Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday- 9/26/13 - Family & Friends - By Emily

Today Emily is sharing her 'thankful!'

Family. Friends. When you know both of them well, is there really any difference? I have only one sister, we bicker, we make up, we’re friends, until the whole thing happens all over again. But we love each other. One of my best friends name is Grace. We bicker, we make up, we’re friends, and before you know it, the whole thing happens all over again. When you know someone really well, it can be hard to find the lines between family and friend. 

There are many types of friends. Some you know from birth, others you meet and feel like you’ve known them forever, and then there are the special ones you only ever see once, but then keep in contact with from then on. It can take time to get to know some one well enough to call them a friend, and some people you tell everything within hours of meeting them.

My Dad asked my sister, Arlene, and I a question a few days ago that really had us thinking. “Would you rather spend six months locked in a fully stocked cabin with internet access, or one randomly picked casual friend?” My sister and I both said friend, but then wondered. What if the person picking the ‘casual friend’ thinks acquaintances are casual friends. What if it was some you like to talk to, but weren't incredibly fond of? I bet if you think about it, at least three names subconsciously just popped in your head. Don’t feel bad, I’ve been going over the question for days, and probably have a much longer list. 

How long do you think you would last before going crazy or strangling them? Or, what if it could be a really close friend you’ve known forever and love immensely? Do you think you could be stuck with them every day and night for six months straight? I mean, I have to live with my sister every single day and night, period, and there are time I love her dearly, and then there are time I can’t stand her. If you have any siblings, you know where I’m coming from. But, I asked that to get you thinking, how important are your friends to you? 

William Penn, Prime Minister of Britain in the 1700s, said on the subject of friends, “Friends are twins in soul; they sympathize in everything, and have love and aversion.” If you don’t know what aversion means, don’t feel bad. I’m a writer and I wasn’t sure. But it means simply a distaste for something. 

I go to a small church, and last week we all packed up and went camping at McCormick's Creek State Park. My mom, sister, and I only got to be there for a short period of time, but the rest had been there a couple days before we came. Spending a long period of time with others showed me how much I really cared for them as friends, and how much I could take, all of us living together. 

When we played games, everyone who wanted to got to, when we went on hikes we made sure everyone was okay if they were lagging behind (okay I was the one doing the lagging behind, but they were good about checking on me). We teased each other when we goofed up, sat together for meals, and praised God together around the, impressively large, campfire at night. 

One of the boys there, his name is Ben, and he is in a class all of his own when it comes to teasing, and bragging. There are times he makes us laugh, and times he makes us want to throw something at him, but he is still my friend. 

All of us there knew how to tease each other, but, when it went too far, also how to apologize. Over one weekend I learned to be thankful for their quirks, their habits, their personalities, their sore spots when you pick on them, and the best thing to do to make them laugh. But most importantly, I learned the importance of friendship and sticking together, and I came to appreciate when you can’t tell the difference between family and friend. Friends are the people who pick you up when you’re down, hold you up when you’re happy, and and keep you humble when you’re successful. 

I’m thankful for my family, and my friends who are like family. 

By Emily, on Oct. 8, 2012,  age 14

Friends who don’t know your real name
But remember your nickname
And why you’re called that
They’re Family

The people who know the secret
Behind the autographed pink cast
and why you hate peanut butter
They’re Family

The friends who yell with you
Argue with you
Laugh and cry with you
They’re Family

The friends who are kind of strange
Or even if they talk too much or too little
Who’ve always got your back
They’re Family

The people who tease you
But would never really harm you
And are always the first to help you
They’re Family

Those who are there for the good times
And would never leave your side
Even through the bad times
They’re Family

Your parents, and your siblings
Aunts, uncles, cousins
Grandparents, and distant relatives
They’re Family

Old friends and new friends
Best friends and good friends
Of all shapes and sizes
They’re Family

We who have your back
Who push you over mountains
And carry you through valleys
We who will always love you
No matter what others think
Who know there’s only one you
And you’re special
We’re your Family

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thankful Thursdays - 9/19/13 - the forest

Where do you go to get away? What do you do when you're feeling overwhelmed? Do you have a place, or an activity, that helps you get out of the brain fog and back into life?

One of my favorite things to do is to go into the forest. The change of scenery, the fresh air, and the different nuances of color give me many reasons to be thankful!

So today, I'd like to say how thankful I am for the multitude of forests in Indiana! Often I go to a State Park to get away...sometimes I even take my family with me! LOL!

I didn't post this last Thursday---because I was getting packed for a weekend in the forest! I feel like the brain fog has lifted. We came home a good kind of tired. We went away with friends, so the weekend included some much-needed fellowship as well as time away from home.

I came home with a renewed desire to de-clutter our house. Have you ever noticed that a forest is filled with trees, yet it is NOT cluttered?

Maybe you can take a trip, a day, or even just an hour, and get away to a forest near you. You'll be thankful you did!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Presidential [Game] - a Crew review

Have you ever had a difficult time explaining the electoral process to your children? Or, maybe you are a little hazy on it yourself? Great news! The Presidential from The Presidential Game can help you and your family grasp the basics of how we elect our President of the United States. We received the game ($35 retail) as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I'll tell you that is is both easy...and difficult.

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The easy part is where you learn HOW we elect a President. This game lets you choose to use your turn either campaigning or fundraising. (Not both.) Before you begin your turn, you must declare what you are trying to do, and in which states. If you are campaigning, you can select any three states, roll the dice, and see if you win those states. If you choose fundraising, you must specify which of the 4 possible states you will be in (California, Florida, Texas, or New York.)

The game is quite realistic, as it follows the actual numbers of electoral votes...and you must have at least 270 electoral votes to win.

The difficult part? Winning. Before you can begin, you must select the number of 'weeks' until election day. This determines how many turns each team will take. There can be as few as two people playing (one on each team) or many. You will have to decide yourselves who ends up playing as Republican or Democrat!

The Presidential was made for players aged 11 and up. If you had a mature 10 year old, they could probably do alright. I want you to know there are two ways to keep track of your electoral votes. Which way you choose could make or break the fun for your 11 or 12 year olds.

The first option is to use the enclosed scorecards. There are spaces for 30 weeks (30 turns for each team.) It reminds me of a bank register. A space for +, a space for -, and a column for 'total.'

When the game first arrived, I let Emily (15) and Arlene (13) play by themselves with the scorecards. They had fun with the game, but struggled a little with keeping track of who won and lost votes each week. (If you run out of weeks and a state is still neutral, each team rolls one die and the higher roll gets all the votes from that state.) One area where the game differs from real-life is that each state is an all-or-nothing vote. (I vaguely remember learning that SOME states CAN choose to split their electoral votes...although I don't remember a time when any of them actually DID.

The other option requires a computer (or tablet w/ web access.) In the second option, you can use the interactive map on the website (after you enter the code printed on the back of your rules card.) This option turned out to be a LOT easier. It keeps track of the electoral votes for each team, and has a spot where you can keep track of which week it is. Note: you will still need the game board, dice, cards, and chips to see who is winning each state & by how much...this just does that math part for you. Plus, it's cool to click the states and watch them turn red, blue, or tan. (Tan is what happens when a state is neutral, either because no one has campaigned there yet, or because your opponent tried to take it from you & ended up with the same number when they rolled as you had already placed there.

I'm not going to try to explain every detail to you, but I think you should know this...whenever you choose to fundraise, you get a 'politics' card. You can choose to play the card at the end of your turn, or save it for later. A few of them require immediate play. The scenarios on the 80 politics cards are funny, and sometimes almost sad. Most of them revolve around gaining or losing chips based off of an endorsement or a problem. (Think mud-slinging and baby kissing.) The game comes with 40 write-your-own politics cards. You could use the daily newspaper for ideas...

I thought this game did an excellent job of showing how the electoral process ebbs and flows. If you're just starting out, a 30 week game could take you two hours. Once you're used to it, it will probably be more like an hour. With these longer games, every state has been campaigned in, and you will probably be waging war to regain control of the fundraising states. (After all, who wouldn't want California's 55 votes?) 

Even though the price of $35 is more than we usually spend on a board game, I think it is a fair price for the game. I don't know of any other games that take this often-difficult concept, and makes it digestible. I can see this being a game your friends might 'insist' you bring along to game night, since it is a lot of fun! Like I said, it's not difficult to understand, or to's just difficult to win!

We enjoyed playing the game, and plan to play it with friends. It would also be a good game for a small group, as it involves some strategy...or even a classroom.

Now that you're thinking you would like to play on over to The Presidential Game's website and get your own!

There were oodles of Crew families reviewing The Presidential. Click the link below to read the other reviews!


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Friday, September 13, 2013

PeopleKeys- Student Binder - a Crew Review

Has your child ever asked to take a 'Career assessment' or 'Personality test'? Did their question make you smile, or make you cringe? Sometimes, we are pretty sure we know our children well enough to tell them what their personality style is, or careers they should pursue. Sometimes we don't. At other times, it is best to let the assessment tell them. All of these thoughts (and more) went through my head when the opportunity arose to review the StudentKeys Student Binder Package from PeopleKeys.

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While a little hesitant at first, I went ahead and requested the Student Binder ( w/ 6 workbooks) for Emily (age 15). Two things helped ease my concerns. One- I remembered that the Bible has references to the 4 types of people (personalities.) Two- I read through the "Understanding DISC" tab on the website. If Emily was going to be evaluated, or evaluate herself, it would be best to have an assessment that gave her control and also the necessary tools to understand what the results said. The company behind PeopleKeys and the StudentKeys Binder, The Institute for Motivational Learning, has been in the business for over 30 years. Thus, this is not some latest, greatest plan... but rather a continuation of quality work.

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So, We received the StudentKeys Student Binder Package ($49), which included a short intro, and six workbooks. 1- The Personality Style Workbook, 2- The Perceptual Learning Style Workbook, 3- The Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook, 4- The Values Style Workbook, 5- The Career Choice Workbook, and 6- The Goal Setting Workbook. The Intro pages give an overview, and a suggested time frame for completing each evaluation in books 1-5, book 6 (goal setting) is totally un-timed.

These workbooks age geared for ages 13+. I would be hesitant to use them with anyone younger than 13. I would suggest them for a mature 13 year old, or older. PeopleKeys has other options for younger students.

Emily set down and did about half of her workbooks the first day. She promptly finished the rest the next few days, and reported back. Here is her summary:

In doing these workbooks I found myself confirming what I already knew about my personality, but it is still really helpful to people who don’t know and want to find out. The job test does the same test as the personality test, but then uses the information to help find job options based off of that. The books really help when it comes to studying, working with others, and finding out what you value. 

 As I was looking over the questions myself, I could see how I *thought* Kurt would answer. Yeah, opposites attract. But after 19+ years of marriage, we've learned a couple things about getting along. Maybe I can apply some of what I've learned from this assessment to more accurately give Kurt the responses his personality type needs. 

I wasn't surprised by Emily's results in the Personality workbook... after all, I have known for many, many years that she is a 'Mini-me.' Yes, I took the quiz too, just to see, and we scored within 2 points of each other in EVERY category. My friends who know us well will laugh, because they see this lived out every day! 

However, I was surprised by some of Emily's results in the other assessments. Seeing her results has given me some new insight into her learning and cognitive thinking styles. I am hoping this helps us better communicate, and adapt her schoolwork and room to better follow her strengths while minimizing her weaker areas.

I would like to take some time and tell you a little about each of the six workbooks, because while you may not be interested in ALL of them, you may find some truly helpful information from having your child (or yourself) do just one or two assessments. (There are also online versions if you prefer those to print.)

1-The Personality Style Workbook has a tagline of "Understanding Yourself." There is nothing wrong with learning about your own strengths and weaknesses, with one caveat... as a Christian, I need to remember that I should be doing all things out of love. Thus, no beating up on others' weaknesses just because I have strengths. After all, meekness is bridled strength. So use your strengths to build others up, not tear them down!

The workbook begins with an overview of the 4 personality types... and a reminder that most people are a combination of styles. Then, the 15 question evaluation, a section about scoring, and graphing. Most importantly, the workbook spends more than half it's time explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type. This helps you understand not only yourself, but especially those who are different than you! I am hoping this section gave Emily better insight into how to get along with others, like her sister... who has a MUCH different personality. Near the back of the workbook is a page about 'enhancing communication' with each of the four types of personalities, followed by a two-page worksheet to help you evaluate 5 others (family, friends, co-worker, teacher) in your life and how you can work to build a more effective relationship.

2- The Perceptual Learning Style workbook comes with the tagline "Understanding How You Learn." The questions in this assessment help you determine if you learn best in a Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic way. This workbook focuses on HOW to get the most out of your education by using your strengths, even if your teacher has a different teaching style. I really appreciated the section about 'designing a learning environment.' This gives students the necessary tools to set up their work area in the way that best fits them. Thinking through what works well for them, and then sticking to it can greatly improve the retention of what is being studied. The workbook has a 'toolbox' page to help remind students of various ways they can help themselves, such as use of charts, a tape recorder(mp3's), games or field trips.

3- The Cognitive Thinking Workbook "Understanding How You Think," explains the differences between Literal, Intuitive, Theoretical, and Experiential thinkers quite well. Here is where Emily and I followed much different paths. Now that I better understand HOW she views what she is learning, or participating in, I think there will be less struggles between us. Let's just say that where I might think things are black and white, or red and green... she thinks they are purple and orange. We don't THINK alike! (And sister? Yeah, she is another style altogether!)

4- The Values Style Workbook reads "Your Invisible Motivators." Now, I KNOW I have friends who need to get this for their kids to work through! If you're stuck and can't seem to understand HOW to get your kids motivated to do things, or apply themselves, this is going to be quite helpful! The assessment has 10 questions, that you rank the given responses from what is most important to you, to what is least important. Then, you spend time seeing how intense you are about each value (Loyalty, Equality, Personal Freedom, and Justice) to help you understand your OWN values. After spending several pages on learning about and understanding your values, there is a helpful section about "Understanding Others' Values." A recurring theme in these workbooks is learning how to interact with others, friends, family, teachers, employers...don't just learn about yourself and become selfish, learn to develop mutual respect for and with others. Instead of a flawed view that says everyone must "earn" our respect, this workbook helps you move your own pride out of the way so you can understand what others value, and how to respect both them and their values. Someone is not wrong because they are different from you, they are just different.

5-The Career Choice Workbook "Finding Life's Direction" uses another personality assessment, similar to the one on the first workbook. The difference is that this one takes your personality, and matches it with an occupation, well, several occupations. There are 16 different job areas listed, with suggestions for which of the four personality types usually excels at each occupation. The goal is to find a job that meets your personality, or at least doesn't conflict with it! For example, in the 'health' area, you can learn that the personality type that works best for ambulance drivers is NOT the same one that works best for EMTs. This book doesn't discourage you from your chosen field, it helps you find the right niche in that field.

6-The Goal Setting Workbook, "Planning Your Future" is the only workbook without a timed assessment. This is the 'think it though' book, and may take your student quite a while if they're not used to goal setting. It discusses the differences between short, mid-range, and long-term goals. Then it helps student prioritize their goals. This book helps them ponder how others will look back at their life. It gives them time and space to reflect on career, educational, leisure, and personal goals. I really liked the end where it gives them a page to 'make a contract with yourself.' This shows the student that ultimately these are THEIR goals, and that they can daily take the steps to meet them.

Now, I'm no math wiz today, but I can see that if you're seriously considering doing these assessments (or having your child do them) the Student binder ($49) is a much better deal than ordering all of the workbooks individually at $13 each!

Have these workbooks made a difference for us? Yes. They haven't changed US, but they have allowed us to better understand Emily, how she learns and thinks. They allowed her to do some real-life goal setting.

One other side note: right now, the printed workbooks could use a cover update. Both of our girls mentioned that they look like they're from the 1980's. I told them more likely the 90's, but I understood their point. An update in the cover graphics is probably in order. It's a minor thing, but one that should get addressed  because they don't visually match with the more modern picture on the cover of the StudentKeys Binder. (The online ones have newer graphics.)

Some of the Crew members reviewed different products from PeopleKeys. Click on the banner below to read all the reviews!


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If Only - a book review

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had made a different decision? What if you had said 'yes' instead of 'no?' Or the other way around? If Only is new work of fiction from authors  J. Anderson, B. Rowley, and J. Mulinaro that weaves a tale around those 'Ifs.'

This 400+ page work weaves places and mindsets from the past 45 years into a tale about life, and the choices we make in it. This book is for adults, even though it spends a lot of time talking about High School. As I read, some of the scenes made me laugh while remembering my own high school years, some made me want to weep. 

The Characters in this drama are much so that at times I wanted to step into the book and slap them, or at least give them a good shake. The choices we make DO change our future, and one of the recurring themes in the book is honesty. More than one person suffers during the story because of a lack of total, soul-baring honesty.

Readers will be drawn into Indiana in the 1960's. Some may wonder if these Midwestern values ever really existed. They did. Many of the scenes depicted could just as easily have happened in the 1970's, 80's or early 90's. Life was different then than it is now. The cars and clothes have changed, but manners, or lack thereof, have not.

It takes a while for the story to build, but not overly long. I find it a better-than-average first attempt at writing a book. I might have condensed some of the details about settings, and brought it down to just under 400 pages, but they are not tedious.  I perhaps have an advantage over the everyday reader because of having grown up not too far from the setting. In my mind's eye I can easily picture the places and people. If you grew up on either coast, the details will help you more fully understand the story.

Overall I give the book a B-. If you remember Pep Rallies, Football games, and hanging out at the local pizza joint in the days before cell phones, I think you'll enjoy this book. If your co-workers can't seem to understand you when you talk about your past, maybe this book will open some eyes and minds. If your twenty-something adult-child still thinks your generation never did anything cool, or just can't understand you...put a copy with their name on it under the tree this year.

If Only is available from IUniverse in hardcover ($34.95), softcover ($24.95), or e-book form ($8.99).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I was not compensated in any other way, nor was I required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 9/12/13 - camera strap wrap

Today, I'd like to tell you I'm thankful for the camera 'strap wrap' I recently purchased from Thirty-One.

We have had this camera for a few years, but I had put off getting a wider strap, or making a strap wrap myself. I'm still not sure why I waited so long!

But, before our last trip, I purchased the strap wrap and put it on. I am SO thankful I did! By the end of our trip, we had taken over 1400 photos. AND, my neck didn't get sore from carrying the camera!

So here's my latest thankful thing:

Even when life gets difficult...there is always something to be thankful for! Sometimes, you just need to stop and look around to find it.

Thankful Thursdays - 9/5/13 Harvest

This week we are thankful for a harvest. Are you wondering what we harvested? Popcorn! We have been growing popcorn in our plot at the community garden. You might remember our earlier post about this adventure. 

We've had mixed results with the garden this summer. The Spring was cool, the summer average, but the bugs were horrible! The stink bugs took over our pumpkins, and even though we had some grow, the bugs ate them before they were ripe enough to pick.

However, we had LOTS of green beans, in fact, we still have the last bag's worth in the fridge waiting on us. We've even been able to give some away to friends.

But this time, we harvested our popcorn. Most of it was ready, but a few ears' worth is still drying in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Because the bugs were still plentiful, and most of the corn was ready, we went ahead and picked it all.

Is it a bumper crop? No. Is it an increase over what we planted? Definitely! The little ears are so darn cute! I think we'll save some kernels back to plant again next year. The variety we planted was "Dakota Black Popcorn' from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

So what have we learned? First, pole/ runner beans grow faster than popcorn does. Second- green beans grow when you're not looking. Third- popcorn tassels really early, and you have to wait for the don't despair...just wait. Fourth- corn smut is gross and needs dealt with early. Fifth - popcorn is cute, and fun to grow!

So here are some pictures of how our garden did over the summer. Now that it has been dry for so long, and we've picked our popcorn, the only thing left is to go dig up our purple sage from the plot and bring it home to transplant.

We used straw for mulch to cut down on weeding

The beans grew faster than the popcorn, so we added some stakes for support

The '3 Sisters' 

Harvest - round 1

Harvest - round 2

So right now, we're thankful for our popcorn harvest!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Logic of English - a Crew Review

When your child struggles with a particular school subject, do you struggle? Have you found yourself feeling at a loss on how to help them? Have you ever wondered if a curriculum is REALLY worth all that money...or if you'll be disappointed and right back where you began? My answers are yes, yes, and yes. There have been times that I have felt like a failure for not being able to teach Arlene how to spell. I have even wondered if she had dyslexia, or something else, that was causing her struggles, even though there appeared to be no other signs. Then, SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED! We were selected to be on the Schoolhouse Review Crew for the Logic of English Essentials review. I am so thankful for this curriculum that I could weep tears of joy.

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(Now I know some of you may be thinking, "but Carol almost always has good things to say about things she reviews." Let me assure you, there is a difference between seeing the good in a curriculum, and LOVING one. This one I LOVE.)

FYI- for the rest of this review, after the first official mention of an item, I'm going to shorten 'Logic of English' to 'LOE.'

For the review, we received a box full of goodies, and an app code for the Logic of English Phonograms app (for iPad $2.99 from iTunes.) I immediately downloaded the app to the iPad, and Arlene (age 13) worked through it while we waited for the box to arrive. This is probably one of the most helpful apps under $5 that I've ever encountered for education. The app helps students learn the 74 basic phonograms of the English Language. (A phonogram is a written character [like a letter] that represents a speech sound, or a combination of speech sounds.) By the time the box arrived & I had sorted through it, Arlene had been through the app twice, and set up a page for me as well. The app teaches not only the sound, but also the 'logic' rule that goes with it to help your child remember the differences. If your child struggles with reading, or spelling, you are going to want this app. The speaker is clear and distinct, so you can differentiate between the 'ch' and 'ck' or the 'n' or 'gn' sounds.

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The Logic of English Essentials course was designed to help beginning, struggling, and remedial readers or spellers, learn not only the sounds of the English language, but also the rules that govern them. It presents the phonograms' sounds from most common to least common. Here are two examples to help me explain. The letter 'i' can make 4 different sounds in English: i, ī, ē, and y. So the program teaches the student all 4, in order of frequency. The example on the back of the Basic Phonogram card shows: it   ivy   stadium   onion. (If you read those out loud, you'll see what I mean.) Another important part that this program teaches, is that more than one phonogram can make a similar sound. Some examples are the /er/ of her, the /er/ of search, and the /er/ of bird.

About that contained several things. The Logic of English Essentials Teacher's Manual ($95), the Essentials Manuscript Workbook ($25), the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book ($15), Red Manuscript Phonogram Game Cards ($10), Blue Bookface Phonogram Game Cards ($10), Spelling Rule Flash Cards ($15), and the Basic Phonogram Flash Cards ($18). This curriculum was put together by Denise Eide, if you would like to learn more about HOW the program began and grew, you can visit the about page on their website.

Before I tell you any more about this AMAZING curriculum, I need you to understand that it can be used with almost anyone, age 7 or above, in just about any learning setting. The LOE Essentials Teacher's Manual has a lengthy (about 60 page) Intro section that explains how to use the process with all different types of readers ( and spellers.) It also has sample schedules for each type of learner. Do you have a struggling speller aged nine to adult? An aged eight to adult struggling reader and speller? An emerging reader aged six or seven? Or maybe, you have an ESL (English as a Second Language) student? Maybe, just maybe, you're a teacher with a classroom full of students, with several different types of students you want to help. This program can be used with one student, or a roomful. Some of the games are more fun with a larger group!

(LOE has readiness programs for students aged 4-6, but you'll have to click the link at the bottom of this post to read the Crew reviews about it.)

If I could only pick ONE book to have for the rest of my days to use for English would be the LOE Essentials Teacher's Manual ($95). The subtitle of this book is "A Systematic Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Writing." Although Arlene already knows how to read, and write, I wanted to figure out what she had been missing that gave her such fits with spelling. So, instead of the abbreviated schedule for 'struggling spellers' we went step by step through each lesson, not just the spelling and vocabulary sections. I feel the need here to quote from Mrs. Eide's Intro, page 13, "The biggest hurdle for working with older struggling readers is shame and discouragement. It is often helpful to explain to them that it is not their fault that they have struggled. Rather, it is because they have not been taught in a way that makes sense to them." I would also encourage you to use these words with your struggling speller. This system makes sense.

Arlene was quite happy to spend part of two afternoons on the app, while I read through the Intro... but when it was time to break out the books, she hesitated. I used Mrs. Eide's words, and some encouragement of my own, to get her started. The first two lessons took some getting used to, but by lesson three we both better understood how the lesson would progress. During the lessons, the Teacher's Manual tells you where and when students should work in their Workbooks, when to use the Spelling Rule cards, and when to play w/ the game cards. Some of the games are fine with just 2 people (student and teacher) and some work better in a classroom or co-op setting.

The Essentials Student Workbook ($25) is available in 2 versions, Manuscript, or Cursive. Because Arlene's cursive is decent, but extremely slow, we chose the Manuscript version. If you decide to get the game cards, get the set that matches the workbook! The lessons vary in length, mostly depending on how many of the 'optional' extra reinforcement exercises you complete. There are 4 consistent areas in each lesson: Phonograms, Exploring Sounds, Spelling Rules, and Grammar.

