Hayden’s Way New Brochure

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this before now – I re-worked the brochure for Hayden’s Way about 2 months ago. As most of you know, Hayden’s Way is the private school that Patrick attends. As most of you also know, he is my .blessed-dyslexic. I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful blessing Hayden’s Way has been and continues to be for our family! Patrick’s reading continues to steadily improve along with all his other academic skills. He is so very happy at school, which makes mommy and daddy happy.

Another blessing is that I have been able to teach math at Hayden’s Way for the last several weeks. Have you ever been miserable because of self-imposed constraints or obligations? I have. Just this past week, though, I was given “permission” (thanks, Lei-Lei) to do what I felt in my heart to be right, but felt in my head to be questionable. I was frustrated because I couldn’t seem to get it all done – one math lesson each day seemed an impossible feat, especially if I actually wanted the students to learn! Now I know that it’s expected, not that I get every single lesson in the book done this school year, but that I concentrate on ensuring the students understand math before we move on. What a blessed release from my self-imposed schedule!

The kids at Hayden’s Way are terrific – in what other school do the students develop such a compassionate and caring relationship for each other? The teacher shared a pretty neat story with me this week – she had upset Patrick by marking out his first attempt at his journal entry one day. One of the other boys remarked to her that he was trying to decide if he should be mad at her for upsetting Patrick so! Can you imagine having that happen when you were in public school?? Never happened for me!

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about Hayden’s Way. If you are in the market for a wonderful private school for your unique child, check out the brochure (just click the cover) and give Lei a call!

 

12

03 2011

Birthdays, Pine Derbies, and Life in General

Here is a collage of the latest installment in the life of the Taylor family. You’ll see all kinds of stuff from a very beautiful birthday girl (Wendy turned 7 last week!) to a rare photo of our Benjamin with Patrick. You’ll also find a kitty cat made from goldfish, our adopted turtle, .handsome-will’s very very blue eyes, roses I received from my very wonderful Mr. Right (you’ll see him too!), and a poignant picture of some shoes. We’ve been pretty busy! The children are all well and healthy, thankfully. Pat and I are both healthy as well. Next week we are all headed to Alabama for space camp!  I hope to share pictures with you of that trip when we get back.

12

03 2011

Summer Camps at Hayden’s Way

I just finished the flyer for the summer camps at Hayden’s Way. I think it looks great – but, then, I would, wouldn’t I?? Looks like it’s going to be a great summer at Hayden’s Way – drama, music, puppetry arts, and Shenanigan’s! Click on the picture to the right to download a PDF of the flyer. Call early to save your spot!

11

03 2011

REVIEW: Reading Kingdom

We were asked to try out the Reading Kingdom. The Reading Kingdom is an online environment where kids learn to read. The program is appropriate for beginning readers through about third grade.

For this trial, I had Wendy and Patrick work with the program. I plan to let Will start the program this coming week as he was very interested in what Wendy was doing!

What makes Reading Kingdom stand out as far as online reading programs? Well, it is a custom fit for each of your children. Your child is tested when beginning the program to determine his or her appropriate entrance level. Wendy tested into level 1, which was mostly what I expected. She is a good phonetic reader, but has a lot left to learn when it comes to sight words. Your child’s progress is tracked through various interactive activities and periodic skill assessments. In other words, Reading Kingdom ensures that your child actually knows and retains the material before moving ahead.

For younger users, Reading Kingdom offers keyboard and mouse training. Wendy went through the training even though she is pretty good with the mouse and keyboard. Children learn how to find the proper keys on the keyboard, how to use the space bar, and how to make capital letters and punctuation.

Reading Kingdom was developed by Dr. Marion Blank and is based on the theory that reading and writing is based on six different skills: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension. Reading Kingdom has activities to foster and develop all of these skills. Most reading programs focus solely on phonics, which, alone, cannot turn your child into a strong reader.

It is suggested that your child complete 4 to 5 sessions per week, and each session is approximately 15 minutes. Once your child learns how to navigate through the site, he or she can certainly work independently in the program, even the youngest ones. And, if your children are like mine, they will ask to work in the program. The encouragement and graphics make learning to read a fun and rewarding experience – and your children will become strong readers in the process!

