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Mar 7, 2016

Here to Help Learning TOS Crew Review

Do your children find writing boring?  Mine do.  And inevitably, the state wants more writing samples in their portfolios.  Last year, after I received the call asking for more writing, I ended up having the boys dictate to me and copy it in their very neatest cursive (another whole story!).  I can get a lot more out of them using dictation.  They're pretty imaginative, actually.

This past month, we've been watching Here to Help Learning videos, which are not only great writing lessons, but so very entertaining!  There are six "flights."  Flight 1, 2, and 3 Paragraph Writing is for grades first to third and up, while Flights, 1, 2, and 3 Essay Writing are all appropriate for grades fourth to sixth and up.  There are 32 lessons in each Flight.  I chose to complete Flight 1 Paragraph Writing first.  The order of the flights is not important.  Each of the three flights teach the same lessons at the level the students are on.

Here to Help Learning Review

Forrest and Beth Mora created Here to Help Learning for the youngest of their eight children.  What began as a small co-op adventure for Beth and their daughter, morphed over time into sixty families and eight different classes.  Serving all of those families and supporting all of those moms, led to the next step,  Mr. and Mrs. Mora and their two CENs (Chief Executive Nerds) have done an amazing job creating lighthearted videos using picturesque settings and Beth's animated personality.

The entire program is, as I mentioned, flight themed.  Mrs. Mora, as the flight attendant, opens each lesson with a brief bit of encouragement and ends each lesson with a review of the topic learned that day.  In between, she demonstrates each of the steps in the writing process for that lesson and then cheerfully invites the children to participate.  Mrs. Mora takes us to parks, train tracks, the kitchen, mountains, and many other locations on earth and in space while she explains the writing process.

With games like "Sentence, No Sentence," Flying Solo assignments from Captain Knucklehead, and the warm up pictures which are so comical, the boys generally guffaw at the first glimpse makes each lesson fun.  And then the laughter and exclamations begin.  It takes some settling down to get them writing their story, but once the timer starts they get right to work.  Mal always gets so upset when their seven minutes are up.  He could write for five minutes more most days.  Let me tell you, that is a BIG deal!  I love this homeschool writing curriculum and the boys don't dislike it!  As Xav would say, "Score!"

Technology is no friend of mine, which my regular readers probably know!  The first week I couldn't get the printer to print the student pages for me.  I think we have the most uncooperative printer on the planet.  I had no trouble printing after Micah worked some techno-mumbojumbo on it.  That was no reflection on the program!  I'm merely mentioning it here because Mal's warm up story in the photo is on plain paper.  I actually stumbled on a picture gallery on the website and the boys chose a snowboarder in space rather then the orca with a cheerleading penguin on his nose.  Told you the pictures are funny!

To start our lessons, I plug the laptop into the TV.  I love being able to see the videos large and in charge.  Then I print the student pages for that day.  I don't print the teacher's guide.  I can look at it on my Kindle while the video plays on full screen.  Though each lesson is a series of videos, they conveniently begin one right after the other.  That doesn't mean you just start the lesson and walk away.  You are the facilitator.  The videos are paused at several strategic moments to allow you to direct the students through the various activities and spend some time thinking out loud.  You'll also need a timer which you'll use a couple of times.  Watch the videos and do the activities one day, then choose another day to complete the flying solo assignment.  That is when the writing on the actual project will happen.

Here to Help Learning is Biblically based, encouraging students to honor God with their writing and their attitudes.  They're encouraged to memorize Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

At the end of the Flight, or year of instruction, your child will have completed six writing projects. Here to Help Learning covers five types of writing in each flight:
  • Narrative
  • Descriptive
  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • And poetry.

We are not ready for Essay Writing here, but I did take a look at that section of the writing lessons.  Where the paragraph lessons focus on the types of writing, the essay lessons seem to include more about literary techniques such as mood, simile, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia.  (I never, ever thought I'd use the word onomatopoeia on this blog.  Ever.  I'm pleased to say, I spelled it correctly on the first try, too!)

Flight 3 Essay Writing, which is recommended only after completing either Flight 1 *or* 2 Essay Writing, is the Write a Book Project.  This Flight has the sole purpose of guiding the student through writing and publishing a six chapter book.  Interviews with authors Bill Myers, Brock Eastman, Nathan Hoobler, and Pat and Sandy Roy, make this Flight decidedly unique.

While we have enjoyed access to the full website and our choice of the six flights (which is $6.99/month), Here to Help Learning has also made each Flight available in a physical format.  A DVD set, the teacher's guide, and one student notebook is included in the Teacher's Kit.  Additional student notebooks are available individually, which makes this an excellent choice for co-op learning.

Here to Help Learning has just released their newest product.  Their first Literature Adventure, The Island of the Blue Dolphins filmed study guide, is now available.  This is also included in the website access.  How great is that?

For the remainder of 2016, Here to Help Learning and Crimson Pulse have teamed up to sponsor a writing contest with monthly prizes and a grand prize next January.  You'll find details at Here to Help Learning writing contest.

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