Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Trip through All About Spelling (and a giveaway)

Our family LOVES All About Learning products! But before I tell you why, let me provide a little background...

As a Kindergartener, our second son spent four months struggling to use a reading program that was not working for us. When at the end of those four months, he still could not blend letter sounds into words, I researched other programs and came across All About Reading. I really did not want to switch and learn how to use another program, nor did I want to spend more money on another curriculum.  Ultimately, what convinced me to try All About Learning products is their Try-It-for-One-Year 100% Money-Back Guarantee.  
"You have one full year to try out All About Reading [or All About Spelling]. Go ahead and use it!  If it doesn't meet your needs for any reason, simply return the materials within one year for a full refund of purchase price."
So... I took the plunge.

Within two weeks he was reading.

Since then, our family has converted all of our phonics-based reading and spelling instruction to All About Learning products. After using these two programs with three distractible boys who have different learning strengths and styles, and after completing six levels of All About Spelling (and starting the final level, Level 7, with our oldest), I can wholeheartedly announce that I am so glad we tried another program over three years ago. It has not only equipped our oldest two children, who are not intuitive spellers, to spell correctly, it has also taught me (an intuitive speller) many things I never knew about the English language.

So... how about we take a trip through the All About Spelling program? I thought it'd be most appropriate to take you through our second son's spelling lesson this week, since he is the one who prompted our conversion to all things All About Learning.

Earlier this week, our third-grade son (the one who struggled so much with learning to read three years ago), analyzed four ways to spell the long sound of i. Here's a trip through that lesson to show the overall structure of an All About Spelling lesson (Level 3, Step 25).

Each All About Spelling lesson begins with a review of previous concepts including:
  • phonogram cards (in yellow)
  • sound cards (in red)
  • key cards (in blue), where you practice the memorization of rules
  • and word cards (in green)

These cards are organized in a memory work box system under three categories to ensure appropriate review of material for mastery:
  • Needs review
  • Mastered
  • Future Lessons

As part of the review, students read from word banks to gain familiarity with the spelling of words of certain types (in this case, we are reviewing a recently introduced spelling of the sound /er/.)

Then, as part of the daily review, the student performs a word analysis using spelling tiles.

The lessons are fully scripted so that parents (and thus, students) understand what is expected.

After the review, we introduce the new teaching (Introduce the Word Sort for long sound of i).

The student, having been previously introduced to the above spellings of the long sound of i, is now using a strategy to distinguish between the different spellings he has learned.

My non-intuitive-speller spelled all of these words correctly. This is significant, friends! (Penmanship, however, is needing some extra work.)

Next, we teach a new sound card (used for dictation) related to the new teaching.

Again, the lesson is fully scripted. The parent doesn't need to worry about missing anything! It's all right here!

Throughout the book there are gray boxes for the parents to reference to help them with the big picture of what lies ahead (or to further explain concepts beyond what is introduced to the student).

Finally, we end with dictation sentences, which our son likes to record in his homemade "My StoryBook" booklets. Sometimes we modify the sentences to be a bit silly because... this child loves all things silly.

For this particular lesson, he wrote the following from dictation:

After he finished writing each sentence, he went back to check his mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, etc.) and then added his own silly stick figure interpretation of what this might look like.

At the end of each lesson is a "Writing Station" where students can write original sentences using new words.

And that wraps up a trip through our All About Spelling lesson this week! Now let me close with the top ten reasons we use All About Spelling in our home.

Ten Reasons We Use All About Spelling:
  1. Multi-sensory approach. Learning begins with your senses. All About Spelling incorporates the three senses we use when spelling or reading: sight, sound, and touch. Because it uses the three primary pathways of learning - visual, auditory, and kinesthetic - All About Spelling helps children retain information. My children's spelling (and reading) have improved significantly as they use multiple pathways to learn new material!
  2. Mastery-based program. All About Spelling provides thorough instruction in basic concepts before introducing more complex tasks.
  3. Spelling lists follow a rule or pattern. Only one major concept is introduced in each spelling (or reading) list, preventing short-term memory overload. (This is the reason our middle child had so much trouble learning to read with another program!) With its emphasis on rules, All About Spelling finally gave our oldest a method for applying rules to new words and consistently spelling words correctly.
  4. Teaches multiple spelling strategies. All About Spelling not only teaches phonetic spelling, it also incorporates the use of rules and generalizations for spelling, visual spelling strategies, Latin and Greek roots and derivatives as well as Italian-loan words, Spanish-loan words, and French-loan words (in Level 7), and other techniques. I have seen firsthand the benefits of this as our children think through how they should spell a new word.
  5. Reviews crucial information frequently. Review is built into each lesson using multi-sensory methods. With word analysis, flashcards, word banks, spelling-strategy practice, dictation, and writing prompts, students review concepts in great depth using a variety of different techniques over a long period of time. 
  6. Scripted, open-and-go lessons. Scripted lessons are easy to follow and understand, and each lesson follows the same routine each day. As the teacher, I can just open the book and start teaching without a lot of prep work. I don't have to worry about forgetting anything. Aside from setting up the tiles and cards when starting each level of the program, very little prep work is needed.
  7. Makes connections with hands-on activities and visual cues. Both programs use analogies to help with understanding spelling strategies. (For example, "Open syllable" types are represented by an open door.) Letter tiles are color-coded to provide visual cues, and concepts like segmenting and labeling syllables help a child to learn new concepts.
  8. Lessons can be customized. You need not complete one lesson per day, and the levels do not necessarily correlate with grades. You go at the pace needed. Sometimes we will do two lessons in one day. Sometimes we camp out on a lesson for a week. We are moving spelling rules and strategies from short-term memory to long-term memory! The goal is mastery of the rule so that it can be applied to new words when they are writing sentences. 
  9. Dictation exercises are included. It has been very simple for us to extend these lessons into English grammar instruction.
  10. Continued help is available. It's so great to not feel alone in this endeavor. The folks at All About Learning have responded to all of my customer and instructional inquiries with custom-fit ideas and tips! Plus, the All About Learning blog is filled with helpful information about teaching children to read and spell! Read The Memory Series as just one example of the fabulous content of the All About Learning blog! 
With the part-to-whole, phonics-based approach, the use of dictation exercises, and the focus on memorizing rules, this program fits our classical style of educating!

All About Learning Press Freebies!

All About Learning offers several free downloads and helpful articles on their blog and website! Here are just a few:

For pre-readers, take a look at A-B-C Snacks:  Eating Your Way Through the Alphabet. Marie Rippel shares these types of resources when you sign up for the free All About Learning Press Newsletter.  You can also receive several other freebies:

 All About Reading Activity Bundle 

Click here for All About Reading. Here you can download (for each level) free placement tests and samples from the teacher's manual, student workbook, and readers.

You can also download free samples and the scope and sequence for each of the All About Spelling books by clicking here

All About Learning Giveaway!
All About Learning Press has provided four $25 gift certificates to their store to giveaway here at Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood!  

Four winners will be randomly selected and posted within the Rafflecopter form before May 31! Gift certificates are valid for anything (All About Reading or All About Spelling) on their website (! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below!

Click here to enter this Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to All About Learning Press for offering this great giveaway!

This post contains affiliate links. To find out why we use affiliate links, I encourage you to read our disclosure policy. By using our affiliate links, you not only allow us to invest in this site and provide giveaways to our readers, but you also support ministries from around the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

History through the Summer... and Beyond

Two years ago, I accidentally discovered something extraordinary. 

It's not often that we have reviewed a new curriculum (especially one spanning 5,000 years of history) and have used it completely - in its entirety - in one summer.  In fact, there's really only one study that fully fits that description.

It's called the Western Civilization Study (better known in our home as Calendar Quest) by Brimwood Press

Now that we are officially returning to a study of world history (ancients through modern), here I am looking back through these materials and thinking... I really want our family to go through this study all over again! (Although I love this whole "layering" process of classical education, there aren't many studies I want to do all over again. This one, however, offers substance that I want to revisit multiple times. And not only will a repeat of this material help with retention and understanding, it reuses materials we have acquired in the past.) 

So... what is the Western Civilization Study?  

It's a 5,000-year quest.  A quest to discover [from] whence our calendar came.

This quest takes you on on a 5,000-year journey through history (in twelve historical periods) from the Sumerians through the World Wars, from cuneiform & astrology to communism & the Cold War, and religion from ancient times to the 20th century. It can fill in many of the gaps in our knowledge of ancient history - the Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Byzantine empire. It touches on such people as Hammurabi and Dionysius and on such topics as the Punic Wars, Patricians & Plebeians, the Nicene Creed, the Reformation.... and more. It provides connections between history [including Biblical history relevant to the calendar and Western Civilization] and geography, and it includes the advancements each culture made in mathematics, science, and writing. All of these things... the cultures and beliefs contributing to the rise of Western Civilization... and how they all tie into the formation of the calendar we use today. The abstract made concrete for my children. For me.

The student/teacher manual includes timeline cards, stickers, and a simple review game for reviewing the material

The tools for our quest:  A combined open-and-go Student/Teacher Manual called What Every Child Needs to Know about Western Civilization, a historical fiction & literature companion Calendar Quest, and an 11"x17" coloring book called Color the Western World.  (Visit the links to read product descriptions and download free sample pages).

