Friday, May 27, 2011

Homeschooling What style are you

For those who have conventions coming up, this is a  “Do your homework BEFORE Convention so you don’t get overwhelmed AT Convention” post. (Ours was earlier, in April, and this post is taken from my notes for our pre-convention support group meeting)

There are now so many different styles, methods and philosophies of homeschooling, with vendors catering to each niche, that it is helpful to develop your own philosophy before embarking on an adventure through the Speaker workshops and the vendor halls.

"Wait a minute!" you say.... "I have to have a philosophy? What do you mean by that?" 

I hope that this post will give you some helpful information on home school philosophy, what some of the differences are, and some resources to get you going, as you develop your own style or philosophy.

Towards the front of every Old Schoolhouse Magazine (BTW, the spring promotion* with 19 free gifts is still available) there is a page called “The Tutoring Center” that is a bit of a “quick start” to homeschooling. It includes the following run-down on most of the styles of homeschooling (In green print), and I felt that this would make a helpful format to work with (Thank you TOS for providing the "bones" for this post)

First, though, one basic resource that I feel is written in a very common-sense sort of way is Terri Johnson’s Homeschooling ABC’s* “Class”, with Lesson’s D, E, and F being the most helpful for helping to solidify your personal strategies for homeschooling. (The entire class is available to download~ regularly priced @ $67, or for $10/month for 6 months of weekly "lessons" delivered to your mailbox. )

Now, on to the basics~ 

Philosophies, Styles, & Methods
_Charlotte Mason: Based on a method introduced by nineteenthcentury educator Charlotte Mason, this approach includes nature studies/ journaling, narration, and living books.

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning : A Story for Mother Culture ®Charlotte Mason wrote a series of 6 books (The texts are available for free online at Ambelside Online, an internet community for CM homeschoolers).  

Here are some additional great books  written by Karen Andreola~  A Charlotte Mason Companion*,   Pocketful of Pinecones* and her newest book, Lessons at Blackberry Inn*. These distill many of the concepts presented by Charolotte Mason, with the last two being written in very readable prose.


Classical: Based on Dorothy Sayers’ The Lost Tools of Learning, in which child development is broken up into three “stages” of learning commonly called “the Trivium.”

 The Bluedorns' Teaching the Trivium (They have an excellent Q&A section in the “Articles” portion of their website) 

and Susan Wise Bauer The Well Trained Mind*

The Classical method is based on 3 stages of learning~ Grammar (Memorization),  Logic (Reasoning), and Rhetoric (Ability to put together and use the previous two stages)

Here is a great explanation from the Bluedorn’s site: The trivium model for child development may be explained in computer terms. Children are:
  • Booting up in the early Grammar Stage — birth through age 9.
  • Keying in the information in the later Grammar Stage — age 10 through 12.
  • Processing in the Logic Stage — age 13 through 15.
  • Printing out in the Rhetoric Stage — age 16 through 18.
_Delight Directed: This puts the learning in the hands of the child, based on his or her interests. Parents help facilitate this type of learning with appropriate instructional materials.
Heart of Wisdom seems to fall under this approach as well as the Principle Approach(See below). And Raymond and Dorothy Moore would may seem to fit here as well.

_Eclectic: A mix of philosophies and curricula to accommodate each child’s abilities and interests. Parents choose from any method or style only those components that fit their
specific needs.
Here’s a nice interview with Ruth Beechick that I feel highlights this train of thought. :) 

_The Principle Approach: An approach based on the principles of our Founding Fathers and an emphasis on God’s Word as the basis for every subject.
Beautiful Feet combines Literature with Principle, Here is a website  (Curriculum Connection)with a great synopsis of this approach with suggested reading and more information.

_Traditional Textbook: Normally uses a full-range, packaged, textbook type curriculum that also may include a scope and sequence, testing, and recordkeeping.
Abeka, Bob Jones, and Alpha Omega all come to mind

_Unit Studies: All or "most" core subjects are covered while studying any one topic or unit of study, using a variety of resources and supplemental activities.
Five In a Row ~ be sure to check out the FIAR message boards, ~ this is my FAVORITE curriculum, hands-down!  (Purchase from Rainbow Resource Center), Amanda Bennet’s unit studies and Download-N-GO series, Valerie Bendt, and Konos

_Unschooling: A relaxed setting where learning is directed by the child. Parts of this philosophy are based on research by John Taylor Gatto and John Holt.
Mary Hood’s “The Relaxed Homeschooler” comes to mind. She has a number of books out~ including "The Joyful Home Schooler". Who doesn't want a little bit of JOY to add to their home school?? :D

One of the most important things to remember is that there is NO perfect curriculum, that suits each and every child,  AND that what was once “good” for your circumstance may have changed, as your lives and children grow and change. Evaluate and re-evaluate each year.

 I hope that this is helpful to you~

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Freebies to get your summer going

Hey, Friends~

Now that it is getting to be that time of year again, I thought I'd post a little list with links for some free summer fun. If there are easily identifiable age restrictions I will note them. :) 

I will also add to this post as I find things that might be interesting. :) 

  • Barnes and Noble  Summer Reading Program (earn a free book)(grades 1-6)
  • TD Bank Summer Reading Program (Earn a $10 deposit)
  • Borders Summer Reading Program (earn a free book) (
  • MTA/ Red Sox Reading Matters (chance to win tickets!) (K-8)
  • Scholastic Reading Challenge (PreK-12th!) (If you don't have a teacher account and want to "join" our school, just let me know~ I can add students in. :) ~ There may be a deadline to register, but I can't find it just now) 
  • Kids Bowl Free ( 15 and under 2 free games/day all summer. Shoe rentals extra)  
  • AMF Bowling (16 and under 2 games free w/ shoe rental~ check for location)
  • National Amusements Bookworm Wednesdays Free Movies (Check for participating locations)
  • Regal Cinema's Summer Movie Express (Select movies $1 on Tuesday and Wednesdays @ 10am... I saw one we might be interested in) check for locations
  • Target Arts and Culture (Free and reduced admission~ check for locations) 

Miscellaneous Activities~

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wordy Qwerty~ All kinds of keyboards!


Every now and again I am given a review item that doesn't actually "match" the ages and/or abilities of any of my children. Such is the case with Wordy Qwerty.  However, if I had a child currently in the target age for this program, I would definitely be interested in purchasing it for a supplemental activity, as I feel it is engaging as well as educational. 

Wordy Qwerty is offered by Talking Fingers as a spelling and typing fluency program for 2nd and 3rd graders (Or ages 7-9). Although he didn't exactly "fit" the range, I figured that my 5th grader could use practice typing, even if his spelling is already pretty good. So, on with the "Show". :)

The basic set-up~ 
"Qwerty" (a computer keyboard) and "Midi" (a musical keyboard) are characters who help the student navigate through the lessons on a quest to earn "Spheres" so that Midi can build a musical machine (more on that in a bit).

There are 20 "lessons"  that cover 20 basic spelling rules, with 6 activities in each lesson. Every set of 4 lessons completed allows Midi to complete another section of his machine. 

This is what the "navigation" screen looks like. 
Navigation screenEach activity is represented in the boxes to the left of the center column, the lessons are represented by the numbered spheres (Neat feature~ if you mouse over a completed sphere it shows which spelling rule is represented. For example CKS or X would show if you hovered over the numeral 8). The boxes to the right of the center represent each section of the musical machine that has been completed.

1~ Patterns 
Step 1: PatternsThis screen shows the word "branch" being typed. If the student misspells the word, the program will guide with voice "Type 'c'" as well as the color coded hand showing how to correctly type the letter (I tried to get a screen shot showing the fingers moving, but was a little too slow). Once the word is correctly typed, it is "moved" to the appropriate side with the arrow key. This step shows the common patterns in spelling. 

2~ Karaoke

After the patterns are discussed, Midi comes up with a "Spelling Rule Jingle" to help cement the idea in the brain. These are some of the more, shall we say.... musical tunes I've heard used for this sort of thing. After the song is sung, there is an option to sing it karaoke-style, which also helps to make it more memorable.

3~ The Recycler 
Step 4: sortingThis section focuses on words that rhyme, and the different vowel patterns that can be found. It helps the students learn to recognize correct long-vowel spellings. The words are sorted, and then the "nonsense" words are "recycled" (My 3 yo thought this was a fun part to watch, simply because he's big into recycling right now :) )
Step 4: recycled
4~ Pop-a-Word
4~ Pop-a-wordThis section is an arcade-style game where a sentence is read that includes a "tricky" word (For instance "isn't"). The words then appear somewhat randomly in balloons, which must be popped in the correct order (My Eldest thought this one was kind of fun, and it was good to build quick discrimination between there, they're and their).

5~ Write a story 
Step 5 Write a StoryThis activity works on dictation skills. There is a new 8-line rhyme for each lesson. Two lines are spoken and shown in print. The second line is then taken away, and must be typed correctly. There are cues when incorrect letters/words are typed. If the child can't recall the entire sentence, he can click on the lips, and the set is repeated, both in print and vocally. Very helpful feature~  the printed text is then returned to the point where the child left off, rather than returning them to the starting point. 

6~ Read a Story:
This activity tests reading comprehension by leaving some words blank. When the student gets to a blank, and clicks, a drop-down box appears with word choices.

Step 6: Read a Story

Here are some of our further thoughts on this program:

  • We felt the variety of interesting games and activities helped to keep the interest level fairly high. 
  • Many of the activities contain "Stories", rather than random sentences, which my Middlest appreciated. 
  • The musical machines that are being built are pretty cool~ 
  • There is no way (That we have seen) to replay the musical machine sections of the program~ if you missed it, wanted to show it to Dad when he gets home, or littlest wants it played again, there will be some disappointment. 
  • The CD-rom version is not compatible with the newest MAC OS versions. :( We can use the online version, but sometimes portable is useful. 
  • I haven't found a way to pause the program, which would be a useful tool. 
Here is an introductory video that will allow you to see some of the program in action, as well as hear directly from the creator of Wordy Qwerty, Dr. Jeannine Herron. 

    Now for the nitty-gritty (Which isn't too gritty! :D )

    • 5 year online subscription for 1-5 children ranges from $25- $71.25 
    • CD editions (Not compatible with Windows 7 or MAC OS 10.6 and up) $35
    Clearly, efforts have been made to make this an affordable option for families of all sizes, which is very appreciated! You can get full pricing details on the website, and while you're there, you might be interested in checking out the free online demo of the first lesson on silent "e".  
    If you scroll down the demo page, there is currently an offer for 20% off your order when you sign up for the Talking Fingers, Inc. newsletter. Pretty nice! :) 

    As always, I hope that this has been helpful to you as you choose where to spend your homeschool budget. Please visit the TOS Crew Blog, and see what my fellow crewmates had to say (Many of them actually had children in the target age range, so they may have some different insight for you).

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Progress~ and a pretty woodpecker

    May 4, 2011
    May 4, 2011

    May 17, 2011
    May 17, 2011

    May 5, 2011
    May 5, 2011
    May 5, 2011 (in context)

    May 12, 2011
    May 12, 2011

    May 12, 2011 Visitor showing off
    May 12, 2011

    May 12, 2011 Visitor
    May 12, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday~


    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday~ Blooms and Birds Slideshow

    I haven't participated in Wordless Wednesday for a while, AND it's taken me too long to get pictures from my camera to the computer. So.... I have a few more pictures than usual for this Wordless Wednesday, so I'm going to try a slideshow~ hope it works!  (I'd love to hear from you if you can see it, and any other comments! :D )

    ~ Blooms and Birds ~


    Institute for Excellence in Writing


    I am a fan of reading (Have you noticed that yet?). I also think I’m a tolerable writer (I will leave each of you, my readers, to be the judge of that). However, I am NOT confident as a teacher of writing and composition. I think it relates to my finding writing fairly intuitive, but therefore difficult to teach. I am also befuddled because my well-read children don't really enjoy writing. (How many of you have heard that "if your children are good readers they will absorb the ability to be good writers"? I can testify that it doesn't always work that way. For these reasons I was extremely delighted to have been chosen to review the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Teaching Writing with Structure and Style(TWSS)/ Student Writing Intensive(SWI) combo package “B” (intended for grades 6-8) for the TOS Crew.

    As someone who had been in a workshop or two with Andrew Pudewa at a conference, I was familiar with the the Institute for Excellence in Writing, but I really had no idea what the SWI or the TWSS programs entailed. Here is some information that I think may be helpful for those considering purchasing either or both.

    The Basics:

    First, I need to mention that both products can stand alone, but they also work well together.

    In order to test this out, I started using the SWI first, before looking at the TWSS.

    Student Writing Intensive is a workshop for students, making use of taped live workshop sessions. We were sent Level B. There are 4 DVD’s in the course with 15 lessons (which can take 15-30 weeks or so). It also comes with a notebook which includes copies of the forms and lists that the children will be using, as well as plenty of space for their own writing papers.
    SWI is one of those wonderful programs that allows me (the parent and teacher) to invite another teacher into my home (Andrew Pudewa) to teach my child(ren). I really didn't have a handle on the concept that this entire program really is a course or "workshop" for my student, and that I get to be the "teacher's assistant" if you will. :) Yes, I'm repeating myself here, so that others will better understand that concept.

    By the way, Andrew Pudewa has a great sense of humor, albeit a rather "Boy-ish" one (imagine that!). He even had my fairly demure daughter chuckling over the explanation of his classroom "Fingering" system ("1 finger in the air means you have a question about..... 2 fingers.... and 3 fingers......). You'll have to actually watch the DVD to understand that one, but it is worth the chuckle.

    Eldest enjoys being somewhat independent with her schoolwork, and we have found that a few DVD classes tend to work well with her. I enjoyed being able to sit back and watch the lessons with her, but serve only as reinforcement. I think that the SWI could be used fairly independently, if your student is motivated.

    The units move at a fairly steady pace and build writing skills, focusing on just a few techniques and structural elements at a time. I should mention here that if your student has an extremely creative literary bent and is ALWAYS writing, this program might feel a little stifling.  However, Andrew Pudewa has taken pity on the poor souls who never know what to write about, and has given them specific excerpts to re-write. The basic concept is that it is too hard for many children (And adults) to concentrate on learning how to write AND come up with their own content at the same time. I think that depending on your student, and possibly allowing them to choose their own topics, even prolific stream-of-consciousness writers can gain some insight on how to "dress up" and improve their writing.

    SWI gets 2 thumbs up from Eldest~ She is looking forward to continuing with it next year, which leads me to the....

    Teaching Writing with Structure and Style  Seminar and workbook. Included in the package I received was the original TWSS seminar (recorded in 2000) on 6 DVDs. Just like the SWI, this is a live class or workshop, but for the teacher this time. This was similar in many ways to sitting in on a bunch of "Andrew Pudewa" homeschool convention workshop. Lots of great information and tips~ I'll list a few of my favorite "nuggets" a little later on. 

    TWSS also includes the Tips & Tricks DVD (recorded at a 2007workshop/seminar) as well as three DVDs that are sort of a quick version of the SWI for each level.
    One of the first "Tips"~
    "Don’t drag the program out!  Don’t get stuck on the first 2 units. 3-8 weeks TOPS! Just move on!" (Schedule the change to the next unit, and follow it, regardless of whether or not there is a firm understanding). (Uh-oh! I should have listened to this earlier!)  If you are planning to do much of the teaching yourself, and you have time, it would be very good to go through the entire seminar before starting to familiarize yourself with everything, AND listen to the Tips & Tricks DVD. You can "muddle along" like I did for a while, but really, it would be in your best interests to invest that time more or less up front. However, if listening to the entire course at once is too daunting, don't let that hold you back. Go ahead and start, just remember this first tip... keep moving! :)

