A Review of Home Science Adventures

I have been using Home Science Adventures in our homeschool this year with Rose, my third-grader, and James, my sixth-grader. In this post, I’m going to share a few photos of the things we’ve been doing and some thoughts I have about this program.

First of all, Home Science Adventures offers six different science kits ~ plus two triple sets, which include three of the regular kits. I decided to go with one of the triple sets so we would have our science activities set for the year. We settled on the Astronomy, Birds, and Magnetism set. At the time I ordered, I wasn’t totally sure if I would incorporate James into our lessons, mostly because I wasn’t sure if the program would feel too young for him. The HSA website recommends the kits for grades 1-8. When I got the materials, I looked everything over and decided it would work fine for him to use along with Rose. He is definitely having a lighter science year this year than last, but that’s okay with me. I do think that for us, 6th grade is the upper limit I would use HSA for. To me, it feels too light and “introductory” for an eighth grader.

The lessons in HSA are short, simple, and to the point. The focus is on the hands-on activity. This is definitely a “less is more” type program, and only a few key concepts are introduced in each lesson. I really like that about it though, because I feel like what we learn is really sticking. Also, we only spend about 60-90 minutes total each week on science, usually split over two days.
That gets us through two HSA lessons.  So, it’s a very do-able program, even if you are a bit crunched for time, like  me.

How far apart are objects in the solar system?

 As far as the younger grades go, as I said, Rose is a third-grader this year, and I think that age is pretty perfect for this program. It could certainly be used with a first-grader, but it would probably help if they were a bit science-oriented, at least for the two units (astronomy and magnetism) we have tried so far. The other thing is that James could do this program entirely by himself, if I needed him to. Rose would be able to do some parts of it by herself. A younger child would most likely need help the entire time.

Comparing the sizes of the planets

Okay, so you here’s what you get when you order the Astronomy-Birds-Magnetism set!

                   

As you can see, you get a lot of stuff! This is a really fun box to open. It has literally everything you need for a whole year of science, except for a two-liter soda bottle. And I really mean everything – we were given tacks, paper cups, string, a nail, a little bag of birdseed, a ruler, a thermometer, toothpicks, and even a pin stuck in a piece of Styrofoam so we don’t poke ourselves. In the colored folders are the lesson sheets and any other reproducibles for each lesson. I chose to get the optional binoculars with the astronomy set, and for the small extra price, they work well. You get a ton of little pieces in this box!

The set also comes with a parent guide, which is just a set of stapled notes for each lesson, including answers, hints, and ideas for further study. One of my few complaints about this program is that I would have preferred to have a nicer parent guide, perhaps a small spiral-bound book. I am always afraid of losing the stapled pages, but in retrospect, perhaps I should have hole-punched them or stuck them in a sheet protector. The lesson sheets have the directions for each activity (these are written to the child) and spaces for them to record their thoughts and observations. Writing is pretty minimal, so this program has worked well for my sometimes pencil-phobic children. There is a suggestion in the parent guide to make a science notebook, but we chose to keep it simple and only use the lesson sheets. There is only set of lesson sheets, so I copy an extra for each lesson so both kiddos can have their own.

Testing which poles attract

Some thoughts on doing this with two kids – there are definitely enough supplies to have two kids share this program – you’ll just need to copy the lesson sheets if you want them each to have one. Sharing has not been a problem and I often ask James to do the set up, demonstrate how to do the experiment to his sister, and help her fill in her sheet.

The three units of the triple set can be done in any order; they stand alone. We chose to start the year with astronomy, and the very first lesson we did was on tracking the moon. The kids kept a moon chart and noted what phase the moon was in every few nights. Simple, but a really  nice way to get us paying attention to the night sky on a regular basis. Incidentally, we have this calendar at home, and it’s a great go-along to the astronomy unit. If we weren’t totally sure of the moon phase we just checked our calendar. Our next lesson had the kids draw the moon while observing the craters with their binoculars. We learned what ejecta rays are and how craters form. This lesson had a fun optional idea to design your own moon base, but the kids weren’t interested, so I didn’t push it.

