Spell to Write and Read vs. All About Spelling

I’ll admit it up front: This is a homeschool mom post, through and through. If that makes you yawn, don’t feel bad about closing this tab. ;-)

We’re nearing the end of our 5th year of homeschooling, and in all five years, one thing has not changed: There are bazillions of curriculum choices out there.

When we started, I took advice from a couple of homeschooling friends, and made some decisions on curriculum, and off we went! It doesn’t help that I was planning to send Gracie girl off to public school until about 3 weeks before the start of the semester. Not much time to prepare! Quick decisions had to be made!

The way I see it, the two main things we teach in kindergarten (which is where we started) are (1) phonemic awareness / phonics / reading and (2) math concepts (time, counting, recognizing numbers, money, simple addition and subtraction, etc). So the language component is very important!

I was a Language Arts major in college. I like language. I love grammar. I am a firm believer in the necessity of phonics in learning to read. (I’m sorry, but sight words and whole language learning do not help a child know how to decode a word he or she has never seen before!!!)

So, with that background, I started off with a program called Spell to Write and Read, which I will hereafter refer to as “SWR.” Once a child understands that oral language and written words and connected, the program starts by helping the child to learn the 70 basic phonogram sounds (i.e. the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, for instance, “A” says different sounds in the words cat, ace, and lava). This is done with flashcards and lots of repetition.

Then they learn to write their numbers and letters. For this part of the program, we opted to use the companion curricula called Cursive First. I still use this and HIGHLY recommend it. Cursive, because of its curves and connectedness (you don’t pick up your pencil until the end of the entire word), is easier for small brains to learn to write. And it’s a beautiful dying art!

Once these two steps are complete, students are ready to start their spelling lists!

I was floored when Grace wrote this list, only a couple of months into the program:
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That was with me sounding it out with her, but not telling her which letters to write. And isn’t her cursive beautiful for a child who has not quite reached her 5th birthday?!

So, all that was fine and dandy. From there, the program was based on learning new phonograms (th, ch, sh…) and writing spelling lists solely from dictation. They also had some spelling rules thrown in there, but I was never very good at remembering to teach them or review them.

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Honestly? It went really well the first 2-3 years, and then it became boring. I dreaded teaching that subject and would often skip it if the day was going long. It gave the kids a nice foundation in phonics, and yet it bored me to death. (And remember, I like this stuff.)

SO! Here’s the happy news about homeschooling! If a particular curricula isn’t working out for you…CHANGE IT!!!

And we did. I had seen a homeschooling blogger I respected mention the All About Spelling and All About Reading programs. So I researched them, read some other bloggers’ opinions about them, watched some vlogs about them, and decided to give All About Spelling a try!

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I started Ava (1st grade) in Level 1. And because it was a new program and I didn’t want the older two to miss anything they needed to know, I started both Grace (4th grade) and Caleb (2nd grade) in Level 2. {Grace has advanced to Level 4, which she will finish by the end of the year. Caleb will complete Level 3 by the end of the year. And Ava recently started Level 2.}

The beginning of the program is similar to SWR. Students must learn the phonogram sounds. Thankfully, Ava already knew all of hers from SWR in kindergarten. Once those are mastered, they move on.

There are many things I love about All About Spelling (AAS)…

  • No prep for me. The lessons are laid out in a very easy-to-understand way. The beginning of each lesson details what materials I need, and the rest of the lesson is scripted. Of course I don’t have to follow the script word-for-word, but it takes the guesswork out of it for mama!
  • Repetition. Key concepts are taught in the lesson, reinforced by flashcards, and practiced in spelling lists.

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  • Logical teaching of spelling rules. This is a huge one for me. I really struggled with teaching the spelling rules in SWR. But the AAS lessons really focus on a clear teaching (and review) of each spelling rule (such as “C says /s/ before e, i, and y.”). ¬†Once a rule is taught, it is put into context, and the child practices applying it. Key concept cards (the blue ones in the picture above) are reviewed regularly so students remember the rules. And they continue to apply the rules in subsequent lessons.
  • Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning…All three learning styles are satisfied in this program. Along with mama’s teaching (auditory) and flashcards (visual), a large part of each lesson is spent manipulating phonogram magnets (kinesthetic / visual). The kids love this part.
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  • A quick pace…SWR took us a lot longer each day than this program does. Or maybe this one is more fun, so it doesn’t seem like it takes as long? Each level has 25+ lessons, which can be done as quickly or as slowly as is right for each student. Our kids have progressed through their lessons fairly quickly, and it seems to boost their morale and help them to enjoy the subject even more.

The end of each lesson consists of lists of words, phrases, and/or sentences. I dictate these to the kiddo, and the kiddo writes the words/phrases/sentences in his or her notebook, figuring out how to spell each word by using their knowledge of phonogram sounds as well as applying each concept he or she has learned.

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In addition, “Writing Station” is added to the end of each lesson in Levels 3 and on, where students are given 5 words and must write a paragraph with all 5 words. Grace loves this part and has been very creative, even linking her short stories from one day to the next. Caleb complains that he doesn’t like this part, but I think his stories are also creative and often make me chuckle.

Honestly? I would not tell you NOT to use SWR. It’s a solid program that gave Grace and Caleb a good foundation in phonics and reading. However, I would more HIGHLY recommend the All About Spelling program for the reasons listed above. We have thoroughly enjoyed the switch to this new curriculum, and we’re thankful for the way it has changed our dread of spelling to delight!

Caleb and Ava’s Scripture Memory

We are blessed to have a teacher at our church named Miss Shirley, who is very committed to helping our kiddos memorize Scripture. I posted a video of Caleb reciting Psalm 23 last August. Ava joined his Sunday School class in the fall, and they recently recited Matthew 6:1-18 in front of the church.

All of this is by memory. They’re not reading a poster. They’re just reciting what they’ve already committed to memory.

I’m so thankful that my kiddos are hiding God’s Word in their hearts…and even more exciting is that they already apply what they’ve memorized to situations in everyday life! That makes a mama’s heart happy!

So, here’s the video of our FHBC 1st and 2nd graders reciting Matthew 6:1-18…

I hope it’s a blessing to you!

A Day in the Life of One Crazy Mama: Take 2

Waaaay back in early 2010, I did a “day in the life” post, to show my sweet readers what life was like with four kids ages 5 and under. Jaden was about 8 months old, and we were in our very first year of homeschooling.

I can’t believe how much has changed in four short years! With zero kiddos in diapers (can I get a “HALLELUJAH!”?), we’re not in the baby stage anymore. It’s bittersweet. And fun. ;-)

Moms with young kids, let me tell you right this moment: Don’t listen to the moms who tell you that “it just gets harder as they get older.” It’s a lie. If you put in the work to consistently discipline and to teach them when they’re young, all those crazy little things that drive you nuts right now WILL get easier. I promise. It takes work, but now my kiddos can all wipe their own bums (Thank you, Jesus!), they can make their beds, and some of them can even cook meals for us (WOO-HOO!)! So, don’t dread the future like the Debby Downer moms want you to. Your kiddos are a joy!

Now, since I’m not bottle-feeding a baby and coordinating naps anymore, our daily life looks different. But with three kiddos being homeschooled, it’s still crazy! So, without further ado, I give you…

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ONE CRAZY MAMA, TAKE TWO!

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7:59am – Grace wakes me with a diabetes question. We stayed up till 1am the night before, and I am SOOOO tired!

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8:03am – Drag myself out of bed

8:04am – Use the loo, put in my contacts, intend to get in the shower

8:08am – Stop by the scale on my way to the shower and decide to stop eating nighttime snacks…again

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8:18am – Done with shower, get dressed, do makeup

8:22am – In the middle of getting dressed, pick up pile of crumpled clothes on the closet shelf, then resume dressing

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8:29am – Tidy the bathroom counter, do my eye makeup

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8:34am – Done with eye makeup; Change clothes because the first outfit is just not working for me

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8:37am – Give up on finding something to wear and throw on a CU hoodie until inspiration hits

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8:38am – Comb out my wet hair, put on my socks

8:42am – Notice it’s really quiet and wonder if the kids are still sleeping…Oh, nope! I hear shouting in the basement. Love to wake up to fighting!

8:43am – Put our dirty clothes in the (recently neglected) laundry room, separate all the dirties on the floor, and throw in a load to wash

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8:45am – There’s a kid in the kitchen now. I can hear the cupboards opening and closing. Wonder what’s going on down there.