    Doing the same work that your students will be asked to do (in the TWSS seminars) may be one of the most valuable tools. It helps to DO before you teach! :)

    Some nuggets that I feel are worth sharing as they apply to many things~
    • Don’t tell them “Don’t do that!”, instead teach them what TO do! You can’t efficiently get rid of a bad habit, without replacing it with a good one.
    • “Tests” inform children what they DON’T know (“I got ___ wrong on the test”), while writing and essays are good methods to show what they DO know.
    • The purpose of SWI and TWSS is to “Practice” writing differently, rather than writing the best possible piece. This will allow the student to eventually write excellent papers without having to actually "Think" about the mechanics, and instead focus on the content.
    • “Thinking” is not only answering the questions but learning to ask the questions of yourself.
    I think that the TWSS is a very valuable tool, and will help me to teach my children how to be better writers. I can see pulling this out yearly and going through the units until they really know what they are doing. 

    The nitty gritty~
    This is not an inexpensive program, but as with many things, I feel you get what you pay for. Quality.
    The package I received Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack $239
    Each component is available separately, but purchasing them together saves $29.

    To get an idea of which course would best suit your family I highly recommend taking some time to browse through the Institute for Excellence in Writing website.
    • There are numerous introductory videos and samples on the website (For instance, if you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will find an introductory video, a video excerpt from the class, and 2 sample files to download)
    • There is a fantastic "Help and Support" page that should answer many questions as well as lead you to many articles that are helpful and informative. 
    • Newsletters from 1996 on as well as the new "Magalogs" may be accessed through the "Help and Support" tab as well (Or you can just click here)
    Last but not least, another nifty little item we received was a Portable Wall($7). This is a tri-fold folder (Think the size of a regular folder but with 2 flaps that open outward instead of just one) that can help take the place of all the posters with which Andrew Pudewa recommends decorating our homes! This could be a little handier for those of us who don't have entire classroom walls at our disposal! :)

    As always, I hope that this review was helpful to you as you choose how best to spend your family's homeschool funds. For more opinions on this and other levels of SWI and TWSS, please visit the TOS Crew blog.

    Now I will leave you with two of my favorite "Nuggets" from TWSS.  These resonate strongly with this homeschooling mom!

    You do not learn from Multiple Choice tests! Multiple choice tests put the emphasis on what we do NOT know. "I got 4 wrong... I don't know 4 things."  Well, you're never going to know everything there is to know about everything anyway. So who cares what you don't know! What's more important is what you DO know, and can you communicate that effectively.  Andrew Pudewa

    Make writing a part of the study of everything.  Andrew Pudewa

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    The Secret of Indigo Moon by G. P. Taylor

    978-1-4143-1948-3When I was given the opportunity to review "The Secret of Indigo Moon" by G. P. Taylor, I was very curious, as it is a newer (to me) style of writing. It combines regular prose and "graphic novel" for kids. My two olders have reached the point where they are very interested in "Mysteries" so this seemed like a perfect time to check it out.

    The story is suspenseful enough that it is not considered a "night-time" read in our house (Middlest deems it "Creepy" but exciting), with plenty of dangerous characters and "Darkness." Of course, the "graphic" layout of the book (Black is very prevalent on most pages) reinforces "The darkness" of the world that the Dopple and Ganger children find themselves inhabiting.

    You can download a pdf file of the first chapter, and see whether this is something that would create interest in your house.


    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Monki See (monki do.....monki learn)

    MonkiSee, Monki Do? 
    Children truly do learn by mimicking those around them. Neural pathways are being connected and reinforced constantly.  MonkiSee creator Krista Guerrero (A homeschooling mother of 6) recognized this, and created the MonkiSee program to help others after having success with teaching her younger children to read at an early age. You can read more of her story here, and some facts about the program here.

    The entire program utilizes DVD's, Books, and Flashcards.