Intended to be completed in approximately one month, this history curriculum is only 16 lessons long. But there exists great depth within each lesson and continuity between each lesson. [And even though it can be completed in one month, it can also be completed over a 16-week period, which is how long it took us to complete it at one lesson per week.]

The program uses literature as the "hook" or "attention grabber."  In fact, I started reading the book Calendar Quest before the other materials arrived (even though I wasn't supposed to).  When I told the boys that we needed to stop reading to await the arrival of the other materials, they made me fully aware of their disappointment.

Each lesson starts with a literature activity from the time-travel-themed book, Calendar Quest, (with reading comprehension questions in the Western Civilization guide if you are still learning the skill of narration). [For months after we read the chapter on Babylon, David pretended to be Hammurabi shouting, "Dates! Dates!  I need more dates!" (Thankfully, he was referring to the edible kind of dates.)]

Students then label and color-code a map as part of a geography activity related to the history (from What Every Child Needs to Know about Western Civilization).

Each lesson has a History-in-a-Nutshell activity in which the students memorize and place a person into their correct date, civilization, and geographic region.  Students begin their quest by placing the cards into the order they *think* they should go.  This is great even for those who have previously memorized history sentences and/or a timeline because they can verify their knowledge and/or understanding of the event/person.  After the first lesson, they progress through the timeline and see how far off their original timeline card placement was.

As we progress through the timeline, the student writes information onto the timeline card such as key date, time span, and place.

While the parent reads each lesson from the What Every Child Needs to Know about Western Civilization book,

the student can color in the figures within a huge 11"x17" coloring book called Color the Western World (which includes history summaries for each civilization that made contributions to western civilization as it exists today; this coloring book is a great history study just by itself!),

...and then the student can place the history stickers that match their coloring page onto the back of the timeline card.

The final lesson in this book includes a review game activity to verify the students' retention of which culture did what and how those contributions tie into the overall history of Western Civilization.

This study helped me (a person whose natural academic strengths do not include history and geography) to connect our memory work chronologically while gaining an understanding of how Western Civilization came to exist as it is today.  Although our oldest son (a person whose natural academic strengths DO include history and geography) and I engaged in some enlightening "dialectic discussions" as we made many connections to things we've memorized in the past, the other two just enjoyed coloring maps and pictures, sticking stickers on the cards, and reciting memory work as certain people and places came up in our reading.  The emphasis on memory work and review made it an engaging program for them as well!

This curriculum does not shy away from the tough topics which have also shaped Western Civilization, such as:
  • The Scopes Trial
  • Darwin's Origin of Species
  • Genetic Engineering
  • The history of the church and the good it has done
  • The history of the church and the bad it has done in the name of Christ: the Inquisition, Anti-Semitism, Persecution...
We live in a world of skepticism.  Why are there so many who have turned from religion?  What has contributed to the rejection of Christianity? How can we use this knowledge to better equip ourselves against this skepticism?  These are open-ended questions that families may discuss as they see fit, as this curriculum does not focus on answering these questions directly.  As with so many of Brimwood's products, it provides the historical context of the events, and parents can use history as a springboard for Biblical or doctrinal discussions.
For younger children, some of these tougher topics can be adjusted as appropriate, but we are ultimately equipping our children to think logically about such issues; we're equipping them to be world changers in a world that has issues!  Without God and His unfailing love, we end up with atrocities like the Holocaust and... well, any of the heartache that comes from believing life is an experience of complete futility.

If you are in Classical Conversations...
This study is a family favorite. I wanted to share this with those who are looking for a concise history program to use over the summer or over the course of next school year. It's a study that can help you connect the history you've learned in Cycle 1, 2 and 3 of the Foundations program. 

Cycle 1
It references the geography (and timeline) from multiple weeks of Cycle 1.
It references topics related to Weeks 1, 2, 5, 6, 11, and 12 of Cycle 1. Actually, it touches on everything we studied in Cycle 1 except the Far East, South America, and Mesoamerica.

Cycle 2
It references the geography (and timeline) from multiple weeks of Cycle 2.
It references history topics related to Weeks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14-17, 21 and 22 of Cycle 2.  [All of which are contained within Lessons 12-16 of the Western Civilization Study.]

Cycle 3
The final 3 lessons in this study reference history topics related to United States History (Cycle 3, Weeks 2, 4, 5, 17, 18, 19, 24).

If you are looking for a concise history program - one that will help connect ancient history to the middle ages to modern America - or if you are looking for a broad overview of world history before delving into more involved history studies, this program is a great one to consider!  Visit Brimwood Press for more details on each of these products, to download free samples, or to purchase the Western Civilization Study set.  Readers of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood can use the coupon code HHAWFShip at check-out for FREE SHIPPING on their orders before May 31!

Since shipping is free, you may want to check out the other fantastic products available from Brimwood Press!

Writing Historical Fiction Using Your Family Tree
Introduction to Worldview
Understanding Centuries with a Toothpick Timeline
Conversations from the Garden
Christian Theology and Ancient Polytheism

A Discount Code
Readers of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood can use the coupon code HHAWFShip at check-out for free shipping on their orders before May 31!

A Giveaway
The folks at Brimwood Press are providing a free Color the Western World Coloring Book to one reader of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below...

Click here to enter this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Thank you for taking the time to read, enter, share, like, pin, tweet, or comment!
And many thanks to the Brimwood family for offering this giveaway!

I received this product in exchange for a review. Please know that I would not so highly recommend anything I did not feel was worth others' time, effort, or money.  The opinions expressed herein are my own and have not been influenced by any outside source.  We truly enjoyed this program and will likely purchase other products available from Brimwood Press in the future.  This post contains affiliate links.  To find out why we use affiliate links, I encourage you to read our disclosure policy.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Journey through the Old Testament (with Stick Figures)

Join us in May and June as our family revisits our favorite resources and the reasons we love them! We've worked with these companies to bring you special discounts and giveaways this summer, and we'd love for you to join us in taking a look at why we recommend these resources!

A Bible curriculum that is easy to prepare and effective to teach.  That's what I was looking for a few years ago as I stumbled upon Grapevine Studies about a month after eye surgery, when I still couldn't read for longer than a few minutes at a time. And so began our journey through the Bible using stick figure drawing to memorize persons, scriptures, and events concerning...

... the Resurrection
... the Birth of Jesus
... Creation to Jacob (Old Testament Overview, Part 1)
... Joseph to the Promised Land (Part 2, Old Testament Overview)
... The Jordan River to the Temple (Part 3, Old Testament Overview), and
... The Prophets (and Kings of Israel) through Nehemiah (Part 4, Old Testament Overview)

This year we followed up those studies with a simple 225 Q&A catechism using Grapevine's Old Testament Catechism Study. (Our original plan was to also complete the New Testament Catechism this year, but reality-with-a-baby won and we only made it through one Bible study! Which reminds me, it's time for another Plan vs. Reality post, isn't it?)

Old Testament Overview: What It Is

Written for ages 3 through adult, the four parts of Old Testament Overview comprise a chronological Bible study that helps to solidify our understanding of each major section of the Old Testament. Each book starts with a Timeline Overview, followed by 10 lessons that delve deeper into the main events recorded in that portion of the Old Testament, followed by a Final Review at the end of the study. This gives a total of 12 weekly lessons or about 45 daily lessons. [Our family finished the four parts of the Old Testament Overview in a single year, but these studies can also be completed across a two-year period.]

The first lesson, the timeline overview, guides the student through the big-picture of what will be studied using stick-figure drawings.

I just love how the timeline overview sets the stage and places everything in context, especially for the big-picture thinkers!

Subsequent lessons include a timeline and memory verse review from past lessons and a storyboard (two lesson pages of drawings) for a portion of scripture followed by some discussion questions.  Levi, our six year old, still prefers to use the traceable version of these books:

while Stephen (age 11) and David (age 9) use other non-traceable versions (Levels 1, 2, or 3 depending on which study it was; to see the difference in levels, click here):

At the end of each lesson, there's a "my favorite part" student drawing page with memory verse copywork/recitation. 

In addition to the above, Level 3 books also include map activities.

The detailed Teacher's Guide gives the scriptures to read aloud, a discussion prompt, and a description of what the students are to draw for each scripture passage, along with an example of one way the student can draw it.  [The example in the Teacher's Guide is what I draw on the board, but one of my children prefers to draw his own interpretation.]

Each day we spend about 20 minutes reading, drawing, and discussing the scriptures, so each lesson (Review, Storyboard, & "My Favorite Part") takes our family about 2 to 3 days to complete.  

All of the screenshots above are included in the free sample lessons of the Old Testament: Creation to Jacob Study. You can download the sample lessons for each level of this study by visiting each level's product page here and clicking on "Sample Lesson," OR you can download all of the levels for this study on the Sample Lessons page.

Our Ten Favorite Things about Grapevine Studies
  1. We're practicing our elements of shape as we learn to express Biblical truths and historical events with drawing. 
  2. The teacher manual is very easy to use and even shows me how to make the stick figures.  (Hey, at least we're practicing OiLs.) It requires very little preparation on my part. 
  3. It has opened up deeper discussion of the scriptures at times when simply reading through the Bible together has not. For example, we have learned about the cycle of apostasy and the set-up of the tabernacle. We've discussed things I never really talked about with my children until we used Grapevine Studies.
  4. At the conclusion of the first (Creation to Jacob) study, our children were able to draw the first part of the Old Testament timeline independently and recite over ten memory verses and important facts from the Bible (with similar results for the other studies). And I love that we are able to connect our Bible study to our memorized timeline!  Not only that, these studies have helped us to understand the non-chronological organization of the Books of the Bible. 
  5. It's organized chronologically and incorporates scripture memorization. Plus, we are remembering more than if we just read the passage together as a family. 
  6. Young children are able to participate because they have a traceable version!
  7. For Level 3 books, as we work through the lessons, we periodically flip to the back to label maps that correlates to what we're studying. Stephen, our personal family geographer, absolutely loves this feature!
  8. Though you can purchase e-books for a specific age group, there are also multi-level books available for some of the titles. And multi-level is great for a one-room schoolhouse like ours!
  9. This study uses a classical approach for learning the Bible:  repetition and review (grammar), discussion of the material (dialectic), and the student's picture (rhetoric).  (Our children, however, are mainly sticking to the grammar and dialectic stage right now as they draw whatever I draw on the board...) Starting with Level 4, students in Middle and High School learn to use Bible tools such as a topical Bible reference, a concordance, and a Bible dictionary.
  10. Our finished products are special keepsakes of their personal work. And it's not just questions and answers in a workbook - it's (to a certain degree) their interpretation of the scriptures and what actually happened.  And that also makes it easy to identify and clear up any misconceptions they might have!
But realizing that not everyone has similar tastes and styles, Grapevine Studies offers a free monthly eLesson that you can use in your family to see if it's a good fit! 

>>>> Download this month's free eLesson: Birth of Moses <<<<

What's the difference between the Grapevine Studies Levels?

The Beginners program focuses on the main accounts of the Bible.  Beginner books have two drawing spaces per page.

Starting in Level 1, students are introduced to a Bible timeline and learn more about the main characters and events of the Bible.  Level 1 books have two drawing spaces per page.

Level 2 books (suggested 3rd-4th graders) reference longer scripture passages and include memorization of additional Bible facts, such as the Books of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and the Twelve Sons of Jacob. Starting in Level 2, students draw four drawings per page.  

Level 3 (suggested 5th-6th graders) includes basic biblical geography and contains even more scripture reading than previous levels.  The stick figures for Level 3 include more details, such as the names of people and cities.

During Level 4 (suggested 6th+), students learn where the books of the Bible fit into the Bible timeline.  Level 4 studies introduce students to using a concordance and teach children how to dig in to Bible study with exercises using various study resources, such as Topical Bible, Bible Dictionary, and Bible Concordance.

Which Bible study should I choose?

Click here for information to assist in choosing which Bible study you would like to start with in your own home or classroom.  To see how you would teach using these studies, visit Grapevine's How to Teach page

To see screenshots and detailed descriptions of each Bible study we have completed, visit the links provided at the top of this post.

A discount for our readers!

For readers of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood who would like to shop Grapevine Studies this month, you can use coupon code HHAW15 to receive a 20% discount at checkout through May 31. If you need help finding a study that fits your family's (or classroom's) needs, you can contact me or Dianna with Grapevine studies. She is super helpful and such a blessing! 

And now... it gives me great pleasure to announce the WINNERS of the Grapevine Studies GIVEAWAY!!

1 winner of a $50 gift certificate: Karmin G.
2 winners of a $25 gift certificate: Carlen C., Rachael W.
5 winners of a $10 gift certificate: Anne, Heather C., Tricia B., Farrell C., Keith and Tammy T.

WOOHOO! Congratulations, y'all! I will be contacting you via email today, so check your inbox! I would LOVE to know which study you choose, so be sure to email me or pop back on here sometime to let me know!

Each prize can be used on any of their products (ebook sets or hard copies). Winner was randomly selected via the Rafflecopter form at the close of this giveaway.

Many thanks to all of you who read, share, and comment to enter this giveaway! And thank you to the folks at Grapevine Studies for such a generous giveaway!

Freebies for our readers:  
This post contains affiliate links.  Affiliate links are used to support the cost of maintaining this website and will eventually hopefully fulfill our family's dream of being together throughout the year. With the proceeds from this blog, we also invest in ministries around the world. Please read our full disclosure policy for more information, and thank you for reading Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood.