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Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading

When you are asked to review a product like The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading, a program that is extremely thorough, well-laid out and chocked full of great information and provides video training for the teachers ~ it can seem a just a bit overwhelming.

Because a ‘quick’ review really won’t do this program justice.

And if I were to highlight every aspect of this amazing curriculum…well, you might be reading here for awhile.

I was sent the Level 1 package of a four year complete phonics program for K-4, designed to build skills in spelling, reading, writing, grammar and composition. Phonics Road goes hand-in-hand with another product offered by Schola Publications called The Latin Road to English Grammar.

The theme of Phonics Road is building: the apprentice (student) and foreman (teacher) learn and build on skills, developing strong reading, spelling and writing skills. Rather than focusing whole-word method to teach reading, your child begins learning the basis to good reading and writing with spelling being the key to it all.

“The Apprentice begins by learning the tools of his trade – single vowels and consonants, vowel teams and consonant teams. After these tools are mastered, the Apprentice uses them to build words according to the Blueprints (spelling list). Along the way the Foreman shows that words are formed according to Building Codes (spelling rules). Rules are set to songs – Rule Tunes – for easy memorization.”

The program is laid out with every bit of information you need to effectively teach your child and includes 10 DVDs that provide step-by-step instruction on what to teach and how to teach it. There are over 16 hours of teaching examples for you as the “foreman”: especially how to correctly speak, write and read the sounds that are introduced in this level.

As your child progresses through the Phonics Road, they earn ‘tools’ (sound & letter cards) for their ‘toolbox’. About 15 weeks into the program, they begin reading and illustrating short stories using story booklets. The story booklets have room for your child to illustrate at the top of the page what they have written about below.

Here’s a quick peek at the Scope and Sequence of Level One (click on the thumbnail for a closer view):

The Level One complete package ($199) comes with:

  • Foreman’s Construction Guide ~ includes the History of English, Plot plan with 10 instructional DVDs, Blueprints (detailed daily lesson plans), Rule Tunes (simple songs teaching spelling rules), Building Codes (charts of the rules), and Tool Drill Cards (72 color-coded drill cards)
  • Apprentice’s Building Manual ~ includes Blueprints (all paperwork for the year), Building Codes (blank charts to fill in), Composition pages, First Readers (23 ready to illustrate), Handy-dandy Clipboard, Student Tool Cards and Pens & Pencils.

Overall, Phonics Road is an amazing program and would be a great investment in your homeschooling curricula. The price, $199 for the complete first year kit, is a bit high, but the bulk of the material is not consumable and can be used year after year with other children. Additional student/apprentice kits can be purchased for $69.

The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading will require time and effort on your part. To effectively and properly use the program, time needs to be spent watching the instructional DVDs, but the end results of the program will far outweigh the time input that is initially needed.

If you are one that is intimidated by teaching phonics because you don’t have the first clue where to begin, this would be an excellent program for you because it walks you through each lesson step-by-step so that there are no questions left unanswered.

The Schola Publications site offers some free audio workshops as well as a sample DVD of their program. You can also view their intro video online and request more information about their curriculum. Be sure to check out the Homeschool Crew blog to see reviews on the different levels of both the Phonics Road and the Latin Road.


Geo Puzzles ~ I’ll Buy Them All…

I do believe that I have a new favorite toy in our house. Our kids love to do puzzles and this little gem has added a touch of ‘education’ into the mix.

And if the truth be told, I’m learning something at the same time.

I’ve been eyeing this particular GeoPuzzle Europe for a few weeks and wavered back and forth on ordering it. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

Let me tell you, I’m about ready to plop the whole lot of them into my cart and checkout.

But I’m pacing myself. ‘Cause I’m disciplined like that. haha.

The Geo Puzzles are so worth it! They run about $15 apiece with free shipping (I put them in my left sidebar widget for you to see). We bought the one that focuses on Europe, since that’s the continent we’re studying, and many of the pieces are shaped like the individual countries. The puzzle pieces also includes the names of the countries and their capitals along with any major bodies of water. The girls are having a great time with them and learning exactly how the countries all fit together.

Although I haven’t bought them all (yet), I do have some of the others in my cart now. Waiting patiently until we start studying those continents.

If I last that long.


Write Shop: Storybuilders

Until recently I had not heard of WriteShop, a company that has writing programs for children from PreK through high school. They sent me two Ebooks Story Builders: World of Animals and StoryBuilders: World of Sports to use with our girls and review – and both of my girls have loved them!

Laurianna enjoys writing stories on her own, but when it comes times for a specific writing assignment, both she and McKenna start whining and complaining when they have to write more than one sentence. Needless to say, assigned writing is not always a joy during our school time.

We started using the StoryBuilders as a fun activity/creative writing assignment and McKenna alone began writing unbelievable amounts! Primarily we’ve used StoryBuilders: World of Animals ($7.95). First we printed off word cards and sorted them into piles. The word cards can either be printed onto different colors of paper and sorted accordingly, or you can print them off using colored ink and sort them that way. Each card deck/color represents a different part of a story: character, character trait, plot and setting.

Once a card is picked from each pile, the kids put their story together using the “pieces” of the story they were given. To give you an idea of how it works, here are the words that McKenna had for her story: bat, confused, amusement park, and caught in a trap. The story she put together was:

Once there was a little boy who went in an amusement park. He found his bat. He said, “Why is it in here?” He was very confused. He saw a trap hanging from the ceiling. He was not fast enough, so he got caught in the trap!

While I realize not all of the story makes complete sense, this story was a huge step for McKenna! And she was so proud of the story and even drew pictures to go along with it.

There are several other StoryBuilder books available: World of People ($7.95) and Christmas Mini-Builder ($3.95). Each of the StoryBuilder Ebooks is available for immediate download and comes with the following:

  • 192 Story Builder cards in black print (to print on colored paper)
  • 192 Story Builder cards in colored print (to print on plain paper)
  • 48 blank cards
  • Ideas and instructions for use

While the StoryBuilders are not an entire curriculum for writing, they are a great activity to use once a week for getting the creative juices going. WriteShop does offer full writing programs for children Kindergarten through high school.

And as a bonus, The Old Schoolhouse Store is offering a FREE download this week for the StoryBuilders: World of Animals – a $7.95 value! Be sure to head there to take advantage of their great offer!

If you would like to read more on Write Shop, check out the Homeschool Crew blog and see what others are saying.

All About Homophones

A few months ago I reviewed a program All About Spelling by Marie Rippel. One that I will be using for years to come with our kiddos.

I am that much in love with the program.

Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond measure when they sent me a second product of theirs to review called All About Homophones: Your Complete Tool Kit. This is an amazing resource to help teach your children homophones quickly and easily (homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently…be/bee, sea/see, etc…).

All About Homophones comes with homophone worksheets, games and activities, and includes over 200 pages of teaching tools and resources for you to help teach your child about homophones. The graphics alone in the book are wonderful and the curriculum itself is even better!

My girls have loved playing card games such as Go Fish!, Pig, Old Maid and more to help in learning the different words and their meanings. The information is presented in such a fun and interactive way that the girls forgot we were doing school – and to me, that’s what learning is really all about!

Everything that you need for All About Homophones is included in the book you receive: reproducible pages for the card games, worksheets, graphic organizers, crossword puzzles, student record sheets, grade-level lists, teaching plans, and more! You can purchase a softcover printed copy ($19.95) or an ebook version ($17.95).

And if you haven’t heard about All About Spelling, check out my earlier review about their curriculum. The All About Homophones Tool Kit comes with a money-back guarantee too – 30 days, no questions asked. I’ll leave you with this fun translation from the homophone machine:

“Awl About Homophones is a grate tulle

two ewes inn you’re school thyme.”

See? Even I am having too much fun with it!

Homeschooling ABC’s

Even though I’m in my third year of homeschooling, there are still questions I have as I work through the beginning stages of teaching my children. I received the opportunity to review a six-month long e-class called Homeschooling ABC’s and although it is geared toward newer homeschoolers, I have LOVED it!!

Homeschooling ABC’s sends a weekly lesson to members once a week (for 26 weeks) and breaks down the process involved in homeschooling into simple, manageable steps. Each week focuses on a different topic or aspect of teaching your children, including homeschooling philosophies, the learning styles of children, choosing a curriculum that fits your family and more.

The first eight weeks of lessons cover these topics:

  1. A Quick Start
  2. Let’s Begin with the Basics
  3. Copy the Classroom – NOT
  4. Dare to Differentiate
  5. Establish Your Philosophy of Education
  6. Finding the Best Curriculum for Your Family
  7. Get Together – Netweorking with Other Homeschoolers
  8. Hands-On Learning for Greater Retention

The lessons all include links or attachments for products that go along with the materials in the lessons. The links and samples are products that Terri Johnson has found useful – and you don’t need to go looking for those items!! At the end of each lesson there are also links to the previous lessons so you can go back and review if you would like to. Overall, there are over $200 worth of FREE downloads and samples available through the lessons.

I have loved the lessons. They have inspired me, pointed out a few new things to me and covered SO MUCH MATERIAL! They really remind you of why you began homeschooling in the first place and motivate and encourage you.

The cost of the Homeschooling ABC’s e-class is really minimal and very manageable – $10/month for 6 months – that’s less that $2.50/week. There are less than 150 spots left in the class, so hurry on over to their website to check it out! I have loved the lessons. They have inspired me, pointed out a few new things to me and covered SO MUCH MATERIAL! They really remind you of why you began homeschooling in the first place and motivate and encourage you.

If you aren’t new to homeschooling, but know someone who is, pass this information/link along to them. I can guarantee that they will thank you for it! To read some other homeschooling parent’s reviews of Homeschooling ABC’s be sure to check out the Homeschool Crew blog.

Kinderbach: Piano for Children

Our kids have been begging to play some sort of instrument for quite some time, so I was very thrilled to have a chance to review KinderBach’s music lessons. We’ve looked into piano lessons for the girls and lessons would be around $30/week for both girls and about one month of lessons at $120 can be a little overwhelming!

KinderBach is an online piano program that is geared toward kids between the ages of 4-7 and introduces them to the basics of piano and music instruction. The girls and I worked through quite a few of the sessions together and then they spent time on lessons independently.

The lessons are taught using cute piano pals (Frisco and Dodi are the main characters) and begins by teaching how a keyboard is set up and progresses along teaching children how to read notes, learn intervals, and identify rhythm and music patterns. Each lesson reviews prior lessons and then builds on what has been learned. Karri Gregor is the creator of KinderBach and she teaches each of the lessons. Some of the lessons have printable worksheets to go along with the lesson while others are hands on or involve the children in various ways. You can view a syllabus of the lessons here.

The lessons are broken up into short segments so they keep and hold the attention of the kids. The worksheets that go along with the lessons are easy to print off and over all the program is very user friendly. I did let Zachary (4) play along with the lessons and he really did enjoy them also. However, after we had progressed through about 10 lessons the girls (ages 6 & 7) complained that the lessons were for “preschoolers” (their words, not mine). That didn’t stop them for wanting to do the lessons though. :)

Benefits of KinderBach:

  1. Saves driving time since you can do the lessons from home.
  2. Cost efficient because you can use the lessons with multiple children at a time.
  3. Works into your schedule and you don’t need to juggle times around in your week.
  4. Fun approach for kids to learn.
  5. No musical training is required for you to use the lessons with your kids.
  6. Able to work at your own pace with your family to suit your needs.

My Personal Drawbacks:

  1. Sharing the computer. Our main computer isn’t in a convenient location for us to have the kids working on the lessons and since our laptop is generally “hands off” for the kids it caused a few issues. Personally I think I would save up for the DVD version of the program and use it that way.
  2. The age-appropriateness of the program for our family wasn’t a good fit for the girls. I feel it is geared more toward preschoolers (I would say ages 3-5).
  3. Slower internet connections will have difficulty using the online lessons…or if you have a finnicky computer (and the computer in question shall remain nameless).

The full KinderBach online program via their website is $85.95 if paid in full – right around $7 a month. If you choose to pay month-to-month it is $14.95 month. If you would like to check out some of their lessons, the first two weeks are available as a free trial.

The dvd version of the one-year program and activity books is $217.95. KinderBach has a 30 day money back guarantee.

Because Kinderbach offers different choices in teaching piano in your home (online or dvd) you are able to find the best fit for your family. I would recommend KinderBach and personally, I am looking into purchasing the DVD set for our youngest two (and I’m sure the girls will still have fun and learn along!). If you’d like to read other reviews of KinderBach head over to the Homeschool Crew blog.