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Iditarod, Pi Day, Comparing Spelling Programs

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, March 09, 2009

==========================================================
The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
==========================================================
Vol. 10 No 19 March 9, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
==========================================================
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net
==========================================================

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

=================
IN THIS ISSUE:
=================

Notes from Heather
-- Iditarod, Pi Day, Feedback
Resource Review
-- Write with the Best
Reader Question
-- Comparing Spelling Programs/Books
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

=======================
Notes from Heather
=======================

Iditarod and Pi Day Activities

Mush! They're off! The Iditarod has begun...
http://www.easyfunschool.com/Iditarod-Activities.html

3.14 (March 14th) is Pi Day!
http://www.easyfunschool.com/Pi_Day_Activities.html

---

A Little More Reader Input on the Charlotte Mason Method

---

"Hi, Heather. I know this is late but I wanted to recommend Catherine
Levison's books, 'A Charlotte Mason Education' and 'More Charlotte
Mason Education'
. These books explain very simply how to apply the method."
-- Dominga in AL

---

And More Emails for Lina...

---

"Reading the comments on teaching the 3 year old brought back memories.
My kids are now 23, 20, and 17. When my girls were 3 and 6 years old,
before my youngest child came along, Holly (my 3 year old) would not
be occupied easily. I started her in school, with her own desk and
work books. Abeka offers N3, nursery for 3 year olds. She had a
blast. We also incorporated work with coloring pages, and I did a lot
of work with flashcards I made out of index cards with a black marker.

She could learn anything almost on a flashcard. From complicated
shapes to numbers, etc. She was so busy, we kept the work busy for her.
My other child was in 1st grade at the time. My 3 year old did so well
in N3, that once she got to the Abeka K4 and K5, she flew through both
of those in one year. My first grader was an Abeka curriculum kid, so
that helped me have the extra time for my 3 year old. Also, the 3 year
old couldn't take over an hour of the fun and work of school at a time,
so I gave her a short 'play break' away from the desk. Then she came
back for a different activity. She did really well with this routine.
My 2 girls are now out of college with 'Dean's List' grades -- and it
all started with that good beginning. Homeschool all the way -- you
can't beat it!" -- Glinda

---

"Lina -- I also have a daughter in Kindergarten, as well as a 3 year
old and a 1 year old. You're right -- the whole school time schedule
is a challenge. What is working well for us right now is to devote
the entire morning to school 3 days a week. Those mornings are
'untouchable'; I don't answer the phone or do any housework during
that time. My youngest usually has a good long nap in the morning.
which helps. My 3 year old is in on everything we do and I include
ABC’s and basic things for her in our morning. As for planning, that
depends -- for reading my daughter chooses a story to do that morning
(Starfall.com has been great). We’ve also started to use Dreambox.com
for math. At this point I don’t really have to do any planning for
those, but if an idea strikes I go for it. The rest of our learning
seems to just naturally happen; we dig into whatever the latest big
interest might be. I brainstorm on everything we could do revolving
around the topic of interest, check out a lot of books about it from
the library, and try to incorporate lots of hands-on things. For me
this doesn’t take much time and I end up really learning and developing
an interest in the subject, too. The first unit study we did was
entirely planned during a 2 am feeding time with my newborn last year!
I also have a master list of subjects that would be good to check out
at a moment's notice online, or elsewhere, if she suddenly loses
interest in our current unit study. These ideas include: checking the
weather, current events, safety lessons, health, history, gardening,
nature studies, handwriting, story composing, geography, culture,
holidays, and music. We always end up learning something. Sometimes
the day is a flop, but the whole big picture shows me that we are
getting somewhere. Just remember that everything you do is learning
and make the most of every opportunity. And most of all, if your kid
is into a topic, milk it for all its worth! (And be willing to let it
go when it blows over!)

Just keep it up -- there are always trying stages and then stages where
you do everything right. You are the best person to teach your children.
Even though you are spread thin with the 3 kids, in the public school
classroom there is 1 teacher to 20 children, so you’re still ahead!
Your kids are learning how to live and how to be a mommy right now,
which is valuable in itself. Your kids are learning more than you
think -- keep it up." -- Stephanie

---

"Dear Lina -- All the others have been right about relaxing. This
answer will help you now and in the long term. Steve and Teri Maxwell
have a scheduling book called 'Managers of Their Homes'.

It has everything from scheduling babies' feedings and play times to
ideas for school and what to do with the preschool age children
during school time and also for the school-age kids so not everyone is
coming to mom at once saying, 'Mom, can you help me? I don't get this'.
They've homeschooled 8 kids with lots of varying ages. Planning and
scheduling is very helpful to being diligent like you are wanting to
be. It can even work for the more relaxed homeschooler." -- Debi

---

Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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==================
Resource Review
==================

Write With The Best
Author: Jill J. Dixon, B.S. Ed., M. Ed.
For more information or to order: www.homeschoolingfromtheheart.com


'Write With The Best' comes in two volumes, each in a three-ring
binder. Volume 1 contains nine two-week units for grades 3-12.
Each unit models and teaches a different writing genre, such as
descriptive paragraphs, short stories, fables, and poetry. Volume
2 contains nine similar units, with more difficult literary passages
for grades 6-12. Volume 2 covers essays, outlines and note taking,
critiques, newspaper articles, and more. The lessons in Volume 2
assume familiarity with the concepts, skills, and methods of Volume
1. While Volume 2 could possibly be used by itself, I would highly
recommend having students complete Volume 1 first. If you have
elementary students, then Volume 1 will be all you need until they
are older.

'Write With the Best' teaches students how to write various genre
while learning literary critique, some grammar, proofreading, and
listening comprehension skills. There is little teacher prep and
the day-by-day lessons can be completed in 15-45 minutes. Each
lesson builds skill upon skill to ensure mastery. I really like
that the writing assignments can be used with other subjects for
reinforcement, such as science and history. Parents are assisted
in evaluating their child's writing with complete grading criteria
and a helpful answer key.

Students are furnished with a helpful proofreading checklist for
evaluating their own writing, which is an excellent way to reinforce
basic grammar. One of my favorite features of this curriculum are
the 'How to Write...' guides that appear in the back of the notebook.
The author uses these guides to give students excellent step-by-step
guidelines for different types of writing -- from descriptive para-
graphs and news stories to ballads and rhyming verse. The guidelines
help the student develop a basic outline for their writing, and give
helpful tips and reminders about the writing process.

'Write With The Best' is a strong, quality writing course. The
students are exposed to writing by respected and loved authors,
followed by meaningful activities designed to develop good writing.
Activities are easily adaptable for both upper and lower grade levels,
and the author has done a good job of equipping parents to use the
curriculum and still be flexible and creative. The student proof-
reading and writing guides are an invaluable resource that can be
used for all their writing, not just within the course.

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

===============================
Last Issue's Reader Question
===============================

"I have an average speller (2nd grade), an excellent speller
(4th grade), and a poor speller (6th grade), so spelling needs
are very different for each of my children. I've never used a
formal spelling program before; I've always given my children
words to study from the words which they misspell in writing or
vocabulary from our science or social studies. I have, however,
heard a lot of good things about Spelling Power and Sequential
Spelling, and I've also been interested in a couple of books
called How to Teach Your Child to Spell and Tricks of the Trade.
I've never been able to decide whether to purchase one of these,
or stick with what I'm now doing. Has anyone ever compared these
programs, and can you tell me what you think their pros and cons
are? Any advice or information will be welcome!" -- Shelly


=========================
Our Readers' Responses
=========================

"Shelly -- I cannot say enough good things about Sequential Spelling
by AVKO . We have used Spelling Power. I like the
immediate feedback that Spelling Power uses, and that the child needs
to study only the words he misses. But Spelling Power does not use
the wonderful system of patterns that AVKO uses. Both of my children
struggled with spelling. They improved only slightly with Spelling
Power, but when we started Sequential Spelling, they improved signi-
ficantly, and began enjoying it. Sequential Spelling also uses
immediate feedback, and there are no words to study. The child
simply learns the patterns. The man who developed the AVKO method
had learning disabilities himself, and he understands what struggling
learners need. Their program is as much of a ministry as it is a
curriculum. It is a non-profit organization, not a commercial business.
If you buy a membership, you receive a discount on your materials, and
you have access many valuable free resources on their website:

http://www.AVKO.com

On a more personal note, when I decided to try AVKO, I had no idea
where to start with my children. I wrote to Mr. McCabe and asked for
his advice. He invited me to send samples of my children's writing
to him, and he personally analyzed their spelling and suggested what
levels were appropriate for each child. I'm not saying that other
programs wouldn't do that for you, but I certainly appreciated his
willingness to serve our needs in that way." -- Mary Beth

---

"Sherry -- I highly recommend Spelling Power. We have used it for
several years, and I am very pleased with it. My children who are
old enough for spelling instruction are very different spellers. To
one, spelling seems to come naturally, and he has few problems. To
the other, it is more of a struggle and takes more focus and concen-
tration and practice. This program very easily helps both of them,
focusing on where their struggles lie while not wasting time studying
words they already know how to spell. You can also easily incorporate
personalized words and words that they misspell in the course of their
other schoolwork. If you read the information behind the program --
the research that the author did to help her daughter who struggled
hugely with spelling, and all the different methods and systems she
combined to create this program -- I think you will be impressed, and
you will find that it is a great program for every kind of speller."
-- Mindy

---

"Hi Shelly -- 'How to Teach Any Child to Spell' and 'Tricks of the
Trade' are the same method that you already use -- having your child
learn to spell words that he misspells in his own writing. It is
organized into the phonetic rules. They find the 'rule' and write
the word they misspelled onto the correct page. I like that it is
something they keep, and not just another list that gets thrown away.
We are using Sequential Spelling right now and I am thrilled with it.
The children learn words with their families, and then add on prefixes
and suffixes, so my 1st grader is spelling 5 and 6 syllable words
correctly. I have a 5th grader who really struggles with spelling,
so we are using both of the above methods with her, and I am seeing
improvement in her writing. I would highly recommend both of them."
-- Sue

---

"My vote is for Spelling Power. I really like how this is working
for our daughter. My favorite things about the 'Spelling Power'
approach are:

1. It is one book which will take us through 6-8 years of spelling.

2. The child does not waste their time studying words they already
know how to spell; instead, testing everyday and only reviewing and
retesting the trouble words.

3. The program is based on the most misspelled words and is normed
on a great deal of research. These are words the children need to
know based on frequency and spelling rules.

4. Spelling has a clear plan each day and it only takes 15 minutes.

5. My child always sees how many words she knows, and then can quickly
see how she can learn new words and commit them to memory. This
stopped her anxiety about a weekly test, she has learned to do her
best and to even try to guess, knowing there is no consequence/grade
for misspelled words. She loves that even though she did not know
how to spell a word on Monday, she knows it well on Tuesday.

6. At the beginning of each year you test your child, using tests in
the book, to place your student at the level of his spelling ability.
So if you have a 2nd grader who is an excellent speller he may work
on the fourth grade words lists, but if you have a sixth grade speller
who struggles, she might work at the fourth grade level. Either way,
each child is sufficiently challenged and is rewarded for the words
they know and taught how to study and spell the words they do not.
At the end of the sections there are review tests to keep track of
progress -- and you progress as fast as is appropriate for your child.

7. My favorite part of this program, and the thing I definitely think
gives it its strength, is the 10-step approach to studying words after
misspelling. The steps help the child plant the seeds for knowing
the word for all time because they read it, say it, write it, say it
again, write it very large on paper or in a tray of sand, and then
write it in a sentence of their own creation. They check their own
work after each step, making their learning 'owned' by them and taking
the pressure off the parent to always correct. I think this all makes
the word come alive for the student.

The downfalls of the program:

1. When you first get the book it seems overwhelming, but after read-
ing the steps and doing them for a few days it quickly becomes natural.

2. You must have the student follow the 10 practice steps immediately
each day. If you cannot make sure the steps were followed, the normal
shortcuts a child might take will cause this program to not work.
There needs to be consistency, but we find this fun and easy each day.

3. The program does not recommend an end-of-week test. We have chosen
to have a Monday re-test of the prior week's words. Although my child
typically does not misspell words, on our review test, if there is a
problem word, this is the time to catch it and add it to the words
for the new week. I think that this adjustment makes the 'Spelling
Power' program perfect for our family.

4. I do not know this for sure, but I am thinking that if you had
four to five kids using Spelling Power, that could mean a parent has
to have more than an hour each day to test each of the children for
5 minutes, making sure they follow the 10 steps for 5 minutes -- and
this time would add up. But I suppose that the best spellers could
read the tests to the others and they could all do the steps at the
same time -- so that would mean only one supervised study session.

All in all, I believe the Spelling Power program is pretty good and
has the benefits of being easy, inexpensive, useable by all ages and
abilities, and has definitely helped my daughter spell very well."
-- Beth

---

"Shelly -- Like you, I’m raising an average speller, a poor speller,
and an excellent speller. For my average speller, I long ago stopped
using any spelling curriculum. There just didn’t seem to be a benefit.
As you’ve been doing, I’d watch for words he misspelled in his writing
and teach him the correct spelling.

My poor speller is my middle child (7th grade). After trying many
approaches, we settled on Sequential Spelling. I love it! She doesn’t
have to memorize rules (which she couldn’t do anyway!). The words are
always presented in family groups so she can see the connections between
small, easy words, and longer, more intimidating words. It only takes
a few minutes each day, and this is the first spelling program that’s
made a difference in her actual writing. It’s been a slow, but steady
improvement since we began 2 years ago. With the traditional spelling
approach, she’d study a list all week and then fail the test on Friday
-– forget about using the words in real life. Sequential Spelling was
designed for kids with dyslexia, but it 'clicked' for her.

My excellent speller (5th grade) simply bypassed spelling curriculum.
We use the Scripps National Spelling Bee words at www.myspellit.com .
The words are divided by language of origin, and you can learn the
phonics rules and tips associated with each. You can also get these
words divided by difficulty level at http://www.hexco.com/NSBlist.pdf .
That’s a handy list, containing not only the spelling bee words, but
also commonly misspelled words, homonyms, and other useful lists."
-- Jean, www.makingthisup.wordpress.com

---

"I suggest replacing word tests with short sentences which will reinforce
grammar. On other days you could have this student and the younger one
write or type each word creatively several times (colorful, big, different
fonts, etc.). My 'excellent' speller used Spelling Workout - it was easy
for him and he likes word puzzles. (I think most would have worked for
him). He switched to Wordly Wise in 7th grade -- and changed the subject
title to 'Vocabulary'. My 'poor speller/reader' has been using Sequential
Spelling
for 2 years (5th/6th) and I have seen slow, but big improvement.
In his case the spelling challenge comes with not remembering patterns
and rote rules (also had a tough time with times tables, even though he
is great at math concepts). The SS program works for him - used as they
teach it - a test every day and no extra copy work (except once in awhile
for repeated mistakes), but my other student looks at that program and
says he doesn't see the point in it as the words just rhyme (of course
you would know how to spell thank if the words before it are tank and hank,
etc.). It has been a confidence booster also. If you use a Language Arts
curriculum that is inclusive like Total Language Plus, that may be enough
for a year of spelling. Sometimes the word selections are less-used words
though, so this probably wouldn't be good for the poor speller." -- Sue


=========================
Answer our NEW Question
=========================

"I have a 15 year old son that I recently started homeschooling. He is
a slow learner and I'm not real sure where I should start with him; he can
read and spell very well, but he only knows how to add and subtract single
digits and very few double digits. Can someone please give me some advice
on where to start? Thank you." -- Jeanie

---

Do you have some direction, encouragement or practical help for Jeanie?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


=====================
Ask YOUR Question
=====================

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!


=======================
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=======================

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