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Jul 13, 2016

ABeCeDarian Company TOS Review

ABeCeDarian Company starts teaching spelling and reading by introducing the phonemes, or sounds, of consonants and short vowels into easy to decode CVC words.  Lesson one jumps right in spelling (by reading the phonemes) mop, sat, and tap.  Students use word puzzles, such as unscrambling letters, to spell the words correctly.  They are taught how to break words into sounds and how to rebuild the individual sounds into words.  ABeCeDarian Interactive A Workbook is for beginners approximately 4-6 years old (K to mid-first grade).  Handwriting practice is integrated into each lesson.  The Teacher's Manual is available both as a printed book or a free digital download.

The workbook takes about two minutes to load on the laptop, and five minutes on the Kindle.  While it is loading, the first screen you see is just black.  There is nothing to show it is loading.  Just be patient.  It's referred to as an "app" but you use it in your browser.  It is an online workbook.  There are no sounds or flashing lights or music.  So don't expect many app-like features, which can be distracting for some students.  App instructions are separate from the Teacher's Manual download.  Read it carefully or you might miss important information about seeing the full pages.  Two features the Interactive A Workbook does have, are showing one line of words on a sheet at a time. By clicking on the words in the lower right corner, you toggle through each row of words on the "page."

Here you click the words in the lower right corner to rearrange the words on the screen.  Each click causes the three words being learned to slide across the screen, changing location.

"Handwriting" can be completed on the computer pages with a mouse, touch pad, or stylus, depending on which device you choose to use.  I ended up printing most of them, which kind of defeats the purpose of the interactive online workbook.

Printing with Kindle, paper, and the laptop.

Unscrambling letters, Merrick is learning which letters are vowels and for the time being, I'm guiding him to place vowels in the center spot on the screen as we're building CVC words.  After he makes the attempt to unscramble the words, I tell him what word we are trying to spell.  When he unscrambled pat to spell tap, I let him because, hello! he spelled a word and sounded it out!  Then we redid it to spell pat.  After he unscrambled the letters and moved them to the line near the bottom of the screen, we would "tap and say" each sound.  

Using "tap and say' to enlarge each tile as he practices its sound.
When he had no trouble or hesitation, we added a little action.  He holds his hands out in front of himself, then uses a clapping motion (the louder, the better) to imagine smacking the letters together to make the word, which he then reads in its entirety. 

Clapping /c/ /a/ /t/ into cat.

The TM contains guides for writing the letters, pronouncing the sounds used in the Interactive A Workbook, and correcting errors productively.  Each lesson is fully scripted.  Reading is taught as segmenting words and blending the sounds.

ABeCeDarian avoids non-reading busy work.  There are no pictures to match, nor circling objects.  It is 100% decoding and writing words.  Even "sight words" can be decoded and are taught that way.  You will be repeating lessons to fluency.  Which makes the reusable nature of the handwriting screens nice.

We are only on lesson five, but by the end of the Interactive A Workbook, students are decoding sentences like these.
  • I sat in the back of the van.
  • Mom went on a quick trip.
  • Tom kept a pen on his desk.

Merrick is four.  He would generally poop out after ten minutes, less if he was writing.  When he says he is done, we are done.  We'd do the fun online parts of the lesson one day and part of the writing another day.  The writing sheets (I'm printing most of them) are really helping him with his habit of starting letters at the bottom line and writing up.  There is a tiny circle at the starting point for each letter on each page.

On a side note, I saw this line in the TM and immediately thought, "Where is the /t/?"

I had to poll my FB friends to see how *they* pronounce catch.  What I said was, "My thing with the T, is that it is distinctly part of ket when I say it. It isn't smushed into the tch at the end which would sort of make it silent with a strong ch. Ket/ch not ke/tch."  The /e/ or /a/ folks were pretty evenly divided.  Also, the "/t/ or not to /t/" were similarly divided.  There may have been fewer no /t/ than yes /t/, but not by a huge margin.  We left many things unsettled that day.  The dictionary told us this.

I was disappointed.  I still say ket/ch.  You let me down, Dictionary.  You're never too old to learn something new!

What I didn't love.
  • You need two electronic devices open at a time, one for the Interactive A Workbook and one for the Teacher's Manual.
  • Completed sections are not tracked.  You need to watch where you left off so you don't end up repeating or skipping lessons.

What I really do like.
  • I like the systematic teaching of phonemes.
  • The writing pages can be used over and over, but for our purposes, I think I'd prefer the pre-printed workbook for regular use.
  • I like that the focus is teaching letter sounds, not letter names.  
I preferred the laptop computer over the Kindle.

Merrick already knew the letters names and the sounds, so it wasn't a problem, but the author recommends teaching the common sounds for each letter before their names.  Names don't help us to read and can actually hinder early reading attempts.
Not sure where to start?  You'll find a placement assessment on the website.

Find ABeCeDarian on Facebook.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

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Jul 12, 2016

Funny Find - Sign Edition

Vermont boasts some odd signage.  I don't mean the kind people hand write with spelling and grammar errors, though we have those, too.  I mean official road signage.  This sign is near a very tiny bridge.  I'm guessing the point of it is a sort of "slow down or you will flip your car."  I tend to look at it and see "Don't stand on overturned vehicles." or "Don't play teeter totter on overturned cars."  Also, the people appear to be wearing graduation gowns and caps with tassels.  My guess is something tragic happened here and another one of Vermont's unfortunate signs were placed there, but I'm not exactly 100% sure with this one.

Jul 9, 2016

"The Best Fortnight Ever."

After two weeks of VBS, gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do, a couple of beach trips, and very little "school" I heard this from the backseat.

This was the best fortnight ever!


Jul 2, 2016

Farmer's Market Challenge

I've been regularly spending Saturday mornings at a town about half an hour away.  (I'll tell you more about that in another post.)  One morning, I noticed a farmer's market going up in the park and decided to take a stroll through it.  I saw a *lot* of crafts, some of which were interesting, but I also felt like they were out of place at, you know, a Farmer's market.  It is Vermont, after all.  Just how much marketing can farmers do in May/June?

The park is gorgeous this time of year.  Master Gardeners tend the plants in the flower beds near the fountain and on the back side of the park.  I've had the pleasure of chatting with two of them.  Xavier was even given a watering lesson by one woman and allowed to water the circular garden in the center of the park.

Anyway, I've quickly discovered a few favorite vendors and I visit them each week.  There is a man selling phenomenal sourdough bread.  He offers plain and "seeded" varieties.  I usually get one or two small loaves from him.  Xavier prefers plain, but the seeded bread has a "nutty" flavor that I really love.

Another one we are especially enjoying is a woman with a variety of Greek foods.  I get something new from her every week for Micah and I to share for our lunch.  I'm planning to keep that going as long as there is something new for us to try, then we'll have seconds of our favorites.  We've had moussaka and spanakopita, as well as two mystery foods I didn't quite catch the name of.  If you recognize the food on the right, please let me know!  Apparently, I also didn't take a picture of the triangles we had on week three.  Darn.  Guess I'll just have to get them again.

A woman there sells pastries of deliciousness.  They are downright decadent, so I've only purchased a small chocolate croissant from her twice.  I used to love chocolate croissants when I was in NY.  There was a divinely inspired bakery not far from my office, so it was always fun to get them there fresh.  Occasionally, I see them in the grocery store bakery here, but they just aren't the same.

I also picked up a jar of blueberry hot pepper jelly.  I'm not a big fan of really spicy food, but this was just a bit of fire in the sweetness of blueberry.  I really liked it.

What's going on in your neck of the woods?  Do you attend a Farmer's Market where you live?  Tell me some of your favorite purchases.  Try something new!  I challenge you to get something you've never had before, every single week.

Jun 25, 2016

The week I put about 500 miles on the van and never got farther than B-ton

Oh the insanity!  This week was just one thing on top of another.  Mal is taking TKD all summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I also knew we'd have VBS every evening this week.  Mal's case manager meets with him at our home (thankfully) every week.  THEN, then we added in a gymnastics camp two hours each day all week for Merrick and Xav and a speech assessment for Xavier.  Whew!

Mal enjoys tae kwon do and really is coming into his own.  I think the lessons and the instructor have been great for him, and for me.  I get to see him doing hard things and coming through them.  Even though I worry about *his* fear and/or failure level, his instructor has been confident about his ability and has been insistent that I let him just do it.  He was so excited when he got his yellow belt this spring.

The Vacation Bible School we attended this week is, hands down, our favorite.  This was our fourth year attending.  Merrick has been able to attend, I think, three of those years.  They have classes for two year olds to adults.  The adults involved are amazing with all the kids and I appreciate what they do every evening, some of them after working all day, to give the kids a good time and point them to Jesus.  Their love shines through their faces and I just love and appreciate them all so much, words can never say.

Last year, the boys all took gymnastics for an hour on each of five Saturdays.  This year, it was an intensive camp.  Mal decided not to enroll, though mid-week he kind of regretted that.  I think it was all for the best though.  It was very directed with no time to "do your own thing" which is what he wanted to do.  Merrick and Xav had a great time and really it was the first time I left them anywhere before.  Xav went to archery without me, but other homeschool co-op moms were there.  They've been left with my friends before for babysitting.  I'm almost always around at co-op.  It was weird leaving them, but I enjoyed the time with Malachi and I think he did, too.  What I didn't know was that the instructor had sent out an email to the parents telling them flat out to drop the kids off and leave, but it went out before the boys were enrolled, so I never received it.  I stayed in the school vestibule the first couple of days because I didn't know I wasn't supposed to be there!  Oops!  It was controlled chaos, but the instructors and the helpers were great!

When I drove Xav to his speech assessment, I left the other two boys with my friend Trisha.  They were more than happy to play with her big bucket of trains.  Xav's assessment was supposed to be two hours, but it was closer to four.  Micah met us there.  It was the usual assessment you might imagine and I'd already been through a lot of the same thing with Merrick's assessment a couple of months ago.  I have a mini rant about insurance and speech therapy, but I won't go there!

Throw in a couple playgrounds, a Backpack Theater presentation of Sleeping Beauty and Where the Wild Things Are, Lego at the library, and construction watching and that's about it for our week.  Today is Saturday and I am so glad that busyness is over!  Although, tomorrow we will be out and about a bit...  LOL  We're slow learners.  And though I promised Xav we wouldn't have any school this week, you'd be surprised just how much math and vocabulary got slipped in there in the car rides all over God's very Green Mountain State.

I hope you're able to enjoy a wonderful summer!

Jun 23, 2016

LearnBop TOS Review

Math is my nemesis.  Well, I like arithmetic, but the boys don't.  90% of all tears shed in our homeschool originate over a math lesson.  I am always looking for something that works.  Enter LearnBop for Families 12 month subscription.  LearnBop is a personalized online math program and part of the K12 family of courses.  LearnBop for Families offers a single student plan or a family plan for up to four students.

Originally, LearnBop was developed for schools and recently introduced for families.  The program is for grades 3-12, but also offers "road maps" by subject which start at a lower grade and guide the child through the lessons at their own pace.  It is designed to identify learning gaps to help the child catch up and get ahead in math.  The student does need to work through the lower grades to catch up in the subjects, but the better they do, the faster they move through the Bops.  If they are on par for a grade level, there is no need to use the subject road maps.  Just jump right into the grade road maps and skip all of the catch up work.

I set up our account and assigned the boys' user names and passwords and assigned road maps.  Together, we chose a fun avatar from the selection.  Right away the Bops from the assigned road map begin. 

First, a warm up is used to determine placement.  Then the lessons are introduced by video, after which the question and answer section will begin.  On the student dashboard, a quick glance shows what is next every time they log on.  Some videos are required, others are extra optional videos which aren't required to begin solving Bops, but may be needed at some point if solving becomes too difficult.  While answering questions, the guys can Ask For Help solving where they will be guided through each step of the problem.  First and most importantly, the questions will confirm that the question is being understood by asking a few comprehension-type questions.  After that, the student is walked through every single part of the question in order.  If, at any step, there is still confusion they can Show Hint for that point in the problem.  It's like your own online math tutor.

Xavier thought it was hilarious that there was a question about "Jody's family."
I liked that, as the parent, I was able to move the boys around from grades to subjects easily and without contacting administrators or forcing the boys to continue through things they already knew.  Although, I had boys in grade level and changed one to the road map for measurement and data which started at grade one.  When I looked at the student reports, though, I could only see the information about the current road map and not the grade level activity.

I was able to see what the boys had completed and what score they reached.  They begin at 0% and right and wrong answers raise and lower their score.  Once they reach 90% or higher, they've "mastered" the concept.  I only required them to reach that level.  It's very difficult to get to 100% and missing a question could have lowered their score back under mastery level.  For some reason, no one seemed to want to risk that. 

When there is an error in the program, the kids can report a problem.  When they do this, I receive a copy of the email that goes to LearnBop.  Xav had some trouble and he ended up being so frustrated that I told him he didn't have to continue with the program.

Malachi ended up with a couple of confusing Bops that gave us trouble.  One was a multiplication issue.  Three of four questions would be "row times column equals" type and the final one would be nine red dice in 3x3 grid.  They were looking for 9 dice times the number of dots on the dice.  He kept wanting to use 3x3=9.  The other used a polygon tool to draw a quilt.  He had no idea how to use the tool, the videos didn't explain it, and I was completely useless in that instance.  I ended up googling the tool and playing around with it for 20 minutes to figure out how it worked!  While he was confused a few times, he actually had a much better experience than Xav and is happy to work on LearnBop.

Mal achieving mastery!

We loved these little motivational images that showed up in the student dashboards.

You can access LearnBop online anywhere and any time.

Find LearnBop on social media.

LearnBop for Families Review

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Jun 16, 2016

Progeny Press TOS Review


I've heard a lot of great things about Progeny Press Study Guides for Literature, but I tend to avoid many subjects that aren't math, since that's the bane of our existence!  sigh...  No more!  The Sword in the Tree E-Guide is so much fun.  With trips to two Renaissance faires planned for this summer, I thought a story involving King Arthur, at least peripherally, would be really enjoyable.  I was right.  The boys have really liked The Sword in the Tree.

Progeny Press carries Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective for grades K-12.  Their E-Guides are interactive and can be filled in on the computer and then saved with the student's answers in the file.  I received the interactive guide and an answer key.

You will need to purchase or borrow
  • The book the study is based on, in this case The Sword in the Tree.
  • A dictionary.
  • A Bible.
  • A thesaurus.
  • The downloaded study guide, either on screen or printed out.
It will be helpful to have related books and videos, coloring pages, crafts, and writing implements.  The required book is available from the Progeny Press website as well as various other locations.  My local libraries did not have copies of The Sword in the Tree, but there were some available in our network.  Since the study guide is nearly a two month project, I decided to just purchase a copy of the novel.

Progeny Press E-Guides are reproducible for the entire family or a classroom.  They are not, however, intended to be resold like a physical copy of the Study Guide could be.  The E-Guides are also not returnable.  I really liked the instant access to the guide, the easily printed pages in the quantities needed, and savings due to no shipping charges.

Most of the study guides are written by Rebecca Gilleland or Michael Gilleland, whose family homeschools and operates Progeny Press.  Some of the guides are written by others.  After they are written they are peer reviewed by pastors and teachers, all Christians.

The PDF answer key is short and sweet.  It is exactly just an answer key.  Some of the questions are factual and not really up to interpretation.  Some questions require some thought and have subjective answers.  I was pretty surprised and impressed by some of the ideas the boys had about various parts of the story.  It's always interesting to get them thinking and then get them to talk about it.  Too often, we assume children don't "get" one thing because they are struggling with something else, in school or in their lives.

I didn't use the Interactive Study Guide in the way it was intended at all.  Instead of having the boys type into the computer, I inserted lines for them to write on after each question.  I saved the file with the lines and printed it.  I used the underscore key ( _ ) and connected them all together to make the lines.  Both Mal and Xav struggle with the size of their handwriting, so I thought they'd find the writing guides helpful.

Not only have they been introduced to an enjoyable and exciting story, they've been working on dictionary skills and looking up bible verses.  They've learned about armor and castles.  Parallels between story lines were compared.  We've discussed character and conversely, the lack of character, hospitality, and wisdom.  They were introduced to important writing vocabulary like foreshadowing and paraphrasing.

Prereading activities, postreading activities, and additional resources are listed in the literature study guide.  Progeny Press also has study guides for several of the related books. 

Xav built this castle with a drawbridge out of a tea box, straw, and string.  He's really pushing me to drink more tea so he can finish the rest of it.  We explored tons of related topics through books from our library.

If your little prince would enjoy The Sword in the Tree, I believe he will like the Study Guide from Progeny Press.  This particular study is intended for the upper elementary grades (4th-6th).

Find Progeny Press on social media.


Progeny Press also has guides for Lower Elementary (I have two of them I want to grab for Merricky), Middle School, and High School (I am personally very interested in The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide!) so be sure to to read the other Crew reviews!

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

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