Category Archives: grammar

Lightning Literature & Composition Grade 4 ~ a Crew review

Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit 4

While my youngest girl loves stories and being read to, she doesn’t always have the drive to read for herself in a constructive and discerning manner yet. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources has a series of literature and composition curriculum that I have long been interested in. We were actually a part of their grade 3 beta program a few years ago and used it for several books. I liked the way it flowed and so when we were given the opportunity to work with the Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set, I was glad to do so. It came with the Teacher’s Guide and the Student Workbook, both soft cover books.

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While Miss J is often considered 5th grade for this coming school year, I took a good look at the samples for the level on the Hewitt Homeschooling website. It showed me enough to know that since Miss J is a strong reader but is not always able to answer comprehension questions about the reading easily, this might be a really good fit for her. The books are pretty challenging, in my opinion, for a 4th grader who is not a super strong reader with strong comprehension. Take a look at this list.

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There are a total of 12 books on the list. Not included in this picture from the Student Workbook is Tuck Everlasting and The Borrowers. I also felt that the grammar includes so many skills and covers so many concepts that she has not yet dealt with that this would be a very good challenge for her. With a total of 36 weeks of materials, this is easily a full literature, composition, and grammar curriculum.

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I really like the way the Student Notebook is put together. The pages are perforated and set up by week. I can easily take one week’s worth of work out of the book and staple it together. Miss J then only has to deal with those pages and not the whole 400+ pages of the workbook.

Miss J started at the beginning of the workbook and has worked through several of the weeks. She is currently working on the book The One and Only Ivan. She has completed The Earth Dragon Awakes and Morning Girl. Each week is set up with four days. The fifth day is left as an optional day where additional work could be completed on the composition project or maybe completing an optional workbook page. Each week from the Student Workbook has a cover page that indicated the week and the pages of the book that will be read during that time.

Lightning Lit

The second page of the week has a checklist that shows what will be done during the week. It includes the readings, broken up into four parts. There is also the grammar pages to be completed on each of the four days and what they are, such a common and proper nouns. The composition is also included here and broken up into four parts, as well as any extra activities that can be completed if assigned. I did assign the extra worksheet pages, as I felt they were really helpful and Miss J completed them on day 4 of the week.

 

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The readings did a great job of putting the story into smaller chunks for each day. There were daily comprehension questions to go along with the reading. These always asked the student to think deeper than the surface understanding of the story. For example, in The Earth Dragon Awakes, there were questions regarding the understanding one of the characters has of another. In Morning Girl, the student was asked to recognize the emotions of the character and to use examples from the text to support the answer.

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The grammar portion of the work builds slowly upon the work that comes before it. This level started with nouns on the first day. Then it added the recognition of common nouns and proper nouns. The week ended with abstract nouns. Week two dealt with verbs, including linking verbs and helping verbs. Week three added types of sentences and week four added adjectives.

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a simple start to diagramming sentences

Each week, there was also diagramming sentences, beginning in week 3. This is something I have never done formally and so it was a learning experience for both Miss J and myself. The diagramming is handled very well, adding very small chunks each week. It is not overwhelming and the Teacher’s Guide is really helpful for me here.20190613_135255

Speaking of the Teacher’s Guide, let’s take a look at what it offers. It does include the expected – answers for the workbook pages the student completes each day. But there is quite a bit more to it. It is quite a bit more compact that the Student Workbook as it contains only around 250 pages. It begins with the table of contents listing each of the books for the weeks. The information is also listed by week, after the initial “How to Use This Teacher’s Guide” section.

Don’t skip the “How to Use” section. It includes a lot of information about why the curriculum is organized the way it is and why the choices were made to include things. There is information that will help with understanding the best ways to guide your student and suggestions for modifying where needed.

Each of the week’s lessons have additional information for the teacher that will help you be prepared to address concerns with your student or to guide them in discussions. Each section of the student’s workbook pages have a section in the Teacher’s Guide, giving answers or suggestions.

