personal

Hanging In There

Paper.Journal.3

Endless tomorrows, more of the same.

But the fury of today, I can, at least, tame.

Storm-blown forward, unsure of the way.

But I’m here, I’m here. Hold on to today.

 

 

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homeschooling

[Homeschool Review Crew] MaxScholar: Multisensory Reading Intervention Program for Children

As the parent of a young learner, I am constantly in the lookout for new ways to introduce reading to my kids. One of the programs that I recently had the chance to use is the Reading Intervention Programs offered by MaxScholar.

On MaxScholar’s Multisensory Reading Program

The premise is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, which uses the different senses to reinforce reading skills. The advantage of this is that no matter what your child’s learning style is — such as visual or kinesthetic — they will positively respond to the program.

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Each area is designed to teach and enhance a particular skill set

There are different learning areas that come with the subscription to MaxScholar. First is MaxPhonics, which is designed for younger children. It is the foundation of reading because it introduces letters and sounds. For the MaxWords section, students are taught to build their vocabulary as well as learn how to spell. Notably, it also teaches Greek and Latin root words. MaxReading is all about reading comprehension and helps practice students pay attention to what they are reading. This part is fun — MaxMusic helps practice auditory skills using music. MaxVocab build vocabulary using games. Rounding it out are MaxPlaces, which uses geography to help build reading comprehension skills and MaxBios, which focuses reading about famous people.

On Using the Program

The account has separate logins for parents and students. Like most reading programs, the student can take an assessment test to see where their skill levels are. Although the test is optional, it can provide parents a better idea on which part of the program their child should start with.

One thing I appreciated is the well-designed interface of the program. The design is clear, uncluttered, and intuitive. Even dinosaurs scared of the computer (like me!) won’t have a hard time operating it. There is also an effective tutorial option at the beginning for extra assistance.

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Any program with a tutorial gets a thumbs up from me.

For our family, I intended to use MaxScholar to help H practice reading. Her reading has improved exponentially over the summer, so she was able to start practicing with the MaxBios section with assistance.

Incidentally, I get the feeling that the makers of MaxScholars are from the cool crowd because it had sections on hip-hop artists featuring Biggie Smalls and Jay Z. Tyra Banks is included alongside Helen Keller under the Amazing Women category.

On Our Impressions

I think the main advantage of MaxScholar is that it means what it says about the multisensory approach. There’s music, games, and other activities that keep the lessons from being stale and dry for kids.

MaxScholar lives up to its name in that there is a scholarly approach to learning, but there is also a lightheartedness about it that really appeals us. I can’t get over the fact that kids get to read about Jay Z and Tyra Banks! In other programs, this would be considered heresy. But why not? This to me also makes a very valid point about reading: you don’t have to be so high brow to be a good reader. Contemporary topics are just as good as Beatrix Potter-era books.

This for me is the biggest reason why parents should explore the MaxScholar program. More than the reading skills (which of course I think is also good), I think it teaches a love of reading that goes beyond the usual. Reading should be an inclusive activity and I really appreciate that this is not dismissive of more contemporary topics.

To find out more about MaxScholar and its products, follow them on social media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maxscholarllc?lang=en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaxScholarLLC/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/maxscholar/

Find out what other homeschooling families have to say about this product by clicking on the link below.

Reading Intervention Programs {MaxScholar Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Critical Thinking Co.

H just turned six a few months ago and we think she’s pretty advanced when it comes to her language skills. I know, I know every parent says that but hear me out. First, her first word was at six months, which really isn’t impressive until you learn that she used multi-syllable words like “ruckus” and “adventure” before she turned one.

Since then, her vocabulary has grown exponentially and she regularly — and correctly — uses words like “ornery” and “moratorium”. This is why when we had the chance to review Vocabulary Riddles I by The Critical Thinking Co., we immediately thought that it was a great opportunity for H to challenge herself.

On Vocabulary Riddles I

Vocabulary Riddles I is a book that aims to improve a student’s vocabulary through the use of context clues in a sentence. It is meant to be used by Grades 4-8, although in our case, our daughter who is a first grader was able to use it. I did, I should note, offer a lot of guidance.

