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.

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.

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.

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

To read more reviews of Reading Eggs, visit the HomeschoolCrew.com.

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.
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. You can read more reviews of Reading Kingdom at the Homeschool Crew Blog.

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.
Aug 312010
 

I was recently introduced to Big Universe Learning. This unique learning website is designed for students in grades K-8. It offers on-line books in a wide variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction, from 24 different publishers. Some of these books include an audio option for students to read-along while the book is being read to them. On-line quizzes are provided for many of the selections as well. In addition to on-line reading, Big Universe Learning provides the capability for students to create and share their own on-line picture books with other Big Universe users.

As I explored the site, I thought of some great uses for homeschoolers. First, everyone knows that homeschoolers love the library, right? But many of us have a love/hate relationship with the library. For many, overdue fees are a considerable problem. I found books on many non-fiction topics available at Big Universe that could save you both a trip to the library, and fees if you forget to return the book on time. This would work well particularly for times when you’re not looking for a specific title, but just more information on weather, George Washington, or knights for instance.

I also think the on-line quizzes are useful. Though homeschoolers often use atypical methods of assessment, having a student take a quiz on what he has just read does help them to pay attention. Also, poor scores could indicate that reading comprehension is a skill that needs more focus. And with 4 children, I’m very happy to find independent educational activities for them.

Then there’s writing. I struggle with teaching writing. It’s one of my goals for this school year to spend more time on writing. Big Universe Learning provides a fun way for kids to practice writing while creating on-line books. There is no need for software, everything is ready to use on the site. There are tutorials demonstrating the steps in the process, but it’s really simple anyway. The hardest thing is choosing from the thousands of available images available for the books!

Home subscriptions to Big Universe Learning are available for $8.95/month. (There is a 26% discount if you subscribe for a whole year.) Is the price worth it? Well, I’ve learned that price and value are very subjective. We personally spend well over that per month on purchasing books (on average over the year). I don’t pay library fines because our library doesn’t charge for overdue books (please don’t hate me!), but I’ve heard of many people who regularly spend that much on fines. The good news is that Big Universe offers a 7 day FREE trial so you can check out the site and see if it’s something that your family would use. You can’t get any better than free!

Disclosure: I received a free 6 month membership from Big Universe Learning in order to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.


By Kristen H.
May 192010
 

It took me months, but I finally finished Anna Karenina. All 807 pages of it. Believe it or not, I actually liked it. (Well, not all of it. I got a little bored with some of the discussion of Russian agricultural techniques.) It was definitely a thought provoking book. It very clearly demonstrates the effect of getting “what you want”, when “what you want” is wrong. I don’t want to give away the plot, because I know you are all going to rush out to get a copy.

In case you’re wondering why I even chose to read Anna Karenina at all, I’m very slowly reading through the recommendations in The Well Educated Mind. My efforts to finally finish the book did cause me to miss a week in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. (or maybe 2. This is the 18th book I’ve completed this year, and this is week 20 of the challenge.) I’ll be doing some lighter reading to catch up :)


By Kristen H.