the first sentence, puer is the word for boy as a subject and puellam is the word for girl as the direct object. In the second sentence puella is the word to use for girl and puerum for boy. In addition to using different endings for the different cases, there are 5 different declensions in Latin. While puella is a first declension noun, puer is a second declension noun, so the endings are different.

Why did I teach this mini Latin lesson? Other elementary Latin programs have the student memorizing endings for at least several of the 5 declensions. (There are 10 endings for each declension.) There is a lot of emphasis placed on memorizing all these different endings. There is not as much emphasis placed on how all the different cases function in a sentence. (Some programs have more than others. One of the programs we’re using has more translation exercises than the other.) The Great Latin Adventure teaches only first declension endings (It does introduce some vocabulary from other declensions, but makes sure to use it only in the case that is used in the vocabulary list.) I find this a very intriguing difference. Is it better to go into more advanced Latin having all your endings memorized, or is it better to have a thorough understanding of the uses of the different cases? I can certainly see the arguments for both sides, but understanding material is, on the whole, much more useful than memorizing. And things that are memorized can be forgotten.

The only possible disadvantage that I find with this program is that it requires teacher input. This is not self-teaching, nor is there a video. So it does require the teacher to be prepared to teach and actually put Latin high enough on the priority list to ensure that time is made to teach it to the student. That is not necessarily a disadvantage, but it could be difficult to implement in a large family if you are unable to combine students.

The Great Latin Adventure can be purchased on the Classical Legacy Press website. The Level 1 Teacher’s Manual is $30 and the Student Book is $15. Both are loose leaf pages and are sold without binders. (You can order them with binders for an extra cost.) Also included is a pronunciation CD. The Level 2 materials are priced that same. You can read what other Crew members think at the Homeschool Crew Blog.

Linked to: The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.


By Kristen H.
May 262010
 

Last fall when I was doing my Christmas shopping (on-line, of course), I found a sale on a set of 4 historical fiction books. Although I was not familiar with the author, I decided to purchase them for my almost 10 year old daughter because she is crazy about historical fiction, especially books about girls and American history. Those books were the first 4 books in the Andrea Carter series by Susan K. Marlow.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Kregel Publications was sending me the 5th book in the series to review. My daughter really likes the books, but she didn’t want to read this one yet because she hasn’t finished the first 4 books. (She tends to read several different books at once, making it take her a while to finish any of them.) So I was introduced to Andrea in The Trouble with Treasure.

Andi is an almost 13 year old tomboy. She lives on a large cattle ranch near Fresno, California in the 1880′s. It’s an exciting time to live in California, and Andrea likes nothing more than being outdoors and riding her horse Taffy. Andrea’s friend Jenny is visiting for several weeks, and they are both excited about their upcoming trip to a logging camp with her older brother Mitch.

Unfortunately they ran into trouble on the trail. First a rattlesnake delayed their progress, and later they met up with some very frightening men. Andi is required to use strength and determination that she didn’t know she had.

I found Andi to be a likable girl. She honored her mother and sought to do what was right. But she did that without the book seeming preachy. The story was an exciting adventure with a little bit of mystery thrown in. The book wasn’t overwhelmingly Christian, but there were instances of prayer. Although not overly graphic, there were some tense portions of the book involving guns in which people were fatally wounded. I didn’t find the content objectionable, but some families might.

You can read other Crew reviews of The Trouble with Treasure at the Homeschool Crew Blog.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.


By Kristen H.
May 242010
 

Handwriting is simple to teach. You just hand the kid a pencil and paper, show them how to form the letters, and then it’s just a matter of practice, right? Maybe that’s true some of the time, but some children will never be able to write without a lot of effort, if they’ve learned to write by visually copying models.

I have always used a handwriting program with my children as they’ve learned to write. The one that I have used actually did emphasize the strokes, but I didn’t really understand the importance of the strokes until I had a conference with Rand Peterson, the creator of the Peterson Directed Handwriting system. Handwriting needs to be automatic. If a child has to think about how to form each letter, then it will be a very laborious process writing words.

The Peterson Directed Handwriting curriculum emphasizes internalizing the letter strokes. New strokes and letters are first practiced in the air using large muscles. Then the student traces the letters with his fingers while saying the motion. Finally the student writes the letters again while reciting the motion. The end result is fluent handwriting.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you probably know that it has been a big struggle teaching my 8 year old son just about everything. Reading has been particularly difficult and after much research, I am fairly certain that he is dyslexic. He has also struggled with writing and I’ve seen very little improvement with time. After talking to Rand, I realized that among other things, he was gripping his pencil too tightly and was writing too slowly in an effort to copy the letters.

So we started with a fluency test. For the test, I instructed him to write as much of the alphabet as he could for 1 minute.  (I neglected to mention that I meant lower case.) He does know his alphabet well, so he did not waste time having to think of the next letter. Here are his initial results.

I knew it would be bad, but not this bad. It’s difficult to believe that he has been working on handwriting for almost 3 years!

I started using Peterson Directed Handwriting and did another fluency test after 11 school days.

I know it’s not terrific, but the improvement was a tremendous motivator for both of us. We continued with the program for 14 more school days and he took this fluency test.

This is a different type of fluency test using words. Again, the improvement I see is very exciting. He was able to write many more letters than either of the previous tests.

I am very excited to have found a program that really seems to be helping my son learn to write. I will definitely be continuing to use Peterson Directed Handwriting with him.

Do I think that every child needs this handwriting system? Probably not.

Do I think that every child could benefit from this method? I think most children could benefit from this method. However, I think that some children internalize the letter strokes naturally, but for those that haven’t, this is a very valuable teaching method.

We have been using the PDF version of Peterson Handwriting. This is available for $19.95 per level on the Peterson website. You can find more reviews of Peterson Directed Handwriting at the Homeschool Crew Blog.

*Stay tuned for how I’m using Peterson Directed Handwriting to retrain my left-handed daughter who has a terrible pencil grip. So far she’s been resistant to change, but I’m hoping to work on her pencil grip over the summer when she doesn’t have much writing to do.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.


By Kristen H.
May 222010
 

AP US Govt and PoliticsThe Cerebellum Corporation is a leading producer and distributor of educational programming. Their Light Speed Learning collection topics each consist of a fast-paced video production and a digital workbook. I received the U.S. Gov and Politics AP Exam Prep video to review.

The DVD is 73 minutes long and consists of? 3 main sections. The first section, Taking the Test, describes the AP test, providing details like how many questions are on the test and what topics are covered. The actors share test taking strategies including whether guessing on the multiple choice questions is good idea. The second section discusses the free response section of the AP test. There is information provided about what sorts of topics you might be required to write on and strategies for the free response portion. The final chapter of the video is called 30 in 30. During this portion of the video, 30 important U.S. government and politics topics are reviewed for the student in 30 minutes.

In addition to the DVD portion of the program, there is a digital workbook. Included on this CD is a several page summary of the more important information covered in AP US Government. Following this summary there are several different tests that include multiple choice, true/false, matching, and free response questions. Also included are solutions to these tests.

I have never taken an AP exam, nor have I taken a course in U.S. Government and Politics so I cannot make any claims about how adequate this review is. It seems to be a good overview provided in a short time. It would not be adequate preparation for an AP exam without previously covering the material in a class. That is of course, not the intent of the program. I liked the fast pace of the video. No one person talks for very long at a time, and the screen rapidly changes between a person speaking and a related graphic. I think it would be able to hold a student’s interest enough to provide effective review. The practice quizzes also look like they cover a wide range of topics to help review the student. The program is only $14.98 (and is currently on sale for $11.24) at the Cerebellum Corporation website. That seems very reasonable for the amount of content. You can find more reviews of the Light Speed AP Exam Prep videos at the Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.


By Kristen H.
May 102010
 

I’ve received a lot of fun curriculum products as a member of the Homeschool Crew. And I really like curriculum, but I have to share the curriculum with my children. Beeyoutiful sent us some products just for us, the homeschool moms. (Or any woman, of course.) I know that I spend very little time on my own appearance, and rarely take the time to pamper myself. So it was nice to have an excuse to.

I received the following 2 products from Beeyoutiful. I’ve copied the product descriptions from their website.

Laveshmint Hydrating Toner is the ultimate culmination of clean refreshment. Made with certified organic Aloe Vera, Laveshmint’s astringent properties naturally close the pores after cleansing. Aloe Vera leaves skin hydrated and gently restores proper pH balance. To top this off, we’ve added a unique blend of lavender and peppermint essential oils to cool sunburns, cleanse wounds, and uplift your countenance. With its captivating fragrance, Lavender has sedative and deep relaxational qualities, as well as being renowned for helping all manner of skin irritations. Cool and tingly on your skin, Peppermint essential oil is an incredible aid for acne, dermatitis, fever, headaches, and mental strain. Together, the all-natural ingredients in Laveshmint have manifold functions and endless applications. Just spray it on your skin and feel the cooling refreshment wash over you.

Laveshmint Daily Moisturizer

Laveshmint is Beeyoutiful’s soothing new moisturizer that hydrates and nourishes with the power of pure Aloe Vera. It has the same PH level as distilled water and is perfect for daily use over your entire face and body. It is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Aloe has been used for centuries to help repair dry and damaged skin, soothe burns, and relieve irritations. Grapeseed is a light oil which quickly disappears into the skin without leaving a greasy residue, while Coconut oil is known for its skin nourishing and softening qualities.

 

Laveshment is refreshingly scented with pure lavender and peppermint essential oils, creating a cool, tingly sensation on your skin. Lavender gently helps to repair damaged skin and relaxes the nerves, while peppermint leaves you feeling clean, uplifted, and invigorated. Laveshmint is best used after gently cleansing the face and neck and toning with Laveshmint hydrating toner. Although created as a facial moisturizer, Laveshmint feels great on any part of your body, especially tired feet! Just keep it away from eyes and mucous membranes, as peppermint can sting on these areas.

My thoughts:

I liked both of these products. The toner feels refreshing to the skin without leaving it feeling dry or tight. I found it a little difficult to use in a spray bottle for my face, so I usually sprayed it on a cotton ball, and applied it that way. I also sprayed it on a minor sunburn and it soothed the burn. It does have a strong lavender scent. I personally like it, but some people might find it too strong. The moisturizer is very light and not greasy feeling. It also smells very nice. I didn’t find the moisturizer to be as soothing as the toner, but I imagine it would be more so to dry skin.

You can order these products from Beeyoutiful. The toner is $14.00 for a 4 oz. bottle. The moisturizer sells for $12.00 for a 4 oz. jar. You can read more reviews of Beeyoutiful products at the Homeschool Crew Blog.


Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.

By Kristen H.