The Beauty of Homeschooling

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The beauty of homeschooling is that no two days are alike and you never know what is around the corner. Six months from now or even six days from now you might be switching curriculum and things get better in whatever subject your child was struggling or not thriving. It’s never too late or too early to learn anything.

Logic of English Foundations

We will give Foundations a try.

When you homeschool, you have a committee of two: you and your spouse. In some cases, you don’t even need to discuss it. Spouses should trust each other with decisions, but it’s always nice and encouraging if you share in the decision-making process.  Continue reading »

I recently decided that Essentials was so good a spelling curriculum for my third grader, I wanted my first grader to experience it. Of course, Essentials is for older children, so we bought Foundations, which is for ages 4-7.

My first grader can read and she enjoys her reading curriculum (The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading) and readers (McGuffey), but I think that she would enjoy Foundations even more. For one, it’s colorful. Then, there is a workbook. She likes to doodle and match and stay busy with a pencil in her hand.

Last but not least, it is reading, spelling, and penmanship in one great language arts curriculum. My daughter is almost finished with learning how to write lower case letters, so this penmanship practice will be a good recap of her handwriting work so far.

There is a short placement test on their website. After answering a few questions, I got the result that she needs to start with Level A. So I ordered A and B, teacher’s manuals and student workbooks. I also ordered Doodling Dragons. It seems like fun and I have a friend who uses this curriculum and she said it was nice to have.

I have all the rest of the kit from, having done Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive with both my children and, of course, Essentials.

I wish I had thought of this before but regret does not lead me anywhere. Regret is not productive. I choose to rejoice in making this decision now and to learn from it. You only know which curriculum works if you go through several weeks with it. Essentials works for my third grader and so I will now give Foundations a try with my first grader.

It helps to have a friend who showed me her Foundations teacher’s manual and student workbook. It’s very different from Essentials and it convinced me my first grader would like it.

One last thought: my children have learned to read almost on their own, because I read them 1,000 books before kindergarten. They don’t always sound things out, because they have seen words so many times, they know the whole word. This does not help with spelling, I have found out. So we need to go back to the basics and decode sounds at the most foundational level.

The Moore philosophy of delaying academics kept me from ordering this until now, plus I thought they are just “selling us products,” like any other curriculum provider. But my daughter is almost seven and Foundations is for ages 4-7, so she will be at the end of the spectrum. And I can see from my son’s experience that being an excellent reader does not necessarily translate to excellent spelling skills.

I choose to stay positive and embrace the beauty of homeschooling. And I am thankful for friends who homeschool and share their experience with me, so that I may learn from them.

Essentials Curriculum Review

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For the past four months, I have been teaching spelling from a curriculum from Logic of English, called Essentials. My children are in second grade and kindergarten respectively and we started LOE Essentials in January, in the second semester. I geared this curriculum mainly towards the oldest, but the little one could benefit from it too. She is learning how to read and spelling is reading in reverse. So I have included her in our lessons, especially in the beginning, during the Pre-Lessons.

Teacher's Manual and Student Workbook

Teacher’s Manual and Student Workbook

I decided we needed the Pre-Lessons after administering the Placement Test very informally, over breakfast. Even though my son can write in cursive (we did not do manuscript at all), spelling has come difficult for him. We have tried four other curricula and I have no seen great results. He does the work, remembers the spelling for a few days, then he does not.  Continue reading »

After consulting with a homeschooling mom who has graduated two, a boy and a girl, I concluded my son just may not be ready for spelling. So I dropped it and focused on copywork with Writing With Ease. And then a hero comes along…

Logic of English staff contacted me about doing a review. Since I had already used their Rhythm of Handwriting curriculum successfully two years ago, while I was on the Review Crew, I accepted. It took me about an hour to sort through all the materials, understand what I am supposed to do, and find the phonogram chart with all the sounds on their website.

Essentials flash cards

Several flash card decks which are necessary to teach Essentials

One hour to prepare to teach this very important subject does not seem too long. Some people go to Teacher’s College for four years, right? So I counted it all joy to be ready in one hour.

I moved all the sets of cards into zipper bags. As soon as I am finished teaching one lesson, I look ahead at the next one and prepare the materials needed for the following day. That way, I am prepared and ready to go in the morning. So the every day prep work takes less than five minutes.

The Pre-Lessons were fun for me, but the kids declared them boring after two sessions. They enjoyed looking in the mirror at their mouths as we formed different sounds. After that, the honeymoon with this curriculum was over for them. I ignored their protests and pressed on.

Quick-reference guide to teach Essentials

Quick-reference guide to teach Essentials

Finally, when we got to Dragon, the game, they loved it. So we played Dragon for a few more days to keep it entertaining for them, then we continued until we finished the Pre-Lessons. My daughter can write uppercase letters so I asked her to write those down, while my son would write the required phonograms in lowercase cursive. By the way, I did not play Bingo with them or any other games. They just seemed to get the phonograms easily and it seemed like a lot of work to pull just the right cards out for different games.

We relied a lot on the website for the pronunciation of phonograms. Vowel sounds especially are a bit tricky for me, and I wanted to make sure my children got them right. Besides, we live in the South and I can tell they both have a slight southern accent. Ben sounds a bit like bin, for instance, in their mouths. One cannot be too careful.

Phonogram Tiles

Phonogram Tiles

In the process, I found out my daughter, who is in kindergarten, thought Thursday is pronounced Fursday. She wanted to spell it with a F. We clarified that and I realized all over again how true it is that most spelling errors come from wrong pronunciations or from the lack of awareness of mouth position.

The big day came. We started Lesson 1. I showed my son we needed to cover four pages for Day 1 and he seemed worried. I told him it was mostly me talking and we will actually skip over 1 ½ pages of questions like “is this a vowel or a consonant?” He seemed relieved.

That’s the only problem we have had with this curriculum – the length of each lesson. Each lesson is split into five days and each day can have up to six pages. That’s a lot to cover in one day, for us. So sometimes I have had to split it in several sessions.

But it really works and has helped my son befriend spelling in ways he never has before. I can definitely tell he is making progress with this curriculum.

I have been given this curriculum for free in exchange for my honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Starting Cursive

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If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you may know that I do not believe in teaching manuscript first and then cursive. In fact, I don’t believe in teaching manuscript at all. My children will experience what I did when I went through school: cursive first and only.

In preschool, they learned to print: MAMA LOVES ME, for instance. In the second semester of kindergarten, they started learning cursive. By first grade, they would be ready for copy work and a writing program. We spend most of first grade perfecting handwriting, all in cursive.

Girl holding tablet with cursive handwriting

Her first lesson in cursive handwriting

Romanian children and children elsewhere have done it for centuries. Manuscript first is a relatively new phenomenon and the result of extremely liberal principles introduced in education, one of them being dumbing down the curriculum. I am surprised by the number of conservative people who have not looked into this issue more carefully.

Since small children may not have the tactile skills for holding a pen properly, I have always made it a goal to wait until mine were at least six years of age before starting cursive. My daughter is one month away from being six, but she recently asked to start cursive.  Continue reading »

She likes to look at her brother’s handwriting and sometimes feels left out or handicapped if she wants to write a card or label a picture. She will print her messages, but she has come to the point where she will sigh and make statements like, “I don’t know cursive…” with regret in her tone.

When a child feels that way, and asks to begin cursive, who am I to rigidly enforce my own “no cursive before age six” rule?

So we started. No ceremony. Just like that. She asked, I obliged. We are using Logic of English Rhythm of Handwriting. She is delighted to produce a whole tablet full of lower case i or t or whatever. I know this enthusiasm will wane, as it always does, so I am bracing myself for the days when we will just skip over writing and work on other things. The rhythm of handwriting can be a relaxed one, at the pace of the child. But I expect that by summer time she will have all the lower case letters learned. Then, it will be time to start on the upper case alphabet.

Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting Review

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Logic of English publishes great language arts curriculum sets for homeschools, as well as for classroom settings. I recently had the privilege of reviewing Rhythm of Handwriting Complete Set for cursive.

Handwriting is a big topic. Let me just briefly mention that I believe in teaching cursive first and only cursive. Here is a great article about the advantages of cursive first and only.

As I was waiting for my son to mature his fine-motor skills, Rhythm of Handwriting became available to me through the Review Crew. I decided to try it. Perfect timing, as my son seemed to have developed enough to begin and lay the foundation for future copywork.

Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting, Cursive Curriculum Set

Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting, Cursive Curriculum Set

The complete handwriting set costs $65 and contains a student book, a quick reference guide, a set of tactile cards and a small student whiteboard. This curriculum is recommended for ages 4-adult, but, as your child’s teacher, you know if the fine motor skills are in place or not.

The student starts by using large motor skills to form the letters – the tactile cards have sandpaper shapes of each letter and even one card for each individual stroke utilized throughout the curriculum. Then, the student moves to writing on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker. That way, all the mistakes can be easily erased and the process can start all over again on a clean slate.

Boy learning cursive on a small white board

My son writing on the small white board before moving to paper

The whiteboard has two sides, one with a very large area containing the baseline, the midline and the topline for writing. The backside contains several rows of smaller widths, which also facilitate the transition to paper.

If need be, they also recommend the student practice in a sand box or any box with cornmeal or rice.

Finally, when you, as the teacher, decide he is ready, he can start using the paper pages in his student book to practice handwriting with fine motor skills.

Cursive r boy on a small white board

My son had fun drawing himself as an R boy.

The paper worksheets contain varying widths and the student can choose whichever they feel best about. My son always preferred the largest (or widest) lines, which are the last two rows on the worksheets.

To recap, here are the steps to get your young student to start penmanship:

1. Sand paper (tactile) cards – as you rehearse the instructions (curve up to the midline etc.)

2. Make the letters in sand, cornmeal, or rice.

3. Write with a dry erase marker on the large side of the whiteboard.

4. Write on the smaller side of the whiteboard.

5. Move to paper and let your student decide which height he likes the best in the provided worksheets.

6. Work your way through the list of letters.

7. Practice, practice, practice.

The first week for us was easy. It was something new and exciting. The second week was tough. The newness had worn off. His hand would do the required motions in the sand box or on the board, but not on paper. He was frustrated with his own lack of skills. I was wondering if he just was not ready for fine motor skills.

The breakthrough came when I showed him that he was almost done with the “Swing Letters” in ROH. That it’s a category and then we can move on to the next group of letters. He looked at the chart and noticed all the categories. He got excited. Now that he had an idea of what to expect, he seemed motivated to press on. And motivation took care of the skills needed to transition to paper.

What also helped was the weekend – not doing any writing for two days. After the weekend, when we picked it back up, his skills had improved dramatically. It’s as if his brain had needed some time to process. He was not ready to do a whole Practice Sheet in one sitting yet, but he could do four lines without even questioning it. Progress.

The following week, he asked to see the rest of the letters in this first category. I showed him that we would start on Curve Letters that particular week if we kept at it. He was excited at the prospect.

Cursive p on a small white board

Divide and conquer. My son made his own dots to connect before writing his “p”.

And so, one day later that week, we started Curve Letters. Once he got “a” down, I showed him how “d” is just like an “a” but with a longer “tail.” He got it after a few tries. I was trying to see if we can do two letters a day. Apparently, we could.

That’s when he asked me about writing whole words. Hmm… Really???

I showed him in the book that, at the end of the chapter on Curve Letters, we have practice pages with words. Well, he saw “dad” – the letters he learned today!

He wrote it down once and I was congratulating him so heartily, he took off running. He likes being chased around the house, so I played along. My daughter wanted to be part of the action, so, with her in my arms, I chased my son around the house, running from room to room and laughing all the while.

He loved it. He would sit down to write another “dad” and then he would say, “Now you start chasing me.” I would run and we all laughed and squealed. Whenever I got to him, I showered him with hugs and kisses. He was covering his face, laughing.

This was one of the most fun days in homeschooling my little boy. Breakthroughs are always exciting. And any time we can laugh during school, I’m happy.

The fact remains, after two weeks of cursive instruction, my son wrote his first cursive word.

For the next four weeks, we kept on practicing and almost got to loop letters. I am so glad this curriculum has worked out for us and look forward to using it through the summer, as we don’t want to lose our hard-earned skills.

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