Sunday, November 29, 2009

All About Spelling

image All About Spelling is a comprehensive spelling program based on proven strategies to teach spelling using the best and easiest method possible. It gives parents, homeschoolers, and teachers strategies that work, including:

  • Lessons with crucial concepts explained in easy-to-understand language
  • Multisensory methods for different learning opportunities
  • Effective techniques to teach both beginner and remedial spelling

Emily and I were sent Levels One and Two of the All About Spelling Program to try out. Each level includes a teacher’s guide and a student packet, which includes sound and imagephonogram cards, word cards, and key (rule) cards. Also required for every level is the starter kit, which contains letter tiles and a phonogram cd.

I will admit to being a bit disappointed at the levels we were sent, since Emily is a fourth grader and an average speller. Her spelling certainly needs improvement, but I don’t consider her a “remedial” speller either. Level One begins with learning the letter sounds and moves on to short vowel words. Some of the rules and concepts taught include: compound words, plurals, blends, open and closed syllables, and how to determine whether to use “c” or “k” in a word. The author recommends beginning at Level One for beginning spellers or remedial spellers. Children who are older can begin with Level Two, since it does have a quick review of most of the Level One concepts.

We did begin with Level One, completing one to three steps a day. We finished the whole book in about three weeks! Most of the material was very easy for Emily, but I did find a few areas in which she benefited from the review or in which she didn’t understand the “why’s” of spelling patterns, even though she could easily spell the words.

Level Two covers dividing words into syllables, silent “e,” hard and soft “c” and “g,” spelling multisyllable words and much more.

All About Spelling is certainly a unique program that covers much more than “just spelling.” I think the skills learned would be very advantageous in helping children to sound out unfamiliar words. When using the program, we sat on the floor with a magnetic board containing letter, “consonant team,” and “vowel team” tiles. The concept for each day was explained and practiced using the tiles. Only after the concept was mastered, does the child take dictation of words and phrases that reinforce the concept. Review of previous concepts is also built into the program. This approach is excellent for multi-sensory learning. The child practices each step until it is mastered, which may be just one session or up to a week or more.

I think that All About Spelling is a wonderful program that really teaches the rules of spelling, giving children the ability to tackle words that they have not studied before. Highly recommended!

The pricing for All About Spelling is as follows:

Starter Kit (required for all levels) $26.95

Level One (teacher and student) $29.95

Levels Two-Five $39.95

I received this levels One and Two of All About Spelling for review purposes.

Visit the TOS Crew site to read more opinions about All About Spelling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday Sale at Currclick, one of my favorite sites for homeschool resources is having a BIG Black Friday Sale. Hundreds of downloadable books, lapbooks, and other homeschooling resources will be available, beginning Friday, Nov. 27 at 10am central and ending 24 hours later. I always find some wonderful treasures at their “free” promotions!


In addition, Currclick’s annual “Stocking Up the Shelves” sale also begins on Friday and runs through December 15.  All of my Super Star Speech books and homeschool games will be 20% off at this sale.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Silent Gift, by Landon and Kelley

image The Silent Gift, by Michael Landon, Jr., and Cindy Kelley, is the story of a deaf/mute boy and his mother, Mary. With an uncaring and abusive husband, a child who cannot speak or even relate to others, and the poverty of the 1930’s, life looks dismal for Mary. Early in the story, she and her son find themselves homeless and desperate. Then, Mary discovers that her son has a “gift” of prophecy that will quickly change their lives forever.

I had high hopes for this book, and it did, indeed, have an unusual story line and many dramatic elements that could have made it a great story. However, I thought that the boy’s “gift” was just too unrealistic and contrived. It just didn’t make sense to me. Also, I found the book to be rather depressing. The characters moved from one difficult situation to another, with bad luck and evil or selfish people thwarting them at every turn. It did end happily, but I found the journey toward the finale to be too negative and hopeless for my tastes.

I received a review copy of this book free from Bethany House.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gymathtics DVD


The founder of the Exploromania  company began with a vision to “help children learn through fun interactive experiences.”  Her award winning  Exploracise products are designed to create products that “synthesize education and a healthy lifestyle, beginning with a passion for math education.”  We received the Exporacise Gymathtics  DVD ($24.99) to review. This DVD covers geometry (types of triangles, obtuse and acute angles, etc.), counting and skip counting, and patterns, all included within a fitness workout for children.

First, I want to say that I think this is a great idea. I am a big multi-tasker myself, so I am all for exposing kids to math facts or concepts while exercising. Emily does like this DVD. She has watched and exercised with it several times already and I think it will be a good way for her to burn off some energy on rainy or cold days.  As an adult, I wasn’t thrilled with it. It seemed rather amateurish to me. Even Emily thought the repeated “Give your buddy a high five” commands after every segment were a bit silly. I think this might be a turn-off to many older children.

I would prefer that the workout be more strenuous and the math a bit more challenging. For example, the counting included counting by ones, tens, and hundreds and skip counting by 2’s and 5’s. I think the counting by ones would be too simple for any child who was old enough to use the DVD and I would have liked to see skip counting by 3’s, 4’s and so on.  Overall, I like the concept, but think it could have been implemented better.  We will continue use it, but it probably wouldn’t be something that I would purchase. Exploromania does have a new DVD, Gymathtics 2.0, not yet released, that claims to more intense—both in math and in workout intensity. It might be a better option for our family.  For more reviews, check out the TOS CREW site.

 I received this item free for review purposes .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ghostline, by Carolina Pad



I recently received a sampling of Ghostline products to try out. I was not previously acquainted with this clever product. The poster board, display boards, etc. are marked with a very faint grid that is visible close up, but not at a distance.  (I tried to take a close up photo of the grid lines, but they were too faint to show up.) This helps students or teachers keep their writing and pictures perfectly straight. I have seen (and even produced) plenty of posters on which the writing slopes downward or the size is not consistent.

Emily made a poster using poster board from the Ghostline “Make a Poster Kit,” which includes stencils and 12 sheets of poster board in both white and neon colors ($5.99).  I think the grids did help her to produce a neater project although at times she still became careless and stopped following the lines—probably more an indication of her typical lack of attention to detail than a reflection on the product!  We look forward to using this product line more in the future. This will be great for when I next need to write out words for our church’s children’s choir!














Carolina Pad is currently celebrating the 13th birthday of their Ghostline product line and is running a contest on their website to win $500 worth of Ghostline supplies. Thirteen classrooms will be awarded this prize, which ends on Nov. 30.

I received  free samples of Ghostline poster board and display boards for review purposes from Carolina Pad. I received no other compensation for this review.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles—The Secret of Indigo Moon, by GP Taylor


The Secret of Indigo Moon, by G.P. Taylor, is the second book in the Dopple Ganger Chronicles series. The book itself is quite unusual—part text and part comic strip. It was designed to appeal to reluctant readers by interspersing an action-packed story with comic strips and pictures. The text is extremely descriptive and the story is exciting from start to finish.

The plot of the story involves three children who are residents of Isambard Dunstan’s School for Wayward Children, which just happens to be contained in a mysterious old building full of dark hidden passages and isolated towers, and is run by a child-hating headmistress by the name of Miss Rimmer. The heroes of this tale seem to have a knack for running into mysteries and danger, which, in this particular book involves solving the mystery of a theft of valuable artifacts hidden in the school.

From the moment Emily saw the cover, she was eager to read this book. (I made her hold off for a few days, though, until she had caught up on the books I had assigned her for school.) Once she started, though, she didn’t want to put the book down. She finished the 290 page book within a 24 hour period and is now begging me to find her the first volume in the series!

I would not call this book a classic, and for me was just an OK read—all action and not much character development, but I think it definitely meets its goal of appealing to reluctant readers and will be a bit hit with the 8-12 year old crowd.

 I received this book free from Tyndale House for review purposes.

Instant Challenge: Boat Race

Michelle, at Delightful Learning,  is posting a weekly “Instant Challenge” that encourages critical thinking and creative problem solving and used materials that can be easily found around the house, such as straws, chenille sticks, rubber bands and foil.

We decided to try out this week’s Boat Race. Emily’s task was to build a boat using styrofoam cups, foil, popsicle sticks, chenille stems, etc and float it across a tub of water. She had an 8 minute time limit to design her craft. This would have been extra fun if she had some other children around to compete with!

We are looking forward to next week’s challenge! (Actually, I think we will go back and try last week’s bridge building challenge first!)

DSC07609 DSC07608






Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Help Your Child With Articulation Errors

Does your child have a speech sound error or two that he doesn’t seem to be outgrowing? By age 7 or 8, children should have mastered all of their speech sounds. Some sounds, of course, should be produced correctly well before that age. To see a chart of when each sound should be mastered, click here.

If you suspect or know that your child has an articulation problem, seeing a speech-language-pathologist for an evaluation is a wise first step. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which sounds are in error—there may be some that you haven’t noticed! Even if you opt to work with your child at home, the speech pathologist should be able to give you some tips and get you started. However, this isn’t the preferred option for many parents. Perhaps you can’t afford speech therapy or fit it into your schedule. Perhaps you don’t want involvement with the public schools.

If you would like to work with your child’s speech at home, here are some guidelines and ideas. First, pick a sound or group of sounds to work on. You may want to pick an easier sound to start with, or one that is important to the child, such as a sound in his name. Make the sound yourself and consider exactly how it is made. Where in your mouth does your tongue touch? Does the air leak through slowly, such as in an “s”? Or does the air pop out quickly, as in a “t”? If your child cannot produce the sound at all, you will have to describe this to him.

Teach your child to say the target sound in isolation (not in words). Model it for him. Use your finger, spoon handle, or popsicle stick to touch his mouth or tongue in the target spots. When your child can produce it, practice. Practice, practice, and practice some more until he really knows it well by itself.  Then practice words that begin with the target sound, moving on to words with the sound in the middle or at the end.

When your child can produce the sound in words with 95% accuracy, begin practicing in sentences. By the time sentences are mastered, you will probably hear the sound being used most of the time in conversation. This may take a few weeks or longer. Don’t expect your child to use the sound in conversation right away—it will take time before he can produce the sound correctly without thinking about it.

Make your speech practice time fun. Keep the sessions short, but practice every day. Play board games, making your child say his word 3 times before every turn. Hop across the room, repeating the sound with every bounce. With dedicated practice, you should soon see improvement in your child’s articulation skills!
For more materials and tips for working with your child’s speech at home, please visit my Super Star Speech website and Super Star Speech blog.

FREE! The Old Schoolhouse Holiday Supplement

2009 Holiday Digital Supplement/Idea Book

Get ready to wrap your family in a ribbon of thankfulness and joy and season your holiday with laughter, love, and togetherness. Illuminate your Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with the help of the TOS Holiday Digital Supplement!

This special TOS magazine is packed with Holiday ideas—recipes, crafts, decorating tips, gift ideas, and more. Just thing thing to put you in the mood for the upcoming holiday season!

The Old Schoolhouse is giving away this FREE 180 page e-magazine here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Things Worth Remembering by Jackina Stark

image Things Worth Remembering, by Jackina Stark is the story of Kendy Laswell and her daughter Maisey.  This once inseparable mother and daughter have had a strained relationship since Maisey’s  thirteenth birthday.  It is the week of Maisey’s wedding and Kendy desperately longs to find a way to bridge the gap between them. As the story unfolds, the reader learns more about the past and the events that caused the chasm between mother and daughter.

The book was written in a somewhat unusual style—jumping back and forth between the viewpoint of the two main characters and flashbacks to the past. I though it worked well, though.  This is a good read that makes the reader remember the importance of openness, honesty, and above all, the power of forgiveness.

 I received this book free from Bethany House for review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Language Development

Do you ever wonder if your child’s language abilities are at age level? Do you compare your child’s speech with that of other children?

Here are a few things to ask yourself:

Is my baby vocalizing and babbling? Babies should be playing with their voices and sounds. Babies from 3-6 months should be “cooing,” which is vocalizing mostly vowel sounds. Babies begin “babbling” at around 6 months. Typical babbling sounds are, “mamama,” “baba,” “dada,” “gagaga,” etc. It is said that babies under a year old play with all the possible sounds of every language and that after a year of age, the ability to produce and even to hear sounds that are not used in the native language is gradually lost. (Isn’t that cool?) If a baby doesn’t babble and vocalize, or if he stops vocalizing, this could be a sign of hearing loss.

Does my baby make eye contact? Does he try to imitate sounds or facial expressions? Is he learning turn taking? (He babbles, mom babbles back or says something, he babbles again.) Even passing a toy back and forth is a precursor of conversational skills. Children actually begin to learn these early conversational skills well before they are using actual language.

Does my baby or toddler communicate his needs? Even before babies are using actual language, they should communicate by vocalizing and pointing.

Is my toddler putting words together into sentences? Toddlers typically begin using 2-word phrases at about 18 months. If a child is not doing this by age 2, he may be considered delayed in language skills.

If you have any concerns about your child’s language development, please consult a speech pathologist. Children develop at different rates, and your child may be completely normal, but it is very important to catch potential problems early, since language disorders can impact socialization and future educational performance. Often, public schools will even provide free services for preschoolers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

America’s Heritage: an adventure in liberty

image  The American Heritage Foundation is  “a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens.” I received a cd-rom to review that contains K-12 lesson plans on U.S. heritage intended to supplement existing school resources. Since Emily is in the fourth grade, I focused on the lessons for elementary students, although lesson plans are also included for middle and high school levels. The plans are designed for public school classrooms, but are easily adaptable for home schools.

Each of the fourteen lesson plans focuses on an aspect of our American heritage. The two lessons I began with were “The US Flag” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Some of the other topics are Colonial America, The Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty, and George Washington. Each topic also focuses on a theme such as honesty, freedom, unity, or responsibility. Although the format of each lesson varies, each begins with a few pages of information about the topic to be read and discussed. An activity to reinforce the topic follows. The activities include games, crossword puzzles, charts, and finger puppets. The activity for “The Star Spangled Banner” was putting back together the song, which had been cut into pieces, each containing a short phrase.

We actually spent no more than half an hour each on the two activities that we tried, making it an easy way to add teach things about our American Heritage that might not be included in an existing curriculum. I feel that these lessons were a good use of our time and were well-written and enjoyable to implement.

And….the best part about America’s Heritage….the materials are free of charge at The American Heritage Foundation, either as a download or on a cd. The lessons may also be purchased in printed form for only $19.50.

 I received this item free for review purposes.

Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman


Leaving Yesterday, by Kathryn Cushman, is a story of hope and tragedy and of struggling family relationships. 

Alisa Stewart is recently separated from her husband. She has one son that died tragically and another who seems to be lost to his drug addiction. In a surprising turn of events, Alisa is elated that her son, Kurt, has checked into rehab. and is seeming to turn his life around. Then she discovers that he may have been involved in a recent murder. This riveting story tells of Alisa’s conflict between believing in and doubting her son, between helping him succeed in his new life or digging deeper to find a truth that may not be pleasant.

This book was hard to put down. The characters were very real and the story compelling. I appreciated the way the main character’s faith was both strengthened and challenged by her difficulties. Highly recommended.

 I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers  for review purposes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


DSC07575Here is a picture of Emily in her Halloween flower costume. She had a great evening trick-or-treating with her friend from down the street then sitting in his Halloween decorated clubhouse to entertain and scare other trick-or-treaters.  They spent all week planning for the 6 or 8 trick-or-treaters that actually showed up!