Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An extra second.......

I hope that everyone enjoyed the extra second that was added in today. I am sure that everyone caught up on all sorts of important things, LOL. Wondering why an extra second? NASA explains what is really behind the infamous,  "leap second". For those that really just want a SIMPLE explanation, in a nut shell, the earth is slowing down a bit. There is worry that the extra second "may" cause issues. This small scale hype reminds me of the fear leading up to the year, 2000. We all survived Y2K and I am sure that we will all survive this too. For those really interested in the details of this "leap second" there is plenty of information out there to satisfy the intrigue behind this very special day, June 30, 2015.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Supreme Court Ruling......

I have gone back and forth as to whether I wanted to blog about the recent ruling about same sex marriage. After much thought, I decided that decisions made by our government will have an impact on my family and choices that we make. I am not ashamed to admit that I am 100% against homosexuality and how our government is trying to redefine "marriage". 

I believe that the Supreme Court has grossly violated what marriage is ordained by God to be ~ one man and one woman!!!! Homosexuality is a sin and is unnatural and perverted. I ache for the world that my children are growing up in. I, as a Christian, believe the Bible to be absolute truth and cannot and should not be picked apart and rewritten to fit personal agendas. The Bible is NOT outdated and never will be. May God have mercy upon our nation.

n. noun 
  • 1. the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman 

A recent Grace Gems was so relevant regarding this Supreme Court decision.
"In the twenty-first century, we are obsessed with self-satisfaction and getting our desires met. Hence, any teaching that invades our lifestyle and tells us we must alter or discard out old habits, is usually consigned to the junk pile. In so thinking and doing, the church has been transformed into a spiritual playpen where the crying babies must be appeased with what makes them feel good.
The Evangelical world is abuzz with terms like "purpose driven church" or "seeker friendly church". What these terms really amount to is one thing: compromise. 
The goal of churches should not be to see how much like the world they can be, so as to make worldly people feel comfortable. Rather, the churches should be so unlike the world, so alien to the world, that the disillusioned unbeliever will be drawn to them."
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?
What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

I find it so ironic that homosexuals use this as their symbol. God used the flood to purge out sin. According to scripture homosexuality is a sin. 
The first rainbow appeared as a covenant God made with mankind. 
In Genesis, a rainbow appears right after the worldwide flood brought in order to remove sinful and evil-minded man from the earth. It symbolized God's mercy and the covenant He made with Noah (representing mankind) not to destroy the world in such a way again.

Genesis 9:12, 15
12. And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature with you, for everlasting generations: 
13. I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth . . . and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 
Hebrews 13:4
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Romans 1:26-28
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Mark 10:6-9
"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Leviticus 18:22
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
I Corinthians 6:17-20But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
I Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The Bible is NOT outdated. It is the inspired word of the Lord. It is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. It is not okay to redefine what the scriptures say. We cannot pick and choose what we want to belief and follow. We cannot take out of context scripture to fit our agendas. Our nation, and world is depraved and in desperate need of the Savior. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I pray that the eyes of the blind, the unbelieving, will seek and find the truth which can only be found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

In the end I am responsible, before the Lord, for myself, and others for themselves.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Romeo and Juliet

My older children and I had the opportunity to see a production of Romeo and Juliet, for the 2015 Summer Season of Shakespeare in the Park. The evening was wonderful. The acting was top notch and the costumes and scenery were fabulous. The weather was great considering it is summer, and we live in Texas. Shakespeare can be hard to understand and follow so it is always great when you can experience Shakespeare's works live. This is the second year that we have attended Shakespeare in the Park. We always enjoy the productions that are put on. We cannot wait for the rest of the season's picks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Circle C Adventures ~ Tales from the Circle C Ranch

I had the opportunity to review Susan K. Marlow's new book, Tales from the Circle C Ranch by Circle C Adventures. Along with the book, there was a downloadable activity book, Andrea Carter's Tales from the Circle C Ranch Learning Lapbook.

Susan K. Marlow's, Tales from the Circle C Ranch is a book containing a collection of eleven short stories. Part One: The Early Years contains four short stories and Part Two: The In-Between Years contains seven short stories. Again, we are drawn into the life of Andi Carter, an independent tomboy growing up in California in the 1800's. The inspiration for this book came from fans' questions about Andi and happenings in her book series. 

When the book arrived in the mail, both of my daughters were fighting over who got to read it first. It is so exciting to see your child enthusiastic about reading. Marlow's book are wholesome books for the whole family. 

The following stories are included in Tales from the Circle C Ranch:
  1. Britches Are Not for Little Girls
  2. The Best Gift of All
  3. Aunt Rebecca and the Hat
  4. White Christmas
  5. Prince Loco, Chad's Crazy Horse
  6. Hurrah for the Forth of July!
  7. A Matter of Honor
  8. Snakes Alive!
  9. Virginia's Riding Lesson
  10. Where the Trees Meet the Bay
  11. Adios, Jeffrey Sullivan
Who Read the Book
My daughters and I read the book. We all enjoyed learning a bit more about various events that took place in the other Circle C Ranch books. 

My 6th grader said,
"All of the stories are fun and creative. Some of the stories are short, and some are long. All eleven chapters of the book are very riveting. It is difficult, but if I had to choose my favorite stories, they would be; White Christmas, Virginia's Riding Lesson, Where the Trees Meet the Bay and Adios, Jeffrey Sullivan. The reason that I chose these stories was because they had a lot of action and drama. 
My favorite part of the book is the family. I like the old fashion mother and the smart and fashionable sister. I absolutely love the brothers; Justin, Chad and Mitch. Justin is a lawyer and Chad and Mitch run the ranch. I love how the three of them beat up all of the crazy people that cross their family."

My 3rd grader said, 
"There are eleven great stories in one book. I cannot believe that they could fit so much greatness into 150 pages! I loved reading the book. It was very exciting. One of my favorite stories was, Virginia's Riding Lesson. In this story I like when Virginia was riding Pal and he ran away. 
Another one of my favorites was, Snakes Alive!. In this story it is sad because Andi thought she had killed the snake. 
My last favorite story was, Britches Are Not for Little Girls. I felt so sorry for Andi because she has to wear a dress."


My 3rd and 6th graders absolutely loved doing the lapbook activities and learning information about the stories they read in Tales from the Circle C Ranch. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the interesting topics which included:
  • An 1800's General Store
  • History of Photography
  • Jingle Bells
  • Blizzards
  • State Fair
  • History of Fireworks
  • Limericks
  • California King Snake
  • Saddles
  • Pacific Coast States
  • Crabs
  • Visiting Cards
  • The Apothecary

One of the activities was on limericks. Edward Lear is the man who is credited for creating this type of poem. Limericks are often times funny. My daughter was having a very silly day and created this limerick. 

Today I wanted to have a party,
But I was feeling a little farty,
I began to cry,
But my tears were dry,
So I played with my cat, Arty. 

Our Overall Thoughts
Susan K. Marlow wrote another great book!!! We cannot wait to read more of her adventures with Andi. My girls absolutely loved the lap books. I would highly recommend Circle C Adventures ~ Tales from the Circle C Ranch to all educators and homeschoolers. 

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

SmartKidz Media

I had the opportunity to review, SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers, from SmartKidz Media. SmartKidz is a digital resource library for homeschoolers. They utilize Cloud technology to stream their videos in order to deliver quality media on any device at any time. Whether you are watching for pleasure or for educational purposes, SmartKidz Media has something for everyone in the family. 

The Family Media collection has the following:
  • World of Discovery
    1. Animals and Wildlife
    2. Action Sports
    3. Documentaries and Culture
    4. Health and Fitness
    5. History
    6. Lifestyle and Cuisine 
    7. Science
    8. Travel and Adventure
  • Music and Fine Arts
    1. Fine Arts
    2. Classical Music
    3. Cultural Music
    4. Jazz and Blues
    5. Relaxation
My 8th grader loves history and thoroughly enjoyed the section on history. He watched the six part series on, World War II as well as the videos on Mysteries of Ancient Times

The Reading and Learning Center was filled with the following:
  • Mighty eBook Collection
This collection is geared towards preschool age through around age eight. The collection of eBooks has story songs, read alongs, classics, animated eBooks, reading readiness, and Bible.
  • Baby Signs Program
This program is based off of the Baby Signs® Program. This collection teaches basic sign language to babies and young toddlers.
  • My Animal Family
This fun animal collection has video storybooks, fun fact books, and story songs. Your child can listen to animal song or hear books read to them about animals.
  • Quick Find Study Guides
This collection of study guides has resources for the student in Shakespeare's Language Arts, Newton's Math, Einstein's Science, and Ben Franklin's Social Studies.

  • Learning Special Needs
This amazing collection is for children who need a little extra help. The titles of these wonderful collections are Hear The Book and Interactive Books. They cover a wide variety of subjects which help to engage the child in areas of personal, social, and coping skills.
  • Ready Set Sing
This musical collection has over 200 sing-along songs.
  • Fun Zone
This collection contains games, puzzles,  jokes, and riddles.

How we used SmartKidz Media
My 8th, 6th, 3rd, and 1st graders used this site. There was definitely something for everyone to learn and enjoy. We are frequently on the go, and SmartKidz Media helps to fill in the gaps when taking schoolwork is not convenient. Whether my kids were watching for education or just for pleasure, I knew that what they were watching was beneficial. There were parts of the collection that we did not watch because they were not applicable or interesting to us, but it still left a lot of selection for the things we did like. 

My girls really enjoyed the Fun Zone!! My 1st grader liked Dress the Divas where she got to dress up girls. She had to look at a picture of them all dressed up and then had to redress them by remembering what they were all wearing. My 3rd and 6th graders liked the puzzles collection. On a puzzle selection called, Where in the World Are We, after putting the puzzle together, the child answers a geography question using the map they put together. 

As a parent, I was impressed by the, Quick Find Study Guides. There is great information in this section. Whether you need a quick grammar review or information on our presidents, you will find information on these subjects and so much more. 

For those times when I just needed a break, the Mighty eBook Collection was great. While one sibling entertained themselves, my 1st grader had fun listening to books being read to her. She is not quite at the stage of reading by herself without help, so this was a great alternative. 

My 3rd grader said,
"My favorite part of SmartKidz Media was the animal videos. I love animals." 
My 3rd grader adores animals, so the Animal and Wildlife section was by far her favorite. She is studying animal sciences this year, and these videos were the perfect way to supplement what was learned during the school year.  

Overall Thoughts
SmartKidz Media provides a great selection of entertainment and learning for the whole family. I would recommend this to fellow educators and homeschoolers seeking an online outlet for their children. 

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

CTC Math

I had the privilege of reviewing the 12 Month Family Plan  by CTC Math.

CTC Math is a comprehensive online math tutorial program. It begins with Kindergarten and goes through upper level Calculus and Trigonometry. The program is set up so that the student can work at their own pace. For the student who is struggling in math, they can stop, rewind, and listen to any lesson until they understand the given concept. For the student who excels in math, they can work ahead, complete a grade level, and move onto the next with ease. 

Courses Available
  • Kindergarten
  • 1st Grade
  • 2nd Grade
  • 3rd Grade
  • 4th Grade
  • 5th Grade
  • 6th Grade
  • Basic Math and Pre-Algebra
  • Elementary Measurement
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Algebra I
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus 
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
It is important to note that CTC Math provides a comprehensive, full curriculum for grades K-6. Beyond grade 6, it is recommended that this curriculum be used as a supplement. 

When purchasing the program, you have full access to all grade levels, so your student has the freedom to move up or down in the levels as needed. 

CTC Math has over 1,400 lessons, or as they call them, tutorials, in 16 levels of study. Each lesson is around 4-9 minutes in length. Concepts are presented with step-by-step instruction. 

For the lower grades, the student simply enters the answer to each problem presented in a lesson and the program automatically keeps score of their progress. 

There are lesson summaries so that the parent can review the lesson with their child. 

In the upper grades, the student can either print out the lesson or just utilize scratch paper to work through the lesson problems. The student is able to redo a lesson up to three times in order to improve their score. The worksheets are multiple-choice and have a set of possible answers given. The answers are mixed up, and there are extra answers provided as well as incorrect answers in order to avoid student guessing. 

After the lesson is complete, the student enters their answers, and the program generates your score for the lesson. There is also an option where you can enter in some answers, save your progress, and then go back and load your progress. 

The student can view the solutions to the problems which is a great tool of reference for missed problems. 

In the upper levels, the student can also print out a lesson summary to file in a notebook for reference purposes. 

CTC Math provides a comprehensive progress report for the student. For each lesson, a student begins or finishes the program then logs their results, along with detailed information such as whether they've passed or failed, how long it took to complete the lesson, and how many times the student attempted to improve a grade with the three attempts given.  

The parent also has the option of receiving weekly reports and/or newsletters. I actually found this to be very helpful. Instead of logging into each of my children's pages to view their progress, CTC Math sends me their progress via e-mail. 

Speed Skills

Speed Skills are timed tests to practice various math skills. There are four levels of skills, each level more advanced than the one before it. As you move to the upper grades, the content in the levels change to include harder concepts and mixed problems. For the student that loves to be challenged, this is GREAT!! For the student that does not do well under pressure or is slow at typing, this may be somewhat overwhelming and frustrating. The Speed Tests do work great for working on those pesky addition/subtraction and multiplication/division tables. 

Who used CTC Math

My 9th Grader:
Wow, wow, wow!!!!!!!!! My 15 year old who is struggling with Geometry this year is loving math again. I cannot tell you how excited I was because I never thought I would hear those words come out of her mouth. She has a smile on her face which is a wonderful change from her normal tears of frustration. Since beginning upper level mathematics, she has tried several curriculums and each one frustrated her. This program is the only one that she has been able to succeed in. 

She said, "Other math curriculums make learning math so confusing. It is like math curriculums assume that everyone is good at math and will understand. This curriculum teaching math in a way that I truly understand and get!!"

*An IMPORTANT note about Geometry. Since Geometry requires sketching graphs and writing out proofs, multiple choice answers are not possible. Once the student completes the lesson, they view the detailed solutions, and from there the students grade their work and then enter in the grade received. 

My 1st Grader:
My first grader really enjoyed working through the math lessons. The lessons were long enough to make sure that she was able to understand the concepts without being so long that she lost interest. Many times I would see a smile appear across her face and hear an, "Oh, I get it now!". The only problem that she faced was working to fast and then getting problems wrong. For the most part, my daughter was able to complete the lessons on her own with only minimal help.

My 3rd Grader:
My third grader does not enjoy math and struggles with it quite a bit. She was NOT excited about trying "another" math curriculum. Well, after the first lesson, she actually said, "Mom, I like this math". She was highly motivated by the printable certificates that the student is awarded at the end of a chapter. She was able to complete two or three math lessons in a sitting without a problem. I will definitely continue to use this curriculum for my daughter. 

My Experience 
Truth time, I am horrible at math, and I always have been. I decided to make a profile for myself and start with Algebra and see what happened. I soon felt success and accomplishment. I like that you have the option of printing out the lesson summary, worksheet, and solution pages. It is extremely easy to go between the lesson, worksheet, entering results, viewing solutions, and the lesson summary page. I actually understood and followed the teaching and was able to complete the lessons without a problem. This curriculum is AMAZING!! I will continue to use this curriculum, and I may even get through Calculus like my kiddos, LOL. 

Overall Thoughts
This curriculum is truly a WINNER!!! There are so many math curriculums out on the market, but not every curriculum is a good fit for every child. I will definitely continue to use this curriculum with several of my children. I would highly recommend this curriculum to educators and fellow homeschoolers. I am always excited when I find curriculums that FIT our family's needs. 

To read more reviews click HERE

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy 86th Birthday Anne Frank

Today would have been Anne Frank's 86th Birthday. Anne Frank is a name known around the world, and for good reason. Today marks a day 86 years ago that God gave Anne life knowing the significant role she would play in history. Her life lives on through the diaries that she kept. History was preserved firsthand through her writings and miraculously saved and later found. We have all been touched by her bravery, insight, courage, and honesty. Her life, though snuffed out in a most horrible way, lives on.

