Category Archives: Learn to Read

Unconventional Reading Lessons While Homeschooling

I am taking part in a month-long link up series called “The Virtual Curriculum Fair”, and this week, our theme is “Playing With Words: The Language Arts”.

When my older kids, “The Batman” and “The Artist” were little, I had no idea how to homeschool, and had no confidence in doing it on my own, so I went with a pre-written curriculum, or as I like to call it now, “school in a box”. While this DID give them a good foundation in phonics, it did NOT give “The Batman” the love of reading.

He has several disabilities which have always affected his ability to sit and just read for any length of time, and since it’s important to me that my children learn to love reading for pleasure, I backed off as soon as I was sure he COULD read.

Many years later, when he was a teen, “The Batman” discovered a Hardy Boys book in the library of the church we attended at the time. He began reading it and fell in love! Nothing would do but having all 66 of the stories eventually. In fact, that Christmas, he asked for a set of the first six books he’d seen at Sam’s Club. Of course, he asked for this about 3 days before Christmas, well after he’d made his wish list and I’d finished shopping. Add to that, we had a horrible snow/ice storm, which caused downed wires on our street, keeping us from leaving our block, as the city had it blocked at each end for a few days. Fortunately, I could go from our driveway directly across the street, into the parking lot of the Salvation Army Church, and go around the building, coming out on another street, allowing me to get to Sam’s Club. I made it there just in time to purchase the very last boxed set they had! Well, “The Batman” was thrilled! Ever since then, for each and every birthday, and sometimes Christmas, I have gotten him the next 5 books in the original series. We ONLY buy the original series. I really feel that the ones which came out as a result of the Hardy Boys TV show are not the books we’d like him to be reading, they are not, in my opinion, as wholesome as the originals, and definitely kind of dumbed down in comparison. Occasionally, I also order them randomly during the year as well. I order them from my local Barnes and Noble, to be delivered to the store, where I pay for them using my educator discount card. (You other homeschooling moms DO have a Barnes and Noble educator discount card, right? Because it gives you 20% off your educational purchases). In fact, “The Batman’s” 21st birthday is next week, and just yesterday, I ordered books 36 – 40 for him. Hopefully, they’ll all come in before his actual birthday!

In “The Batman’s” case, leveled readers did not work well to keep him interested and progressing. When he discovered the Hardy Boys, he was hooked, and now reads a large variety of things, from the Hardy Boys, to Star Trek novels, to Star Wars chapter books he’s been finding in our local library. He can now very often be found sitting for long periods, just reading for fun, something I had despaired of him ever doing!

One of our twins, “The Puzzler”, was eight when we adopted him and his brother. They could not read much, other than their names. While his brother “Mr. Loquacious” really is not all that interested in reading (although he can read better now than he lets on), “The Puzzler”, after the curriculum in a box pretty much failed him, ended up virtually teaching himself to read, using the Sunday comics. No, I’m not making that up. He wanted to read them so badly that he would sit and puzzle over them for hours. he would occasionally ask what a word was, and we’d tell him. Sometimes, he’d ask the same word again the next time, and we’d tell him again. Now, he reads them on his own, rarely asking for help with a word, and reads many books, as well, including books which are really beyond where he is. He simply puzzles out the words, and asks for help when necessary. He LOVES to read now. 🙂

“Mr. Loquacious” is still not interested in reading much on his own, but I know he’ll get there, when he is ready. In the meanwhile, we do lots of read-alouds. 🙂

“The Artist”? Well, once he learned to read, I never had to worry about him enjoying it again. He will sit and read for hours, either fiction or non-fiction, as long as it’s within his interests. For non-fiction, he just loves anything science related, especially natural science. He has also developed a love of writing stories, a very good off-shoot of loving to read.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t ALWAYS need a pre-written reading/writing curriculum. Some children do thrive on those, but if yours doesn’t, perhaps a looser, more relaxed method, such as what we have been doing, would work wonders.

All four of my boys love our regular trips to the library now, and choosing their own books their books, even “Mr. Loquacious”, who usually won’t sit and read.(though I retain veto power over choices), and all four of them love to come home and read

To find out more about the Virtual Curriculum Fair, and to read what other participants are doing, please click the graphic below . . .

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

As always, I’d love it if you’d join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”. Please go enter your email into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and never miss an update. If you enjoy “My Journeys”, please go to our Facebook page and “like” it. I’d sure appreciate it if you did! 🙂


Filed under education, home education, homeschooling, Kids, Learn to Read, Ultimate Blog Challenge January 2014, Virtual Curriculum Fair 2014

If You Were Me and Lived In . . . A T.O.S. Review

We were sent four cute little books from Carol P. Roman with Away We Go Media to review in our homeschool.

We received:

If You Were Me and Lived In . . . South Korea . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . France . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Mexico

and . . .

“If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Norway . . .”

The author was also kind enough to gift us with an inflatable globe, a couple of pencils with international flags printed on them, and a play passport set, all of which my boys thought were very cool, most especially the globe. 🙂

These books are the beginning of a series of books that can be used to introduce other countries and cultures to younger children. They are intended for children ranging from Pre-K through age 8, but my kids enjoyed them as well.

They range in price from $8.99 to $10.79 in the paperback editions, which is what we received, or $.99 to $1.99 in Kindle format, which some of the other Review Crew Members received.

Each of these books follows the same basic formula. It is a short book, approximately 25 to 30 pages long, exploring the culture of a different country.

At the very beginning, we get a picture of the country featured in the book, which has a star marking the capital. Then, we go right into the little story with a boy and girl pointing to their country on a globe. This is followed up by talking briefly about the capital city, and a picture of a scene from that city. Next, there is a picture of the boy and girl in a scene relating to where they are, and talking about three different names you might have if you are a boy, and three names that would be popular for a girl in that country. Next, along with a cute picture of the children doing something with their parents, we learn what you would call your mom and your dad in that language! From there, we next see the children in a place of business, and we discover what their money is called, what they might be buying there, and what the business would be called in their language. In the different books, we learn about a popular sport, a favorite vacation place, a holiday, special things they might eat, and their school. All of these things use words in the language of the country the book is covering.

At the end of the book is a page with a glossary of all of the foreign language words. This is perhaps the one thing I would change, I would have preferred to have the translations perhaps within parentheses right next to the actual words, that way, we would not have needed to go back and forth every time we came upon a word in a different language. 🙂

we did do our best though, to try to guess what the words meant, and occasionally, we were actually successful!

I think these books are nicely done, and very cute. As it turned out, they were a bit young for my older kids, but my twins like them, and I’ve seen them reading them again. And, the bonus is that all of the boys were looking for, and finding the different countries on the globe and on a map we have from a previous review. 🙂

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of these books, please click on the graphic below!

As always, I would just love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just enter your email information into the “sign me up!” button at the top right of the blog, and please, also go here and “like” our Facebook page!


Filed under Away We Go Media, education, family, Foreign language homeschooling, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Language Arts, Learn to Read, read-alouds, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013

VocabularySpellingCity . . . A T.O.S. Review

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Do you want a value packed, full of fun online language arts program for your homeschoolers? Well, the VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership might just be what you are looking for.

When I first looked at this program, in the process of deciding whether or not to request the review, my reaction was W.O.W., there is SO much available there, and this program is good for any students from kindergarten through 12th grade!

I have four boys, with very different learning abilities and styles, and VocabularySpellingCity is a site they are ALL enjoying.

My twins, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” are, as you know, still working on learning to read. They are getting better, but VocabularySpellingCity seems to be actually helping them to comprehend the words a little better, as well. I have them working with “Word Family” lists, which are available in weekly segments, along with a great number of other types of lists, which you are free to import into your account and use.

With my older boys, “The Batman” and “The Artist”, I decided to use (at this time) themed lists, such as “October – Harvest”, for example.

VocabularySpellingCity takes a word list and wrings everything it possibly can from it. By the time they are done, your children will know pretty much everything they can about the words on the list you have assigned them!

Here is the assignment section from one of “Mr. Loquacious’s” weeks . . .

Activity Completed On Time on Task Status Score Missed Words Total 37 min
Spelling TeachMe 10/22/2013 4:11 pm 1 min Complete

Test-N-Teach 10/22/2013 4:12 pm 2 mins Complete

Audio Word Match 10/22/2013 4:15 pm 1 min Complete

HangMouse 10/22/2013 4:16 pm 7 mins Complete

MatchIt Definitions 10/22/2013 4:23 pm 4 mins Complete

Sentence Unscramble 10/22/2013 4:27 pm 13 mins Complete

Spelling TestMe 10/22/2013 4:41 pm 1 min Complete 100 %

Vocabulary TestMe 10/22/2013 4:46 pm 2 mins Complete 75 % get, set

WordFind 10/22/2013 4:48 pm 5 mins Complete

Word Unscramble 10/22/2013 4:54 pm 1 min Complete

As you can see, even though he doesn’t HAVE to do everything in one day, he was having so much fun, he just kept going! I will admit, though, that after the first couple of weeks, I realized they were all doing one or two assigned activities and then just moving right over to playing the games, so I’ve switched things around somewhat and told them they have to do the assigned things first! 🙂

Some of the learning activities that can be assigned are pictured below:

The Word-O-Rama game . . .
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Flash Card . . .
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Letter Fall
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Full disclosure, neither “Mr. Loquacious” or “The Puzzler” were very fond of “Letter Fall”, and asked me to change to something else on their assignments. They had a hard time with this activity, and the speed of it.

It is very easy though, to switch up the activities in an assignment. You are given a good size list of options, each one taking your chosen word list and teaching all sorts of things with it, from spelling, vocabulary (definitions, use it in a sentence, etc), there are word find activities, crosswords, just so many ideas that you can use to keep your kids interested long enough to really learn those words!

Here is a look at what you can offer to them as assignments . . .

Here are “The Batman” and “The Artist”, both working on their VocabularySpellingCity assignments . . .


And here are “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler”, working on theirs!

Watch this short video to learn more about VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership . . .

Now, while you CAN get a free membership to VocabularySpellingCity, which would definitely give you a lot, including spelling lists, the parent page, printables and spelling tests, along with some other resources, I think the VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership is a great deal. The cost is just $29.99 for an entire year, which covers up to five students.

Here, you can see a comparison checklist between the free membership and the premium checklist . . .


As you can see, there is SO much available when you go with the premium membership! This has for sure turned into one of those products that the boys will have included into their educational schedule for this year, because, as you probably already are aware, I feel strongly that whenever possible, education can, and should, be fun. This is fun. When I have boys actually asking if they can go again after their brothers have finished doing their time on VocabularySpellingCity, well then, I think we definitely have a winner, don’t you?

To find out what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of VocabularySpellingCity, please click the graphic below!
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As always, I would love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Please enter your email information in the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and also, do please go here, and “like” our Facebook page! Never miss another update! 🙂


Filed under education, educational games, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Language Arts, Learn to Read, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013, VocabularySpellingCity

A Fun Way For My Struggling Readers To Learn: Reading Kingdom . . . A T.O.S. Review

I wasn’t sure how well the online program Reading Kingdom would go over with my twins “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” when it came to us for review, but so far, they are really liking it!

Reading Kingdom is an online subscription program that is individualized to each student, so your child will not be competing with his or her siblings, rather, they will move along at their own pace and ability level.

While it is not as flashy and exciting as other educational games they have used, they are enjoying the process of moving along at their own pace. “Mr. Loquacious”, however, does have a strong competitive streak, and frequently tries to get me to tell him where his twin is in the program, most likely because “The Puzzler”, being more interested in reading, has, on his own, taught himself a lot of reading just by pushing himself and asking for help, even before we began this review. “Mr. Loquacious” would rather just be read to, and often pretends he cannot read.

Here are some of the things your child will see at different points in the Reading Kingdom program:

I really have always liked phonics based reading programs, but have come to agree with Reading Kingdom in believing that more than just phonics are needed. The American English language is not the easiest to learn, considering that so much of it has roots from so very many other languages! Add to that the fact that the phonics “rules” simply don’t always apply, and there are a significant number of words which cannot be “sounded out” using those phonics rules, well, it proves that phonics just isn’t enough for many people.

Reading is a NECESSARY skill, for anything one wants to do in life. Therefore, why not use whatever will help our children get there without the frustration often associated with using a solely phonics based program?

Here is a snippet of information from the Reading Kingdom website about their approach to learning to read:

“It’s because of these problems with phonics and whole language that schools across the nation show only 30% of children reading at a “proficient” level, while a staggering 35%-40%, across all socio-economic backgrounds, are failing to master this crucial skill (Source: US Dept. of Education) and those who are succeeding are taking longer to learn than they need to.”

My husband and I both grew up reading for pleasure. In fact, the first purchase we made together when we were getting married were bookcases, to hold our many books, after which, we also had to go through and cull out all of our duplicates! I mention this only to explain why it is so important to me that my children learn to read, not just foe educational purposes, but also for pure enjoyment.

When we first received our login information from the Reading Kingdom company, I got the boys all set up, and they were chomping at the bit to get going.

When a child first begins the program, there is an assessment phase, which helps the program decide where to place him/her. This program is completely customized to the individual student, beginning with the Skills Survey:

“This customization process begins right at the beginning with the Skills Survey. It assesses each student’s skills in reading and writing, and based on the results, the program places each child at the point that is just right for his or her skill level. This prevents students from becoming bored and wasting time learning something they already know or being frustrated by tasks that they are not yet ready for.”

Interestingly, considering that “The Puzzler” has actually pushed himself to read, while “Mr. Loquacious” has mostly resisted learning, the skills survey actually put “Mr. Loquacious” further along in the program. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this is because “The Puzzler” needed help with keyboarding skills, so the program started him in the “Letter Land” format. “Mr. Loquacious” was also placed in Letter Land, but progressed out of it rather quickly, while “The Puzzler” is at this point, 84% completed with this level. I’m fairly sure it’s mostly because “Mr. Puzzler” is developmentally much younger than his twin, so he isn’t quite as quick when it comes to these skills. “Mr. Loquacious” is currently in “Reading/Writing Level 1, with 14 % completed in this level.

By the way, there is another great thing about this program, the online (and emailed!) reports for me, the parent! You see, the program information states right away that other than helping the student get logged on, the parent/teacher is to stay hands off, and not help in any way, other than technological assistance. I like this aspect, and so do the boys, although at first, “Mr. Loquacious” did not, wanting me to tell him if he had the right answers before he would type them in. 🙂

According to the information from Reading Kingdom, their program is “the only system that teaches the following six skills. When children are taught all six skills, they easily master both reading and writing. By focusing on these skills, Reading Kingdom teaches children 4-10 years of age how to read and write at a third grade level. So teach a child to read today and give the gift that lasts a lifetime.”


Reading Kingdom offers information on their site to help you decide if your child is ready for this program, with topics such as early readers, accelerated readers, and struggling readers.

To learn more about how Reading Kingdom is fundamentally different from other reading systems available today, you can download this very informative pdf

My twins are enjoying Reading Kingdom very much, and frequently ask to do it. In fact, “Mr. Loquacious” often asks to continue on after his official session is done! This is a win/win for me, since he, especially, doesn’t like to stick with one thing for very long.

If you’d like to check it out, there are tons of sample lessons here, including part one and part 2 of the skills survey. There are also a good number of other resources, including printable worksheets to help re-enforce what your child is learning.

Reading Kingdom is an online, subscription based program, which can be purchased for $19.99 per month. You can get the entire year at once, for $199.00, and additional students are $9.99 per month or $99.00 for the whole year.


Furthermore, for those who truly cannot afford it, Reading Kingdom has a scholarship program! To apply, go here.

Other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members are using Reading Kingdom with their children as well . . . to find out what they think of this program, please click below.


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Filed under education, family, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Learn to Read, Reading Kingdom, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Review, Uncategorized