Monday, February 28, 2011

How Miss O learned to read...

Miss O, my 4 (and a half) year old has been wanting to learn to read for a long, long time. She pretty much begged me to do reading lessons with her from the phonics books I had used on Little Bean. But when it came down to it, we had lots of tears and discouragement on her part because she just couldn't figure out phonics. She couldn't blend well. She couldn't memorize letter combinations and got confused when the same letter made multiple sounds. So, much to her dismay, I refused to do reading lessons with her anymore.

When, as part of the The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I was sent Sets 1 through 4 of the I See Sam reading program, I was hesitant to try it with Miss O. Phonics hadn't worked for her in the past, and I was worried introducing another program would be just as disheartening for all of us. But, when the big, old package came in the mail, she was so thrilled that it was a product "for her". Since she is still on the young side, most of my review products have been for Little Bean, you see. She begged me to let her get started with the readers. So, I did.

Thank the Lord, these readers were perfect for Miss O.

Here's a run down of what these readers entail:

The I See Sam readers are a full reading program with 8 levels which will take the child from no reading to a 3.6 grade level in reading.

They are very, very light on phonics, which is different from the previous curriculum I have tried with her.

Each reader starts with a list of new words and new sounds to go over with your student. Usually there are anywhere from 1 to 5 new words or sounds in a book. Next, your student will read through a list of previously learned words and sounds. They need to be able to read all the new words and sounds before moving on to the story.

Next, the reader will have a story. The stories introduce characters who are seen throughout the whole series of books. Miss O has certain ones who are her favorites. The child can pass the book and move on to the next when they can read through the entire story making only 2 mistakes or less. This usually takes Miss O 4 reads to do. I have her read each book at least 2 times a day. So she can pass a book in 1 to 2 days depending on how much reading she feels like doing and on the difficulty of the book.

On the final pages of the stories, sometimes there is a Looking Back section, which is like a built in review and assessment for the child. This has 5 or so sentences using previously learned words for the student to read. They are allowed 1 mistake on this page in order to pass the book. I do not count self-correcting mistakes as real mistakes. I take it as a good sign that she is self-correcting. Also on the last pages are the Coming Attractions, which are a glimpse of what words or sounds she will learn in the next book.

In addition, on the bottom of each page is a smiling face reminding the teacher to praise their child for reading so well. This was really helpful for me, because sometimes I'm so focused on listening to her read that I forget to encourage her. Also interspersed in small print on some of the pages are comprehension questions you can ask to engage the student more in the story and expand on the somewhat limited text. That has helped to increase enjoyment of the readers for Miss O quite a bit. Also with the program are charts that have a picture for each book (the books are numbered) and the child can color in the picture to show their progress as they pass the books.

My set also came with flashcards of all the words and sounds learned. Sometimes we incorporate these into the lessons by reviewing with them rather than within the book. Since we have been packed up lately with our by move, we have been only relying on the books and haven't used the flashcards. It has worked out just fine to do it that way, but the flashcards are nice for review too.

I really can't say enough good things about this series. The stories and illustrations are really pretty delightful given the limited vocabulary they are able to work with. Miss O has, for the most part, really enjoyed learning to read, and she is retaining everything she learns from these books. I plan to take her through the first 4 sets that were sent to me, and if she still needs more reading instruction beyond that, I will continue on and purchase the following sets as well. Right now she is on the 4th book in the 2nd set. That means she has passed a whopping 30 books so far!!

Academic Success for All Learners sells each set of books for $30 a set. Each set can contain up to 27 books. A Deluxe Reader Gift Set includes Sets 1 through 4, as well as other goodies like the corresponding flashcards, a Sam the Lion puppet, shelf organizers to hold the books (wish I had some of those!!), and a coloring book, and sells for $160. The Read to Succeed Gift Set includes Sets 1 and 2, support materials, and an instructor guide (you will want this), and costs $70. Flashcards can also be purchased (Sets 1 to 4) for $15 dollars. Check out the website for the different packages available for purchase.

If you've gotten this far in my review, you must really be interested in this program. If that's the case, you will want to visit their YouTube channel. They have lesson demos done by a classroom teacher that show you exactly how this program will work with your student. Their website also has a free section in which you can download the flashcards for all the sets, sample books, and completion certificates, all for free.

If you do purchase the I See Sam books, come on back and let me know how it goes for you and your child. These have worked out great for Miss O. I hope they will be just as pleasing for some of my readers as well.

Note: I was sent this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Dollar E-book Sale--Good stuff!

This sale was going on a while back, and I missed it. Now it's on again, and I spent the better part of this evening filling up my cart with these e-books. There are some really great ones on there, and all of them are a dollar!

The catch is that after spending all that time carefully picking my choices, I couldn't check out. I don't know if the site is just super busy or what, but I sure hope that customer service gets back to me before the sale ends!

Here are the titles I chose:

Grammar Puzzles and Games Kids Can't Resist
Easy Make and Learn Projects: Human Body
Instant Map Skills: United States
All About Me Write and Read Books
Monthly Idea books for the 12 months of the year (sold separately)
Our Country Write and Read Books
Follow the Directions and Learn Grades 2 to 3
40 Graphic Organizers That Build Comprehension During Independent Reading
Let's Learn Mini-books Our Nation
Terrific Transitions
Skill Building Morning Jumpstarts

I sure hope they can resolve the check-out issue for me. These books are worth way more than a dollar a piece (the regular prices are between 4 dollars and fifteen dollars each)! If you decide to buy, will you come back and let me know if you were able to check out okay?

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

So I know it's only February...

but, I'm totally deciding on curriculum for next year already! We started 1st in April of 2010, and it's coming up on April of 2011 now. For various reasons (dealing with his Autism diagnosis, taking time off to move, me watching my nephew twice a week), 1st grade took us a lot longer than Kinder did (Kinder took about 150 school days), and that's alright. I think we've done about 120 days so far for 1st. We have about 2 months more to go on his math curriculum, and then he is basically done with 1st. My main concern this year has been mastery. Some of the math concepts he has really struggled with, and at one point we flipped back in the book about 30 lessons and repeated them. The second time through he really understood things better. He is so advanced anyway for his age, I really have no concerns about the timing of the school years. We will move right into 2nd grade work when he finishes his 1st grade stuff. Here's what I'm looking at (the basics anyway):

By the way, I recently made a list of all the homeschooling and educational resources I have, and boy am I blessed! Between stuff that I have purchased and stuff we have received through the Homeschool Crew, I feel so blessed!

Math--Right Start Level C. I really like Right Start. I plan to use it all the way through.

Handwriting--Handwriting Without Tears Cursive. I'm excited about this! He has intuitively picked up how to read (sort of) cursive, so I'm hoping he will like learning to write it.

Writing--Writing Strands, Level 2. I really stink at coming up with writing prompts and promoting interesting ways of writing. I hope this curriculum will help with that.

Vocabulary--Word Wisdom. Little Bean has a good vocabulary, but this curriculum looked really fun and I thought he would enjoy it. One of my goals this year is making school more enjoyable. It's not easy when you have such a rigid child, but I hope to do some daily things that he finds fun and rewarding. We'll see if that's realistic of me!

Spelling--All About Spelling Book 3. I have really grown to like All About Spelling. And his spelling is really, really good for his age, so we are staying with it this year.

Grammar--Easy Grammar. He has learned the very basics of grammar (capitalization and period or question mark), so I want to move beyond that. This stuff looks fun to me, but I have always liked grammar. I wonder how he will like it. It reminds me of All About Spelling in that it repeats a very predictable pattern for every lesson, and it teaches the rules explicitly. I know he does well with that kind of style, so I am hoping he will enjoy this!

History--Story of the World, Vol. 1. Yes, we used Story of the World this year with our Winter Promise curriculum. And we did finish Vol. 1 this year. Some of it he has really retained, but some of it he isn't getting. This year I would like to get the Activity Guide and the testing materials. History was really put on the wayside this year because of our issues with his behavior during school time. I hope to give it more of a focus next year. These are both PDF downloads--kind of cool, huh? :) I have also downloaded a 50 States notebooking project, but we will start that this year and may still be at it in 2nd.

Science--Magic School Bus Science Kits. I love these! My mom got them for Little Bean for Christmas, and they are really fun. I have a lot of science resources already, so I wont have to purchase anything, though I'm totally tempted to, but I have too much already to justify a purchase, I think.

And let's not forget Miss O. She will be 5 this summer, and will "officially" start K in the fall. I really can't believe it! She is already doing a lot of K work now, so this will just be an extension of that. For her, I will use:

Reading--I See Sam Sets 2 through 4 (which I already have), and then will purchase additional sets as needed. She is already partially through Set 2 (and has finished Set 1) and IS reading! I'm super excited we have found a curriculum that she is having success with. I will be writing a review on this in the near future.

Math--I have two choices, lol, and they are both already purchased. I can use Right Start Level A with her, which I have from Little Bean's K year, or I can use McRuffy K Math, which I bought a while back and have started with her already. We'll see how it goes. She really wants to do Right Start like Little Bean, but when I tried it with her, she just didn't seem to get it.

Science--Again, I have two choices, both already purchased! She can use McRuffy Science K, which is left over from Little Bean's K year, or she can follow along with us on our Magic School Bus stuff. I also have Little Bean's current Science curriculum which is Winter Promise The World Around Me. Lots of great resources to pull from with that set, but I probably won't use the schedule. This year I discovered schedules like that are a little too binding for me at this point.

Handwriting--She needs a lot of handwriting work still, but she is interested in writing and knows most upper and lowercase letters. She can't figure out how to write on lined paper yet. I will probably just print worksheets with my Startwrite software for her this year for extra practice.

Spelling--She is already partially through All About Spelling Level 1. I think she is close to lesson 10 out of 25 or so. She is really doing well with it. We will continue that and then move on to Level 2 probably.

She will not do any real history, other than just tagging along with us. I can't really see her doing much journal writing or copywork for K either. We'll see how it goes!!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Random Thoughts on Moving...

The kids had a tea party complete with tiny, intricately painted metal cups, a teapot full of milk, and animal cookies a while back. They had a lovely time of it, just relaxing on a weekday afternoon. But with all that's been happening this past month, there hasn't been a tea party in sight.

The transition thus far hasn't been easy on any of us, and I'm really feeling the need for this move to be over. We are almost there--Raymond starts work this coming Monday, and the kids and I will arrive Tuesday night to set up house. I can't wait!

The house we ended up with (does have central heat and air, btw!) has a two car garage that's been converted into a second living area. It will be our school room! I'm kind of stoked to have such a large space for our school area and playroom. :) Is it the best house ever? No, the carpet is older, and it has less space than our last house, but I don't care. It may not be the best, but it IS a blessing, and I am totally excited to be starting this new chapter in our lives.

The hardest thing has been different for us all. Miss O doesn't seem to have taken much of the reality of the move in, so I would venture to guess that so far she has had things the easiest of us all. Little Bean doesn't deal really well with transitions, so we have had some behavior issues and increased stimming as each new thing comes into play (daddy leaving for a week, daddy's flight getting cancelled and him staying in OK, an extra week, lots of time off school, etc, etc). Raymond of course had a lot of pressure on him to a) find a job, and b) find us a place to live all in a two week period. Now he has the job of doing a bit of unpacking and starting his new job before we even get there!

As for me, the hardest part has been dealing with the opinions of other people. Everyone seems to have a really strong opinion about everything we are doing, and all I want people to say is "We love you, we want the best for you, and we are so happy for you". Raymond's family is ecstatic of course, since they have not had their fair share of time with our family and many of them live in Oklahoma or in neighboring states. My parents are really, really not handling this well. We have lived in the same neighborhood (literally walking distance) to them for the past 3 and a half years and they see the kids all the time. They seem to be sad about that aspect, and also a little afraid or doubtful that we can "make it" on our own. Everyone seeks approval from their parents, no matter if they are a little child or an adult child, so dealing with their feelings has been hard for me, even though I know it isn't intended that way. Needless to say, there has been a bit of butting heads over this. Don't worry, we still have a great relationship with my parents, but I will for sure be glad when this is over and done with.

Aside from my parents and Raymond's parents, our church family and our Bible study friends (whom we are really close to) are all understandably sad to see us leaving. The kid's Sunday school teachers teared up when they found out. I really haven't had a chance to think about how I feel about they whole thing because I've been busy defending our choices and dealing with how everyone else feels about our move.

I hope and pray it will be the best thing for us, and I know it will be because I know God is leading us in this direction. I just can't wait to be done with the transition and back to "normal" life. That's all for now. Thanks for reading!

Instilling A Love of Reading in Your Child

All parents, whether homeschoolers or not, want to raise kids who love to read. There are all kinds of theories on how to accomplish this, from exposing kid's to books frequently throughout early childhood, to reading aloud great books to your kids, to avoiding twaddle and focusing on rich, living books, to putting off formal reading instruction until the child is 6 or 7 (or even older!). But the fact of the matter is, like in all things parenting-related, sometimes you end up with a kid who loves reading, and sometimes you end up with a reluctant reader. It seems to me that there isn't much rhyme or reason to it; you either have a kid who loves books, or you have one who...doesn't.

For those of you who have a child who is reluctant to read, read on (no pun intended), because I am about to present to you a product that is designed specifically with your reluctant reader in mind, a product that can be used in the home or at school, a product that does it's very best to make reading fun, interesting and engaging, in order to draw your reluctant reader in.

For those of you, who, like me, have a child who LOVES reading, read on, they WILL love this product. Mine did.

And for those of you who after reading this review, who would love to buy The Reluctant Reader Solution, but can't right now, stick around, because the makers of The Reluctant Reader Solution have a great website, packed with free activities to engage your reader, as well as an option to sign up for 30 day's worth of tips on making reading fun for your child.

Let's start with The Reluctant Reader Solution. The Reluctant Reader Solution has two parts included in the purchase, both of which are available to you electronically; one as a pdf file which you will save to your computer, and one that you have special access to online.
Part 1: The pdf file. When you purchase The Reluctant Reader Solution, you will receive an email from it's makers, Kid Scoop, with a link to download a gigantic e-book. This e-book contains 365 worksheets on various topics. Topics range from holidays and habitats, to sports and animals, you name it, there is probably a related worksheet in this file. You can use these worksheets in a variety of ways. You could use them by topic, or you can work through them chronologically with your child, printing a worksheet a day. Used this way, the topics would correspond to the various holidays and seasons throughout the year.
Part 2: Access to the Kid Scoop online newspaper for kids! The Kid Scoop online newspaper is a monthly online newspaper that is interactive in nature. It's pretty versatile in its' functions--your child can browse it in full screen mode on the computer screen, using the arrow keys or mouse to "turn" the pages. If they don't read that well yet, it does have a listening option, however, I found the audio to be too computerized for my liking. Children can search the contents of the newspaper for keywords, save single pages or the entire publication to the computer, or print out hard copies in order to use it for pencil and paper work. Children also have access to "back-issues of the magazine. With the purchase of The Reluctant Reader Solution, your child will have access to the magazine for 12 months.

The Kid Scoop newspaper is fairly topical in nature. Each issue has a bit of a theme related to the month that it comes out in (winter themes in December, Halloween theme in October, etc). The pages are filled with interesting short articles, games, mazes, crossword puzzles, jokes and riddles, drawing tutorials and the like. The pages are very brightly colored and enticing for the child. I love the fact that you can download the entire issue and print what you want when you want. Though I have always thought it extra special to receive a newspaper or magazine in the mail, my kids didn't seem to exhibit any less joy when getting a special newspaper straight from our printer!
Little Bean was at the perfect reading level for this product. I did not see a specific age listed on their website, but given that this product is geared toward reluctant readers, my opinion is that it is valuable for most children who are struggling with reading from 2nd grade on up through 6th. My little guy is only 5, however, his reading level is well past a 2nd grade level, and he had no problem reading this magazine. There were even a few activities that Miss O could enjoy in the magazine, but not many. However, she loved that she was able to be included in this review, which doesn't happen often.

The Reluctant Reader Solution is selling for $97. I'll be honest and just say that when I saw that price, I was a little bit surprised. It does seem a tad steep, especially since you are not receiving a physical product (no magazine in the mail here) and you do have to consider how much printer ink and paper will cost when you are doing so much printing. My caveat to that is that although it does seem a bit pricey, Kid Scoop offers a 365-day money back guarantee. They put it this way: "Try out the Reluctant Reader Solution in your home or classroom. Put it to use with the reluctant reader in your life. If you don't get measurable results — meaning if your child doesn't start enjoying reading more, and actually start reading on his own — I'll refund every cent of your investment with no questions whatsoever". That's a pretty good guarantee!

I feel really blessed that I have two kids who really enjoy books, and seek them out daily. Growing up, I loved reading, and am happy my kids seem to love it too. But if I did have a child who by upper elementary still really disliked reading, I may consider trying something like this with them because it is presented in a very fun and light-hearted way that makes it enticing for the child. In that case, the payout may be worth the results of having a child who becomes more interested in reading.

For those who really can't afford The Reluctant Reader Solution at this time, be sure to stop by the Kid Scoop website. It is very well done, and I can tell how much this company WANTS kids to enjoy reading. There are tons of little things for the kids to do on there. In the "Kids" section, you can read some jokes, look up kid recipes, learn to draw various animals, play games and much more. In the "Parents" section, you can get tips on things like dinner conversation starters, birthday party planning tips, you can download a 2011 yearly planner, or sign up for a monthly newsletter. Also on their website you can sign up for daily emails that have tips on making reading fun. I personally signed up for this free service, and have seen a lot of great ideas come through my inbox already.

Kid Scoop also sells downloadable activity packs and e-books, which you can purchase herehttp://www.kidscoop.com/shop/.

Note: I was given this product for free in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review, and all opinions are mine.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Opinions On Central Heat and Air, lol

So whilst I'm busy packing, my dear husband is busy trying to find us a place to live. We found a lovely 3 bedroom in a historic part of town that is just beautiful. I totally love it (based solely on the pictures of course, though my husband got to see it in person!). However, it doesn't have central air or heat. I'm not sure if this is a deal breaker for a place like Oklahoma or not. Anyone know??


Coming from a place as mild as Southern California, it's hard for me to imagine a true need for central air and heat since the weather here is rarely extreme. My husband is from Oklahoma, and I know it can get very cold and very hot depending on the season. But is it really necessary to have central air and heat? I'd love your opinions on this. There are certainly other places we can live, but I am totally in love with this one because it has so much charm (built in 1938).


The home has the in -floor heating system to heat up the downstairs and then the owner (who has been living there or 8 years), said that they use space heaters. In the summer they have air conditioner window units that they put in, and would provide for us. The rooms all have ceiling fans.

Also, while I love the house because it's old, I am totally paranoid about some of the issues that come with that--what if the kids are exposed to lead? What if there is lead in the pipes and it comes out in the water? What if they used asbestos (wrong era though, if I'm not mistaken)? What if the electrical is poor because it's old(I don't even know if it is old, lol)? Etc, etc, etc. The house has been recently painted, and the owner said that when he purchased, it was wallpapered, and he painted directly over the wallpaper. So, I'm guessing the lead paint isn't an issue.

Thoughts? Would love your opinions on either issue. :) And of course, this is all hypothetical at this point, since we have only put the application in and there's no way to know at this point whether we will end up with this place or not.


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Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Roman Town Computer Game

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As my regular readers know, I'm busy packing our lives into boxes right now. The kid's toys are pretty much all packed, the school stuff is all packed. There isn't much structure going on here at all right now. And with the toys all packed away, the kids are finding creative ways to keep themselves busy (think giant boxes with wiggly kiddos inside). Once in a while, when I need a little bit of quiet time, I can set up a computer game for them to play for a bit. One such game that Little Bean has been really enjoying is Roman Town.


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Roman Town is a unique educational computer game created by a teacher and archaeologist. It's the only computer game that allows YOU to be the archaeologist. Students practice problem solving, thinking and reading skills as they excavate their dig site in ancient Rome. Students choose what kind of tools to use to uncover a find, and scrape away until they discover an object. Then the game provides them with a bit of background information on the object they have just found. Students can choose to learn more about the object or return to digging.


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Little Bean is very history minded, and as we have done some study of Rome in our history program, this was a great refresher, and was fun for him as well. He would play this game every day, he likes it so much. I decided to make it a part of our behavior plan as a reward for him for earning 12 tokens (it takes him a day or two to do this) . I like that Roman Town is both educational, and fun for students. I believe that when learning is presented in a fun and engaging way, students retain more and are more motivated to learn. That has certainly been the case with Roman Town.

Roman Town is currently available for PCs, and comes as a CD-Rom. The cost of Roman Town is $39.95. BUT the makers of Roman Town have very generously provided the opportunity for my readers to get this game at a significant discount. Use the coupon code TOS2011 when you buy and you will get this game for $19.96.

To learn more about Roman Town, click here.

Note: I recieved this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I am not obligated to give a positive review and all opinions are mine.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oklahoma here we come!

Well, it'a official, we are moving! The date is tentative, but it will be soon. Raymond's company would like him to start on the 21st if at all possible. Since there was a big snow there and his flight was delayed, I'm not sure that's realistic, but it's the target date.

Here's a run down of what we do have done:

Job secured: check

Here's a rundown of what we don't have done:

Place to live

A firm move out date

Bills changed over

Mail re-routed

Car insurance, short-term health insurance, autism services, car registration changed over

House packed

Stuff sold

We have a lot to do and very little time to do it in. Raymond's flight was pushed back a week, so I am packing our house, selling stuff and giving stuff away on my own (whilst watching the kiddos). Let me put it to you this way: I have had NO problem at all falling asleep at night--totally exhausted.

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