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I do wish that the Teacher’s Guide has a listing of all of the aspects of grammar and composition that are specifically addressed. This information would be really helpful if you are coming to this from a different curriculum or need to go to a different one for next year. (Grade 5 is in progress for Lighting Lit. See their website for the listing of books and outline of what is coming in Grade 5.)

The grammar and composition pretty well go hand-in-hand throughout the study. What is being worked on in grammar is often part of what they are being assigned to include in the composition. The concepts covered include:

  • nouns
  • verbs – from basic verbs to linking and helping verbs to the different tenses of verbs
  • adjectives
  • pronouns
  • conjunctions
  • articles
  • homophones
  • poetry – terms, types, rhyme, stress
  • punctuation – commas, quotations marks, ellipses, etc.
  • capitalization – sentences, in poetry, in letters, names and titles, etc.
  • figures of speech – onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification
  • writing techniques – alliteration, assonance

Through the lessons, the grammar portion circles back to review concepts and ideas that had been previously taught and to take the student a little bit deeper. This is done through intentional reviews or by including the more complex form of the concept, such as specific types of clauses or different tenses of the verbs.

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Yes – this is my handwriting instead of Miss J’s. It was a hard day but she walked me through what to do and I did the writing for her. She learned the diagramming information, regardless of who did the writing.

And almost always, this is tied into the skill of diagramming a sentence. Teach the idea; practice the idea; diagram a sentence with that included. This is the process and I feel like it is a strong model for continued growth and learning.

We chose this for Miss J and I feel like the material covered, and the way in which it is covered, will more than challenge her this coming year as we continue on with this program. Hewitt Homeschooling Resources seems to have an advanced program so definitely take a look at the samples when you are getting ready to order materials.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the banner below to read the reviews of others who were reviewing materials from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. These materials included:

Grade 1 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 2 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 3 Lightning Lit Set
Grade 4 Lightning Lit Set 
My First Report: Solar System, Grades 1-4
Chronicles of __ State History Notebook, Grades 3-8
Joy of Discovery w Learning Objectives Adult/Teacher
Gr 7 Lightning Lit Set  
Gr 8 Lightning Lit Set 
American Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 9-10
American Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 9-12
Speech  Gr 9-12.
British Early-Mid 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Mid-Late 19th Century Gr 10-12
British Medieval Gr 10-12
Shakespeare Comedies Gr 11-12
Shakespeare Tragedies Gr 11-12
British Christian Gr 11-12
American Christian Gr 11-12  

Lightning-Literature-My-First-Reports-State-History-Notebook-Joy-of-Discovery-Hewitt-Homeschooling-Resources-Reviews-2019

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GrammarPlanet ~ a Crew review

GrammarPlanet online

A new website to assist with grammar is available – GrammarPlanet. This site is a complete grammar, punctuation, and usage curriculum. GrammarPlanet is truly a complete curriculum, including formal parsing and diagramming of sentences.

The folks behind this free program (free version supported by advertising) want everyone to learn how to correctly use the English language and so they have created this curriculum. This program is based upon the teaching methods of Analytical Grammar, which has been on the homeschool market for around 20 years.

Easy to use, it is aimed at students aged 10 and up. This is a fairly solid age to begin. We did try to have Miss J use it but at age nine, she was not ready for this program so I took over her account to see how the program worked. Miss L is using it and at age 12, she is able to benefit from the program. Challenging? YES! But she can do it.

student dashboard 2

So, how does this work? Let’s use me for an example, here. Each student has their own account with their own login. When I am ready to work, I login to my account and then click the bright green button in the upper left that says “continue progress.” That takes me right to where I left off last time and I can continue on. Each unit begins with a set of notes to print and a video to watch. This video is interactive and pauses periodically to have the student answer a question, ensuring attentiveness during the lecture. After the video is over, the student clicks the button to move them into the practice questions.

screen shot of video

Each practice is a sentence. The student reads the sentences, ensures they understand it, and then begin parsing, or marking, the sentence – nouns, adjectives, articles, pronouns, etc. This is done on the computer with a point and click setup – click the word you want to mark and a pop-up box appears with the choices in it, click your choice and the pop-up disappears but your choices is now marked above the work in the sentence. After you have marked everything you feel is needed, you click the continue button. You get immediate feedback on what is correct or incorrect.

sentence example with selections madeselections popup

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Continue on through the practice sentences until the program has determined you understand enough. Then it moves you on to the test. The test is the same set-up as the practices. If you have mastered enough of the unit test, then you will move on to the next unit. This program is a dynamic program, designed to give you more practice questions if you are struggling and fewer if you are answering correctly.

test image of question

It is recommended that the student be working on this program around 15 minutes at a time, every other day. This is to allow the brain to focus and really absorb the material.

