Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just for fun!

Just saw this one, thanks to Harmony Art Mom, and wanted to put it on my blog!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vocabulary Spelling City: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

My son spells very well for his age.  Every year I have started out the year with a spelling program planned, only to barely use it. I would end up dictating the list to him, he would spell every word back to me perfectly, and I would mark the week's chapter done and move on.

There are, however, gaps and holes in his spelling ability, so I cannot entirely abandon the effort to cover this subject. I was hoping for a new, innovative way to cover spelling so that we could continue to pound away to fill in those gaps.

This summer the Schoolhouse Review Crew had the opportunity to try out  Vocabulary Spelling City. It looked like just what I'd been hoping for, so I jumped at the opportunity and asked to be picked to do the review.

Well, let me tell you from the start, I had know idea I was getting such a wonderful, comprehensive program!  This program not only hits on spelling and vocabulary, but also grammar and handwriting, with handwriting pages I can print out at the touch of a button! Plus the program allows me to enter the words I wish to use, or I can select from their massive topic list of vocabulary and spelling words. I will also be able to use SpellingCity this coming year to give my son much-needed work with alphabetizing, sentence writing and paragraph writing!

I have a great plan for how I will use SpellingCity this coming year, plugging our SAT Prep words into the word lists to correlate learning the definitions at the same time as the spelling. But for our initial trial in July and August, my son and I have been looking at words from the provided lists.

I found Spelling City so easy to use, thanks to the extensive video training page that they provide at their website. Using SpellingCity does, of course, require that you set aside a little time to familiarize yourself with what is available, and time to input your own words if you choose that option, as I plan to do.

What amazes me is what is available at this website if you get a free account! Your students can set up an account, you can set up a parent can input the lists, the program will teach the student, the student can play games, do word searches, crossword puzzles, and more. Of course, the Premium Account gives much more:
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For my review I received a Family Premium Membership, access for 12 months for up to 5 students, valued at $29.99. Classroom teachers might prefer to select the Classroom Premium Membership, which costs $49.99 for one year's access. To see why you would want a Premium Account, look at the Premium Account Overview. 
There is so much depth to this program that my son and I have just barely begun to scratch the surface of it. I am so, so happy with SpellingCity, and when my subscription expires I may very well renew for another year, as I get my son ready for high school. There are so many words he still does not know how to spell, and I have been at a loss as to how to find which words they are and how to teach them. For me right now, SpellingCity is definitely the answer. What a great experience this has been! 
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  • This product is appropriate for all grade levels. I am not sure, personally, that I would have used it much for K, 1st or 2nd. I think it depends on the student and the situation.
  • This program teaches in a way that will benefit both visual and auditory learners.
  • This game has fun learning games to play that reinforce the learning goals.
  • This program can be used with absolutely no preparation, or it can be used very helpfully with teacher input of words and assignments.
  • I really, really like this program! JD doesn't like much of anything that he knows is school work.
  • I would recommend this product to everyone without reservation.
  • I have found nothing on this website that would be offensive to secular or religious educators.
 DISCLAIMER:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a 12 month Premium Family Subscription to SpellingCity in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not told what to say.
 This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review. 
To see more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews of  SpellingCity, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog page for this product.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Oh, look what I have for you today!!!! My son is a Lego fanatic, and someone sent me a link to this fantastic video about the origin fo Lego! Grab your son/kids and watch!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today's "Not" Daily Nugget

I just learned this morning, on a program I was looking at that I hope to review, that a baby horse is only called a "colt" if it is a male. If it is a female it is called a "filly".  I'm 53, and I never knew this. ::sigh:: How do I miss these things? I've been interested in horses all my life and I've never known this. 

So now you know too! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vocab Videos: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Today I will be telling you about an SAT Vocabulary Learning Program/Website called Vocab Videos.
From their website:

Vocab Videos was originally developed to teach SAT Vocabulary and tailored around learning key SAT Vocabulary words. Since that time, the system has proven an extremely effective vocabulary-learning tool for a variety of different tests beyond the SAT such as the ACT, ISEE, SSAT, and GRE tests. Vocab Videos is also an exemplary learning and teaching tool for any vocabulary learning program/class or individual vocabulary learning needs. Examples of uses outside of SAT and other test vocabulary are classroom vocabulary programs and ESL (English as a Second Language) vocabulary learning. For educators, we offer SAT/ACT professional development and materials licensing and have developed programs designed specifically for classroom vocabulary learning accompanied with several valuable educator vocabulary resources.
The Vocab Videos program is based on watching humorous, memorable videos to teach vocabulary in a contextual format. Using both auditory and visual cues, each video includes a real-world representation of the meaning of a word in a way that you can easily relate to and understand. In addition to the videos, the program includes quizzes, worksheets, a multimedia flashcard maker and many other tools. The vocabulary platform also includes a number of special educator features that allow teachers to monitor student usage and progress. Ready to get started? Take a look around the site and you will see a host of great vocabulary learning resources for the SAT including a free SAT word list and much more. Take advantage of our free trial to get started today!

This summer, my son had the opportunity to try out Vocab Videos to see what it is like.  This program is a hoot! And it really, really works!

Side Note:  This program could be offensive to conservative home schoolers.  I have not watched the entire program yet, but in the first set of twenty words there were several occasions of God’s name being used in vain (“Oh my God!”), and in later episodes I have encountered name-calling (“idiot”, “loser”), use of unpleasant vocabulary (“sucks”), negative sarcasm (in jest),  mild to not so mild swearing (“damn”).
Also, there is an adult office theme, and a theme of dating and girl-friend/boy-friend that some parents won’t want to introduce their kids to yet.

I have parented through the teens that way in the past, and we have adjusted our opinion about the wisdom of keeping our son in a supervisory “bubble” at this point. He knows what we believe, but he lives in this world. In this world there really IS a large contingent that swears, uses God’s name in vain, and uses this type of humor. Compared to cable, these videos are way mild.

I really like these videos as a tool and am definitely planning to use them all year long. I think they will have a huge positive impact on my son, not a negative one. I will always keep my son bathed in prayer, and will trust in God to protect my son as he gradually grows into an adult that must live in this secular world.
Vocab Videos offers a one-month free trial for educators.  A small subscription (up to 20 students) costs $74.99; a medium subscription; a large subscription (up to 100 students) costs $254.99 (larger subscriptions also available). A "subscription" gives 12 month access to the following for the educator:
  • Teacher Dashboard to monitor student progress
  • Individual student accounts
  • Access to all videos and study materials
  • Digital Quizzes, Multi-media Flashcard Maker, Digital Worksheets
An individual student can get a six month subscription for $24.99 or a one year subscription for $39.99, which includes:
  • Access to the entire video library of 500 Vocab Videos
  • Total access to an extensive suite of study resources and tools: digital quizzes, digital worksheets, multimedia flashcard maker, downloadable crossword puzzles
The teacher access provides so many wonderful things. If you choose a student subscription, you will probably also want to consider purchasing The Workbook which costs $11.99.
 With a Teacher Account you have "all power"! You can easily monitor and manage the student accounts that are signed up in your Teacher Account.
The way the program is laid out is that there are 25 different episodes available. Each episode covers 20 words, pronouncing each word, defining each word, demonstrating each word, and explaining how the word demonstrated the definition while simultaneously reminding the student of the definition in print. When you have worked through all 25 episodes you have covered 500 vocabulary words. Laying the program out one story-episode a week, I  am having my son do the following:
  • Watch the episode through on Monday;
  • use the flash cards to review the words daily;
  • have son re-watch the video and do the worksheet on Wednesday;
  • pop-quiz my son orally on the vocabulary list on Thursday; and
  • giving my son the written quiz on Friday.
 Check it out below to see just what influence vocabulary instruction can have on students:

Read the Vocab Video Story, and click on the video there to learn more. Meet the cast. Read student success stories. Learn more about the videos, the learning tools, the Science of learning, but RUN don't WALK to learn more about this program. This is the best vocabulary method I've seen for my son, and I'm just delighted. Here's a look at an example of one of the flash cards:
A most gratifying mommy/teacher moment occurred after we had been using this for several weeks.  We were out in public, and he observed an interaction between two folks near us. He whispered to me, "That's an example of one of our vocabulary words!"  He was thinking of the word, "urbane" which means polite, suave, and cultivated in manner. JD couldn't remember the word right then, but he remembered the definition, which is part of the journey. On a multiple choice test he might have gotten it right. With more review and the tools in the program, I am confident he will be well prepared for the SAT in four years! 
  •  My son thinks this program is, "All right." Coming from my son, that is high praise indeed!
  • This program is engaging, amusing, and memorable. It is a very unique and valuable tool for SAT Vocabulary preparation.
  • This program includes stimulation for the visual learner and the audio learner. Because of its format, I believe it would also succeed with hands-on learners as well.
  • The program includes videos, printable resources, and resources you might wish to purchase in hard (paper spiral) format.
  • This product is an SAT preparation product designed for grades 7 and up.
  • Viewing the videos can be done independently by the student. Most parents will probably want to pre-watch the videos so they know what their student/child is covering (and being exposed to). The parent will want to plan a strategy to cover the program during one school year, including scheduling use of flash cards, quizzes, and use of worksheets, which will need to be printed out.
  • Some students will benefit by watching the videos several times, which is fine.
  • This program is secular.  
I have a very strong opinion about this product. I love it and look forward to continuing to use it throughout our upcoming school year.

DISCLAIMER:  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a 12 month Teacher subscription to Vocab Videos in exchange for my honest, uninfluenced review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not told what to say.

This has been a Schoolhouse Crew Review.

To see more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews, visit the blog page for this product

Thursday, August 9, 2012

King Alfred's English: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

During the month of July, I was given the opportunity to ready a new book that rocked my socks! And today I get to tell you about it!

Let me start by giving you some of my personal background. First of all, ethnically, I am 1/2 English, 1/4 Finnish, and 1/4 Norwegian. So, I've always thought of myself as half British. Until recently...

I have been homeschooling 22 years. When my two oldest students were studying world history, the Middle Ages, and various aspects of the older civilizations, I read along with them and tried to understand what was going on, but I was lost. If I was lost, they probably were too. I couldn't keep up with the Angles and the Jutes, the Saxons and the Burserkers... They all just left a fuzzy, cloudy recollection in my head that they were part of European history, and that was it. And I had an understanding that at one point Rome extended to include England. I remembered that Gaul was what we now call France, and that Normandy is part of France too...

But after reading  King Alfred's English, I understand so much of this material so much better! And it is an easy, quick read, and I want to go back and re-read it and go through the study materials to really, really wrap my brain around the entire thing completely!

For one thing, as I inferred before, I now am no longer content to to refer to myself as merely 1/2 British, and now being 1/2 English means something entirely different to me than being 1/2 British. What my "real" heritage is depends upon where, on the island, my grandparents were from. If  they were from Cornwall, as I think they were, then I can still call myself 1/2 British in heritage. But if they were from a more central part, like London... That is where the Angles settled, and that becomes an entirely different heritage. But I won't tell you; you have to read it yourself.

I have also long been a logophile (if I am correct, this should mean a lover of words), or more correctly I have been one who studies word origins to help my students understand word definitions and spellings.  I also teach my children phonics. I have now learned why "wh" sounds like "hw" (but I'm not going to tell you; you have to read it yourself). I learned:
  • that languages simplify over time; how, and why;
  • the history of "ain't"; that it used to be an acceptable word;
  • the origin of the terms "upper" and "lower" case for letters;
  • the ongoing battle of Latin: what it's about and why it's important;
  • this history of the toilet (ha! ha!);
  • more about druids, 
  • corrected my history understanding about Constantine;
  •  learned the origin of the Christian XP symbol and the origin of the term "Xmas";
  • where the name "jeep" came from... and so much more.
Reading this book was such a hoot! Every day I was sharing new tidbits with my family, "Did you know that..."  ...and since they weren't reading the book and didn't have the context, for the most part they didn't care! But a lot of the time they were interested and thought the information was very interesting. I can't wait to go back and read it again, this time studying the material more deeply using the Student Page as I read so that I can get even more out of it!

Laurie White has really hit the mark with this book! I look forward to sharing it with my son fully this coming school year. But I sense you may not be completely convinced. I have a suggestion. Read the first chapter and see with you think! You can also see more about the contents by taking a look at the Table of Contents.  If you decide to have your students cover the material in the book, you can also refer them to the Student Page, and you yourself have your own Teacher's Page to get worksheets and tests for your students, as well as their answers.

 King Alfred's English is available in Kindle through for $5.95, and is available in paperback format from Rainbow Resources for $14.95 (as I write this, but normally $16.95). There is also a group discount if you purchase EIGHT or more books. And you can also see a List of Resources that were used to create King Alfred's English.  If you are still not convinced, you need to read Reasons to Study King Alfred's English.

If you would like to buy a copy of  King Alfred's English, I have FIVE DISCOUNT CODES that I have permission to GIVE to FIVE of my readers! I will give these codes to the first five people who ask for them, so please reply below and ASK for a code if you want one! This code will give you a discount on the paperback to buy the softcover book at the wholesale price of 50% off, or $8.47. So leave your comments below!

King Alfred's English is brought to you by PNP and (to understand that name, read the book!). This company also offers Baktar: A Tale from the Andes; Barn Roofs, Quail Coveys, and General Mischief;  and World History/Bible.

I received a free Kindle copy of King Alfred's English in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions expressed in this review are my own, and I was not told what to say.

This has been a TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review.

" alt="Photobucket" border="0" />To see more Schoolhouse Crew Reviews, go to the Schoolhouse Crew Review Blog page for King Alfred's English: