Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Handwriting Without Tears {review}

Handwriting without Tears Logo photo HWOTLogo.jpg

I'm not really sure that Handwriting Without Tears needs an introduction.  It is one of the leading handwriting programs in the homeschool community, and I think it is one of the most successful because it takes a multi-sensory approach to teach children successful habits.

When I was given the opportunity to review this popular program, I took a long look at both the K and 1st grade levels.  Without a doubt, Elliott (6) could have handled the 1st grade curriculum.  However I decided the Kindergarten Workbook and Teacher's Manual would be a good fit for us too.  This is because I knew he could benefit from the beginning as a review for correctly forming letters, and just progress quickly through the program.  I was also thinking that I could start using the readiness and hands-on activities from the teacher's manual with Emory (3.5), since he likes to join our school days frequently.

HWOT Kindergarten Teacher's Guide photo HWOTKinderTeacherbook.jpg

I have to say, this is a fantastic resource.  The Teacher's Guide ($9.25) is designed for classroom use, and is very comprehensive, but it is easily adaptable for the homeschooler.  It is almost 200 pages and is full of information from covering foundation skills (like correct pencil grip), teaching strategies for the alphabet and numbers, how to integrate other subjects, support tips for each lesson, and a daily schedule designed for a 36 week year.

The student book, Letters and Numbers for Me ($8.25) has all of the written activities, and although I have a right-handed student, it is also supposed to be lefty-friendly.  The lessons start out very slowly with capital letters, then as lower case letters are introduced, the student is able to write short, familiar words.  By the end of the program, the student is writing sentences and using varied punctuation.
HWOT Kindergarten Workbook photo HWOTKinderworkbook.jpg

Personalizing the Program
The beginning of the program seems to be designed for the student who has little-to-no experience writing.  Since my son taught himself how to write most letters, we didn't use this program exactly as written.  Admittedly, we skipped around a little.  He didn't need two full weeks of readiness activities, so we would do a multi-sensory activity or two along with the written lesson, and that worked well for him.

We use the beginning letter instruction to practice correct formation.  He fills in each block, and I point out the one(s) that look "great" so he gets praise for what he is doing well.

The curriculum uses wooden pieces for building letters, but since the teacher's guide includes the pattern for these, I made them from craft foam.  Building letters is an activity that even my 3 year old can begin to participate in!

The Wet-Dry-Try Technique is another activity for the hands-on learner.  I purchased a chalkboard of comparable size at a craft store so I knew I would have it in time to start the review.  My kids love doing anything different, so this was a fun experience for him.

Then, we also skipped to later parts of the program and practiced words and sentences.  Rotating back and forth allowed us to practice technique, as well as keep things fresh and interesting for him.  Elliott is not necessarily a fan of handwriting

This was one of those days where a break was needed.  He was getting a little goofy, even though he liked reading and writing words instead of just letters.  However, I love that this program utilizes short, varied lessons, instead of just being endless worksheets of tracing letter after letter, so kids who need variety, get it.

Final Thoughts
The Teacher's Manual is very thorough, but it's slightly cumbersome.  There is so much information, that the pages start to feel cluttered and full.  I also feel like the suggested schedule should be at the front of the book, before the lessons, but that could just be personal preference.  However, the table of contents is just as detailed, which makes it easy to match the teacher's guide lesson to the student book when I'm bouncing around between lessons in true homeschooler fashion.

We are enjoying this program so far, and will continue to use it for our handwriting needs.  It's very inexpensive for the quality, and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to try it!

Handwriting Without Tears has programs from Pre-K through 5th grade, as well as a Wet-Dry-Try app!  The Crew just reviewed the new editions of K-2nd, as well as the app, so be sure to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew to find out what my Crew Mates think!

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for an honest review. I am not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own, are based on personal experience, and were not influenced in any way.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

YODA Art with Watercolor Crayons

We recently started a new Art program, ARTistic Pursuits (review coming in March!).  Let me tell you, Iron Man is very excited for all the new art materials that are showing up in our house, thanks to this program.  His new interest has thrown me for a loop, since I don't know the first thing about creating art, but I am willing to learn for him.

We've used different types of watercolor paints, and watercolor pencils, but thanks to our new art curriculum, he has been experimenting with watercolor crayons too.  He has enjoyed them, and has asked to do his own creations after his projects.

Of course he chose Star Wars!

He is still getting the hang of how much water to use, and you can see he picked his paper up before it was dry, but I just thought it was too cute!  Of course, I'm mom, so I'm allowed to think that.

I'm not going to lie, it is sometimes frustrating that his favorite subjects (math, science and art) were my least favorites as a student, but I love that he is so excited about art, and so open to trying new things.  It definitely keeps things interesting for me!

Linked Up:  Learn & Link

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tot Schooling - Unstructured Style

As you may know, we were primarily away from home for a few weeks awaiting the arrival of baby sister, and now that she's here, our school days are very light.  So, here is what Hulk has been up to these last few weeks in lieu of our tot/preschool table time.

Nature Study
We were able to take a few short walks around our old house and on mawmaw and pawpaw's farm.  He was very excited to find a mushroom all by himself.

Learning about snow and ice...

He worked on his hidden picture paint cards (Target's $1 Spot)...

...and of course we had free style painting.

Pattern Blocks
These are always a hit when they come out.  He was particularly interested in the pattern strips (from Confessions of a Homeschooler) before moving on to his own designs.

Daddy has spent a lot of time reading to the boy...real books and e-books.

Dress-Up and Imaginative Play
...because free time is very important in our house!

Loving on his new baby sister.  He calls her "the baby" and rarely uses her name, but the sweet look on his face during every hug shows his love for her!

It's been a quiet few weeks, and I'm sure we'll be taking it slow for a few more weeks, but it's been fun!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

All For a Song

All For a Song is about Dorothy Lynn Dunbar, a "country" girl on the brink of womanhood in the Roaring Twenties.  Her life is planned.  She is about to go from being a small-town pastor's daughter to the new pastor's wife.  She has a loving family, and lives in a quint community where everybody knows you and loves you.  She has her brother's guitar and her quiet hiding spot in the woods where she can worship and sing.  Yet...she feels like the one thing she doesn't have is the one thing she can give herself.  Just a moment of freedom.  Deep inside, Dorothy longs for the chance to see, to experience and to do something unexpected and out of the ordinary.  She loves her life, but feels there is something more out there.  She chalks it up to pre-wedding jitters.

Then one day, while visiting her sister in the city to plan her wedding, she is given that opportunity.  The chance to be someone different for just a short time, as she is invited to sing on the tour of the great female evangelist Aimee Semple McPhereson.  The tour is headed to California.  California happens to be the last known location of her brother, who never came home after the Great War, so Dorothy uses this as a sort of justification for taking off with no warning, knowing her family will not approve.

The book description doesn't quite give you an accurate description of what you will find.  This book is really two stories.  One of a young girl with a lifetime of possibilities, and one of an aged woman, with a lifetime of memories.  The story alternates between Dorothy's life as a 107 year old woman in a nursing home, known as "Lynnie" and the stories she holds of herself during those few brief weeks.  Life on the road changed Dorothy.  Some people leave and never come home, and some people realize their home was where they should have stayed the whole time.  Dorothy's path is may have been etched out for her, but did she follow it?

My Opinion
I had a hard time getting into this book at first, but it did get better as the story unfolded.  I was more interested in Lynnie in the nursing home later in the book, than the slightly predictable story line of Dorothy Lynn.

Sometimes I felt like Pittman degraded Dorothy for her youthful choices, but what young adult doesn't have touch decisions to face?  I also felt like the author showed mixed feelings towards Aimee Semple McPhereson.   At times she seemed to adore her, and other times she painted her in a very negative light.  It's hard to get a feel for the author when the story and emotions bounce back and forth.

To learn more about award-winning author Allison Pittman, be sure to check out her website.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


In case you're wondering why I've been missing for the last few weeks...

I will spare the details of labor and delivery, but I will say that I did go into labor on my own and I did have a successful VBAC!

Now I want to share the newest joy that has come into our lives!

On her due date, I had an ultrasound that estimated her to weigh 7 lbs, 12 oz.  All we could see was her nose, one chubby cheek and some fat rolls on her side!  Two days later, Eleanor weighed in at a whopping 8 lbs, 5 oz and was 20 inches long...and you could still see the fat rolls!

My husband was my rock through labor and delivery. He took care of me and supported me, and wouldn't take no for an answer, even when I felt like giving up.

I had some special visitors in the hospital.  They were very loving and kind to their little sister!

This was a few hours before we were released.

The big brothers were very happy to welcome her home.  They have been so loving and helpful!

She attended mommy's one-week check-up and behaved very well.  The  midwife I normally see was not in the office, but her nurse made a point to take a picture and text her.

To this mom, there is nothing better than watching a sleeping baby.  I still go in at night and watch the big boys sleep.  They are so peaceful and innocent, and it melts my heart to hold a sleeping baby.

Still loving those chubby cheeks...

So this is where I have been the last few weeks...awaiting her arrival, and now trying to find a new normal.  Homeschool reviews for The Schoolhouse Review Crew start back soon, and I hope to get back into regular blogging now that things are settling back down.  For now, though, I'm enjoying cuddling with the kiddos and resting.