Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can Do Cubes


Part of what makes learning fun is when it can be hands on!  Such is the case with today's review product, Can Do Cubes, from jollyliteracy.com (just2ducks LLC).


When our Can Do Cubes arrived, I was impressed by the large box of wooden cubes and curriculum resources.


This shows the first tray.  The cubes themselves are made of wood, and feel good in your hands.


This is the second tray of cubes, part of the "stage two" part of the program.  See the string?  Those two cubes are attached to teach the concept of silent e.  (One of the videos addresses this, and I thought it was brilliant.)


The box included two posters with the various words you could make from each group of cubes.  We're out of wall space in our school room, so I considered cutting this up and laminating it by section, but ultimately, we simply unfold it when we do a section.


When we started out, I gave Katie the first 6 cubes and let her play with them a little bit.  Then I'd read a word from the poster and ask her to build it for me.


This is similar to how she started doing spelling last year, so it was familiar to her.


Between the two trays of blocks, in addition to the posters, there were two small books.  These are books for the parent teacher, not the child.


Book one explains how children learn language, and gives lots of fun and easy suggestions on ways to engage your child with the world around them.  It offers tips on teaching beginning phonics to your child.  The stage two book gives specific teaching tips for how to use the lower tray of cubes in teaching the more advanced phonics lessons.


The top CD ROM contains 4 workbooks with both instructions for the teacher and many printable pages for your student to use with the blocks.

The bottom disc is a DVD which talks about the word version of the Can Do Cubes (which I ended up purchasing a set of; I can't wait to try those out with Jack and Hannah!) for the first 6 minutes, and then another 6 minutes featuring an instructor working with a child on the phonics cubes.  After that is a segment featuring the instructor saying each of the 42 sounds of the English language.  This would be helpful for an older student (remedial or ESL) to view to help them learn the sounds and the letters at the same time.  Then there's an explanation of the idea of synthetic phonics and where that name comes from and how to use the cubes to teach.  I found the video clips to be brief, informative, and helpful.


Katie likes doing the printable worksheets with the blocks.


I like being able to print off just the pages that we need from the CD.


One of the nice things about Can Do Cubes is that it can be used on it's own, or as a compliment to any other phonics or spelling program.  Kids like to play with these cubes.  They add a hands on component that holds a child's interest.  When I leave them out in the school room, I find words and sentences that my kids of all ages create.  Imagine the difference between telling your student, "Write this list of spelling words," and "Build each of your spelling words with these cubes."  Which one do you think they'll be more excited about?  I'm thrilled to add this resource to our classroom, and I'm sure I'll be pulling it out regularly for a long time to come.


You can connect with Can Do Cubes/Jolly Literacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Forty Crew families received the phonics Can Do Cubes.  To read the rest of the reviews, please click the box below.

Can Do Cubes

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Loyal Heart


I've mentioned before that I'm getting into genealogy.  When the Little Ones were visiting their mama, I had a chance to do some work on our family history, and I found a Civil War ancestor.  So when I picked up The Loyal Heart the next day and started reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a Civil War era POW camp.  The pact that wartime friends make over their friend's grave turns out to have lasting importance for them.

The bulk of this story takes place in Texas.  Phillip (one of the pactees) has died.  Another of the pact members, Robert, goes to his home in Galveston to check on his widow and see if there is any way the remaining pact members can help her.  The widow, Miranda, was pretty much at the end of her rope when Robert shows up.  She is managing her late husband's estate by turning their home into a boarding house.  The people of the town have spread viscous rumors about her.  Someone is sending her threatening letters.

The Loyal Heart is by turns suspenseful and romantic.  Robert and the other members of the wartime pact are able to help Miranda redeem her reputation and Phillip's honor, as well as keep her home and find happiness.  This was a good book, and I will be passing it on to my 16 year old daughter to read, as well.   We have enjoyed many of Shelley Shepard Gray's works of fiction.




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Monday, August 22, 2016

Learn to Read with Jolly Literacy


Even though it's summer time, Katie has been working on a special review program.  The folks at jollyliteracy.com (just2ducks LLC) sent us their comprehensive reading program, which includes the Jolly Literacy Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Phonics Student Books, 1, 2, and 3; The Jolly Grammar level 1 Teacher's Book (in print letters); the Jolly Grammar level 1 Student Book; and Jolly Songs (in print letters).  Along with these review items, we received a catalog of additional Jolly Literacy products, and My Personal Dictionary from Primary Learning.  Wow, what a package!


Miss Katie is 5.  She did a "relaxed" kindergarten last year, and is still working on learning to read.  Although, she surprised me the last time we went to the zoo.  We were driving, and she said, "That says zoo!" when we passed a plain, no pictures, street sign.  I did a double take and asked, "How do you spell zoo?"  She answered Z-O-O.  She's learning more than I realized.


We started out with the Phonics book 1, just to get our feet wet.  Each lesson has a short story and a motion to go along with it.  The motions are a great idea for squirmy students to help get the wiggles out.  Little kids generally don't do well with sitting still for long periods of time, so beginning readers will benefit from these seemingly "silly" motions and sounds.  The workbook portion of the lessons are short and simple, which gives children a sense of accomplishment when they're starting out.

We also began playing the Jolly Songs CD, which is full of catchy little tunes to help kids learn the sounds that letters make.  The individual clips are short.  I liked to put it on in the car and let it play when I had younger kids in the van with me.


Although Katie already knows how to properly form her letters, and what sounds they make, she had a little bit of a harder time with the pictures at the bottom of the pages in the phonics book 1.  Katie did not begin learning English until she was almost 3 years old, so she's still not familiar with all the possible names of the "everyday" objects pictured.  Students are asked to cross out the picture that does not contain a certain sound.  In addition to increasing her vocabulary, this was good listening practice for her!


As the Phonics Student Book 1 progressed, we worked on not only individual letters, but also double letters and blends.  Book 2 starts off with students reading whole words, and covers the various short vowel sounds, writing, tracing, drawing, and more.  Children begin copywork in book 2, with the teacher writing a sentence on the board, and the students copying it.  Kids learn that sentences start with a capital letter and end with a period.  They are reminded to leave a space (we call them "finger spaces" in our homeschool) between each word.  At the teacher's discretion, students may be asked to come up with their own sentences.  Book 3 takes the skills learned in the first two books and expounds on them with more independent writing, bigger words, reading sentences, and even a crossword puzzle!  Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive reading program, broken down into 3 books to be less intimidating to the student.  There are also readers available in 4 levels, from beginner to confident reader.


Although not completely through the phonics program, we took a look at the Grammar book to see what it was like.  The first page allows the student to personalize the book, not only with their name, but also a self portrait.


This book contains many activities with words.  Students get to trace, draw, write dictation, and more.  The back of the book has 36 ten-word spelling tests.  By the end of the book, students are reading a 3 paragraph story containing words like orange, yummy, sunflowers, watch and summer.  They are then asked to identify different parts of speech by underlining them in various colors.  I'm excited to see how much Katie's skills will progress when we start working through this book!


This is Miss Katie's /oo/ face.  Not oo like in smooth, but oo like in took.  We had quite a time differentiating between the two /oo/ sounds.  Actually, when sounding out the words at the bottom of the page, she kept wanting to double the sounds.  B-oo-oo-k.  We are finding Jolly Phonics book 1 to be both simple enough to hold our interest and keep us (okay me) willing to work on it, and at the same time, challenging enough that I know Katie is learning new things.  I'm impressed.  That's a delicate balance.  I look forward to working through the rest of the program this coming school year.  I feel confident that it will help Katie become a strong reader.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

You can connect with jollyliteracy.com on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Forty Crew families received Jolly Literacy packages.  To read more of their experiences, please click the box below.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our Week with a Birthday


This was the last week of summer for us.  It's flown by so fast.


I've really been enjoying watching the Little Ones learn new things.  Building with the bristle blocks, making towers, putting words together, this is such a fun age for observing growth.


Because of them, the other kids have had a renewed interest in some of the simpler toys in our house.


We dumped the block bucket one day and separated out all the different types of blocks with each child getting one kind:  big alphabet blocks, little alphabet blocks, unit blocks, plastic blocks, etc.


I got a chance to make a pair of nightgowns this week.  I'm thinking I might stack & whack a pile of leggings nexts.


School orientation night for Brianna and Eli happened this week.  Bri painted most of the flags on this wall.


And she helped paint this mountain scene on another teacher's wall.


Checking out the new locker.


The Magnatiles continue to be a favorite here.  The Little Ones like them, too.


I bought candles this time!  (We kind of suck at the candle thing most birthdays.)


Sam turned 18.  My 4th child is now a grown up.


I took Miss Katie in to be adjusted.  She got a new type of foot.  We're going back this coming week with both girls.


The new wooden Tetris puzzle continues to be popular.


We used to have a huge basket of board books.  After Katie outgrew them, I pulled out a few of my favorites and donated all the rest.  With our little visitors here, I find myself wishing I had kept a few more of them.  They love to look at books.  Blue will ask for a book at nap or bed time.


This is the face I get when I try to take a picture of Sam.


There was a pizza fundraiser for one of the coaching families.  The kids had fun hanging on the trees, and the teens had fun hanging out with the team.


These were dresses that I made for Katie a couple years ago.  It makes me smile to see them in use again.


I love my teenagers.  They make me laugh.  After getting all the supply lists for their various classes at orientation, we got out the school supplies bucket and loaded up their backpacks.


It looked a little like a bomb went off in the school room, but we had everything except some pens and composition books.

Now it's time to clean the school room and plan out our first week of homeschool!  Yikes.  This is getting real!


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