Jun 062014
 

Homeschool Kindergarten Curriculum

I had the opportunity to talk with a friend at church who will be beginning to homeschool her oldest son for kindergarten this fall.  She was interested in hearing my recommendations for homeschool kindergarten curriculum. In my opinion, kindergarten should be kept simple. For formal school I recommend phonics, handwriting, and math. This conversation occurred several years ago, but I revisited this post and found my recommendations are still the same.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Phonics:

So far I’ve taught 4 kids to read and I’ve used 3 different phonics programs, plus some on-line resources.

Alpha Phonics – This spiral bound book is a simple, no-frills phonics program. The pages are white with handwritten style lettering. The text uses word families to teach reading. For example, the student would learn -at, then add letters to the beginning of -at to make cat, hat, fat, mat, and bat.  In addition to word lists, there are pages with sentences throughout the book. (Read my complete review.)

Phonics Pathways – This is also a simple phonics program.  There are cartoon drawings on many of the pages. This book teaches reading using syllables and spelling patterns. Instead of learning -at with an m in front is mat,  Phonics Pathways begins with teaching the syllable ma- then adding a -t to the end.

Happy Phonics – For William I had to think differently, because he is so different from my older children. First, he wasn’t really overly interested in learning to read. Second, he doesn’t sit still very well. When I tried the first 2 books with him, I couldn’t even get him to focus on the page. After doing a little research, I discovered Happy Phonics. Happy Phonics consists of lots and lots of colorful games, cards, and small booklets to learn phonics. For the first time, I was able to get my son to look at the letters. It definitely requires more teacher prep than the other programs -the program comes printed on cardstock, with all the cutting to be done by the teacher – but it was a worthwhile investment for us. This program uses mainly the word family approach to reading.

Explode the Code – I used this fun workbook program with William in addition to Happy Phonics. I also used Explode the Code with Anna as a supplement to Phonics Pathways and with Lizzie as a supplement to on-line programs. These workbooks provide excellent reinforcement to the phonics concepts being taught in most phonics programs. They have funny line drawings and silly sentences. These books require the student to write. There is also on on-line version available.

Ideally, I would have used either Phonics Pathways or AlphaPhonics with Lizzie. But I never got a chance because she already knew how to read! She did use 2 different on-line programs. I think that she learned to read with those along with her natural readiness to learn. I’ve heard of children teaching themselves to read. I would not go so far as to claim that, but she’s definitely come the closest. She used both Reading Eggs and Reading Kingdom. Links are to my reviews of those programs.

 

Handwriting:

Handwriting without Tears – This is the only handwriting program I’ve ever used for kindergarten. Designed by an occupational therapist, the approach to writing is very logical and sequential. Each letter is broken down into its component parts, and similar letters are learned together. All the capital letters can be written using long lines, short lines, small curves, and large curves. The basic program consists of a workbook and a slate. There are many additional accessories that are available and I’ve added to our collection over the years. I especially liked the wooden letter pieces for William. He used the letter pieces and the letter cards and learned all his letters in about a month.

Math:

Earlybird Kindergarten – I used this math program with William. (Not exactly this version, this is the new U.S. Standards version.) The text contains colorful pictures and is a fun introduction to numbers, counting, shapes, addition, and subtraction. I used the textbooks alone without the teacher’s guide.

Miquon Math – For David, Anna, and Lizzie, I used Miquon Orange for their math curriculum in kindergarten. This is a unique program, that is discovery based. It makes extensive use of Cuisenaire Rods. They all both loved this program. William really loves using the rods, but there are some portions of Miquon that I have found to be too abstract for him.

Miquon Orange is technically a first grade program, but I used it is conjunction with Singapore 1A to ensure that we thoroughly covered beginning concepts before encountering too advanced problems. Using both programs allowed for variety at a slower pace.


Singapore 1A
– Singapore Math is a math program that stresses understanding of mathematical concepts from the beginning. Story problems are introduced early and are very thoroughly taught. I use both the textbook and workbook, but have not invested in the teacher’s guides.

Reading:

Add in a library card and a variety of books, and you have everything you need for kindergarten. Here’s a list of great picture books from the 1000 Good Books list.

But, if I were starting again with my oldest child in kindergarten, I would probably also add Five in a Row. I didn’t use it when we were starting out, but had an opportunity to review it with my younger son this past year. It is a unit study curriculum revolving around terrific picture books for younger children. You can read my complete review here.


By Kristen H.
Jan 052014
 

Welcome to the Virtual Curriculum Fair!

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This week’s topic is Playing with Words.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I only link to products that I have tried and found to be of high quality. Every child is different, and some of the resources that I have loved using with one child have not worked well for others.

What a massive topic this is. As I have thought about it, words are probably the single-most important foundation of learning.

A preschool child first begins to recognize letters,

which they learn have associated sounds,

which are joined to make words.

AndrewLetter-2

Those words are joined together to make sentences. Sentences form paragraphs and so on to stories and books.

So we spend much time learning to decode with phonics. At the same time we learn to build words with our spelling lessons.

We practice reading aloud. We read silently. I read books out loud. We answer questions and draw pictures about what we read.

We add simple grammar early on.

And Latin.

I teach writing very gently at first using copywork and dictation with some narration thrown in.

We participate in a book club which gives the children a chance to write about what they read and present it to others.

As the children grow, we add in more formal grammar, formal writing, Latin, and more Latin.

They read more literature and think about (and sometimes talk and write about) the messages conveyed.

And when they graduate, hopefully our children can read, think about what they read, draw conclusions, make arguments, and present those arguments in a well-structured, grammatically correct, properly spelled and punctuated paper which can be presented in front of others confidently, with good eye contact and voice inflection.

I don’t expect much, do I?

Here is last year’s post on Loving Language Arts. It gives a more detailed history of what resources we have used and for which of our children.

Here are links to all the posts for this week’s session of the Virtual Curriculum Fair.

3 Reasons to Read to Your Teens by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Language Arts {Virtual Curriculum Fair} by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

A Classical Take on 6th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

The Power in a Word by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

The Latin Road to English Grammar Volume 1 by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

Starting a Foreign Language in Elementary School by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling

These are the words we say by Christa @ Fairfield Corner Academy

A Peek into our Homeschool: Language Arts by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ English by Renata~Sunnyside Farm Fun

Virtual Curriculum Fair: A World of Words by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Playing w/ Words-Charlotte Mason Style by Lynn P @ Ladybug Chronicles

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

Our PreK-1st Grade Language Arts Mix by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Fun (or Not) With Spelling by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Word Nerd Love by Lisa N@Golden Grasses

Our Favourite Resources For Teaching Elementary Language Arts by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Unconventional Reading Lessons While Homeschooling by Lori@My Journeys Through Life

My Favorite Writing Curriculum for our Boys by Monique @Living Life and Learning

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Playing With Words – Language Arts  by Stacie @Super Mommy To The Rescue

Fun With the Language Arts by Mary @ Winecup Christian Homeschool

Our Grammar Path by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Virtual Curriculum Fair !!! by Jessica @ Modest Mama

Creating a High School English Course (or two) by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Language Arts in Our Homeschool This Year by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Would you like to join? Enter your link below.

 


By Kristen H.
Aug 092013
 

Eleven years ago I attended my very first homeschool book fair. We had a just turned 4 year old boy, a 2 year old girl, and a 2 month old baby. Like many new homeschoolers, I was very enthusiastic about starting homeschooling, and I wanted to go ahead and have a “test” year to make sure that I could actually do it.

Looking back, I see why so many people have the idea or making preschool a test year, but  determining if you’re going to be able to homeschool using a 4 year old as a test subject is not particularly helpful. A lot of growth occurs between 4 and 5. And those younger kids that you’re worrying about keeping entertained  grow a lot in a year too.

Thankfully, we were cheap, poor, frugal so that took a lot of bright, shiny preschool programs out of consideration. That helped me by necessity to keep things simple.

After doing my research, a lot using the CBD Homeschool Catalog, I had determined there was 1 item I was definitely going to buy at the book fair. (Assuming I could find it. Boy did I have no idea what a crazy, big place I was heading into! )

That one thing was Alpha-Phonics.

Alpha-PhonicsAlpha-Phonics is a phonics-based  reading program that has short lessons. It’s a very gentle approach to learning to read using time-proven methods of reading instruction. You teach the sounds the letters make, and you put them together to sound out words. There is repetition, but not long lists of rules to memorize. It doesn’t require writing, which is great for young learners since fine motor skills for writing often lag behind reading readiness. And it is very affordable.

Eleven years ago, we taught David to read using Alpha-Phonics. He was only 4, but he was ready to learn. Anna was not ready to learn to read at 4, or at 5. She was almost 6 before she grasped the concept of blending sounds together to make words. And William was even older. Lizzie however, was another young reader. I didn’t even teach her to read. She learned from several different computer games and her older brother and sister. As a result, she is a little weak on sounding out words. So I’m going to be going through Alpha-Phonics with her to fill in the gaps.

When Alpha-Phonics contacted me to see if I wanted to review their updated program, I couldn’t refuse. The main  Alpha-Phonics text is unchanged from the version I purchased 11 years ago. But they’ve added some extras. In addition to the book, there is now a CD-ROM of the entire text included at the same low price. I’ve tried out the CD, and I liked listening to the author, Samuel L. Blumenfeld, discuss the development of the alphabet and phonics instruction. I think the CD has more value to someone who is using Alpha-Phonics in a classroom setting, but it might prove useful to be able to have the student read from the computer instead of the book just for the sake of variety. It’s not a computer game, it’s full screen images of every lesson in Alpha-Phonics, with teacher instructions, both written and recorded.

I also received the Companion Workbook and the Little Companion Readers.The Companion Workbook has simple exercises to reinforce the concepts learned in the Alpha-Phonics book. The exercises require very little writing so they would be useful for a younger learner. There is a guide that correlates the lessons in the book with the workbook.

The Little Companion Readers are also correlated with the Alpha-Phonics lessons. I have always found phonics readers helpful in those early stages of learning to read. Reading sentences helps with reading comprehension skills and proper voice inflection. It’s nice to have readers specifically linked to your phonics program so you know there are no surprises with letter sounds that haven’t yet been introduced.

I highly recommend Alpha-Phonics for beginning or remedial phonics instruction.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Alpha-Phonics, the Companion Workbook and Little Companion Readers in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.


By Kristen H.
Jan 072013
 

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair ButtonI’m participating in the Virtual Curriculum Fair at Homeschool Heart and Mind again this year because I can’t get enough curriculum talk!

This is our 10th year of homeschooling and during that time we’ve used a lot of different resources for language arts. Some I’ve used with more than one child, other things have been just what one particular child needed. I’ve linked to reviews of the products that I’ve written. Other links are to ChristianBook.com where you can see the price. (Those are affiliate links, so I will make a small amount of money if you make a purchase.)

Let’s start with Phonics!

With my oldest son David, we used  Alpha Phonics. He was ready to learn to read and this simple book was all he needed.

When my daughter Anna was ready to learn to read, I bought Phonics Pathways. Honestly there was no reason to switch from Alpha Phonics except that I like curriculum and Phonics Pathways was recommended (at that time) in The Well Trained Mind.

Both of these books are very similar with one major difference. Alpha Phonics teaches with word families cat, bat, fat, rat while Phonics Pathways starts at the beginning of the word and teaches starting syllables – ba, be, bi, bo, bu and then adds letter to the end making bat, bet, bit, and but.

Then came William. He has had a very difficult time learning to read. I tried both of the above resources with him with no success. I had some limited success with Happy Phonics, but what has been by far the single most helpful resource for his reading was All About Spelling. Yes,  I know it’s a spelling program, but it seemed like it was just the thing to help him to understand decoding words in reading.

With Lizzie I have been blessed. She has learned to read without me teaching her! Some of it was her older brother and sister working with her and some of it was working on various on-line programs like Starfall, Reading Kingdom, and Reading Eggs. But I think a lot of it was that she was ready to learn.

