Monday, February 29, 2016
Our Favorite Ways to Study Words
The 2016 Virtual Curriculum Fair begins today. This is my first time participating! Today I will be covering "Playing with Words". The goal this week is to share with you what we are using in our homeschool for foreign languages, writing, literature, spelling, handwriting, and grammar. Instead of wandering through a convention hall picking items at random, you can read descriptions of various studies from other homeschooling parents.
This school year we have worked hard to finish up Latina Christiana I from Memoria Press. Apple started it last year for a review. In August, we restarted and Speedy joined in. I have enjoyed this study because it is DVD based. The kids watch the lesson together on Monday and then practice their words on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, they take a short quiz. For this study, each student needs their own workbook. The set we received also contained flash cards and a CD. They have almost completed the study. This is their last week. They're very happy with the Latin they've learned. Apple has retained more of the Latin words and phrases than Speedy. We may hold on to this so he can revisit it in the future.
While Speedy has struggled a little with Latin, he did a great job learning German! Last semester he completed Middlebury Elementary German I. This course was completely online. Once we got him set up, he was able to complete the course entirely on his own. I only needed to go on the website to record grades and check progress. The course is unique because much of the learning was done through fairy tales. He loved watching the videos and he really enjoyed all of the practice activities. He really knew some German when he was finished! I was so surprised when he selected German, but he worked out to be a great course for him. I will certainly look to Middlebury for more foreign language studies in the future.
We had our first experience with IEW's writing program over the summer. WOW! Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is huge! Andrew Pudewa does a great job of making writing make sense for kids. His program really guides them in writing in a step by step process. Apple and Speedy both think he is hilarious and they've enjoyed watching his sessions on DVD. Typically they watch a portion of the DVD on a Monday and then follow out the lesson that week. The second week is usually a chance to practice the same skill again before moving on. Both children have worked diligently on writing with IEW this year. Speedy has completed the lesson plans I had for him and Apple is just about finished with hers for the semester. TWSS can be used again and again and IEW makes it so easy to increase or decrease the level you are working with to make it fit your student. I will say that this program is teacher intensive. There are separate DVDs to watch as the teacher and although plans are included, it takes some digging and time to understand exactly how those should play out. It really is worth it though.
Speedy is currently working on an online writing curriculum from Here to Help Learning. I can't wait to share my review of this program with you! Apple will soon be beginning a new writing curriculum for review as well. Keep your eyes here in the coming weeks!
Literature is one of those subjects that can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Typically I go online in the spring and start developing a literature test for each child to use the following fall. I check major curriculum sites to see what they recommend and I also look around Google and Pinterest for lists from individuals. Both of my kids are readers and many times they are well beyond books for their recommended grade level. With Apple, she has usually already read them all multiple times! In order to make sure she is really focused on studying the book, I find it's best to look for some she hasn't read yet. Once I've made my list, I usually look for free online resources to go along with the book. I've found that many projects, discussion questions, and activities can be found for free. Since we usually borrow the books or pick them up used, literature is one of our least expensive subjects!
Now that Apple is in middle school, we have used several literature guides that are a bit more intense. Earlier this year she used a guide from Progeny Press with Tuck Everlasting, and she enjoyed it very much. She is currently working through a literature guide from Memoria Press and a review is coming soon!
It is hard to narrow spelling down to one or two choices. We've actually used an assortment of studies in this area this year. Before I break them down for you, I will say Apple is a natural speller. She has faired very well with spelling no matter what curriculum I've had for her.
Both children are finishing up their levels from Spelling You See. All 3 of us have loved this curriculum from Demme Learning. Apple is almost to the end of Level G: Modern Milestones which is the last level they have available at this time. Speedy has been working through Level D: Americana. With Spelling You See, they begin a new paragraph each Monday. They used colored pencils (included) to mark letters and chunks in words in the paragraph. Then they write the paragraph. They continue this on Tuesday. My kids actually do 2 pages on Wednesday because we complete our seatwork in 4 days each week. On Wednesday, Speedy does another page just like Monday and Tuesday and then he does a dictation page. Apple's study is a little different so she has a different activity page on Wednesday and she also does a dictation page. The last page is another dictation page. This is a spelling curriculum that really works and helps improve handwriting! They area also getting a little history lesson in each paragraph. I recommend this resource all the time.
Speedy also worked on Phonetic Zoo by IEW earlier this year. He really enjoyed Phonetic Zoo and he was sad when we put it away. I think the auditory aspect (listening to the words on CD with headphones) worked really well for him. I haven't given up on Phonetic Zoo, we just needed to put it away for awhile to work on other areas. Phonetic Zoo comes with 3 levels so it is a resource we can use for a long time. He liked it so much that he may pull it out and work on it over the summer. If you have a child that struggles with distraction, I this this would be a great curriculum to check out.
Speedy is also working on spelling in an all in one program that we just started. I will talk about it a little more with grammar.
Ugh. The handwriting in this house is not beautiful, flowing script. My own handwriting can best be described as "In A Very Big Hurry". Hubby's isn't much better, and the kids have inherited theirs from us. There are 2 programs I always recommend. I just recommended them to a friend on Facebook last night! For manuscript, I think Handwriting Without Tears is the very best. Both children have used the program on different grade levels. The Teacher's Manual can be helpful but I never used it much. The workbooks alone are very reasonable prices. For cursive, CursiveLogic was fantastic. Apple has used and completed that program and when Speedy is ready to attempt cursive, that's the one I will purchase for him. It is easy to understand and gets right to the point. Speedy's handwriting has slowly improved over the last year. The biggest thing that helped him was practice. Lots and lots of practice makes a difference. His handwriting still needs work but we will continue to practice, practice, practice.
We could be on this one for awhile. Every time I think I've found the perfect grammar for each child, it fizzles out. I think I started out all wrong with Apple. We initially used textbooks exactly like the ones used in the public schools. She deemed grammar boring and hasn't changed her mind much over the years. Shurley English was recommended by a good friend a few years ago and it has its merits. With the songs and repetition, your kids will definitely learn their parts of speech. Your kids may also get bored with the songs and repetition repetition repetition. It isn't so bad with just one or two levels but after awhile it all blends together. Fix It! Grammar by IEW isn't repetitive at all. It does need teacher involvement though. Since the lessons are so short (basically 1 sentence a day) there needs to be discussion each day to make it stick.
Apple has had some success with the Brookdale Middle School Grammar Workbook that we reviewed earlier this year. At this point, I just want to make sure she has all the parts of speech memorized and that she has a basic understanding of the grammar rules. Again it is about lots of practice.
Speedy has recently been trying Logic of English. It's another review item we received. I don't want to give my review yet, but I feel I need to share a little about this curriculum with you. It is spelling, grammar, and vocabulary rolled up into one study. It can be used over multiple levels and we really like it. That's all I can say. Zip. You'll have to come back in a couple of weeks for the full review.
To sum it up, this year we've been really successful with some new things we've never tried before. The kids have both enjoyed switching things up and trying new resources for the Crew. At times we've doubled and even tripled up in some subjects but that's happened regularly over our homeschool journey. In the area of words alone, there are hundreds of choices for curriculum out there. It can be really overwhelming really quickly. My favorite advice to new homeschool moms is always, "If it doesn't work, you can always change it later. Nothing has to be permanent." While I love routine and I love saving money, sometimes it's really necessary to change it up. In a private or public school setting, kids would be changing studies and teachers every year. Don't be afraid to try something new!
Over the next few weeks I hope to share more posts with you for the Virtual Curriculum Fair. Be sure to check back! Also, take some time to see the other posts. This is a great way to explore new curriculum options and to see how others are using them! The best part is you never have to leave the house.
This year the Virtual Curriculum Fair is hosted by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World, Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses and Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset.
Language Arts: Words Make the World Go Round by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
The Language Arts in Our Homeschool and Everything Relating to it by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Teaching Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
How to Learn ASL & Spanish in 20 Minutes a Day by Rochelle @ RochelleBarlow
Classical Word Study by Lisa @ GoldenGrasses
Language Arts Means and Methods by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Sprechen Sie.... by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
The Art of Eloquence by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
Love Languages by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
3 Reasons You Don't Have To Be Afraid To Grade That Essay - And It's Free @ LJSkool
High School Language Arts by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Words, Words, and More Words by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Finishing Strong - Starting Gently by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset.