(This review, written by Lisa Nehring, was originally posted on the blog Golden Grasses. This product was received in exchange for an honest review.)
Spelling You See brought by the good folks who brought us Math You See, is hands down, FANTASTIC. We reviewed both Wild Tales (Level C) and American (Level D). After homeschooling five kiddos I’ve learned that spelling is a mixed bag in our home. We have some natural spellers, some okay spellers and some “shoot me now, ’cause I’ll never be able to figure this out,” spellers. I would almost count myself in that last category, and I thank God regularly for online dictionaries, and the creator of spell-check.
My mathy girl, age 11, struggles greatly with spelling. We’ve tried other spelling programs, and they’ve left her in tears. She is an excellent writer, but a hurtful comment about what a miserable speller she was, as well as her insecurities about spelling, left her with wounded confidence. With this came the belief that she just wasn’t ever going to “get” spelling. We’ve tried several programs, with success ranging from terrible to hopeful moderate.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We received a very slim teachers manual, two workbooks, and a well-packaged set of erasable colored pencils. Both my children were curious about the program straight off, given the pencils.
I had initially signed up to review American (level D). My daughter is a solid and confident reader. Due to a shipping snafu, we receive Wild Tales first, and then later on Americana. She and I looked through Wild Tales and decided to give it a go. Oh, I am so glad we did! Here’s what we found.
First, the layout of Spelling You See…..
Each lesson is formatted the same and divided into five sections; A, B, C, D, and E. The lessons focus on identifying and learning one of the following:
- vowel chunks
- bossy r chunks,
- consonant chunks
- wise Y’s.
The genius of this program is that the kids identify these areas and circle them. The vowel chunks are always yellow, the consonant chunks blue, etc. In this way, the kids learn to see the words in phonetic “chunks” versus individual letters. The lessons have loads of built-in repetition, and by the end of a lesson, the kids are writing it from dictation.
Wild Tales – Level C
Wild Tales begins with nursery rhymes and has an animal theme. The layout is simple but bright and colorful, and each picture coordinates with the text. While my daughter was far beyond the reading level of Wild Tales, this was a perfect place to start with spelling. From day one, her spelling improved. Not just a little, but significantly. She began writing letters to friends again (something she’s been avoiding since she realized she wasn’t quite up to speed with spelling), as well as leaving little notes around the house and in her Dad’s lunch. It was a joy to see her confidence grow by leaps and bounds!
Americana – Level D
Americana focuses on all things American. Part two even has Mt. Rushmore on the cover (we live in the Territories y’all!). Each day’s worth of spelling reiterates some small snippet of American History. Part of our daughter’s history for the year is to finish reading an American History book used in Co-op last year. Spelling You See’s American ties in beautifully, reiterating simple stories.
What did I love about Spelling You See?
One of the things that makes this so successful is that the program is not “grade level” dependent. The student starts wherever they are, gaining mastery quickly and painlessly. My daughter did several components of a lesson a day, blazing through Wild Tales, gaining spelling mastery along the way. In no way did she feel that she was behind or less than. The sentences and stories are complex enough to engage even those way beyond reading-wise.
Each section of a lesson takes about 10 minutes. We did spelling every day because she was highly motivated and enjoyed the lessons. The copy work and dictation are something we have used in English for years, so this was nothing new. Also, the spelling has to do with words the kids would use in everyday language. The focus is on spelling mastery; so there’s not a lot of bells, whistles, and extras thrown in. And for that, I am grateful. I’m all about the simplistic, straightforward, and effective!
How much will I have to spend?
Spelling You See is really middle of the road price-wise. Sure, you can find things cheaper, but for the quality, you really get what you pay for with this program. Below are the prices for each individual level.
Spelling You See
is worth every penny. This is a fantastic program for the spelling weary, the visual learner, and those invested in classical methodology. Really this program is perfect for anyone interested in an effective, affordable, excellent spelling program. I’m so thrilled to have found something that has given my daughter the skills she needed to unlock the mysteries of spelling. Major kudos to Spelling You See on being one of the best spelling programs we’ve ever used.
(If you loved this review be sure to also check out our thoughts on Math U See.)
RightStart Math Games Review
RightStart Math Games Review was exciting to do! Having taught for 16 years, I have seen many different approaches to math. I have found that the best approach is to be hands-on, visual, consistent, and thorough. Manipulatives can definitely meet the requirements of this approach, but so can games! RightStart’s Math Card Games is a set of games with custom cards.