It’s still too early to predict anything about my just turned 2 year old. But if interest in letters and liking to be read to are any indications of ease in learning to read, he will be a cinch!

 

What about Grammar?

With my 2 older children I have used identical resources for grammar study. They both started out with First Language Lessons and followed that by several years worth of Rod & Staff English. They’re both finishing off their English grammar studies with Analytical Grammar. It’s a rigorous program, but I love the philosophy of the author. She contends that grammar is a content subject with a body of knowledge to learn. So rather than learning and relearning the same things every year, why not learn all the grammar and be done with it? It is very heavy on diagramming of sentences. I won’t lie and say that my children love this program. BUT they do love the fact that they don’t have to do daily grammar lessons all year long. They do their intensive lessons, occasional review, and they’re done.

With William I have been very slowly working through Rod & Staff. I can’t see him doing well with Analytical Grammar, so we will probably continue with Rod & Staff the whole way through. The repetition and review that made my older children long for Analytical Grammar will probably be a great help for him.

I have been working through First Language Lessons some with Lizzie this year, but I’m finding it a bit more repetitive than I remembered. We’re often going over 3 or 4 lessons in one sitting. One new resource that I’m really enjoying is StoryTime Treasures from Memoria Press. It is covering some grammar along with reading comprehension questions.

Don’t forget Latin!

We have been studying Latin for a long time in our homeschool. Maybe too long.

Do I regret starting early with my oldest?

No.

Could he have learned as much starting later?

Probably.

David used Classical Academic Press curriculum for Latin. He started with Latin for Children and completed A, B, and most of C. Then he moved on to Latin Alive. That didn’t go as well. He made it through book 1 and about half of book 2, but he really was struggling with the material. Part of it was my fault and not being more strict about drill. Part of it is his personality. He really is just not that interested in Latin. But this year I have found a course that he is enjoying much more: Visual Latin. We didn’t start all the way at the beginning, but we did back up a bit to insure that he got a good review.

With Anna, it has been completely different. She started in Latin for Children, but when I receive Latina Christiana to review, I switched her to that. It turns out that she thrives in the drill-heavy Memoria Press programs. If you’re trying to decide on a Latin program, you might find this comparison helpful.

If you’ve made it through my lengthy post, congratulations! Don’t miss reading other tips for teaching language arts. Here’s a list!

Nurturing Novelists = Building Strong Writers by Susan Anadale @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Building Blocks of Education–Learning to Read  by Kristi Kerr @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

Finding Our Way Through Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

How Does a Unit Study Teach Language Arts? by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Our Language Arts Adventure by Linda @ Homeschooling6

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words: The Language Arts by Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road

Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool

Writing Help in a Critical Thinking book? by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Foreign Language Immersion in the Homeschool by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch

Formula for Reading by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness

Words and Learning by Annette @ A Net In Time

A Custom Designed High School English Credit by Tech Wife @ A Playground of Words

Virtual Curriculum Fair 2013: Still Loving Language Arts by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots

Word Play by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Learning Language Arts ~ 2012-2013 School Year by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World

Virtual Curriculum Fair – The Language Arts Department by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Playing with Words:  The Language Arts by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy: The Story of Our Life

Playing with Words:  Language Arts by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs and Curriculum

What Language Arts looks like in our house – Are we doing it right? by Hillary M @ Our Homeschool Studio

Getting lost and finding our way in Language Artsby Piwi Mum @ Learning and growing the Piwi Way

 


By Kristen H.
Mar 042012
 

K5 Learning is an on-line program for students from kindergarten through grade 5. Designed to be used by students for after-school practice, it is also works well in a homeschool setting. K5 provides lessons in reading, spelling, math, and math fact drill.

I selected my almost 10 year old son to test K5 Learning. Officially, I say he is in 3rd grade. However, most of his skills are a bit behind 3rd grade. We received the program right as it was time for him to memorize the multiplication tables in math, so he spent most of his time working in the math fact drill section of the program.

