Category Archives: language arts

10 Wonderful Word Games (+1)

10 Wonderful Word Games +1

We LOVE games. All sorts of games. But truly, we often come back over and over to games that have to do with words. Today, as part of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair and for Middle School Monday, I am going to share with you eleven word games that our family plays and enjoys. This week’s theme is playing with words: the language arts (ANYthing to do with the language arts and other languages). I’ll just stick with some English language games for now but will direct you to some other resources at the end of the post.

1 – Boggle
Find letters that connect to make words of three letters or more. Find as many as you can before the timer runs out.

2 – Scrabble
Use your letter tiles to create words that hook onto other words on the game board, crossword style.

Scrabble Slam
3 – Scrabble Slam
You begin with a four letter word and then as quickly as you can, you change one letter at a time to create a new word. The first to get rid of all their cards in their hand wins.

Snake Oil
4 – Snake Oil
Use you words and your imagination to convince another player that your “invention” is just what they need.

5 – Dixit
Use your brain to imagine a word or phrase to describe the image on your card. The other players all add a card that could be what you described. Then everyone tries to guess which card is the original storyteller’s card.

2017-01-08 14.24.05
6 – Tapple
Grab a category and then find words that begin with each letter of the alphabet.

Scrabble Flash
7 – Scrabble Flash
A single player game where you make as many words as you can before the time runs out.

8 – Scattergories
After a category is chosen, a die is rolled to determine the starting letter that must be used. Players then try to think of as many words within the category that begin with the appropriate letter before the timer is done.

9 – Hangman
The old-fashioned but never worn out game of hangman where one person decides on a word, places the correct number of blanks for the letters of the word, and then the others try to determine the word before all the parts of the stick person are drawn.

10 – I’m Thinking Of
We play this in the car all the time. One person thinks of something (a color, an action, an object, anything) and the other participants try to guess what is being thought of using only yes or no questions.

11 – Cranium Cadoo for Kids
So this one is not exactly a word game but is tons of fun and requires good use of words. With both solo and group activities, the players must complete challenges (many related to words) to win the opportunity to place a token on the board.

So there you have it eleven fun games to strengthen word usage with your family.



Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.

Delight Directed High School English by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Act Your Part Well- 2017 VCF by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

The Search For Language by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays

Our Top Picks for Language Arts by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Multiple Approaches to Language Arts in 2017 by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

How We Cover the Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Use Your Words by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

The Art of Perfecting Macarons by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Loving Languages Every Day by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind

Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

The Readin’ and Writin’ Part of Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Children Who Love Books by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Customizing High School Language Credits by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

A Poetry Feast by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Teaching Language Arts without Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

I know your pain and it is worth it! by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Language Arts: Our Style by Annette @ A Net in Time

Words! Words! Words! by Lisa M @McClanahan 7

Finding the Right Words by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

What About Reading Comprehension? by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Teaching Grammar and Writing Through Discussion by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

If you have written about Language Arts, please click below and sign the linky to share your knowledge and resources with others who are searching.

An InLinkz Link-up

 Other posts on At Home: where life happens about Language Arts:
Phonetic Zoo (IEW spelling program that we use daily for the older two giggly girls)
Poetry Memorization (IWE poetry program that all of the girls use daily)
Spelling U See – Level G and Level E (spelling program we have used in the past and will probably pull out again)
Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar (a program that we use daily – almost completed!)
Talking Fingers (online typing program that strengthens phonics, spelling, and more)
Middlebury Interactive Languages (reviews 2014, 2015, 2016 – still used daily)
Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids (review 2016)
Middle School Grammar (posted on the TOS website, reviewed by me and used by my Middle Schooler each day)
Writers In Residence (awesome curriculum from Apologia that my 5th grader is thriving with)
Wordsmithy (review by me of a book talking about words)

There are probably more but this will do it for now.

At Home.


Favorites: curriculum


That word is quite loaded, isn’t it?

What does that actually mean? Well, if you look it up, it means “preferred before all others of the same kind.” So when we are talking about curriculum, it means what is our preferred curriculum.

Still, that is pretty loaded. Do I go with what I prefer and like? Or the giggly girls? And which giggly girl? For which subject?

Miss J – age 7

Favorite subject: Math

Miss L – age 10

Favorite subject: English (specially cursive and poetry)

Miss E – age 12

Favorite subject: art


Horizons math cover


For math, we are using Horizons for all three of the girls. It is working well and it has taken us a while to get to this point. Miss J really enjoys math and will ask to do more than one lesson each day. She enjoys math games and has fun with all things numbers. We also enjoy using the free games from Sheppard Software and they have some pretty challenging math games.


For English, we are very eclectic. It also kind of depends on what you determine English to be. If it is Writers In Residenceparsing sentences, we don’t do that. If it writing, Miss L has been using Writers in Residence. She still is enjoying that and I think it is still a very good curriculum. For cursive, we have used a couple of different things (see New American Cursive) but really, once she knew her letter formations it was just a matter of encouraging her to put it to use every day. She really enjoys working on making it beautiful now. If you are looking for literature, we are using This opens up the critical thinking options and gives each child the opportunity to give her own take on the story or passage we are reading. We have researched a bundle of different book lists and ask the girls to read some specific books but overall, their literature comes from unit studies we are working on. Poetry? Well, Miss L really meant writing poetry. She doesn’t mind memorizing poetry, which we are doing, but she just enjoys the flexibility and freedom of creating her own poetry.

mobileMiss E? Well, she would rather not have to do school at all. So, she has absolutely no favorites. She really seems to enjoy art and we do that locally with The Art Center of Waco. They do a weekly artist study during the school year and we love attending that. We tend to try to do some additional study of that artist during the week and we have learned a lot of techniques with that. (See three posts I have shared about the Art Center: Matisse, Art Camp, and Rendon/Chagall.) We have also used Artistic Pursuits several times and we do keep that available for picking up a lesson here and there. (See reviews on the grade levels and on Construct.) Additionally, we enjoy using the art lessons from HodgePodge. Quick and easy yet applicable to many different studies we are doing.


My favorites? History. I really enjoy studying history. We do that a number of ways, much of which is literature based. We read and study a number of non-fiction books for each topic we cover and so far, we have chosen topics based on interests from the girls. Will that continue? I don’t know. With Miss E in 7th grade this year, we probably need to focus on some more specific topics so this area is up for debate at the moment. Hopefully, I will have this all parsed out in the next couple of weeks.

We will jump back into full time school at the beginning of August so I guess I’d better get moving on those plans.

At Home.

Favorite Curriculum 2016
I am sharing these somewhat random thoughts as part of the TOS Review Crew Round Up of Favorite Curriculum Choices. Looking for something in particular? Head over to the lineup and see what others have shared. (This goes live on Friday, July 22, at 8 EST so if you click over there ahead of that time, you might get an error. Come back and visit after the link goes live!)








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:
Twitter: @apologiaworld

Crew Disclaimer


Writing A Letter for Young Ones

Dear Sofia 3I have a fun thing for you guys today. We stumbled across a way for your little girls, or your bigger girls, or whoever enjoys Sofia The First to be able to write a letter to her. It was in the September 2015 issue of Family Fun that came yesterday. The fine print says that if you include your return address on the envelope, Sofia will write your child back. There is the disclaimer on it that says not every letter can be guaranteed a reply should any errors occur with the mailing process and letters should be received by 12/31/15. But, still, its worth a chance, right?

Dear Sofia
J cut it out right away and wrote the letter. It is finished and she’ll be mailing it off at the first chance.

Dear Sofia 2

Here’s the address:
Dear Sofia
244 Madison Avenue Box #411
New York, NY  10016

Any chance to get them writing that they are excited about has me excited too. Do you have anyone in your home who is going to want to write to Sofia?

At Home.

**Disclaimer: The name Sofia the First and all of these images are not mine. I copied them directly off the pages from the magazine so that you all would know that this was not a random thing I dreamed up. The name Sofia the First is, of course, a Disney name and so copyrighted, protected, and all that other legal stuff. Family Fun is also, I am sure, copyrighted and protected and trade marked.

Orphs of the Woodlands – a TOS review

Have you ever wished that your child’s favorite thing could be used to teach them their least favorite things? Well, get a taste of it with Orphs of the Woodlands. This is an online education resource and game that combines reading with experiencing hundreds of tidbits of knowledge.
Star Toaster introduced their first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series not too long ago. It is titled The Treasure of HighTower and our family was thrilled to get the chance to review it.

TOS review

The Treasure of HighTower did not disappoint. Star Toaster has created a story line about a squirrel, whom your child gets to name, that becomes a spy and helps to rescue orphaned forest creatures. The story is so exciting, so full of adventure, that the girls had a hard time not reading all the way through it in pretty quick succession. They wanted to just keep reading. But, if they did that, they were going to miss an important and exciting part of the program.

As the story goes along, Spy (what we’ll call the squirrel for the time being) runs into orphans, or orphs, that need help. If Spy doesn’t learn what is put before him in his day to day life, he won’t have the money to provide the help these orphs need. So, Spy must learn and pay attention and do the jobs in order to earn money and rescue the orphs. The more NID (New Information Daily) that is learned, the better Spy does on his jobs and the more money he has to rescue and provide for the orphs.

experiencing lessons


Now, don’t misunderstand. These are fun jobs! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in charge of creating the exact color of paint needed for the HighTower Highbrow Museum of Art? Or what about being a number namer for the bank? Letter Linguist? Synonym Specialist? Maybe you want to bake something for the Badger Bakery? Whatever you want to try out, there is a job for you!

How do you get these jobs? Begin reading the book at the beginning. After each chapter is completed, there are new jobs that you can work. Each job completed correctly will pay gold stars, with which you can take care of the orphs. Do a good job and more orphs will come to be taken care of. The girls loved seeing how many orphs appeared at the end of each chapter.

discovering moreI want to share a couple of thoughts about the product. I am impressed with this product. It has done a wonderful job of exposing the girls to about 240 different aspects of learning. (This is how many jobs were completed by E when she had finished the book.) Some of the jobs reappear with a bit more difficult learning tucked in there but I don’t consider the girls to have gotten significant instruction on most of these topics. They were definitely exposed to them and it opened up a world of ideas to the girls, which is fantastic. (We took several “rabbit trails” to explore some of these worlds of ideas based on the information presented.) This does in no way diminish the quality or worth of this program. The more exposure the girls have with more difficult concepts in a familiar context, the easier those concepts are for them to learn.

Reading is the bridge for this program. You definitely need to have a good reader with good comprehension for this program. The range for this program is suggested 4th – 7th grades. I think this is a good range but it could easily stretch younger or older. My 3rd grader was easily able to read it but she loves to read. There are lots of words she didn’t know but there are rollovers embedded in the story that give the part of speech and several synonyms in varying degrees of difficulty for the word. There are also rollovers for quotes and ideas that are shared as part of the story, exposing the reader to thoughts of great thinkers from all walks of life.

quote and vocabulary

Because this is an online program you will need to purchase a subscription for the book and you will need a computer to read and complete the jobs. I hope everyone has easy access to a computer because this was worth the time and effort. The girls learned so much and I have a much better idea about some of the curriculum choices we need to make for them because I saw how much they enjoyed learning that was embedded in reading a story.

As I close this review, I want to share one more thing that we absolutely loved about Orphs. Throughout the book, there are videos. Prof. Forp is the instructor and he is hilarious! He cracks jokes that help them remember information and repeats things in such a way that they are remembered AND make sense. You can see an example of his video on the Star Toaster home page. The girls, E especially, really enjoyed the Professor.  And I loved the jokes. This is one I can wholeheartedly say “Go check out.”

free trial

We are waiting anxiously for the next book to come out in the Orphs of the Woodlands series by Star Toaster. If this sounds interesting to you, they have a free trial that you should check out. (Psst – this would also be a fantastic addition to a summer reading program.)

At Home.


Connect with Star Toaster on Social Media.



Star Toaster ReviewCrew Disclaimer

FIAR: Katy and the Big Snow, Part One

We have fallen in love with Virginia Lee Burton and her stories and illustrations. The most recent one we have worked with is Katy and the Big Snow. It is a simple yet engaging story about Katy, a snowplow who gets to do her job and does it well, in a big way! Our activities came somewhat from the FIAR volume 1 book but it was easy to add a lot to it, as well.