According to the book, the words come from different sources like The New Yorker and the New York Times. These words are also helpful to build up their PSAT and ACT vocabulary.

The book starts out with a riddle, which is usually alliterative, and the child is supposed to answer questions about it later. These questions are prompts in order to analyze the words and find out the meaning of the whole sentence.

For example, the student is supposed to identify which one is the antonym for a particular word. Then a synonym. The next question is to indicate what part of speech a certain word is. Finally, the last question is to identify which sentence explains the original riddle. The synonym-antonym-part of speech combination is a recurring theme in the book.

Vocabulary Riddles I also devotes the last few pages to the correct answers so it is easier to check.

On How We Used It

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Our screencap of the cover: I found it a little funny that the cover had these kids happily jumping around words like “uncouthness” and “incorrigible”

We used the electronic version of the book, but I understand that there is also a physical copy. It’s a pretty short book with only 30 pages, but each riddle is already packed with so many words to learn so there’s a lot of value in it.

The download was easy and the use of the website is pretty straightforward. This was a noteworthy point because I noticed that there are a lot of websites that make you meander through their pages to get you to buy more stuff. After choosing the product, you download your copy and key in the serial number you receive.

Since my daughter is outside the recommended age, we took things pretty slowly. We also used it a bit differently from how older kids would. I read the sentences to her and asked her read them back to me. (Using this as reading practice was an unexpected bonus.) Then I asked her the questions with a lot of follow-ups to help guide her towards the answers.

With words like “bunkum” and “contumacious”, she got a lot of questions wrong. Obviously. But, she also did get some right. There are also some easier words like “audacious” and “bewildered’, which are, I think, age-appropriate challenges for her. For those parts that went over her head, I used it as a good time to introduce the dictionary and how to use it.

On Our Impressions

I remember being stressed out over learning vocabulary words whenever I had to take those government-mandated tests and for the college entrance exams. I could saved myself a lot of grief if I were exposed to bigger words when I was younger. This is why I love the idea of having a series like this (There is a Vocabulary Riddles II) because it doesn’t belittle the abilities of kids.

I completely agree with the approach as well. When the words are presented in riddle or sentence form, they understand the meanings more organically and within context — as opposed to just memorizing them on flash cards. It makes more sense to learn words if you know how you will use them.

I can also see how the method of asking for the synonyms, antonyms, part of speech, and having them reword the sentence can be applicable to other situations. Once the student develops the habit, it’ll be easy to break down other sentences that can be encountered in the future.

If you are interested in the product, The Critical Thinking Co. has a special offer: free Shipping + 15% off any size order. Use coupon code TOSCREW18. This code expires 12/31/2018.

You can also sign up for free Critical Thinking Puzzles. You can choose PreK – Grade 8 puzzles delivered weekly to your inbox. Sign up here.

Find out more about Vocabulary Riddles I and Critical Thinking Co., you can visit their social media pages.

Other homeschooling families have also tried out the different products of The Critical Thinking Co. You can read their reviews by clicking the image below.

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Home School Navigator

Want to know a secret? Once upon a time, I was a high school teacher. I rarely tell people about it because first, I was terrible at it and second, it was the worst year of my life. I only mention it now because I got the chance to use Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program. Why did I make the connection? Was it a horrible product? Read on to find out.

On Home School Navigator

From the start, let me say that Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program is the complete opposite of horrible. I’ve had the chance to review a lot of materials recently, both as part of the Homeschool Review Crew and from the suggested books given by our provider. Hands down, this product by Home School Navigator is turning out to be my favorite so far.

This product is a complete curriculum, which includes lesson plans, videos, printable materials, and book lists. There are six different color-coded levels, depending on where your child is when it comes to language arts. You can view the framework here.

Homeschol Navigator provides an overview of the lessons in increments of a month. It gives information like the genre and literature and the reading and writing goals to be achieved. Then, it breaks it down to something more specific and practical. There are lessons plans by week, where you can see what you are supposed to do each day. All of this happens by simply downloading a PDF file and printing it out.

Everything is contained in the file, from the teacher’s guide to the worksheets.

How We Used It

We started off with the lowest level, which is red. As we progressed, it was clear to me that we should have used the next level, orange, which is more at par with her skills. But, we stuck to it, since practice and mastery is always a good thing and I didn’t want to disturb her flow.

Each day, we are given a to-do list. You can choose to upload the work into the site, which can be later compiled and printed out into a portfolio once you are done with the curriculum. I ended up not doing that and instead, kept all the finished output in a folder.

The common thread among the levels is the presence of read-alouds. The curriculum suggests that the books are read several times to ensure comprehension. In our experience, the story is the anchor for the rest of the lesson. Whether it be watching a video or doing some desk work, the story acts as the introduction of the lesson and as a way to interest the student.

On Our Impressions

Home School Navigator

I mentioned early on that this is one of the best products I’ve reviewed so far. The reason for this is how complete, thorough, and organized it is. It reminded me of my teaching days when we spent several months just making lesson plans in preparation for the school year. It honestly felt like you had someone do that for you, with this product.

As teacher-parents, it is easy to rave about how these lessons are presented. It’s pretty much established that it is convenient and easy to use. However, that’s just a part of the formula. The real bulk is whether or not it actually works on the children.

In our case, my daughter loved the stories. What kid doesn’t like being read to? She also thought that the activities were unique enough to  pique her interest. It’s not all copywork or line tracing or even answering open-ended questions. The activities were presented differently each time, which she enjoyed.

My only quibble is that it was not easy finding the books on the recommended list. It’s apparent that Home School Navigator wanted to stick to the more popular ones, but as someone from the Philippines where libraries are practically non-existent and bookstore options are lacking, it was a bit of a struggle to follow the list completely. Having said that, I think it’s more of an indictment on the sorry state of my country’s access to books, rather than it being the fault of Home School Navigator.

Overall, I am quite thankful to have encountered Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Program. I highly recommend it. To find out more about it, follow them on the following social media pages.

Interested in what other homeschooling families have to say about this product? Click on the image below to read more reviews.

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] PandaParents

The last few days of summer is upon us. In about a week, I will officially have a first grader and a preschooler. While the kids definitely took some time off from formal lessons, they did not rest on their laurels. We had the chance to use MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTENERS by PandaParents, an interactive education program for young learners. Here is our review if you would like to see.

On M.E.S.S.Y Learning

Parents everywhere might frown at the word messy. Sure, messiness almost always comes hand in hand with learning, especially for young kids, but do we really want to encourage it? Fortunately, messy in this case is actually an acronym. It stands for:

(M) Mixed subjects and activities for integrative learning

(E) Engaging activities that challenge minds

(S) Simple 1-2-3 steps: read, learn, create

(S) Smart designs for creative learning

(Y) Yeah, a new way to promote preschool STEM and early brain growth

PandaParents’ approach to education is three-pronged. It makes use of a story. a video, and a workbook. The big idea behind this is that the different functions of the brain are utilized. In addition, creativity is nurtured while practicing the fine motor skills in children.

On Our Experience

We received the digital version of this program. PandaParents can provide physical copies by December. There were  stories, which you are supposed to go through alongside the worksheet pages. It’s supposed to stretch out over sessions to a total of about a month.

The stories are meant to appeal to the younger set. For example, in Mommy’s Baby, the plot is all about a mother and her child during bedtime. A Jolly Jingling Journey has a Christmas theme and talks a boy and his encounter with Santa.

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They used muffin instead of the overused pie. Score!

One of the first things I notice in children’s books is the quality of word choice. I can’t stand books that belittle the capacity of children when it comes to vocabulary. Fortunately, these products do not suffer from that common literary ailment. Words like “jubilant” and “joyful” are used. Although the plots in the books we read are nothing groundbreaking, they were not dumbed down. In addition, the books are colorful and should appeal to young kids because of the friendly-looking illustrations. They also emphasize phonics by highlighting particular learning sounds.

As for the videos, they come in a variety of lengths. Some of them were notably long. We had one that went a little over 30 minutes. Honestly, we didn’t finish that one. By the one-third mark, the kids were flitting in and out, doing their own thing.

H’s handwriting still needs refinement so we still love working on sheets like this.

I think this program’s best features are the workbooks. It’s a lot of pages that help the kids practice their paper skills, from writing to cutting. As far as content goes, it runs the whole spectrum. There are comprehension activities as well as letter writing, counting, tracing, and other skills. The pages are colored so it might not be the most cost-effective method to print it at home. But, PandaParents is making physical versions of the products available.

On Our Impressions

When I was reading the website in preparation for writing this review, I was highly amused at the Y of their MESSY acronym. (As a refresher, it’s “Yeah, a new way to promote preschool STEM and early brain growth).

I think it’s representative of PandaParents and its products as a whole. There’s an obvious eagerness on their part, that you can just imagine the people behind them saying “Yeah!” while pumping their fists in the air. You can tell by the way lessons are created. It’s not just a story. It’s a story, a video, and worksheets. That there is dedication and belief in your plan, because coming out with that kind of output is not easy.

There can be some improvements that can be made in the products though. I noticed that the videos can be a little bit more streamlined since some are far too long. The narration is also not as fluid as some of the other videos that we were able to watch.

Having said that, I think the strength of this product is their method of teaching. No one is going to argue that a multi-sensory, interactive approach isn’t going to help kids learn. The kids get to use their eyes, their ears, and their hands. In that sense, this product has a definite edge.

To learn more about this product, you can reach out to them through these social media channels:

 

Want to learn more about what other homeschoolers are saying about this product? Click on the image below.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}

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[Homeschool Review Crew Review] Kayla Jarmon

We recently got the chance to read three books by Kayla Jarmon. Her bio is enough to entice other families to pick up her books. In her website, she describes herself as author, mother, and friend. Here is our review if you would like to see.

On A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog Cover-01

Boy-dog stories are pretty common in children’s literature. But even though it has been done many times before, the friendship between a lad and his furry pal can still tug at the heartstrings. This book is no different.

This book explores the sweet relationship of a boy and his dog. A boy and his dog are friends for life, the book boldly proclaims. They sleep beside each other and play together. All those mundane things that anyone who has ever had a dog can relate to.

The illustrations are nothing elaborate and the color palette has a simplicity to it that makes it seem like a child chose the scheme. It feels like these were done intentionally to emphasize the innocence of the story.

On Dying is Part of This World

Dying is Part of This World Cover-01

To be honest, I glossed over this book with my kids. As a newly minted five-year old and three-year old, I don’t think they’re ready to have a full discussion of death. Especially since their only brush with it is the death of a fish late last year. The time will come, I know, when they will know the full magnitude of it. When that happens, I will have this book to help me explain it to them.

In the meantime, I use some parts of the book to reference that death is a part of our world, but we look forward to a time when Jesus will render it useless. Dying is a Part of This World also takes a more hopeful view of loss and grief. It contains scripture references and great question to help answer the fear of death.

On Don’t Forget Me

Don't Forget Me Cover-01

My kids liked A Boy and His Dog the most. For me, however, the clear winner in this set was Don’t Forget Me. It is about a baby talking to God while inside the mommy’s tummy until birth. Mothers will definitely feel a pinch in their hearts over the sweet dialogue.

It also offers more than just making your eyes tear up. Don’t Forget Me has scripture readings and discussion guides on the theme of new life. Without giving away the whole book, it offers a heartfelt theme: God is the author of life, from start to finish.

There are so many books, especially electronic ones like these, that are available in the market. It can be difficult to go through the choices. But, in reading these, I found a common thread in them that makes me confident in recommending them to others. These books are earnest and sincere, making them perfect reads for families.

You can find Kayla Jarmon on the following social media links:

If you want to find more about what other people are saying about Kayla Jarmon and her books, please click on the image below.

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}

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