The RightStart Games set comes with the following:
While you have to read the directions in the book very carefully to play the games, the included DVD and instructional videos available on the website make these games easy to explore and play! The students and my own son have enjoyed these games we have played in the True North Homeschool Academy Math Games Classes and at home.
Here are some of the games we tried, and what we thought of them:
Making Ten Game
My student and my son both really enjoy this game. We even modified it to add to 9, 8, 7, and 6 to reinforce those facts as well. The directions in the book were a little unclear, though. Because I have played the game on the IPad app, I understood most of the directions. The instructional DVD or the video on their website would also be useful to someone who wants to learn the game quickly and easily, or for those who are visual (like me). I did not discover the videos until after we had played the game. After reading through the directions several times, I was still unsure whether I was supposed to turn the cards over all at once, one at a time, or if that mattered. My conclusion was whichever made the student feel more successful. Overall, a fun game.
Multiples in Common
This was a fun game! Took about one round to get it down, but the kids really enjoyed it! Really made them think as at first, they wanted to just multiply the two numbers together to find the Least Common Multiple. As we went, they got faster at finding the right answer the first time! I let the students (I had 3 in class) team up against me. The first game I won by 1. As we entered into the second game, the comment was, “Come on guys, let’s bring it!” What a fun way to reinforce the Least Common Multiples!!!
We have played War in my classes and with my son, who is at about a second grade level for math. We have played it adding 2 cards, adding 3 cards, multiplying, and multiply then add. Kids really respond well to this game and seem to enjoy it. It is a game of luck, though, so they get disappointed when the cards don’t go “their way.”
I have one student who has fallen in love with this game. It is definitely a game of strategy. He will think through all the possibilities to see how many points he can earn. He currently holds a high score of over 700. He prefers to play by multiples of 3 rather than multiples of 5, as this offers more possibilities for play.
This is another game of strategy, so my strategic thinking students really like it. You have 4 sets of multiplication fact families you are working with, so it is a good way to reinforce those facts once they start to get them down, or to reinforce skip counting when first learning.
Here are a few other thoughts to consider when looking into whether or not to buy the RightStart Games set.
Making My Own Game
Using the cards, I was even able to create a “game” for my 3-year-old, who wants to do everything Big Brother does. We took one of each card (1-10), and worked to put them in order. These games and cards are great resources to create your own games, expand on a game in the manual, or play the game as written. It’s all about exploring math together, having fun and enjoying time together. When your child is relaxed and enjoying himself, math will “click” and make more sense!
Abacus and Custom Cards
When we are on the go, or I want to my son to “see” the problem a different way, I have found the Abacus a useful tool. It helps him to subitize (know how many without counting), the numbers quickly, an important skill in math. I even saw a Mini-Abacus available on their website now! The custom cards with fractions, time, multiplication, and money allow for math games to be played beyond what other programs I have seen allow. They really have given a lot of thought and consideration to putting together a set of games that can range throughout their curriculum.
Even after having the book for several months, I am still discovering new games and enjoying them with my students and my son. I really appreciate the wide variety of games – both “luck” based and “strategy” based that appeal to different types of learners. No matter what curriculum you are using as a base, it would be worth the investment to buy the RightStart Games set to use to supplement and add to your math routine.
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
When our kids struggle with math, it is often difficult to find a good “fit” to teach skills. Older students who struggle with lower math don’t want something that looks “baby-ish” or has a lower grade level plastered all over it! Here are some suggestions and ideas for helping your struggling learner with his struggles in math.
Finding the Right Curriculum
When you first start homeschooling, you soon realize that everyone’s homeschool looks different. There are so many curriculum options and homeschooling styles it can be overwhelming!! The biggest questions to ask yourself when looking at a curriculum:
- What kind of teacher are you? Do you like to have a script to follow? Do you like to be able to “change” things at times? How much support do you need to teach a subject (how strong are you in that subject)?
- What kind of learner is your child? Every child is different and learns differently. Some need visual, some need more auditory, some are hands-on. Some like colorful worksheets and some are distracted by cute pictures and poems on their worksheets.
When parents sign up for the classes and want a curriculum that will work with our program, I always recommend they look at Math U See. I have used Math U See with my own son, who has Autism. The simple layout of the worksheets and hands-on presentation of concepts through Decimal Street (place value) and the use of the colored blocks, makes math meaningful and visual for learners who struggle. It gives them an image to “see” in their mind when they are trying to find the answer. The introduction of place value addition and subtracting (adding and subtracting 10’s and 100’s) in Alpha has allowed my son to have a strong foundation continuing into Beta. A strong foundation at the beginning allows students to soar higher and faster later.
Why do we love Math U See?
First, there are the video explanations
The video presentation is great for showing parents the concepts behind what is being taught, and how to teach the lesson. Some older students have reported watching the DVD lesson with parents or by themselves to learn the material. I understand how this might work with some students and circumstances. My son needs me teaching him one on one for him to really grasp the concept. The wonderful thing about this curriculum is it is easily tailored to your child’s learning style.
Mastery vs. Spiral
I love the way this program teaches to mastery and is easy to modify for students based on need. I have divided up worksheets into parts to be completed at different times. I have used more or fewer of the lesson and review pages depending on how much practice my son needed for a lesson. Some parents and students do prefer a spiral method. Sometimes, though, a spiral method (where a concept is addressed again and again, each time adding more to it) can be confusing and frustrating for struggling learners, or children with memory issues who need repetition and daily practice to retain and increase skills.
Memorization vs. Strategy
I love the approach to addition and subtraction this program uses, with emphasis on how many it takes to get from 9 to 10 or 8 to 10 in order to help students have a strategy to solve problems, not just memorize facts. Many of the students who come to me struggle with memory problems, and the ability to use a STRATEGY, not just rely on memory enables them to be stronger in math.
Finally, Math U See is great for struggling writers.
Have a child who struggles with fine motor skills? My son does too. When we started our first year of homeschooling, my son could not even hold a pencil. He struggled with writing simple things like numbers and letters. Math U See allowed me to teach him math concepts without having to worry about a lot of writing. I could even write for him on days that writing numbers was too much. I was able to teach to his strengths while supporting his weakness. Because of this, he is thriving in math while we work to support the writing.
Should you use the blocks vs. digital app vs. no blocks?
It is important to have the blocks in the beginning. If cost is an issue, you may be able to buy a set used or even borrow a set for a while from someone. However, I don’t see how you could successfully implement this curriculum as it is intended without the blocks (or at least using something equivalent such as an abacus). The Digital App would work well for visual students or older students. It would allow the same visual concept with lower cost and take up less space.
I have found that when my son begins a new concept, he goes back to those blocks for a day or two until he learns the concepts, then is able to “see” the blocks in his head again to continue working through the concept as he continues through the lesson and test. He needs to be able to touch, manipulate, and otherwise experience the math through the blocks. While we will use an abacus at times (it is easier for travel), it is always the blocks we return to. Also, the blocks are used in the curriculum into Algebra, so they are a good investment if you are planning to stay with the curriculum long-term, and there are enough to use with more than one child at a time.
Whatever your decision, ultimately you have to find something that works for you and your child. For us, that was Math U See.
Do you need additional math help for your struggling learner? Find Live, online class with True North Homeschool Academy’s Struggling Learners Department!
Whether your child is struggling with addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, or fractions and decimals, we have a class for you! These interactive, hands-on games and activities help give students a strong foundation in math to help them whatever their post-high school goals are. Our positive, collaborative learning environment means the students feel supported, and comfortable enough to “try” even if they don’t know the answer for sure!
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning.
Michael Clay Thompson Grammar Review
Michael Clay Thompson Grammar! Oops, I did it again. I bought yet another grammar program. Now, my grammar shelf, the spot on my bookshelves where all my other Grammar programs live, it’s looking tighter than ever. But who can blame me? I suffer from one of those illnesses that plague some of us homeschooling moms; curriculitis.
Now you are wondering what curriculutis is, and if you are suffering from it too, but I will leave that for another time. The fact is that I have it and you are about to benefit from it!
This time my illness took me to the extraordinary Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts program (also known as MCT), and I am thrilled to share all about it with you.
This program is so extraordinary indeed that I binge-read the whole thing in five days, something I have never done before. And, why would anyone binge-read a Grammar program anyhow? And, what sort of grammar program can be so simple and interesting that someone would keep reading and reading? Let that sink in!
But if you can take my word for it, you would have done the same because this program is heavenly, is unique, is open-and-go, and you and your child will love it. This program is binge-read worthy.
But without further ado, here’s what you want to know.
The Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts program is all-encompassing.
It includes grammar at its core, grammar practice, sentence analysis, poetry, Latin roots-based vocabulary, and writing. These skills are all in a narrative style that will captivate any audience. Written by Michael Clay and published by Fireworks Press, it was created for gifted learners and is now available to anyone.
The grammar portion of the program, Grammar Island, is a seamless narrative with simple visuals that teaches you the core of written language: the parts of speech, the elements of a sentence, phrases, and clauses. You will learn to analyze any sentence using these four components but not isolated from each other. No! You will learn how they all work together to make written language easy to understand. The brilliance in which Michael Clay conveys a concept In Grammar Island is unparalleled and fascinating.
Once, there was a colorful adjective named Brown. Brown was lonely, and he went everywhere looking for a nice noun to modify. Brown saw Sky and asked, “hello, Sky. Can I modify you?” “No,” said Sky. “I already have blue.” Then Brown found the noun Grass, who was long here and short there. “Hello, Grass,” said Brown. “Can I modify you?” “I hope not,” said Grass. “Go away!” Brown was very sad. But then, over in a corner, Brown saw the noun Dog, who had two other adjectives, Fuzzy and Little, already modifying him. “Hello,” said Brown. “Can I modify you?” “Sure,” said Dog, as Fuzzy and Little stuck close to him. And away went the Dog- Little, Fuzzy and Brown.
Practice Island – Practice Books
The practice book contains a series of sentences to be analyzed using the four components mentioned above. You can go at any pace you want. You can analyze one sentence per day, a couple a week, or many at a time. You set your pace according to your goals for your students.
Music of Hemispheres – Poetry
The poetry book, called The Music of the Hemispheres, teaches you “technical things about the sound of words” and “cracks open the door, giving you a peek inside the huge world of creative life that poets live in.” In this narrative style book, you will learn about Rhyme, Alliteration, Meter, Stanza, Similes, and metaphors. It will be a unique journey into the poetry world in a fun and engaging manner. You will come out the other side very knowledgeable about all things poetry, and you will not be bored for a second.
Building Language – Vocabulary
The poetry book, called The Music of the Hemispheres, teaches you “technical things about the sound of words” and “cracks open the door, giving you a peek inside the huge world of creative life that poets live in.” In this narrative style book, you will learn about Rhyme, Alliteration, Meter, Stanza, Similes, and metaphors. It will be a unique journey into the poetry world in a fun and engaging manner.
The Building Language book is a book about Roman history, and how Latin roots affect all other modern languages, yes, that includes English too! You will learn “the secret of words” and lots of useful vocabulary that will, for sure, enrich the study of language arts in general. This book, in my opinion, is not to be missed.
Sentence Island – Writing
The Sentence Island book is the writing component of the program. To quote Michael Clay himself, “the strategy of Sentence Island is to start your writers off right by focusing on the true essence of writing: The Sentence. No amount of practice with paragraphs or essays will matter if students cannot write sentences.” I don’t know about you, but I think there is no further explanation required. When I first read that statement, I felt my world turning upside-down. I felt the need to backtrack and make sure that we were writing sentences that are “right: balanced, in agreement, with everything where it should be and meaning what it should mean.” Now, that is what I call revolutionary!
But you might have other questions like, what ages does this program cover? How do I know what to do and when? When should I start the program? How much does it cost? Let’s answer them one at a time.
First, what ages does this program cover?
The Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts program has several levels, the one I am talking about in this article is the first level, the Island Level. In my opinion, based on my experience with my own kids, I think advanced third graders and for sure fourth graders will understand and enjoy this program. I would also say that if you would like to use this first level with a middle schooler who has not had previous grammar instruction, you can too. Perhaps, you can use it at a faster pace. I mean, I am an adult, and I enjoyed it very much, to the point of reading all the books in less than a week! Now, that’s what I call a great program; when an adult can gain lots from it but at the same time be so simple as to help a child understand a concept.
How do I know what to do and when?
The program also comes with a weekly schedule for a total of 28 weeks of instruction. There is no guessing on what you should do next. However, you can adjust the program to slow it down a bit or go faster according to your goals for your students.
When should you start?
I believe you should start this program now! If you are struggling with grammar, this would be a burst of fresh air. This is a fun and engaging curriculum that will take the mysticism and fear out of Grammar, poetry, and writing in general. It will leave you feeling like you can understand grammar, teach it, enjoy it, and use it every time you put words into paper or keyboard for that matter!
What about the price point?
This program is on the upper end in price. The basic level package for level 1 is $150. It includes both the teacher and student manuals for the Grammar and practice components and only the teacher manual for the poetry, vocabulary and writing portions of the program. Then, there is the complete package, which costs $205 and includes both the student and teacher manuals for all the components of the program. I chose to buy the complete package.
Are you interested in the Michael Clay Thomas Grammar Program? Michael Clay Thompson Grammar Review leads us to believe it’s a winner!
Marcela was born in Santa Marta, Colombia, a beautiful town in the Caribbean which was the first Spanish settlement in the Americas, and is currently one of the largest ports in the continent. She was Classically Educated in an all girls school and graduated high school when she was 17 years old. She moved to the United States in 2001 to attend college and met the love of her life just 3 short weeks after she arrived. She has been married to her husband, Jeremy, for 16 years. They have 5 beautiful children; Laya, Samuel, Matthew, Joseph and Noah.
She attended Travis Technical Institute and earned a degree as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Later, she attended Polk Community College for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. She currently lives on a 40 acre ranch in Georgia and has homeschooled her children for the past 8 years. As a native Spanish speaker, she has taught Spanish at several co-ops. In her spare time, she enjoys reading non-fiction, photography, weightlifting, and researching and curating her own classical curriculum for her students. She teaches Spanish for True North Homeschool Academy.
Take Time for Art: Curriculum Review
Take Time for Art: Curriculum Review came about because I am always on the look-out for quality art programs for high school students. As a closet artist drawing instruction and the fundamentals of art have been non-negotiables in our homeschool. Couple these basics with several years of high-quality art instruction at co-op by some talented homeschool Mommas, along with some professional art instruction and well, we have high standards. And we have had a hard time finding homeschool art instruction or materials that meet the mark.
Enter Take time for Art: Hands-on Art History by Penny Hayes
First, we received a box of beautifully packaged, high-quality art materials. Each student pack comes with all but the most basic and common art materials and supplies needed to complete each of the projects featured. This actually makes the program so much more enjoyable because all you have to do is keep the project pack neatly and carefully packed together in a large, durable zip-lock bag for storage; meaning that your materials will be ready to use when needed.
We chose Ancient Greece instead of Ancient Egypt, or Ancient Rome because my 18-year-old son is an old hand at re-creating historically accurate weaponry and costumes and he was quite curious about the Spartan helmet included in the pack.
The program is a winning combination of online history, art instruction, and hands-on creation.
Ancient Greece’s program includes 16 units that vary in length between 5 and 22 minutes. Each unit covers a specific period and is a visual feast of artwork, compellingly narrated by Penny.
About every fourth lesson is an art project. For this set, the projects were:
- an octopus painting, reminiscent of frescos found in Ancient Greece
- a tile painting
- a foil relief picture
- a 3-D Spartan Helmet
These are not cheesy, elementary projects, but very nice, artistically delightful projects that are suitable for gift giving. Our art group included a 15-year-old artist, an 18-year-old artist and a 24-year-old nurse who does not consider herself an artist, all of whom are or were homeschooled. My two kids have had extensive art training and are quite good in their areas of interest, but the great thing about these projects is that provide a very solid base that allows your kids to follow the projects exactly or get creative.
Penny does an exceptional job of explaining and showing in detail each art project. Penny’s explanations are thorough and complete, and the lessons are neither too rushed or too drawn out.
Penny also includes the name and artist of each piece of artwork displayed in the Credits. Under “Resources” there is a brief welcome letter, materials, a pacing guide and resources needed to create each project. The Pacing Guide is actually a curriculum guide and includes art and history questions. This is a great introduction to basic art terms. Also included is a video on the color wheel and instructions on how to make one.
This program could quickly be turned into an art history class if the parent wants to have the kids memorize the artwork included, of which there is an impressive amount.
Also included was a unit titled, “On the Road with the Apostle Paul.” This is a lovely rendition of the Road to Damascus story, told in gorgeous artwork, again with Penny narrating. It is clever in all the best sense of the word, and a unique look at an important event in church history.
My kids were a bit worried that this program was going to be childish and silly but they spent several happy hours talking about the history, looking up and cross-referencing things Penny had mentioned (we are die-hard history people, too!). The art projects the kids chose to focus on gave them several happy hours of creative relaxation. Furthermore, the end results were lovely! Also, included were art mats and suggestions for how to complete the projects for every day use.
Lastly, Penny teaches the kids how to make a Roman Road in a cup. A simple but profound aspect of the Roman world and a lesson in construction that isn’t crazy messy but gets the point across.
Take Time for Art – I loved the thoroughness of the program, the attention to detail and Penny’s gentle and sweet spirit as she guides young artists through history and art!
This is a unique and well-done program and is definitely worth the cost, especially considering that you can have more than one student accessing the course at a time. Do yourself a favor and purchase the art supplies when you order the class so that you’ll have artist quality supplies at the ready.
The actual lessons add up to about 3 hours and each project will take between 1-3 hours. Each program is easily worth ¼ credit of art; combine two for ½ high school credit of Art, History or Elective credit. This program is easily accessible to kids in elementary school throughout High School and beyond and would make a lovely present for the historian or budding artist in your life!
You can find Penny on her blog, Take Time for Art, on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.)