Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Fix It! Grammar

Institute for Excellence in Writing is best known for their writing curriculum, but that is not all they publish.  They also have a grammar curriculum, and it's been completely revised and updated.  We were sent the following books to review:

Fix It! Grammar is designed for grades 3 and up.  There are 6 books in the series:
  1. Fix It! Grammar:  The Nose Tree
  2. Fix It! Grammar:  Robin Hood
  3. Fix It! Grammar:  Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Fix It! Grammar:  Little Mermaid
  5. Fix It! Grammar:  Chanticleer
  6. Fix It! Grammar:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The book your student would begin with would depend on their grammar knowledge.  IEW has a placement test to help you determine which book your student should begin with, and I'd recommend taking a look at the test just to verify where you think your student should start.

Fix It! Grammar is a unique grammar program because it teaches grammar concepts through real stories.  The stories use real sentences that contain real errors that your student might make in their own writing.  Through marking up the sentences and finding errors, the student learns grammar and correct usage, with the long view that this will transfer to the student's own writing.

As mentioned above, we received Fix It! Grammar Book 1:  The Nose Tree.  This book, like the others in the series, is designed to be used over the course of one year.  There are 33 weeks of lessons, and it should take about 15 minutes a day.  We received the Teacher's Manual and the Student Book.  They are both high quality, spiral bound books.  With the purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you also receive access to a PDF download of the Student Book so if you prefer to print your own Student Book, this is an option.
Each student should have a notebook.  If you have chosen to print your own Student Book, the notebook should have four sections:  Fix Its, Grammar Glossary, Rewrite, and Vocabulary.  If you purchase the Student Book, then the notebook would only have two sections:  Rewrite and Vocabulary.
On the first day of each week's work, you read through the section titled "Learn It" with your student (this section contains the teaching for the week).  There are grammar flash cards included in the Student Book, and your student should cut out any that are applicable to the day's lesson so they can review the concept.  Next,  you help your student mark up the first sentence in the reading.  Once the sentence is corrected, the student copies the corrected version into the Rewrite section of their notebook.  For Days 2-4, the student corrects the sentence for the day on their own, and copies the corrected version into their notebook.  At the end of the program, the student will have a clean, corrected version of the story.

Each day's reading also has a vocabulary word.  This word is in bold print, and the student is directed to look the word up in a dictionary, decide on the definition that best fits the sentence, and write a short definition in the vocabulary section of their notebook.
I used this with Luke & Ezekiel, and I started them in Book 1 to help them learn to recognize errors in writing.  I used the method described above, though I did not always read through day 1 with them and help them correct the first sentence.  Since they were already familiar with the grammar ideas, they did okay without my help, but this would not have worked if they were brand new to grammar.  I love that they are learning to find errors in real writing, since this can be difficult to teach using a traditional grammar program.  I loved that they were copying a real story as part of the program.  The vocabulary was the weakest part of the program, but I think this has to do with the fact Luke & Ezekiel are in 9th & 8th grades.  If I had chosen to use this with my 3rd grader, the minimum recommended age, I would definitely have had to spend time with him every day walking him through the sentences and he would have gotten more out of the vocabulary portion.

If you are looking for a non-traditional grammar program that will reinforce writing skills, definitely check out Fix It! Grammar.  Click on the banner below to read reviews of books 1-5.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trucking Along

This is the slowest start we've ever had to a school year.  We still have 1 or 2 subjects to start, but overall it's going well.  The biggest issue is the driving.  I've gone from driving 50-75 miles/week, to driving around 300.  Some of these are longer drives, some are shorter.  But I feel like I'm constantly stopping what I'm doing to get a boy somewhere or pick a boy up.  It's not even that each boy has too many outside activities, it's just that they aren't all doing the same thing on the same day anymore. 

It's worth it, though.  The younger three are learning some fun stuff in their enrichment program, and to quote Luke "I'm in love with my engineering class".  Can't argue with that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Under Drake's Flag

A handful of weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to review Under Drake's Flag, produced by Heirloom Audio Productions.  This 2 CD set with an abridged study guide sells for $29.95, and is most suitable for ages 6 through adult.  
We really enjoy listening to audio books here at Larson Boys Academy, especially when we're all in the van together.  Now that the boys are older, it seems that we're running in different directions quite often so we don't get to listen to as many as we used to.  However, this CD set arrived just before we left on a road trip to visit family so the timing was perfect for all 7 of us to listen to the story.
This is a 2 hour long audio theater production of G.A. Henty's story about Sir Francis Drake.  Since it is an audio theater production, it's more than just a narrator reading the story.  There is a full cast of talented actors performing the story, along with sound effects and a musical score that make the story come alive.  
Sir Francis Drake lived from 1540-1596.  He circumnavigated the globe for England, helped defeat the Spanish Armada when they invaded trying to capture England, and was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth.  More importantly, he was a strong Christian and his Christian values guided what he did. 

This story tells about Sir Francis Drake and his adventures through the experiences of Ned Hawkshaw.  During Ned's travels, he experiences battles, a shipwreck, and even a shark attack, and then he witnesses the Spanish Inquisition.
Included with the CDs is an abridged study guide.  This abridged guide is divided into 19 sections, and each section has three parts:  "Listening Well" (comprehension questions), "Thinking Further" (questions that require your child to use critical thought to think more deeply about the story), and "Defining Words" (words that your child might need to look up in order to understand a bit more about the story).  There are also 3 short Bible studies in the back of the guide.

There is also a full study guide available as a PDF download.  This full study guide has the same sections as the abridged version, but there are a more questions and words listed.  For example, in the first section, the abridged guide has 3 "Listening Well" questions, 3 "Thinking Further" questions, and 2 words under "Defining Words".  The full study guide has 8 "Listening Well" questions, 9 "Thinking Further" questions, and 6 words under "Defining Words".
This audio drama is very well done.  It was enjoyed by all 7 of us on our road trip.  The cast did a superb job, and the musical score and sound effects transported us into the story so we felt as if we were on the high seas ourselves, even though we were actually travelling through the midwest. 
Since we enjoyed Under Drake's Flag so much, I was excited to hear that Heirloom Audio Productions is currently working on a second title:  In Freedom's Cause.  This GA Henty book is about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and the projected release date is November. 
Under Drake's Flag Reviews
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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Thought From the 8 Year Old

Me:  "What are you thinking about?"
Nicholas:  "I know what I'm going to say if I ever lose a limb."
Me:  "What?"
Nicholas:  "'Tis a mere flesh wound."

Okay, then.