Since the program adapts to each child’s skills, no two children will experience the program in exactly the same way. As homeschoolers, isn’t that what we’re all about – meeting each child on his or her own level in his or her own way? That’s the aspect I appreciate most about Reading Kingdom.

You may purchase a monthly subscription to Reading Kingdom for $19.99 each month. There is a discount if you pay for an entire year – $199. Each additional child is $9.99 per month. I think this is extremely reasonable for a program that is suited specifically to your child. Also, take into consideration that the whole program should only take your child 12 to 15 months to complete – what a great deal! You may purchase your subscription directly from the Reading Kingdom website.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

07

03 2011

REVIEW: I See Sam

I See Sam is a terrific reading program for beginners through grade 3. Much to my delight, Wendy showed great progress while using the readers.

At its most basic, I See Sam is a series of readers that span eight levels with corresponding flash cards. Each level works on different decoding skills, and each successive levels builds on the previous one. The readers themselves are very easy to use. There is no real teacher preparation, which is always a bonus. The only teacher preparation is in actually learning to use the program, which is simple to do.

Set One

Each book contains sections for Sound and Word Practice, and this is the place where your child practices before actually trying to read the whole story. This practice makes it easier for your child to succeed at reading. This is where you will introduce new sounds, new combinations, and new words, phonetic and sight. The instructor guidelines offer a complete process for introducing the new sounds and words, and for correcting mistakes to help guide your child.

Once your child has mastered the sound and word practice sections, it is suggested that you have your child read through the story two times, which will promote fluency, comprehension, and bolster confidence. If your child makes two or more mistakes while reading the second time through, she should read the book one more time. Remember, mastery of each section is important before moving on.

While reading the stories, you will be reminded to praise your child’s efforts often. You will also be prompted to ask questions to assess comprehension and retention. Each level comes with a progress chart – your child gains a star (or flower, or seashell, or …) for each book that is mastered. At the end of each book, there is a “Coming Attractions” section that exposes the child to those new concepts that will be introduced in the next story, another way to help ensure your child’s success with reading.

Set Two

Assessment is built into the program. Every fifth or sixth book has a “Looking Back” section at the end which is used to ensure that your child is making progress and remembering previous lessons. I used the “Looking Back” sections to place Wendy in the program since she already had some reading experience. It worked wonderfully – we just went through the books until she didn’t meet the criteria listed on the “Looking Back” section for mastery of the previous four books. If your child doesn’t meet the criteria for mastery of the “Looking Back” section, simply move back to the previous four books and start again from there.

That’s the program in a nutshell – not hard to figure out – not hard to use. The books themselves appeal to all ages – Wendy and Will both wanted to read them. Also, all the books contain simple black and white images, which the kids enjoyed coloring once they had mastered the book.

Set Three

For more information, including videos and guidance, please visit the Academic Success for all Learners site. You will find links to samples of the Little Books as well as guidance in the use of the program. There are several purchasing options – you may buy a deluxe version of the program, or you may buy each level one at a time. There is also a book to help with program placement and assessment.

Wendy and I highly recommend this program. She enjoyed reading time and I enjoyed having all the resources in one place to make my life easier. I also appreciated that the program is easy to implement and you can take it on the go. I plan to use this program with Will this summer. Your child will succeed with this program.

Sample Pages from a Little Book

Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

I See Sam is a terrific reading program for beginners through grade 3. Much to my delight, Wendy showed great progress while using the readers.

At its most basic, I See Sam is a series of readers that span eight levels with corresponding flash cards. Each level works on different decoding skills, and each successive levels builds on the previous one. The readers themselves are very easy to use. There is no real teacher preparation, which is always a bonus. The only teacher preparation is in actually learning to use the program, which is simple to do.

Each book contains sections for Sound and Word Practice, and this is the place where your child practices before actually trying to read the whole story. This practice makes it easier for your child to succeed at reading. This is where you will introduce new sounds, new combinations, and new words, phonetic and sight. The instructor guidelines offer a complete process for introducing the new sounds and words, and for correcting mistakes to help guide your child.

Once your child has mastered the sound and word practice sections, it is suggested that you have your child read through the story two times, which will promote fluency, comprehension, and bolster confidence. If your child makes two or more mistakes while reading the second time through, she should read the book one more time. Remember, mastery of each section is important before moving on.

While reading the stories, you will be reminded to praise your child’s efforts often. You will also be prompted to ask questions to assess comprehension and retention. Each level comes with a progress chart – your child gains a star (or flower, or seashell, or …) for each book that is mastered. At the end of each book, there is a “Coming Attractions” section that exposes the child to those new concepts that will be introduced in the next story, another way to help ensure your child’s success with reading.

Assessment is built into the program. Every fifth or sixth book has a “Looking Back” section at the end which is used to ensure that your child is making progress and remembering previous lessons. I used the “Looking Back” sections to place Wendy in the program since she already had some reading experience. It worked wonderfully – we just went through the books until she didn’t meet the criteria listed on the “Looking Back” section for mastery of the previous four books. If your child doesn’t meet the criteria for mastery of the “Looking Back” section, simply move back to the previous four books and start again from there.

That’s the program in a nutshell – not hard to figure out – not hard to use. The books themselves appeal to all ages – Wendy and Will both wanted to read them. Also, all the books contain simple black and white images, which the kids enjoyed coloring once they had mastered the book.

For more information, including videos and guidance, please visit the Academic Success for all Learners site. You will find links to samples of the Little Books as well as guidance in the use of the program. There are several purchasing options – you may buy the entire program at once for a discount, or you may buy each level one at a time. There is also a book to help with program placement and assessment.

Wendy and I highly recommend this program. She enjoyed reading time and I enjoyed having all the resources in one place to make my life easier. I also appreciated that the program is easy to implement and you can take it on the go. I plan to use this program with Will this summer. Your child will succeed with this program.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

28

02 2011

REVIEW: PayPal’s Purchase (lack of) Protection Plan

Down with PayPal!

Okay gang, I messed up. I bought a knock-off from China thinking it was real. Stupid. I know. But even more stupid was thinking that PayPal offered any sort of Purchase Protection Plan. Oh, they claim to help protect your purchases. But only when they go off without a hitch and you never ask for your money back.

Will broke Patrick’s Nintendo DS Lite a couple of months after he got it for Christmas 2009. For Christmas 2010, I bought Patrick a replacement DS. Well, I tried to – what I actually ended up with was a fake. A few days after Christmas, the fake (which we still thought was real) stopped working. I called Nintendo directly for customer support. Imagine my chagrin when they told me that the serial number I was giving them was a counterfeit! At least four other repairs had been requested for that particular serial number – and it wasn’t always a Zelda Triforce! The customer service representative from Nintendo was very helpful – they believe in customer service – he got me all set up to return the original DS we bought the previous Christmas. It cost me $60 to have a top screen replaced. Nintendo was so helpful that they even extended my original warranty for a couple of weeks so that I would qualify for a discount on the repair. Helpful! As far as the knock-off, though, they couldn’t do anything about that. I understand.

So, naively, I went to PayPal and asked them to make good on their Purchase Protection Plan. I admit that I am sorely disappointed in PayPal. Do you want to venture to guess how much money I have sent through PayPal since it first started?? I followed PayPal’s instructions to the letter for returning the item – and it cost me $39.95 of my own money t0 do so. All was good so far (except having to pay $40 to return something that was sold under false pretenses!). I then submitted to PayPal the electronic tracking information that I received directly from the USPS. I even followed the package electronically myself. It was delivered. A couple of weeks later, PayPal came back to me looking for more proof that I had actually returned the item. Why? I can’t begin to even guess since the electronic tracking showed that it had been delivered. Okay, so I sent a PDF of the receipt and customs slips that I got from the USPS. They clearly show the address I sent the package to and are even stamped with the date that I mailed the package. Again, more hoops to jump through than I expected, but, so good so far. Package returned. Proof supplied.

Today I got an email from PayPal that the case was closed. They claim that the shipping information I sent is invalid. What?! How is it invalid? I followed all their rules. Ah, but that’s where you are all wrong, .holli-marie, thinking that PayPal and/or the original seller care anything about playing by the rules! I was given no explanation for the denial to return my money. So now, for those of you who are keeping track, what do I have? Nothing. And then some more nothing! I paid $114.99 for the original piece of junk. Then I paid $39.95 to return it to the original seller. So now I don’t have the DS, I don’t have my $114.99 and I don’t have my $39.95.

But, my dear readers, I have learned a very valuable lesson and hope that you will cull from my new-found wisdom. Oh, and I lost one more thing in all this – my PayPal account! I will never do business with PayPal again and I suggest that you take a good hard look at how you use PayPal as well. There are plenty of other options out there to send money or pay for things that you buy over the internet. I am sure that I would have had much better protection through AmEx on this purchase. One other thing I want you to take away from this – beware of China! They don’t play by American rules. They don’t have American values. They think it is perfectly acceptable to sell you something under false pretenses – and they aren’t helpful. Lessons learned – if I can’t buy it from Amazon or some other big store, I don’t buy! And I sure as shootin’ don’t buy through PayPal! Ever!

27

02 2011

REVIEW: Reluctant Reader Solution by Kid Scoop

The Reluctant Reader Solution is a fantastic way to get kids excited about practicing their reading and composition skills. There are two parts to the program: FunSheets and an online monthly newspaper. Both parts of the program are easy to use and easy to fit into your already over-crowded homeschool schedule. Plus, with all the fun they’re going to have, your kids will ask you if they can do their work!
There are 59 FunSheet sets, one for each week of the year plus 7 extras. Each FunSheet set focuses on a single topic, such as butterflies. Information and all sorts of puzzles and activities are included in each set of FunSheets. The kids will learn as they enjoy working various word puzzles, math puzzles, and other activities. The kids are asked to use critical thinking skills in order to solve the puzzles. They are also asked to proofread a passage and write a composition of their own based on the week’s topic.
Although I am sure that each family will find their own way to use the FunSheets, there are two basic suggestions by Kid Scoop – chronologically or topically. Either way, you use one sheet each day, spending a week on each topic. We spent a week with butterflies. We already know bunches about butterflies, but it’s a topic we revisit each year. We reviewed what we already knew with the information provided in the FunSheets plus we learned some things we didn’t know. And, of course, we had lots of fun completing the puzzles and coloring the pictures. We worked on critical thinking skills, math, grammar, composition, vocabulary, and of course science. All in a succint and fun manner.
The second part of the program is the online monthly newspaper. The newspaper is very colorful and packed full of even more puzzles. I let the kids work on the newspaper as they had time – we didn’t incorporate it into our school day as we did with the FunSheets, although we could have. The articles are short enough and diverse enough to get even your most reluctant reader excited about reading. And the mental workout the kids get makes it all the better.
Visit the Kid Scoop website for samples of the FunSheets. The Reluctant Reader Solution, which includes 365 of the FunSheets and a 12 month subscription to the online newspaper, is priced at $97. As another option, you may purchase each topic as an individual download for $2.99 each. You may also purchase topic bundles – bundles of six sets of individual topic FunSheets for $14.99 each. Kid Scoop also offers free reading tips by email. Click here to sign up – you’ll get a new reading tip each day for 30 days right in your email.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

18

02 2011

REVIEW: Curiosity Files – Puffer Fish

The Curiosity Files is a series of tremendously fun unit studies. We went with Professor Ana Lyze, expert in outlandish oddities, on a study of the puffer fish. What did we learn?

This is a complete unit study; all the subjects are covered from math to history to grammar. And they’re all covered in a fun way. I have always thought that it would be fun to teach my kids with just unit studies, but the work in putting them together is daunting. The Curiosity Files are all done for you – and they are complete. In the Puffer Fish study, the kids have to convert from American money into various foreign currencies. They also work with measurements, ordinal numbers, and elapsed time.

History is covered by several historical facts and a geography lesson. Grammar, creative writing, and spelling are all taught in the context of the study of puffer fish. Science pervades every page. And just for good measure, art and music are thrown into the mix. So, you have a complete unit study on an unique and interesting topic.

The kids enjoyed learning all about the puffer fish. I enjoyed that there was no call for teacher prep, besides checking out some books from the library. The study comes complete with live links to online information, book lists, and lapbook components. Once the lapbook is put together, the kids have a hands-on review of all the information they gathered from their study.

Links to online information and videos are included in the study. As with all things online, it’s a good idea to check them out yourself before you turn the kids loose – just to make sure. We had fun watching the videos of puffer fish puffing themselves up. Do you know how they do it? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not air!

One aspect I greatly appreciate about these studies is that you don’t have to buy any other books to go along with the unit. Lists are included, but they are for extra reading. You have all the information you need to complete the study within it. One other aspect I greatly appreciate is that the study is leveled for youngers and olders. There are suggestions and assignments for each level – so we can all learn about the same subject, but on our own level. Wonderful.

You may purchase your Curiosity Files unit studies directly from The Old Schoolhouse Store. Right now, four of the units are even on sale for $1 each – you can’t beat that price for a complete unit study! There are several topics to choose from – and they are all outlandish things. Why not check them out today?

Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

11

02 2011

One of the Bestest Gifts – Ever!

These are my new glasses. Like ‘em? I sure do.

These are my super, wonderful, beautiful, bestest Christmas present from my super, wonderful, beautiful, bestest friend ever – Dr. Susan! I kept putting off having my eyes checked and getting new glasses, so Susan insisted that I get it done. There just always seemed to be something more important to do with the money – even though it has been over four years and I was having headaches. Dr. Susan fit me in her schedule and got me all set up. Thank you SO much, Susan – I can actually see again! :)

And what, pray tell, did I get Susan for Christmas? Nothing. What are you supposed to get for someone who has it all? I mean, seriously, Susan, what could you possibly want? I do have something nifty in mind, but it’s going to take some sneakiness (which I can borrow from Wendy and Avery) and some craftiness. Stay tuned…

Thanks again for everything you do for me, Susan – you are the bestest gift!

08

02 2011

REVIEW: VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary

As the book claims, this program truly is “the entertaining and effortless vocabulary building solution.” I was asked to review the hard-copy book of SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3s. By purchasing the book, you also purchase permission to download the accompanying videos and mp3s.

The book contains 300 words that are divided into 30 units. Each word is defined, illustrated with a cartoon, and used in a sample script to aid in understanding through context. The cartoon illustration creates a visual connection with the word for the student. The creators attempted to tie emotion into the illustrations so that there would also be an emotional connection with the word. These techniques make recall easier and certainly more pleasant.

In addition to the book, the videos and mp3s add a significant level of reinforcement. It’s been proven that people increase their retention of new material when that material is presented in a variety of ways involving a variety of senses.

Students are encouraged to concentrate on one unit per week. Each unit consists of ten words and a review. We would read each of the words and look at the cartoon illustration. We read the sample script, the part of speech, the antonyms and the synonyms for each word. Then we would add the videos and mp3s for the unit of the week to my daughter’s iTouch for her review. Once she felt confident that she had mastered the words, we moved onto the review. We kept a list of words that needed additional review.

The book was easy to use. Even if you don’t have an iPod or iTouch or iAnything, you can still watch the words in action on your computer. Having an iSomething makes it more portable, but that’s about it. You can add the mp3s to any mp3 player – or just listen with software on your computer. It’s nice that the kids can be completely independent with this program – no mom input required. No teacher preparation required. Just pick a unit and go!

VocabAhead is available for purchase directly from Amazon. The book is priced at $12.95. VocabAhead also produces a DVD-Rom version with over 1000 words. You may purchase that from Amazon as well; it’s price is $24.99. For those who do have an iTouch, VocabAhead makes an app that may be downloaded through the iTunes store. Take a look at the website – they have a section where students can upload their own video and illustration creations for the words. What fun!

Disclaimer: I was provided a free trial of the product in exchange for my genuine and unbiased review.

07

02 2011