Fix It! Grammar . . . A T.O.S. Review

In all of the years of working on the education of my kids here at home, we have never, ever actually used a formal grammar program. Or, for that matter, ANY written grammar program, to be honest! I have basically practiced an informal method of correcting their spoken grammar as a part of our daily life, something I will continue doing, as I believe it works quite well for SPOKEN grammar. However, “The Artist”, who was the student reviewing a fiction writing course last year, really wants to go back to it, and to learn to be better at writing stories, so I thought that the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Teacher Manual] (Book 1), along with Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Student Book](Book 1), would perhaps be a good thing for him. I took a look at how it worked and decided to give it a chance.

This grammar program is from the very well known Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

IEW is a company I personally have never really taken the opportunity to really check out, because I was afraid it would be too difficult for my special needs guys. However, I am extremely glad we were blessed with the opportunity to review Fix It! Grammar, because it really works, in just minutes a day!

Here is the basic concept . . .
Method: modeling proper grammar within stories. Instead of being taught a grammar rule, and then being forced to practice it with a bunch of exercises, followed by the next grammar rule, over and over (Repeat and rinse, so to speak) in Fix It! Grammar, the grammar rules are taught as they are needed, within the context of a story that builds upon itself until, at the end of the lesson book, the student has written correctly, the entire fairy tale used at that level.

The Process: 15 minutes per day. The level we received is giving us 33 weeks of grammar instruction and practice, in only 15 minutes per day, and 4 days per week.

This program is incredibly easy to set up and to work through! If you have the student book, then your student will need a note book divided into two sections, which are Rewrite and Vocabulary.

On day one of each week, your student will read and correct ONE sentence. Yes, one. He or she will read the sentence, look up the bolded word in a dictionary and write the best definition which fits within the context of the sentence, and write that into the vocabulary section of their note book. This will be built on each day until at the end, they have their own vocabulary dictionary to refer to. Then, he or she will copy the sentence for that day into the rewrite section of their note book, using double spacing.

On days two through four, the student will use the abbreviations at the top of the page, as well as the provided grammar flash cards to help them remember how to mark the section. As with day one, the student does their “rewrite” in the notebook, writing with double spacing. They are to use their best handwriting, so this is also a nice addition to the day in giving them that particular practice!

While we received both the Teacher book and the Student book (both are very nice, spiral bound books), If you prefer, you CAN just purchase the teacher book at the cost of $19.00. The teacher book comes with a license allowing you to download the student book and print as many copies as needed for use within your own homeschool family. The Student book, available for $15.00, is well worth it though, depending on how much it costs for you to print, and whether or not you have more than one child. I happen to have four boys, so knowing that I can print it as needed when each of them is ready for this, makes this a bargain for me.

A placement test is provided if you are unsure where to begin your student, however, like many people, I chose to begin with book one, so as to create a good foundation upon which we can build with the levels which follow. There is also a webinar available to introduce you to Fix It! Grammar, along with how this program differs from traditional methods of teaching grammar.

Fix It! Grammar is intended for 3rd grade and up, but as I said, I personally think that if you, like us, have not done a formal grammar program, it’s best to begin at the beginning.

What did we think of it? Well, I find it incredibly easy to use! “The Artist” really does not enjoy being MADE to write, although he enjoys writing on his own time, so this was the perfect choice for him. I mean, really? One sentence per day? Even my lazy writer who constantly complains about his hand cramping from too much writing, is fine with this! He really doesn’t mind giving up 15 minutes out of his day, and when he is finished, he will have completely written the entire fairy tale himself, with correct grammar! The only real problem we have is keeping him from reading ahead to see the rest of the story, lol!

You will find IEW on the following social media:

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Bottom Line? Not only do I very highly recommend Fix It! Grammar from IEW, I think we will be continuing with it level by level. It is a very painless way to learn written grammar, and frankly, I like that. There is no reason education HAS to be dreary, if there is a better way, and this is definitely a better way, in my opinion.

Other Review Crew members have been reviewing this and other levels of Fix It! Grammar, so please click on the banner below to find out what they thought!
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More Tangling!

Earlier this month, I took another class, this one on making Zendalas. Similar to zentangles, but round. We learned some new tangles, and used some we had already learned. Here are the ones I did in class, where we each did a traditional black pen on a white zendala tile:

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and one on a black zendala tile with white jelly roll pen, followed by highlighting in our chosen color of sparkly gel pen:

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I’m very pleased with mine, I thought they turned out well! Here is a link to dentangles, the blog run by one of our teachers, so that you can see the class zendalas for that day!

Definitely check out all of her blog, she has some great content! :-)

One final thing, it’s been very busy here for the past few months, between moving, and attempting to get my own health back on track, but I am feeling some better, so I promise, no more long breaks between non-review posts. I’ll be trying to write at least every few days, I have a ton of photos to show you what we’ve been up to this summer! :-)

As always, I’d love it if you joined me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go to the top of the blog and enter your email into the “sign me up button, and you’ll never miss an update! Also, it would be great if you went to our Facebook page and gave it a “like”. I’d sure appreciate it if you did! :-)

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Under Drake’s Flag (Heirloom Audio Productions) . . . A T. O. S. Review

Growing up, I often heard my dad telling us children about my grandmother listening to the original soap operas on the radio, and about programs on the radio that appealed to the children and families of that time. I had never listened to an audio drama, so I thought this would be an interesting review, especially since my own children have always had the visual along with the audio (what with watching their movies, as opposed to listening, you know). In fact, they are SO used to looking at the screen, I wasn’t sure how well this would be received, but I knew *I* wanted to hear it, so I went for it, LOL! This audio production is written to ages 6 – adult, and I thought that to be pretty accurate.

Heirloom Audio Productions is where you may purchase this wonderful 2 CD boxed set of the Audio Drama “Under Drake’s Flag“. It is available as an “instant access” mp3 version for $20.00, which also includes the following bonuses:

1. The complete Under Drake’s Flag eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter.

2. A beautiful, printable copy of Drake’s Prayer.

If you prefer, you may purchase the 2 CD boxed set at $29.95 plus $6.95, which includes the following bonuses:

1. The “instant access” download of Under Drake’s Flag valued at $20.00.

2. The complete Under Drake’s Flag E-Study Guide and Discussion Starter. 30 pages of Under Drake’s Flag discussion points, history-learning guides and story-related Bible study, valued at $20.00.

3. The Under Drake’s Flag Soundtrack MP3 download, valued at $20.00.

4. A beautiful, printable copy of Drake’s Prayer, valued at $10.00.

The add on bonuses in the CD boxed set add up to $70.00, making this a very good deal, in my opinion!

Now, down to the review! We ended up choosing to listen to the complete story, rather than breaking it up into chapters. After all, when we watch movies, we don’t break them up, either! Plus, to be honest, I was concerned about losing their interest. I didn’t need to worry though, because they listened pretty well! “The Artist” and “Mr. Loquacious” really paid more attention that “The Batman” and “The Puzzler”, and were much better able to answer the comprehension questions in the mini study guide which is included in the boxed set. There is a much expanded study guide as a download, but at this time, it wasn’t a good fit for my boys.

Both guides have comprehension questions for each chapter: “Listening well”, “Thinking Further” questions, and “defining words”. There is also a Bible study section with sections such as “Godly Character”, “True Manhood”, and “Confessing Christ”, each of which is related to parts of the story, and has corresponding Bible verses to use in your study. Drake’s prayer is also printed inside the CD holder, and it is a beautiful prayer.

After explaining to the boys that this would be like “listening” to a movie instead of “watching” a movie, we popped the first CD into our DVD player and settled in. I had told them they could either draw pictures relating to the story while listening, or write down interesting things they heard, but surprisingly, none of them did, they just flopped onto the floor and listened! Even their dad and I enjoyed it, although we were both very tired and not feeling at our best, and so we dozed off a couple of times.

I liked the way the audio drama was written. It begins with two boys, Ned and Gerald, who are British boys in school, working on a report about Sir Francis Drake. Gerald is CLEARLY more interested in the history, while Ned just wants to skip doing it and go to a cricket match. They happen upon a man they are invited to call “Mr. George”, who offers to tell them a story about Sir Francis Drake, in which there just happen to be two boys named Ned and Gerald. We are to understand that Mr. George is G. A. Henty, who lived and wrote about history, writing 122 books which became essential reading in English schools. He promises that if the boys become bored, he will stop if they tell him, so they may go to the cricket match. In the end, they become so caught up in the adventures of the Ned and Gerald in the story, and how they adventured the seas with and without Sir Francis Drake, that they don’t ever ask him to stop telling them the story!

In “Mr. George’s story, we hear about how Ned first comes to Drake’s attention by saving a man who is in the water, Drake promises that should he ever return to Ned’s village, he will offer him a place on his ship, something Ned wants very much, even though his mother is opposed, having lost her husband to the sea. Eventually, though, Drake does return, and offers Ned a position. His mother, knowing what is right for him, gives him his father’s dagger and her blessing.

Ned and Gerald have many adventures, helping to fight against the Spanish Armada, saving a Spanish young lady from drowning, facing the Spanish Inquisition, and more, all the while learning from Drake about being good men with Christian principles. We are hopeful that heirloom Audio Productions will soon release even more wonderful audio dramas such as this one, as we thoroughly enjoyed it!

I highly recommend this audio production!

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UberSmart Software . . . A T.O.S. Review

My boys and I have had the opportunity for the past few weeks to work with UberSmart Math Facts.

This little program, created by a homeschool dad whose wife wanted their children to have help with learning their math facts. It is available from UberSmart Software It is written primarily for students from K – 6, or anyone older (even adults) who need, or would like a refresher on the basic math facts, and can be purchased for $24.95.

I was intrigued enough at how simple this little program is for learning math facts, that I really wanted to give it a try with my kids. As it turns out, it really is a basic little program, which you download to your computer (which must have one of the following: Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8), and you ARE permitted to put it onto multiple computers, which can be of some help if you have several children, and more than one computer.

The UberSmart Math Facts program works just like your traditional set of flash cards, but electronically, on your computer. First, learn, in which your student tries to answer the problem and then hit the answer key to check your answer. Another section, practice, allows him/her to click on the answer they think is correct, and they may also choose test when they are ready, which causes the program to give them a timed session with a certain number of cards.

Depending on whether or not you allow online activity, your student may also choose compete, allowing them to compete against others around the world in a timed session. We haven’t done this one.

This program also has a “report” and a “maintain” tab for the parent. If you like to have printable reports to keep for your records, or if you need them in a portfolio to turn in to your state, UberSmart Math Facts gives you the ability to have them. You can also maintain things like how long you want a student to have on timed activities. The default (4.5 seconds) is too, too fast for all but one of my boys, but you can adjust it, as I said.

Here are some of the different ways you can have the program set up, depending upon the age or ability of your child.

Traditional flash card format:

Keyboarding (practice typing the digits in quickly):

Dot cards:

There are other possibilities as well, such as showing the dots and numbers together.

I wanted to try UberSmart Math Facts because I feel that my boys can use a LOT of help when it comes with the memorizing of math facts, in particular “The Batman”.

I, personally, like this program. My kids, not so much. They thought it was boring, because they have, in the past, used math fact programs that were more like a video game, and they love video games, of course! They love the flash, excitement, and “leveling up”. However, since I can SEE some improvement, I’ll continue using it. We most often use it in the “practice” mode, because it is very hard for some of my boys to actually memorize the facts and have them stick. As with many things, we need to sort of tweak educational materials for our special needs kids, and given that we CAN continue under “practice” until such time as they are ready

A number of other crew members also were given the opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts, Please, do click the banner below to see what they thought of this program!
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Piano Recital!

So, a little over a week ago, “The Artist”, “The Batman” and I participated in our first piano recital since moving to New Mexico. It was held at Mesa Baptist Church, where we have been members since shortly after moving to this state.

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For having been out of lessons ever since we left Michigan, I really don’t think we did too badly!

Here is “The Batman” performing his piece . . .

Next up, we have “The Artist” . . .

And then finally, me!

Here are all of the students with our teacher, Mrs. Aubrey Grantham. She did a wonderful job getting us to this point, and I’m looking forward to learning much, much more from her!

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As always, I’d love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys through Life”. Just go and enter your email into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and never miss an update! And if you do enjoy “My Journeys”, please go to our Facebook page and give it a “like”. I’d sure appreciate it if you did! :-)

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HomeSchoolPiano . . . A T.O.S. Review

Our two oldest boys and I take “in person” piano lessons, but our younger boys are really not ready yet. Add to that the cost of in person lessons, and it just hasn’t been a possibility so far, so when I was given the chance to review online piano instructions from HomeSchoolPiano, I was very thankful!

We were given HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books, which is The Complete Beginner Piano program. This includes the following:

•Unlimited lifetime access to HomeSchoolPiano.com
•Tracking and quizzes for up to 5 students
•Unlimited lesson streaming to any device
•Unlimited music downloads
•Unlimited video lesson downloads
•Downloadable Jam Track CD

HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books is available for purchase at the one time price of $299.00, or you can buy it with 3 monthly payments of $99.97 each. This program is designed for anyone, children and adults, so you can learn right along with your children! :-)

This is not an instructional program wherein you must log in at certain times, or miss a class. Your lessons are available at any time, day or night. Also, you can view them on your computer, tablet, or even your phone! No fancy equipment is required, you can use a regular piano, or a keyboard with at least 49 keys.

You may be interested in finding out about the 6-step learning cycle, as well as signing up for a free lesson to discover if this would be a good fit for you and/or your children.

The instructional books are pdf downloads. You can choose to print any given book out all at once, or do as we are doing and printing out a page at a time right now. That is because “Mr. Loquacious” is in “Core Piano”, which so far, has been mostly online instruction. Right now, he is the only one of our kids doing the lessons because we have been in the process of moving, and have not had the time for more than one to be taking them. He is enjoying them though, and his twin is wanting to begin as well. :-)

Core piano is for absolute beginners, which “Mr. Loquacious” is. Core Piano covers basics such as the musical alphabet, finding the individual keys across the keyboard (find the c’s, find the d’s etc”), skipping over keys in thirds, correct posture, and the five-finger scale, among other things.

Here is “Mr. Loquacious”, watching one of the lessons, before going to the piano to practice.
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I have since realized that we should be rigging up a way to put my laptop or tablet right at the keyboard so that he can do things right when he is being instructed. This is definitely something we will do, as soon as I get things in order in our new home!

Meanwhile, here is “Mr. Loquacious”, practicing on our keyboard.
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We really like the way the video lessons are set up. We can see the teacher, Willie Myette in the lower corner of the screen. Then, above that, going across the scree, are two keyboards. One is a bird’s eye view of Willie’s hands as he is playing, so we can see and understand what he is doing, and the other is a digital keyboard, on which the keys are highlighted each time he plays it, enabling the student to learn where the keys are that he should be playing.

As I told you above, “Mr. Loquacious is working in Core Piano at this time, but I’m happy that he will be able to move on to the other levels eventually. They are:

Book 1: a second beginner book which teaches how to read music, play simple music, and even create one’s own music.

Book 2: This book is for the more advanced beginner to intermediate level, and will start to teach more advanced techniques.

Book 3: This is for the intermediate student, and begins to teach more challenging aspects of playing the piano.

This has turned out to be a great addition to our educational library! As I said above, both “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” have expressed interest in learning to play the piano, but have simply not been ready. With this program, they can go at their own pace, even when it means doing the same lesson over and over until they “get” it, which is where “Mr. Loquacious” happens to be right now. He is a bit stuck at the five-finger scale, but he is plugging away at it. :-)

I do recommend this program to the homeschooling family, because if you have multiple children, it is very cost-effective. I also recommend it because it isn’t a subscription that you have to renew every year, it is a life time program, which really extends the cost effectiveness, in my opinion.

To follow HomeSchoolPiano via social media, check them out at the following:

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What’s New?

I know I have not been writing as much as I usually do lately. We are in the process of moving, and on top of that, I’ve been under the weather.

We’ve spent the past two days doing our move in inventory check-list for the new house, and there’s a lot that needs to be taken care of. But, once that all is done, I think it will be a good place.

Our two oldest, “The Batman” and “The Artist” were off to teen camp with our church yesterday, and will be gone until sometime Friday afternoon. The best part is that unlike Winter Retreat, I did NOT have to get them to the church so early in the morning that it was still dark! :-) This time, they had to be there at 11:45 a.m., a much more decent hour, lol!

I will try harder to keep up to date on our move and everything else, as time and internet connection permits, but we’ll be disconnecting stuff next week, so it’s all in what my phone hot spot can handle. :-)

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