Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Handwriting Practice for Young Learners {review}

Channie's Visual Handwriting and Math workbooks, developed by Chan Bohacheff, offers a unique visual guide for helping children with handwriting.  The method offers a visual representation with vertical dotted lines and colored blocks in order to assist with proper letter formation, consistent sizing and spacing, and even punctuation.

We were given the opportunity to choose from a few interesting products, and I settled on the following to review:

Channie's Dry Erase Flashcard for Alphabet & Number

Channie's Dry Erase Flashcard for Sight Words

I have reviewed Channie's cursive handwriting in the past, so I was intrigued to try these dry erase cards aimed at a younger audience.  The specialized grids and green shade block help maintain uniform sizing of letters and straight printing.

Channie's Dry Erase Flashcard for Sight Words
I requested these cards because my six year old is still practicing her reading skills, and her reading curriculum actually recommends using dry erase boards before writing on paper, so these are a great supplement.  The cards are appropriate for children as young as three, but are ideal for beginning reader and writers.  The set includes 100 sight words, and the format allows children to read, trace and write the word.

 Although I have never used flash cards in the traditional drilling method, these particular cards are a valuable resource to her language arts curriculum.  Her curriculum actually shows how most "sight words" can be phonetically decoded, and she already knows quite a bit of these words or can "sound it out" so we jumped right in.

Not only does she read the word, she traces it, and then she can practice writing it using the guided grids.  There was a blank card so we could work on any other words as well, meaning she can use this for her Spelling List words if she wants to write them out, instead of spelling with letter tiles.

Channie's Dry Erase Flashcard for Alphabet & Number 
I chose these dry erase flashcards for my four year old!  She's always wanting to do school like the big kids, but she's not quite ready for formal learning.  These seemed like a good compromise.

The cards are designed for Pre-K through 1st grade, and contain 26 alphabet cards and 10 number cards.  The cards are color-coded, and include green for capitals, blue for lower case letters, and yellow for numbers.

The letter cards have a corresponding picture and word, so you can work on simple letter sounds.  The number cards have objects that allow for practicing counting.

Being four, and never having any formal handwriting practice at all, it has taken some time for my preschooler to figure out the whole "size and space" aspect of the grid, rather than just getting the shape of the letter/number, but she is making progress.

These have been a good option for her to have nearby while her siblings are doing school, especially when her big sister using the sight word cards.

What Did We Think?
These cards have been a great resource for both my four and six year old.  They love dry-erase markers, so it makes the chore of writing a little easier, especially for perfectionists.  The unique grid offer a helpful visual guide for spacing and letter formation.  The boards are sturdy and durable, and easily wipe clean, so I see them lasting awhile.  These are easy to use for independent work once the child has mastered the grid.  I'm pleased with this product, and think they are a great idea for preschool and early elementary classrooms and homeschoolers.

To learn more about Channie's, you can read my review of Easy Peasy Cursive, find Channie's online, or read more crew reviews.

Alphabet, Number & Sight Word Dry Erase, Neat Numbers & Page a Day 2 Didgit Multiplication. {Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Excelerate SPANISH {review}

Over the years, we have dabbled in foreign language, specifically Spanish.  We've never achieved fluency though, so when we had the opportunity to review the Excelerate SPANISH Streaming service from Excelerate SPANISH, I thought it would be an interesting addition to our curriculum lineup.

Excelerate SPANISH was created by Caryn Hommel, a homeschooling mother, author and former public school teacher with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature.  The video based program uses fun gestures, action sequences, skits and stories as concrete stimuli to make the program fun for all ages.

With a one year subscription to the streaming service, we have access to Level One and Level Two, which includes 24 video lessons each.  These lessons provide all of the instruction.  The material is stated as suitable for elementary through high school, approximately ages 7-adult!  (The textbook, workbook and answer key must be purchased separately.)

The lessons are accessible from a desktop, laptop, table or phone.  If you have a Smart TV, or can cast or do screen mirroring, you should be able to watch on the television screen for more suitable family viewing.

The videos are actual class lessons taught by Caryn to a roomful of children.  She jumps right into introducing a few vocabulary words and phrases by writing them in both Spanish and English on the whiteboard.  She pronounces and repeats them several times, then she shows a motion to do while say thing words.  (For instance, the motion for "trabajo - work/job" is a digging motion.)  This is part of Total Physical Response (TPR) that is shown to be highly effective in language acquisition.  There are many words and phrases introduced throughout each lesson, and the whiteboard is pretty full at the end.  Before the end of the lesson, the children are more activity involved in the lesson and demonstrations.  You'll see the teacher, the whiteboard, and/or the children at different times through the lesson, so my kids could see the other students participating in the lesson.

The lessons are taught in the context of a story, and the vocabulary used carries over into the next lesson.  As the lessons do build on each other, it is important to have a good grasp on the phrases before moving on.  Although the video based lessons are primarily taught through action, there are times when the children are referencing printouts and the teacher is pointing to posters on the wall.  It feels a little disconnected during these parts of the videos.  There are also "assignments" given at the end of the video, so there is additional work that is supposed to accompany the online lessons that you cannot do without the printed materials.

Although we've never been a traditional textbook family, I think my older kids (10 and 12) are kind of past the point where they enjoy being an active participant like this course requires, even in the comfort of their own home.  They might have benefited more from the workbook, and I believe I would require the workbook for high school credit.

There is, however, free access to Quizlet where you can find flash cards, games and quizzes to practice the vocabulary.  This is beneficial for additional time with the material, because the videos themselves are 30-35 minutes each beginning in Spanish 1, and by Spanish 2 they're around the 40-45 minute mark.  While this is an appropriate amount of time for an active participation class, it's a little long for a lesson at home (for someone with very little background knowledge in Spanish) and there is a lot of information to process.  I felt like the videos were so full of information that it was a little hard for us to keep up a timely pace with this course.  I think it would be ideal for each family to build a personalized schedule that alternates the videos and the Quizlet activities so that you aren't overwhelmed by the videos.  If you had the workbooks, that would probably help too, of course.

That being said, as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I do appreciate the unique approach to foreign language.  I also like that you can access it as a streaming service.  It is a subscription that the entire family can use at one time for one price, there are no downloads, and there are no DVDs to lose or damage.  I think children with different learning preferences can benefit because the audio/visual nature of the videos, seeing the words on the whiteboard, and the movement and actions access all the  senses.  Finally, I think what makes this a good choice for a family wanting a Spanish program that everyone can do together is that the content is appropriate for older students, but the Total Physical Response and storied context make it accessible to younger family members as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Excelerate SPANISH, please check them out online, and see what other Homeschool Review Crew members are saying in their reviews.

Excelerate SPANISH help your students to learn FAST, naturally! (Streaming)  {Excelerate SPANISH 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Smartick {review}

As a homeschooling parent, I am always looking for new, interesting or engaging programs to introduce to my children.  Smartick is a math enrichment program for children ages 4-14 years old.  It combines math, reading comprehension, logic and reasoning into a personalized 15 minute lesson.  The program uses artificial intelligence that adapts to the student's learning style and individual needs, and claims that children who use the program consistently, increase their school grades and calculation skills.  We were given a six month subscription to Smartick math practice service, and have been using the app to supplement our math curriculum.

Initially, I had all of my children do the assessment, but I've found, based on our other homeschool lessons and homework from outside classes, the program gets the most use from my six year old!  It is recommended to use the program 4-5 times a week for 15 minutes per day for the best results.  We school four days a week on average (we take "off" for co-op) so this means she should get 4 days a week in when we're on top of things, which I think is more than reasonable for a enrichment/supplemental program.

My first grader does a workbook based math curriculum with me during our "table lessons" but then she is encouraged to do her 15 minutes of Smartick on the iPad while I work with one of the other kids.  This is the only screen time she does for school currently, and I find it is a great way for her to practice independent work, because it is actually encouraged that the parent not help the student.  I know she's only going to spend about 15-20 minutes on the app, because the lessons are timed.  After the lesson, she does spend a few minutes buying pets or things to care for them, but then she returns to me to let me know she's finished!

Stars or "ticks" are awarded through the program, and they can redeem them after a lesson.  PDF certificates are awarded occasionally as well, so if your child is motivated by little rewards, this program has a few.

The sessions are basically sets of questions, and sometimes an interactive tutorial lesson is included.  It's not an in-depth math curriculum, but the artificial intelligence should eventually target any weak areas and improve math fluency.

I appreciate that there is a sound icon so she can listen to the question/instructions.  She is still gaining reading fluency, and this reassures me that she will not struggle to understand the questions.

Smartick is not a parent-intensive program, but I can check my emails to see how her daily lessons are going.

Setting up the account, I do not recall assigning her grade, and I can only assume that she was assessed at an approximate grade level based on her age.  I do believe she has been placed accurately - some things are "so easy!" and some are right on target for first grade, and there is the occasional frustrated whine as she is doing work more challenging than usual.

Online in my parent account, I can get an overall picture of her progress.  By clicking on any of the icons, I can see more detailed information about the specific topic. As far as improvement, we don't grade work at her age, but I do think she is gaining fluency in calculation speed - if that's a direct result of this program or or maturity is yet to be determined.

Overall, she does well with the program.  It's easy for her to use and she enjoys it.  It's also easy for me to implement and monitor, and it doesn't add much to our homeschool day because it doesn't feel like a chore to her.  I would recommend this for parents who want to supplement their children's math program with a personalized math enrichment program.

To find out more about Smartick, find them online and be sure to read the other crew reviews!

Math Enrichment Program {Smartick 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com