The lessons have a spelling list of 15 words, but they are not your typical "frog, bog, log' lists. Each list has a variety of spelling words that incorporate the different phonograms your student is learning. Each 5th lesson (5, 10, 15, etc.) is an assessment & review lesson. Thus, you have spelling lists 1-4, 6-9, 11-14... I really appreciated the review after only five lessons. After the student finishes each spelling list, there are notes in the Teacher's manual to help you help them. Such as underlining the phonograms that are most important to the word. (The 'sh' in brush or the 'ch' and 'oo' in school.) These hints help you explain rules your student may have forgotten.

The best part? By lesson 4, Arlene's spelling was improving, by lesson 7, there were marked improvements. Earlier this week, she VOLUNTARILY wrote a letter to her Grandma! That's right, not an email w/ spell-check, a good, old-fashioned letter.

The Basic Phonogram Flashcards ($18) are the same information presented in the app, but in a printed format. It is quite alright to have both, but most people will want one or the other. If you're blessed by owning an iPad, I would recommend the app, because it lets you hear the phonograms spoken correctly (no accent or southern drawl or northern nasal.) If you are a classroom teacher, you're probably going to want the cards instead.

The Spelling Rule Flash Cards ($15) are helpful during the lesson, and for review later. They help your struggling speller remember what you're teaching. There are 9 cards that help explain 'silent e.' Rule 12.2 states "English words do not end in V or U." (Thus you need a silent e!) I think I'll have Emily (age 15) go through these cards as a refresher.

The Red Manuscrupt and Blue Bookface cards ($10 a set) we received are for use with the LOE Phonogram & Spelling Game Book ($15). You will want two sets for each 4 students (or less.) You'll want at least 2 sets, and the different colors make it so you can identify your own cards. There are the phonograms, and also cards for specific games, like the 'Dragon' and 'Rotten Egg' cards. Arlene and I played a few of the games, but since we were focusing on the spelling aspect the most, I didn't make her play all the suggested games.

If you're wanting to purchase more than one thing, LOE has packages, including the "Complete Printed Set" and a 'custom package' that you can see here that can save you some $. Also, for those of you that live overseas, you can purchase downloadable PDF's of the Teacher's & Students books. If you are a classroom teacher, there are Annual Classroom license PDF's of the student workbooks. (Much more economical than buying 25 printed copies!)

In the past, I have had friends recommend various spelling programs to us, from $5 to $100. Although we have tried several different means, LOE is the first one that is actually getting us to our end ... Arlene as a confident speller. I would give this program the highest recommendation. (If it's out of your price range--- save up for it! Or ask the Grandparents if it could be YOUR Christmas present.) 

Arlene's improvement in spelling is making her whole school day easier. Me, I'm smiling more, and rejoicing with her improvement. This is one book that we'll work on through the very last page.

You're sure to want to know about how the other Crew members felt about all the products they received from LOE, so go ahead, click the link below!


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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Elisha Press book giveaway- this week!

Many of you will remember this past winter when we reviewed a book from Elisha Press, The Reunion, by Rachel McIntire. You can click here to see the review again.

Well, I have great news for you! Elisha Press has since published a book by Jason McIntire, a 2005 homeschool graduate, titled The Sparrow Found A House. While the e-book version is available for free, Elisha Press is giving away 5 signed softcover copies of Jason's book this Saturday night!

That's right, the giveaway runs from 8 a.m. Thursday, September 5th, through 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 7th. So you need to go enter- RIGHT NOW! (Ok, maybe when you finish reading this post-LOL!)

Several bloggers are helping promote this giveaway, but I'd love it if you would enter using the link at the bottom of this post. I haven't had time to read The Sparrow Found  A House yet, but it is on my short list of books for this fall. 

I trust it will be a good read. I really enjoyed The Reunion, and I know that Elisha Press is committed to providing 'clean Christian novels for families.'

Here is a brief description of the book from the author:

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager’s nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant’s stripes – on both sleeves.
Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he’s loving, kind – even fun – and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over.
But Jessie is determined that she won’t be won over, or give up her “freedom” without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn’t what they’ve got.
Or is it?

If you would like to order your own printed copy, you can get it here for only $12.99 (shipping is free to the USA, $4 extra to Canada.)

Now, about that giveaway... just click HERE to enter!

Disclaimer: I have not received anything from the author or publisher in exchange for this review. If I am one of the top 3 referring bloggers, I will receive my own signed copy. If I am NOT one of the top three, I will still be happy that I helped promote quality literature!