At this time, there appear to be 13 units. The schedule on the website indicates that there are plans for 60 units when all is said and done. You can see this schedule by visiting the main website page and scrolling down to the bottom right. In the question “How does it work?” there is a link for the unit outline.

Now for the nitty gritty – do we like it? Yes and no.

Yes

  • this is a rich, challenging, growth-producing program. The units are rigorous. They do not allow for half-way and GrammarPlanet pushes the student hard. There is no easy way out with this program.
  • If you want to strengthen your English language skills so that you become a better writer and more confident in your usage, this program is going to be right for you.
  • If you are seeking a formal and classical usage program that will teach diagramming and all the skills that go along with that, this program is what you are looking for.
  • Resetting the unit is an option when the student is struggling and needs to repeat from the beginning to view the video again.
  • Notes are available for reprinting or viewing (opens in a PDF) while in the practices.

No

  • It is difficult to begin this program when you have not had already had a rigorous grammar program but understand a good bit about the subject. Even with the nouns, there are words used in a way that is different than I have ever been taught, or taught my girls. Add in things like the pronouns and it is a whole new world. I understand that there are not “different rules” that govern these things but it certainly feels that way when you get things wrong that you feel certain you understand.
  • It is frustrating to the student to be told over and over that they have gotten all of the questions, or even most of the questions, in a set wrong. When this happens, the student is locked out of the program until it is reset or unlocked by the parent or teacher managing the account. Requiring this gives additional teaching a chance to happen.
  • It is a difficult program to work through when you do not have an explanation of why you got something wrong. We referred back to the notes, over and over, but still end up guessing about why things are marked wrong a lot of the time. It is difficult for this program to be able to give individual feedback but at the same time, not having that kind of feedback means that there is no growth in understanding of the mistake so it will not be made again.

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Overall Thoughts –

  • You need to check this program out. GrammarPlanet is free and it might be just right for your family. If you love it, you might want to pay for the upgrade so that you don’t have to deal with the advertising that helps keep the program free and your students can focus on their learning.
  • View the welcome video on the page to experience an interactive video and learn more about the program.
  • There is a link on the main GrammarPlanet page at the top for Frequently Asked Questions. Definitely check that page out as there is some information there that is not covered in this review.
  • Miss L will probably continue using this, at least for a bit, if she still continues to make progress. We will discontinue it when the frustration overrides the progress made.

Visit their site and see what they have to offer. It just might be the program you are looking for.

Blessings,
At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew anchor post to read additional reviews of what some other families thought about this program. There are a wide range of families using GrammarPlanet so please visit some of them.

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Interactive Grammar Notebook for Elementary Students

interactive grammar notebook

Miss J enjoys learning with hands-on activity. So, when we were talking about how to do some grammar work with her this year that would be fun, we hit upon doing a notebook using printables about grammar. I had no idea at the time that most people refer to these as interactive notebooks. But hey, even I learned something this way!

Before I began anything else, I made a list of all the things we wanted her to review and learn:

  • nouns, common nouns, proper nouns, etc.
  • verbs, linking verbs, etc.
  • pronouns
  • adjectives
  • adverbs
  • sentences, including types of sentences

Then, I did a bundle of searches to come up with freebie printables that fit what we were wanting her to learn. In the process, I found some other grammar concepts that were perfect to add to her notebook. I saved all of these files on my computer and then I spent some time printing them all. I used colored printer paper to keep it fun and alternated the pages so that she did a different color for each page. Some pages had two or more colors.