For other astronomy lessons, we figured out how high the kids could jump, and how high that would be on the moon and on other planets (and why). We did a greenhouse experiment to see just why it is hotter on Venus than Mercury. Again, each of these lessons has go-along hints, tips, and extra facts included in the parent guide, as well as simple ideas for extra study – many of these are just other things to discuss or briefly research and only take a few minutes to add in.

At this point, we hit the holidays, so we took a break from science. Getting back to our astronomy studies proved difficult – it was either cloudy, too cold, or someone was too tired from practice to go outside. We also had several weeks of sickness, which did not help! So, I decided to switch to the  magnetism kit for a while and we’ll pick astronomy back up in the spring (we have six lessons left).

Testing out magnetic fields

Another magnet sculpture

Home Science Adventures is not a secular program, and there are a (very) few religious references, but we have not found this to be an issue at all as a secular homeschooling family.

Making predictions ~ what is magnetic?

 So to sum up – I really like this program and I think the kids do, too. It is easy to use, which is always a plus, especially for someone like me who tends to push science to the back burner. This program gets done, which is huge in my book! I also really love having everything provided for me! For so many other science programs we have to hunt around for things, go shopping for items we need to do an experiment, or modify experiments to fit what we do have. Not so here! It is light, but I am okay with that; it fits what I wanted for science this year. If you have any questions about Home Science Adventures, I am happy to try to help; just leave me a comment below. 

Sonlight’s Core B: A Little Review

Rose and I are still slowly finishing up Sonlight Core B.  We only have about a week and a half left of readings, but our rather hectic summer routine has so far left us only bits and pieces of time for read-alouds. But, I thought I’d post a few thoughts about this Core since I hope to finish it by next week ~ we are in the middle of Detectives in Togas, and I want to know what happens next!

 I have mostly switched to using BookShark at this point, since it is basically a secular version of Sonlight, which I prefer. But I had Core B on the shelf from Rose’s older siblings and I couldn’t find any good reason not to just reuse it, so that’s why Rose and I are doing Sonlight while the other kids do BookShark.  My Core is a bit “outdated” from the current Core B Sonlight sells, but many of the titles are the same. We did not use the language arts for this level, but we did use Science B alongside it.

Core B is the first half of a two-part World History program, covering roughly through the fall of Rome. We have the 5-day version of the program. Our Sonlight part of the day usually went something like this (though not necessarily in this order):

  • We read a chapter or two of our read aloud.
  • She read to me from her reader (we used BookShark Readers 2 this year).
  • A couple of days a week we were assigned poetry to read. 
  • We did our science reading (or assigned experiment) and went over the discussion questions.
So…more about the books!


History & Geography: The spines used for this Core are Usborne Time TravelerA Child’s History of the World, and The Usborne Book of World History. Time Traveler was Rose’s favorite of the three. This is a really fun book that takes you back into time to every day life in the ancient world through cartoons and short entertaining stories. By contrast, CHOW has few illustrations and is a very accessible narrative history that ties everything together in chronological order. The Book of World History is heavily illustrated and has slightly more involved information than Time Traveler. Its presentation is a bit “choppier” than the other two, but I do like the way the three work together to reinforce each other. For all of these books, we just read, discussed, and occasionally looked something up on a map; I did not really use the notes in the Instructor Guide for these books at all. We skipped over the religious history titles, but we did read The Great Wall of China, Tut’s Mummy Lost and Found, and Archaeologists Dig for Clues. These were all very short, and we finished them in one or two days at most. I read all of the history books aloud to her.

Read-Alouds: Every day we had a read-aloud, and the read-alouds for this Core are absolutely fabulous. They were Rose’s favorite part of the program. I can honestly say that she adored every single book we read together and usually complained when I stopped! For these, I did use the notes – the vocabulary words and discussion questions in my Instructor Guide. We went over the vocabulary before the reading, and I asked her the discussion questions after. If  we were a bit pressed for time I skipped the notes, and for the last two read-alouds, I also skipped the notes and we just read the books. The only book we skipped from this Core was Mountain Born, because I just wasn’t in the mood for a sad book at the time! I think Rose’s favorite from this core was Greek Myths – she adored all of the stories and we read through that one at double-pace because she didn’t want to stop! Even books that I thought might be a bit slow-paced for her, like The Year of Miss Agnes and Understood Betsy, were very much enjoyed.

Science: Science B was a success for us. We enjoyed the books, we usually did the questions from the Instructor Guide each day, and we watched the Sonlight Science DVD’s (which I love), and did most of the experiments. If I have one complaint about Science B, it is that it sometimes felt a little short and choppy to me. We read small bits of the same book three days in a row, then had an experiment day based on The Usborne Book of Science Activities, then read a bit from a different book on day 5. Sometimes I felt like science was kind of rushed through in our day, a tacked-on addition – read a little snippet, discuss, move on. It did get done though, which is always nice!

Notes on next year: I am considering switching to BookShark 2 (the equivalent of Sonlight’s Core C) for next year, even though I have Core C on the shelf.  My Instructor Guide for C is quite a mess of pencil marks and damaged pages these days, and I am not sure I can stand using it again. I do think we will be going in a different direction for science than what I had previously planned (Sonlight Science C), but more on that later!

A Review of First Language Lessons Level 2

I posted a review a couple of years ago on First Language Lessons Level 1; this post is a follow-up to that review and covers First Language Lessons Level 2, which Rose finished up a couple of months ago.

First of all, as I mentioned in my review of FLL Level 1, my copy of FLL is a combined edition of the first two levels. However, I believe the content is basically the same as the newer, separate editions.

                                          

It is suggested that you do at least one lesson per week of Level 2 over summer break to improve retention, but we didn’t do that. Rose did forget things over the summer, but she was able to pick them up again fairly easily, and since I only do grammar for exposure at this age, it didn’t bother me much that she didn’t retain everything. We did grammar 3-4 times a week, about 10-15 minutes each day, and easily completed the book in less than a year. We started out doing one lesson per day, but towards the end of the year we doubled up on some lessons in order to finish more quickly. Rose is my child that likes to finish things when she sees that she’s near the end.

The structure of this book is basically the same as Level 1. The scripted lessons continue, and the lessons provide a good variety based around a few major themes…

Grammar: The grammar in FLL 2 starts out with a review of nouns, then covers state of being verbs, pronouns, linking verbs, commas, capitalization, contractions, adjectives (including predicate adjectives), conjunctions, direct and indirect quotations, adverbs, types of sentences, prepositions, and interjections.

As in FLL 1, the lessons are short, gentle, and often interactive. Instead of just rattling off a list of pronouns, you help the child slowly memorize them over several days and they get to make up sentences using pronouns. When we learned about linking verbs, we made a little paper chain of three different colors: one for the noun, one for the linking verb, and one for the adjective. The state of being verbs were learned by chanting and clapping them. Prepositions were reinforced by setting the table! She put the plate on the table, the fork beside the plate, the glass above the knife, etc. There are just enough activities to make the book fun but not overwhelming, and none of them require much prep time. This is a huge win in my book.

Poem Memorization: As in Level 1, Rose memorized several poems. We were reminded throughout Level 2 to review poems memorized in Level 1, and one of the final lessons in the book was a cumulative poem review where she was asked to recite all of the poems she had learned over the two levels. She wasn’t sure she could do it, but she did great!

Story Narration: Story narrations continue in this level with slightly longer stories. As in Level 1, I had her do oral narrations, occasionally typing them out for her. Some of the stories were read again in subsequent lessons and used for a parts of speech hunt. For example, we read “The Quarrel” one day, then the next day we read the same story to look for contractions.

Picture Narrations: As in Level 1, this level contains several picture narrations, which were a nice change of pace. These are often used to reinforce another lesson. For example, in one picture narration Rose was asked questions involving prepositions, like: What do you see on the bed? What is beside the lamp?

Copywork/Dictation: Some of the lessons end with a short copywork or dictation exercise. We skipped most of these because we also use Writing with Ease. But, because the exercises often related to the lesson (such as copying sentences containing adverbs), I did read them aloud to her.

Optional Enrichment: Many of the lessons end with an optional activity, which we usually skipped. These include things like making a “My Week” booklet, or drawing pictures of various things related to the lesson. Others we chose to do, such as making a crown for the King of the Stuffed Animals ( a fun lesson in the preposition section).

Writing: This level included some writing activities, but since we were also working through Writing with Ease Level 2 and Writing Strands Level 2, Rose did not complete all of these. She wrote postcards and learned how to address envelopes, but we skipped some of the composition lessons because they were very similar to things she had already done in Writing Strands. We also skipped a few lessons at the end that were designed to review dictation, since we cover dictation with Writing with Ease.

Like Level 1, we both really enjoyed First Language Lessons Level 2. Rose didn’t often complain about doing it, which is a huge plus in my book. The only thing she didn’t really enjoy were the days she was asked to hunt for nouns, verbs, etc. in a story. She got a bit frustrated by that, but other than that this was a nice, light continuation of Level 1, and I plan to begin First Language Lessons Level 3 with her this fall.

A Review of Writing Strands Level Two

Rose just finished up Writing Strands Level 2, so I thought I’d write a little review. I’ve tried a few different writing programs over the years, but I’ve had trouble finding something that sticks. This year I put everyone in Writing Strands, and it is the best fit for us so far. I’m going to talk about Level Two here, but I also have kids working through Level Three and Level Five.

Writing Strands Level Two consists of 15 writing assignments. It is  meant to be a full year of writing instruction, and that is about how long it will take us to complete the book – just shy of a full school year. The general idea is that the student spends a week on each assignment, then takes a week off from writing. We sometimes took a week off between assignments and sometimes not, depending on how long the assignment took (sometimes they took longer than a week) and how arduous they were (sometimes she needed the break, sometimes not). On average, we worked on a Writing Strands assignment three days per week, for about 15-20 minutes at a time.

The book is divided into 15 lessons, which are further divided into writing assignments. Day 1 is devoted to “pre-writing” – discussing ideas, introducing punctuation, learning to describe objects, and other mostly verbal activities.

To give you an idea of what a lesson is like,  I’ll describe Lesson 3 “Like a Reporter”.

On Day One -“Prewriting” – We talked a bit about what reporters did, and I explained to her what would happen the next day…as suggested in the book, her brother would come in the door, do a good deed or two of his choosing while she watched, then leave. She was to watch carefully and be ready to tell me exactly what he did.

On Day Two, her brother (very kindly) came into the kitchen, polished a bowl of apples, and exited through the front door.  I had Rose narrate the events back to me. Instead of just saying “Christopher came in and polished the apples”, she was to say that he came in through the front door, shut the door behind him, walked over to the sink, got a paper towel, came back to the table, picked up an apple, polished it, etc. This was very good practice in paying attention to detail! I wrote her list of events down for her.

Days Three and Four were set aside for writing up a “Good Deed Report”. She was to turn those notes into full sentences and write them down. Since Rose is new to writing and spelling, I sat with her and we worked on just two sentences each day. This assignment took longer than one week to finish, but I prefer to go slowly to avoid frustrating her with too much writing at once.

There is a nice variety of assignments in this level, and there is really no “typical” lesson.  She wrote a short paper about her morning routine, an advertisement for a product (which turned into a little skit), an interview with our puppy, and short verses for greeting cards, among other things. We did every assignment in the book except the last one, which is to pretend that summer is over and then write down what you did. She thought it would be better to wait until summer was actually over, and write down what she really did. So we’ll start next year with that assignment.

I love Writing Strands. It is super easy to use, very inexpensive, and completely re-usable, since all work is done on separate paper.  I like that it breaks the assignments down into manageable pieces. We often tweaked the assignments a bit to suit Rose’s interest, which is easy to do with this program. For example, she just completed Lesson 14: “Animals”, where she was asked to pretend to be a favorite animal and write about what she might do. That didn’t interest her too much, so I suggested she just write about her favorite animal. We used the ideas in the lesson to come up with a list of characteristics, then she wrote a little nonfiction report about her favorite animals – horses!

There isn’t a teacher’s manual per se with this series – the single book Evaluating Writing is meant to go along with all of the levels.  I do have EW, but haven’t used it much yet. It is on my to-do list to look it over, and hopefully I’ll be able to review it separately later on.

 I don’t think Writing Strands needs any supplementation, but I do like to have the kids practice narration and dictation, so Rose is also using Writing with Ease Level Two.

A Review of Spelling Workout B

Rose finished Spelling Workout Level B a couple of weeks ago, which means it’s time for a little review!

I love the cover of this workbook! It’s so bright and cheery. 

I have used the Spelling Workout series pretty consistently with my kids over the years, except for a brief period when we tried (and failed at) Spelling Power. I will try to talk more about my other kids and spelling in a later post ~ Christopher is currently working on SWO H, while James is doing SWO E.

Spelling Workout is a workbook approach to spelling, so I will make no claims that it is the flashiest or most fun spelling program out there. I briefly looked into All About Spelling for Rose, because I kept hearing so much about it, but I decided it is a bit too frilly for my tastes right now. Spelling is one of the few things Rose can do mostly on her own, and with three other kids to teach, I just didn’t want something teacher-intensive for this subject. I am a big fan of simple curricula for our basic subjects. If it is easy to use and requires little or no prep work, it’s much more likely to get done around here!

Prior to completing Spelling Workout B, Rose completed Spelling Workout: Level A. I had her start spelling when she was about halfway through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, as suggested in The Well-Trained Mind. I am going to review SWO Level B here but A is quite similar, except of course that the words studied are easier, and there is less writing required on each page.

The Book

Spelling Workout books are consumable, soft-cover workbooks with black and white illustrations. They are available through Amazon and Rainbow Resource Center for around $10. Each book consists of 36 lessons, and each lesson will take one week to complete if you do one page of spelling four days per week. According to the publisher‘s website Level A is for first grade and Level H (the last book) is for eighth grade.  The Well-Trained Mind recommends moving through the books more quickly – finishing Level H in sixth grade. I initially tried to move through the books at the recommended pace, but my handwriting-phobic children often can’t handle doing more than one page per day. So Christopher will finish SWO H this year, his seventh grade year, while James is working on Level E in his fifth grade year. Rose is currently using Level C in her 2nd grade year.

The Lessons

The Spelling Workout lessons are pretty predictable, which at first glance might seem boring, but Rose actually seems to enjoy this. She knows what to expect each day and has gotten much more confident in reading directions and working independently. Each lesson starts out with a page called “Spelling Words in Action” – a little essay containing some of the spelling words for that week.

The spelling words are shown in bold print in the essay. This particular essay is from lesson 9, and it is about how to make nachos. It includes the words true, you, few, use, and rule, all of which are list words for this week . I used to read the essays aloud, but now that Rose’s reading has taken off she reads them to me. At the end of this essay we were asked to say each of the words in bold print and think about what vowel sounds we could hear.

 Each lesson starts the same way, with a short, interesting essay featuring some of the spelling words from that lesson. Each essay ends with a short oral exercise, such as identifying vowel sounds in the words, looking at the endings of words, or identifying consonant blends. This level includes essays on Johnny Appleseed, flying fish, and jumping rope. There is a nice variety of topics.

Rose does the first written page of the lesson right after we read the essay.  This page is titled “Spelling Practice”. It begins with a spelling tip, which I read aloud. This week it says “Each list word has a long u sound. The long u can be spelled ew, as in few; u_e , as in rule; ue, as in true; and ou, as in you.” Beneath the tip are the ten list words for this lesson.  I have her read the list aloud to me, to make sure she knows all the words. In later lessons, the words are written in both print and cursive, which I think is a nice touch.

 Next, Rose is asked to write her list words under the heading that shows their long u sound spelling. Is the word spelled u_e like in June, ew like in new, ue like in blue, or ou like in soup? This is her least favorite page, because she thinks it’s boring. The spelling practice page varies lesson to lesson. Sometimes list words are grouped according to their consonant blends, sometimes they are to be written out with prefixes circled, or written out according to their “c” sounds. But this page always involves the child writing out each spelling word.

The next day, things get a little more interesting (according to Rose). This page of spelling varies lesson to lesson. For this lesson, she read a silly sentence….”We sang a happy rule in our holiday concert.” Then she figured out which of her list words should replace the underlined word. In this case, tune makes much more sense!

Next up is a story that is missing some words. Rose filled in the words from her spelling list that made sense.

Like I said, this third page of each lesson differs week to week. Here’s a look at just a few of the activities this level includes.

Word addition for learning contractions

Word searches

Word puzzles

 Other activities involve unscrambling list words, writing the list word that belongs with a group of other words, or reading clues and figuring out which list word matches. There are usually two activities like these in each lesson.

The last page of each lesson is the “Spelling and Writing” section. First, there is the proofreading section. Students are asked to identify mistakes in sentences, such as capitalization errors, missing punctuation, and list words spelled incorrectly. They use proofreading marks to edit each sentence, then write each misspelled word correctly. By the end of the book they have worked up to editing short paragraphs of about five sentences.

Each lesson concludes with a writing prompt. In this particular lesson, the student is asked to write about a favorite food and how to make it.

You can see that this prompt is blank – because we don’t do them! Rose does Writing Strands and Writing with Ease, and that is enough writing for her right now. The prompts are short and interesting though, and if you wanted more writing practice they would be a pretty painless way to get it in.

 It is suggested that students keep a notebook of spelling words, but we don’t do that. We just do the pages and move on. Every five lessons there is a review lesson covering the previous five lessons. The review lessons  always end with a “Show What You Know” section, which is Rose’s favorite part of Spelling Workout. Here, she is asked to fill in the bubble next to the misspelled word in each line. She gets a kick out of the silly ways words have been spelled to try to “trick” her.

The book ends with a dictionary section including each spelling word; I know it is there but we have never used it for anything.There are teacher’s guides available for this series, but I have never purchased them. The first few levels are so easy that an answer key is unnecessary. The teacher’s guide says it includes extra teaching activities but I prefer to keep spelling simple, so we just use the workbook.

My kids would never say they love spelling but I notice they always complete it without my nagging them, and that’s saying a lot around here! We don’t use workbooks for much else, so I think Spelling Workout is kind of a novelty. I also think there is something satisfying about doing a workbook – at the very least there is an obvious end point!

So, I like this program. It is easy to use, requires zero prepwork, and Rose can work on it independently. Level C, which she is using now, is quite similar to Level B, with more challenging words.  

A Review of Junior Analytical Grammar

James has been using Junior Analytical Grammar for a few months now. We have just a few lessons left before finishing the book, which means it’s time for a little review. I am not sure if I will meet my goal of reviewing all of the curriculum we are using this year, but I am sure going to try!

Junior Analytical Grammar (JAG) is intended to be used by children who aren’t quite ready for Analytical Grammar, in about 4th to 5th grade. James (10) is using it in his fifth grade year.

I currently have two older students working through Analytical Grammar: more about that here. There are 11 units in JAG, covering all the basic parts of speech, plus conjunctions and compound situations. The book is intended to take 11 weeks, covering 1 unit per week, after which you can move on to JAG Mechanics. For us, it is going to take quite a bit more than 11 weeks – probably more like 18 weeks when all is said and done. My kid is pretty poky about getting his work done, though (he would say he likes to take his time).  We also don’t tend to get to grammar every day, though that is my goal.

What You Need

There is a teacher’s book and a student’s manual. You need both, unless you are super confident in your grammar abilities (I am not). The teacher’s manual contains all of the notes, exercises, and tests, plus it has tips on how to teach the units, and most importantly – it has the answers. The student book contains the notes, exercises, tests, and a Playing With Words section for each unit, which is not found in the teacher’s book.

How the book is set up and how we do it

Each of the 11 units contains:

  • Notes
  • 3 Exercises
  • 1 Playing With Words section
  • A unit end Test

First up are the lecture notes. There is the same text in both the teacher’s and student’s edition, so I read aloud while he follows along. The notes include plenty of examples and often require the student to respond orally, which keeps James from falling asleep while I talk (usually).  It takes us 5-10 minutes to go over the notes.

After the notes, there are 3 Exercises, consisting of five sentences to label and diagram, a short fill-in-the-blank section, and a section on identifying word jobs. My aim is to do one exercise per day, but we rarely meet that goal. For Exercise 1, I talk James through the labeling and diagramming of the first two or three sentences.  I encourage him to find the nouns first, followed by the modifiers, prepositions, verbs, and finally the subject.  Unit 9 includes a process chart with clear steps that take the child from labeling the nouns in the sentence to finishing their diagram. He keeps that chart out while he works, and it has been very helpful to him to go about the work in an organized manner.

All of the exercises start by labeling sentences; students are expected to label only the parts of speech they have learned so far. So, in the first lesson on nouns, they are only expected to label nouns. By the time you reach Unit 4  (Prepositions), simple diagrams are introduced. Students work up to diagramming whole sentences, and eventually compound sentences. There isn’t much room for diagramming in the workbook, so James uses a separate sheet of paper. We file the completed diagrams in his language arts binder.

After we go through the first few sentences, he completes the exercise on his own.  I stay available to help him, and to remind him that staring off into space is probably not conducive to getting it done! After the labeling and diagramming the rest of the lesson goes quickly, ending with a short section on identifying word jobs. I let him abbreviate these.

Then, I correct his work and we go over any errors. I get the easy job; I have all the answers!

Every unit includes a Playing With Words section, where the student is asked to apply their knowledge. They might be asked to make up a sentence using certain parts of speech, or to write a paragraph using as many prepositional phrases as possible. He likes to get a bit silly with these, and often injects some “boy humor”.

After he finishes, there is a  “How Did I do?” section, which he uses to score his own work.

To wrap up each unit there is a Test,  usually consisting of five sentences to parse and diagram, followed by a few fill-in-the blanks. The teacher’s manual tells exactly how to grade each test. I don’t normally grade anything, but I have been grading these, just so the kids can get used to receiving grades once in awhile.

So, to sum up – I really, really like Junior Analytical Grammar – it is a solid, easy to use program that gets the job done. I will not go so far as to say that James looks forward to grammar, or is disappointed if we don’t get to it!  But I am not sure there is a grammar program out there that would cause that kind of reaction in my children, so I’m good with this one. When he is done with this book, we will move on to JAG Mechanics, which I’ll review separately later in the year. 

I Can Read It! A Little Review

Since Rose is officially finished with her phonics primer, she has been spending a bit of time reading aloud to me each day. She is currently reading through BookShark’s Grade 1 readers, starting with the delightful I Can Read It! books. We’re on Book 3 (the last one), so I thought I’d share just a few thoughts about this little series.

Before starting ICRI, Rose read to me from a set of Fun Tales each day. We started reading through the ICRI series in September, and I think we will finish in just a few weeks.

I really like this series! First of all, I love the title. Rose has had a rougher time learning to read than my other three did. Although she is finished with phonics, she still needs plenty of practice. My favorite thing about these books is that she doesn’t complain about reading them (usually). That says a lot right there. She really can read it.

The books are divided up into short stories or “lessons”, and those stories are further divided up into mini-chapters of about two pages each. It takes Rose about a week to read each story. I ask her to read at least one mini-chapter each day, and often she will read two just to find out what happens next.

The books progress in difficulty, but the third book is still very doable for a beginning reader. I am trying to strike a balance between challenging her to read harder things and keeping her confidence high. These books have been wonderful for building her confidence.  The stories are colorfully illustrated and she often finds the pictures humorous. I also like that while the illustrations certainly complement the story, she can’t usually guess what the story says just by looking at the pictures…which she has been known to do;). 

I ordered the Grade 1 Readers schedule with discussion questions and notes from BookShark. It certainly isn’t strictly necessary at this level, but it was inexpensive and I like checking boxes. So after she reads I take out the discussion questions for that day.  These are just very short questions  that help me gauge her reading comprehension. We probably spend about 15 seconds each day on these. 

A nice bonus is that the answers are also there….I will admit my mind sometimes drifts as she reads. I am checking that she is reading the words correctly, but I don’t always pay attention to what’s going on! Having the answers means I don’t have to flip back to the story.

So, these little books are working very well for us right now. There is also a book of Word Lists that goes along with the three I Can Read It! books, but we have never used it, so I can’t comment on it.