Friday, March 29, 2019

Classical Phonics and First Start Reading REVIEW

I just love curriculum from Memoria Press and their classical education products so when given a chance to review Classical Phonics with the First Start Reading Program I said yes!  Little Bug just loves reading now and she definitely could always use help and reinforcement with her phonics and writing. I received physical copies of the books.  They are geared for kindergarten to first and second grade (kindergarten and first grade but the classical phonics could be used through 2nd grade if necessary).

The First Start Reading Program consists of the main Teacher Guide, Books A-D, Teacher Guide for Book E, and Book E.  Books A-D are for kindergarten and Book E is for 1st grade.  The Classical Phonics book is a stand-alone book but best used in conjunction with any phonics program.  The Phonics book is a recreation of a book from 1913 from author Florence Akin.  It has been reworked to be more organized and flow better with specific word groupings.

Book E and Teacher Guide for Book E (1st grade)

She loves to color

Classical Phonics is a 139-page soft cover book that contains phonetically arranged word lists and includes almost all of the English phonograms and sounds taught through the second grade.  You can use it as a supplement to any phonics program.  We used it in conjunction with Little Bug's lessons in the First Start Reading Book A that we are currently working on.  It is important that you read the "Suggestions to Teachers" in the appendix of the phonics book to learn how to properly use the book to teach your emergent readers.

Sample pages from Phonics book

The general topics of the Classical Phonics book are as follows:

  • Part One: Short-Vowel Words
    • Unit 1: Alphabet, CVC words, Plurals, and Possessives
    • Unit 2: CVCC words with consonant teams
    • Unit 3: CVCC words with consonant blends
  • Part Two: Long-Vowel Words
    • Unit 4: Silent e words, Long i & o in CVCC words, Soft c and g, and Three sounds of y
    • Unit 5: Long-vowel teams
  • Part Three: Ten More Vowel Sounds
    • Unit6: Vowel teams for five special vowel sounds
    • Unit 7: Vowel teams for r-controlled vowels
  • Part Four: Advanced Phonics
    • Unit 8: Phonograms for short vowels, Advanced phonograms, Suffixes and prefixes/spelling rules, Syllables, and Variable endings

Working on blending

I like the flow of the book and think it will be helpful as we progress in her phonics work. I also like the idea that it does not ask or require the children to memorize the rules but rather learn them through repetition and application of the actual rules.  The phonics and spelling rules are listed in the appendix if needed.

Sample lesson from Book A

Little Bug is REALLY enjoying the First Start Reading Program.  I really like that it lays everything out for you.  It is a full year curriculum with Book E geared for the first half of 1st grade (can also be completed at end of kindergarten year or during the summer before 1st grade).  Books A-D cover printing, the alphabet, short and long vowels, silent e, consonant blends, and four h-diagraphs.  Book E covers long-vowel teams, three sounds of y, and soft c/g.  The Teacher's Guide walks you through each lesson and even gives you scripts you can use in teaching the material.  It goes into much more depth than what you see on the workbook pages. You work through phonics recitation, letter name and sounds, tongue training and ear training.  You continue the lessons with letter formation for writing practice.  The Phonics book explains to you about the importance of ear and tongue training and walks you through how to work with your child on both skills.  The writing aspect is an absolute bonus!  Your child will learn proper letter formation and have ample practice with copywork and learning to use lined paper for good penmanship.  Dictation is also practiced in the review lessons.

Tongue and Ear Training

Since she is already working on a reading program and can already read, we are using the Phonics and the First Start Reading as supplements and she completes about 3 lessons per week right now.  I will probably increase to daily over the summer with hopes that we can maybe double up on some lessons and get her ready for Book E when she starts 1st grade next school year.  Even though she knows the material we are working on, it has been a good review for her and she really loves working on it (she's all about workbook pages!!).  Plus I feel that as we progress it will help her to have a more complete foundation in her phonics work.  It is such a good foundation for being a better speller in the future and able to decipher words she doesn't know.  First Start Reading has your child reading their first sentence as soon as lesson 5!  Because of the teaching method, your child will not be overwhelmed and have confidence in reading.  By lesson 23 they read their first short story.

First Short Story with comprehension and critical thinking questions

I am glad we had a chance to review Classical Phonics with the First Start Reading Program from Memoria Press.  I recommend it especially if you have not started a phonics program yet.  Even if you are currently working on a phonics program I urge you to check this one out.  It might be a better fit or even good as a supplement like we are doing right now.

Memoria Press

You can connect with Memoria Press on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and YOUTUBE.  Please be sure to also check out the other reviews on this curriculum and others on Latin and Poetry by clicking on the link below.

Phonics, Poetry & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Feral Kitty

Meet another member of our homestead, Katerina.  About 3 years ago this sweet feral kitty decided to "adopt" us and became our beloved outdoor pet.  She just showed up on our back porch and kept hanging around our back yard.  My husband had already made it clear that we would not be having any more indoor pets so I wasn't sure what we would do. My son decided that we needed to at least feed her and of course, he wanted to keep her.  I asked around to all the neighbors to see if she had just wandered off but no one knew who she was or who she could belong to.

Fast forward 3 years and we still have this precious gem.  She is such a sweet lovable cat and somehow I believe she was part of a catch and release program where someone neuters the pet to live out on a farm or something.  Her ear has the tip cut off and she has never come into heat or had any kittens.  She is an excellent mouser and really helps take care of our out of control mole population!  She still has quite a bit of wild in her but she loves a good belly rub and lots of attention on HER terms.  In return, she gets a nice heated igloo home for cold winter months and a steady food supply.

She has the funniest personality and almost always "escorts" me back and forth to the chicken coop when I go to feed and clean every day.  She is wild enough that she manages to keep the crazy neighbor dogs at bay and has survived well.  I'm pretty sure she was not even a year old when we first acquired her so hopefully, she will have many more years with us.

Do you have any surprise critters that you acquired over the years?  What is the strangest pet you own?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Garden Prep Time

Oh my goodness what a mess!  As usual, the garden did not get properly winterized.  We have a lot of work to do to prepare the beds for planting!  It's time and we have a long way to go.  Last year we started purchasing composite board kits for our square foot beds.  We loved it and I couldn't have been happier with the results.  It looks nice and clean (when the garden is not in such disarray as it is now).  I will follow up with the "after" pics in the near future.

Such a mess!

New composite boards

I am so excited to get the garden started.  I hope we can get it done soon.  Unfortunately, this upcoming weekend is pretty booked with events for our family so not sure when this will get done.  I was so happy that we got such a good deal on the composite boards.  The initial ones cost a little bit more but then I found a really good deal and we bought more at substantial savings.  We combined a lot of the 4 x 4 beds to make 4 x 12 beds and even one long 4 x 20 ft. bed.  I loved the set up last year and look forward to finishing up and joining the last few beds together to create 3 more 4 x 12 beds!  It reduced the number of isle ways (thus fewer weeds!).

Part of the 4 x 20 ft. bed

I also realized that I wanted to expand the number of support trellises that we have.  Last year we used the 4 ft. wide ones made with two t-posts and a section of 4 ft. fencing in between.  I soon realized that with our new set up it was better to have the supports in the middle of the beds.  I also saw online where many gardeners were using cattle panels to do this.  My hope is that eventually, we will do this.  Currently, I think the cost is a little prohibitive. We already have quite a bit of fencing available and only need to buy a few more t-posts so that is what we will use for now.  Each year we learn a little more and try new things.  Some work, some don't.  You just readjust and move on when things don't work.

Hard to see but the Clematis is coming back nicely.

There just never seems to be enough time in the day, but we will press on and do it one step at a time as we can.  The garden went pretty well last year and I failed to follow up on a regular schedule.  I hope to change that but haven't gotten off to such a great start.  I was so worried that all the rain we had been getting would ruin the beginning of the garden season but I think we are going to be ok.  Time will tell but it is looking pretty good at this point.

How does your garden grow?  Do you have any new plans for your garden for this year?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Art of the Ancients REVIEW

Both my kids just love art so we were excited when we had another chance to review a homeschool art product from ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  I received a physical copy of Art of the Ancients, K-3 Vol. 2 from the K-3rd Grade Level, Volumes 1-8 series.  Each book in the series covers one semester and they span 4 years of curriculum for K-3rd grades.  It is suggested to complete 1 lesson per week.  Included with the book are both DVD and Blu-ray video instructions for 6 of the 18 art lessons.  The other 12 art lessons are text lessons with step by step instructions in the book. The book has a very nice hardcover with semi-glossy heavy duty pages (64 pages).

Both DVD and Blu-ray included

For some reason, the DVD disc did not autoplay in my laptop DVD drive, but I was able to play it just fine after opening up my media player and watching it from there.  It played on our DVD player just fine.  I really like that both formats are included.  They only contain the 6 video lessons and the other 12 lessons are in the book.  I also love that a master materials list is included at the beginning of the book.  We found this so helpful when we reviewed Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, K-3 Vol. 1. It definitely helps to prepare for the lessons ahead of time.  If you already have the materials from Vol 1 then you are ahead of the game.  The materials are easy to obtain and you will find that you have most of them already in your homeschool stash.  All other items can be easily found online or at a local art and craft store.  Each individual lesson has a list of materials (from the master list) needed for that specific project.

Materials list for all 18 lessons

Quick Guide for time periods covered in history

The lessons are set up to only take about 10 minutes of your time in teaching.  We spend a little more time talking about the lesson but the point is that it takes very little of your time.  The rest is up to the kids!  The book is well organized and has ancient history woven throughout the pages.  Some topics covered include:
  • European Cave Drawings
  • Near-Eastern Clay Works
  • Minoan Fresco Painting
  • Egyptian Murals
  • Egyptian Wall Painting
  • Near Eastern Relief
  • Greek Pillars
  • Greek Poetry
  • Etruscan Wall Painting
  • Roman Carvings
  • Roman Portrait Paintings
  • Roman Mosaics
  • Roman Early Christian Painting

Projects in Art of the Ancients, K-3 Vol. 2 include pastels, clay, and paper mosaics.  The instructions are easy to follow and the woven in history lesson in just wonderful.  The pages have nice colorful pictures that help to captivate my Kindergartner (did I say she just loves art?).  Teaching art couldn't be any easier and with the extra history lesson, you get a bonus!

Colorful pages, step by step instructions

Little Bug has her own style and can actually draw pretty good for her age, but following instructions and trying to copy a picture prove to be a little challenging for her, but she had fun!  We didn't try any of the clay lessons so that will be our next challenge (oh my!).

Having fun albeit messy with chalk pastels!

Finished product

Don't be intimidated and think you can't teach art.  With ARTistic Pursuits, you can!  We really enjoyed Art of the Ancients, K-3 Vol. 2 and can't wait to try out some of the clay projects.  We also look forward to trying out some other books in the series.  You can connect with ARTistic Pursuits Inc. on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.

Won't win any art contests but we had fun!

My fellow Homeschool Review Crew members all reviewed different books in the K-3rd Grade Level, Volumes 1-8 series so be sure to click the link below to see what they have to say about other books in this series. We reviewed Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, K-3 Vol. 1 last year so check that review out also.

Kindergarten to Third Grade Art following History in Chronological Order {ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Reviews}

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

It's Chick Time Again

It's that time again!  Chick days!  All you chicken lovers out there have no doubt either placed your orders for chicks, already have them or are anxiously awaiting for your hens to go broody.  I am hoping I have at least one broody hen this spring but I am still waiting.  Mine tend to brood about April/May.

I did give 25 hatching eggs to a friend who lost her flock to predators and she has started incubating them.  Can't wait to see what hatches!  I will, of course, follow up with a blog post when the time comes. Chicken eggs incubate for 21 days to hatch.  Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Homeschool Complete REVIEW

Homeschool Complete provides all-inclusive homeschool complete curriculum and we were excited to try out their First Grade Complete curriculum.  I received a digital download of both the Teacher Manual and the Student Workbook.  The PDF file downloads were quick and easy but the books are large!  The Teacher Manual is 600 pages and the Student Workbook contains 300 pages.  Both have color in them so if you can print that much in color they are nice.  I printed the cover pages in color and plan to print most, if not all, of the pages in black and white.  I printed a week at a time just to keep it simple.

Working hard on our writing skills

Little Bug is still in Kindergarten and I had hoped to get that level but getting the First Grade Complete level was not so bad considering it is only the Semester 1 book and she is in her second semester of kindergarten and doing quite well.  We have a kindergartner reader which is a HUGE difference from my son who wasn't reading until the middle of second grade.  I have become aware that we need help with our writing as we have worked on the lessons.  Once downloaded the files are viewable and printable from the free Adobe Reader program.

She just loves math!

The Teacher Manual is very detailed and pretty much walks you through your lessons.  It includes copies of the worksheets that are in the Student Manual and includes an appendix of additional resources to use in the lessons.  I really like that it included the three pledges (The Pledge of Allegiance, The Pledge to the Christian Flag, and The Pledge to the Bible) and a list of materials needed for the different lessons.  The lessons are broken into units that include Family, Seasons, Graphing, Animals, Geometry, Safety, Measurement, American Government, My Body, Pilgrims, Manners, The Life of Jesus, Money, Benjamin Franklin, Transportation, Hibernation, U.S. Symbols, and Water.

When they say "all-inclusive" and "complete," they mean it!  The Teacher Manual is just packed with information, resources, and guidelines.  You can see from the Table of Contents what is provided and as you read through the introduction you will find the following also covered:
  • School Year Overview
  • Subject Area Content and Skills List
  • Daily Lesson Plans
  • Organization and Planning
  • Teaching Procedure
  • Calendar Skills
  • Handwriting Guidelines

Suggested school year schedule

Extensive skills list divided by subject area
It walks you through your daily lesson plans

This is really nice if you are new to teaching, it gives you sample scripts

For each unit there is a suggested list of books to read.  Each day's lesson includes a list of skills learned, materials needed, and a calendar exercise.  The rest of the lesson includes the following or a mixture depending on that day's lesson plan (not all subjects are covered every day):
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Math
  • Bible
  • Art
  • Physical Education
The time it takes to complete a lesson depends on the day and the skills covered.  For Little Bug, it could often take an hour or so if the lesson went well.  Remember, she is in Kindergarten and even though she is reading, I read the books as read-alouds (especially since this is a first-grade curriculum).  There are 18 Units that include 72 lessons so you would need to work through a lesson a day to get through the lessons in a semester.  Since she has her other work to do and this is currently a review our plan was to work on it 3 days per week.

I like that this is literature-based and that it is so organized and easy to use.  I also appreciated that it is geared toward a Christian worldview which is important in our household.  It might not be a good fit if you have a child at different levels in different subjects, but it also works great as a supplement if that were the case.  Little Bug found it fun and engaging (who doesn't like play-doh!) so it is a pretty good fit for her (although sometimes above the level she is at).  The curriculum as written is good at covering all subjects in a variety of ways that allows different learning styles to easily gain knowledge through the lessons.  There are plenty of hands-on activities and manipulatives.

Plenty of hands-on activities

We plan to continue working on this and it is a possibility that we will use this for our curriculum next school year.  We give First Grade Complete a thumbs up and recommend that you visit their website and check out their other complete grade curriculums (grades K-4), unit studies (grades K-6), and resources.  You can even download sample lessons.

You can connect with Homeschool Complete on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, and YOUTUBE.  Be sure to also check out my fellow crew member reviews, especially since everyone reviewed different resources.

Homeschool Complete K - 4th Grade & Unit Studies {Homeschool Complete Reviews}
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Victus Study Skills REVIEW

I was very happy to have a chance to review the Victus Study Skills System.  There are 4 levels covering K - college and a student planner and we received physical products of all 4 levels plus the planner.  I used Level 1: Primary (K-2/3) with Little Bug who is in kindergarten and Level 3 (5/6-10/11) with Sam who is in 9th grade.  It goes without saying that my 9th grader was less than happy about it but I think he will appreciate it in future years. 

The Student Planner that is available

I really like that even though the kids are so far apart in age, we were still able to use the system together!  The books are written to be used together if needed for different age levels.  How cool is that!  It is always a big homeschool score if you can teach all age levels at once (usually why unit studies are so popular).

I used the Primary Grades with Little Bug

Victus means a way of life.  The idea behind this system is that, just like reading, the student(s) will learn skills that can be reiterated and expanded upon as they get older.  You can start at any level and gain great tools, but if your student is able to start at Level I and work through the system they will have the best understanding and skills necessary to not only study well but be organized for life in general.  I really wish I had known about this when my 9th grader was younger.  It would have helped to instill some of the concepts that I think are key for good study skills.  The skills that are taught are not only good for school but for life in general.  Victus created it to be that way. Some skills covered are goal setting, your vision for the future, your mission statement, how best to study for tests, test taking, note taking, and time management and organization using a planner.

The Victus Study Skills System has 4 main concepts:
  1. Zeal without Knowledge is not good, but zeal with knowledge bears fruit.
  2. Results come from the process.
  3. Any system with all of its components must have an aim or purpose.
  4. A unique and effective system of study has the greatest likelihood of aiding in success. (Student Workbook p. 5)
PQRST method for better study skills

The system also focuses on 3 foundational cornerstones that are reiterated throughout the lessons.  The 3 cornerstones are: Where am I now?; Where do I want to be?; and How do I get there?  There are 10 lessons that are broken down into 5 sessions.  You can complete the curriculum in about 5 hours by following the suggested schedule in the book.  One session a day for 5 days, about an hour long each, and you are done.  Our lessons generally took close to an hour to complete.  The skills learned can then be used throughout the student's school year to increase their retention of knowledge and organization skills.

Simplified Primary lesson

The Level 1: Primary (K-2/3) was a MUCH simplified version of the Level 3 (5/6-10/11) we used.  There were also only 6 lessons in the Primary workbook.  I had to work with Little Bug to fill her workbook out since she is not writing at that level yet.  I simply used oral dictation to go over her lessons with her.  You do need the Teacher Edition that explains the program and guides you through the lessons.  The Teacher Edition includes the answer keys for Level 3.  The answer keys for Level 2 are in the Elementary Teacher Supplement. There was a note in the College Student Workbook that gave the correct page numbers that correspond to the page numbers used in the Teacher Edition.

College and Elementary Workbooks
Answer Key in Teacher Edition

I think the best part was when my 9th grader completed the Learning Strength worksheet in Lesson 2 and made the connection as to why he likes to watch videos to learn.  It was his "aha" moment!  His greatest strength was vision with auditory coming in right after.  He thought it was pretty cool how that worked out. I just like the flow of the lessons and how it challenges your student to think about their future and what their goals are not just in school but in life.  I found the skills it teaches to be very useful and practical. I didn't master many of the skills taught until later in life so having my kids learn them early is a plus for me.

Learning Strength worksheet

Even though my 9th grader was less than happy with this and my Kindergartner really didn't understand everything she was learning, I know that they learned skills that will help them move forward in their studies.  I plan to continue to use this with both of them and know that with time, they will "get it."  I will also have my 9th grader use the student planner extensively next year for 10th grade.  I feel the skills presented are invaluable and highly useful at all ages.  I would recommend the Victus Study Skills System for grades 2 through college.

You can connect with Victus on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and YOUTUBE.

Please be sure to also check out what other crew members have to say about this system.  Just click on the graphic below.

K through College Study Skills {Victus Study Skills System Reviews}
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