Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A TOS Review: Spellng You See (Level F)

Admittedly, spelling is not the easiest subject for the dyslexic child.Traditional weekly word lists have really never worked. More often than not on text days I would get a “deer in the headlights” look or one of those “I’m really playing video games in my head, Mom, so I didn’t get a thing you said.”
I get those looks more often than I would like.
Last year, I got to review Spelling You See. It really was a game changer for us. Spelling You See is an exceptional spelling program from the creators of Math U See, Demme Learning. This year we received Ancient Achievements (Level F) to try.

We received the Ancient Achievements Student Pack. It contains two consumable workbooks (Part 1 and Part 2), an Instructor’s Handbook and a packet of erasable colored pencils. This is program is not determined by grade level. Instead it focuses on student readiness. Which I love! 
The philosophy of Spelling You See is based on Developmental Readiness. Spelling You See has helpful readiness guides so I was able to narrow down what level Josiah was ready for.
One of my favorite parts of the program is its ease of use. It just takes a small part of each day. There isn’t any prep on my part.

How We Used It

Here is how it works. We used Spelling You See every day.

The passages in Ancient Achievements are exactly what it sounds like. The student reads through historical information pertaining to ancient achievements. Instead of learning lists of words, Josiah is learning spelling patterns in context of an interesting and informative text.  

As we read through the text, Josiah looks for the spelling pattern. He might be instructed to look for consonant chunks, which are two or more letters that make one consonant sound. Or he might be asked to look for “bossy r” words.

On this particular lesson (Lesson 1!), He was asked to look for vowel chunks (two or more letters that make one vowel sound) and mark them with a yellow colored pencil. 

Once Josiah marked the patterns he was asked to copy a portion of the passage. When Josiah was younger, copywork was tortuous for him. Now I try and include it as much as I can in his daily work. I love that it is part of this spelling program. I think, in general, it just helps his overall penmanship and English skills.

Josiah completed the same process over the next few lessons. On Day 4, he marked the passage and then wrote the passage in the space given as I dictated it. On this day he was allowed to ask for help. You have to excuse the picture quality. I suspect my camera is being for nefarious purposes. I found reenactments of the past 3 Superbowls in the archives. 

The last lesson (Day 5) gave Josiah another opportunity to write as I dictated the passage. This time, however, he could not ask for help.

I really enjoy Spelling You See. It works for us. Josiah knows what to expect. We don’t have to agonize over long weekly spelling lists. It is also better for him emotionally. He doesn’t have to worry about feeling like he’s “behind.” Because this program is developmentally based, he doesn’t have to worry about working through curriculum that is a grade or two behind his current grade.

I have always thought that readers make better spellers. He is learning the makeup of words within the context of a well-written passage of interesting information.

Not all of the lessons have been easy ones for Josiah in this level, but overall I have seen a marked improvement in his spelling with Spelling You See in the year I we have used the program.

It works for us! 

You can read more reviews by clicking by the banner below. Connect with Spelling You See via the following social media outlets. 

Spelling You See Review

Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Shoot Me!

I've been a little quiet on social media as of late. You probably didn't even notice.

Currently, my head feels like it's being occupied by jello. I have some kind of strange rash and last I checked there were 4 baskets of laundry waiting for my attention.

And then there is my computer.

I dropped it.

It's not wanting to work.

I'm presently using The Muffin's desktop which means I am sitting at. a. desk.

What? My favorite position in the world is curled up on one end of my comfy couch with a cup of hot tea beside me. I usually sit on one leg and prop the other one up on my coffee table.

I just don't feel as chatty with a rash and a desktop computer.

This evening, The Muffin and my Little Bro are catching all the fish they can (hopefully). I was supposed to take Josiah to swim team practice, but I am all achy and rashy and decided to drown my sorrows in cup of hot tea.

Shew. Brightened your Friday evening right up, didn't I?

Last week, Josiah and I got an opportunity to be extras in a commercial for our local theme park, Silver Dollar City.

It wasn't because we are so attractive and camera ready. They asked for homeschoolers to come out. We just happen to be a bit more available during the day. The commercial shoot was actually rescheduled 3 days in a row. We had a bit of nasty, rainy weather. They wanted nice and sunny.

Go figure.

Our instructions were to wear clothing that was bright and summery. We were going to be provided snacks, but considering our long shoot day they suggested to bring more. Children are notorious eaters. They must be fed.

I had taken Josiah to Old Navy the day before to get a new t-shirt. We couldn't wear anything that had any kind of insignia on it. This meant that Josiah's usual uniform of some sort of football shirt wasn't going to make the cut. Can I tell you I spent 10 minutes telling him why he couldn't buy yet another black or gray shirt?  

I think he's in a fashion rut.

 Here is our little group of friends. There wound up being about 102 of us total.

We all met in a certain location and were given tickets to get into the park (plus tickets to come back again for our trouble).  We walked and walked and walked to a spot that we could stash any heavy stuff if we needed to. I didn't have anything that bulky, but Dawn (my friend) left her stroller there.

This was the location we filmed in.  Silver Dollar City's newest attraction. I can't count how many things this little area of the park as been since I was a kid. Right now it's all bright and new and shiney.

The park was open, but all those guys that you see there in the middle are film crew. When we got there they hadn't quite finished with the morning crew. We were instructed to find ourselves a place to sit and hang out until we were called for.

Meanwhile, the kids got to ride all the little rides that were located around us. This is the Dizzy Dog. Dawn told me it does, in fact, make one Dizzy.

The little kids had sooo much fun. They rode and rode and rode.

When it was finally time for us to film they had the kids run through the little water sprinklers that are located in the middle of the attraction. This is pretty much what Josiah did. I doubt he makes it into the final cut of this particular part of the commercial. Taking a shower isn't what they had in mind.

They filmed this little bit over and over again. Probably an hours worth. By the time the kids were done they were soaked. Which was okay with Josiah Bevans. He did have take take of his socks to dry.

I took a few more pictures of what happened next, but between all of my computer disasters I somehow didn't get them transferred. They gave all the extras a break for about an hour while they filmed with the actors they had hired. There was a charming little boy who wandered around in a fireman's suit and a "family" visiting the park. It was fun to watch.

Josiah and I took a little time to wander in search for something to eat. I eventually settled on a Hot Dog on a Stick (I was really looking for the fried taters) and Josiah got some Dipping Dots. At this point I wasn't too worried about his nutrition. He had already eaten his weight in Cheetos from the extra's Snack Cart.

The real action happened after the park closed at 6:00pm. We were all gathered together and given instructions. They were going to film this section of the park in action. They wanted it to appear as if it were full and alive.

Most of the filming was done from this baby. This lift reached high above the trees. Cameramen and photographers perched on the platform and filmed take after take.

Some of us were sent to rides. Some were sent to circle a particular area over and we were walking around.

Josiah and I were sent to the Balloon ride as extras. Here is what you need to know. I am not afraid of heights. I don't mind things that move fast. But. Apparently, I get dizzy. Especially after riding the thing 3 times. When they would yell "action" and start the ride up I would put on my happiest face, hold on to my hair and pray that I didn't loose that Hot Dog on a Stick I had eaten the hour before.

After ride #3 we were told we could trade out with another group of extras.

Thank goodness! The rest of the 8 million takes Josiah and I circled around and pretended to be taking it all in. I was still dizzy and just a little sick to my stomach. I kept telling myself, "Just breath, Beke. Don't throw up. You'll embarrass your momma."

On the whole it was a lot of fun. Eventually, they told us they had what they needed and it was time to leave.

We limped up the hill (literally). Before we left we had to get some pictures next to the flags. (It's World Fest at Silver Dollar City!)

 This was the trolley ride back to the car. These boys don't look like we've just had an 8-hour day filming a commercial.

Notice I didn't include any pictures of me at this point. I would have been decidedly green.

We are now looking forward to taking our tickets for a day back. Josiah is all ready to ride the Balloon Ride once again.

I am not. I think I'll stick with the Hot Dog on a Stick.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mr. Frog (went a courtin?): A Nature Study

When I was a little girl my momma used to sing this song.

Frog went a courtin' and he did ride, uh-huh
Frog went a courtin' and he did ride, uh-huh
Frog went a courtin' and he did ride
With a sword and a pistol by his side, uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh

Unfortunately, the whole song is just tragic and dark. Frogs trying to marry mice. It’s just all wrong. I don’t know what my momma was thinking.

It is still being sung at family gatherings to this day.

We like passing the darkness along.

I grew up way out in the country and because we were cool we had a pond right in the front yard. To this day one of my favorite sounds is the chorus of the little peeper frogs.  They start singing right after the snow has melted from the ground in the spring. Their song brings spring and flowers and the hope of fresh lettuce, radish and carrots from the garden.

You don’t need a pond to appreciate the Frog or a momma who is obsessed with the courtin’ rituals of Mr. Frog. The study of the frog is always a fun, spring ritual in our house. Year after year we listen for the sound of the peepers. It also means that it’s time to once again study our favorite amphibian.

 Over the years we’ve enjoyed working on a Frog Field Journal. I looked for it so I could share a picture of it with you. I can’t find it. ACK! Did I throw it away in my last mad frenzy of organization?

Ooops. Maybe it’s time to start a new one.

If you are up to working on a Frog Field Journal this year here are some links I’ve gathered for printables or ideas to use.

A Field Journal is simply a naturalists or ecologists notes and journal on what they see, hear and observe in nature.

Not sure where to start or what a field journal even looks like? Here is a terrific “how-to.” The Smithsonian also has an excellent lessons series about nature journaling. There is even a little history involved.

Our field journals are usually  smaller scrapbooks or sketch pads. They can be carried in a bag with colored pencils, and a PB&J.

You can also add little books and foldables to your field journals.

First take a look at these free lapbook or notebooking pages. I thought about putting a few together this year myself…then I came to my senses! There are so really well done resources. I’ll let these talented people do all my “heavy lifting.”

This was one of the very first Lapbooks we did as new homeschoolers. Josiah was just in 1st grade. I had ordered all kinds of materials and posters from my state’s  conservation department. We poured over those posters and flyers. He wasn't quite an "observer" back in the day. I found it easier to go look and observe what we could and then come back and learn with the lapbook projects.

Here is a free resource unit and notebooking pages if you would like to make a Unit study out of your frog learning.  She has done a good job.

This is a free Frog Life Cycle Journal.  I like them because they are very simple and give plenty of space for elaboration and observation.

This site has all kinds of fun links and printables. It is a treasure for all of us frog studying folks.

Here is a neat frog life cycle spinner to put in a notebook or lapbook.

I working with Josiah more on filling out his observation journals besides “I saw a cool frog.” Here is a series of questions to ask while doing frog observations.

Did you know that there is a Frog Watch USA?

I encourage some sketching in our field journals.  We usually have mixed results. I found this tutorial on drawing a frog. I like this one because it doesn’t resemble the cartoon frogs I usually come up with. This one is a bit more challenging.

Check this site out for inspiration. He has more scientific drawings of frogs hopping, catching flies, etc.  Any of these would be really neat to put into a field journal.

Happy Froggin!

Check out more nature study ideas from my friends at the Schoolhouse Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.

Nature Study for Your Homeschool

A TOS Review: ARTistic Pursuits

 Does teaching art intimidate you?  Yeah, me too. I can do a few things to get by, other than that I’m lost.  I know it’s tempting to count the crayon drawing in your hallway as “art education.” I have had plenty of those in my time as Josiah Bevan’s mother.

That being said, it is important for me to make sure my son has a well-rounded arts education (not including hallway drawings). ARTistic Pursuits understands the need for quality homeschool art education.  They have a complete line of art curriculum books for every age.

I was fortunate to be able to review their Middle School 6-8, Book 2:  Color and Composition, which focuses (obviously) on color and composition, but also teaches students how to use hard pastels and oil pastels.

This curriculum is intended for Middle School students in grades 6-8. It is the second book of the series on Art and Composition. It comes in a large, spiral bound book  that is full of inspiration, challenges and instruction.

The “mysterious language of color” is explored. Students learn to use color pastels, work with textures, observe hue and intensity, space and depth and much, much more.  

There are 16 units in the book; each unit containing 4 lessons. Each lesson focuses on elements of art and principles of design. The first lesson will help establish a visual vocabulary. The second will study art appreciation and art history. The third lesson will work on technique and the fourth lesson will an opportunity for the complete a final project using what he or she has learned throughout that unit.

You can read more about the Units by checking out the Middle School 6-8, Book 2:  Color and Composition page. Just scroll down to the bottom.

The book recommends that you schedule two Art classes per week and spend about an hour with each class. This, of course, depends on the enthusiasm of your artist. Some projects just need a bit more time and attention!

To start our art classes we needed to get some art supplies together. These were:

Pastels, Oil Pastels, Pastel Paper pad, drawing paper, paper stump, kneaded eraser, a vinyl eraser, a sharpener and Natural Chamois. We also used aerosol hairspray, masking tape and cotton balls.

I’m just a little bit blessed. My momma is an artist and has a whole closet full of stuff ready for the pillaging. I simply took my list to her. It’s like having my own personal shopper.

I decided that I, too, wanted to do the Art lessons right along with Josiah. I had a few reasons. He is dyslexic (and dysgraphic). It was easier for him to enjoy doing art without having to concentrate on reading. If you have a student who doesn’t struggle with reading I have no doubt that this can be a self-study. On the other hand I wanted to play as well! If you can, I suggest you do the lessons right alongside your student.  They were so much fun!

Before I show you a whole gallery of our projects I need to say that pastels were a really good medium for Josiah to work with. He has dysgraphia and struggles a bit with his fine motor skills. The pastels are a bit messy, but they are forgiving. There were never any disasters. I think he is quite proud of what he was able to accomplish. 

One of the assignments was to draw an animal with chalk pastels. We drew a pair of adorable cartoon cats. I can't find mine. I took a picture of it a few weeks ago, but I think the both the original and the picture ran away from home.

Here is Josiah's castle. I think it's quite lovely and story "bookish." He did a nice job with his colors..

Here is mine. I'm not sure why my mountains look like they are residing in the tree tops.

We loved the little challenges given along the way. This particular lesson had us coloring in an apple and a pear with a main color, applying hair spray and then going back after it was dry and layering the color.

I have to tell you that I haven't seen that much hairspray fly since my days as a teenager in the 80's.

Some of the neatest aspects of this book is that it gives us some history right along with the lessons. The assignment for the above picture came with the explanation that German artist experimenting with bright colors under the Nazi Occupation.were labeled "degenerate." Can you imagine?

 This next group of pictures came from a still life we set up from objects around the house. 

Josiah kept threatening to eat the orange.

 These are my favorite projects we did. In fact, they are in the process of being framed and hung in my bedroom. 

We moved ahead a little bit to work with oil pastels. I love oil pastels. They feel so smooth. 

This little challenge had us using different kinds of strokes to create texture on the page. 

Josiah had a bit more difficulty with this. He seemed to only to have one "note."

He worried about staying in the lines. I think that this will be a good exercise for him to continue. It will help work on his control.

 This was a lesson on how to draw in broken color using the oil pastels. 

If you squint really hard it almost looks like art.

 You can see that we really had a good time with Middle School 6-8, Book 2:  Color and Composition   My mom teaches art to Seniors in a nursing home and she is interested in looking at it for her classes. It's appeal goes beyond Middle School!  It is such a well done curriculum. Check it out! 

You can read more reviews of this product (and more!) by clicking on the banner below. 

ARTistic Pursuits Review

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A TOS Review: Orphs of the Woodlands

I just had the opportunity to review a fun interactive online program from Star Toaster called Orphs of the Woodlands.

This is one of the most unique programs I have ever come across.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of reading. It has been challenging for me to get my son (who is dyslexic) as excited.

I understand his concerns and frustrations. I also don’t want him to miss out on great stories. What he does lack in reading skills he more than makes up for in problem solving. He loves games.

The Orphs of the Woodlands combines both an exciting adventure store with fun games. There is even some strategizing involved.

The story begins with The Treasure of High Tower. The main character is a squirrel. Josiah got to name his squirrel. He named him Squirrel Wilson. I was pleased he didn’t name him after a famous football player. That is progress, my friends.

The story starts by telling us that the Night Creatures had orphaned many other animals, including (in our case) Squirrel Wilson. The Night Creatures have terrorized the land and Squirrel Wilson becomes a spy.  This requires Squirrel Wilson to interact with other interesting characters and complete many odd jobs. Squirrel Wilson has taken on the responsibility to care for the little Orphs (orphaned animals).  He must take on projects to help feed and clothe, provide security and more. It is quite involved!

The recommended reading level is 4th – 7th grade.

I want to share a few highlights and features that make this program truly special. 

This page starts us at Chapter 7. The pages are "turned" by clicking the arrows at the bottom right or left. Throughout the page the reader will find highlighted words or special features that can be clicked on to go to find a definition or learn more about a certain subject. This page has a letter than the reader needs to open up. 

After clicking on the envelope in the middle of the page, we just see a few words on the page. We can tell from a previous lesson by the bottle of purple liquid at the top of the page that this letter has been written in invisible ink. 

Viola! There is the rest of the letter. Pretty cool spy work if you ask me! 

Every page of the story is filled with interactive things to try and to learn. There are even recipes to make! 

Which brings us to the next few screens. After the chapter is read (it can be 20-50  pages long) we have a whole list of jobs available. They include jobs that use math skills, vocabulary skills, memory skills. science and more! 

Some of our favorites have been the Life Skills. Maybe it's because we like to cook and eat.

At this point in the job listings, Josiah has already completed several jobs. The ones left are Life Skills and The Arts. 

When Josiah gets to the job for "Bean Specialist," this recipe comes up. It is one that he previously read about in the last chapter. "Stomachache Stew."

He reads all of the ingredients and pertinent information about the dish and clicks on the little recipe icon. It brings up the recipe itself. 

After he is done training for the job (there is always a little review beforehand) he gets to answer the question for gold coins.

 After hitting the "Get Paid" button it lets him know if he answered correctly and how many gold coins he received. After he has answered so many of any job skill correctly he gets a pay raise. Now don't you wish it was like that in real life?

After Josiah has completed all the jobs listed he can then go buy land or projects to help take care of his orphs. This is so much fun...I can't even begin to tell you.

Obviously, Orphs of the Woodlands has been big hit at our house. I do have a few observations. 

Because Josiah is dyslexic this isn't a program I could let him loose with. I had to sit with him and assist him with the reading. He is doing beautifully with his reading, but he still gets overwhelmed with small font and the amount of reading he is required to do. 

Also, there is quite a bit of memory work. What I did appreciate so, so much about this program is that they teach the student how to practically memorize a piece of information. I love that! 

I also love that there is focus on life skills, art and music. This isn't a "one note" curriculum. 

I have heard that there is another book coming out (Yay!). In the meantime we are thoroughly enjoying our journey in the Woodlands with Squirrel Wilson. 

I do need to mention that regular purchasers of the program will get a two-month subscription (for up to 3 children) One month extensions are available for those of us who might need more time. You can check it out for yourself with a FREE trial! 

You can read more reviews by clicking the banner below. Don't forget to connect to Star Toaster via the following social media outlets. 

Star Toaster Review
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