Before studying a group of math facts, there is a pre-test. If the student passes the pre-test, then those lessons will be skipped. (Or that’s what I’m assuming. My son did not pass any of the pre-tests so that I could see.) In a lesson, a new fact (or 2) is taught. I like that the fact is shown and read to the student. The student quickly gets to practice the new facts. Previously learned facts are added,  providing continuous review and reinforcement. After a lesson, the student is allowed a fun game as a reward. This time is limited though, and the student must work through lessons to earn arcade time.

The goal of the fact drill section is quick recall. Therefore, the default settings for mastery of the fact requires the student to answer very quickly. I found this setting to be unrealistic for my son, but I was able to lengthen the amount of time in the parent account. The program provided detailed instructions for changing this. After every lesson the child can see how he is progressing through his math facts.

K5 Learning

I also had my son take the reading assessment so he could test the reading program. The assessment was very long. It was difficult for him, since he has struggled with reading. I had to guide him through the assessment to make sure he completed the questions. I tried not to assist him except in explaining what he was supposed to do and helping him to stay focused on the task. However, I think that the program placed him too high in reading comprehension. It might have been because I made him read the stories with me. When he was trying to use the program, he had a tendency to just guess the answers. I could sit with him and make him do the reading and guide him through the questions. But if I’m using an on-line program, I want my child to be able to use it virtually independently. To me the biggest value in an on-line program is that it provides instruction or practice for my child that I don’t have to give. On-line programs need to free me up to work with other children. Maybe if I had not watched him during the assessment, the program would have placed him at a level that he would be able to read without my encouragement.

Overall, I think K5 Learning is a fun way to provide additional instruction and practice for students in core subjects. I think most students would be able to use the program independently.

To learn more about K5 Learning, visit their website. The site offers free assessments and a 14 day free trialSubscriptions are available for $25/month for one child. An additional child can be added for only $15. Yearly subscriptions are also available for $199 with an additional child for $129.
 Disclosure: I received a free trial of K5 Learning in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


By Kristen H.
Mar 012012
 

I have a 5 year old daughter who is very enthusiastic about learning to read. She’s also very enthusiastic about “playing” on the computer. And I confess, I’m very happy to let her play educational computer games. I just don’t have as much time to work with her as I would like. It’s hard to find time to work with all my children individually.

Reading Eggs

When I was given the opportunity to review Reading Eggs, I had a feeling she would love it. But I honestly had no idea just how much she would love it! She took the beginning assessment and didn’t miss any of the questions. That placed her on Map 8 out of 12. She very enthusiastically began working on completing her maps. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that she hasn’t asked to play on Reading Eggs. And most days she has asked several times.

Reading Eggs

I asked her what her favorite thing about Reading Eggs is. She said, “I like the books they read in there.”

There are a wide variety of activities in Reading Eggs. The activities work on phonics, sight words, and reading comprehension. My daughter has enjoyed the phonics and sight words more than the comprehension ones. Part of that is simply because the comprehension  activities are harder for her. She was already good at decoded before beginning the program, but the extra practice and introduction of some new sounds has been good for building her reading skills.

Reading Eggs

Overall, I think this is a very fun and effective program both for struggling readers and those who are not, but still need to work on phonics. For readers who are already reading well, there is Reading Eggspress.

Reading Eggs offers free trials so there is really no reason not to give the program a try! The subscription options include:

  • 12 months for $75 (add a second or third child at 50% off)
  • 6 months for $49.95 (add a second or third child at 50% off)
  • Monthly for $9.95

 

Disclosure: I received a free trial of Reading Eggs in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

 


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.
Sep 032011
 

I am happy to say that we survived the first 2 weeks of school. It has been busy. It has been tiring. It hasn’t been all smiles, but we have made it.

What is going well:

I am very happy with my pre-planning of Tapestry of Grace. It has helped my 6th grade daughter tremendously. She doesn’t have to depend on me to tell her what to work on. She’s got her list for the week, and she decides what she’s going to read on what days. It’s going well for her. For my 8th grade son, it’s going better than nothing. He tries to figure out how to do exactly 1/5 of each of the reading assignments on each day. He will round to the nearest paragraph, which drives me nuts! I’m trying to be quiet about it after initially asking him why he would choose to do it that way. We haven’t mastered actually getting all the questions answered, but I’m ok with that. We’ll keep working on it.

Independent science for my oldest 2. My 8th grade son has completed Module 1 of Apologia’s Physical Science. He likes it OK. He doesn’t like to do experiments that he doesn’t think are interesting. Let me rephrase that. He doesn’t like to do ANYTHING that he doesn’t think is interesting. My 6th grade daughter is using Considering God’s Creation as her main text. We’re using it somewhat unconventionally though. She is reading the Teacher’s Guide herself and doing the corresponding notebook pages. She’s also going to be using several of the NaturExplorers units..

Reading for my 3rd grade son. I don’t know if things have just finally clicked, or if the Brain Therapy sessions are already helping, but his reading is showing real improvement. He’s finally able to read other things like directions in his workbooks and the chore chart. He does have an evaluation for his learning issues this week. Hopefully, that will provide some more answers.

What needs improvement:

My time management and focus: It’s just hard. I feel pulled in so many directions at once. I think I’m going to make a schedule to see if I can come up with what an “ideal” day would look like. At this point, I don’t even know.

Kindergarten with my daughter: I haven’t been spending enough time with my daughter. That’s not too much of a problem because she is pretty good at working independently. (It’s so funny how different my girls are from my boys…) But, I do need to make sure she’s going things correctly.

What else is keeping me busy:

The 2 older kids had their first cross country meet this week. My daughter actually placed 3rd overall!!! (This was against girls in 6th-12th grades from our homeschool team and 2 area private schools.) I was so proud over her. It was over 90 degrees and she ran a 5K in 26:28. My son is more affected by heat and he only beat her by 30 seconds. He better watch out if he doesn’t want his little sister beating him.


By Kristen H.
Aug 192011
 

We are starting Tapestry of Grace Year 3 next week! At the end of last year I did some thinking about our accomplishments for the year and one of the things we didn’t do very well was history. (That’s really an understatement. But I did have a baby, so I’m trying to be generous.) I thought about  trying a new history curriculum, but I kept coming back to TOG. I love the way it integrates history with literature, Bible/Church History, and geography. I like the hands-on activity ideas. But I really had failed to implement it well in our home last year. (Honestly, we hadn’t done so well the year before either.)

So I made a deal with myself (and my husband). Before I went looking for a different curriculum for us, I was going to give TOG one more shot. A really good shot. I was going to plan, plan, plan this summer. I was going to get EVERYTHING figured out ahead of time. I wanted to do this because it certainly had not worked as a “pick up and go” curriculum for us.

But, summer has a way of flying by. I blinked and it was August. It was time to get serious about this planning stuff. I have been working hard this week, and I am very happy to report that I have thoroughly prepared for Unit 1. Here is what I’ve done.

(I purchased the Digital Edition (DE) for the first time this year. These steps include printing the pages I desired to have printed.)

1. Read through the Year Introduction.

2. Made a spreadsheet with all the resources used in year 3. (Downloaded from the website.)

3. Highlighted all the books on the list that I already owned.

4. Went through the list again and checked the on-line library catalog highlighting all the books from the list available from the library.

5. Printed the Teaching Objective, Weekly Overview, and Reading Assignment pages for every week of the year plan.

6. Placed all of the above in sheet protectors.

7. Read through the Weekly Overview and Reading Assignment pages with Sharpie in hand, marking the books that we had or could borrow from the library.

8. Determined which resources we should buy. Marked those on the pages.

Starting here, I’ve just done the first unit.

9. Went through each week in Unit 1 and typed the reading assignments I have selected for my dialectic students. (Yes, they could just use the notebook, but I use some alternate resources, and throw in some upper grammar assignments instead of dialectic ones so it can get confusing.)

10. Cut and pasted the assignments and relevant questions (adding space to write the answers) from the student assignment pages into the same document as the reading list. Printed out copies of the list for each student.

11. Printed page 1 of the Student Assignment pages for the first 9 weeks.

12. Printed the maps for the weeks that we are using them.

13. Printed the Lower grammar literature worksheets that we are using.

Phew.

That’s where I sit. I need to decide how to store all the pre-printed papers. I don’t want to 3-hole punch the maps, so I’m not sure what I’ll end of doing with those.

That’s my Wrap-up for this week! Be sure to visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for more weekly reports.

 

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By Kristen H.
Mar 072011
 

How can I teach my child to read?

I think that is one of the biggest concerns of parents planning to homeschool their young children. We’ve been led to believe that it is really difficult and that it is very important that you chose the right method or you might ruin your child’s entire future!

Well, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but educators take reading instruction method very seriously. And they don’t agree on what method is best. The two basic schools of thought in reading instruction are phonics and whole language. But there are a wide variety of phonics programs on the market. A dizzying amount. And according to the whole language proponents, phonics instruction is actually detrimental to comprehension.

That leaves parents with a dilemma. Who should you believe? I’ve done some research on this issue, though I am by no means an expert. I think that most children will learn to read by whatever method you use. It’s often more a matter of timing and practice than method. There are exceptions to this. For example, my middle son has had much difficulty and is still not reading independently at almost 9 years old. But with my older two children, I took a middle of the road approach using a simple phonics program and reading real books to add sight words, fluency, and comprehension. In other words, I like a little bit of both: phonics and whole language.

Right now I have 2 children who are learning to read. My middle son who is almost 9 has been learning and is still struggling. We’ve tried a lot of different things with him and are currently just trying to keep making forward progress. My younger daughter is 4 and is a bundle of enthusiasm. She has been figuring out a lot of the basics of reading on her own. I honestly don’t have time to work with her yet. I’m planning to make it a priority in the fall, but with a baby and trying to keep up with school for the other 3, she’s going to have to wait. I figured if she accidentally learns to read before I teach her, it will be ok. At least that’s what I was thinking before I got the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom for the Homeschool Crew.

What is Reading Kingdom?

Reading Kingdom is an on-line reading program designed for children ages 4-10. Through a series of pre-tests, the program automatically puts the child at his best starting level. It also advances at the child’s pace, providing more practice for those children who need it. It is not a phonics program or a whole language program, but uses a variety of methods to introduce new words to the child. A child must be able to not only read a word, but also spell it, to demonstrate mastery of that word. The Reading Kingdom website does a very thorough job of explaining the program in detail, so rather than describe it further, I recommend that you visit ReadingKingdom.com for more information.

Our Thoughts on Reading Kingdom:

My 4 year old daughter and almost 9 year old son have been using Reading Kingdom almost daily for around 6 weeks.

I just asked my daughter what she thinks about Reading Kingdom. She said, “I love it!” And she does. I don’t have to ask her to use the program. She asks me — often multiple times in a day. She has learned to read many new words including a, girl, girls, some, kids, and boys.

My almost 9 year old son (who I believe is dyslexic, but have not had him tested yet) is not quite as enthusiastic about the program. However, he does complete daily lessons for the most part without complaining. I am especially interested to see if continued use of the program will help him with visually recognizing words. He often misses “sight words” in his reading practice with me. I am not using this as his sole reading program, but for additional practice on “tricky” words. (That’s what we call words that don’t follow the rules.)

I like the program for several reasons. I like that it approaches reading from a different perspective. There are plenty of phonics programs available and lots of ways to practice phonics skills, but I’ve not found another on-line tool that teaches reading like Reading Kingdom. I also like that the child can work independently. I need help finding enough time to give each of my children individual attention. Having Reading Kingdom has given me time to work with one child while another is actually learning on the computer instead of just being entertained. Finally, I like that it has gotten my daughter so excited about reading!

If you’re interested in trying Reading Kingdom, they offer a FREE 30 day trial. A subscription is $19.99/month for one student. Additional students can be added for $9.99/month. There is also a discounted year subscription available for $199.99.

Disclosure: I was provided with a subscription to Reading Kingdom in order to complete this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

 

 


By Kristen H.