Part One collage

Because there is so much to the activities we did, I am breaking this post up into two parts. Part one will come today and part two will come tomorrow. This post will include Social Studies, Geograpy, History, and Literature/Language Arts. Part Two will consist of the activities for Art, Math, and Science.

Social Studies: Cities – We talked about the requirements for running a city – what city departments are needed, what utilities, what people, what leadership. We looked at the current city we live in (the city website it a good resource) and compared it to where we used to live. This led us very quickly to the way a city government is run. (Check out math activities because the differences in city sizes and governments led us to some interesting math discussions.)

Geography: Maps – There are many map directions in this story. We talked about a compass rose and how to create one, where it goes on a map, what it shows, etc. We discussed various map directions and how to read a map. We pulled out a street map and looked at it.

creating chalk citiesGeography: Maps – We talked about all of the different street signs that you come across and how those affect directions. I created a scavenger hunt for the kids based on images I found with a Google search. They did this one day in the car while we were driving around town. They looked for things such as stop signs, yield signs, street signs with different things on them (Drive, Lane, Street, Boulevard, etc.), a billboard with an address, etc.

Geography: Maps – We used chalk to create our own city maps using the knowledge of maps we had and combining that with what we learned about what things are needed in a city. They drew their own maps on the driveway. Each one came out very different. It was a really interesting exercise.

Geography: Maps – We talked about the amount of snow in the book and where they might see snows like this. We discussed various possibilities in the US. This was happening about the time that the Northeastern parts of the US were getting some major snow and one of my friends posted pictures of her house with snow way above the windows and doorways. We also looked up pictures on the internet, finding several of snow up to second story windows, just like in the story. We looked all of these places up on a map. There was even one news story of a place in Europe, Spain perhaps, that had some major snowfall and that was a very interesting story.

History: The “big snow” pictures also feel pretty relevantly under history. These types of snows are unusual for most of the US, especially when you take into account how many “big snows” places got this year. We looked up some almanacs and found out about other times in history where there were “big snows.” I am not linking these for two reasons: 1) I didn’t save them and 2) looking it up is part of the educational experience if you have older students. They need to learn to look things up.

literatureLiterature Connections: This connected very clearly with a couple of other FIAR books that we had recently studied and so I asked the girls to come up with some literature connections. They did it quickly. Two easy ones were Walking Through Woods On A Snowy Evening and Mike Mulligan. They also recalled some of the chapters in Little House in the Big Woods. We read a book titled Weather that has overlays inside of it that help explain the weather and is an early reader that our youngest could read part of. I also really like the book Its Snowing by Gail Gibbons. She does an amazing job of explaining nonfiction topics. I always try to ask the girls to make connections to other things we have read or studies because it strengthens recall ability and memory but it also allows them to make other connections in author or subject or topic. Transfer of knowledge is a very important ability that I try to strengthen.

Author: Virginia Lee Burton – The collection we were reading this story from had a very nice biography of Virginia Lee Burton. We read that and talked about some of the things mentioned in it. We also talked about what the girls remembered from the Mike Mulligan study. The collection allowed us to read through several of Virginia Lee Burton’s stories.

Literature/Language Arts: Prose – We talked about this word and how it applies to this story. We talked about it in contrast to poetry and other structured forms of writing.

Literature/Language Arts: Personification – Once again, Virginia Lee Burton write an inanimate object with great personality. She give Katy so many human qualities. We talked about those, listing them and giving examples of places in the story. We also tied this discussion into art because Katy is drawn with a lot of personality, as well.

Literature/Language Arts: Vocabulary – We used the vocabulary listings out of the FIAR book and this was mostly done with J, who is 6.

Literature/Language Arts: Capitalization – This book has some great examples of the use of capitalization for proper nouns and their more difficult uses. We also talked about using capitalization for emphasizing the importance of something. Big Snow is an example of that. Directions are another time that it is difficult to remember whether to capitalize or not. It is great for J to start looking at these now.

So that is a run-down of what we did with Katy in regards to literature, language arts, geography, social studies, and history. Part Two will be published tomorrow with the rest of the activities we did. I hope you don’t mind a two part post but I don’t like leaving things out when I feel like we have had a great study. We took quite a while with this one because we were enjoying all the parts of it so much. I hope you all enjoy it, too. See you tomorrow. At Home.

%d bloggers like this: