Tag Archives: grammar

Daily Grammar Lessons for Jr. High and High School ~ A Crew review

Daily Grammar for middle and high school

One thing we don’t focus too hard on as a family of readers is grammar and spelling. This is a mixed-bag of benefits so I was happy when a simple solution came available for review to have the girls brush up on these skills. Easy Grammar Systems has a series of easy-to-use products that doesn’t take a huge amount of time while showcasing huge results. Both Miss E (10th grade) and Miss L (8th grade) have been using  Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 9 with Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 9 Test Booklet. In just 5-10 minutes a day, the girls are getting solid practice and refreshers on all the necessary components of grammar.


I have two students using this and that is because Easy Grammar Systems has a copyright statement in the front of the lesson book granting permission for more than one student to use the book for non-commercial use. It may not be used school-wide in districts and such but one family may use it for multiple students. This is a great blessing.

There are 180 daily lessons in the Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 9. The text is considered a teaching text because it has explanations for new concepts as they come up. There are also examples for those new ideas. This allows the student to see and then use the concept – a great way to learn. Some of the ideas and concepts at the beginning are designed to be a review, especially if this is not the first book from Easy Grammar Systems the student has used. As the lessons progress, the information becomes more advanced. As a teaching text, this has the answer key included in the book.

20190912_133634Concepts in this level include but are not limited to:

  • adjectives
  • adverbs
  • analogies
  • types of sentences
  • conjunctions
  • dictionary skills
  • interjections
  • nouns
  • phrases
  • clauses
  • prefixes, roots, suffixes
  • prepositions
  • pronouns
  • sentence combining
  • sentence problems (run-on, fragment, etc.)
  • spelling
  • subject/verb agreement and identification
  • verbs

This program runs the gamut on grammar skills. Each of the 180 daily lessons includes the same five basic parts: capitalization, punctuation, two areas of grammar concepts, and sentence combining. The lessons are printed in the book and can be copied (notice the cover says reproducible!) or can be copied down into a notebook or on a piece of paper. My girls are using a notebook and writing the answers for each section down in the notebook.


Samples are available on the website.

The answers are included in the back of the book. The book also has indexes and listing of the concepts with related page numbers. This would make it possible to look up concepts that a student needs practice on and have the student use just those parts.

We also received the test booklet. It contains reproducible tests that occur every 10 lessons. We use it the same way we use the daily lessons. It is formatted the same way the daily lessons are, also. The girls copy the answers for the lessons into their notebooks and then we grade them. So that they don’t forget to have me get the test booklet out, we have written “get test” before lesson 11, lesson 21, etc. The answers are included in the test booklet.

Each day the girls get out their language arts notebook and write the corrected sentences and answers into their notebook. We discuss any questions that arise during the lesson. Then, answers are checked and they are done with it for the day. It truly takes no more than 10 minutes and more often, it is about 5. Sometimes it takes them longer to find the book since there are two using it than it does for them to do the lessons at this point.


I do expect it to take them a bit longer as the concepts become more advanced. But I have already seen benefit of this program for us. Since most of our grammar understanding comes from experiencing the usage in context of reading, this is pulling out the details and having them focus on the detail one at a time. Even if it is something they know, having to take just a moment to examine it and determine that, “yes, I do understand how this works” is a very good thing. Both of the girls are more certain with their responses and I have heard them speaking with more confidence when helping their younger sister in her grammar work.

I am pleased to see that they have additional levels. I feel confident in saying that this will remain in our arsenal for the long term.

Lori, At Home.

daily grammar

There have been Homeschool Review Crew families using this and additional products.
Easy Grammar:  Grade 1 
Easy Grammar:  Grade 3 
Daily GRAMS:  Grade 3 
Easy Grammar Plus
Daily GRAMS:  Grade 7
Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 9
Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 11

Please visit the Crew blog to read about their experiences by clicking on the image below.



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

2018-08-13 11.55.26

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

GP OK ku revision

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.

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.


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.

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

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Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/apologiaworld @apologiaworld
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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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To read more Crew Reviews on Elements Level 1, Foundations Level 1, and WordBuildOnLine, click the banner below.

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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.

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/startoaster/
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/startoaster4kids
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/StarToaster


Star Toaster ReviewCrew Disclaimer

A Review – Critical Thinking Company

Editor In Chief IOne thing we haven’t really focused too much on during the past couple of years is grammar. You know: nouns, adjectives, commas, phrases, and the like. We figure that as much reading as the girls do, they will pick up on a lot of it by osmosis, or whatever you call it when it comes naturally from being absorbed in good books. And what they don’t pick up on, well, it will be much easier to teach when their brains have been absorbing a lot of it from reading all those books they do. When we were offered the opportunity to review Editor in Chief Level 1 for The Critical Thinking Co., we figured that it was perhaps a very good time to find out just how much absorbing E had done.

coverEditor in Chief Level 1 is a printed book designed with approximately fourth and fifth graders in mind. It is not a stand alone grammar curriculum. It is definitely more of a supplement or a refresher course.

