Monday, August 22, 2016

Jolly Phonics & Grammar {TOS Review}

Finally, a phonics program that works!

In a nutshell, this is how I feel about Jolly Phonics. It is truly everything I've wanted and searched for in a phonics curriculum. When I was chosen to review Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar by, I was super excited. When I received the materials, I was even more excited! Here are the things I love about Jolly Phonics.

IT'S SIMPLE. That may sound like a lazy requirement for a phonics program, but I am seriously worn out from complicated teacher's manuals and trying to gather tons of materials for the hands-on activities that accompany them. Jolly Phonics has a very simple process, and you don't need anything other than the Teacher's Manual, Student Workbook, and pencils.

IT'S QUICK. Another requirement for my short-attention spanned son is short lessons. He can sit and work on phonics for about ten minutes before he gets frustrated and wiggly. It takes about ten minutes to complete each lesson a day, with about five minutes of review.

IT WORKS. Silas has learned and retained more using Jolly Phonics than he has any other phonics program. He actually enjoys completing the lessons each day, and he is able to sound out and read many three and four letters words already.

What did we receive?

We received the Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book in print letters, Jolly Phonics Student Books 1, 2, and 3, the Jolly Grammar Teacher's Book 1 in print letters, Jolly Grammar Student Book 1, and Jolly Songs in print letters.

The Teacher's Book is so easy to use! At the beginning of the Teacher's Book, there are pages that talk about learning the letter sounds and formations, reading and blending, identifying sounds in words, and learning tricky words. These pages were helpful to me, as teaching reading isn't my forte! The next section is the Daily Guidance - the lesson plans for each lesson. The sections in each lesson are story, action, formation, blending, sounding, and further ideas. There is a small picture of the student page, which I really like.

Silas is not yet reading, so we started at the very beginning of the program, with Student Book 1. We haven't yet finished Book 1, so this review reflects that. After Student Book 1, the student will know all 42 basic sounds and will be reading!

How do we use Jolly Phonics?

Silas and I use Jolly Phonics every day. We complete four lessons per week, with one day reserved for reviewing the letters, sounds, and words learned that week. Here is how we do each lesson:

First, we review all the sounds we have learned so far. I usually let him roll the Can Do Cubes {a supplement to the program, review coming in a few days} and make the sound of the letter.

Next, I introduce the new sound we are going to learn by showing him the cube and making the correct sound.

We then open the Student Workbook to the correct page. He practices writing the sound for the day and saying the sound each time he writes it. The next row of letters are review, and he writes them and gives me the sound they make. He also colors the little pictures at the top of the page.

I read the story in the Teacher's Manual that incorporates the sound in many different words. I ask him if he remembers any words from the story that start with the correct sound. Sometimes he can, and sometimes he can't, but I don't make it a big deal.

I then point to the list of words in the box in the Student Workbook. Silas sounds them out and reads them as well as he can. Next, he crosses out the picture that doesn't have the correct sound in it. He does really well with this part.

He has a spiral notebook that we use for the dictation portion of the lesson. I write the numbers 1-4 on the page, and give him a word. He has to segment the word, spell the word, and write the word. He does well on some words, and he struggles with some words. I really like this part of the lesson.

Lastly, I make words from the Word Bank in the Teacher's Manual with the Can-Do Cubes for Silas to read. When he reads a word correctly, he gets a sticker to put on his notebook. He loves this part, and I usually make 5-10 words for him to read.

Whew, when writing everything we do it seems like a long lesson! In actuality, it takes us about fifteen minutes to do all of this.

Will we continue with Jolly Phonics?

Yes! I am going to finish the entire Jolly Phonics and Grammar program. The simplicity and effectiveness of this program is just what I have been looking for.  I highly recommend it for any child just learning his letters and sounds.

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Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Friday, August 12, 2016

Homeschooling 101: Encouragement

Today is the last day of the August BlogHop with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, and the topic is encouragement. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite homeschool encouraging quotes and why they are important to me.

I am so glad we can homeschool our children, as I believe it prepares them for the real world much better than public school can. Homeschoolers learn to interact with people of all ages, from babies and toddlers to elderly people. My children are used to having conversations with adults, as well as entertaining babies and young children.

I am so glad I can homeschool my children so that they will be original and unique people, not copies of the children at school. I want my kids to dress how they want to dress, listen to the music they like, watch the shows that they enjoy, play the sports they love, and do the hobbies that they are good at. I don't want them to try to conform to everybody else and be popular. I want them to be who God wants them to be.
Image result for homeschool quotes

I am glad we have the opportunity to travel with my husband while homeschooling. My kids have been to or driven through over twenty states. We get to see different parts of the country, different landscapes and landmarks, and meet many different people. The world truly is our classroom for much of the year!

I am so blessed to be able to choose how to teach my children. They don't have to try to fit in a "one size fits all" school, but they can learn and grow and experience in the ways that work for them.

I am so glad that my children can go outside for much of the day. When the weather is beautiful, they aren't cooped up inside a classroom. They can chase butterflies, listen to birds singing, and watch the wind blow. We can watch a storm, pick wild flowers, and observe ground squirrels. We can go on walks, ride bikes and collect rocks.
  As a homeschooler, I can focus on the most important things in my child's education - their spiritual growth! I can teach them the Bible and character qualities. I can instill in them good habits that will last a lifetime. I can form relationships with my children. We can pray together, laugh together, and grow closer together.
I am so blessed that God has led me to homeschool my children. I am so thankful that my husband supports homeschooling {even more than I do sometimes}. I have learned so much in the years I've been homeschooling my kids, and I am so thankful I have had this opportunity.
When homeschooling gets tough, and it will, just ask God to remind you of why you started homeschooling, the many blessings you've received because of it, and what the end result will be if you continue to homeschool.
It's a adventure, and it's a journey. I'm so glad I'm not missing it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Homeschooling 101: Home Management

Today is the third day of the August Bloghop with the Schoohouse Review Crew, and the topic is home management.

We live in a 40 foot long fifth wheel for most of the year. Home management in our camper is a lot different from home management in our 2000 square foot house. I'm going to talk about how keep our travel trailer in order. Even though it is much smaller than our home, it can be harder to keep clean and organized. Having 7 people in such a small area is a challenge! Homeschooling in such a small area is a big challenge. We have been making it work, though!

The biggest thing I have started doing to help with home management is start using a Happy Planner by me & my BIG ideas. I purchased the Home Management pages to go in my planner {as well as the expansion rings and so much more!}. These pages are so helpful! Here is how I am using them.


The two page spread for each week is so nice! On the left side, there are boxes for each day of the week, including one for Occasions. On the right side, there is a grocery list divided into boxes by category {dairy, meat, frozen, produce, etc.}. When I write out my meal plan, I can also jot down my grocery list. This saves time and helps me to stay organized.


There are weekly cleaning schedules included! This is a one-page list of common household chores, plus 8 blank spaces to add your own, and a 7 day checklist. I like to flip to this in the afternoon, check off what has been done each day, and glance to see what still needs to be done. For example, I can check off that we washed dishes, but notice that I need to scrub my sink {which doesn't get done enough}. I can see that I haven't changed the bed sheets yet this week, so I'll make sure to get to that. I can see that the mirrors haven't been wiped, so I can ask one of the kids to do that for me. It really has helped!

The kids are responsible for certain chores each day, like making up their beds and keeping their area clean. I also pass out other chores throughout the day, like washing dishes or folding clothes.


The two-page monthly spread has categories, like housing, utilities,  transportation, food, services, and more. You can write what you plan to spend, and then what you actually spent for the month. I have never done a budget before using this planner, so I'm still figuring it all out. One thing I started doing was writing down everything I spend every day in my weekly calendar section. I write down how much, where, and what I spent. This has helped me to see how even my "little" purchases add up! I didn't realize I spent so much money each week {although, I think my husband did, he-he}.


I use my monthly spread and color-coded pens to organize when bills are due, when we have doctor or dentists appointments, and when my blog reviews are due. This gives me a good idea of what I need to accomplish each week.

How do you handle home management?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Homeschooling 101: Curriculum

I am taking part in the August BlogHop with the Schoolhouse Review Crew this week, and I am so excited! Today the topic is curriculum.

I've been homeschooling for 8 years now, and I truly believe that finding and using the right curriculum for your family is the key to successful homeschooling!

When choosing curriculum, there are some basic questions you should ask yourself. Maybe even write down the answers on a sheet of paper for quick future references.

What is my child's learning style? There are 3 basic learning styles - auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. They are pretty self-explanatory. An auditory learner learns best through listening or reading aloud; a visual learner learns best by watching something being demonstrated or making charts and graphs; a kinesthetic learner learns best through hands-on activities and with lots of movement. Figure out which learning style your child leans toward the most {some children have one dominate style, while others have two}. Then, you can research curriculum that will help your child to be successful.

What are your strengths and weaknesses, as a mom and teacher? This is very helpful in choosing curriculum, because if you choose a product that you hate having to use, you probably aren't going to use it. For example, if you hate to read aloud, then you probably don't want to use a literature based curriculum. Or if you don't enjoy science experiments, you probably want to choose a video-based science program.

What is the cost? Don't just figure out the cost of the curriculum package. You need to look and see what extras you will have to have to make the program work. See if you will need binders and dividers, art supplies, science experiment supplies, or extra books. Add up everything to make sure it will be an investment you can make.

What are the theological beliefs of the authors? If you are a young-earth creationist {like myself}, you will want to choose a science and history program that confirms that belief for your children, not from an evolutionist point of view. There are some great curriculum publishers with different beliefs that we have used {Rod and Staff, for example, is from a Mennonite publisher} that haven't conflicted with what we believe. I would never choose a curriculum that went against what I know to be true, and I always make sure of that. Even when buying children's books, I make sure they don't discuss evolution or talk about millions of years ago.

How much time will this take? Most people have a pre-conceived notion of how long their child's school day should last. Read reviews and the FAQ sections for the program you are looking at. You don't want to purchase a curriculum that intends to take an hour, when all you want to spend is 30 minutes.

Here are our curriculum choices for this year:

Mikaela - 8th grade
  • America the Beautiful, Part 2 {Notgrass} - history and geography
  • Intro to Oceanography and Ecology {Master Books} - science
  • Principals of Mathematics {Master Books} - pre-algebra
  • Learning Language Arts Through Literature, the green book - language arts
  • Writer's in Residence {Apologia} - writing
  • Rosetta Stone - Spanish
  • Artistic Pursuits - art
Eli - 6th grade
  • America the Beautiful, Part 1 {Notgrass} - history and geography
  • Into to Meteorology and Astronomy {Master Books} - science
  • Principals of Mathematics {Master Books} - pre-algebra
  • Learning Language Arts Through Literature, tan book - language arts
  • Writer's in Residence {Apologia} - writing
  • Rosetta Stone - Spanish
  • Art Pack {Christian Liberty} - art

Mercie - 3rd grade
  • Story of the World, Volume 1 - history
  • Apologia Astronomy - science
  • Math for a Living Education, level 3 {Master Books} - math
  • Learning Language Arts Through Literature, yellow book - language arts
  • Writing Journal - writing
  • Book Units from Christian Homeschool Hub - reading
Silas - 1st grade
  • Story of the World, Volume 1 - history
  • Apologia Astronomy - science
  • Math for a Living Education, level 1 {Master Books} - math
  • Jolly Phonics - phonics
  • Patriotic Penmanship - handwritin
Titus- preschool
  • Biblical Beginnings for Preschool {Master Books}
You may notice a lot of curriculum from Master Books on the list. This is my new favorite curriculum publisher!

See what the other members of the Crew had to say about curriculum!

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Friday, August 5, 2016

Weekly Recap #10

I cannot believe how quickly our school year is going by, and it's only the first week of August! Mercie and Silas have completed 6 weeks of school, and Mikaela and Eli have completed 4 weeks!

In Story of the World, Mercie and Silas learned about Hammurabi, Shamshi-Adad, the Babylonians and the Assyrians. We also read the Story of Gilgamesh. They did mapping activities and coloring pages. It was relaxing not to have any extra activities this week!

In Apologia Astronomy, we are learning about the sun. We have learned many facts about the sun and completed several fun experiments and demonstrations, like melting butter with a magnifying glass and learning how the earth revolves and rotates by pretending to be the earth!

Silas- 1st grade:
  • completed four lessons in Jolly Phonics, with Friday for review
  • can read three letters words much easier, but still has trouble with four letter words
  • reviewed addition facts to 10
  • learned to add three digits to 10 {3+4+2}
  • is getting much better at writing and recognizing numbers 1-10
Mercie- 3rd grade:
  • completed Lesson 10 in Learning Language Arts Through Literature {we started the end of 2nd grade}
  • practiced column addition with three and four digit numbers
  • learned to estimate three and four digit numbers to add
  • wrote several entries in her new Writing Journal {more on this next week}
  • read Junie B. Jones books
  • worked on Rosetta Stone Spanish and Typing Instructor
Eli- 6th grade:
  • completed his book study on "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" in Learning Language Arts Through Literature
  • completed nearly 30% of Khan Academy for the 6th grade level {will be starting Principals of Mathematics soon}
  • learned about surface observations and upper air observations in science {Intro to Meteorology and Astronomy, Masterbooks}
  • read about William Penn, Roger Williams, and Peter Wilbur in history, completed timeline and mapping activities as well as Student Workbook {America the Beautiful, Book 1}
  • started Module 4 in Writers in Residence
  • started reading "The Bronze Bow" for language arts
  • worked on Rosetta Stone Spanish and Typing Instructor
Mikaela- 8th grade
  • completed the Poetry Unit {lesson 9} in Learning Language Arts Through Literature
  • completed chapter 11 in Principals of Mathematics
  • learned about the physical ocean in science {Intro to Oceanography and Ecology, Masterbooks}
  • read about the Vanderbilt's, Theodore Roosevelt, the National Mall and Cathedral, the Landscapes of National Glacier Park, and the Artic and Natives of Alaska in history, completed mapping and timeline activities, as well as Student Workbook {America the Beautiful, Book 2}
  • worked on Module 12 in Writers in Residence
  • just finished "The First Four Years" {Little House Book} and is reading "Heidi"
  • worked on Rosetta Stone Spanish and Typing Instructor
Titus is in preschool, and we skipped school this week. I ordered him the Biblical Beginnings for Preschool from Masterbooks, and we are awaiting that to come in! He needed more than what I had planned for him, as he just devours information and books and demands more work!

Biblical Beginnings for Preschoolers

How was your week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Talking Shapes {TOS Review}

Talking Fingers Inc. has created an online version of their app, Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy. This online version is intended for children in preschool and kindergarten. The focus of this program is to teach children the 40 different phonemes {speech sounds} and the letters that stand for the sounds. Using 8 stories to present the sounds, the children will learn how to say and write the sounds, as well as how to make words from the sounds.

In each story, there are 4 different activities your child will do:
1.) LISTEN. Your child will listen to a story about two girls who "invented" the alphabet. They will learn 6 phonemes and their letters. Each letter is embedded into a picture to help your child visualize the letter when they hear the sound. For example, the C is embedded into a cat curled up.

2.) DRAW. Your child will learn to draw the letters using a touch-screen computer or a mouse. They will draw the letter with guidelines, with the picture, and then on their own.
3.) PLAY GAMES. There are several different levels of the games your child will play. Basically, he will be drawing letters and making words.
4.) READ. Your child will then read the words he has learned. He will "pop" the balloon with the correct word.
I had originally intended my newly turned 4 year old to use this program. After using it for a few minutes, I realized this wouldn't hold his attention long enough. My 6 year old son is already using two programs for phonics, so I didn't want to confuse him. My 8 year old daughter wound up using this program, and loves it! She is an excellent reader already, but has enjoyed reading the stories and playing the games. I think I will try this again with my 4 year old in about six months.
There are a few negative things I must point out about his program. The first one is the load time - it takes a very long time to load! I don't call my children to the computer until it has loaded or they will get frustrated. The other things is that if you don't have a touch-screen computer, drawing the letters may be difficult for your child to do with the mouse. It was nearly impossible for my 4 year old to use the mouse to draw the letters. My 8 year old had no trouble with it, but she has great mouse control as she uses several computer programs. If we had a touch -screen computer, my 4 year old may have enjoyed it more.
There are many more positives to this program than negatives. The stories are fun to listen to, I like the order the alphabet and phonemes are presented, and I like the games. I really like how the letters are embedded into pictures, as that will be great for my visual learners.

Check out what the other members of the Crew had to say about Talking Shapes by clicking on the banner below. Also, check out Talking Fingers Inc. and the other programs and apps they have available.
Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

Friday, July 29, 2016

Weekly Recap #9

This week flew by, and I can't believe we have completed 3 weeks of school for Mikaela and Eli, and 6 weeks for Mercie, Silas and Titus! Crazy.

We started using Apologia Exploring Astronomy with Mercie and Silas, and they love it! We had a fun week learning about the universe, NASA, and satellites. We made a sundial with a paper plate and a wooden dowel {no pictures, sorry}. We also made a model solar system using balloons and index cards. It's hanging above our couch in the trailer! They thought that was a lot of fun, and Mercie can now name the planets in order.

Titus learned the letter "D" this week, and we had a dinosaur theme! He painted dinosaur prints all over a letter "D" using plastic dinosaurs, "traced" a "D" with plastic dinosaurs, reviewed the numbers 1, 2, and 3 by putting the correct number of dinosaurs on each card, and read several fun dinosaur books. We also played a game called "Dino Count". We took turns rolling the dice, counting the dots, and taking that many dinosaurs from the pile. When the dinosaurs were gone, we counted to see who won! {I bought a plastic tub of 72 small dinosaurs for this week.}

Silas completed 5 lessons in phonics, and is now reading words with the letters S, T, A, N, M, C, K, CK, I, H, and P. I am so proud of him! He is still learning his addition facts to 10, and is getting pretty quick at some of them! He worked on Reading Eggs several times this week, and is now on Map 3.

Mercie learned how to write a friendly letter in LLATL and wrote and mailed one to her friend back home. She also learned how to combine two sentences using "and" and reviewed contractions. In math, she is adding with two "carrying" digits {798+459}. She read some Junie B. Jones books this week, worked on her typing, and did a few lessons in Spanish.

Eli has completed over 24% of the 6th grade level on Khan Academy for math. In science, he read about weather and climate and the different climate zones in the world. In history, he learned about Indians, specifically Pocahontas and John Smith, and is making a Pocahontas museum this weekend. In LLATL, he worked on making a bubble graph to organize his writing and wrote a paragraph about his favorite holiday. He also reviewed contractions, adverbs and adjectives. He is on Module 3 in Writers in Residence, worked on his typing and on Rosetta Stone.

Mikaela completed 5 lessons in Principals of Mathematics. She is reading about the deep ocean in science and had to research one branch of oceanography and write a paper on it. In history, she read about the Breadbasket of America {among other things}. She finished 5 lessons in LLATL and is on Module 11 in Writers in Residence. She completed the Typing Instructor program and is on Lesson 3 in Rosetta Stone.

The kids got to ride horses Sunday after church at one of the church member's home. Mikaela loves to ride horses, so she was very happy for the opportunity.

 How was your week?