Feb 282016

A Unique Perspective

I think I’m in a somewhat unusual situation this year. I am graduating my oldest student this spring. This will mark the end of the homeschool journey that started with him over 13 years ago. But as we’ve gone through all the college application process and getting ready for the next stage of his life, I have a 5 year old waiting to begin the homeschool journey. (Officially anyway.  Children are learning since birth.) So as I’m finishing the race with one student, I’m also preparing to start all over again with my youngest. I get the opportunity to look back over what I have done with David over the last 13 years and think about what I would like to do differently this time.

This is the first week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair and the focus is Language Arts. So I am going to start this series with thinking about language arts.

Finishing Strong

In David’s 9th grade year, we tried to do some literature study at home. And while he did read the books, overall it was a flop. Literature classes became a priority when we began to search for outside classes. Amazingly, that was just what he needed. Does he love literature? No. But the discussion environment, the concrete deadlines, and a different teacher made a huge difference. This year he completed an English composition class at our local community college and earned an A.

He was able to do well because we had built a strong foundation in English in the elementary and middle school years. We used a variety of curriculum including Rod & Staff and Analytical Grammar. I really liked IEW for writing instruction.

Starting Gently

David was ready to read at age 4 and I was a brand new homeschool mom itching to get started. So we began reading instruction. Andrew is also ready to read. But we haven’t started anything formal. We’re sticking with reading aloud and just talking about letter sounds and rhyming words. We look at words and work on sounding them out. I know now that an early start in reading is not going to result in long-lasting higher reading achievement.

I do plan on beginning kindergarten this fall and will use some of the same books I used for David, like Alpha Phonics and Handwriting without Tears, but I plan on being a lot more relaxed and flexible than I was 13 years ago. Now that I’ve made it through this marathon once, I know that it’s ok if our pace is different. There are times and seasons when much progress is made, and others where growth is not as evident. I don’t want to rush through these early years, but savor them.

This year the Virtual Curriculum Fair is hosted by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World, Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses, and Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset.

Visit these blogs to read about Language Arts in their homeschools.

Virtual Curriculum Fair 2016 Finishing Strong

Language Arts: Words Make the World Go Round by  Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

The Language Arts in Our Homeschool and Everything Relating to it   by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Teaching Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

How to Learn ASL & Spanish in 20 Minutes a Day by Rochelle @ RochelleBarlow

Classical Word Study by Lisa @ GoldenGrasses

Language Arts Means and Methods by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Sprechen Sie….  by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind

The Art of Eloquence  by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind

Love Languages by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind

3 Reasons You Don’t Have To Be Afraid To Grade That Essay – And It’s Free @ LJSkool

High School Language Arts by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Words, Words, and More Words by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Finishing Strong – Starting Gently by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Jan 032015

Other than answering the dreaded socialization question, teaching reading at home may be the scariest thing for a new homeschooler. This week’s Virtual Curriculum Fair topic is Loving Language Arts and is co-hosted by  Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses. You can read other posts about reading as well as other language arts topics.

What if I mess it up and ruin my child’s life forever?

This is our 12th year of homeschooling, and I have 5 children ranging from 4 to 16 years old. So far, I have taught 4 children to read and each one was different. Not surprisingly, each one is still different both in his or her ability and enjoyment of reading. I don’t have one of those stories about the kid who learned to read at 12, but was reading War and Peace at age 13.

There is no magic formula for raising readers.

David, my 16 year old, began reading at 4 years old. (Some of that may have been over eager homeschool parents, but he was ready to read.) He read a lot when he was young – both fiction and non-fiction. I also read books aloud to him from his infancy until he was about 12. My husband and I read for pleasure frequently and our house is filled with books. We did everything “right” and guess what. He doesn’t like to read. He especially doesn’t like fiction. He’s a “just the facts” kind of kid. Maybe his long-time use of the computer has turned him into a scanner. Since he especially doesn’t like literature, I have had him take an outside class for that. He’s infinitely more motivated to read books when he’s in a class with a fixed schedule and accountability. To help himself pay attention, he often listens to the audio while he reads.

Teaching Reading at Home

Sometimes a child is too young to learn to read.

Anna is almost 15. We started trying to teach her to read when she was 5, probably closer to 5-1/2. She wanted to learn to read so badly. It was almost comical trying to teach her to blend sounds. She just couldn’t get it until after she turned 6. Then it sort of clicked and she took off with it. She also listened to read-alouds frequently and had essentially the same learning environment as her older brother, but unlike her brother, she loves to read, especially historical fiction. She’s also much happier to read from a textbook and has good comprehension.

If you think there is something wrong, check it out. People will tell you to relax and wait, but you know your child.

William is almost 13. He has been diagnosed with ASD. He has many learning issues that may (or may not) be related to ASD. He is my only child that I actually had to teach letters. My other children all picked them up naturally around 3 years old or younger, from alphabet books, letter toys and puzzles. At 4-1/2, I decided I needed to teach William his letters. He was able to learn them fairly quickly. I used the Handwriting without Tears Wood pieces and cards.

Reading continued to be a struggle for William. I tried various phonics programs. He couldn’t read c-v-c words consistently. I started a couple of new things with him that finally seemed to help reading click for him. I used both Brain Integration Therapy by Dianne Craft and All About Spelling. I don’t know if it was either of those programs, the passage of time, or some combination of all three that finally enabled him to begin reading. But there was no sudden burst of speed or rapid improvement in skills allowing him to catch up to grade level. Instead, it’s been more like plodding. He can decode pretty well and his spelling is pretty good too. (I love All About Spelling!), but his comprehension is almost non-existent, and his inflection is bad. We’re trying immersion reading on the Kindle Fire to see if that will help with comprehension. We also do dictation with All About Spelling and use the repeating of the sentence to work on inflection. (The problem is not just with reading, it’s with his speech in general.)

Some children love to read. Others don’t.

Lizzie is 8. I honestly don’t remember teaching her to read. She didn’t exactly teach herself to read, but I think she learned using a combination of computer programs like Reading Kingdom and Reading Eggs plus her older brother and sister showing her things. She is a voracious reader and loves to curl up with a book and read it. She even reads aloud to her little brother, Andrew. She is using the Memoria Press Literature Guides, among other things, and we like those a lot.

Teaching Reading at Home

Find time to read to your little ones.

Finally there is Andrew. He just turned 4 and is not reading yet. He does love to listen to books and he has known his letters for a long time. I feel hopeful, that it won’t be a struggle for him to learn to read. I still want to spend some time using Before Five in a Row with him.

Virtual Curriculum Fair

Photo credit http://www.mymemories.com/store/designers/StoryRock

This post is part of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair and is also linked to House to Home at I Choose Joy.

I Choose Joy!


See my previous Playing with Words posts at:

It Starts with the Alphabet

Loving Language Arts

Don’t miss these great posts!

Building a Foundation of Words by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Language Arts for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Bible-Based Language Arts Resources by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker

Relaxed Homeschooling: Language Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Loving Books and Words by Sarah@Delivering Grace

5 Language Arts Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Teaching Reading at Home: A Tale of 5 Readers by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Language Arts Reading for Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

How To: Spelling Dictation by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

The World of Words in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Unschooling and Words, Words, Words by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Learning With Literature and Language Arts Resources by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Words and More Words! by Michele @ FamilyFaithandFridays

Language Arts in Our Homeschool (2014 ñ 2015) by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World

Our curriculum choices ~ Language Arts by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

The 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Loaded Pistols: Virtual Curriculum Fair Playing with Words by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

A Renewed Focus on Reading Aloud by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Language Arts in our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Logic of English Foundations: The Grand Prize Winner of Phonics by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way by Amy A @ One Blessed Mamma

Tackling Language Arts by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning

Middle School Monday – Lightning Literature and Composition by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

The Great Grammar Discovery by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Jan 052014

Welcome to the Virtual Curriculum Fair!


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.


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.


Sep 112011


Time4Learning is an on-line learning program for kids from preschool through 8th grade. It provides instruction in language arts, math, science, and social studies through engaging, interactive games. It can be used as the core curriculum for your homeschool, or as a fun supplement. The child can work independently on the lessons, freeing up the parent for other tasks. The program includes a thorough reporting system, allowing the parent to assess their child’s progress in the program.

This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of reviewing Time4Learning. Here are my previous reviews of Time4Learning Preschool and Time4Learning. I signed up 4 of my children for the program. (K, 3rd, 6th, and 8th grades). The primary user was my kindergarten daughter. She was the same one who used the Preschool program in the previous review. Once again, she loves it!

I assigned her to the Kindergarten level. While she was enjoying the lessons, I thought that they were a bit too easy for her. I was able to access the 1st grade level in math and reading without making any changes to my account. I found those to be a better fit for her, because she is already starting to read and do basic math. The Kindergarten math program mainly consisted of patterns, counting, number recognition. Instead of skipping to 1st grade, I could have had her first skip ahead to some of the more difficult Kindergarten topics (addition and subtraction are covered at the end), but chose not to since this is a short trial review period.

I also switched her to the 1st grade level for reading. The image above is from Chapter 1 of the 1st grade language arts program. After a short review of letter sounds, it moves right into short a words. My daughter is easily reading at this level so she had no difficulty with the concepts in the lessons, but she had some problems with completing the games. There was one particular game that required her to click quickly to hit a target, and that was too hard for her to do.  So her computer and hand-eye coordination skills weren’t quite up to the expected level for the 1st grade games, even though she frequently plays simple computer games.

Overall, I think the Time4Learning is a solid program for teaching the basics in a fun way for children who enjoy computer games. My two older students do not personally like the program. Although my oldest loves working on the computer making his own games and editing films, he doesn’t want to do his schoolwork on it. Probably because it wouldn’t allow him to finish it as quickly as his usual lessons. (That actually might be a good thing…) My older daughter is a paper loving child. She wants nothing to do with the computer at all. My middle son does like the program, but needs more teacher interaction in a core curriculum. But I would definitely consider this program for my youngest daughter. I am finding it difficult to devote enough time to teaching each of my children individually and Time4Learning could provide a way for her to be learning more independently of me.

Time4Learning offers free lesson demos. That would be the best way to find out if your child would enjoy the program. The program is available for $19.95/month for one child. Additional children can be added for a discounted price of $14.95/month. The service can be cancelled at any time and they offer a two-week money back guarantee.

Disclosure: I received 1 free month of Time4Learning in order to review it for TOS Homeschool Crew. I was not compensated for this review.



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Jun 212011

A friend of mine caught me saying, “He might could…” and pointed out my grammatical error.

I was unaware that it was bad grammar. And she couldn’t tell me what was wrong with it, just that it was wrong. So I did a bit of searching.

“Might could” is a double modal. According to Word of the Day, it is acceptable, although its usage is typically confined to the Southern U.S.

Interestingly this construction is also common in northern England and Scotland, which is where the bulk of Southerners lived before immigrating to this area. Take a look at this map that displays the geographical concentration of surnames in the U.S.

Pretty neat, right? (Please tell me I’m not the only geeky person who is fascinated by this kind of thing!) I might could post some more if you like this 🙂


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May 132011

Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Writing Intensive

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is perhaps the most well-known writing curriculum among homeschoolers. At least it seems to be among the people I know, both locally and on-line. I’ve been hearing people rave about it for years.  So although I’ve been curious about IEW for a while, I had never actually tried it. In fact, I’d never even had a chance to take an extended look at it. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review IEW’s Student Writing Intensive  (SWI) Level B with the Homeschool Crew.

What do you get?

SWI Level B, designed for students in grades 6-8, includes 4 DVD’s, a student binder with dividers, and about 100 pages of teacher’s notes, handouts, and checklists. The teacher’s notes include detailed instructions for using the program, beginning with the Easy Start Instructions and the Student Notebook Set-up. These are followed by a Scope and Sequence Chart and a chart detailing every segment of the 4 DVD’s. Also included is a suggested course schedule, which breaks down the 15 lessons into daily sessions spanning 30 weeks.  There are Teacher’s Notes for each lesson that include how much of the DVD to watch, key details from the video, and the writing assignments for that lesson. The corresponding student pages follow the Teacher’s Notes.

How does it work?

The lessons begin with teaching students how to write a key word outline. The DVD’s are live recordings of Andrew Pudewa teaching the material to a classroom of students, so you are able to watch this process from beginning to end. Key word outlines include important words from every sentence of a source document. The student uses this outline to rewrite the information from the source document using his own words.

The concept of “dress-ups” is also introduced in the first lesson. “Dress-ups” is a term Andrew Pudewa uses to describe ways to add variety to writing. They are additions such as who/which clauses, “ly” adverbs, strong verbs, and because clauses.

Pudewa also makes use of banned words lists. Banned words are words that are overused and not particularly descriptive. The students on the DVD brainstorm and make lists of different words to use in place of specific banned words. The student watching from home has a sheet in his notebook to record these replacement words and can then use them in his own writing.

The students are given writing assignments to practice using the skills taught on the video. Some of these are the same assignments that the students in the video are given, but there is also additional source material included in the handouts for extra writing practice.

Building on the foundation of the key word outline practiced in Lessons 1-6, Andrew Pudewa moves on to teach Story Writing, Report Writing, and Creative Writing in Lessons 7-15. Grammar concepts are discussed throughout the course in relation to writing. Editing skills are also practiced throughout.

We also received a really nice supplement called a Portable Wall. This folder has graphic reminders of the writing process as well as helpful lists of strong verbs, adverbs, and good synonyms for said.

How do we like the program?

For the purposes of this review, I had my 7th grade son begin SWI. He doesn’t fall into either of the two stereo-typical extremes of young writers. He could be termed a reluctant writer, but not using the term in the usual sense. He could also be described as a natural writer, because what he writes is typically very good. But he doesn’t like to write. So he is reluctant to start writing, but given clear guidelines, he usually writes quite well. But with his strong reluctance (i.e. grumbling and complaining), I have failed to give him enough writing assignments. I have not used a writing curriculum before and have struggled to come up with meaningful assignments for him on my own. I am finding that even though I have great intentions, I need structured programs that are planned out for me. I am becoming less of a teacher and more of a learning facilitator.

My son and I both enjoy watching these videos. Andrew Pudewa does an excellent job of instructing the students and is also quite funny. The assignments are very clear. They also have been relatively short, which is a plus for my son whose chief writing goal is brevity. I find the program easy to implement. We have not completed all 15 lessons, but I intend to continue with SWI next school year. I also plan to start my daughter, who will be in 6th grade at the beginning of next year, using the program as well.

Who should use Student Writing Intensive?

As I mentioned, SWI Level B is designed for students in grades 6-8. There are 2 other levels available (A and C). You can choose the one that fits the target age of your student, or if you’re teaching multiple ages, you can select B since it is in the middle. I am thoroughly impressed with this curriculum. Both systematic and thorough, it is great for the homeschooler who wants to teach writing, but doesn’t know how to teach it.

Where to purchase?

SWI can be purchased directly from the Institute for Excellence in Writing website for $109.00.  The Portable Wall can be purchased on the website for $7.00.  The company really stands behind their products and offers “an unconditional, no time limit, 100% refund guarantee on everything we sell.”


Linked to: The Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.

Disclosure: I received this product for free to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.