8:51am – Venture downstairs, find Caleb working on a rainbow loom bracelet at the table

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8:55am – Add something to my to-do list, work in the kitchen for a few

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9:05am – Throw some dirty kitchen towels on the stairs to go up to the laundry room

9:07am – Little hands help me grind some coffee beans, turn on the Keurig

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9:09am – Help Jaden blow his nose, then wash my hands

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9:10am – Start making crepes for breakfast

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9:14am – Take a quick break to make myself some coffee

9:16am – Blow my own nose, and wash my hands again…and hope that I haven’t caught Jaden’s cold

9:23am – Wash a few dishes while the first crepe cooks on the stove (The first one always takes the longest.)

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9:25am – Blow my nose (again) and wash my hands (AGAIN)

9:30am – Kids are sitting at the table, get their crepes as they come off the stove…Grace tests her blood sugar and I bolus her (i.e. give her insulin to cover her meal)

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9:39am – I eat a crepe while still cooking for the others.

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9:49am – All of us work on our Scripture memory while I continue to cook. (Crepes are a hands-on breakfast, that’s for sure!)

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9:52am – Run to my computer (Sheila) to print a recipe for homemade wheat bread.

10:12am – Crepes are done, wash breakfast dishes, blow nose again

10:19am – Start history review time in the living room. We’re 3/4 of the way done with our history curricula, so we’re doing a review. Right answers earn an M&M.

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11:16am – Finish history review and start a short science lesson about the circulatory system (continued from previous day), including a small experiment to see the iron that is in iron-enriched cereal

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11:37am – We’re finished with our group learning, so I send Grace off to do her math on my laptop, while Jaden sits at the table to do watercolors, and Caleb and Ava go upstairs to the school room

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11:41am – Teach Ava’s math lesson about subtracting numbers from 10 (an easy one for her) and telling time to 5-minute intervals on an analog clock

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11:52am – Finish the lesson, and Ava starts her math worksheets

11:55am – Start Caleb’s spelling lesson while Ava works on her worksheet (interrupting as needed for help) and Jaden plays in the school room

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12:10pm – Ava finishes her math worksheet, so she occupies herself while I finish Caleb’s spelling lesson

12:36pm – Caleb and I move ourselves downstairs so I can work on lunch while he works on his spelling words

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12:56pm – Everyone’s at the table, and Grace tests her blood sugar again, and I bolus her for her meal again

1:15pm – Send Jaden upstairs to find some clean clothes, give Caleb his last 2 spelling words, check the words, and send the boys to take a shower

1:18pm – Clean up from lunch, put away clean dishes again

1:24pm – Jaden is screaming and crying upstairs. Caleb says J stubbed his toe and tries to comfort him. Why aren’t they in the shower already?

1:30pm – Dishes are done! Luke has been working from home and is leaving for an in-person meeting, so I kiss him goodbye.

1:31pm – I finally remember that load of laundry I put in a few hours ago. Switch it to the dryer and start another in the washer.

1:35pm – Mama needs a potty break.

1:39pm – Sneak a treat from my secret stash, and change Grace’s site because she’s almost out of insulin.

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1:49pm – Move to the school room for Grace’s spelling lesson while the boys are getting dressed and Ava showers

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1:51pm – Jaden is screaming again. I ignore him. It stops.

2:02, 2:04 – Yelled to Caleb from the school room and got no response

2:06pm – Retrieve Caleb from the living room to help him with his English lesson

2:09pm – Help Ava part her clean, wet hair

2:11pm – Start Ava’s spelling lesson while Grace showers

2:32pm – All done with teaching school for the day! Woot!!! Pick up the school room a little bit.

2:34pm – Fold the clean clothes from the dryer, put in piles on top of the washer/dryer for everyone to put away

2:44pm – Take clean clothes to the kids’ rooms, and then braid Grace’s clean, wet hair

2:47pm – Run down to the office to put my password into Sheila (my computer) so that Caleb can work on his math lesson – give that boy a little snuggle while we’re sitting there

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2:51pm – Go back upstairs to switch laundry loads and re-load the washing machine

2:54pm – Wipe down the kids nasty bathroom counter / floor with a Clorox wipe

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3:02pm – Put a huge stack of clean towels away in the kids’ bathroom

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3:06pm – Run to help Caleb with math, get distracted by organizing my purse and checking grocery money and lists (I’m totally loving my new cloth cash envelopes!)

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3:21pm – Take a Facebook break!

3:25pm – Back in the kitchen again, while the kids eat a snack and watch a video (Popeye) in the basement….Work on dishes and cooking…Make 3lb of my Best Ever Sloppy Joe recipe, 1 meatloaf for dinner, parmesan oven-fried redskin potatoes, and 6lb of browned ground beef.

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5:00pm – Dinner’s in the oven!

5:06pm – Put ingredients for Homemade Wheat Bread in the bread machine.

5:35pm – Kids come upstairs (done with snack/video), and Ava washes off the table while I work on dishes (so many dishes…)

5:50pm – Luke’s home! Smooch!

5:54pm – Three of our four kids go outside to play for a few minutes. I sit down at Sheila to decompress for a minute.

5:56pm – The girls come to the door and need my help, so I get up from the computer

6:00pm – Dinner’s done! Turn off the oven! Put veggies in the microwave.

6:10pm – Kids are back inside. Sit down for dinner.

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6:42pm – Luke leads our family devotions.

6:55pm – Clean up from dinner.

7:00pm – Go on a “date” with Jaden to Sam’s Club and Target.

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8:15pm – Home again! Put cold groceries away and do some dishes AGAIN!

8:32pm – We all pray together for the kids’ bedtime. Tuck them into the beds and kiss them.

8:45pm – More laundry!

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9:03pm – Venture back downstairs to finish cleaning.

9:14pm – Sit down to watch a movie (Ocean’s Thirteen) with my love

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11:11pm – Done with the movie, spend some time on social media

11:43pm – Do my final laundry work for the day

11:53pm – Read Grace’s “Mommy & Me” note that she left on my pillow, and respond. Put the book on her bed while she sleeps. Get myself ready for bed while Luke tests a sleeping Grace’s blood sugar.

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12:14am – IN BED! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….

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Well, there you have it, folks! If you made it this far, I’m seriously impressed! Just a side note: I think I was overly productive because I was writing down everything I was doing. I don’t do a million loads of laundry/dishes and prepare 10lbs of ground beef every day. :-)

Okay, your turn! What does a day in your life look like? Tell me in the comments, or share a link to your blog there!

Book Review: Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

Honestly? I don’t much like reviewing fiction, because as much as I enjoy reading it, there isn’t a whole lot of innovative-ness out there when it comes to Christian plot lines.

However.

The short synopsis of this book caught my eye, so here we are.

Wildwood Creek

The book flashes between two time periods: the late 1800′s and present day. In the earlier time, our main character is a young girl named Bonnie Rose whose parents and brother were killed by Native Americans when they moved West. She and her young sister were taken captive by the Comanche, held there as slaves, and abused. When Bonnie Rose gives birth to a little girl, the girl is taken from her, and she never sees her again.

Bonnie Rose and Maggie May escape and make a way for themselves, until Bonnie signs a contract with a shady Mr. Delevan to be a school teacher at a place called Wildwood. Strange things happen at Wildwood, increasingly alarming, until Bonnie and Maggie May are forced (once again) to make an escape. The entire population of that town seems to have disappeared.

Enter our present day heroine, Allie, who is following in the footsteps of her late father by pursuing a career in film (despite the protests of her mother). She gets a summer job as an assistant at the production about an old community that was shrouded in mystery…You guessed it – Wildwood.

As Allie conducts research for the film, she delves deeper into the mystery that is Wildwood…er, her nerdy next-door neighbor actually does most of the research.

But as the summer rolls on, creepy things start happening on set…And the mystery just has to be solved, doesn’t it?!

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It was a captivating book, very intriguing. The twists and turns of the plot were interesting, and not too scary and/or unbelievable. I read this book from cover-to-cover, and was satisfied with the ending.

I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Christian historical fiction.

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers, but was not monetarily compensated or required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Master Bedroom Makeover: The Reveal

Catch up on what you missed here and here.

Now the fun part!!!

Just for a refresher, this is what the bedroom looked like when we bought the house:
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And this is what she looks like now…

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This amazing knit blanket was made by my very talented little sister-in-law, Elyse. She’s gearing up to open her own Etsy shop, so I’ll let you know when she’s in business!

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The teal duvet cover/shams are from IKEA. Who doesn’t love IKEA? :-)

I made these throw pillow covers with direction from this pin.

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With the same white fabric (ahem, bedsheets), I also made two sets of ruffle curtains. A large set for the bedroom, and a small set for the bathroom.

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For the walls, I made canvases with our wedding vows and a picture taken by the incredible David and Lindsay of DaveTree Photography to hang above our bed. I also painted a canvas with our wedding date.

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I’m so happy with the peaceful feel of our bedroom now, and I’m looking forward to the time we can spruce up the rest of the house!

So, what do you think? Any suggestions to make it even better?

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