Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hewitt Homeschool Review

 photo HewittHomeschoolpin.jpg
     We are a family who loves to read together. We always have more books than shelves to keep them on. (I think the books secretly multiply overnight, because even when I get rid of some, they still don't fit!) When I was asked to review Hewitt Homeschooling's Lightning Literature & Composition for Grade 1 Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook, I was very excited because of the selection of great children's literature that we would be asked to read together. Check out these great titles! (These are not included in the curriculum purchase but will be readily available at your local library)

 photo HH1.jpg

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Hellerv
Umbrella by Taro Yashimav
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabackv
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Mother Goose Rhymes by Mother Goose
Mabela the Clever by Margaret Read MacDonald
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
Bill and Pete to the Rescue by Tomie dePaola
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban
Always Room for One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág
Curious George Flies a Kite by Margret Reyv
Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff
This Is London by M. Sasek
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

     You will also be asked to use a copy of Aesop's Fables. We happened to have our own copy and enjoy reading these fables together, however the curriculum states that they provide no questions to ask with the fables and they may be skipped if you would prefer.

 photo HH3.jpg

     In our family, we have one child just entering third grade and one just entering first grade. Since I knew that a lot of the concepts in this curriculum would be very new to my first grader, but a great review for my third grader I had them work on it together. The third grader read the books aloud to the first grader (and my preschooler, because she didn't want to be left out)  and then as the first grader did the worksheets, the third grader would help him with the reading and the answers he was unsure of. It was a great introduction for one and review for the other! 

 photo HH4.jpg

     The student workbook is printed in vibrant color on high quality, glossy paper. It's written in a large print font that is easy for children to read.  The pages of the workbook are 3-hole punched, perforated and oriented horizontally, so they can be easily removed and used in a three-ring binder. I removed the pages before giving them to my  1st grade son to complete, and then placed them in a file folder, as opposed to having him try to work in such a thick book (especially since some are double-sided).

 photo HH2.jpg
 You will also be asked to keep a composition book for writing papers on different topics each week. Since my new first grader isn't ready for independent writing, this was another collaborative step for my two older boys. My first grader, helped brainstorm ideas and my third grader wrote them down. Then they both drew pictures together about what they wrote. 

      We enjoyed this curriculum, it has a lot to recommend itself to you. There is minimal prep work for the teacher, lots of great literature included, and it filled in some gaps for grammar and mechanics while also guiding my children in writing their own compositions. The 302-page teacher guide is a softcover book that clearly lays out the lessons for each day. It also provides some scripted questions for the teacher for increased student comprehension. The curriculum lasts for 36 weeks, with one book per week (which makes it very easy to borrow the titles from the library and return them in a timely manner).

     One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom it gives us as parents to allow our children to move at their own pace. Often, I find that homeschooled children do not exactly mirror their public-schooled counterparts at grade level for each subject. Because of this, I think it is sometimes difficult to determine what grade level on a certain product will work for your children. As long as you can be flexible as a Mom, and as a teacher, I find that you can usually make most products work that are close to their grade level. This curriculum wasn't a "perfect fit" for either of my children at this grade level, however it works really well when they made it into a team effort and worked on it together. Plus, the old adage about "the best way to learn is to teach" was true as well, as I found my older son was very invested in getting it right as he taught his younger brother.

What you Need to Know

Hewitt Homeschooling Review

Connect With Hewitt Homeschooling on Social Media:

     The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed lots of other products from Hewitt Homeschooling as well for lots of different ages. So go check out some other reviews as well!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flourish Book Review

 photo FlourishPin.jpg
Flourish Book Review
          Would you say you are "flourishing" as a homeschooling mom? Or would you say you are just barely getting by and struggling to put out one fire after the next? I recently had the opportunity to read "Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms" by Mary Jo Tate published by Apologia Educational Services.
      I have to say that when I first approached this book, I wasn't sure Mary Jo would have anything to say that would apply to me. There are times when I feel like my level of things I MUST get done, compared to the hours in my day are just always going to be at odds. And I have read soo many articles about homeschool moms, or running your own home business (WAHMs), organization or even living frugally where I just end up saying at the end, "this author just doesn't get it".
Flourish Book Review
     But Mary Jo comes off as real and understanding from the beginning. She says right away that you can't get "it all" done, you need to redefine what "it all" is if you want to accomplish your goals. 
     One of the illustrations that she uses that really spoke to me is when you are trying to juggle too many things at once and always give your attention to the crisis. The "tyranny of the urgent" she calls it. But as Mary Jo says, this isn't a strategy for daily living, it's a recipe for burn-out, long term. Instead you need to work on balancing by making small adjustments to keep things running more smoothly. As Mary Jo explains, balance isn't about keeping every area of your life equal, with equal amount of time spent in each quadrant. Instead it's balancing by sometimes adding more time and energy to a specific area as it's needed. This is freeing to hear someone else say, because I often find in my own life that areas of my life seem to go more in "seasons" that in always equal balance. There are times when a lot of our time and attention as a family is on formal, traditional "sitting down and learning" homeschooling, and then at other times we are out in nature with our journals and pencils, and then at another time we are together again in the kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm. It's easy to feel guilty about how our time is spent as a homeschooling mom, that a certain style of learning or amount of "sit-down schooling" is more valuable than the more loose (and enjoyable!) learning out in the world. But the idea of balancing these areas, not by making sure each week hold and equal amount of each, but instead, by having season where each holds more of a center stage, is a very freeing concept.
     Mary Jo gives lots of practical ways to manage your homeschool, business and home. She gives lots of encouragement to keep lists, plan your time management and write down your goals. As Mary Jo says, a goal that's written down helps keep you accountable. I know this is true in my own life, that when I have a written routine, it helps my day go smoother, even when I don't follow that routine exactly. As Mary Jo says, Perfectionism is the mother of Procrastination. Don't wait around to get it "just right".
Flourish Book Review     All in all, I found many helpful pages of advice and practical tips on how to make my life as a homeschool mom, and aspiring home-business owner, run more smoothly and less stressfully.
     Apologia has Flourish available for $15.00 and obviously, this one is meant for the homeschool moms. This is a really excellent book, to help you set up some goals and find ways to make your life more organized and less stressful!
Connect with Mary Jo Tate on Social media:

Want to read more reviews? Click below to hear what other moms had to say!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WriteShop Review

 photo Writeshop.jpg

     Have you ever felt like there was an area of a certain subject that was missing from your current  homeschool writing program? There was something missing from our elementary writing curriculum and WriteShop Primary filled in a very necessary gap for us!!

     We were very thankful to have the opportunity to review a digital version of WriteShop Primary Book A recently. This series is ideal for grades K-6, Book A is meant for Kindergarten through First grade. I used it both with my Kindergartener and my Second grader, who is still struggling with his writing and reading skills. The digital PDF copy of the Teachers Guide is $24.50. The Primary Activity Pack( PDF version) for Book A is $4.95. There is also a print copy of both if you would prefer. We printed out the activity pack and loaded the teacher's guide onto an e-reader.

WriteShop ReviewWriteShop is meant to give your children the tools to help them become better writers. It starts off with easy guided writing lessons so that your child can feel like a success write away.  It expects you to provide your example, encouragement and daily guidance for your children to be successful.
     The teachers guide asks you to have an inviting writing center for your children with things such as a variety of paper, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors, tape, rubber stamps, etc. One tool that they ask you to use is file folders to create themed "portable word banks" for your children to use during writing.
Here is a general idea of what you can expected for each lesson:
WriteShop Review
*Pre-Writing: Reading a book on the theme of the lesson (every lesson has a different theme)

*Brainstorming: Instructing your children about  considering several ideas before narrowing down your focus to the one you want to write about. This part of the process can include charts, worksheets, discussion.
*The Writing Project: Writing a rough draft of the final story using the ideas from our brainstorming session.
*Editing and Revising: Looking back at your work and making any changes to what you wrote.
*Activity Set Worksheet: Using a consumable worksheet  for the Activity set which coordinates with what is being learned during the lesson.
*Publishing the Project: Making a "final draft" of your work, usually by creating a craft project or other activity.
*Evaluating Student's Work: Using the provided checklist to note their degree of accomplishment with their weekly writing.
WriteShop Review

     For my Kindergartener, Mom did most of the writing and he helped provide the creativity and ideas. He is not yet reading more than the simplest of books and he also is my most easily frustrated child with anything he considers "school work". However, he enjoys telling "stories" very much and is excellent at drawing and coloring (He's my left-handed, right-brained creative child). He very much enjoyed turning our writing into a creative project (like making a story kite or a paper plate face book (face book, get it? get it? HAHA).

     For my older son, who also loves drawing and creating, but also loves to be read to and sit and learn. He enjoyed the whole process. Some of the activities were a little over simple for him as an almost 3rd grader, however because he also struggles with reading and spelling this was great practice to increase his confidence and model over and over correct story writing.
WriteShop Review
     This curriculum takes some advance preparation activities that you will have to prepare in advance.  In the teacher's guide look for the grey box labeled, “Advance Preparation” to see what you'll need to do. However, once the advance preparation is done, the lessons are open and go. It is also, not a curriculum that your children will be able to do on their own. But creating a strong writer in your children will certainly benefit both your children and you as a teacher as they grow older.

     We really enjoyed this curriculum and will certainly return to it in the fall when we go back to full-time homeschooling. If you would like to check out some other reviews from the Review Crew, especially if you would like to know about some of the versions of WriteShop for older children that we didn't review then click the link below!

Click to read Crew Reviews

And if you like to connect with WriteShop through social media here are the links:

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, July 4, 2014

Diana Waring's Experience History Through Music Review

 photo 3books.jpg When I heard about these three books by Diana Waring Presents I was very interested in reviewing them!! I love history, I love music and our family has been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a family for the better part of 3 years (a chapter at dinner each night). But when I actually received the books and cd's they were even more exciting then I anticipated!

     The three books in this series are:

America 1750-1890:The Heart of a New Nation
Westward Ho!: The Heart of the Old West
Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder
As the name of this series implies, these book and CD sets allow you to Experience History Through Music. Each title contains one book and one CD. The pages of the books hold dozens of interesting and inspiring historical pictures; bright and engaging stories connecting each of the songs to its moment in history, even sheet music and chord charts. The CDs are professional recordings, with many folk songs you may know well enough to start singing along right away!  

 photo dianawaringsings.jpg

Get to know Diana Waring

     Author of Beyond Survival, Reaping the Harvest and Diana Waring's History Revealed world history curriculum, Diana discovered years ago that "the key to education is relationship." Beginning in the early '80s, Diana homeschooled her children through high-school—the real life opportunities to learn how kids learn.  Mentored by educators whose focus was honoring Him who created all learners, and with an international background (born in Germany, university degree in French, lifelong student of world history), Diana cares about how people learn as well as what they learn.  Audiences on four continents have enthusiastically received her energetic speaking style.

      Diana shared some back story with us about what originally inspired her to write this series:

"Back in 1989, after I had been struggling for about three years with homeschooling (my kids and I were ALL bored!!!), a friend suggested that I attend the state homeschool convention (in Tacoma, WA). . . In those days, the main way to learn more about homeschooling was to attend a convention—oh, how times have changed!!
The problem was I couldn't afford it. My dh was a public school band teacher, we were single income, and there simply wasn't anything extra in the budget. When I voiced that concern, my friend said, "Oh, you should teach a workshop! That way, they pay you $50, give you some mileage to get up to the convention, and you get in FREE!!" Looking at her in amazement, I asked, "What on earth would I teach????"
She pulled out the previous year's convention schedule, with its varied workshops, and handed it to me. Quickly glancing down the list, I noted that the ONLY music workshop was using classical music in the home and that there were NO history workshops. At that moment, an idea was born.
Why not teach American history through its folk music?
That was the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool speaker (yes, the convention wanted my workshop) and as a homeschool writer/ curriculum producer.
Never saw this coming, but, oh, what a life we have shared!!"

    These books (and previously cassette tapes) had been published by Diana in the past. Everyone who got a copy just loved them but unfortunately they were lost through some unfortunate events. Diana shares how they were restored (and now on CD) through a really moving post on her blog. And I couldn't say it better myself, so I'll just let her tell you the story.

My impression of the books

 photo bookcover1.png

      In America: The Heart of a New Nation, you'll hear so many classic songs of our nation. I remember many of these songs that we sang growing up. Songs like Yankee Doodle, The Star-Spangled Banner, and Oh! Susanna. She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain is especially dear to me, as I can remember my grandmother singing this to me as she rocked me to sleep as a child (just the way my Great-grandmother did to my mom when she was small). But to take these songs that I have known for most of my life and to learn the history of them for the first time? That is what's makes these CD and book combinations, not just good, but great! For instance, did you know that "Yankee Doodle" originally written by the British with different lyrics to insult the American Colonists? But the Americans turn the song around and wrote new lyrics which inspired the new nation ! 

 photo bookcover2.jpg

The American expansion West is something that I wouldn't want my children to miss, and yet, in some ways it's so hard for them to understand the hardship and trouble that those brave pioneers faced. No cars, no trains, or phones, having the mail take months to be delivered or received. These are all difficult for a modern child to understand. What better way to teach them about some of the feeling and experiences than through music! Songs like Missionary's farewell, Little Old Sod Shanty, and Chisholm Trail, can teach us about many of the "ways" of these early settlers, and start up some very interesting dialogue between you and your children. Listening to my children belt out "Home on the Range" and ask me what a "Boll Weevil" was, shows me what an incredible teach tool these sets are, not just the first time you listen to the songs and read the stories, but each time, can reveal a new layer, as the children understand more of the words and are inspired to ask more questions about this period of history.

 photo bookcover3.jpg

     My children loved to listen to all these cd's and hear all the stories, but there is no doubt that the Laura Ingalls book and cd is their FAVORITE. Maybe because Laura is so real to them as we read the stories of her life. And maybe because Pa's choice in music strikes a chord with our own. The first time they listen to "Sweet by and by" (Pa's favorite and the song he asked to be sung at his funeral)  they asked if we could sing it during family devotions.
 And this video of my daughter singing "Wait for the Wagon" speaks for itself. =)

 The regular price of each set of books and cd's is $18.99 each.The 3 book/CD set is on sale for $50 for the month of July.  These books and cd's are incredibly moving, inspiring and educational, I would recommend them not only to every homeschooling family, but also to anyone who loves history and music as well! 

 photo disclaimer.jpg