Friday, August 31, 2012

TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom Review

I don't remember learning how to read; I guess it was just natural for me. Elliott, however, has exceptional memory that scares me, and since he happens to be more math-minded, I'm sure he will remember learning to read. Even though he does just fine with reading, he could care less of we do reading instruction. For awhile we just hopped back and forth between approaches, so that he wouldn't get bored. So when I was given a chance to try Reading Kingdom, I was excited to have a new approach to offer him.

What is Reading Kingdom?
Reading Kingdom was created by Dr. Marion Blake, and is an online reading program that can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or a supplement to an existing program.  It is designed to teach children ages 4-10 years old how to read through a third grade reading level.  It covers a variety of skills.

You can start off with the 30 day free trial, and then the pricing for homeschoolers is $19.99/month or $199.99 per year.  Additional children receive a 50% discount, and you are able to cancel your subscription at any time.  In an effort to promote literacy, Reading Kingdom also offers scholarships.

The Program
The program begins with a Skills Survey to assess Sequencing and Keyboarding skills in order to place the student appropriately. One of the goals of the program is to work with the child at their level, so as not to offer lessons that are too easy or too difficult. The child may proceed on to Skills Survey 2, for reading and writing placement, but in our case it was determined that Iron Man should work in Seeing Sequences and Letter Land.

Seeing Sequences helps develop visual sequencing and memory skills.  This is completed in conjunction with Letter Land.  I'm not sure if speed was a factor in determining whether to place a child in this format or not, because I know he understands left-to-right progression, and to my knowledge, he only made one error, which was an accident, not a true mistake.

Letter Land is not a true keyboarding program, but it is designed to help familiarize children with the keyboard and letter placement. 

While I do see some value in helping a child to become familiar with very basic computer skills, I don't stress over my 5 year old knowing the keyboard yet.  There is a difference between writing and physically forming the letter with one's hand, and just recognizing and typing it on a keyboard, and I'm not sure the emphasis of Letter Land is necessary for teaching reading.  However, that's just my opinion.

The activities in Seeing Sequences and Letter Land were the same activities as the skills assessment, and fairly repetitive.  Since I knew that his only errors were accidental clicks, and he was getting frustrated with the same activities, I contacted the company to request they move him forward.  They responded very quickly and moved him up to Level 1.

Reading and Writing
Initially he was excited to see that he was being offered a new activity.  The entire session was based around one word:  kid.  He was told to spell the word first, then there were various activities such as typing the full word, typing the missing letter into the word, or choosing the picture of the word.  Each activity repeated several times throughout the session, and Elliott found working with only one word for the entire session to be too repetitive as well.  He didn't struggle with the content, but the format was not compatible with his learning style.

The Result?
I wanted to like this program.  In fact, I like the philosophy.  His heart just wasn't in it.  He enjoys computer-based learning when I allow him to play, but this one just wasn't a fit for us.  I believe that children under 6 should be doing very few formal academics, if any, and what they are doing should be fun and engaging.  This didn't meet that criteria for my son.  I do think children that thrive on extremely structured and repetitive learning material would benefit from this program.  The program uses elements of phonics and whole language, in conjunction with other skills, and is customized to the child's ability, so I can certainly see how it would be a beneficial program if it met the needs of the child's learning style.  I would still recommend trying it out.  It certainly can't hurt to sign up for the free trial to see if it is a good fit for your child!

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a complimentary subscription to Reading Kingdom in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are based on our personal experience with the program and were not influenced in any way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Moving and a Birthday

I know I haven't been posting much, but I've just been so wrapped up with other things.  The biggest thing now is that my husband received a fantastic job offer, but being a promotion that is "too good to pass up" has one downfall.  It involves being transferred 3 hours away.  Immediately.  There's been some logistical things that had to be worked out, so he's been worked up over that...and I'm not crazy about the idea of basically packing this house without much of his help!

So needless to say, our homeschooling has been put to the back burner as I begin the cleaning, purging, donating, organizing and packing.  We're only focusing on a few things right now, and that's mostly what we are reviewing for The TOS Crew.  Mostly Iron man is doing reading, and together they are doing Spanish, nature study, physical fitness, and whatever activities are easily accomplished without requiring many materials being dragged in and out of the chaos.

Iron Man is 5 years old (Kindergarten)
Hulk is 3 years old (unofficial Preschool)

The boys are particularly interested in whatever I am cleaning/organizing, so that is usually where our "school" lands us for the day.

One day I cleaned out the art cabinets.

No, I no longer remember what those pictures were supposed to be.  Bad mom!

Then I was going through puzzles.  This was a "new" one from goodwill that they'd never worked, so both boys tried it out.  Hulk still needs a little help with 24+ piece puzzles, but he works hard on then.  

We are also trying out Speekee Spanish{see my review here now}and the boys are enjoying the accompanying activities, including making their very own creative sock puppets.

We've also been enjoying our outdoor time.  We've had physical fitness, play time and of course nature study.

You can read about their Nature Treasures and the homemade xylophone in X, Y and Z!