Editor in Chief, or EIC as we call it around here, has 12 lesson areas. These range from content that comes fairly easily to a 5th grader to things that are a bit more difficult to grasp. These lessons include: finding content errors, capitalization, punctuation, applying spelling rules, nouns and all the variations, pronouns and appropriate usage, adjectives, adverbs, articles, verbs, agreement, conjunctions, prepositions, interjections, confusing word pairs, negative words, homophones, homographs, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments. That is a lot of information packed into this book.

Each lesson begins with the rules or content that is being reviewed and how to apply it in context. It EIC readinghas examples of both how it should look and how it should not. This instruction is followed by several pages of passages that contain errors to identify in whatever area the lesson focus is. Each page includes an optional section for rewriting the passage with the errors corrected.

We would review each and every example in the instructional pages, talking about why it is used and applied. Then, E would do between 2 and 4 pages of activity work, depending on her schedule for the day. This is something that can vary by individual. You could do one page a day and spread this out over 13 or 14 weeks. You could do all of the application pages for a lesson at once and finish the book in 12 days. It really depends on the student and teacher. As I said, we completed between 2 and 4 pages each day. We chose to have her copy in correct form only one of the passages she marked up for each lesson. After we have been done with it for a few weeks, we are going to go through it all again because there is so much packed in these pages.

completed page

We have really enjoyed Editor in Chief Level 1. It has been a challenge that we did not expect. But that was a fun thing for us. I enjoy editing and I found that this challenged me, as well. There were several “rules” in the various areas that I found out I was using incorrectly. As the instructor, I learned a lot. And, I was VERY thankful to have the answer documents at the back of the book! We had to use them on just about every passage because some of those errors were tricky little things to find.

One huge bonus to note with EIC is the copyright policy. The Critical Thinking Company is extremely generous in their policy. The copyright notice in the front of the Editor in Chief book reads that the book can be copied, up to 35 copies of each page for one home or one classroom per year. This is not only a good thing for homeschoolers, but any teacher out there will get their money’s worth from this product.

L sneaking a peek

Even middle sister is excited about Editor in Chief and wants to see what it is all about.


The Critical Thinking Company asked the Review Crew to review several different products and I can’t wait to read the reviews for the other products. Those products include:

Alphabet Song Game (Windows software download) (Gr. Toddler – 1)
Math Analogies Beginning (Windows software download) (Gr. K-1)
Math Analogies Level 1 (Windows software download) (Gr. 2-3)
Math Analogies Level 2 (Windows software download) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 1 (physical book) (Gr. 4-5)
Editor in Chief Level 2 (physical book) (Gr. 6-8)
Pattern Explorer (physical book) (Gr. 5-7)
World History Detective Book 1 (physical book) (Gr.6-12+)

I encourage you to check out all that The Critical Thinking Co. has to offer. I know we are looking closely at ordering several more items from them very soon.

At Home.


Find The Critical Thinking Company on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCriticalThinkingCo
Google +: https://plus.google.com/114500823774999703181
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Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness

Kindness title

We started this day’s study with a felt activity we borrowed from the church workroom. This was a fun, no-right-no-wrong-way-to-do-it activity. I just handed them the package and let them go at it. They played. They worked together (showing kindness – yea) and put it together several different ways. They have even pulled it out a few times since then. It is by Little Folk Visuals and is called Felt Wonders – Fruit of the Spirit. It is bright, colorful, durable, and lots of fun.

After they had free time with it for a while, I did step in and direct a little bit. We used the small words (love and joy) as reading practice and some phonics work with J, who is beginning to read a bit. We also did some sequencing with the older girls. Of course, we sang the song and they took turns pointing to the words and putting them in order. The set also comes with different words for some of the fruit since different translations of the Bible use alternate words. So, there was a short built in vocabulary lesson. Additionally, we talked about the part of speech for each of the words.


After they had played for a while, we did put it away and moved on with the written part of the lesson. The rest follows the same format as the previous parts of the Fruit of the Spirit study, except there is not a printable coloring sheet or activity sheet this time.

Kindness – what does the Bible say

Kindness – handwriting practice cursive

Kindness – handwriting practice print

Kindness – handwriting practice copy prinit

Here’s hoping you are able to find some use for these ideas and that they will bless your students. At Home.

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