Friday, March 25, 2011

All About Spelling...

I am excited that Sonlight will be selling All About Spelling beginning April 4.  Although my children are now adults and I haven't had to teach spelling for years and years, I am really thrilled with All About Spelling.

 I purchased the Level 1 Teacher's Manual and Student Packet and the Basic Interactive Kit. You can see it in this first photo. They suggest you use a 2ft x 3ft magnetic white board to get the full interactive benefit out of the program, but for display purposes I used a smaller one I had around the house.

You get a CD that has all the phonogram sounds. Phonogram is a letter or letter combination that represents a sound. It comes from two Greek words meaning sound and written.                                                                The CD will help you know how to pronounce them correctly do you can teach your children. I liked the layout of this program. It is very easy to read the directions, cut out the spelling tiles, put on the pre-cut sticky magnets on them and separate the flash cards. The lessons are scripted so that you don't have to prepare on a daily basis.
It uses a multi-sensory approach and has activities that include visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities. Perfect for just about any type of learner.  It is customizable and mastery oriented. Rather than working through a list a child works on learning to identify the phonograms and then works on applying this understanding to spelling. There are flash cards that they  work on and when they have mastered a card, it goes into the mastered file. This way they are moving forward at their own pace and mastering the concepts and words as they go.
Here you can see the file box with the pre-made file dividers and I have put the cards behind the tabs. I had to purchase the little 3x5 file box myself. Everything else comes with the program. [Note:Sonlight now sells a larger box that works a lot better and it has foam spacers so you can organize your flash cards easier.

I have a friend who has used AAS and Sequential Spelling. I asked her if she could compare them. This was her response:
 With Sequential Spelling you write the words on a marker board with different segments in different colors, which helps with the visual aspect of it. All About Spelling has the added manipulatives of the magnet letter tiles and the word cards. My daughter did sometimes get tired of having to put the tiles back in alphabetical order after every session, so it is definitely more "fiddly" but for some kids that's just what they need. (My daughter being one.)

All About Spelling is far more scripted than Sequential Spelling. It tells you what to say and the response to expect, and provides dictation sentences and phrases for every list. In Sequential Spelling you have to make up your own most of the time.

It is not as... well, sequential! Sequential Spelling, in that you don't start with "all" on Monday and are spelling "installment" by Friday. I think that system would have worked very well for me, but it got too hard too fast for my daughter. All About Spelling does seem more grade specific to me than Sequential Spelling.

You can see her review at her blog, here:   Thanks Karla for your help with this blog post.:)

I am excited about this program and think that it will work well for a variety of students. All About Spelling is built upon the extensive work of the Orton-Gillingham Program, which is a well respected method to teaching students to read. You can begin this program with students who are not yet reading and it will strengthen reading and spelling skills too. It is good for students who need remediation and for students that are good spellers. I think any student would benefit from this program.

It takes about 15-20 minutes, 5 days a week with virtually no prep time for the parent.

It is a win-win all the way around.

Take care,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cincinnati Midwest Convention--Here I Come...

There are only 10 days till the Midwest Convention--9 days till I have to set up the booth.

Although I have already done a LOT of prep work in order to have the best booth in the hall, I still had quite a bit to do. So, today was dedicated to finishing up.

I store my books and materials in our barn out at our farm.

Gathering up my last minute books, my faithful dog Scrappy and my iPod, I headed out in the truck to spend a day at the farm. 

Scrappy found the smells surrounding the barn much more interesting than this huge stack of catalogs!

 Yes, folks, these are the catalogs that are earmarked for Cincinnati. 1500 catalogs! Each box of 50 weighs 30 pounds, so 900 pounds are coming to Cinci.

 I have tubs and tubs of books, display items, brochures, pens, extension cords and more!

Good thing we have a pick up truck! It doesn't seem like it should take so much time to get ready, but I like to get the booth set up in an hour or so, and that takes organization before the event.

I also practiced setting up some of the displays.  I have a sample of the Mathtacular Educational Kit which is really cool. I can't wait till my two granddaughters get a bit older.

I think I like it displayed this way the best. It is sitting on the box. I love all the cool hands on manipulatives that complement the DVD. Awesome!

I also purchased the new Mathtacular Word Problems set. This looks really interesting and easy to understand. I love that it has a DVD, student book and answer key.  Great for students and Mom.

 In another week, we will pack up so we can set up on Wednesday at the Duke Energy Center.

Take care, and you may want to check our my homeschool resource library. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Banned Words in Lit Books, History Books and Standardized Tests--The Language Police Part 3

I finished reading "The Language Police" by Diane Ravitch yesterday and I am still reeling from what I have read in this book.  For post 1 and 2, please click on the numbers.

You would not believe that left wing and right wing pressure groups put so much pressure on the state text book people [who approve what text books to use] that text book publishers--[there are four major ones, only one a US owned company] have to be very careful they don't say anything to rile any group. Since Texas and California are HUGE textbooks suppliers and the schools can only used texts approved by the state oversight committee, they drive what is allowed in standardized tests and texts.

As I finished reading the book last night I came to Appendix 1 and was alternatively mad, shaking my head, reading parts out loud to Bob and actually laughing. So, for your enjoyment or for making you mad, here are some of the banned words, phrases and photos from actual state adoption committees. I have no idea how a contributing editor to a text book can even write anything that passes...

~Starting out with the first entry...
  • Able-bodied (banned as offensive, replace with person who is non-disabled]
  • Adam and Eve (replace with Eve and Adam to demonstrate that males do not take priority over females)
  • Lumberjack (replace with woodcutter) [My comment: Are they the same thing? When I say woodcutter does that conjure up images of flannel, men with cross cut saws and floating logs down a river? Not even close in my opinion, and many of the banned words do the same thing. They take away images, smells and so much richness.]
  • Birdman (banned as sexist, replace with ornithologist) [My comment--some guy on a roof with pigeons is not necessarily an ornithologist, is he?]
  • Pop and Soda (regional term, may confuse child, say name brand); [My comment: The interesting thing is California bans name brands so I guess they say carbonated beverage? And that is less confusing than pop or soda?]
  • Courageous (Banned as patronizing when referring to a person with disabilities.]
  • Craftmanship (Banned as sexist, no replacement.)
  • Cro-magnon man (Banned as sexist)
  • Devil,/Satan 
  • God
  • East, Eastern (banned as Eurocentric when used to discuss world geography; refer to specific continent or region instead)
  • Fairy (Banned because it suggests homosexuality, replace with elf) [My comment: Elves and Fairies are not the same things, and I think Fairies would not do well at making toys with Santa.]
  • Fellowship (banned as sexist, replace as friendship. [My comment: Friendship of the Ring??? I don't think so!]
  • Freshman (banned as sexist, use first-year student.)
  • He/She/Him/ Her
  • Jungle (banned, replace with rain forest, savannah)
  • Man (banned as a sexist verb, as in man the pumps.)
  • Middle East ( banned as Eurocentric, replace with South-west Asia--May be acceptable as a historical reference)
  • Papoose (banned as demeaning to Native Americans-[My comment-but in a history book?]
  • Mothering (banned as sexist, replace with nurturing, parenting)
  • All Native American Tribes such as Navajo, use names they call them selves, such as Dine
  • Old (banned as an adjective that implies helplessness, dependency, or other negative conceptions)
  • Snowball (Banned for regional bias, replace with flavored ice. [My comment: did you ever throw flavored ice at someone on a cold day? Have a flavored ice fight?]
  • Tomboy [sexist]
  • Workmanship (banned as sexist, no replacement)
  • Huts (banned as ethnocentric, replace with small houses [My comment: Really? Are those the same things?]

I could go on. "Balance names like Mary and John with Jose, Lashunda, Che and Ling. Do not compare humans with animals such as "eyes like a doe". Images to avoid: Women in jobs less powerful than men, women or men in stereotypical jobs such as women teachers and male doctors; Men and boy heavier and larger than women and girls; Mother comforting children, giving sympathy, hugs, kisses, hot milk at bedtime, girls playing in dresses,  Japanese people as law abiding {?}, older people who are cute, grumpy, meek, bitter, hard of hearing, rocking in chairs, baking, fishing, knitting whittling, etc.

I think you get the idea.

It makes me sad for all the children who have been educated over the past 25+ years with many/most of these bannings in place. In my opinion this is why it is so important that children are read and read for themselves real books, real literature.

Mario Vargas Llosa (novelist) has said literature offers a common denominator for understand human experience; it allows human beings to recognize one another across time and space...Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than learning about other cultures and times through great literature.

Ravitch says, "Great literature does not comfort us; it does not make us feel better about ourselves. It is not written to enhance our self-esteem or to make us feel that we are "included" in the story. It takes us into its own world and creates its own reality. It shakes us up; it makes us think. Sometimes it makes us cry."

I will close for now, but I urge you if this sparks your interest at all, please get "The Language Police" and as always read to your kids. There is nothing better you can do than to share great literature with your children. If you don't know what to read, shoot me an email and I will be glad to help you.

Take care,

See other posts by going here:

See post 1 here
See post 2 here.  
See Post 3 here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tools not Toys, again...

Two years ago I posted this post about some wisdom from my dad, "Give kids tools not toys" never imagining that two years later I would have two granddaughters of my own who are now getting old enough to play. Elinor is nearly 11 months and Allison is 8 months.

They love rattles and stacking cups, but I was looking for something more. Something that could help them develop their fine motor coordination and mathematical reasoning. I am really happy with Wee WEDgits.
These things are fun for babies, chewable and interesting for adults too. I like that Wee WEDGiTS are made from non-toxic, phthalate free poly-vinyl material so I don't have to worry about the girls slobbering and chewing on them, and also that they fit with regular WEDGiTS so they can be used for a long time. 

Bob and I were amazed last week when we were stacking the WEDgits into a pyramid and Elinor put the last piece in. They are neat because they don't fall over easy and you can stack them so many ways. This is the kind of tool the helps to develop mathematical reasoning, sorting abilities, color recognition and fine motor coordination, all through play. 

This is a great tool for kids of all ages. My sister just bought some of the regular WEDgits for her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter and they have both been having a lot of fun with them. 

Another tool that I love is the Teddy Bear Mix and Match Game.  This game has the cutest heavy cardboard bears ever. There are pairs mountain climbing bears, alpine bears, ice cream cone eating bears, baby bears and more. This game can be played by non-readers and is like a concentration game. All bears are put face down and players take turn turning over two bears to try to get a match. If your bears match you take them, if not you turn them over and the next player gets a turn. I am sorry to say that when I used to play it with my nephew Issac [when he was 4 and then 5 years old] he won more games than I did. 

The bears can also be used as templates to trace around  and then the child can color them the way they want to. I always thought I would trace around to make a template to make cookie bears and maybe I will when Allison and Elinor get older. Then they can decorate them any way they want.  This is a great tool to develop memory and observation techniques--also a good way to talk about jobs people have or what different clothes mean. These bears are just so cute, you can't help but want to play with them.

Another game which is wonderful for pre-arithmetic skills, spacial reasoning and more is Mighty Mind. This is good for kids at least 3-4 and up.  

There are 32 plastic tiles and carefully sequenced cards which take children from just finding the correct tile and placing it on the card, to having a complicated outline that them must fill in with the tiles. Fun for all ages. 

Mighty Minds says it this way:

  • Faster than a speeding puzzler. Able to leap into challenging puzzles in a single bound. That kid has a Mighty Mind!
  • MightyMind develops creativity & helps children understand visual/spatial relationships.
  • A great confidence builder in a fun, purposeful format.
  • 32 colorful, easy to handle, durable plastic design tiles with 30 tangram-like design cards.
  • Smarter kids. Great Fun. Mighty Minds.
This is a great tool for kids to use alone, or one that you can use together. It can encourage team work among siblings. My kids had a wooden set when they were young and it was a lot of fun, and educational too.

These are just a few of the tools that I think are awesome for preschool-elementary age children. The WEDgits are my vote for the best baby toy in a long time because they are soft, chewy, stackable, colorful and fun for kids, parents and grandparents.

Take care,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I am an embarassment to my culture--or something like that

I continue reading "The Language Police" and it makes me madder and madder.

There is a lot to make anyone mad about what textbook and standardized test makers  have to go through to sell their products. At first I was mad at them for deleting everything worthwhile out of their products, but then as I read more they do it because there are so many pressure and special interest groups that will put up such a stink if their interests are not taken into account.

 In a reading or social studies textbook, for example, there have to be the same amount of female and male characters. Same amount of men to women, same amount of boy animals to girl animals. If there is an nanny goat, there better be a male animal to balance the book out.

No African American can be shown as an athlete; no Asian person as a cook, no older person with glasses, apron, cane or anything that makes them seem old [I think gray hair is OK :)-even fishing and baking cookies is out!], no woman can wear an apron or be cooking or caring for children...and so it goes. The reason? This is stereotyping and is insulting to the group you are stereotyping.

What?  [So, this is how I am an embarrassment--and maybe you are too.]

I think it is insulting to act like I am somehow an embarrassment to society because I care for children, cook a meal or wear glasses?? I mean isn't it really wrong to NOT show people doing things they actually do? I don't think all Asians shown should be cooking, or all African Americans should be athletes--any more than I think that all women should be shown as caring for children or baking cookies.

But none! Really!

As a woman who loves being a homemaker and who is a glasses-wearing, cooking-baking grandma, I resent the idea that showing a woman in that capacity is demeaning.  In my opinion it is demeaning to me  if you leave out anyone at all that looks traditional or is doing something that many people actually do.

I am still reading this book, but it makes me glad my kids got to read and have read to them, REAL BOOKS. Books that show people how they are--in all capacities.

Oh, and I forgot to say that grade school readers and standardized tests have to have questions that are location neutral. What I mean is that something can't be happening in the desert, or near the ocean or on a mountain or somewhere where it snows. The reason? Children who don't live in those places won't understand what those places are like and will somehow feel bad that they don't live by the beach  or have snow, or whatever!!

So, we have watered down stories about a non-traditional person anywhere doing something. Wow, how educational is that? I think about The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We didn't have to have snow to understand how cold and depressing the Long Winter was. We didn't have to experience hunger to understand how hungry the whole town was. If you take away the location and the actual things people do [Ma cooked and took care of the girls, Pa took care of the animals and went to get fuel to burn--my how horrible for my children to see people doing these traditional chores!] what are you left with? Where is the educational value of books?

It makes me sad for students and for us as a culture.

Take care,

My Other Language Police posts:
See post 1 here
See post 2 here.  
See Post 3 here.