Hulk just celebrated his third birthday.  It's sooo hard to believe my baby is three!  We will be having a very small party this weekend, but my husband happened to take a few days off to study for a federal exam related to his licensing, so we celebrated on Hulk's actual birthday by going to the movies.  Afterwards we took the boys to a bakery to choose individual cupcakes, and sat on their patio to enjoy the nice weather.

The birthday boy chose Blueberry Cheesecake, because it had blue icing.

Big brother chose raspberry because it was closest to his new favorite color, red.

Mom and dad chose based on flavors.  I had kiwi lime, and it was great!  We bought half a dozen, so I had red velvet the next day.  Another yum!

So between my course work, the pregnancy and the impending move, I may be in and out over the next several weeks, but hopefully things will settle down by the fall!

Tot School

Thursday, August 16, 2012

X, Y and Z...

Well, I got a little behind on my participation in the Blogging Through the Alphabet series, but I wanted to make sure to post this week as it has reached the end!

X is for Xylophone
One of Iron Man's favorite activities in his music class at co-op earlier this year was the xylophone activity made from glasses of water.  Hulk didn't participate in that activity, so recently I thought I'd make one up for them to try together.  I decided we would color our water, to add some color mixing lessons in it too.

Although Iron Man liked the activity, it was definitely more suited for Emory this time.  Hulk had a great time watching the colors appear, and especially discussing dark and light.  Not to mention being allowed to bang on glasses!  I gave the boys different utensils to use for "mallets" and Hulk especially enjoyed trying each one out.  We also talked about which glasses had the most and least water, and which glasses made the highest and lowest sounds.  So we got music, science and math all into one activity!  Win-Win-Win!

Y is for Yard
Yes, we use our yard for school quite frequently.  We don't need to travel to the park for Physical Education or to a nature preserve for science.  While it's nice to take those field trips, and we love to do so, it's also practical to use what you have.  We are blessed to have a nice size yard, and we are close enough to my in-law's farm to walk there whenever we want for more fun adventures.  Sometimes I give them a little guidance.  Today we started our outdoor time with a Homeschool Fitness program that we are reviewing, then the rest of their time was their time.

Recently, one of their favorite things to do is go on nature discovery walks.  They love to be Nature Pirates, and they call their finds Nature Treasures!  Nature ahoy!  The rule is that we try to find fallen or windblown items, which is easily accomplished after big storms, but occasionally they do pick some wildflowers.  Elliott loves collecting the mimosa tree seed pods from the ground and opening them.

Z is for Zen Garden
This is a simple one from the dollar store, and is only used for de-stressing.  It's great for a calm corner.  There is just something relaxing about playing and drawing in sand (even my husband and I enjoy the rice-based sensory tubs) and this often does the trick.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Monday, August 6, 2012

TOS Review: Math Made Easy

You may already know that math is my least favorite subject, and I worry about teaching my kids math.  I've struggled with what curriculum to start off with, whether to focus on living math for now, or how to integrate the two to his advantage.

Recently I was given the opportunity to try Addition Teaching and Learning Made Easy created by Glenda Brown James.

The Program

  • Designed to help student master and memorize math facts in 6 weeks
  • Teaches how to eliminate unnecessary work by teaching Zero and One facts, then commutative property
  • Covers 6 facts each week, for a total of 36 facts
  • Includes pre-test, six weeks of daily worksheets/lessons, post-test, games and flashcards

Each week is a new set of math problems, but the style of worksheet repeats:

Monday is a Color By Number style worksheet
Tuesday is a crack the code type page with a related coloring picture
Wednesday is a cut/paste puzzle
Thursday is a review page of addition problems
Friday is the Math Problem of the Week

Monday:  Color by Number

Putting it to Work
One of the first things Iron Man picked up was commutative property.  I do think that's an important skill to understand in addition and multiplication, because it does help math go more smoothly.

My favorite part of the program was Friday's Math Problem of the Week, because it always involves more critical thinking.  Even my worksheet-hating, non-coloring child tolerated some of these worksheets because they were simple, and some even asked you to draw out the answers.
Friday's Math Problem of the Week

There are two homeschool packages. Addition is geared for 1st and 2nd grade, with Kindergarten optional. Multiplication, is geared for 3rd and 4th grade, but can be used with 5th and 6th graders as well. The Homeschool Packages are $24.95 and the entire program is contained in a spiral bound book. The books are also reproducible within the immediate family, so it can be used for all of your children.

My Recommendation
Admittedly, Iron Man is on the younger side of this program's target age range (Kindergarten) and this turned out to be more of a practice program for us than mastery and memorization.  However, he does seem more comfortable with commutative property, and is working problems more quickly.

Despite the title, this program does not teach the math, instead it gives an outline to aid in the memorization of math facts, therefore I would not recommend it for instructional purposes, or for a student who struggles with the actual foundation of addition or multiplication.

I do think either the Addition or Multiplication program would be great for students who like coloring and activity sheets, children who simply need more practice before moving on to the next level or the family who wants a nice summer review program to keep their kids fresh.

Be sure to check out what other reviews think of the Addition and Multiplication programs!

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product in exchange for my honest opinion. These opinions are based on my experience with the product and were not influenced in any way.