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Mar 31, 2014

Spelling you See ~ A Demme Learning Review

I'd been hemming and hawing about purchasing a spelling curriculum for many, many months. I found out through the Schoolhouse Review Crew that Math-U-See was getting a sister, Spelling You See.  We {bigfatpuffyheart} Math-U-See here, so I was excited to review another product from Demme Learning.  Spelling you See is based on five sequential stages of spelling.
  1. Preliterate
  2. Phonetic
  3. Skill Development
  4. Word Extension
  5. Derivational Constancy

Spelling You See Review

There are currently five levels of Spelling You See (A through E) with two more in the works.  Xavier is thick in the Phonetic Stage.  That just means he spells phonetically.  He uses mi for my, spel for spell, and silent letters apparently become invisible letters.  I chose Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B) for him.  The levels are not necessarily grade or age based, but they are directed toward elementary readers.  We received two student workbooks, the instructor's handbook, a laminated guide to handwriting, and Crayola erasable colored pencils.

The 72 page Instructor Handbook includes the complete curriculum sequence list, including the two levels not yet available, with placement guidelines, a dictation word list, and detailed instructions and answer key for each of the 36, week-long lessons in Jack and Jill.  I found it to be complete and easy to follow.  This booklet has a staple binding.
Spelling You See Review

Each sturdily bound Student Workbook contains eighteen of the 36 lessons.  Every lesson in Jack and Jill is divided into five two page daily assignments.  The lesson each week is based on a nursery rhyme or children's song.  The lessons require considerable parental involvement, from reading and clapping your way through each passage, to dictating words to your young writer.  That was actually fine for us.  Xavier enjoyed this one on one time with me while Malachi worked on other subjects  and Merrick napped.  His favorite activity was pointing at each word as I read the rhyme out loud.

The laminated handwriting guide shows the Spelling You See printed letters with arrows indicating starting point and each line direction.  Xavier and Mal have both developed the bad habit of staring letters at the base.  They also often make a "t" without picking up their pencils, using some funky "up, down, right, left" movement that mostly *looks* right.  I have told them again and again, but if I'm not on top of every letter each of them writes, they do their own thing.  I've been using this guide with both of them and like the progress Xav is making.

One thing I do not care for is the little swoop at the bottom of the lowercase a, l, and t.  We don't use it.  Xav does weird things with that swoop, making an a that looks like a q, and l that morphs into something like a c.  Oddly, I kept thinking that the directions for some of the letters were so weird, just terribly wrong to me, but I went with it.  Then one day while I was printing their memory verses on index cards, I realized they absolutely were correct.  I was printing most letters exactly the same, but I print so seldom (and maybe because I look at the guide upside down across the table), they seemed different.  I had to laugh at myself about that one!

It was a real treat to find the *Crayola* erasable colored pencils included with the pack.  I am a Crayola snob.  Really.  I am.  Xav has driven me to distraction with his proclivity to use colored pencils in his schoolwork.  And guess what?  He makes a mistake that needs to be erased every. single. time.  And he can't.  And we both get upset.  Hooray for the erasable colored pencils and HOORAY! for Spelling You See for using them.

Xavier is so excited to get mail these days and doesn't feel he gets nearly enough (he can't seem to grasp that getting mail often requires sending mail), so he was beyond thrilled when I invited him to open the box that came in the mail.  He wasted no time sitting down to look over his loot.  He really did see this as an exciting package of goodness just for him.  He read some of the rhymes and looked at every picture in both workbooks.  He asked about the colored pencils and couldn't wait to get started.

Lesson 1A begins with Jack and Jill.  The text instructs me to read the rhyme to him and clap "in rhythm."  I prefer to clap syllables.  Next, we read it together.  Finally, I read it while he points at each word.  That's Xav's favorite part.  We're then instructed to find the rhyming words and he underlines them.  The copywork is "Jack and Jill went up the hill" and the facing page looks like this:

After a few lessons, the lower half of this facing page no longer has letters in the boxes.  Students are directed to write words that are dictated to them.  This is where a problem showed up.  Xav was not certain if /k/ words, like cut and cup started with c or k.  While this issue is covered in the Instructor Handbook (encourage the student to ask questions and don't be afraid to help them), I realized there is no real direction given for understanding when or why c is used.  Having never used a real spelling curriculum before, my research is leading me to believe that most instruction is a hybrid of phonics and sight words, so maybe that is not so unusual.

Spelling You See ReviewBy lesson four, you will begin to deconstruct words in the reading passage.  We began with the suffix -ed.  Spelling You See calls this "chunking."  We love this part!  Searching the week's rhyme or song, we look for various letter patterns, each color coded.  Vowel chunks, consonant chunks, bossy r, tricky y, endings, and silent letters each get their own colors.  This example is from the final lesson of Jack and Jill.  "Old McDonald had a farm E I E I O.  And on that farm he had a dog E I E I O.  With a woof, woof here, and a woof, woof there..."  I have no idea why, but Xav seems to be incapable of remembering the word chunking.  He calls this scrunching, crunching, or cracking.  I'm the one cracking, cracking up, that is!

Dictation and copywork passages get longer as the child progresses.  The CVC words get longer and more difficult and the boxes disappear eventually.  The student draws a picture and writes several lines about their illustrations.  For struggling or reluctant writers, you are instructed to keep the dictation section of any lesson to under ten minutes.  This reinforces to the student that, no matter what, there is an end in sight.  No one will be writing for hours through tears of frustration and anger. 

More than just spelling and writing is taught in Jack and Jill.  Xav is learning about capitalization, commas, periods, quotation marks, opposites, rhyming words, and apostrophes.  That's all within just the first ten weekly lessons.  I'm counting the rhymes toward his literature requirements for the state, too!

The nursery rhymes were almost all familiar to us, nothing too obscure.  The illustrations were all cute (except maybe Miss Muffet's spider!).  We were delighted by the illustrations and Xav enjoyed looking them all over, even studying them and asking questions or just commenting on them.

A word of warning, there are videos and PDFs available online.   The code to access these extras is on a sticker placed on your shrink wrap.  I threw the shrink wrap away.  I did not even notice a code or sticker.  If you keep your code, you will have access to the following.
  • Chunking Demonstration video
  • Letter Box Dictation video
  • Passage Dictation video
  • American Spirit Overview video
  • Writing in Spelling You See video
  • Chunking guide pdf
  • Handwriting guide pdf

Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B)
Instructor’s Handbook $16
Student Pack $30

Find Spelling You See on Facebook or Twitter!

Many of the Schoolhouse Review Crew moms got to use other levels as well.  Click below to see the review linky.  Each reviewer has specified in her link up exactly which level she has used with her family.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Mar 27, 2014

Tasty Truffles

I picked up these truffles in the grocery store's 50% off bin.  They are incredibly delicious.  I want more!
 This mug is one that Micah picked up when he was in college.  We own several.  I love the little people climbing and hanging off the rims and handles.

Mar 20, 2014

THMJ Week of 3/9/14

Family Time Fitness is giving away a PDF copy of Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 to anyone who wants a copy.  Offer good until Friday, March 21!

    In my life this week…
More shoveling.

Merrick escaped his crib this week.  He was so quiet, I didn't even hear him.  Just turned around and almost knocked him down.  Luckily, he's only tried once since and fell safely back into bed.  I don't think he's given it a thought since.

Our Friday School friend, Jasmine, came over.  Malachi gets  so excited every time he sees her.  "It's Jasmine!  Hey, mom, it's Jasmine!"  Then she yells back, "Boy alert!"  I didn't tell the punks that she and Mrs.R were coming over.  They were pleasantly surprised.

    In our homeschool this week…

Xav's Spelling You See books finally arrived.  He was so excited to have the books in hand.  He's like me that way.  I like paper books.  Best part?  It came with special pencils, just for him. 

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
No Wiggles and Giggles for Merrick.  But Mrs. R let him watch Curious George on her Kindle in the nursery.
One sort of dud experiment and one good experiment in Magic School Bus Science.  We had yeast, sugar, and water in a test tube and tried to fill a balloon.  We did trap a tiny bit of gas in the balloon, but not enough to wow us.  We watched Inside Ralphie (germs).  Appropriate since 1/3 of our families were out.
Duct Tape - Mal made a bracelet and then could make whatever he wanted.  He made a 2D train.
Amazing Body -  Ms Trish was out, so Mrs. E borrowed a Magic School Bus episode, did some  exercise, then Mal talked her ear off with tales of Monster in Paris about a flea that is accidentally grown by an experimental fertilizer.  Mal's favorite character is "Catherine".  Yeh, the car.  He builds her with legos every time he pulls them out.
Nature - More birds and Xav made a paper airplane type bird.
Arts and Crafts - Xav made a name banner taller than he is.
Archery - I got a good behavior report and also heard what a terrific archer Xav is.  All he told me was that he bumped his knee and wanted a nap.

Someone asked if Mal's duct tape cootie catcher worked.  :)  Here's a pic of mine.  It's also known as a fortune teller.  It's great for building dexterity.

    In Rangers this week... 
Mal and Merrick stayed home with Dad.

    What we're reading... 
Dad read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We all headed to the home show.
My ever so enthusiastic family.  Some of Mal's fun loot.  Tiny garbage cans!
 Then stopped at Walmart.  Merrick is ready to ride!

Is it just my cheap frugal self who thinks the clearance price is still too high for this game?

Speaking of "frugal," Xav got his first professional haircut.

    Things Dad is working on...
Micah made seats for two kitchen chairs and I cushioned and covered them with Jasmine's help.   We now have four matching chairs at the table again!

We also had lesson two of gEEk school with dad.  They lit the lights using a light sensor and a heat sensor.


    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your house." David Frost

Linking up at Christian Fellowship Friday, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, The Homeschool Mother's Journal.

Peppermint Marshmallow

Picked up this minty marshmallow at Williams Sonoma.

Mar 13, 2014

Jesus is the Light... Egglo Review

I've had the egg-citing opportunity, through The Schoolhouse Review Crew, to review several of Egglo Entertainment's super fun, God honoring Easter products.  Their glow-in-the-dark Easter eggs, Egg-cellent Easter Adventure story book and accessories always point children to the Light of the World - Jesus.  These products are intended to be used mostly with ages 4-13, but all ages can enjoy them.     

Egglo Review

Egglo Glow in the Dark Easter Eggs ($11.99)*
The glow eggs can be charged using various light sources.  The time needed for a full charge varies with each type of light.  The sun charges the eggs most thoroughly. The eggs come in a box of twelve and are blue, green, yellow, and pink.  The blue and green eggs each have a cross on them.

We charged these under a bulb and, even though our weather isn't often entirely cooperative, in the pseudo-sun of dreary, wintry Vermont.  While we did get a decent glow, it seems they last longer and are brighter under a full charge in the sun.  They shouldn't be hidden too far in advance of the Easter egg hunt.  We did charge them with regular lighting and use them in the tub (pictures below).  When I got up in the morning, they were sitting on the sink drying, glowing away.  I don't know if the nightlight was just enough to keep them going for 12 hours, or if they really did somehow hold the charge that long.

Closing the eggs up in a dark place, where they would lose their glow, was a reminder for us that we need to recharge in the light of Jesus.  I used this as a reminder for why Bible study is so important to us.

I let Merrick play with the eggs all afternoon one day.  At the end of the day, Micah said, "You let our boys play with them and none are broken?  Clearly, they didn't play with them long enough."  So I let all three have free access to the eggs all day.  They've been juggled, squeezed, drop, and "experimented" on.  While I won't swear the eggs are indestructible, I will say, the punks didn't break a single one!  (I, on the other hand, did break a half by stepping on it in my rush to attend to a pencil stab in the next room.  *ahem*  And WHY in the world do kids feel the need to stab themselves with a pencil?)

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book ($12.99)
Written by Darcie Cobos and illustrated by Golden Street Animation, this glossy, colorful, 38 page story tells the story of three children who are transported to several locations when they discover a magical, glowing egg.  Each egg in the book contains a clue to the next location and a Bible verse scroll.  Over time, the children are transformed from some pretty ill-behaved children to kind and cooperative team members.
Egglo Review

I admit, on my first read through of this book, I wanted to put it down and walk away.  I was so irritated by the children, and the fact that their parents didn't feel it was necessary to mention their inappropriate behavior to them, that I just didn't want to read it.  I knew in my mind that this poor behavior would be changed as the children learned about Jesus, but I just didn't feel like following through.  They really do shape up quickly.  It's OK to not like them at first.

The three characters learn to rely on God to calm their fears, put others before themselves, and listen to wise advice.  I was glad to finish the story and be able to look back at the transformations that took place while discussing their behavior with the boys. 

While it is considered an Easter adventure and culminates with an egg hunt, there was nothing about this book that would prevent it from becoming a regular read at any time of the year.

I left the book out, available for perusing at nearly any time.  Several times, I spied a boy curled on the couch or sprawled on the floor near the heater reading or looking at this bright, engaging book.  The paperback book has also held up well to frequent use and occasional misuse.

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure audio download ($2.99)
Nearly 30 minutes long, this MP4 audio of The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure is narrated by Dick Wells, a pleasant sounding gentleman.  While this isn't an audio drama, the narrator is quite animated and held everyone's attention.  The quality is clear.  A chime marks every page turn for your pre-readers.  Xavier really liked this feature.  There are a LOT of words on some pages of the book and he would definitely not follow along with the words while being read to.  He loves the pictures and would much rather look at those.  The audio file will be a great addition to our looooong car trips to visit grandparents.

Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls ($4.29)
One dozen little plastic scrolls based on verses which point to Jesus and to God's love.  Reminding us to keep our eyes on The Light of the World.  I liked that they are not paper, so aren't as likely to tear.  The scrolls can be placed in the eggs during your Easter egg games.  Xav loved rolling and unrolling them.  Too bad he isn't coordinated enough to get the tiny rubber band back around them when he is done. 

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide ($14.99)
This 62 page PDF will give you everything you need to plan the perfect Easter adventure for your family, friends, or church group.  This thorough guide provides ideas for snacks, decorations, and  activities, and comprehension questions for the suggested Bible reading and the book.  The bulk of the guide has printable invitations, crosses and scrolls to cut out.  If you are looking for Easter game ideas, this is a good resource.

Some of the other ways we've used Egglo Glow-in-the-Dark Easter Eggs included printing and hiding these hearts in the eggs, this spring wreath, and a fun glow bath.

Look for the "sign up for free egglo stuff!" button on the website to receive the Egglo scavenger hunt to use in your own home, with clues like "The LORD provides food for those who fear Him. He remembers His covenant forever (Psalm 111:5)." which would lead the hunters to the refrigerator where they would find the next egg.  You will also receive coloring pages, character cutouts (which could be used to play a memory game), and a special Why Jesus Came scroll.

Xav loves to color, so he will really enjoy the character coloring pages that are in the Program Guide. 

I recommend Egglo Entertainment's glow-in-the-dark Easter eggs, book and accessories for your next Children's Ministry Easter egg hunt, for your family, for friendly get togethers, and for your co-op.  There are so many projects, games, and other ways to use these versatile products.

Egglo Eggs partners with ministries here and abroad, including Dayspring Educational Training Centre in Uganda.

*Retail prices listed.  Several products are currently on sale.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Find Egglo Entertainment on social media.
Crew Disclaimer

Cocoa and Citrus

An orange roll, a cutie, and a bit of inspiration with my cocoa. {LOVE}

THMJ Weeks of 2/23/14 and 3/2/14

    In my life this week…
2/23  Merrick is happy in his new pullups.  He hugged them and kissed them because they have Cars on them.  He has peed in the potty several times a day for five days now.

3/2  He still uses the potty, usually 1-3 times/day, but he isn't keen on going often.  Sometimes, we may use tricks to get him in there.  *innocents*

    In our homeschool this week… 

I did the Oreo full moon thingy with the boys this week.  Fun, educational, and tasty.

*please hold for rassnfrassn no good photographs to somehow get their stinky acts together and upload correctly*

The boys had their first session of gEEk school with Dad.

    In our homeschool co-op this week... 
2/23  Magic School Bus Science: We erupted a volcano.  Not as wow as I was hoping for.  The instructions called for water.  I really don't think the water helped us.  We also made earth layers and put houses, people, and animals (including some dinosaurs!) around the surface.
Duct tape: Mal made a cootie catcher.  Ah, memories.
Amazing Body: The class is finishing up their bodies.  Next class should finish them up and we'll be bringing a lovely skeleton with his innards back home. 
Nature: Xav learned about wings, looked at and drew feathers.
Crafts: Xav made a heart mobile.
Merrick attended Wiggles and Giggles.
We had our Valentine lunch party since school was canceled last time.

    In Rangers this week...
Q verse: Be Quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  James 1:19
R verse: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Exodus 20:8

    What we're reading... 
Read Aloud
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Reading on their own
Phineas and Ferb: How to Conquer the Tri-State Area
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure

For myself
IndoctriNation (It takes me forever to read a book for myself.  I don't get to it often.)

    Around the house... 
Merrick has figured out how to get in *and* out of the crib.  That will be the end of that soon.

He put himself to bed after a tantrum.

      My kiddos favorite thing this week was…
I think Xav's favorite was building this model with his dad one evening.

They ALL loved the all-out, insane Nerf Wars that have started in this house.

Xav lying in wait for Dad.
    Things Dad is working on...
gEEk school!


    I’m cooking…

I didn't cook it, but I mixed up some local chevre with salsa for our (delayed) co-op Valentine party.  Super yummy with tortilla chips.

    Out of the mouths of boys... 
Micah was puttering in the basement.
Xav:  I'm worried about Dad.  He's working on the Sabbath.
(Never mind that Mom was tidying the living room at that exact moment.)

Merrick in a bin.  What a goof.

    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
Hilarious quiz.  Which preformed concrete product are you? (A bit of satire in response to all those, "Which character are you?" quizzes going around.)

 "You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance." F P Jones

I'll be linking up at:
Holy Splendor
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Mar 6, 2014

Praying Effectively for Asia

We're smackdab in the middle of Read an E-Book Week (March 2-8, 2014)!  Why not learn something new and make a difference while you read?

I received a copy of Bonnie Rose Hudson's Asia: Its People and History for use at home with the boys, in exchange for my honest review.  Bonnie works with both and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine® as a curriculum creator and editorial assistant. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She would love for you to stop by and meet the star of her children’s series at Exploring with Jake, look through the 10/40 window of the world and join others in prayer at Looking Out the 10/40 Window, or stop by her author’s blog for fun printables and discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

I became familiar with Bonnie Rose Hudson through The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which is free to read online.  She writes a Little House Legacy series which is a great series to read while enjoying Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House book series.

Asia: Its People and History is a sixteen week study of six nations, Laos, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Iran, and Vietnam.  The layout consists of a story with discussion questions for one week, followed by a Let's Talk About section the following week.  Two countries are represented for four weeks each while the rest are studied for two weeks.

In the book, you will also find a word search, a word find, a puzzle, and other activities as well as a suggested reading list.  Online bonus content is also available, like these craft patterns for the flags of Bangladesh, Laos, and Vietnam.

The 70 page e-book costs just $6.95.  It's available on Kindle from Amazon as well as The Old Schoolhouse store.  Use the code "02asia14!" for 20% off the e-book from The Old Schoolhouse store.  A paperback version is also available on Amazon, but if you find yourself in need of multiple copies for a Sunday school or co-op class, please contact Bonnie Rose Hudson directly.  writebonnierose (at) gmail (dot) com

The book's target audience is the 8-12 year old range.  Xavier got plenty out of it.  (I want to say he is six, but he recently turned seven.  Egad!)  He has a tender heart for those in need.  I hope he never loses that.

I decided to use the review period to learn first about China with the boys.  They were very interested in the true story of a mission that was burned by a mob as told by two fictional sisters who survived the attack.  We spent some time reading about the many Chinese dynasties.  A short synopsis of each dynasty and the highlights of their reign.  For instance, who ruled, what religious belief they followed, things that were invented during that time period, and more.  We read about the Boxer Rebellion and the rise of communism.

Next, we read about several people groups in China with very specific ways to pray for them and their needs.  One of those were the Ladakhi people who live in the desert, in the *Himalayan Mountains*.  We found it very interesting that they get only three inches of snow in a year and they have to hope for the sun to melt some of the glaciers so they can get water.  Even though we've talked about frozen deserts before, the punks needed a reminder and knowing a real life example made it all the more meaningful to them.

I love that there are suggestions for how to prayer for the peoples of Asia.  Each area has a specific need.  I want the boys to learn how important it is to pray for persecuted Christians and this book was very helpful.

Bonnie is considering a second Asia book.  Please tell me in the comments which Asian country you and your family would like to learn about in a second edition.

You can find Bonnie Rose Hudson here:
Twitter: @WriteBonnieRose

Root Beer Cookies with my Cocoa

I find root beer cookies to be yummafiable.  Especially with gobs of root beer frosting sandwiched in between.