Friday, September 26, 2014

Fix It! Grammar (Schoolhouse Review)

Fix It! Grammar Review

Vendor: Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

Product: Fix It! Grammar: Frog Prince, or Just Deserts [Book 3] (Teacher Manual)  $19
               Fix It! Grammar: Frog Prince, or Just Deserts [Book 3] (Student Book) $15

  Fix It! Grammar Review

  Fix It! Grammar is a newly revised series published by Institute for Excellence in Writing that teaches grammar principles through real stories. By teaching grammatical principles in context rather than through drill, the carry-over to actual writing should be greater. There are six books in this series, which is written for third grade and up.

IEW recommends that any age learner begin with Book 1, but does offer a placement test for students who have had other grammar instruction and wish to begin at a higher level. We started with Book 3: Frog Prince, or Just Deserts, which is for grades six and up. The Teacher’s Manual includes a free downloadable Student Book, but a printed Student Book is available for those who don’t wish to print their own copies.

Fix It! Grammar  is a simple concept that is enjoyable to use. The student uses a notebook, divided into 4 parts: Fix Its, Grammar Glossary, Rewrite, and Vocabulary. The Fix Its and Grammar Glossary are included in the spiral-bound Student Book, so students that use it will use a two-section notebook.

Each day, the student marks parts of speech and corrects grammar errors on a short (1-2 sentence) passage. On Monday, the teacher teaches the weekly concept and helps with or demonstrates the markings. On Tuesday through Thursday, the student works independently or with minimal assistance. Each day after correcting the passage, the student carefully copies the sentences into a notebook. The sentences tell a story, so when the course is completed, the student will have a complete, handwritten story.

Grammar cards are included for the student to reference rules as he or she completes each assignment. I love these—instead of reminding Emily of the rules, I can just say, “Check your grammar cards,” or better yet, she can reference the rules on her own without even asking for help.  

The tasks and concepts in the early portion of Book 3 include:

  • Vocabulary (one word per day to look up and copy in the vocabulary section of the notebook)
  • Indents
  • Capitals
  • Marking subjects and verbs
  • Marking prepositional phrases
  • Labeling clauses
  • Punctuation errors
  • Sentence openers (in the IEW format)

Emily was intrigued by the format and actually squealed when I explained that she would be writing a complete story in her notebook. (This reaction was totally unexpected!) The concepts in Book 3 were ones that were familiar to her, although a bit fuzzy at times, since she hasn’t studied grammar for a couple of years. She’s pretty good with punctuation in her own writing, but needed a refresher on parts of speech, clauses, etc. Because of that, I sat with her for the first few lessons, offering help as needed. Before long, though, she didn’t want my help at all. I am still insisting that I supervise the Day 1 lesson, but other than that she prefers to work independently.


The teacher’s manual is excellent at giving explanations for each of the corrections. If Emily makes an error, or if I just want to further explain a concept that she did mark correctly, we discuss those concepts briefly. Punctuation rules are tied into the grammar concepts, teaching the student reasons for adding a comma or not. Additional helps can be found in the margins for advanced students or “grammar lovers.”  More grammar helps and tips are included in the manual than any one person would likely use. The user is encouraged to pick and choose from the teacher’s materials in order to keep each daily lesson to no more than 15 minutes.

The lessons really do take no more than 15 minutes to complete. Because of this, we often do two lessons at a time. Since Emily is in ninth grade, even two lessons are not a burden. I really like the concept of a grammar program that can be done with such a minimal time investment. The 15 minutes are quality instruction, however, with the parent working with the child and discussing each concept. I think more learning takes place when the content is challenging, but an adult is present to help than when a child is, for example, just underlining nouns on a page of random sentences.

The story itself is funny and engaging. I would not confuse it with great literature, but it’s enjoyable enough for a child’s grammar assignment. Using a real story was a great touch, making the assignments a bit more relevant and interesting to students.

Overall, we are finding Fix It! Grammar easy to implement, enjoyable to use, and taking a minimal amount of time. Even better, I’m already seeing some carry-over into Emily’s writing assignments.


Click to read Crew Reviews

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

WordUp! The Vocab Show

I love everything I’ve tried from Compass Classroom, and their brand new WordUp! The Vocab Show is no exception. We were invited to try out a few of the lessons prior to the release of this new vocabulary program and absolutely loved it! Did you know that learning vocabulary can be fun? WordUp! is a video program hosted by Dwane Thomas of Visual Latin. Each laugh-out-loud funny episode features one Latin root and one Greek root, with about 10 English words created from each root. Links to online Quizlet vocabulary flashcards, games, and quizzes round out the fun (I mean learning).



WordUp! is currently on sale for just $9.99. You can purchase the digital download immediately, or pre-order the DVD. And of course, check out the free lessons.
Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass Classroom

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Montana Hike

On one of the first days of our Montana trip, we took a short hike and had a picnic lunch at “Little Creek Falls.”  Emily enjoyed bringing along the 4-month old puppy “Gemma” for her first walk on a leash and taking LOTS of pictures.


On the way home, we sighted this Osprey nest.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Biology Class—Pond Cultures

In Week 2 of biology Class, the kids collected 4 samples of pond water, adding a different type of food to each jar—hay, soil, egg yolk, and rice. They then let the cultures sit for 3-5 days. When the containers were opened, they were quite stinky!


The students made slides from each of the cultures and put them under the microscope to look for microscopic organisms. They found a few (the hay culture seemed to be the most prolific), including paramecium and volvox. The volvox was quite fun to watch—it looked like a ball rolling across the slide! We learned that a volvox colony consists of many volvox that form together in a ball shape, each with a flagellum that propels it.


The students were divided into groups of three. While one group worked at the microscope, the others each drew specimens that I found online.


I’m still at a point of figuring out how much we can accomplish in 1 1/2 hours and the best way for six students to share one microscope. Over all, I think it went well, though.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Glacier National Park


We spent a full day of our vacation driving through Glacier National Park, with frequent stops for photos, sightseeing, and short hikes. It was absolutely beautiful. I found it interesting to see how much the landscape and vegetation changed as we reached various heights in the mountains.

We learned that the turquoise-blue water in the creeks was caused by snow melt. Tiny bits of limestone are washed down the mountainside with the melting snow. These bits of stone in the creek water reflect the light, causing the distinctive blue color.


We took a picnic lunch on the aptly named “Lunch Trail” near Logan’s Pass. Although we met other fellow hikers on the winding paths, they seemed more like mountain goat trails than human-made trails.



The lodge at MacDonald Lake…


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Montana Trip

We just got back from a trip to Montana to visit my aunt and uncle. We spent a fun and relaxing week and a half visiting, hiking, sightseeing, and playing with my aunt’s many dogs.



The scenery was beautiful, especially the mountainous landscape.


“This is Bear Country!”  Not a sign we see here in Alabama! We were hoping to see a bear or a moose, but never did.


Emily playing with the dogs.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Student Logbook (Schoolhouse Review)

My Student Logbook Review

 Product: My Student Logbook

Price: $15 for spiral-bound My Student Logbook ; $10+ for pdf logbooks

Age: Second grade and up

My usual practice for planning and recordkeeping has been to make a daily schedule in my homeschool planner. Emily checks the schedule each day to see what she is to do, then she or I check off each assignment as it is completed. This has worked pretty well (except for her tendency to check things off before they have been corrected or even when they are half done.)

This year, we’re trying something different. In my planning book, I’m giving weekly assignments, instead of daily ones. For example, under math, I might write: “ Chapter 4, lessons 1-5.” For Spanish, I might write, “Mango: 1 hour, Flip Flop Spanish lessons 25 and 26.”  Emily is responsible for pacing herself so that the work gets done for the week. Emily doesn’t write in my planner, but I do check the assignments off when a subject is completed for the week.

Emily has been using My Student Logbook to keep track of her daily work, and to make sure she remembers to work on every subject. Basically, the Student Logbook is just a chart with subjects listed at the left side of the page and dates at the top. When a subject is completed for the day, the student puts a check in that box.

However, there are some features that make the logbook more versatile and very easy to set up. The front of the book has assignment pages that are to be torn out as needed. Subjects are written on the page, which is then folded vertically and glued to the back of the appropriate weekly page, creating a flap that can be folded each weekly page. Each week, a new weekly page is just tucked under the assignment list, which can be reused for as long as desired. When the teacher decides to make changes in the assignments, she simply pulls out a new checklist page, fills it out, and glues it to the current weekly list. The old checklist stays in place for a record of work completed.



The daily checkboxes are small, but there is space to keep track of time spent in each subject. This is perfect for:

  1. Allowing the student to keep track of time spent on a subject over a week.
  2. Keeping track of hours for high school credits.

A couple of our high school subjects this year will need to have time documented: computer applications and PE, and I’m hoping that My Student Logbook will be a useful tool to do that. At this point, I’m still having to remind her to keep track of and to record time spent on activities. In the spring, Emily will do an art course instead of computer applications and we will need to keep track of hours for that as well.

The checkboxes can also be used to keep track of grades. We haven’t done that at this point, since I keep grades separately in my planner, but I can see that this could be useful for some families.

My Student Logbook includes a very helpful article on creating high school transcripts and documenting hours for courses. I found it very helpful and timely, since we’re entering the high school years, when record keeping and transcripts are even more important.P1040565

My Student Logbook also includes record pages for:

  • Books Read
  • All About Me
  • Prayers and Goals
  • Bible Verses Memorized
  • Events, Projects, Field Trips, Presentations, Activities
  • Test Records
  • Year Highlights

Using the Planner

I never find that pre-printed planners meet my needs exactly, so the first thing I did when we received My Student Planner was to make a few modifications. I repurposed one page for community service, dedicated one to just field trips, and added a page to document daily activity for a computer applications course.




Several pages did have example entries on them. This bothered my obsessive need for things to be “neat” and I probably won’t use those pages. I think a separate loose page with examples  would have been a better option.


Several choices are available for the cover, which is a paper sheet covered with a heavy plastic page. I was concerned about durability, but the plastic does seem to stick to the paper cover, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with wear or tearing. Emily chose the Rainforest cover. Some of the other options are Jets, Butterflies, Ocean, Golden Vines, Vintage Map, and Dinosaurs.



The Student Logbook has been a good tool for us. It has helped Emily become more accountable in her work and she’s enjoyed having her own record keeping tool in addition to my plan book.

Click to read Crew Reviews

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.