    MonkiSee is based on research by Glenn Doman, the author of "How to Teach Your Baby to Read". You can read some of his research and find other resources on this page (Glenn Doman's research is found at the IAHP links). In a nutshell, my understanding of the basic concept is to exercise and stimulate the same neural  pathways over and over so that what is seen (or heard, or touched) is "learned", and this learning takes place most quickly and easily the younger the brain....

    Photobucket My youngest is on the older end of the recommended age for MonkiSee, (ages 3 months -3 years) but he enjoyed watching the MonkiSee Baby's First Words DVD (Retail $24.95, currently on sale for $19.95). It is pleasant to watch, with calm music and children's voices. The accompanying pictures and puppets are also interesting.

    We didn't actually watch it EVERY day as recommended, as Youngest likes variety in what he watches, and I do try to limit his viewing. He wasn't very fond of reviewing the included slideshow, although he was willing to watch it a few times. I'm guessing he was a little old for the purposes of this program(Not quite as compliant as a younger child might be...;) He has his own, vocal opinions about what he watches and reads at the moment ;) ).

    I like the way that the MonkiSee book, "Know Your Monkey" (Retail $11.95, currently available for $9.95) is set up. 

    A 2-page spread with text (Mostly one-two words/page), Photobucket

    and the following spread has a picture with the same words repeated.


    I think this is a useful tool!
    It gives the opportunity for the child to focus on the word shape before seeing the picture. When the word is repeated with the picture, the child begins to associate the shape of the word with the picture. This is very well done! I would like to see more "baby books" utilize this concept.  Oh, and the words in the book reinforce those found on the video, which was "thoughtful", and makes sense.
    I would say that this process would work best with someone who is fairly regimented, as frequent repetition is a key aspect of the program. I understand and admire those that are wired this way. Unfortunately, that is just not the way our family works (In addition to having limited viewing time, I'm just not an "Every day 3x/day kind of person".... you should see me trying to remember to take vitamins!).
    I am curious though, what the results would have been if I had had this program to use when my Youngest was an infant. 

    However, that being said, I appreciate the ability to have something very "Gentle" to watch upon occasion that is educational in nature. This is even addressed in the FAQ's ~ (See the answers to "Should I do this daily with my child?"  and  "What if we don't do this consistently?") The only negative recommendation  makes perfect sense~  to NOT make this the only think that your child sees and does all day long~ not a multi-hour electronic baby-sitter! 

    If you are interested in giving your 0-3 year-old child a "head-start" in learning to read (By memorizing word shapes, and eventually internalizing some phonics), then this might be a program you would be interested in. You can purchase the items individually, or you can purchase an entire package (6 DVD's, 2 books, and 5 sets of flashcards). Retail for this package is $265.35, but it is currently on sale for $139.95~ over 45% savings. 

    To see how this worked for other TOS Crew Members, please check out the TOS Crew Blog.

    As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you search for the best items for YOUR homeschool.


    Side note:  Krista Guerrero does recommend using a phonics program for children 4+ as the "Window of opportunity" for teaching via sight-reading is much smaller at that point.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Yesterday's Classics

    I am a self-professed bibliophile (aka book-a-holic... AND my children are well on their way to following in my footsteps ;) ).
    I have a number of bookcases and STACKS of books in my home. Although until recently I was inclined to slow down my purchase of physical books,  due to the over-proliferation of books in my home, my mind has been changed by visits to my public library (A story for another post). Suffice it to say that GOOD and classic literature is "disappearing" from those shelves to make space for... um... I'm not sure what, exactly, but I'm not happy about it.

    Screen shot 2011-05-04 at 11.49.30 PMBecause many "Classic" books are being removed from my local library's shelves, AND given the advent, and subsequent popularity of e-readers (I currently only have an Itouch, but am interested in a Kindle or a nook, or some such thing....), I was very pleased to be amongst the TOS Crew members who were given the 225 e-book bundle from Yesterday's Classics to review.  Books in this set include those that are appropriate for read-alouds to the "youngest" scholars, as well as titles that are useful to the jr-high to high-school aged student. There is something for just about everyone, in the 22 genres that are included (Ancient to American History, Nature, Bible, Legends and Fairy tales are a few...).



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