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Homeschool Library Builder

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I have been given the opportunity to review a useful resource, the Homeschool Library Builder.  Unlike most of the other products I’ve reviewed, this is not something you purchase; rather, it is a service you use.  Homeschool Library Builder is simply an online new and used bookstore which caters to the needs of homeschooling families (although anyone who loves a good book could benefit).  Becoming a member of Homeschool Library Builder is free, and it is a great service to use to search for those difficult-to-locate titles.  Books are arranged in categories, or you may simple search for a title or browse all books.  The website is easy to use both visually and technically. 

I’m not sure how the quantity of books stocked by Homeschool Library Builder would compare to the big online stores, but I like the fact that this is a home-owned and home-grown company (run by homeschooling families, no less!).  To my knowledge, all of the books (both new and used) are offered at a discount from the retail price.   Shipping appears to be based on a flat rate, too–$4.50 for USPS Media Mail and $12.20 for USPS Priority Mail.  You may pay via PayPal, credit card, or check, and they even offer an incentive program called Book Points that enables you to earn credit based on what you spend.  As a homeschooler who tries to give her business to small businesses, I’m fairly certain I’ll be returning to Homeschool Library Builder when it comes time to purchase more books. 

If you’d like to read more reviews of this company, please visit the TOS HomeschoolCrew blog.

I received no compensation for writing this review.

Beehive Reader 1

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I was sent the Beehive Reader 1 by Marie Rippel and Renee LaTulippe to review.  Beehive Reader 1 is a phonics-based reader written for use with the All About Spelling curriculum.  (Read my review of All About Spelling here.)  However, the reader can also be used independently of the spelling program, which is what we did.  

Beehive Reader 1 is simply a phonics-based basic reader.  Since January as her reading skills have greatly increased, I have been requiring Lulu to read one book aloud each day.  So far, she has read the first story from Beehive Reader 1, and honestly, she didn’t want to do that much.  Usually she has some say in what book she gets to read.  I keep a basket full of easy readers on our reading carpet in the school room.  These readers include the Bob books, various other phonics readers I’ve picked up here and there, and other easy readers (I-Can-Read books, etc.) we’ve checked out from the library.  Sometimes I’ll pick for Lulu, but often I let her pick.  She likes that.  However, she read the story from Beehive Reader 1 with no problem, and I appreciated the fact that it was entirely predictable in the skills needed to read it in its entirety.  (Not every easy reader is that way!)

Beehive Reader 1 has an old-fashioned feel to it, with black-and-white pencil sketch-ish illustrations.  It’s really quite lovely.


The illlustrations are simple enough to not be distracting, but interesting enough to encourage the reader to want to keep reading. Beehive Reader 1 contains ten stories, and the stories grow progressively more difficult.  To put it simply, it’s just a reading textbook (or maybe a supplemental reading textbook would best describe it, since it contains no instructional materials), and it serves that purpose well.  I think if we were using All About Spelling as our primary language/reading curriculum, I would use this supplementally.  However, I’m not sure I would shell out the $19.95 for this as a stand-alone book.  We have reading materials in abundance here at the House of Hope, and we have access to several well-stocked libraries.  However, if phonics readers were in short supply, I might consider a reader like this. 

For other opinions about Beehive Reader 1, be sure to visit TOS HomeschoolCrew blog.

I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Friday Felicities

I started not to write a Friday Felicities post this week, but I missed it last week, and I really like to do these.  I think I’ll like to look back in the future and have a record of some of the good things that happened these dark, cold weeks of winter. 

So, onto the list:

  • We had a great trip last weekend to Atlanta, on which we visited the Georgia Aquarium, IKEA, the Wren’s Nest (link to my post about our visit), the original Chic-Fil-A Dwarf House (and lots of other restaurants, of course), and more bathrooms than I care to count.
  • It only took us one day, really, to recuperate from the trip.  Monday was a pretty hairy day for me, but by Tuesday I felt mostly back to normal.  🙂
  • Monday’s surprise snowstorm made the day a little more tolerable–it was exciting for the girls to go outside and try to build a snowman.    They DID manage to make a couple of snowangels, and even though the snow barely covered the asphalt on the street, I think the girls were bundled up well enough to avoid getting any scrapes.  😉  Within a couple of hours, all the snow was gone, but it was pretty while it lasted.
  • Lulu’s reading has really taken off this week.  She selected Madeline in London as her daily reading selection one day, and although we’re taking it slowly, I can see that she has a real interest in reading for herself now. 
  • Louise has had a grand time playing on an empty box that once held an IKEA bookcase (unassembled).  It’s usually a boat, but sometimes it’s other things (a slide?  something else?  I lose track.). 
  • Chic-Fil-A is once again including “Between the Lions” CDs as the prize in their kids’ meals.  (Looking at the website, I think this must be because they had leftovers or something.  I don’t think it’s the scheduled prize right now.)  Although they’re not different than the ones we got a couple of years ago, most of those have been worn out or lost.  I do have a couple of duplicates, though, so stay tuned–there might be a tiny little giveaway in the future.
  • Have I ever mentioned how much we like Chic-Fil-A?  Maybe I should’ve just called this post “Chic-Fil-A Felicities.”  🙂

I just want to stop and thank God for all the good things in my life.  They’re really too numerous to count.

For more Friday Felicities, head over to Becky’s blog!

Reading Over My Shoulder: Education Is an Atmosphere

Lately there’s been a lot of that going on.  While I try to be attentive to my children at most meals, especially, I will confess to reading the local newspaper over breakfast.  However, I’m once again realizing that almost everything can (and likely will) become a “learning moment” (whether I want it to or not 😉 ).  I refer to Lulu as a blossoming reader, and while I’m sure there’s a more appropriate educational term, I like mine.  I see her mind opening up to the possibilities inherent in the ability to read.  While she sometimes balks at our short phonics lessons (‘though she does extremely well and even likes it when it’s said and done), she is forever going about the house reading whatever she sees–shampoo bottles, book titles, canned goods labels, newspaper headlines.  This brings us up to day, breakfast time.  I was eating my bagel and peanut butter and skimming an editorial when Lulu announced, “There’s an s and a z together in that word!”  The article entitled “Chavez’s socialist project hobbled” on the page next to the one I was reading had caught her eye, especially the strange-looking arrangement of letters.  This led to a quick little discussion of possession and the use of apostrophes. 

I think this is the part of homeschooling that I find most rewarding and most confounding.  It’s rewarding because I think this is where much of real learning takes place–in the incidentals, the times when there’s a need to know something, or simply an interest in knowing something.  Will my kindergartener remember everything I told her about possession?  No.  But will she at least be a little more familiar with it than she was before?  Yes. 

It’s confounding because my brief experience as a public school teacher makes me want (need?) to quantify our learning.  Should I make a note that we talked about this?  Can I somehow work this into our lesson plans for the day?  If you have that same voice in your head, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, lucky you.  😉

I’ve been reading up on the Charlotte Mason method lately, especially by perusing Simply Charlotte Mason and slowly going through When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today.  Up until the past few weeks, I was fairly certain that I wanted to put into practice the methods of a classical (neoclassical?) education a la The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home .  I still love the idea, but I’m wondering if what I think of as a more gentle approach might be better for us in the beginning.  I’m still mulling it all over in my brain, trying to figure it out myself.  The reason I bring this up now is because I’ve been thinking about one of the pillars of a Charlotte Mason education:  learning is an atmosphere.  I understand that there’s probably a lot more to this little statement than meets the eye as far as an education method is concerned, but I think it must have something to do with the whole incidental learning situation.  I want to be free in my mind for this to be the way our days go.  I think in reality they already go pretty much this way, but in the back of my mind there’s always the little record keeper, checking things off her list. 

I’m still thinking.  I’ll keep you posted.

