Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Spelling You See

Demme Learning, of Math-U-See fame, has a new member in their family:  Spelling You See.  We were given the opportunity to review Spelling You See: American Spirit (Level E).  
Spelling You See Review

There are currently 5 levels available in the Spelling You See program:
  • Listen and Write (Level A)
  • Jack and Jill (Level B)
  • Wild Tales (Level C)
  • Americana (Level D)
  • American Spirit (Level E)
There are two more levels on the horizon:
  • Ancient Achievements (Level F)
  • Modern Milestones (Level G)
Spelling You See Review
There are five developmental stages of spelling, according to Dr. Karen Holinga, who is the creator of Spelling You See.  These stages are (you can read more about each stage on the Spelling You See website):
  1. Preliterate
  2. Phonetic
  3. Skill Development
  4. Word Extension
  5. Derivational Constancy
The idea behind Spelling You See is that a student must master one stage before moving on to the next.  Because of this, there are no grade levels on the Spelling You See books.  You can read more about each level and download sample lessons to help determine placement by visiting the Spelling You See website.

Spelling You See Review

There are 36 lessons in each level of Spelling You See, and each lesson is broken down into 5 parts.  While it is important that you and your child are consistent with spelling lessons, I found it a bit of a relief that the Instructor's Handbook states that it is okay to move along to the next lesson without completing the previous lesson.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I get bogged down in finishing every last bit, even if life has interrupted and thrown us a bit off schedule, so it is reassuring to know that the ideas and concepts and words and patterns being taught will come up again in future lessons. 
American Spirit (Level E) is designed for children who are in at least fourth grade, who read well, and who are moving along with spelling.  A student new to Spelling You See should start here, in this level.  The package comes with 2 Student Workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils ($30) and there is also an Instructor's Handbook ($14).

How exactly, then, does Spelling You See work?

This program has your student studying the patterns of spelling through the use of chunking, copywork, and dictation.  Chunking is simply using a simple color coding system to mark various patterns in words:  vowel chunks (such as "ou"), consonant chunks (such as "wh"), bossy r chunks  (such as "ir"), tricky y guy (such as "baby"), endings (such as "ing"), and silent letters (such as the "b" in thumb). 

In American Spirit, each lesson is centered around a single passage about people or events in American history.  Because the same passage is used for a week, the student really gets a chance to internalize the words in the passage.  Before any pencil work is completed for the day, you are instructed to read the passage to your student, and then read the passage slowly together, paying close attention to the words.  Finally, you use the color coded chunking method to chunk the passage.

Copywork is used on days 1-3 of each lesson.  The student is asked to copy portions of the same passage over each of these three days.  However, if you have a student who is a slow writer or struggles with penmanship, you might find it comforting to know that you are instructed to have your child stop copying after 10 minutes, even if they're not finished.  After the child finishes the copywork, they then mark their copywork passage with the color coded chunking described above.

Dictation is completed on days 4-5 of each lesson.  The two days of dictation are slightly different from each other, but like the copywork days, you are instructed to stop after 10 minutes.  On day 4, the "First Dictation", you read the passage slowly and watch your student write each word.  You help them with capitalization and punctuation, and you also help them spell any words that they misspell.  You correct these immediately, because you don't want incorrect spellings to stick in their heads.  You want to discuss the different chunks that come up in the dictation as you work through the passage.  On day 5, the "Second Dictation",  the goal is for the student to write the passage as you dictate it, but with minimal help. 
Spelling You See Review
I used this program with Micah, my 4th grader.  I found the instructions in the Instructor's Handbook to be very helpful and necessary; it really explained the program methods (in addition to including an answer key).  Without it, I wouldn't have known exactly what to do.  We followed the methods outlined above, so lessons took about 20-30 minutes, depending on how long we took to read the passage and chunk.  For us, this was the only downfall of the program.  With five children, it is difficult to regularly carve out that much time for spelling.
We both really liked the color/visual aspect of chunking in this program.  I liked that it incorporated little lessons in American history into our spelling lesson, and I also love that it makes copywork and dictation fairly painless for me, the teacher.  Micah is a decent speller, but he still doesn't enjoy the physical act of writing.  Knowing that he could stop copywork and dictation after 10 minutes was an encouragement to him. 

If you're looking for a sequential, colorful, and fun spelling program for your child, you should check out Spelling You See from Demme Learning.
Check out Spelling You See on Facebook and Twitter!
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coolest Cousin Ever

How do you earn the title of "Coolest Cousin Ever"? Leave your wedding reception in a helicopter.  In the words of Luke, after a day of wedding ceremony, wearing-of-tie, and tea party reception:
"This made it all so totally worth it."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Future Politician

Micah:  "Did Nick ask you any questions?"
Me:  "No.  What was he going to ask me?"
Micah:  "I don't know.  Just a question."
Me:  (raised eyebrow)
Micah:  "Why are you looking at me weird?"
Me:  "I think you're up to no good."
Micah:  "Well, that depends on your definition of 'no good'".


Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Ezekiel started team gymnastics in January.  All the boys have done rec classes in trampoline and tumbling for a few years, but working on form and all the little details is new.

His gym held a small meet, and Zeke won gold on trampoline!  It's amazing to see how far he's come.  When he first started classes, he couldn't really even do a cartwheel.  Now he flips and flies and it brings him such joy.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Mastering 5th Grade Math-Volume 1-Essentials of Fractions is a company that offers a variety of math and science teaching DVDs.  In 2012, I had the opportunity to review their Amazing Science Volume 1 DVD, and I loved it so much I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review one of their math DVDs:  Mastering 5th Grade Math-Volume 1-Essentials of Fractions.  The target grade levels for this DVD are grades 4-6, and it's priced at $15.99.

Like many other homeschooling moms, I feel like I can never get enough math help.  I also like it when my boys are able to learn from other teachers.  Teachers on DVDs don't lose their patience or grow tired of explaining a concept again.  Enter Jason Gibson, a man passionate about teaching science and math. He's an actual Rocket Scientist who has degrees in Engineering and Physics.  He's been creating award winning videos since 2004, with the goal of explaining how science and math relate to one another.

There are 16 lessons on the Mastering 5th Grade Math-Volume 1-Essentials of Fractions DVD:
  1. Review of Fraction Concepts
  2. Writing Fractions as Words
  3. Finding Factors of a Number
  4. Finding the Greatest Common Factor
  5. Finding the GCF of 3 Numbers
  6. Prime Factorization
  7. Equivalent Fractions
  8. Renaming Fractions
  9. Simplifying Fractions Part 1
  10. Simplifying Fractions Part 2
  11. Review of Improper Fractions
  12. Review of Mixed Fractions
  13. Converting Mixed Fractions to Improper Fractions
  14. Converting Improper Fractions to Mixed Fractions
  15. Thinking about Fractions as Division
  16. Writing a Whole Number as a Fraction
Lessons seem to average about 15 minutes. In addition to each teaching video, there are printable worksheets included on a separate DVD (also included on this DVD are the lessons in mp4 format). There are about 2-3 worksheets per lesson, and there is also a printable answer key.  Each worksheet has 10 problems.  I appreciated the clean, uncluttered appearance of the worksheets, and the fact they are clearly labelled:

I used this with Jacob, my 6th grader.  He watched the DVD lessons on a laptop, and then completed the associated worksheets.  Fractions are not a new concept for him--just something he needed some extra practice/reinforcement with.  He completed about a lesson a day.  If fractions were a new concept, or if he were really struggling, I would have spread the worksheets out over a few days.  

I asked Jacob what he thought about the DVD, and he really enjoyed it.  He never complained about it, even though math tends to be his least loved subject.  He told me that he teacher was engaging and he enjoyed watching the lessons, and he thinks that Mr. Gibson explains fractions well.  Jacob feels like he understands some things about fractions better than before he completed the DVD lessons.  From grading Jacob's completed worksheets, he seems to understand the content well.

Mastering 5th Grade Math-Volume 1-Essentials of Fractions is the first of four volumes in this series.  The remaining 3 DVDs focus on adding and subtracting fractions, multiplying and dividing fractions, order of operations, decimals, long division, and more.  If you're looking for something to supplement your current math program, or if you have a student struggling with fractions, you should check out this DVD from

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Check This Out!

Guess what?  Craig has started blogging at  Check it out, and while you're there, you should follow him.
My name’s Craig and I live on the edge of mountains.  I love beautiful things and like to think about the bottom line meanings of life.  I have found integration of life’s meanings in the person of Jesus Christ.  And that’s the beginning of the story.