Learning Dynamics Review

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Clarissa and I did kindergarten together at home this year. She loves math and wants me to read to her all day long. But when it comes to learning how to read she gets excited about a new program for about a week and then gets frustrated that it is too hard and wants to stop.  We have tried a few different programs without success. So I was excited to try the Learning Dynamics Reading Program produced by Learning Dynamics.

The program recommends 15 minutes per day, at least 3 days per week. It starts pretty slow by learning one letter sound each in the first five lessons before you review them together in lesson 6. Even though Clarissa already knows most of her letters and sounds, I chose to start at lesson 1. I thought this would build her confidence, and I was correct. She actually really enjoyed the first few lessons and would ask to do more than one per day.

Each lesson had a few different components. There were three different flash cards for each letter. She enjoyed looking at those and collecting the small cards. Though eventually she invented her own games with them. There is an alphabet song that is supposed to be played at every lesson. Clarissa isn’t very big into kid songs, so halfway through, she had her hands over her ears. The same thing happened with each individual letter song so after the first couple of lessons, I didn’t bother with the songs. She was really excited about the letter hunts at the end of each lesson.

M was the first letter. At the end of that lesson, we were to walk around the house and find things that start with the “mmm” sound. She received an M&M for each word she found. The same thing happened with p for popcorn. She also enjoyed coloring the words that started with the correct letter. I think she also appreciated that it was only one page of written work each day. She had to write one row of lower case letters and color a few pictures so it was quick and easy.

By the end of the review period she was getting frustrated with the coloring page. She wanted to color in all of the pictures. So I made her tell me which words started with the correct letter before she started coloring. Then she would tell me which sound the other pictures started with.

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The program comes with four sets of books: blue, red, yellow, and green. She was excited to read those books before we got to them. So we definitely previewed each set of books before she was supposed to read them herself.

I am excited to report that we finally found a reading program that Clarissa enjoys! She said to me at one point, “I like reading now!” and she is getting to be a better reader everyday. After lesson 6, there is practice with blending words each day. She is pretty good at blending the three letter words now. She will read the simple books too. The first couple of books were single words on a page. It took a few books before she was supposed to read sentences, which was great, because by then she was ready.

I appreciated that each book had a list of words at the beginning of the book. In this way, we were able to practice the words before we actually tried to read the book. Clarissa already was familiar with most of the words before she saw them in the book so she didn’t have to spend as much time sounding out each word in the book. She enjoyed reading more that way. There are also comprehension questions to ask at the end of each book to make sure that your reader understood what they read and didn’t just sound out the words.

This video is book 7 of the blue book series. She has only completed lesson 18 of 41 in Lesson Manual one.

The lesson manual spells out which books you are supposed to read with each lesson. Books 1-13 are for lessons 9-33. Lessons 34-42 are two vowel lessons, where you will finish reading the blue set of books (books 14-23). Then there is a second part of the lesson manual that goes more in depth with advanced sounds and the other three set of books. I think it will take us several months to finish this program.

I am excited that most of the pieces of this program are reusable. The only part I will need to replace is the student workbook when I need to teach my second daughter to read in a few years. You can read about what other families thought of the program here.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Nothing Book Review

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Clarissa and I are always looking for good books to read. I get especially excited if the book points Clarissa to Jesus. This is one reason we were very excited to review Nothing by Natalee Creech published by Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hatchette Book Group.

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Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You from God’s Love! is a wonderful book based on the scripture Romans 8:38-39, “Nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” The publisher recommends it for ages 4-7, but I think the age range could go wider than that. It’s a great book with a lovely message.

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I love that the simple words in this book remind my daughter that there is nothing that she can do or anything that can happen to her that will make God stop loving her. The pictures are fabulous. There are pictures of space ships and the deep seas, crazy weather, and normal kids.

At the end of the book, I was ready to talk to Clarissa about the message. That it doesn’t matter what she does wrong or what kinds of crazy things happened in her life, God would always love her. And she got this silly look on her face and she said, “Mom! I know that God will always love me!” We didn’t need a long discussion to convince her and that was good for this mama’s heart. If that’s the only thing she learns before she leaves my house, I’ve done my job. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and her Sunday School class at church.

Nothing (Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love) by Natalee Creech {WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Reviews}

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Pathway to Liberty Review

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As we are getting ready to move back to the United States after being in South Korea for the past four years, I have been thinking about what Social Studies I wanted to work on with Clarissa. I thought that something with US History and Geography would be a good fit so she could learn about her home country while we are actually living there. This is one reason I was so excited to review Pathway to Liberty’s History Curriculum by Pathway to Liberty.

Pathway to Liberty has four different history curricula to choose from: Universal History, The Middle Ages, US History, and World History. We chose US History Level 1.  There are multiple levels of each curriculum so that families with multiple students can use the same curriculum with independent work at each student’s level: Kindergarten to third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, or tenth through twelfth grade. If I had multiple students, that would be something that would definitely draw me to this curriculum since it would be less preparation for me and my children would have common lessons to talk about together.

I did like that there was a Teacher Guide and a Student Guide. The Teacher Guide was helpful because it showed a lesson plan that you could use for all four levels of curriculum. Since we have level one, I had the answer key for level one work only. So if I were going to use this for multiple ages, I would probably go ahead and buy the Teacher Guide for each level that I was using. But it was helpful for me to see how it would work to use the same curriculum for multiple ages of children. The Student Guide was laid out almost identical to the Teacher Guide except that there were places for the student to fill in the blank. The text was also larger for younger eyes and bigger handwriting. I also liked that both guides were spiral bound which makes it easier to flip the pages and keep the material together. 

The first two weeks are a foundation of history and it seems like they would be the same in each of the four curricula. You learn about what history is, creation, Moses and the Ten Commandments, as well as Martin Luther and the Reformation. There is vocabulary to learn for each lesson depending on grade level.

The actual US History itself started with Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Then it went on to the Great Awakening before the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the events leading up to the Civil War. So US History would end after the Civil War with this curriculum. But I like that it shows history from a faith perspective instead of what I learned of US History in public school.

I will say that although they advertise level one as kindergarten through third grade, we were nowhere near ready for this curriculum. The content was great and meaty. But it was pretty writing intensive and my kindergartner did not understand much of the content. We did the basic foundations lessons and I think we will go back to this content when she is in second grade to really study the history. There are plenty of maps and pictures in both the Teacher Guides and Student Guides. There are also youtube videos that go with several of the lessons.

To learn about using multiple levels of the curriculum together, or one of the other history curriculum, you can read other reviews here. Their website says that they offer a 20% discount to active duty military families.

Universal History,  The Middle Ages,  US History & World History Curriculum {Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum Reviews}

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Homeschool Complete Review

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I really like when what Clarissa and I are studying can tie into to multiple subjects so I was really excited that we were given the opportunity to review Unit Studies (K-6) by Homeschool Complete. Specifically, we chose the first grade unit study Seasons.

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Clarissa is in kindergarten so I knew there would be some things that would be difficult for her to do in a first grade unit study. I do feel like the unit study is labeled correctly. Clarissa could do a lot of the skills needed for the unit, except for the independent reading. It wasn’t a problem though because I just read aloud to her instead.

We really enjoyed this unit study about Seasons. There were four days of lessons. Each day we spent an hour to an hour and a half completing the lesson. This sounds like a long time until you realize that this unit study encompasses all subjects so once you finish your unit study lesson for the day, you are finished with school.

Clarissa’s favorite part of the lesson by far was reading Balto. This chapter book didn’t have a lot of pictures, but the story was engaging so she was excited for me to read it aloud to her each day. This book brought up so many wonderful discussions for us. One of our friends is moving to Alaska soon and so she wanted to learn more about Alaska. She was concerned that her friend would get sick with diphtheria like the children in the book, so we talked about how the vaccinations we receive from the doctor keep us from getting sick. Now she wants to go on a vacation to see all of the statues of Balto that they talk about in the book.

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In addition to reading Balto each day, there was an additional picture book to read each day, one for each season. Clarissa really enjoyed those as well. Her favorite was probably Hot Dog, which we read for summer.Clarissa was interested to learn the science in why there are seasons; that the Earth’s tilt causes it to be warmer or colder because it is closer or further away from the sun.

We did spend some time learning what the words for each season look like. She really enjoyed a game where you had to choose which season you were trying to land on and throw a puff ball to hit your word. We used tally marks to count hits and misses. She was excited to learn how to mark the tally mark for five to make counting faster. Using the calendar and the hundreds chart provided in the unit also really helped Clarissa to reinforce the days of the week as well as how to count by tens to 100.

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Another math concept that Clarissa really enjoyed in this unit study was comparing numbers to see which one was larger. She liked the idea that the alligator would like to eat the most candy. So every single time she wrote greater than or less than, the alligator needed teeth…

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I am looking forward to reading some of the reviews about other unit studies. There were so many to choose from and we enjoyed this one so much that I think we will need to try other titles. There is actually an active coupon code available right now. If you order before 3/31/2019 and use the code: CREW2019 you can receive 10% off your order.

Homeschool Complete K - 4th Grade & Unit Studies {Homeschool Complete Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

IXL Learning Review

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Clarissa started to get bored with workbooks, so I was excited when we were given the opportunity to review an IXL annual membership from IXL Learning.

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The IXL annual membership is an online learning program. There are options to study Math and Language Arts with activities for preschool through twelfth grade. Science and Social Studies have activities for second through eighth grade. Spanish is offered as well. The account comes with a parent login as well as profiles for individual students. Parents can go in to their child’s profile and put a star next to skills they would like their children to complete or they can simply have their child take the diagnostic test and the program will recommend what the child should work on next in that subject.

One thing that I really like about IXL is that there is a lot of data available to me as the parent. I can sign in to my account and pull up a report for each subject.

Each week, I also receive an email that tells me what skills Clarissa worked on and how she performed on each skill.

I had mixed feelings about IXL Learning. I thought it would be great because Clarissa was tired of worksheets. Working on the computer should be better, right? Because she doesn’t read fluently on her own, I had to really help her a lot in the beginning. For both the Math and the Language Arts, she did better if I was sitting with her and reading all of the directions. There is a speaker icon that you can press to read the questions and answers aloud, but she started to get impatient waiting for things. Also, on the laptop, she isn’t as skilled with the mouse so that was frustrating for her as well. An app was advertised, so I thought that might work. But neither of our Korean phones supported the app so we stuck with the laptop for the first couple of weeks. Eventually, we got the app to work on my kindle and Clarissa enjoyed it more that way because of the touch screen.

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Also, if your child works through an entire section in a subject, they can earn “awards.” This was especially encouraging to Clarissa in the beginning. She loved “earning” stuffed animals on the screen. But that wore off pretty quickly.

By the end of the review, Clarissa was asking for her “old” school so she didn’t like IXL very much. Parts of it were too easy and other parts were too hard. She couldn’t find her sweet spot with it. We played with a little of the second grade science to see what it was about. I think she would have appreciated a kindergarten level science section, since she seemed to enjoy the second grade. She did like the ability to choose an activity and not have to go in order for any subject.

The IXL annual membership isn’t a great fit for our family with a single kindergarten student. I think it may work better for a larger family because it would give other students something to do while mom is working one on one with another child. I also think this program would be a better fit for older students who can read fluently and are in the routine of working on their own. You can read about the experience of several other families if you check out some other crew reviews.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

Teaching Science without textbooks

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One of Clarissa’s favorite things to do is to read. It is also one of her favorite ways to learn. If we read about it in a book (or watch a show on TV), she is more likely to remember it. She will bring up facts that we read about months ago that I have already forgotten about.

A big favorite right now is a series of chapter books about Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro. In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to solve the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that my five year old often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!

With six books in the series, each book has a different creature and a different problem. Since Clarissa is only in kindergarten, we mostly read these books for fun. But there is a website about the book series that also has printables for science and literature activities that go with each book. Those would be great for families or teachers who want to go deeper with the books.

We also really like Magic School Bus in this house as well as the Magic School Bus Rides Again. We have watched every show, but we also own many of the books. When Clarissa is excited about any science topic, I can usually find an episode or two on netflix and a few books as well. The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book.

Last year, her favorite topic was the human body. So we watched all of the body episodes on both series as well as read the books. Then we spent a lot of time drawing pictures of the different systems in our bodies.

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Another of Clarissa’s favorite topics is animals. We have watched so many episodes of Wild Kratts to learn about animals. They also have a great website with information, videos, and games for kids to explore more about any animal they choose. Our library also has a few early reader books based on the Wild Kratts series.

Our library has a great section of picture books that are both fiction and nonfiction. Whatever topic Clarissa is interested in, I can usually find both fiction and nonfiction stories to read. Recently, we borrowed My Leaf Book so that we could talk about fall. Clarissa wanted to learn more about leaves so we walked around our apartment complex one day to collect various leaves. Then we made our own book by drawing pictures of the leaves and looking them up, either in the leaf book on online, to label each leaf. She was so proud of herself.

A new favorite is our Steve Spangler Science Club. Once a month we receive a box of 4-5 experiments. We received our first box this month. The experiments are related but you can still spread them out over several days. This is something that Tim and Clarissa like to do together during daddy daughter time.