Monday, March 7, 2016

Here to Help Learning {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

One thing I love about being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew is being introduced to a company I've never heard of before, and then being completely smitten with it.  Such is the case with Here to Help Learning.  We have recently been using their Flight 2 Paragraph Writing as our writing curriculum, and I'm very impressed.

Here to Help Learning Review

I was very intrigued by the idea of an online, video-based writing program.  You see, we do spelling instruction, and we cover the mechanics of writing sentences through our language arts program, and we do oral composition through narration . . . but we have never done a complete and thorough writing curriculum.  The boys prefer math and science any day to anything language arts.  However, I want them to have a solid ability to express things in written form as well as they can express themselves verbally, and I knew it was time to begin a writing program.  I was thrilled when this writing program became available!  My boys love video lessons, and after watching the samples, I felt like it would be a good fit for us.

What is Here to Help Learning?
Here to Help Learning is taught by veteran homeschooling mother, Beth Mora.  It is offered as both an online subscription and a physical curriculum.  I received one year of access to the online subscription to facilitate this review.  The subscription is $6.99/month, but that gives you access to every course on the website, and access for the whole family.  The program is divided into two levels (Paragraph and Essay), with three flights in each level.  One flight is one year of instruction, so there are actually six courses available.  Multiple students are able to work together in the same flight.  Recently added was a Literature Unit for The Island of the Blue Dolphins, which is also included with my subscription, though I've only browsed through a couple lessons at this point.

Launching Paragraph Writing - This level is geared for students in 1st - 3rd grade, or higher.  It's for children who need to develop their paragraph writing skills (of 4-5 sentences) before moving on to longer compositions.

Launching Essay Writing - Geared for students in 4th - 6th grade, this level is for students who need instruction in writing 4-5 paragraph essays.  Flights one and two are regular courses, while Flight three is the Write-a-Book Project.  They recommend completing either Flight 1 or 2 before attempting Flight 3.

You may look at the Writing Placement Test if you are unsure which level to choose.

Flights - Each flight is one year of instruction, with 32 lessons that build on each other.  By the end of the year, a student has completed six writing projects.  You do not need to start with Flight 1, you may choose whichever flight is most appropriate for your family.  The lessons are all-inclusive, and even within a level, there is instruction for beginning and advanced students, so writers can work at their own level.

Launching Paragraph Writing
This is the level we spent time using, and the level I'll be discussing in my review.  Elliott is in third grade, so he's the perfect audience for this level.  Not only did it meet his needs, but I knew Emory (1st grade) would be able to follow along at his own pace too.  This a comprehensive program, and there is so much included that I'm afraid I'll miss something.  I'll try my best to give a good overview of what we used and how it worked!

In the beginning, Mrs. Mora goes over setting up our writing notebook, and we learn our Purpose in Writing, our memory verse, for the year.

Emory, coloring his Purpose in Writing verse

After looking through the Scope and Sequence, I decided to start with Flight 2.  I felt the projects would be the best fit for their interests, as well as the upcoming year.  I particularly liked the idea of Dear President during an election year.

Flight 2 Projects
Project 1:  Oh, the Places I've Been! (Narrative Writing)
Project 2:  Potato People (Descriptive Writing)
Project 3:  Little Help (Persuasive Writing)
Project 4:  Poetry Walk in the Woods (Five styles of Poetry)
Project 5:  Dear President (Persuasive Writing)
Project 6:  Story Box Fiction (Narrative Fiction)

You can see the full Scope and Sequence for every Flight, to determine which year would be the most interesting and beneficial for your family.

 Writing his story about visiting LEGOLAND Florida

How Does it Work?
Here to Help Learning is designed so that you complete one lesson per week.  Each week you watch the video components and do any associated activities such as writing warm-ups and interactive games.  It is very clear when you should pause the videos and do the activities.  At the end, you are given a "Flying Solo" assignment to complete later in the week.  If you're doing this as a co-op, this would be your homework assignment to bring back the next week.  We just include it as part of our individual work in the next day or two, unless it was something that could be completed rather quickly.  Then we just completed it immediately following the video portion of the lesson.  The video component takes us close to an hour to complete with pauses and such, so you'll need to make sure to schedule plenty of time for this program.

We can watch the videos on any internet-connected device, though we've had the best success on the computer or streaming through the Chromecast to the television.  We've watched on the Kindle and through the XBox One as well, but have found those to be a bit glitchy.  I've yet to try the iPad.  I do prefer to use the Kindle Fire to pull up the weekly teacher's guide/scripted lesson plan.  There are a LOT of worksheets and there's already a lot of printing involved.  I just feel like it would use way too much paper and ink, so I just minimize my work by not printing the teacher portion.

Each lesson goes over a specific element of the writing process.  I imagine that the poetry lesson might be structured slightly differently, but for Project One, we covered the entire writing process.

  • Brainstorming
  • Making a List
  • Webbing (similar to what I know as graphic organizing)
  • 1st Rough Draft
  • 1st Input 
  • 2nd Rough Draft
  • 2nd Input
  • Final Recopy
  • Publish 
Throughout the lessons, we learned about colorful (descriptive) words and transitional words, as well as writing an attention-grabbing opening sentence, and a good closing.  We're given a process where we can give/receive praise and input about our writing during the 1st input.  The video shows this in a group setting, but the website offers ideas for individual students.  During the 2nd input, the student will have their paper edited for spelling and grammar.  Breaking the editing up into two different types over two different sessions allows the student not to see so many things "wrong" with their writing at one time.  I liked this idea, particularly for the little perfectionist in my home.  

During the last lesson for the project, we're given instructions to make an essay folder for publishing the writing.  The idea to Publish the writing project is so that children have a piece to share with others and take pride in their finished product.  

Coloring the cover page for his "Oh, the Places I've Been" project

What Do We Think?
I love how the parent (or teacher) is viewed as a mentor.  Here to Help Learning is meant to be done with the student.  It isn't something you hand over and expect your child to do independently.  It's an involved program and it expects parental guidance.  The lessons can be lengthy, but we've liked them and I've found the time investment to be worth it.

Although the process of writing is laid out in a very systematic and step-by-step process, it doesn't feel too rigid.  Elliott hasn't really complained either, and that says a lot, because he's not a huge fan of language arts subjects and quite frankly, tries to avoid anything that has to do with the physical act of writing.  Since I let him dictate his rough draft, the only only part of this program that caused mumbling so far has been the final recopy.  I just spread it out over a couple days to break it up for him.

Here to Help Learning has been a GREAT program for us.  The video lessons help change the pace of our schooling once a week, and they are fun!  Knucklehead the dog always makes the kids chuckle!  Elliott has really enjoyed the process overall, and I plan to continue using Here to Help Learning in our homeschool!

Here to Help Learning Review

You can find out more about this homeschool writing curriculum by checking out their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Here to Help Learning Review
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  1. Sounds like such a neat writing program! Thanks for the review; it's something I'll be looking into for next year as writing isn't something we have taken time to focus on yet.

    1. We hadn't focused much on writing either, but my 3rd grader is enjoying the process so far!

  2. Stopping by from the Crew. This is a great review, I am sorry to have passed on it. I will be looking into it for my rising 1st and 4th graders

    1. My 1st grader found it a little intense, but my 3rd grader loved it.

  3. These are fantastic writing programs for kids. I was in great need of such programs for my Phoenix kindergarten students and finally found this helpful post. I will definitely use these programs in my class and hopefully kids will enjoy too!