There were foldables, lists, matching, lift-the-flap, and more. I found a good variety and we were able to print off enough to do several a week for the entire fall semester. She used a composition notebook to put them in and now she has a complete grammar notebook that she can refer back to if she needs a refresher. I am keeping it handy for that but also so that if I find more, we can add to it as she gets older and works on different parts of grammar.

The areas that she ended up with in her interactive notebook include:

  • subject/predicate
  • nouns, including common nouns, singular nouns, possessive nouns
  • pronouns
  • verbs, including verb phrases, being verbs and action verbs
  • adjectives
  • adverbs
  • prefix and suffix
  • synonyms and antonyms
  • punctuation
  • types of sentences
  • cliche, idiom, hyperbole, personifiction, simile, metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia
  • writing details
  • how-to practice
  • opinion writing
  • plot
  • important fact identification
  • reading responses

I often pulled out Grammar Rock from the Schoolhouse Rock series to go along with a new topic in her grammar notebook. After all, who doesn’t like a some to help you remember?

You can find some of what I saved in my Pinterest board but a lot of it that I used, I did have to give an email for. I didn’t mind and will be considering purchasing one or two options for additional activities for the more advanced concepts. Especially since I saw a couple on Pinterest that I didn’t print for her. Yay – more for her to do.

She was actually sitting here, helping me flip through her interactive notebook to make the above list and was asking to do more. She’ll be happy for me to print some more things for her to do.

What are your favorite grammar resources? I would love for you to share your favorites with me in the comments. It might give me something new to do with her and it might help someone else who is reading along here.

Blessings,
At Home.

Linking up with the Homeschool Review Crew through their weekly linkup.

Jolly Phonics & Jolly Grammar ~ a TOS review

Jolly Literacy review

I never thought I would see the day when Miss J begged to do multiple phonics and grammar lessons. This is the case every almost every school day since we began using Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar, which are both by jollyliteracy.com.

Jollyliteracy.com, also known by the official company name just2ducks LLC, is quite a different program than any I have seen. I’ll be honest and tell you I really don’t like teaching phonics. It seems almost a waste time to me but that is because reading has come very easily for everyone in our family. Even so, jollyliteracy.com has helped me to see the value in teaching phonics, even after a student can read.

Miss J is beginning 2nd grade, reading very well, and knows quite a bit about phonics through general day-to-day reading and discussion, plus a previous phonics program. She has not, however, done any specific grammar programs. I give you that just to kind of help you understand why we are using jollyliteracy.com as we are.

jollyliteracy.com books

Jolly Phonics came with three Student Books (Student Books 1, 2, and 3 in print letters) and a Teacher’s Book in print letters which includes the lessons for all three Student Books. These three books are progressive in the knowledge, with each one building on the one before. Once we received these books, I looked through them to try to gauge where Miss J would place.

Student Book 1 is dedicated to introducing the student to the letter sounds. There is a page for each of the 42 main sounds of the English language. 12 tricky words are covered. Student Book 2 begins providing the student opportunities to practice reading and writing the letter sounds and introduces capital letters. There are alternative spellings discussed for some of the sounds and more tricky words are introduced. Student Book 3 works on better understanding of alternative letter-sound spellings and introduces the remainder of the tricky words. Improvement of comprehension, reading and writing skills are also goals of Student Book 3. All three levels are designed for one page to be completed per lesson. All together, these three books give a complete year of instruction. Jolly Songs book and CD, which we also received, go right alongside Student Book 1, presenting a letter sound in song format with a familiar tune. These tunes repeat and the CD is right there to help you out if you need it.

I could easily have chosen to not have her do any of the phonics Student Books as there is quite a bit in Book 3 that she already knew. However, there was enough in there that we hadn’t really covered that I felt it would be a good review and teaching combination for her.

Jolly Phonics Student Book 3

Some of what she knew: the ph sound combination, most of the “tricky words” she could read without any problem, blending sounds, comprehension of simple to mildly complex sentences.

Some of what I knew she needed: finding alternatives that make the same sound (i.e. – ou and ow), spelling, dictation practice.

We absolutely enjoy using Jolly Phonics. We complete a lesson on Monday and Thursday with Jolly Grammar on Wednesday and Friday. And most days, she wants to do more than one lesson. Alright by me, as it doesn’t seem to affect the phonics program.

Each lesson follows a fairly consistent plan. Begin with some review of sounds or tricky words. Give instruction for the lesson, using the page in the student book for some parts. These might include reading, writing, or drawing. There will either be some dictation of simple sentences, blending practice with some more difficult words, or reading some sentences. The Teacher’s Book is essential for this program as it contains many things that are not in the student book for each lesson.

Each page is colorful, simple and draws Miss J right in. As I said, she really likes this program and asks to do more than one lesson a day. Sometimes, she asks to do both phonics and grammar on the same day. Which brings us to the grammar program.

spelling testJolly Grammar 1 is what we have been using. We received Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book in print letters and Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher’s Book in print letters. Jolly Grammar is just as simple to implement as Jolly Phonics. It’s bright, colorful, and uncluttered pages make it a joy and it draws the student right to the page without being a distraction. This program follows the Jolly Phonics program with the goal of teaching basic grammar, spelling, reinforcing the phonics program, and improving comprehension and vocabulary. The Teacher’s Book is required for this program, as with the phonics, because it contains a number of pieces for each lesson that are not printed in the Student Book.

Jolly Grammar is intended to be taught with two lessons a week. This gives you approximately 36 weeks’ worth of lessons in this program. This equates to a single page per lesson. One lesson is designed to be mostly spelling and the other mostly grammar. Again, we are using this in combination with the Jolly Phonics, so we are alternating days and seeing a lot of overlap, which is quite good. I contacted jollyliteracy.com to ask about the combination of the two programs and she felt like, based on what I told her about Miss J’s abilities, that this combination would work fine and I have been very pleased.

Examples of activities from the grammar book include: finding words that have a particular sound in them, listing the words, and illustrating them; finding mistakes in sentences such as missing capitals and periods in the wrong place; and, dictation of words and sentences. Spelling tests include 10 words and have a special place at the back of the student book for writing the test.

Phonics Book 3

The biggest issue we are having is that Miss J is enjoying these two programs so much that she really wants to fly through them. Which is hard when every other lesson in Jolly Grammar includes a spelling test! But, Miss J is a very good speller so these are pretty much reviews for her. Except for the long word included in each list. Those are giving her problems but she is still loving it and the challenges the program presents. And I am enjoying using this program to teach. Published by just2ducks LLC, Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar get my vote.

At Home.

 

Visit jollyliteracy.com and just2ducks LLC on social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jollyliteracy
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jollyliteracy
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jollyliteracy/

 

Please visit the Review Crew to find other families who have been using jollyliteracy.com and to read about their experiences.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Writers In Residence ~ a TOS review

For a few weeks now, Miss L has been working with Writers in Residence , a product from Apologia Educational Ministries for this review. It has been a fantastic fit!

Miss L is currently 9 years old and really enjoys writing, so I was not sure this would be a good fit for her. After all, writing programs tend to be directed at students who don’t like to write all that much or are struggling with it. This one? It is a good fit for all students, I think. Whether they like to write, love to write, or would rather it just all disappear for good. By drawing on the student’s personal memories, life, and imagination for writing material, this program pulls the student into the process of becoming a writer.Writers In Residence

When you purchase Writers In Residence Volume 1 Apprentice set, you will receive two books. One is the all-in-one student text and workbook. The second is the answer key. You do need both of these for this program to work its magic.

The student text and workbook is where the student does most of their work. The student reads and writes in this one book. The work on their writing assignments here, their grammar work, their editing work, everything! It came with a plastic spiral binding on it. It is huge! Miss L did not want me to take the pages off of the spiral to put them into smaller sections to work with but honestly, it would be a whole lot easier to work with. The book is about 3 inches thick! There is a ton of fantastic information and reading and exercises here.

welcome to WIRThe first 30ish pages of the student text are “how to use this book.” Read these. Period. It is such good information and it makes the program all pull together in your head. I learned a whole lot reading this section and highlight some parts that I found enlightening. Do this first. Then, dig into seeing what else is in the book.

Grammar doesn’t create content. But it can create beauty.” (p. xxvi)

Overemphasizing correct spelling often results in students using only words they can confidently spell. This creates a boring and stilted writing style that is far below what the child is capable of thinking, imagining, and talking about. In the process, the child’s voice is lost, not captured.” (p. xxiii)

Thinking as a writer and building the skills of a good writer are the goals of Writers In Residence. The whole book is designed to help the students begin seeing everything around them, all that they have experienced, as something to tuck away for later use. Beginning to think as a writer, to use words differently, to structure sentences differently – all these are worked on in this book.

working on WIRWriters In Residence contains five units. Each unit focuses on a different type of authentic writing style. These are:
1 – When I Was Young (I Remember): uses Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young In The Mountains as a literature example
2 – Very Truly Yours (I Imagine): uses Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall as a literature example
3 – My Family Hall of Fame (I Investigate): uses Roald Dahl’s Boy: Tales of Childhood as a literature example
4 – My Favorite Author (I Think): has an expert writer example but I cannot locate the authorship of it
5 – The History of Me (I Remember): uses excepts from Beverly Cleary’s A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir, Sid Fleischman’s The Abracadabra Kid, and an essay by Mary Pope Osborne titled “All-Ball”.
6 – Zap! Pow! Kazam! (I Imagine): the expert model was written specifically for WIR and does not give an author

I really appreciate the focus here on quality literature from well-known authors as examples for what is being taught. In addition to these, there is an interview prior to each unit with a Christian author. These include Bill Myers, Amy Green, Irene Howat, Jason Lethcoe, Amy Parker and Phil Vischer. (We have gotten some new reading material by looking up these authors at the library. We didn’t know any of them before this!) This authenticity and focus is so helpful in encouraging young writers.Author Interview reading

Each unit works through a set pattern. There are four modules in each unit and within each module there are a number of activities. These are well-designated and the instructions for each are clearly written, as well as clear indication of when there are corresponding answers to be found in the answer key. Within each unit, there are repeated elements that help keep the students focused. These elements are:

  • Introduction to the unit
  • rubric for the final product of the unit
  • writer’s questions for each module of the unitWriter's Toolbox activity
  • sneak peek of what will be learned for each module of the unit
  • the writing assignment specific to each module (these build on each other to create the final product of the whole unit)
  • expert model for the module
  • student samples
  • writer’s toolbox with specific strategies expert writers use
  • graphic organizers for working through the mini-assignments
  • The Sandbox – an assignment that helps students experiment with various writing strategies
  • vocabulary to help build a stronger usage of words
  • word sleuth encourages students to add to their word collection the words that they don’t know
  • module checklist is a specific rubric to help the evaluate the student’s work within the module
  • writer’s workshop is a module in each unit that focuses on sentence structure
  • review your progress sections encourage self-evaluation and sharing of the student’s work

While each unit has the goal of creating a completed piece of high-quality writing, there are mini-assignments throughout (see the list above) that work to teach the student strategies that good writers use. To accomplish this, student might work on grammar, spelling, vocabulary, brainstorming, or editing in the course of the mini-assignments throughout any given model. These all come together with the main piece of work being edited in small, bite-sized pieces. These bits are so small, the student doesn’t even necessarily realize how much change is occurring in their piece as they work on it. Sometimes, these mini-assignments do not have anything to do with the piece for the unit. Sometimes, they are breaks from that writing. It all works together seamlessly.

WIR workThere is a schedule in the front of the student text to help you plan out the work for this program. We are not following it because, honestly, Miss L likes to work on this and is moving a bit faster than the pacing in the book. I have found it to be easy as pie to just work at the pace the student is setting.

Writers in Residence quickly became a favorite part of the school day for Miss L. She works hard at the assignments and enjoys writing. She seems to be enjoying learning how to be a better writer and seeing the instruction add to her abilities. Her first piece of writing that she finalized using WIR was published on the blog a couple of weeks ago. Please go read When I Was Younger to see how the first unit piece came out for her.

There is much to really like about Writers in Residence . If you are looking for a writing program, I highly recommend checking out Apologia Educational Ministries and read more review from the Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.

At Home.

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review

Connect with Apologia Educational Ministries on social media:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld
Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/apologiaworld @apologiaworld
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

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Brookdale House: Writing Through Ancient History ~ a TOS review

When we began reviewing Writing Through Ancient History Level 2 Cursive, I was pretty excited about it. Brookdale House seemed to have something really appealing here in teaching writing using history.

 Brookdale House Review

Brookdale House designed this curriculum with the Charlotte Mason style of teaching. By reading, copying, and studying the structure of quality materials, the theory is that the students will gain knowledge about how to write high-quality material. The materials that are used in this curriculum are living books, original source materials, poetry, and historical narratives from the chosen time period. This allows the student to study writing, history, and handwriting all at the same time.

 Brookdale House Review

If you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, then this might be a fantastic fit for you.  By studying the writings of historical authors, the student learns sentence structure, word choice, and more. They practice their handwriting by using a true handwriting font. The students also learn about history by using selections from various primary source documents and historical selections from the four year history cycle so many homeschoolers use.

These four time periods for Writing Through History are:

  • Writing Through Ancient History,
  • Writing Through Medieval History,
  • Writing Through Early Modern History, and
  • Writing Through Modern History.

Each of these time periods offer some choices in curriculum. You can choose either cursive or manuscript for the copy work. You also have a choice of level 1 or level 2 materials. The difference in these is the difficulty of the reading and copywork passages. There are also different authors and source documents used. We received this as a downloadable PDF document. There is also a printed version available. (See sample pages for more information on levels and materials.)

The appeal of this curriculum for me was that we would be able to complete several subjects simultaneously – handwriting, history, and writing. The basic way it works: read a passage; narrate it; copy pieces of it; repeat using other high-quality, historical works. However, it was not a home-run program for our family.

copywork model

First off, it took me an extraordinary amount of time to figure out how this was supposed to work. Part of the difficulty is that the teacher materials are not all together in the PDF. And there are multiple sections I needed to go back and forth to. I read and reread and re-reread all of the teacher pieces of the puzzle. I still didn’t feel like I knew what was supposed to happen and I didn’t have a clue where to start my student at. This was a truly frustrating part for me. So, I ended up printing all of the teacher materials. Once I did that, it was better. Printing and highlighting were key to figuring it out.

Second, there are no breaks in the PDF and there are not any clickable links to help move around in the file. With a document that is almost 400 pages in length, that is burdensome. Especially when you need to print and read from more than one section on any given day. Perhaps adding clickable links or separating the materials into several separate downloads/PDFs would make it a more useable document. That would certainly have helped with figuring out the way it was all supposed to work. This difficulty meant that I had to access everything. I have a very independent student but with the frustration I felt accessing the different pieces, I knew that she would not be able to.

Lastly, you need to know that this is not a creative writing method. This is strictly copywork from historical documents and other source material with some grammar work included. I found that the student was studying various passages for grammar and copying passages for handwriting. The word writing really causes me struggles because of my preconception of what that word means/implies. In this case, writing indicates the copying of historical writers, allowing the student to note sentence structure and word choices.written summation

We used this program with our oldest child, an 11 year old. She enjoyed the reading material but was not very happy with the copywork. I think that the readings were appropriate for her age. We have not done a lot of copywork Charlotte Mason style and that impacted her impressions of the program. We will probably continue reading the selections and narrating them, as she loved that part of it. I think the handwriting practice could be of use for our middle child so we may revisit it for her after the new year begins.

I believe that a large part of our disappointment with this curriculum could be alleviated with the print version of the program. At almost 400 pages, it was not feasible for us to try to print this. I still am intrigued with the idea behind this curriculum. I haven’t given up on it yet but for Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers, this is a good program to look into.

At Home.

 

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Dynamic Literacy – a TOS review

Dynamic Literacy deciphering the parts of wordsWords fascinate me. E has always been fascinated with words as well. Since she could talk, she has always played with words, creating new ones, putting sounds together differently, seeing what all she could do with words. So getting the opportunity to review Dynamic Literacy, a program that focuses on the HOW of putting words together, was right up our alley.

WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set (Includes WordBuild the Game) is a fantastic set that has three pieces to it that all work together to help the student learn how to build words. Truly, it is that simple. And that complicated. The pieces of the set include

  • a 336 page teacher’s guide
  • a 156 page student workbook; and
  • WordBuild The Game disc for the computer.

The Program:

The concept behind Dynamic Literacy is amazingly simple.

prefix + root + suffix = wordDynamic Literacy affixes study

This concept drives the curriculum and the activities. This concept thrives on the exponential learning capacity of knowing and understanding each of the parts. Learning and knowing each of the pieces of the word, the morphemes, helps you decipher the meaning, thus making it possible for you to decipher words you have never seen or heard. There are 25 roots covered in Elements Level 1.  There is a prefix and suffix appendix to help students who may need to learn or review these affixes prior to starting with the root word studies.

The program has a five day approach, with the activity for each of those days staying the same. The root changes each rotation.

  • Day 1 – Root Squares activity (putting the pieces of words together from given morphemes)
  • Day 2 – Magic Squares (deciphering the meaning of words based on the prefix + root + suffix)
  • Day 3 – Stair Steps (coming up with the word based on a definition)
  • Day 4 – Comprehension Boosters (using the words in context)
  • Day 5 – Check-up for the root (mini-test with multiple choice questions)

There is also a “word wall” for each root. It is suggested that the student write down each new word with that root that they come across as they work the activities during the week.

It is suggested that only 15 minutes a day is needed for these activities, which are geared towards 6th – 10th grades (or perhaps 7th-12th for remediation). You will find the activities to be completed in the student workbook. The teacher’s guide has copies of the activities, the answers, and various teaching suggestions. If you are a classroom teacher, the teacher’s guide also has teaching objectives for each activities, along with differentiated instruction helps and cross-curricular examples.

daily work in Dynamic Literacy

Using the Program:

When we began Dynamic Literacy, we stepped back and did each of the lessons on the prefixes and suffixes that were needed before beginning the root word studies, as is suggested if you haven’t completed the Foundations levels. We felt like that would give us the best start. I am glad we did because the definition used for some of the affixes was just enough different from my understanding or E’s understanding of it that we struggled with some of the activities and definitions. I had to pull out the answers for things more than once, and not just for grading.

E and I enjoyed the activities in WordBuild and it was fun working together.  We will set this aside for the summer but when we jump back in with a full load in the fall, I think this will be in E’s box.

WordBuild the Game:

WordBuild the Game CDWordBuild the Game focuses on the same concept as the workbooks: prefix + root + suffix = word. It is an interactive program where the student places the morphemes together to try to make as many words as possible. It can be timed or not. If the student puts together pieces that don’t make a word, the program gently tells them that the word is not in the dictionary. You will need to check the Dynamic Literacy website to see the system requirements for this program.

The game was not terribly intuitive but once I got the hang of it, I was able to teach the girls pretty easily what to do. E had tried to figure it out by herself but couldn’t. We had both E, age 11, and L, age 9, working with the game. It wasn’t a hit but they enjoyed it well enough that there were no complaints about using it.

WordBuild the Game in use

Final Thoughts:

I think this is a unique approach to learning vocabulary and how to approach words that makes sense. It is how I have always thought about words so I felt right at home with this curriculum. E enjoyed the variation in activity from day to day, even though the weekly pattern was in place. Her absolute favorite activity was Magic Squares. She looked forward to it each week so much that she would ask to double up the day’s work if it meant she could do Magic Squares. There is also an online version of WordBuild that I am excited to read the Crew Reviews about. All in all – a hit.

If you are interested, Dynamic Literacy is offering a discount for my readers. Use the code athome for 25% off the books at www.dynamichomeschool.com or for 10% off at www.wordbuildonline.com.

At Home.

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