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WriteShop Junior: Book E ~ Review

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WriteShop provides homeschool writing curriculum from students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. WriteShop Junior is written for students in approximately grades 3-5, and provides instruction in creative writing through step-by-step lesson plans and lots of hands-on student activities. Write Shop Junior is written in 2 levels, D for grades 3-4, and E for grades 4-5. Each level’s complete set includes a teacher’s guide, activity pack, time-saver pack, and junior writer’s notebook, and can be purchased in either printed ($106.95) or digital PDF ($78.50) form. We have recently been given the opportunity to use the digital form of WriteShop Junior: Book E, and are happy to share our review with you today.

About the Program

WriteShop Junior: Book E covers various forms of creative writing, which are divided into 10 lessons. Each lesson spans 2 to 3 weeks, depending upon what works best for your schedule. Topics covered include:

Lesson 1: Writing a Fable
Lesson 2: Writing with Humor
Lesson 3: Writing an Adventure
Lesson 4: Writing Science Fiction
Lesson 5: Writing a Mystery
Lesson 6: Concrete Poetry
Lesson 7: Writing a Personal Narrative
Lesson 8: Descriptive Narrative
Lesson 9: Writing a Book Report
Lesson 10: Writing a Nonfiction Report

Each of these 10 lessons is broken down into smaller parts, referred to as Activity Sets. Every lesson has 8 Activity Sets, which provide a way of organizing the activities so that material is presented to students in a consistent and familiar format from one lesson to the next.

Program Components

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The WriteShop Junior: Book E Teacher’s Guide provides everything you need to teach writing to your students. It begins with a brief overview of the program, and then gives examples of possible schedules so that you can see which one will work best for your situation. It even gives tips for teaching multiple students who are using different levels of WriteShop. A comprehensive list of materials and supplies is then given, which includes detailed explanations of the student components of the program. Following that is a breakdown of individual lesson activities, and the purpose and procedure for each one.

Following all of this background information is the main part of the teacher’s guide, which is the step-by-step explanation of the program’s 10 lessons. Not only does this program explain what you need to teach and why, but it literally does the teaching for you. Each lesson is completely scripted for you, which means you don’t have to be good at writing yourself in order to teach students to write well. Clear, thorough explanations are also given for the hands-on activities within each lesson, so there is absolutely no guess work when it comes to implementing this program.

 

graphic_ActivityPackThe WriteShop Junior: Book E Activity Pack includes the student worksheet and activity pages that correspond to each of the 10 lessons.

The Activity Pack includes worksheets for activities typically found in various writing programs, including brainstorming, the writing assignments themselves, and self-editing sheets. In addition to these, WriteShop expands upon the writing process by offering pre-writing worksheets, journal prompts, and hands-on, skill-building activities. The back of the Activity Pack includes additional forms for keeping a reading log, extra journal pages, and a writing skills evaluation chart so that students can keep track of their writing progress throughout the program.

Also included in the Activity Pack is the Fold-N-Go Grammar pack. This pack includes printable sheets with instructions explaining how to assemble them inside file folders in order to create a set of 10 grammar reference guides. These guides will then provide students with their own personal quick references for the following topics:

  • Sentences
  • Four Kinds of Sentences
  • Compound Sentences
  • Parts of Speech: Review
  • Dialogue
  • Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs
  • Five Paragraphs
  • Prefixes and Suffixes
  • Compound Words
  • Synonyms and Antonyms

Construction of each of the guides is worked right into the lesson plan, with one guide completed per lesson.

graphic_Time-SaverEThe WriteShop Junior: Book E Time-Saver Pack contains all of the necessary printable components used in the hands-on games and activities featured throughout the program. The time-saver pack does just that. It saves time by giving you pre-designed game cards, spinners, and other game elements, which can be quickly printed on cardstock and used right away, rather than taking precious time away from the lesson to make everything by hand.

 

graphic_JrWritersNotebookThe WriteShop Junior: Book E Junior Writer’s Notebook is a convenient place for students to keep track of their planning activities from their writing processes. The 12 worksheets included provide students with a unique way of focusing on the specific elements of writing, such as setting, plot, and characters. The worksheets also offer student the means to improve their existing compositions by helping students with such things as word choices, creating interesting beginnings and endings in compositions, and conveying emotion to the reader. Students are able to print out these forms as they feel necessary.

How We Used it & Our Final Opinion

Because my youngest son is in the upper age range of this level, and my oldest is one grade above, we decided to use this program at the faster, 2-week-per-lesson recommended. I love the idea of this program, but for us, it was simply overwhelming as far as the number of elements involved with its implementation. That is not to say that there was too much work in the program. The program itself is well laid out, with what I would consider an age-appropriate amount of work and activities. The issue is only that the program simply did not fit with my children’s learning styles.

I think that this program is perfect for parents who do not enjoy writing themselves, or do not consider themselves particularly good at writing or teaching it to their students. In those cases, I am sure that parents would appreciate the detailed explanations, and would find the completely scripted lessons an absolute life-saver.

Furthermore, I am sure that completely tactile learners would find this the perfect curriculum. There is never a case of “take out a blank piece of paper and write”. Instead, everything is presented by way of fun, illustrated worksheets and activities that are mostly hands-on in nature. In other words, it is perfect for students who need a more stimulated, active way of learning the writing process.

Unfortunately, with a younger child who is easily overwhelmed by too much sensory input, and an older child who is a no-nonsense straight shooter, this program simply didn’t work for us. I can say, however, that the program is fantastic for what it is, and I can definitely see why I have heard so many people raving about it. I do wish it had been a better fit for our family, as there is nothing AT ALL flawed about the program. I am sure tactile learners, reluctant writers, and non-writer parents out there will absolutely adore this program.

For more information, please check out the WriteShop website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. Please also click below to read the other Crew reviews!

 

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Philosophy Adventure by Home School Adventure Co. Review

Philosophy, the study of the nature of knowledge, is a subject not often studied in depth before college level. However, Home School Adventure Co. tackles this subject, while helping students maintain and defend their Biblical worldview, in their Philosophy Adventure course. In this study, author Stacy Farrell teaches students in grades 6 to 12 to “write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as you explore the history of ideas.” This is a fantastic program that we have been studying for the past several weeks, and I am happy to share our review with you.

homeschool philosophy course

 

Cost of the Program

There are a couple of options for purchasing this program from Home School Adventure. The first option, and most economical, is a digital download, which includes the Reader (textbook), the teacher resources, and the student workbook.  This would be an excellent option for those who intend to use this program for more than one child, since a student workbook could easily be printed out for each child, while the other resources could be re-used. The cost of the digital download is $39.95. The program is also available on CD-ROM ($49.95) and in pre-printed versions ($69.95-$89.95) as well.

Right now, Home School Adventure Co. is generously offering a 10% discount on everything in their store through May 15, 2014, so now is an excellent time to buy. (Click the graphic below and enter code Crew-10 at checkout!)

 

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How the Program Works

The program presents the history of philosophy through the study of 8 key philosophers predating Socrates. For each philosopher, there is a passage to read, corresponding notebooking pages, timeline and mapping activities, optional quizzes, journal questions, and 3 assignments called Write, Think, and Speak, which not only reinforce the information learned, but encourage students to think critically about what they have read and how it applies to their own lives.

There are also optional resources to go along with this program, which include other Home School Adventure Co. products. Scripture memory work can be included from their Philippians in 28 Weeks study, and literature readings from The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions are recommended.

All this is laid out in a suggested 4 or 5 day schedule in the book, but the program is very easily customizable.  It can be studied at a pace of one philosopher per week, one every other week, or can be stretched out to as long as one philosopher per month, depending on how in-depth students wish to get.

High School Credit

Philosophy Adventure can be used as a supplement, or as the primary curriculum, depending on depth. The author has provided a general guideline for how high school credit can be awarded through the use of this program.

  • English Composition: 1-4 hours per week – .25-.5 credit hours
  • World History / Geography: 1-4 hours per week – .25-.5 credit hours
  • Speech / Communications: 1-4 hours per week – .25-.5 credit hours
  • Logic / Critical Thinking: 1-4 hours per week – .25-.5 credit hours

Home School Adventure Co. also has a Free Webinar explaining how to award credit for high school, for this and their other studies.

How We Used This Program

I had originally intended to use this study with both of my sons, who are currently in 5th and 6th grade. However, my youngest felt a bit overwhelmed, so I continued with my older son only. (For this reason, I concur with Home School Adventure Co.’s recommendation of using this with advanced 6th graders and older.) We decided that since my son was on the younger end of the age range, we would treat this more as a survey course, and intend to do it more in-depth at a later time. So, we did the recommended schedule of one philosopher per week, but we did not use the optional Scripture memorization and literature resources. We also opted out of the weekly quizzes, so as not to overload ourselves.

Our typical week looked like this:

Day 1 – Read the lesson, complete timeline and mapping activities, and notebooking pages

Day 2 – Read and complete Write activity

Day 3 – Read and complete Think activity

Day 4 – Read and complete Speak activity

Day 5 – Complete student journal pages, creative writing prompt, and finish any remaining activities from the previous days

This schedule really helped us keep organized. There is a lot of information in the study, but the schedule can help keep from feeling overwhelmed. I think this schedule and pacing worked well for us at this stage. However, when we revisit this study at a later time, with the additional resources and activities, I definitely think I would stretch the study out to 2 weeks per philosopher, at least.

Our Overall Opinion

We loved this program. It is so much more than just a dry text of people and dates. The writing style is interesting and engaging, and the variety of activities keeps the study fresh and exciting. I love that this study looks at philosophy comparatively, and continually reinforces a Biblical worldview. This alone is reason enough for all homeschoolers to consider using this study with their children. I think it is a wonderful tool for developing critical thinking skills, as well as providing an introduction to apologetics. In teaching about different philosophical ideas, the study teaches students how to discern truth from fallacy, and continually points to the Bible as our source of true knowledge and understanding. I think all homeschooling families would benefit greatly from this study, and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to review it.

More Information

For more information on Home School Adventure Co., please visit and follow at the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HomeSchoolAdventureCo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/HomeSchoolAdven

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/HomeSchoolAdven

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/115241518288669984312/+Homeschooladventure/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/HomeSchoolAdven

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Spelling You See Review

Today I am very excited to share our review of a brand new spelling curriculum. The publishers of the well-known Math-U-See program have just released a new curriculum called Spelling You See, which offers a unique and inexpensive alternative to typical spelling programs. If you are looking for a spelling program that is more than just rote memorization, but rather one that allows students to learn to spell new words in the context in which they are used, then Spelling You See might be for you. My children and I have been using, and loving, Spelling You See: American Spirit (Level E) for the past several weeks, and I am so happy to share our review with you.

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Program Costs

Spelling You See is currently available at 5 different levels. These levels do not directly correspond to grade levels, but rather are based on student ability and developmental stage. A readiness guideline is available on the website, so that you can find out exactly which level is right for your student.  Costs of each level are as follows:

Spelling You See: Listen and Write (Level A)
Instructor’s Handbook $14
Student Pack $20

Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B)
Instructor’s Handbook $16
Student Pack $30

Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C)
Instructor’s Handbook $14
Student Pack $30

Spelling You See: American (Level D)
Instructor’s Handbook $14
Student Pack $30

Spelling You See: American Spirit (Level E)
Instructor’s Handbook $14
Student Pack $30

At this time, the levels are equivalent to elementary level work, though higher levels of the program are already in the works.

About the Program

Most spelling programs have the same basic premise: spelling is best learned through memorization of a given list of words. True, some programs may have games and activities to make spelling more “fun”, but most still fall back to this same foundational idea. Spelling You See is something completely different. There are no lists to memorize. Instead, children focus on a passage for the week, presented in the form of copywork and dictation, in which the student is introduced to new words. This allows students to see the word as it is used in its proper context, rather than as just another word in a list. Because the student reads the passage, then copies it, and finally writes it from parent dictation, this method involves all of the senses, which helps greatly with learning and retention.

 How the Program Works

This program is meant to be done in small amounts every day. Each week’s lesson is broken down in the student workbooks by day, consisting of a 2-page spread for the day’s activities.  These activities consist of 2 sections. In section one of each day, students first listen to the parent read the week’s passage, then read the passage together with the parent, and finally go through the passage again in order to identify irregular letter patterns, such as double vowels, consonant blends, word endings, etc. The student marks these patterns with colored pencils. The program refers to this as “chunking”. The second section of each day’s activities is where the copywork and dictation come in. The first 2 days of the week, the student copies the passage, marking the “chunks” afterward. On the last 3 days of the week, students write the passage as it is dictated by the parent. The passages gradually increase in difficulty over the course of the program, and the “chunking” activities get a bit more extensive, but the structure of the program remains the same. There are no lists and no tests. Students learn spelling naturally. It really is that simple.

What We Liked About the Program

There are a number of things that set this program apart from other spelling programs on the market. Here are some of our favorite features:

  • The program done daily, in small amounts. By doing a bit each day, rather than cramming for a couple of days a week, students are truly learning, rather than memorizing only to later forget.
  • Parent involvement is essential. Students are not sent off to memorize on their own. Parents are directly involved in the learning process every single day.
  • The program combines the activities of copywork and dictation, vocabulary, spelling, and handwriting all into one package.
  • Students learn to pay close attention to detail. The copywork especially helps them to pay close attention to each word, as well as the punctuation used in the passage.
  • There are no tests, and no anxiety. As a firm believer that tests do not necessarily reflect ability or skill, this is a huge plus.

Final Opinion

My children and I really love this method for learning to spell. I have never been a fan of spelling lists and memorization. I believe that there is a HUGE difference between memorization and true learning. In fact, until reviewing this program, we have gone a long time without a spelling curriculum in our homeschool at all for this very reason. I think Spelling You See is perfect for parents who, like me, want students to truly learn to spell, rather than just learn to memorize a list of words. I only really have 2 issues/ suggestions for the program. I do wish that there was a cursive option for the student books, since my children are past the printing stage. However, we were able to do the dictation portion in cursive, since the workbook just has blank lines for that activity anyway. I also hope that the program is extended to include other topics. American Spirit (Level E) focuses on American history. I hope that in the future, the publishers might consider other options as well, such as literature-based passages. These things aside, however, I think this is a fantastic program, and definitely one of the best options I have ever seen for teaching spelling naturally. I think students can benefit more from this method of teaching than from methods found in most other programs.

For further information, please visit the Spelling You See website. You can also follow Spelling You See on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Copywork Resources from Homeschool Encouragement

As a big fan of handwriting practice and copywork, I just wanted to take a few moments to share some new copywork resources from Homeschool Encouragement with all of you. This time, there are plenty of options, and some that might especially appeal to the young boys in your homeschools.

Are you all watching the Olympic games? Homeschool Encouragement has the perfect accompaniment, an 18-page Olympic-themed copywork book, available in both manuscript and cursive.

OlympicsCopyworkMANUSCRIPT_Page_01  OlympicsCopyworkCursive_Page_01

And, of course, Valentine’s Day is almost here, so Homeschool Encouragement also has a 13 page copywork book based on 1 Corinthians 13.  These are also available in both manuscript and cursive.

1Corinthians13CopyworkManuscript_Page_01 1Corinthians13copywork_Page_01

All of these, as well as other copywork options, can be found on the Homeschool Encouragement product page. I also encourage you to subscribe to the page for all the latest news, as well as additional freebies!

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Copywork

All this week, the members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are continuing our Homeschool Essentials Blog Hop. Today, I would like to talk about our use of copywork.

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Benefits of Copywork

Copywork doesn’t always seem to be high on the list of homeschool priorities, especially as children get older. When children are young, of course, we try very hard to make sure that they practice their handwriting, learning to form each little letter to perfection. Copywork is an excellent way to continue daily handwriting practice as the child gets older. But that isn’t the only reason I feel that copywork is essential. Some other benefits of copywork are:

  • Copywork can help with writing and sentence structure. The more children are exposed to, and then copy, properly structured sentences, the more easily they are able to create their own sentences, and to recognize improper sentence structure.
  • Bible verses can be used for copywork, making scriptures easier to learn and remember, since writing them helps lock the words into children’s memories.
  • Poetry and passages of classical literature can be introduced in small amounts through copywork. Rhyme, rhythm, and meter of poetry are especially made much easier to  observe once children are familiarized with them by copying the poetry themselves.
  • Copywork improves spelling skills and vocabulary. Rather than having a simple list of spelling words or vocabulary to memorize, copywork puts the words in the context of sentences. The more children see, and copy, a word spelled correctly, the easier they can remember how to do so on their own.
  • Copywork encourages attention to detail. Children have to pay close attention not only to the words they are copying, but also to punctuation, capitalization, etc. This forces them to focus and to train their minds to notice fine details.

Best Sources for Copywork

There are many sources for copywork out there. Copywork is especially popular with those who adhere to the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. Quick searches on Google or Pinterest can give you plenty of resources. Because I like to customize our copywork in order to fit with current Scripture or other subjects we are studying, I prefer to make my own copywork pages most of the time. For making our own pages, we use either Worksheet Works or Handwritingworksheets.com. These sites allow you to type in whatever passage you want, and customize the layout to suit your needs.

For the Reluctant Copier

I know that there are plenty of children who just don’t enjoy writing, so for them copywork may seem quite a chore. Or, sometimes children may just tire of doing copywork every day. In these cases, I try to find new ideas to make the writing more interesting. If a child has a favorite author or book, using a well-known passage or other quote from the author is a good option. Using quotes from favorite movies is a great option for those children (like mine) who are big movie buffs. Riddles and tongue twisters are an especially fun way to either ease into the idea of copywork, or just to break up the monotony. The possibilities are really endless, but the point is that, especially with the ability to create your own copywork pages, this can definitely be an enjoyable part of the day.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our copywork essentials. Please come back for other “essential” posts coming throughout the week. Please also take a few moments to visit a few of my team members’ blogs this week to learn about some of their Homeschool Essentials as well!

Tabitha @ The Homeschool Four

LaRee @ Broad Horizons

Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas

Amy @ Counting Change. . .  Again

Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning

Gena @ I Choose Joy! 

Adena @ AdenaF

Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue

Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

Last Week’s Wrap-Up

A nasty stomach bug hit our family at the end of the week, so once again, our wrap-up post has been delayed. I didn’t want to skip it all together, though, since we had an excellent week in our homeschool.

We had originally intended to start a new Bible study this week, but as we were finishing our review of the Mere Christianity Journal, (review post coming soon) the boys REALLY started getting into the material, which spurred some pretty deep discussions and scripture studies. So, that more than covered Bible study for this week.

 photo trisms_graphic_zps0ff8bad7.jpgAs far as our other subjects, we revamped a LOT this past week. We implemented a curriculum called TRISMS, which is a chronological, history-based, research-focused curriculum. It incorporates several subjects all together, giving it an almost unit study feel.

We actually used TRISMS in conjunction with the Classical History we were already doing, which has worked out extremely well. For writing, we were already using IEW, which is the writing program integrated into the TRISMS curriculum, so the kids already had a good feel for what would be expected in their writing, with the added benefit of the writing assignments woven right into the curriculum.

Science and math are a part of the curriculum as well, but only to the extent of noting developments or important persons in the field. So, we will continue with our Apologia for science and Life of Fred for math.

Overall, the boys are really loving the way everything is woven together. It makes each subject more meaningful, since they can see how it all fits together. The curriculum also allows them to further research areas that are especially interesting to each of them. Another thing they really love is that, overall, school takes a LOT less time, since there is a lot less skipping from one subject to the next. I am also seeing a great increase in their amount and length of focus.

In other words, we are all loving this curriculum, and we had a pretty fantastic homeschool week.

Christmas Freewriting Freebie

Can you believe it is only 8 days until Christmas? Ack!! In our homeschool, we are finishing up this last week before we take our Christmas break. Keeping focus is difficult, of course, and we are taking a more relaxed and fun approach, with most of our activities focusing on the upcoming holiday. I am so thankful that there are some ready-made resources out there to help us during busy times like this! Today I would like to share with you all a great resource we have found for Christmas-themed writing activities, the Christmas Freewriting Freebie now available from Homeschool Adventure Co.
Writing can be hard work. Good writing most often results from much rewriting, and much rewriting can make a writer weary. 

BecausePhilosophy Adventure™ students create and refine a biographical narrative speech over the course of several weeks, (supported by clear step-by-step guidance and seven writing checklists), we created several freewriting exercises to offset that hard work with play, and simply encourage students to have fun writing. 

We soon discovered that students—even those who considered themselves “non-writers”—produced surprising results using these exercises. Both students and parents were amazed. (Some parents even joined in the fun!) 
We are delighted to share with you this “Christmas Freewriting.”
To download your own copy of the Christmas Freewriting Freebie, visit Home School Adventure Co.
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