Friday Felicities

I’m getting a late start on this Friday morning.  Our schedule is sort of up in the air today due to a wintry mix (rain/sleet/snow?–what we usually get) that might hit our area later this afternoon.  Our homeschool group meeting was cancelled today, so here I sit, with an unplanned Friday ahead of me.  I’m thinking we might do some “catch-up” school and a fair amount of reading.  I also have a lot of cooking and baking to do today for some church events this weekend, so let’s get started on some happies for the last week of January:

  • My girls have played extremely well together this week for at least part of the time.  😉  (I’ll take what I can get!)  One day I even postponed starting school until almost lunchtime because they were having such a good time and playing cooperatively.  Lulu’s in kindergarten, right?  It should be about play!
  • I finished The Hunger Games on Thursday and was blown away.  Wow!
  • We grocery shopped last night (thank you, Lord, for a husband who’s willing to help with almost any chore!), so we have full cupboards, pantry, and refrigerator once again.  Such abundance!
  • Our homeschool group “faculty” met last night, too, to hammer out the rest of the year.  I’m blessed to a part of such a Godly group of ladies who genuinely care about educating our children.
  • I’ve been reliving mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon trip which occurred 10 1/2 years ago now through a final post I’m preparing for the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge (which ends this weekend!).  Stay tuned!
  • I’ve hit upon a few solutions for our school day that seem to be working (at the moment 😉 ).  One is having Louise illustrate books while Lulu and I work.  Louise can usually entertain herself very well, but during school time she really jockeys for attention.  She loves to draw and write, though, so I staple together several blank pieces of paper and let her create.  Later, she narrates her story to me, and I write it in her book.  She’s written three or four books this week!
  • The other solution has to do with Lulu and encouraging her growing ability and interest in reading.  Up until this week, I’ve kept most of our phonics readers put away so that I can get them.  This week, I pulled them out and put them in a basket in our reading corner where she and Louise can get them.  It’s working!  She has voluntarily read more (and more challenging) books than she has up until this point!

For more Friday Felicities, visit Joyful Mother!

Friday Felicities

Some happies from this week:

  • a real return to health for the whole family–thank you, Lord!
  • a week of cooking which results in a fridge full of leftovers for the weekend:  abundance!
  • milder temperatures which have made going outside fun, not painful
  • an off day for Steady Eddie
  • an afternoon at the park
  • brownies to share at today’s homeschool group
  • a half-price sale that begins today at my favorite library’s used bookstore
  • a little girl who requested to ride her new Christmas bicycle around the block
  • another little girl who wanted to walk so she could collect things (see picture below for an example of what she deems collection worthy!)
  • Lulu’s reading success:  she began just this week keeping a log of the books she has read semi-independently
  • Louise’s many and varied malapropisms and generally endearing mispronunciations.  Example:  she referred to an enema (don’t ask–you really don’t want to know) as an I-N-V.  Get it?  N-M-Uh.  🙂  {I can’t believe I just used that word on my blog.  It was just too cute not to document, though.  🙂 }

For more Friday Felicities, check out Becky’s blog.

Kids’ Picks–Audiobooks Galore!

It has been a long time since I’ve had enough foresight to participate in Kids’ Picks over at 5 Minutes for Books, but I’ve had this post percolating in my brain for a long time.  I’m glad to finally have the motivation to get it written and posted!

As I’ve said more times than I can count, audiobooks are a staple here at the House of Hope.  I honestly believe that Lulu, especially, would spend half of her day everyday listening to something (and it would be something related to Little House, usually).  I would estimate that the girls average 1 1/2 to 2 hours of listening time on most days:  one hour at rest time and the remainder at bedtime or other snatches of time during the day when they need occupying.  In fact, I hear Little Town on the Prairie even as I’m writing this. 

I often feel disconnected from what they’re listening to since I’m usually using that time to do other things, so I don’t always write about it here at Hope Is the Word.  However, there have been a few stories they’ve listened to over the past six months or so that I really want to record here, and due to various circumstances, I feel like I have at least a little bit to say about them, so here goes:
I’m not sure how I missed Eleanor Estes’ Newbery Medal-winning Ginger Pye as a child, but I’m really glad my girls have had the pleasure of enjoying this fun and suspenseful story (over and over and over again 😉 ).  They’ve listened to it enough times that I know the whole story, more or less, and I have been amused by the things they’ve picked up and used in their imaginative play as a result.  Louise, especially, has an affinity for names, and more than one of her imaginary playmates or dolls has been named Addie Eagan (spelling? Remember, when I haven’t read it, I’m not responsible  for spelling it correctly!).  Ginger Pye is a heartwarming dog story with some quirky characters, and it’s a mystery, to boot.  I think it would make a great choice for the Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge.  I think I might just read it aloud to my girls for the challenge!  (I really am always curious after I listen to some work to see just how all of those names, etc., are spelled.)  My girls like this one so much, they’ll be thrilled!

This next book is one I picked out for them at the library for purely sentimental reasons:  I loved it myself as a child.  Since my girls love pioneer stories, I figured they’d enjoy this one, too.   They listened to it several times, and we listened to part of the story on at least one short trip.  Carol Ryrie Brink’s Caddie Woodlawn is another Newbery Medal winner.  I’m sure that most people are familiar with the story, but I wanted to share it here because my girls did love it and I have my own particular memory of it:  I have never, ever forgotten the fact that one of the brothers (Warren, I think) messed up his recitation for school.  He was supposed to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Instead, he said, “If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen.”  I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to determine why this has remained lodged in my brain.  😉

The next couple of audiobooks are ones I’m not as familiar with, but they definitely qualify as kids’ picks.  I picked up a couple of the Mercy Watson stories simply on name recognition:  I’ve read enough of Kate DiCamillo to know that she’s good.  My girls found the endearing stories about this beloved pet pig to be laugh-out-loud funny, and I’ll admit that I did, too. We listened to a couple of the stories over and over again when we went on vacation last fall, and we all got in on the fun.  Since then, we’ve checked out another one of the collections (there are two stories per each collection, I believe), and it was met with just as much enthusiasm and laughter all around.  Since I’ve never seen an actual copy of one of these books, I can’t say for sure, but Ms. DiCamillo’s website has them categorized as “Early Chapter Books,” so I’m thinking these might be a good series to keep in mind for my blossoming reader.

Speaking of a blossoming reader (nice segway, huh?), I just have to share this last book, not just because it’s fun and my girls really liked it in audio, but also because I think it might mark a turning point in Lulu’s journey toward independent reading.  We ran errands on Saturday and went on a little roadtrip to a neighboring town for shopping, etc.–mainly just to get out of the house after a week of sickness and being mostly cooped up.  We usually do bring along a longer audiobook for any trip of an hour or more, but I failed to get one and put it in the van.  Louise had chosen How I Became a Pirate as her bring-along entertainment for the trip, and it just so happens that this particular book is one that came with a CD of the story.  Guess what we listened to five or six times before we even made it out of town?  You guessed it.  It is a fun story, and I think my girls were perplexed about the whole pirate thing (we haven’t read anything with pirates in it to my recollection up until now)–Green teeth?  “Aaargh?”  Sea chanteys?   “Shiver me timbers”?  I don’t think they looked at the pictures much in the van; they just enjoyed listening.  When we got home, Lulu brought me the book and proudly read to me from a page in the middle of the story.  Granted, she had listened to it multiple times that day, but she was obviously working hard to sound out the words.  Bingo!  While she is making great progress in her reading, she is a little bit reluctant to apply it outside of “school time.”  This has changed somewhat over the past few weeks, but I was thrilled when she voluntarily brought me this picture book and shared with me what she could do.  I definitely consider that a Kid’s Pick!

Reading aloud to my children is truly one of the highlights of my day, but I am so thankful to have access to so many great audiobooks to supplement what I do with them.  Right now for my girls a day without an audiobook is almost unthinkable.  While I suspect this will probably change as they both become independent readers, I’m glad that they have been able to meet so many wonderful characters through the stories they’ve heard in this way.

Would you like to see what others bloggers’ kids are picking these days?  Click over to Kids’ Picks at 5 Minutes for Books!

All About Spelling

spellingAs a part of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I was blessed with the opportunity a few months back to use All About Spelling in our homeschool here at the House of Hope.  Admittedly, since my girls are still so young, I had doubts about the usefulness of this program right now in our schooling.  Lulu has made fine progress in her reading, and Louise is not too far behind her.  However, spelling instruction is not something that I feel is necessary in the early, early primary years–in this case, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.  Of course, since I had All About Spelling in hand as a reviewer, I gave it a go. Photobucket While I have not thoroughly used this program, so far as I have been able to use it, I am sold on it.  I hope to use this program in the future, perhaps even beginning next year. 

As a home educator, one thing I appreciate about this program is the fact that it is laid out in a very organized way.  There is no guess-work involved in the planning of the lessons.  The program is literally set forth in a step-by-step process; the only “wiggle room” is that each step can take as long as necessary, which is actually a plus since all children progress at different rates.  There is some preparation necessary at the outset of beginning this program; small, magnetized letter tiles are used as manipulatives in this program, and they must be cut out and have the magnets adhered to them.  I managed to do this in two sessions:  one while watching a thirty-minute episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and the other waiting for my name to be called at the obstetrician’s office.  I would estimate that no more than an hour’s worth of work is involved.

As I already mentioned, All About Spelling uses letter tiles for the phonograms to be used as manipulatives.  It also includes flashcards to be used for review before beginning a new lesson.  All About Spelling capitalizes on the idea of multisensory learning in that the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways are utilized.  It is obviously heavily based on phonics; so far as I can tell, the emphasis is on learning to “deconstruct” the words, rather than rote memorization.  For this reason, I would think that  All About Spelling would be appropriate to use with even young children who are learning to read through phonics.  While I have chosen not to continue to include spelling as one of our core subjects at this time, I can tell by the introductory lessons we did together that AAS is a program that would fit very naturally with our phonics program; thus, I look forward to using it in our homeschool in the future.  All About Spelling is comprised of six levels, and according to the website, students who complete all six levels should be spelling at a high school level by the end of the program. 

If you’re looking for a systematic way to teach spelling, AAS is an affordable choice.  The starter kit, which includes the letter tiles, magnets, and a phonogram CD-ROM, all of which will be used in all six levels, is available for $26.95.  The teacher’s manual and one student packet for level one is available for a cost of $29.95; each level beyond level one costs $39.95.  Pricing is also available if multiple students are being taught, etc.  Go here for all the details.   

For more reviews of All About Spelling, be sure to visit the TOS HomeschoolCrew blog

This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

More Books Monday

I haven’t done a More Books Monday post in a while, mainly because these posts were adding to my TBR list at an alarming rate.  As slowly as I read, it will take me two years just to read the books I’ve acquired in the past couple of months.  And yet the list still grows. . .  🙂

However, this week’s More Books Monday is not about books I want to read.  Instead, I’m sharing about a couple of book finds I’ve happened across in the last month that I thought might help you all stretch your book/education/gift giving budgets just a bit. 

You all know how much I love my library, right?  I love, love, love it.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, though, that it took actually going to library school myself for me to realize that I didn’t have to buy every book I want–I can just check them out and let someone else keep them for me when I’m through.  That was a true epiphany, and one for which Steady Eddie is forever grateful. 

However, there are some books that we just need.  Since we are actively engaged in educating our children at home , I am always on the lookout for books on our list (i.e. Five in a Row titles, curriculum, etc.) wherever I go.  The girls and I went to Sam’s Club with my mom back last month, and if you know anything at all about Sam’s Club, you know they have a huge selection of books of all kinds.  I was really surprised, though, to find Bob Books sets there!  We already had Set 1, which I hate to admit we paid full price for at our local big box bookstore.  The sets I found at Sam’s are larger in size, and they are more of a kit–they include stickers, a door hanger, etc.  Best of all, though, they were only about $10 a set!  I couldn’t find an exact link on Amazon to share, but it might be worth a trip to Sam’s if you’re in need of some very basic phonics readers.

The other find happened just a couple of weekends ago.  Our Kohl’s department store has a display near the cash registers for their Kohl’s Cares for Kids merchandise.  I have found some great books there for $5 each.  In my world, this is a great price for a new book, not to mention the fact that these books are usually high quality literature.  Our latest purchases there were books by Steve Jenkins.  We’ve already enjoyed  What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? , so I knew we needed a copy of it for our own home library. We also purchased Biggest, Strongest, Fastest and Actual Size , and although we have yet to read these (I’m waiting for a serendipitous educational opportunity 😉 ), I’m pretty sure they’ll be winners, too.

I call that $15 well spent! 

Do you have any favorite, unexpected places to purchase books?  Do share!

Have a marvelous Monday!

Rocket Phonics

PhotobucketWhen school started this year, I was both a little apprehensive and excited about the prospect of abandoning our old phonics program for a while and trying a little different approach with Lulu for her phonics instruction. As a part of TOS Homeschool Crew, I had received Rocket Phonics just in time to start the year out with it. Although Lulu already knew all of the sounds of the alphabet and could read short vowel, c-v-c words, we had not begun on digraphs and the like. To be honest, I was a little nervous about this because I remember very little about the learning-to-read process from my own childhood, and I have never taught anyone to read before now. We started out with Rocket Phonics, and Lulu has never once resisted a reading lesson. 🙂 While I certainly don’t expect everything we do for our learning time to be fun, it is a bonus when it is and it works, for sure!  Lulu buzzed through the first sections Rocket Phonics, which involved learning the phonemes and an associated picture used as a memory aide.  When we reached the digraphs, we slowed down a bit because this was new territory.  I am pleased to announce that right now, Lulu is well versed in the various combinations of vowels and the sounds they produce.  She is even reading words that use the various digraphs, and we are poised to begin the next section of the curriculum, which introduces thinking games and more complex phrases. 

The key to Rocket Phonics is the initial teaching alphabet, or the ITA.  This curriculum assigns a symbol to every phoneme in the English language, for a total of thirty-six discrete sounds/symbols to be learned.  Each of the sounds is associated with a picture, which helps the child remember the sound.  For example, the digraph oy is associated with a picture of toys.  Charts of the symbols are printed in the book (which is the teacher manual and student book, all in one) and on playing cards.  This simple memory aide has helped Lulu a lot–I can almost see the wheels turning in her brain as we’ve gone over the symbols as she works to recall the sounds they make.

IMG_3998Rocket Phonics uses games and repetition for the teaching of the ITA. This is just perfect for Lulu–she adores playing games, and it doesn’t seem like work at all to her. So far, we have enjoyed (and enjoyed, and enjoyed, and enjoyed) Bingo and a few rousing games of Go Fish!   Rocket Phonics introduces blending with very little difficulty or fanfare.  This curriculum includes a “peeker,” which is simply a piece of laminated cardstock in the shape of a rocket with a window in it.  It has been my experience that isolating the word on the page really helps the younger readers.

IMG_4000So far we really haven’t found any part of Rocket Phonics that hasn’t worked for us.  Occassionally, I have a little difficulty as the teacher because of our particular dialect (we’re from the South, y’all) and how it doesn’t translate to that generic, broadcast journalist pronunciation of words, but I work through that.  😉   This is actually a problem no matter the curriculum.  Louise, who is 3 3/4, has been tagging along a little behind Lulu, and she has recently begun blending those short vowel, c-v-c words herself.  I don’t know that Rocket Phonics is entirely responsible for this, but the enthusiasm that they bring to the learning table when this book comes out can’t have hurt.  We will be continuing with this curriculum over the next weeks, and I will post again in the future on what progress we have made.

The only part of Rocket Phonics that at first gave me pause is the cost.  $160 seemed a little steep to me for a phonics program.  However, when I consider the fact that we would not hesitate to pay that much (or more, possibly) for almost any other curriculum kit, I get over my hesitation.  I think the Rocket Phonics approach would actually appeal to a variety of learning styles due to the multi-faceted approach to learning (and a plethora of additional helps that are free upon purchase).  This is a curriculum that would be well worth the money if a child is resistant to phonics instruction or if it could be used with multiple children. 

If you’re interested in purchasing Rocket Phonics for your student(s), go here.  If you’d like to read more reviews about Rocket Phonics, click over to the TOS Homeschool Crew page

Be sure to check back in the future for Rocket Phonics updates here at Hope Is the Word!

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