Sunday, December 28, 2008
Peterson Directed Handwriting is a program that teaches fluent print and cursive handwriting skills. It is based on a lot of research which is available on the site. You will find lots of other information there as well! The theory behind this program is that fluent writing cannot come from tracing but from teaching the muscles the correct rhythm/movements and making it automatic. This strategy is different than other writing programs because it deals with movement instead of showing children the letters and letting then trace them on paper.
There are several things about this program that I liked. On there site, and on the CD that comes with the program, there are animated letter cards. You can actually watch how the letters should be formed and have your child follow along with his finger to learn the actual movements involved in making them. Your child will practice large movements with "air writing" long before he sits down to practice with paper and pencil. This is to make sure this muscle movement has become automatic. He will also be taught the four muscle patterns that make up every letter. This simplifies what he has to remember when writing each letter. If he can remember and recognize these four patterns, and train his muscles to move in this manner, that's all there really is to the Peterson Directed Handwriting program. I really liked the paper guide stickers also. If you have a specific place your child writes, you can put this sticker on the desktop and your child places his paper along the edge and it will always be in the correct position. If you don't have a desk, you could put the sticker on a placement and just put that down when he is writing. That is what we had to do.
Now with that being said, there were some things about the program I didn't like. The manual that comes with the kit is not as teacher friendly as I think it could be. Even though they say it's simple to use, it was still confusing to me at times as to how to introduce things and what my child should be doing. There is a also lot of teacher time involved in this program. My son did not enjoy this program at all. I think however that part of the problem was his dyslexia. As the child writes a letter, whether air or paper writing, he has to say each of the strokes he is writing at the same time. My son used more energy trying to remember the different names of the strokes than the actual writing at times. He was fine at first when it was just one, but when we started introducing more of them, it became too confusing for him and it just frustrated him. This may not be the case with most children. My recommendation is to go to the website and really look over what is there. Read the research behind the method and actually try out the animated cards with your child and see how it works.
I do think this program could work very well with children who are just starting to learn to write. They have not formed bad habits. They could start from scratch training their muscles to fluently make the letters and I could see how it would really teach handwriting in an effective way.
This program is available from Preschool through 8th grade. I reviewed the 3rd grade kit. It is available in two different homeschool kits.
Complete Kit- $38.55
Position Guide Stickers
Animated Letter Cards CD
Handwriting Songs CD
Supplemental Teacher Information
Basic Kit- $15.05
Contains everything from above except the two CD's
Rand Nelson is the contact person for Peterson's and he is extremely helpful and very dedicated to helping children learn fluent handwriting. If you have any questions at all, you can email him or even have a online training session or chat with him.
Peterson Directed Handwriting
The Critical Thinking Company has been around since 1958. Their objective is to create products which improve a child's grades and test scores.
I reviewed their Building Thinking Skills Level 2 book. It's for 4-6th grade. My son is in 3rd grade but was able to do the work. In fact, he really seemed to enjoy it and thought it was more like a bunch of puzzles. I thought for sure when he saw this big workbook that he'd immediately complain, but he didn't at all.
This book is meant to build vocabulary, reading, mathematical reasoning, and analytical skills. It uses verbal and nonverbal reasoning as well as visual and auditory processing to increase these skills. The amount of problems on each page is not overwhelming. It's just enough to work on a skill but not so much that the student is bored. I really liked how it slowly builds from concrete skills to more abstract ones that require more thought and giving a written answer. My son hates to write but I didn't let that stop him from getting something from this book. Instead of having him write out his answers, I had him give them to me orally and I wrote them down. I was impressed at how much he could tell me by the end of a series of lessons. He is not one who can give an explanation for things and he could actually describe shapes and give some detailed information for the written answers. This is a great improvement!
My son has a short attention span so we only worked on a page a day. There are 10 chapters in the whole book with some being a lot longer than others. Depending on your child's attention span, he could easily do several pages in a day. Here are the skills covered:
- Describing shapes
- Figural similarities and differences
- Figural sequences
- Figural classifications
- Figural analogies
- Describing things
- Verbal similarities and differences
- Verbal sequences
- Verbal classifications
- Verbal analogies
I was a little hesitant at first about the workbook style for my son. He is a very hands-on learner. However, these are much needed skills. I was very impressed with this book. I have walked by their booth several times at conventions and their stuff has always intrigued me but I never bought it because I thought my son wouldn't like it. I have been missing out! I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to review this product and will continue to use it. He is gaining skills in a format that almost seems like a game to him. That is hard to come by! My son is dyslexic and I can see this benefiting him in so many ways.
The cost of this book is $29.99. It's a consumable workbook with the answer key included in the back. This series is available in Beginning, Primary, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 Figural, and Level 3 Verbal.
They also have products for Reading/Grammar/Punctuation/Spelling/Vocabulary, Math/Science, and Logical Thinking.
To find out more about their products, visit their website www.CriticalThinking.com.
Or call Toll Free 1-800-458-4849 or email them at Service@CriticalThinking.com
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This was a real blessing to be able to review All About Spelling. From the moment I started to look over this program, I knew I was going to like it. Marie Rippel has done a wonderful job of simplifying one of the most difficult subjects to teach with all the different rules to remember. The materials are so well organized! I will tell you there is some setup time involved, although some of that has been changed and they have taken measures to cut down on some of the initial prep time. Once you have everything set up and ready to go, the program is a breeze to use and you will be glad for the simple system she has developed.
This program is available in four levels with the fifth to be released in 2009. It is recommended that all students start in Level One, even if they move quickly through it. This is a very hands-on, multisensory program. It's like it was created with my son in mind!
All About Spelling is based on the Orton-Gillingham method that identifies phonograms and how they are best taught. This is especially great for children who are dyslexic. There are 24 steps the child needs to complete in level one beginning with learning all the sounds of the alphabet. This means EVERY sound each letter can make. You can even purchase a CD to help you and your child learn the proper pronunciation for all of the sounds. Up until now, my son couldn't tell me all of the commonly used sounds for each letter. He can now tell me all of the sounds for each letter and he can do it instantly! We've only made it through the first 12 steps of level one, but his spelling has already improved. He has even mentioned to me a few times that he spelled a word he didn't think he could spell before.
There are four types of cards used in the system:
- phonogram- these give visual and verbal review of the sounds. A card is held up and the child must give the sound the phonogram makes.
- sound- these cards give aural and tactile review. The student listens to you dictate the sound and he writes the letter(s) that make the sound.
- key- these cards introduce and reinforce spelling rules.
- word- these contain the words your child will learn to spell.
In addition to the cards, there are letter tiles you can purchase along with magnets you can attach to the backs to be used on a magnetic board. You don't however have to use a magnetic board if you don't want to. It just makes it easier later in the program when you are using more letters and they need to be kept in certain groups. If you keep them on the board, you won't have to set them up each time you do spelling. As the child sounds out a word, he pulls down the corresponding letters from the alphabet arranged in front of him. This really helps to involve the visual, auditory, and tactile methods of learning.
Halfway through level one, your child will start to write phrases that are dictated to him. This is another way to reinforce what he has learned. Eventually he will be writing whole sentences as he moves through the different levels.
There is a built in review for all the concepts learned. This is so nice because you don't have to worry about remembering it yourself. Levels two through four are set up in the same format but continue to build on the foundation laid in level one.
This is a well thought out program that is very effective. I am so thrilled to have been given the opportunity to use it. My son is dyslexic and struggles terribly with spelling. I can truly see this program helping him tremendously. I plan on using it through all the levels! If your child has even the slightest problem with spelling, I would highly recommend you try this program out. I think you will be impressed!
- Price: Level 1 is $29.95
- Additional Material Packet (for extra child): $12.95
- Letter Tiles, necessary item: $9.95
- Magnets for letter tiles, for use with magnetic board: $5.95
- Phonogram Audio CD-ROM: $14.95
To find out more about this program, please click here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Crayola Art Studio is a wonderful way to add art to your day. They will be begging to be on the computer. They can and will make wonderful drawings from using the array of color and methods! We can use oil pastels, tempera paint, markers, colored pencils, and much, much more! There are stamps and shapes to be utilized. My younger child can work up to creating animations with their Corefx-Level Three! This program is one that can grow with your child and his ever changing capabilities.
They have more than just art though. Core-Learning has a variety of software programs to provide for many areas of your schooling needs. The Family Health Series is a wonderful way to capture the child’s attention when subjects turn to matters of the body. It is a great way to help your child understand the body, its changes, and how to keep your body healthy! We liked taking a trip through the body using the animated shorts. They were brief in nature and would have liked to see several things expounded on more other than what was in the demo.
The Math and Language Arts demo we got to use is a great program. The lesson is read to you and your child gives accountability by completing worksheets, quizzes, and tests. There were a couple of glitches in the language arts quiz that I sure hope they have worked out because it truly is a wonderful supplement to a heavy math and grammar lesson. I believe this could be used as your core curriculum if you have a child that likes to be on the computer a lot and has an aversion to book work!
Here is what is posted on Core-learning.com:
Core Learning's mission is to provide effective learning solutions for the development of fundamental knowledge and skills. Its primary focus of skill development is in areas that both support higher order thinking but also provide important life skills. Products address key elementary and middle school curriculum areas in math, English language arts, health, art, and technology. Core Learning also publishes software to help develop critical thinking skills and maintain mental processing capabilities in young and mature adults.
Core learning is reasonably priced software that starts at $16.95 and up for all different types of programs. Crayola Art Studio is $24.95 and the add on with Core fx level 3 is $59.95. As this was our favorite, I highly recommend this one time purchase that can be used throughout your child’s schooling days!
Click here to learn more about Core Learning and their products!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
There is an introduction for the parents that explains how to download a trial version of a program that is needed to complete the web page. Each lesson is well written and contains actual pictures of the program you will be using. This is so nice for the visual learner! She also addresses safety issues on the internet and gives several ways to search safely. There was a free way to do this that I was not even aware of! There are also safe sites given to go and look for images.
Here is a list of some of the things your child will learn to do throughout the tutorial:
- Learn to recognize a site (when searching for graphics) that is just advertisements and will lead him to others sites that require email addresses or purchases
- How to build a web page
- How an html program is used to create the page
- How to identify files ending with a certain extension that could contain viruses and the appropriate ones for images
- How to add graphics, sounds, and link to a page
- How to create his own background
From the moment you open this eBook, any fear you have of not being able to teach your child how to create a web page is gone. I was very impressed with this eBook and really enjoyed it. My son and I sat down and created a web page in 2 days time. He learned a lot and was proud of his page when we were done. If this is something your child is interested in doing or you would like to teach your child, I would highly recommend trying this book!
To find out more about it or to purchase it, please go to motherboardbooks.com. The price is usually $29.95 but right now the introductory price is $19.99. Get it while you can at this price.
There are several other products available by Motherboard Books also:
Computer Science Pure and Simple I, II
Web Site ABC's
ALEKS Math is math gone digital! For the child that is technology and computer inclined, this is a dream. Their math program is comparable to the other great book programs out there with several cyber pluses.
Here is what it says about ALEKS on its own website:
ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.
ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor.
1. It provides a pie chart based on what your child knows , needs to learn, and what has been accomplished (based on an assessment taken at the beginning). This makes targeting your child’s weaker spots easy to find. The pie chart lets you know what areas are still incomplete and what needs to be done.
2. It provides a worksheet based on MY child’s needs. All I have to do is print it out.
3. Something I really like is the dictionary. While I tried this with my 3rd grader, I thought of older students who are constantly looking up definitions in their math books. This can take up a great deal of their work time and it's nice that a dictionary with all the terms in it is just a click away.
4. The reports you get are just wonderful! All I have to do to figure out how my child is doing is read just a one or two page report. No figuring out averages, asking myself what are his strong or weak spots, or analyzing every piece of work he has done. That is a relief!
I need to mention that for the child who is inclined to love anything on the computer, this is a wonderful solution to many boring math programs they may have done. If you are developing or gently supporting a child’s love for the cyber world and techy things, this math may be just what you are looking for. I think they may even see it as a gift from you!
A subscription to ALEKS is
$19.95 per student, per month, or
only $99.95 every 6 months, or
only $179.95 every 12 months.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
After you have gone through the simple registration process and the child is logged in, he simply chooses a subject and there will be an arrow pointing in front of the category he needs to click on. On the next page, there is another arrow pointing to the lesson he needs to be working on. Each lesson is kept at a fairly short length. You can go to your child's portfolio and view a report of all the work he has completed. It can be viewed by day, week, or month. Regular lessons are not scored but they will still be listed there and show the date and time they were worked on and whether they were completed or not. I found these reports really nice to look over and they can even be printed if you need them for a portfolio.
There are many different ways your child can answer questions on this site. Sometimes there are a list of questions to click on. Other times there may be a drop down menu to choose from. And often in math, he will have to work the mouse a little more and drag and drop items or numbers onto a specific place on the page. This keeps a child actively involved in the lesson and not just sitting there. There is also a really nice Tool Kit that provides an online manipulative to use for just about any math a child might be doing.
Some nice features about the site are text-to-speech in the language arts and math programs, which was a huge plus to me with a child with dyslexia. He was able to complete lessons independently that he normally wouldn't have been able to if he had to read them on his own. The Odyssey Writer, which is a very kid friendly word processing program, is a really nice writing tool that is very easy to use. The graphics on all of the lessons are perfect for kids and not too overwhelming. The math program has great charts and graphs and introduces concepts in a very systematic order.
One thing to note about this site is that it is geared towards the secular crowd and I thought I would mention this. Depending on what your family is use to or allows, that is something you might want to consider. There were times during some of the lessons where I felt that some of the humor was disrespectful, crude, and just not appropriate. I had to have a discussion with my son a few times about a couple of things he heard. I don't know how often this would come out throughout the course of a year. If you choose to use the science, you should also know there are evolutionary beliefs included. However, this issue was brought up to the vendor and they would like to create a list of lessons that include evolution for parents who want to avoid them. There were many crew members who asked about this and I imagine this is something that may be created in the near future for Christian families using the site. You can also have the science portion turned off on your account so your child cannot access it. There was also a mention of a wizard and magic in one of the lessons my son did. These are things you may need to take into consideration if they are not right for your family.
Overall, I would say this program is very good. The lessons are interesting, funny, and keep the child's attention. That is something that's hard to find sometimes for kids who don't enjoy school!
$14.95/month per additional child
14 day money-back guarantee
Cancel at any time
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The second neat feature we found on Time4Learning was the Odyssey Writer which is a word processing program. It's very kid oriented and easy to figure out. It's a wonderful tool! The icons are big and the graphics are perfect for children. It even includes a way to create notecards and graphics organizers. It just screams "Write something!" when you open it up.
We have discovered along the way that you can go up or down a grade level very easily. If you feel a subject is too hard, up in the corner of the screen there are buttons with the grade below and above the one your child is working on. You simply click on it and it automatically changes it for you. This is also great for review or enrichment, depending on what is needed.
I will be giving my final review next week if you are interested in hearing my final thoughts about this program.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Rime To Read gives the parent and child a virtual, updated reader for the child who is just learning or still struggling with reading. This program is for the young elementary aged child and comes with 20 books in the complete set! Rime To Read’s books are comical and will capture your little readers attention from the very first page! These books utilize word families and word patterns so your child has a higher success rate of reading on their own.
Some may not like the fact that this company is virtual but let me tell you the perks of it being in electronic format. First, most children love the computer! They love to be on it with you, playing games, and just feel special for being allowed to be on it. So they come ready and willing to learn when the computer is involved. You will just want to bottle that eager attitude for every subject!
Next, they will never feel discouraged because with the click of a mouse they can hear the word being read. These readers build up self confidence in their reading and that alone can boost reading skills in no time! No need to spend money on a Leapfrog system and more money on all the reading programs for it. Rime to Read has incorporated the technology of the Leapfrog with their readers.
Another good reason for a virtual book is they can never get displaced or lost. Just log in and you can see what your child has read and how many pages they have accomplished reading. Having it right there on your computer will save you time, something we educators just don't have enough of. It also provides a method of accountability by giving you this information. This is something very important to education and reading.
Here are some reasons from their own website:
· Highly effective approach to beginning reading
· Emphasizing word families (rimes)
· Unique color-coded system
· Structured for success
· Having trouble reading a word? CLICK it and it will be read back to you.
If these good reasons have not convinced you to go virtual, no worries! You have the option of printing out each book for your very own hard copy. These copies are in the easy to print PDF format so most people will have absolutely no problem printing out these 10-12 page readers. These are also good for extra practice when you are on the go! Something you should know though is the books can only be printed one time.
Rime to Read gives the child the practice needed to become a great and self sufficient reader. If you have a beginner who is learning to read or a child who may be struggling with this subject, I urge you to check out Rime to Read for ALL the reasons mentioned above. Their website has a free sample for you try and a testimonial page to peruse so you can make a good and informed decision. Rime to Read may just be the solution you have been looking for.
The cost to purchase the online program (20 books) is $44.99. This is a ONE time fee (lifetime) and it can be used for other children in the family.
If you just want to purchase the vowel books (4 books in the set) it's $9.99.
Click Here to visit their Website.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Salem Ridge Press has taken historic and classical children’s books, reprinted them, added historical content and definitions, and has put them back into our hands! These books come from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. I do not know about you, but the thrill of reading a story that my great, great grandparents could have read just makes me want to relish these novels even more.We had the pleasure of reading The American Twins of the Revolution by Lucy Perkins, Glaucia the Greek Slave by Emma Leslie, and Mary Jane-Her Book by Clara Judson. We were impressed with the historical notes and the definitions in the footer of the pages for the first two books. These were things we referred to often! These two features alone made reading a joy because it brought a whole and complete understanding of what we were reading. We love history in our home and having the background information was priceless.
The stories were wonderful and had great moral character abounding in their pages. A thing lost in most of today’s novels. We have to admit that The American Twins of the Revolution was our favorite not only because it was based on a true story but because it showed the courage and patriotism in the people that helped form this great nation. We found ourselves rushing the school day to get to the reading. Not many stories can get us to do that!
There is a quote from this book that I would like to share as it made me stop and think that people back then were not so different in their thoughts and emotions. This quote is from General Priestly to his wife and children:
“It is a time of danger and discouragement, and those are the very times when courage and faith are most needed.”
How true this quote is even in the day in which we find ourselves. It makes this book timeless to us.
Glaucia came in a close second with its powerful story of a Greek slave who longs for a God who loves her. You’ll find yourself on the brink of tears many times in this book and will anxiously wait for Glaucia to come to know the one, true God.
Mary Jane- Her Book is for the younger readers. Mary Jane (a five-year-old girl) has many adventures with her family. She learns a lot of valuable lessons. This book would really teach little girls about manners, patience, chores, and being a housewife. I found it very enjoyable to read.
If you need wonderful and solid reading material for your children with out the trash that many of today’s authors feel they need to put in to make a good story, think of Salem Ridge Press. While some of these books are technically abridged versions, I believe the main story is unchanged. I applaud Salem Ridge Press for their endeavor of seeking out good moral children’s stories and republishing them. I urge them to continue forward and will pray the Lord’s blessings upon their ministry!
To find out more about the books they offer, go to http://salemridgepress.com/. For a complete listing, click here.
On his site, you will find resources for parents, educators, and students. There is a wealth of research to go through, as well as videos to watch. You will need to spend some time doing this if you want to become an expert at puppets. He provides patterns for you to print and lots of examples of puppets others have created. There are directions on how to make the "hinge" (Jeffrey's own creation), which serves as the base for all puppets. He also gives you ideas about where to look for ideas to create your own puppets.
If you are interested in learning more about puppet making and incorporating them into your lessons, please visit www.puppetools.com to purchase a subscription.
$99 (one year)- up to 30 users- this subscription is best for a homeschool or church group
$20 (one year)- this is only for one family