Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Easy Grammar Plus {review}

Grammar is one of those subjects that we've covered lightly over the years in our homeschool, with the expectation that we would cover it in-depth in middle school.  This year, as my oldest was entering seventh grade, I was actually considering using a product from Easy Grammar Systems, so when the opportunity to review Easy Grammar Plus was presented, I knew this was definitely the year to study grammar!

Easy Grammar Plus is written by Wanda C. Philips, Ed.D. and is a non-grade level text that is intended for about 7th grade, but is appropriate for all middle school, high school and college levels.  It is written at a lower reading level, approximately fourth grade, so that students can focus on the grammar.  This, and the simplicity of the program, are probably what make it useful for older students who have never had grammar instruction or who may be struggling.  It does, however, contain higher level concepts (gerunds, perfect tense, etc.) and more difficult capitalization and punctuation rules, which would make it age/grade appropriate.

This is a teaching text, or a teacher edition.  Everything you need for a complete grammar course is included in this one book.  You can however, purchase a separate student workbook and test booklet, but they are not necessary to implement the program fully.  The teacher's book is available as a digital download as well.

The book actually has a Pre/Post Assessment Test first, and is about eight pages in length, and while the author says it won't take long to complete, that is likely subjective based on a student's prior grammar ability and potential testing anxiety.  There is information for scoring the test as well.

The Introduction is written to the teacher, and opens with an encouragement to set your student up for success, by placing emphasis on their success!   I do agree that it is more important to encourage a student by acknowledging what they know and where they are succeeding than to constantly point out any deficiencies or struggles.  The introduction gives the teacher (or parent) some guidance for teaching the course, encourages teaching to mastery, and insists that the student must memorize the preposition list to begin mastery.  Specifically, there is a list of 53 prepositions, and the student should be able to list 50, with the others being bonus points.  Frankly, if we had to memorize all the prepositions first, it would have taken us too long to get into the actual curriculum.  We did spend about a week working on just the prepositions--there were a few activities like unscrambling words and Preposition Bingo, to help familiarize the student with them, and we reviewed the list each day.  However, after the first week, I decided to copy the list and let him keep it near him while he began working in the prepositions section.  Within just a couple of days, I noticed he was referencing the list less and less, and I think this was due to identifying the prepositions in context, instead of looking at them as a list of random words.

The lessons are not numbered, because you can technically work on the units somewhat out of order.  It is suggested to do Prepositions first, then perhaps punctuation-which is the last unit, then returning to verbs and doing the rest in order, because the concepts are often interrelated.

The full list of units are:
Types of Sentences
Sentences, Fragments, and Run-Ons
Phrases and Clauses

Although the units are separated, I noticed that the topics truly aren't isolated.  For instance, even though types of sentences aren't covered for several units, right in the first unit on prepositions there was information about imperative sentences, to help the student understand that (You) is the subject.

The book is set up so that it teaches a concept, then there is a student page and the corresponding answer key on a page spread.  So there's not a lot of flipping back and forth, but photocopying straight from this book is not ideal for me.  This teacher edition is well over 600 pages and too cumbersome, so after copying a few assignments, I bought the student workbook.  It was just easier for us.  The pages are identical to the teacher edition, but the book is smaller and obviously there are no answer keys.

We do formal lessons four days per week, so we've been doing grammar about three days per week. We can easily do a full page, which is about fifteen exercises, in a reasonable amount of time.  I like short lessons, and this workbook lends itself well to that.  The actual assignments do not require a lot of writing, which I appreciate!  First things first, the student learns to mark out the preposition, which will help them more quickly identify the other elements.  As new elements are taught, the student is instructed to mark them in different ways, such as underlining the verb/verb phrase twice or labeling the direct object.  Looking ahead, there are assignments that require writing--such as when working with contractions--but the writing is still relatively minimal overall.  Since I have a son who thrives on science and math, and doesn't particularly love language arts and writing, having a grammar program with short lessons and minimal writing was ideal!

Following each unit is a unit review and test, and then a cumulative review and test.  If you choose to move forward without memorizing the prepositions, be aware that listing them does appear on future tests.  I would also consider the fact that some students might struggle with the grammar if they aren't following the curriculum as written.  I am telling you how we chose to approach the curriculum for the purpose of this review, but that doesn't mean our approach is endorsed by the author.

The Easy Grammar Plus teacher edition, and the corresponding student book that I purchased, are all black and white with no illustrations.  This keeps it clean and simple, with no distractions.

Final Thoughts
The first couple of days started off rough, with a kid who "doesn't like" grammar, but he now does his grammar without complaint and usually does well.  If he makes mistakes, I mark the number with a pencil so we can go over it together and he can correct his mistakes.  I thought this would be better than marking them wrong, and goes well with the idea of mastery and praising successes.

Overall, I am happy with the program.  The instructions are clear and direct, the assignments are short, and so far it seems the retention is there.

Easy Grammar Plus is just one part of the Easy Grammar series.  There are grade level texts for elementary, and there is also the Easy Grammar Ultimate series for high school, as well as a review series called Daily Grams.  To find out more about the different levels and how they correlate, be sure to find Easy Grammar Systems online and read more crew reviews!

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}

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©2011-2019 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Stranger Things and Back to School {A Peek into Our Homeschool August 2019}

So I haven't been keeping up with my monthly homeschool wrap-up post, but I need to get back into the routine, because I love going back and looking over pictures and seeing what we've been doing.  It helps me round out portfolio reviews too, when I recall a field trip or project or some other fun activity we did!

Although I technically posted our Summer Edition, our "summer break" wasn't officially over at that point.  While all the kids in our school district were starting back to school, we were having a Not Back to School Week . . . Husband had a work conference in Atlanta, so it was the perfect time visit my family and do a few fun field trips with the kids!

Although we didn't get to visit with everyone, some crazy things happened of course, but we did get to see several family members and we were able to squeeze in a few fun activities as well!  I already shared how we went to the World of Coca-Cola . . .

. . . and to the Georgia Aquarium!  This was the birthday boy's choice!  Those two places are next door to each other, so it was great that they were the top picks for the kids this year.

The same afternoon, we went to visit some of the locations where Stranger Things was filmed!  The Starcourt Mall scenes were filmed at Gwinnett Place Mall, just outside of Atlanta, and this mall was a ghost town!  We passed storefront after storefront after storefront that was empty, and we rarely passed a person who wasn't a store or mall employee.  It was a massive space, and I'm sure it was great in its glory days, but it was kind of sad and eerie walking through it.

I can see how an empty shopping mall makes an ideal filming location, though!  {Here's an article about how they transformed Gwinnett Place Mall into Starcourt Mall.}

The area where they filmed was blocked off, even though the set had been taken down, and there was a security guard as well.

You could only see a little bit from this angle, but the security guard was friendly and chatted with us, telling my husband about how he gets visitors from all over the United States and even other countries!

Husband asked about the parking lot scene with Billy, so he told my husband where to find it.

The guard also told my husband which doors still had the Starcourt mall logo on it from filming, so of course we had to drive around the mall and find it.  

Then we went back to the county where I grew up, to see where the middle and high school scenes were filmed!  This school was formerly the alternative high school when I lived there, but I guess it closed a few years ago due to mold--the alternative school was moved and renamed.

Prior to that, it was the original Stockbridge High School, and I didn't realize it when watching the show, but their school colors are still on the walls.  (I moved in middle school, but my sister went to high school in the same county and lives nearby so she recognized the colors!)

The girls didn't want to get out of the van for this (it was hot) but a bus driver had parked her bus and stopped to chat with us for a few minutes.  She sees a lot of people stop through here too, and she offered to take our picture!

The school was used for both the middle and high school, and when you drove around you could see different filming spots here too . . . the outdoor and "parking lot" scenes for the high school.

Overall, Husband and boys thought it was really neat!

Then we left and got Donuts, and took Emory back to my sister's where she'd planned a little birthday surprise for him.  She had decorations in his favorite color, a cookie cake, and he got some gifts!  We had a small little party with husband's parents (with ice cream cake) when we got home.  So blessed to have this boy - he's full of joy and has such a big heart!  

The week we were in Georgia was unbearably hot - I grew up there and still forget how unbelievably suffocatingly hot it can be.  We did get the chance to hit a playground one night and a wooded nature preserve in a wooded area one day, so that was nice!

We walked by part of the lake.

But most of the woods took us along a creek.

It was quiet and tranquil, as there weren't a lot of people out on the trails.

 Yes, Emory is always on the lookout for wildlife!

We came to an area where some kids were playing in their swimsuits in the water, so naturally my girls wanted to put their feet in.  

Eloise "accidentally fell" into the water, and once she did, she realized she didn't actually like being wet while fully clothed.  She was also rock hopping and making people nervous, and it looked like it was going to rain, so we ended up just doing the short loop to get back to the cars.

Once we returned home from our trip to GA, we had a "light" week of schooling, and then the last week of August was our full start!  The kids were already finished with their school day and outdoors playing (hence the play clothes) before I remembered pictures!

Eloise is 4 and in Pre-K and full of wild!  She insisted on getting a notebook and pencil for her "school" picture!

Eleanor is 6 and in First Grade.  This is her first "official" year as a homeschooler, both legally, and in the Charlotte Mason sense as well.  She's enjoying her new schedule so far!

Emory just turned 10 and is in the 5th grade!  He loves animals, the outdoors, science and history and is generally a good student!

Elliott's a smart kid and loves video games and movies.  He says he hates school, but he does well in math, science and he tends to enjoy biographies!

The kids insisted on a goofy picture!

I insisted on a regular one . . . this was their compromise I guess!  

I'll share more about each child's curriculum choices for the year soon, but we're not straying much from what we've done the last two years!  Our verse this year is Proverbs 4:7 and I am absolutely looking forward to a year full of learning and wisdom!

©2011-2019 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

200 Essential Math Skills for First Grade {Reading Eggs Review}

Reading Eggs is well known for its online learn-to-read program, but it has expanded over the years to include Reading Eggs Jr. (reading readiness), Reading Eggspress (reading comprehension) and Mathseeds, the companion math website for early elementary.  Now there are physical workbooks to accompany the online reading and math curriculum.  We were recently given the opportunity to review 200 Essential Math Skills for First Grade, and to trial the online subscription for Mathseeds and Reading Eggs.

We actually reviewed their Kindergarten Math workbook last year, and my daughter was very happy with it, so I was interested to see how the workbooks progressed!  

The First Grade workbook follows the same format as the Kindergarten workbook, and is designed to complement the online subscription lessons, so Math Skills for First Grade picks up at Lesson 51. The book includes a table of contents, but the Year Planner really breaks down the lessons to explain what skills are covered and what additional Driving Tests you can take through Mathseeds. 

Then you will find three pages of Learning Activities—these are suggestions for general hands-on activities that you can use throughout the year to enhance a lesson or weave into your daily life. For instance, there’s an activity for teaching fractions with a sandwich, or playing shop to practice money skills. The activity they suggest for telling time can become part of your daily routine. They’re not specific to the lessons, so you can use them when and how you see fit.

Each unit includes five lessons that correspond to the online Mathseeds maps (the sequence of progression through the program), a Map Quiz, Certificate and finally, a Fun Spot for each unit.  The Fun Spots are exactly what they say - they're fun ways to review the material through activities like dot-to-dots, maps, unique coloring pages, and crack the code puzzles.  There is a cumulative review to cover lessons 51-75 and one to cover 76-100, and a final course certificate. The end of the book has a few cutout pages that correspond to different lessons in the workbook, and these pages are clearly labeled and referenced in the appropriate lesson.

The Kindergarten book ended with lessons on Numbers to 20, Geometry, and subtraction, and since the books correspond to the online program, the 1st Grade book picks up with (reviewing) addition to 10, sorting 2D shapes, subtraction, telling time and near and far. 

The lessons build on themselves throughout the entire curriculum, so review happens naturally. One thing I really appreciate about Mathseeds is that even “minor” topics like telling time, money and data are done in this way. Many math programs focus primarily on operations and relegate these topics to a final unit or two at the end of the curriculum. Instead, my 1st grader will cover telling time in progressive detail, as it is covered in at least Lesson 54, Lesson 70, and Lesson 87, as well as having the skill of skip counting covered in different ways, which naturally helps with telling time. I think having these skills covered incrementally is nice because my child can build a foundation and let the information ruminate while she begins practicing the skill in real life, before adding in more layers. The topics covered are appropriate for the intended grade and they move at a reasonable pace, but you can work as slow or as quickly through the material as needed.

The workbook pages are colorful and engaging, and utilize a variety of ways to teach. Counting, addition and subtraction are taught through objects, number lines, and ten frames, but the student is also seeing the equations because they’re often instructed to fill in the blanks to complete an equation. Children may write answers, draw pictures, or color in the workbook, and there are those occasional cut/paste activities.  If you need more hands-on activities, it is easy to do on your own, as long as you're comfortable with this level of math.  There is no answer key, but at this level, I don't need one.

There are 50 workbook lessons, so with the 50 corresponding online lessons, you could easily have 100 "school days" worth of lessons if you alternated between them.  Then you could round out the year with the Quizzes, Fun Spots and online Driving Tests as needed.  We only do math 4 days per week to accommodate a weekly co-op, and we just "do the next thing" anyway, so I appreciate that the lessons aren't scheduled out by days or weeks - I love having the flexibility to make a curriculum work for us!

There are also printable materials included as part of the Mathseeds subscription.  The Color Activity Sheets include a colorful, corresponding worksheet for each lesson.  The Homeschool Worksheets, however, are black and white, but more in-depth.  These homeschool worksheets are more like "lesson plans" that include the learning objectives, and how to break down the online lesson in conjunction with these included worksheets.  There are also suggestions for more hands-on and group activities to reinforce the concepts.  For instance, one idea is to draw a large number line in chalk and practice number lines by jumping back and forth following instructions.

My 1st grader likes the workbook, but she made it clear last year, and still asserts this year that two pages of math per day is enough. I actually agree with her. The pages seem to average about 5-8 individual problems, so I think two pages is a fair amount of work for a 6 year old.  We tend to work by time limits, because as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I strongly believe in short lessons, so two pages is just the right amount of work.  She does well with math and enjoys it, so I'm happy with this.

The online lessons take a little longer sometimes, but since she's playing on the iPad and she isn’t writing, she can get through an entire lesson without losing focus.  The online lessons are also broken down into shorter activities, so there might be a "teaching video" and then the student practices, then there might be some review activities built in.  The student must "pass" the interactive activities for the next section to be unlocked, so they shouldn't be just moving along without understanding the material.  Having the workbook for reinforcement can really show strengths and weaknesses in a way that online work can't do.  

Like the original Reading Eggs, Mathseeds is set up like as a series of maps.  When we got access to Mathseeds again, I bumped her up to Lesson 51 so that she would be working in the same material as the workbook.  After each successful lesson, a surprise animal hatches from an acorn!

The workbook connects to the online material not just with the content it covers, but the characters are the same, and the workbook contains a cute little area for children to keep track of what they've completed and learned for each lesson.

The program is geared towards younger children, so it is full of cutesy graphics and songs.  So while it would likely not be appropriate for older children working below grade level, it is enjoyable for my six year old, and my 4 year old likes watching over her shoulder when she's doing the online portions.

The Reading Eggs and Mathseeds subscriptions are separate, but can be purchased as a package deal as well.  There are workbooks for K-5th grade reading, and K-2nd grade math.  You do not need the workbook to use the online subscription, but the workbooks complement the program nicely.

Overall, I really like Mathseeds and the Essential Math Skills series.  The books are colorful and high quality paper, and the lessons are age appropriate.  It's easy to switch between the online program and the workbook, and there isn't a lot of "stuff" required to implement the program.  We usually only need a pencil, crayons or colored pencils, and occasionally scissors and glue.

I have been using Reading Eggs on and off over the years with all of my children, and you can see a more comprehensive Reading Eggs Review done with my 1st grader when she was 4 years old, as well as our review last year of 200 Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten.

If you're interested in learning more about Reading Eggs, I encourage you to try the FREE 4 Week Trial for Mom's Heart readers!  You can also check out more crew reviews and find Reading Eggs on social media!

240 Essential Reading Skills & 200 Essential Math Skills  {Reading Eggs Reviews}

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©2011-2019 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.