Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Monday, February 28, 2011

I See Sam

Reading has always been my very favorite subject. I did well in it during my school years, and that love has carried over into my adult years. Naturally, I was thrilled to have two children who, at this point anyway, share my enthusiasm as well. They love to practice their emerging skills throughout the day, every day. So, when I was informed that I would have the opportunity to try out a reading resource, I knew that we would all be excited to see what it had to offer.

I See Sam has the subtitle Academic Success For All Learners. When I first received the package, I really didn't get the name. It sounded like the title of a movie that I once saw ;) THEN, we opened the box, and it was as if the heavens opened and all of the angels could be heard singing.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but, I really love books, and what I found was four sets of readers.

Now, I was enthusiastic, but honestly, I wasn't instantly hooked. I mean, a reader is a reader, isn't it?

So, I looked through my package a little more, and also came upon a big group of flashcards, assessment manuals, certificates to pass out when each level was completed, and charts to track reading progress. Okay, looking good so far.

I flipped through the instruction guide and found the directions regarding placing my children at their appropriate level- what readers to start them with. Want to know how? I knew you did!

In the assessment manual, there is a group of what are called the pre/post assessment tests. As the name suggests, these will serve two functions. Number one, to determine which reader set to begin your lessons with. Number two, upon completion of the set, you can use these to assure the student's mastery of the material.

Each test is actually a page out of one of the readers, and there are pages for each level. Beginning with the first level, your child will read the page. You are there only to listen and determine how fluently he/she reads the excerpt. You will not offer help or correct mistakes as the child reads. At the end of the page, mark down how many mistakes were made. Four or less are acceptable, and indicate that the child should try the next level. Five or more mistakes mean that the child does not have mastery yet, and will begin there, at level one. Each level will allow for fewer mistakes.

Using this system, we determined that our oldest would start with the second level readers, and our youngest would begin at level one. It was time to start our lessons!

Both children were enthusiastic students. We began with the pronunciation guide, which is included on the first page of every reader, and, as the name suggests, teaches correct pronunciation of the sounds with examples of words with those sounds right beside the letters. The guidelines within I See Sam tell us that we need to have mastery over two skills. Sounds of the letters, and the sounding out strategy, which involves first s-l-o-w-l-y saying the word, and then saying it again quickly. Then you will say the word together. Of course, as with anything, occasionally mistakes will be made. I See Sam has a preferred method of correcting these. In an encouraging voice, say the correct sound of the word. Then say it together. Then ask the child to say it alone. The goal is for the student to say all of the sounds correctly before moving to the next section.

Personally, I found this method to be rather instinctual for me anyway. I was encouraged to find that I was already going through those steps, so it felt natural. It is also suggested to the teacher that each story be read twice to ensure mastery. Honestly, sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. As the parent, you know when you child grasps the concept or not.

Some more info about each reader...

As you flip through the readers, you'll find that on many pages at the bottom, are either a smiley face, or discussion questions. The smiley face is to remind you to praise your little learner as they read. As for me, I found that praising my kids as they read came automatically, but, it's there if you need the reminder. The questions asked can be answered by the child by merely looking at the page being read. Again, the intent here is to engage with your child.

As you come to the end of each little book, you'll see the coming attractions page. This page is included as a preview of sorts of the next book in the series. Actually, this is a good place for me to remind you that it's important to read each book in order, as the skills in each builds on the previous lessons.

Finally, there is the Looking Back page. This simply offers the opportunity to ensure mastery of the material.

Also available for purchase are flashcards that correlate with each set of books. This allows added practice of various sight words. My kids didn't need them a whole lot, but they loved using them regardless. These cards include colored rubber bands, allowing you to color code each set, so you know at a glance which set needs more practice, and which have been mastered.

For some added fun for the kids, each little book set has a tracking chart that allows the child to color a numbered picture as each reader of that number is read, thus charting their progress. And, at the end of each level is a certificate of completion.

Well now, there's the explanation and instruction part of it, now for the most important area- how did this go over with our family?

Love, love, love it!!! What a wonderful resource here. From start to finish, my kids enjoyed every moment. This is one of those products that honestly now, my kids could not and cannot get enough of. They have requested it every day. The stories include cute animal characters with names like Sam (naturally), Sis, Mit, Mat, and Ann. They get involved in many silly situations that appeal to a child's sense of humor. There were days when we went through six books at a time because the kids just did not want to stop. We're making our way through the last set, and I will be looking to acquire the last four sets in this series.

Whether you have a struggling reader or a little bookworm, I think you'll find that this is a product to try in your home school. Happy Reading!

*** I received a free set of I See Sam readers in exchange for my honest review of them, with no additional compensation.

I See Sam

Phone: 435-755-7885

Price: $30.00 per set of readers

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tiny Dancers

I think it was the summer of last year that my husband and I began talking about what kind of extracurricular activities to get our daughters involved in. Now, I don't know about your family, but in ours, we have two daughters who are almost complete opposites in every way. One is very shy, and it almost appears to be painful for her to speak even to some of our closest friends and family. Then there's the other one...:) Loud, funny, outgoing, wild and wonderful! We still have no idea where she came from ;)
Why am I telling you all of this? There is a point, I promise, so bear with me.
Well, as we talked about all of the different possibilities, the favorite activity quickly became dance. Oh, they were so excited! My husband and I were hesitant, at least as far as our little wallflower was concerned.
I began to try to convince her to try something else. "Honey", I said,"You know that you have to perform in a recital in front of LOTS of people, why not try an art class instead?" But she was adamant. Dance was what she wanted, and that was that. We signed her up.
Guess what happened?
She LOVES dance! Not only did she manage to perform in the recital at the end of the year in the auditorium of our local high school, she was giddy with the excitement of it all. She decided very soon after that, when she grows up, she is going to be a dance teacher. And that sweet little thing grew in her excitement when she found out that she will actually get paid real money to teach. (She thought she might have to pay to teach dance.)
I have to say that I am surprised. But, I am so glad that my husband and I did not try to put our little girl in a box and decide for her what she is and is not capable of. What she, and we for that matter, would have missed out on! Ironically, I was about to do the very thing that I hate to have done to me. I can't stand when people decide that I'm only good for _____ (fill in the blank).
You know what else? These classes have built her confidence, her coordination, and her social skills.
So, how are we encouraging her in this pursuit? Well, she's still very young, and it is likely that she will change her mind at least once or twice before she reaches adulthood. But, this little experience has shown us that we need to let our children try on different things and see how they work, what they feel like, and see in what areas the Lord has gifted them.
Whatever our kids choose to do, my hope is that they will always feel that their parents always stood behind them, and allowed them the freedom to try, and yes, even fail, as they figured out the path that God has planned for them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kid Scoop:The Reluctant Reader Solution

I may be wrong, but in my experience students seem to fall in one of two camps- they either love reading and can't get enough, or, they can't stand it and do everything in their power to avoid the dreaded task. So, where do your children stand on the reading issue? Our children, and both my husband and I actually, love to read. If there's an offer to go to the library or the bookstore, we are so there. Our bedtime ritual must include reading at least one chapter of our favorite book of the week. And, believe it or not, the kids sleep better when I've read to them. No, seriously. I've tested the theory, and it's true.

So, in our family, no arm twisting is necessary to teach this subject. Still, we are always interested in checking out new books and reading resources just because we like to.

This month, our family was given the chance to check out a cool resource- Kid Scoop:The Reluctant Reader Solution. With that title, I was pretty sure that we were in for an engaging product, and I was correct!

Now, as I've already stated, we don't have an issue with reluctant readers ourselves. But, who wouldn't be interested in a website that features a vividly colored, interactive online monthly newspaper, with lots of great kid centered articles, puzzles, games and more?

The whole theme of Kid Scoop is centered around newspapers, but, you've probably already figured that out by now ;) This however, is unlike any newspaper that you or I have ever seen. Jam packed with material from the first page to the last, it even allows you to listen to each page- which may be helpful for some of those younger readers. One of the features that I like is the ability to fit the paper to full screen. As you click on arrows at each side of the pages, you can flip from one page to the next, and it even makes a realistic sound of actual paper pages turning. How about a peek into the contents available for February?

Check out the very cool article about an artist who sculpts...wait for it...pencil lead! No foolin'! Using tools like a razor blade and a sewing needle, you'll be amazed at what he sculpts from the lead on the tips of pencils. Elvis Presley, and a shoe are just a couple of those neat sculptures that you'll see.

Encourage those aspiring writers you may have by reading the 'Author, Author' section. Here, Sid Fleischman gives kids writing advice, offers some writing rules, and then have your child play a matching game that features a few of Sid's book characters.

Keep flipping through, and read a bit about how lead makes its way into pencils. We'll stay with that theme for a bit and work on some drawing activities featuring, what else? pencils, and then try your hand at the pencil themed word search.

February wouldn't be the same without Valentine's Day, and so this issue includes plenty of heart themed fun. Your student can try his/her hand at a few math problems floating on the page within pretty little valentines, finish some heart patterns, and try some love themed matching games.

As you come to the end (sadly) of the newspaper, your child can find out who Nellie Bly is. I would tell you, but that would spoil all of the fun! And be sure not to overlook the calendar at the back that offers a daily to do activity or project for the reader.

It's fun in and of itself to enjoy browsing the paper online, but it doesn't end there. Kid Scoop allows you to print out these pages, either a page here or there that piques your child's interest, or print them all and have a physical copy of this newspaper!

If that were all there were, it would be a fun addition to include in your studies. But, this is actually a 2 part resource, with the online newspaper being only the first part. Sounds intriguing, yes? It sure is folks!

Part 2 includes 365 worksheets in pdf format, allowing you to print off just what you need, when you need it. A full year's worth!

Each week has its own theme, and you can divide these up into 4 or 5 different themes per month. You also have a couple of options in the way you choose to divvy these up, and Kid Scoop has conveniently included 2 separate table of contents'.

Option number 1. Use the chronological table of contents, and make your way through the year following the natural course of the holidays, weather, and such.

Option number 2. Use the theme based table of contents, and choose your weekly paper based on the subject of your choice.

We've been using the chronological table of contents, and it's been working well for us, but choose the way that suits your needs best.

Would you like a look into what we've been reading over the past month? Well, alright...

We started out January with Owen and Mzee, a hippo and a tortoise respectively. We read some fun and interesting facts about these animals, learned how to draw a hippo, learned what hippopotamus means in Latin, and wrote a journal page about friends.

Then, we had fun with the theme Frost. We learned about the legend of Jack Frost, and tried out a couple of science experiments, including learning how frost is made, and then made our own. Fun!

With January comes Martin Luther King,Jr. day, and within that theme was a day of service. We read about creative ways other students served their community, and then came up with our own ideas to serve our friends and family. One of those projects for us was to decorate flowerpots, plant spring bulbs, and deliver them to some elderly women in our neighborhood.

This past week, my oldest really liked reading through and completing the projects for Valentine's Day, which included coloring and cutting out valentines, proof reading a love themed paragraph and correcting the errors -as every good newspaper editor does ;), trying out a "Love Sudoku" type word puzzle, and a broken heart matching game.

Additionally, each edition includes things to search for in an actual newspaper relating to that theme and other vocabulary activities like a word of the week.

Now, for our personal opinion of Kid Scoop...

Thumbs up for us! We found the online paper colorful and engaging. Loved the realistic sound effects, although we weren't so crazy about the robotic sounding voice of the narrator- if you choose to listen to the paper. Also liked the option of printing these pages.

What we really, really loved were the worksheets. You'll never run out of activities here. There are pages for every school day in so many different themes. We used these mostly in our "down time", after our main school work was completed. It's great because the kids are having fun completing the assignments, but it doesn't necessarily feel like schoolwork.

I would and will definitely recommend Kid Scoop to any family, with or without a struggling reader.

*I received a free subscription and downloads of Kid Scoop:The Reluctant Reader Solution in return for my honest review, with no additional compensation.

Kid Scoop:The Reluctant Reader Solution

Price: $97.00 Includes 12 month access to online newspaper, and 365 worksheets. Check their website for more details.

Visit TOS Homeschool Crew home page for more reviews and homeschool products

Monday, February 14, 2011

It Takes A Family

Welcome back to the blog cruise. Our topic for this week is how extended family assists in your homeschooling education.

My initial response was to say, they don't! Don't get me wrong now. Our family, both on my side and my husband's side have been nothing but supportive since we began our journey. But as for the day to day experience? Not so much.

As I have continued to ponder this a little more however, I've changed my mind. Although the family is not involved with most of our day to day studies, they actually have, and do, contribute to the education of our children.

My mother's love language is gifts. As a result, she is always bestowing upon our daughters some treasure of one kind or another. Since we began schooling, she is always on the lookout for a book, a puzzle, or other educational tool to enhance whatever it is that we happen to be studying.

My father has also jumped into that ring as well. He recently picked up a mini laptop that teaches various fascinating animal facts.

My mother in law love, love, loves to read and listen to our children read, so she is always ready with a book and a cuddle. She also happens to be a librarian, and frequently brings home a story or two that the girls find interesting.

My father in law, being a science teacher, is also readily prepared to explain the how's and why's to many different subjects. He also provides a listening ear for the girls to teach back what they've learned.

So, I would have to say that, yes, our extended family definitely plays an important role in the educational lives of our children, and I'm very grateful for that.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Curiosity Files - The Blue-Footed Booby

Hey there! Happy February everyone! At least, I hope it's happy for you. As for our family, it's been a bit of a struggle not only staying on track, but in keeping our attitudes upbeat. If you're facing that too, I think that you will be interested in meeting a new friend of mine, a professor actually...

Allow me to introduce Professor Ana Lyze, "Expert in Outlandish Oddities". Her areas of interest feature the unusual, the silly, those subjects that one might not typically see in the mainstream educational arena. You know, the weird and wonderful stuff.

Well, there is quite a variety of cool subjects to choose from within this series put out by TOS, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to try out The Blue Footed Booby with my kids over the past month or so.

With nearly 100 bright and beautiful pages to look through, I was immediately intrigued.

The study begins with an overview of this pretty, if a bit unique looking bird. Colorful photos of the blue footed booby in various poses add to the fun. The pages are laid out in a dialogue form, with a very pleasant, easy to read style. So, we learn some fun facts, for example, the reason behind the bright blue feet. Or the silly courtship dance that the males perform. Or, one of my personal favorites, that this bird's qualities defy the theories of "expert " evolutionists. As quoted within the first few pages, you'll "learn things you never wanted to know about the blue-footed booby."

As you read along, you'll find inserted throughout, many passages of scripture. This was a huge selling point for me. I am drawn to material that so easily allows me to connect the subject matter with the truth of God's word.I love that!

It thrills me to see God's word proved true in so many ways through His creation! I particularly appreciated how the creators of this study didn't stop there, but used the qualities of the booby to illustrate and teach on the subject of wisdom. There are passages for the student to look up and read, and then answer questions to help in its application.

Once you've read through the first part of this study, you're ready to move on to the more in depth study. A great feature is that there are pages geared toward both the older, as well as the younger student, so this study may be used at the same time for a variety of ages. Right now, in our home, we're teaching the younger students, so we did many of the questions orally, but we were able to simplify some of the older material to suit us, and we found even the older student vocabulary words interesting to learn about. There are also some really fun math activities here, like comparing the wingspan of an actual blue-footed booby with our own family's wingspan. Blue-footed Boobies have yellow eyes, so we had fun figuring out how many yellow eyes there would be if there were a certain number of those birds among us.

I have to admit that, after we were done with our lessons with our own younger kids, I went back and did the lessons geared to the older kids for the fun of it. There are some great word problems and puzzles, and I have never been a math fan!

So we've covered the science, math, and bible part of The Curiosity Files, let's move on to the reading, writing, and spelling bits of it.

Using various short sentences featuring facts of this bird, students put them together to create more elaborate paragraphs and short stories. There are also fill in the missing letter activities to improve spelling skills, and even mad libs to reinforce the parts of speech.

Are you looking for fresh ideas for copywork? How about some pages that include the spanish and english words together, both in print and cursive. There are also scriptures to trace and copy that pertain to creation, birds, etc., again, both in print as well as cursive.

And now, for my very favorite part of this resource...arts and crafts!! Love,love, love it! It's so great that with every little project, there are bits and facts presented, whatever the age. Build a blue-footed booby habitat, like one from the Galapagos Islands, using sand, shells, and whatever else you can find. Older kids will enjoy making their own quill pen. Younger ones will love making blue bird tracks and making their own "booby feet" with blue flip flops and leftover scrap material. (Now that's one I can't wait to do with my kids, we're just waiting for the flip flops to arrive in the stores again for the upcoming spring and summer season- right now any flip flops are almost impossible to find.) Another favorite of ours was the homemade bird feeders, made with peanut butter, sunflower seeds, shortening, and oatmeal.

Hmmm... have I left anything out? Yeah! There is so much more in here. You can see already that this is a very well rounded product. It covers most, if not all, of the subjects we teach. I've covered many, but not all of them. What else is there?

Geography, for one. You'll find cool activities and maps to learn about the climate of these tropical birds.

Music. Learn a cute song, and dance for that matter, to sing with, and move with your little one. My youngest performs a very entertaining Blue-Footed Booby dance. For the older students in your family, enjoy a crossword puzzle or a fill in the blank spelling activity sheet. Both young and older will enjoy making some mini books and writing or drawing various facts about this bird in it.

At the very last part of this study, choose from an extensive list of books, websites and more for further study.

My job here is to provide my honest opinion of this unit study, and I have to tell you, neither I nor my children have anything but good things to say about it! Those lovely creators at TOS have truly done all the work for you, so all that is required is to open it up and learn!

I think we can all agree that one of the tests of whether our children understand a specific subject, is their ability to teach it back to you, and my children have so enthusiastically done so. This resource does a nice job covering all of the learning styles that a child has, providing something for everyone.

Some final thoughts about this unit study...

I love the fact that this study allows you the option of printing out the whole "book" or just those pages that you need. As for myself, I 'm still old fashioned I guess, in that I like to hold a book in my hands, so I printed it all out and put it in a binder.

The colors are so nice! I know I mentioned that already, but I really like them.

As we added this to our studies this past month or so, we decided to stretch it out and do several activities per day, thus extending our study a little longer. And it worked out great for us in that way. You can do the same, or use it over a week or so exclusively, it's up to you. For us, it was a great little burst of fun sprinkled throughout our regular studies to jazz up the winter blahs.

I hope this has encouraged you to go over to The Schoolhouse Store to check out this, and other great titles in The Curiosity Files series. You and your family will really love it!

The Old Schoolhouse

The Curiosity Files - E-Book The Blue-Footed Booby

Price: $6.95 if purchased individually, but there are also some great bundles available at the TOS website. Get a 9 pack bundle for $46.00 which includes other titles such as Zombie Fire Ants, Quicksand, and Puffer Fish. A great bargain!

Phone: 1.888.718.HOME

Also, check out other great products and reviews by heading over to TOS Homeschool Crew page.

* Please note* I received a free copy of The Curiosity Files E-Book The Blue-Footed Booby in return for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.