Anne Frank (part 1)

(part 2)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

An Eye Opening Documentary

There is a wonderful documentary on Netflix called, On the Way to School, that chronicles four children from remote, disparate environments and the obstacles and challenges as they make their way to get an education. We often take for granted education and our children definitely take for granted the ease at which they are able to receive their education. The determination of these children to receive an education is truly inspirational. The challenges that they face is heartbreaking and unfathomable. This is truly a documentary that the whole family should watch!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dynamic Literacy ~ Elements Level 1, Deluxe Edition

I had the opportunity to review Elements Level 1 ~ Deluxe Edition, by Dynamic Literacy. This vocabulary development series is for the student who has successfully mastered phonics and is familiar with academically based content text. In Elements Level 1 the student will learn 25 Latin and Greek Root Families. The WordBuild the Game CD game contains over 200 roots and 18,000 words.

Check out the Elements 1 sample to get a feel for what Dynamic Literacy has to offer.

I have always been fascinated by the study of words and their origins. Words are the basic building blocks of communication for all languages. The more words that a students know, the better they will be with regards to writing, reading and speaking. 

Elements 1 contains a full year's worth of activities that focus on the most commonly used roots of our language. Dynamic Literacy relies on having the student learn the meanings of the key elements of a word's roots, prefixes, and suffixes instead of rote memorization. With rote memorization, the student often times forgets what they have memorized. With this program students remember words and their meanings because they learn to understand the core parts of words. With minimal time each day, your student will be well on his way to successful vocabulary development.

You may ask exactly how and why does WordBuild work? Well, after learning the 93 most frequently used roots of the English language, along with prefixes and suffixes the student is able to decipher over 16,000 words.

prefix + root + suffix = WORD

The student activity book is broken down into weekly units. Each week is broken down into a five day plan. 

Day 1 ~ Root Square Activity
Day 2 ~ Magic Square Activity
Day 3 ~ Stair Steps Activity
Day 4 ~ Comprehension Boosters
Day 5 ~ Assessment/Check-Up Form (these are found in the Teacher Manual)

“To enjoy and learn from what you read you must understand the meanings of the words a writer uses. You do yourself a grave disservice if you read around words you don’t know, or worse, merely guess at what they mean without bothering to look them up.

For me, reading has always been not only a quest for pleasure and enlightenment but also a word-hunting expedition, a lexical safari.” 
~Charles Harrington Elster~

How we used Elements Level 1:
I had my sixth grade daughter use this program. She was very excited about learning how to unlock word meanings without always having to look in a dictionary or ask me. She REALLY liked the short amount of time that was required to complete each days lesson section. In her words, "I wish all of my subjects could be like this." My daughter is a strong, avid reader who reads on average 25+ novels a year. She is now getting into the more advanced high school level classics. She is coming upon words that she is unfamiliar with. This program helped her decipher word meanings in these upper level novels.

I really like how all of the activities within the lesson complement one another. The student progresses from forming words using roots, to defining and using the words within a given context. It is important that students not only read but understand what they are reading. Dynamic Literacy comes alongside, and provides the keys to unlocking words and their meanings with this easy, step by step process. 

My daughter's favorite activity is Day 1, Root Squares. The student is given a "root" and then eight word parts and the goal is for the student to create as many words as they can. For example:

Word Finds
  1. special
  2. specialist
  3. specially
  4. specials
  5. specialists
  6. expect
  7. expects
  8. inspect
  9. inspection
  10. inspects
  11. inspections
  12. suspect
  13. suspects 

I like how Dynamic Literacy teaches the student HOW words are built. When a child is able to unlock the meaning of a word, all of the sudden, there is life and meaning and purpose for that word. Words give writing emphasis and color. 

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.” 
~Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science~

I was unable to use the WordBuild the Game Supplemental CD because Dynamic Literacy has not continued to update their program to work with the more current operating systems for Apple users. When I contacted Dynamic Literacy, they said it was too hard to keep up with the Apple operating system updates so they have not updated past the OS X system. This supplemental CD could also be used as a supplement to the Dynamic Literacy Online Curriculum. Purchasing and using this game is not necessary for the completion and/or success of the curriculum. 

Final Thoughts
I really liked this curriculum and think that it would be appealing to many educators and homeschoolers, based on the ease and amount of time needed each day to complete the required work. I will definitely continue to use this curriculum with my children. 

“Will I have to use a dictionary to read your book?" asked Mrs. Dodypol. "It depends," says I, "how much you used the dictionary before you read it.” 
~Alexander Theroux, Darconville's Cat~

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing ~ Level A

I had the privilege of reviewing the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A, for grades 3-5, along with A Word Write Now and Portable Walls for Institute for Excellence in Writing.

The set includes:
My Initial Thoughts 
To be honest, when I first began looking through Teaching Writing: Structure & Style, I was extremely overwhelmed. I felt like I was about to climb an insurmountable mountain that was surely going to end in failure. I put the curriculum aside for a day and then went back to it, determined to not let it intimidate me. I began organizing the curriculum with the amazing step by step instructions and started to feel a sense of accomplishment. As I began watching the first teacher training DVD, my fears, doubts and questions all melted away. It was like the clouds had lifted and the sun was shining down on me. After listening to the first two hour instructional DVD, all I could say was, "WOW"!!! I had truly stumbled upon a real gem of a curriculum. My excitement was hard to contain and I couldn't wait to continue learning this amazing approach to writing. I soon realized that this curriculum was going to be just as beneficial for me as it would be for my children. My only sadness came with the thought that I wished I would have stumbled upon this curriculum years ago. I could not wait to share with my children, all that there was to glean from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Institute for Excellence in Writing suggests that you follow the following schedule in order to complete the curriculum in one school year:
  • Units 1-2 in September
  • Unit 3 in October
  • Unit 4 in November
  • Unit 5 in December/January
  • Unit 6 in February 
  • Unit 7 in March
  • Unit 8 in April
  • Unit 9 in May
Of course, this is just a guide. The curriculum can easily by adjusted for the older student, wishing to complete the curriculum at a faster pace, or the younger student, needing more time to successfully complete it. 

A Thematic Thesaurus for Stylized Writing

A Word Right Now is a theme based thesaurus for the student to reference in order to use more variety in there writing. 

Section A, covers character traits such as:

Such words as "frightened", "unsurely", and "shy away" are just a few of the colorful words that could be used instead of fearfulness. The words are broken down into parts of speech. Each character trait is defined. Quotes and excerpts form Classical Literature are included for each character trait. 

Section B, covers descriptive words such as:

Adjectives for texture based on different textures such as wetness, roughness, fuzziness and tightness are given. Excerpts from Classical Literature are included to show how more colorful words are used in the context of writing.

Section C, covers words for movement and senses. 

The Appendix has many useful tools for the student to use in order to aid in their writing journey. 

Portable Walls

The Portable Walls is an amazing "go to tool" for the student to reference as they write. This reference folder included helpful reminders in the following:

  • Dress-ups
  • Sentence Openers
  • Decorations
  • Triple Extensions
  • "-ly" Adverbs
  • "-ly" Imposters
  • Prepositions
  • Synonyms for "said"
  • Strong Verbs
The portable wall also includes an overall summary for each unit. This is so very helpful!!!

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style
Institute for Excellence in Writing really sets out to help the educator understand the whole writing process and how it has been taught WRONG for so many years. It was pointed out that there is a very broad aptitude as well as a broad spectrum between students of same grades. This curriculum model sets out to reach all aptitudes and spectrums. So much of learning has to do with ATTITUDE. When a student is struggling learning is often times counterproductive. 

As educators, we need to stop and step back to think about some very critical components of the student writer. Have you ever heard your student or child say, "I just do not know what to write"? Well, often times, we as teachers tell a child to write about a particular topic or give them a writing prompt and say, write. Well, this sets the child up for failure. "Why"?, you ask. Well, a child does not have much life experience to come up with the content. Children think in the now. Source material for writing needs to come from what the child knows, not what they have only heard. As the children improve their writing skills, they also expand their thinking skills. Teaching writing is a building block process. If you stack the blocks out of order and haphazardly, the result will be a mess.

What do most children do when they hear, "Lets do grammar"? Normally it is not positive. Well, this curriculum sneaks grammar into the writing process, using context to teach grammar. 

Did you know that different areas of the brain direct different skills? Handwriting and art require fine motor skills. Composition, which encompasses language function and syntax, requires logic. Spelling is unique in that it requires, "correct retrial of sequentially stored virtually random bits of information".  You cannot expect the younger students to produce a composition if you are making them focus on handwriting too. Now, I am not saying that handwriting is not important, because it is.  When a younger students have to constantly jump from using one part of their brain to another, QUALITY and CONCENTRATION is lost. With patience and time, handwriting, composition and spelling become more automatic. 

No Erasing Allowed, did you know that:
  • turning a pencil around to utilize the eraser breaks the brains thought process 
  • having a no eraser rule "fights perfectionism"
I could continue to write about all of the amazing gems that I have learned while using Institute for Excellence in Writing, but I will let you, the reviewer, glean this information for yourself. This curriculum has so much to offer. 

Who used Student Writing Intensive
I used Student Writing Intensive with my 3rd and 6th graders. I focused more on my 6th grader, due to the short amount of time that I had to review this product. My 6th grader loves to read and write but we have not really stuck with any formal writing program, as of yet. When I first introduced the program to her, she was hesitant about what would be expected. I put her mind at ease and explained how Institute for Excellence in Writing was different than most writing curriculums that we had previously used. A smile appeared across her face when she successfully completed her first Keyword Outline and her Retelling. She enjoyed the DVD sessions. After the first go around, she was able to complete this two-step process modeled in the first 2 units of Student Writing Intensive in a very short amount of time, with great ease. The step by step process taught is straightforward. 

In Unit 1 the student is taught how to look at a given source text and make an outline. It is recommended that the student use their outline to orally retell the story or information of the source text. The curriculum explains in detail how to create a source text outline using three key words from each sentence. Symbols may be included in the outline and are considered FREE. The student is instructed in how to choose important key words in the outline process. 

In Unit 2 the focus is on retelling, in the students own words, using their outline the source text. The goal is to retell the source text in the students own words. One important rule of the rewriting process is that there is NO ERASING ALLOWED!! The focus should be on content and not on the handwriting. The goal is to have the child feel confident in their writing ability. The student is asked to produce several drafts in order to make sure that structure, style and mechanics are included in the final draft. 

My 6th grader was able to read a source text, produce an outline and retell the information in one sitting. At first the process took a greater length of time but as she continued to practice this process it became easy and enjoyable. 

For this review, we worked through units 1-2. I am looking forward to working through the rest of the units. I want to follow the suggested plan of progression so as not to compromise the desired outcome of skills for each unit. 

Fix-It! Grammar
I absolutely love Institute for Excellence in Writing's approach to teaching grammar. Instead of grammar exercises and worksheets that teach grammar rules and concepts, this curriculum utilizes stories to model proper grammar. Repetition ensures that the student gains mastery. The student acquires grammar rules and skills at the points that they are needed, within the given text. In about 15 minutes a day, four days a week, your student will learn vocabulary, grammar, style, editing skills, and textual fixes. Each day builds on the prior day's story text. Fix-It! Grammar Book 1 uses text from The Brother Grimm Fairy Tale ~ The Nose Tree. Fix-It! Grammar Book 2 uses text from Robin Hood. 

The purchase of the Fix-It! Grammar, Teacher's Manual entitles it's owner to a free download of the following:
  • Fix-It! Student Book e-book
  • Mastery Learning e-audio
  • But..But...But...What About Grammar? e-audio
If you would rather purchase the preprinted, spiral bound book, it is available for purchase. 

How we used it

I had my 3rd and 6th graders use the Fix It! Grammar books. This program is unlike any program that they have used in the past, in regard to grammar. They both liked that it only took a short amount of time each day. They also liked that they got to build upon a story to learn grammar. Both of my daughters are avid readers and so this really appealed to both of them. I found it easiest to sit and work through the given text each day with them instead of sending them off to do the days work on their own. This method of learning grammar is much more laid back and enjoyable that traditional grammar texts. 

Overall Thoughts
If you are looking for a writing curriculum, look no further. I would highly recommend this curriculum to homeschoolers and educators, alike. 

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