Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is a company that I have admired ever since we started looking into homeschooling curriculum, which is why I was so happy for the opportunity to review their products! We received the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher Manual) and the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book). This grammar curriculum is intended for children in grades 3-5, so I will be reviewing this product as a homeschooling parent of a future 3rd grader.

Institute for Excellence in Writing offers products for children ages K through 12. There are
four levels: Primary (Grades K-2), Level A (Grades 3-5), Level B (Grades 6-8), and Level C (Grades 9-12). The Fix It! Grammar book The Nose Tree falls into the Level A category. Their products also do not stop at learning to write. There are also products for reading, spelling, literature, poetry, and even music! I like that their writing lessons blend subjects, like science, history and geography.

I love creating and using hands-on activities and real life learning experiences to educate my children. Often when they are playing, they don't even realize that they are learning. Learning is more natural this way, and no one is stressed out. I keep track of what page we were on while reading about whales, but not which worksheet we left off on. We won't be bothering ourselves with lectures or copy work. I learn best by applying what I learn, and my children are the same way. They have different learning styles, but they have this in common. We do occasionally use worksheets for tracing activities, but we try to stick to original activities for the most part.

This product is easy to use and really works! This is not copy work. This is applying your knowledge in a logical way. There's no worksheets, no following drills, no lecturing. Just 15 minutes or less a day, one lesson per day, a few days a week. Your child will thank you for this grammar curriculum, because not only is it easy to use, but it will encourage them to find their own mistakes. I can't say it's fun, because some kids just don't enjoy writing, but it does look like a product that most children will enjoy using. They will learn the rules of grammar over time and through repetitive use. Not to say that each lesson is the same, because that is not the case.

I loved reading through the Teacher's Manual! That probably sounds weird, but it was so thorough and included so much information. Each lesson goes into great detail, including word definitions and teaching suggestions. It also tells you when there is advanced grammar and whether it is above the teaching level for this book. I know I'll need to go through this book again before I begin teaching it, but in the meantime I loved brushing up on my grammar knowledge.

The Student Book covers 33 weeks of lessons. Each day you student will work on a line from the paragraph. They will make any corrections needed and learn some grammar rules. At the end of the week they will write down their corrected paragraph in a separate book specifically for the completed story. They will work on learning the grammar rules, look up vocabulary words that will be covered in the lesson, and correct the passage that is the focus of the week. Beginner students should definitely start at the daily lessons, but advanced students may want to work on the whole passage at once. The student book also includes a set of grammar rule cards to help during the weekly lessons, as well as a glossary to look up rules and where to find them in the book.

We are looking forward to using The Nose Tree Grammar Book because I know that 3rd grade is right around the corner, and I want to be prepared! Not to mention, I can apply what I learn from this product to our future writing activities. My kids aren't at the point of writing on their own yet, since they are still working on writing letters and words. And honestly, they are more focused on reading, which is perfectly fine. But I know my daughter will be writing sooner or later, because she loves to tell stories and we enjoy writing them down. She will love that this product encourages her to write a story and apply what she knows to making corrections.

Fix It! Grammar Review
There are six books in the Fix It! Grammar series. The Nose Tree (3-5, 6-8, 9-12), Robin Hood (3-5, 6-8, 9-12), Frog Prince, or Just Deserts (6-8, 9-12), Little Mermaid (6-8, 9-12), Chanticleer (9-12), and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (9-12). Be sure to take the Placement Test to see which book your child is ready for. Many of these books can be used by multiple grade levels, so taking the test will show you the best place to start. If you begin with The Nose Tree and find that it works for you, you can move up through the series as the years pass, though there may be a few year gaps. Perhaps in that time they will release more grammar books, or simply supplement with other IEW writing lesson books!
Fix It! Grammar Review
Teacher's Manual: $19.00
Student Workbook: $15.00

Throughout the year, your child will write the story The Nose Tree. There are 33 weeks worth of lessons, with four lessons per week. If you school Monday-Friday, I'd use Friday to review the lessons through the week or work on original writing pieces that include the grammar rules they learned that week. Some homeschoolers have vocabulary tests, so these could also be done on Friday, since each week has a set of vocabulary words. At the end of the year, when the story is complete, sit down and read it together. Kids will be amazed by all their hard work, and may even be inspired to begin writing stories of their own!

We keep a primary journal for writing activities (the type where you can draw a picture and write below the picture) and plan to use one when we begin using The Nose Tree grammar book. We will use it only for copying down the corrected pages. This way Bean can have a book that will allow her to draw her own pictures to go with the story. And at the end of the year we will be able to read the finished story together. 

I specifically want to use IEW's writing lesson books on Ancient History, US History and Fables, Myths and Fairy Tales when we reach the 3rd-5th Grade level, along with some of their other products, such as the Geography-Based writing lesson materials. And ideally, I would like to pick up some of their K-2 reading and writing curriculums for next year!

Be sure to check out IEW's social media pages!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/excellenceinwriting
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iew
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/iewriting
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Iewriting/posts
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/iewtv
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/iewtv

If you'd like to read more reviews on the Fix It! Grammar books, click on the link below!

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Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Beyond Zombie Linky Party #2 - Super Hero Early Readers

My children love superheroes and we include them often in our learning activities. We also typically read for several hours a day, and that often involves a superhero or two and some dolls or action figures. We use these moments to learn about the characters, their stories and what makes them a superhero. Bean understands that superheroes are good guys who fight to protect innocents and the Earth from bad guys (and sometimes environmental or galactic disasters).

Bean is getting to the point where she wants to read on her own, so we have picked up a handful of early readers to help her. Young children are usually discouraged when they look at a page that has what seems like a million words on it. Early readers typically have three levels. The first level has simple text and word repetition for Pre-K to 1st Grade readers. The second level has simple story lines, compound sentences and contractions for Kindergarten to 2nd Grade readers. The third level has paragraphs, suspenseful story lines and character development for 1st Grade to 3rd Grade readers. We tend to stick to the Level 1 books, but we will read the Level 2 and 3 books at story time.

Compare Level 1 to Level 3. Bean loves to challenge herself, which is why she will often choose the higher level books to read. And they are "more interesting." 

Our top three superhero Early Reader books: The Avengers, Spider-Man and The Kree-Skrull War. 

The Avengers introduces the characters, talks about their weapons (ex. Cap's shield, Thor's hammer) or superpowers and the team that they are on. We've used this book to work on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and even simple math (comparing size for Ant-Man and Wasp and counting the members of the team). This is the perfect introductory book for a future comic reader. 

Spider-Man introduces the character as Peter Parker and his secret identity as Spider-Man. This short story also talks about the social elements of Peter/Spider-Man's life. Bean was so surprised when she found out Spider-Man had a personal life and wasn't just Spider-Man 24/7. That led us to talk about the other characters and how most of them have a real name and a life outside of being a superhero. Except Thor. He's Thor whether he's on Earth or in Asgard. 

Finally, the Avengers Kree-Skrull War book gives the readers a view into the Marvel Universe. This book is definitely above Bean's reading level, however she does read the words she knows, and we typically read word for word. The Level 3 books go into more detail about the adventures the character's go on and some of the major plots from the Avengers story line. Bean likes this story in particular because it has aliens in it. (And yes, she knows of, and adores, Groot!)

Whenever a book introduces a new character, we consult our Meet The Marvel Super Heroes book to read up about them. This book provides a brief summary of the character, including their real name, super hero name, and some information about their life and super powers. (Hopefully they release a villain book, too. It'd be like a monster manual for the super hero world.)

Ideas to help to support literacy skills:

Use toys or costumes to bring the stories to life! Pretend to be super heroes who save the day by dressing up in your favorite super heroes costume or use your action figures to set the scene and take down the bad guy! 
Encourage your child to tell stories about their adventures.
Write stories down in an adventure journal! 
And if they can't write, but they want to work on their storytelling skills, they can use word cards (make your own by using index cards) to "write" their own sentences. 

These super cute Itty Bittys can be found at The Paper Store! Grammy picked them up a few days ago and since then they have become constant companions. Bean calls them her "pocket pals" - like super hero Pokemon! They love joining us for reading time! We plan to collect Iron Man and Hulk too, but it's so sad that they don't have Thor!

Bean is reading to Spider-Man, telling him that his real name is Peter Parker and he wears a costume.

Here's a few of our favorite superhero early readers:
The Mighty Avengers: These are the Avengers
The Amazing Spider-Man: This is Spider-Man
The Invincible Iron Man: This is Iron Man
World of Reading Marvel Boxed Set: Level 1
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Falcon Takes Flight
The Guardians of the Galaxy Level 1 Reader: These are the Guardians
The Avengers: Assemble! Level 2
World of Reading: The Story of the X-Men
The Mighty Avengers: The Story of the Avengers

In addition to the Early Reader books, we also have a handful of comics that we read to them. We stock up on kid-friendly comics on Free Comic Book Day (first Saturday in May). Be sure to check out the OBZ Linky Party next week to see our post on comics and reading to kids!

This week I am featuring Planet Smarty Pants' Encouraging Our Kids to Tinker post from last weeks' Linky Party! My kids absolutely love tinkering and have so much fun exploring with how tools work and practice taking a-part and building things. 

It's not required to follow your hosts, though we appreciate your Likes and Follows!

Suzy Homeschooler
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Munchkin and Bean
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Here's where YOU come in!

Link up your geeky or nerdy posts below! Comics, superheroes, LEGO, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, Magic the Gathering, math, science, STEM, video games, table top games, mythology, dragons, books, outer space, Star Wars, Star Trek, robotics, and any other geeky or nerdy activity you want to share!

Don't have a blog, but you want to share an activity idea or photo? Add it to the comments or email me at MunchkinandBean(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will do my best to include it as a Reader Idea in my next On Beyond Zombie Linky Party post!

Follow Caitlyn Stock (Suzy Homeschooler)'s board On Beyond Zombie on Pinterest.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Felt Number Bean Bags

I'm so excited to show you our newest felt bean bag set: Numbers! I made a double set of 0-9, because I figured since we are still working on simple addition and subtraction, we won't be needing many more numbers than that. However, I will likely make another set or two in the future. 

I used yellow felt for the numbers, blue for the even numbers and red for the odd numbers. I just didn't use the typical shades of primary colors. I think they look better this way! I also used DMC #742 (light tangerine) thread for the stitching, because the color almost perfectly matches the yellow felt. You'll need two squares for every number, so 20 for a set of 10 numbers (0-9). You should be able to get 12 2.5" squares from a single sheet of felt. I just doubled the batch. And a single sheet of felt will be needed for the numbers. All told, this project cost me about $2 (for the double batch), not including tax. 

I used the same 2.5 by 2.5 inch template that I used for the lowercase letter bean bags. I didn't use any of the same colors for the bean bags, so they are easy to sort. I'm thinking of making a punctuation set next, and throw in some math symbols too! 

I found some numbers that I liked online and printed them off. I made sure they fit perfectly in a 2.5 by 2.5 inch square before continuing. 

It wasn't until after I had them all cut out that I realized I was missing a zero. It was hard trying to find a perfect match for this set, so I ended up morphing two zeroes together. It worked out, but the zero isn't perfectly shaped, which bothers my ocd... And I'll probably be the only person who notices...

I just used a basic stitch for the numbers and then tied them off and snipped the thread. 

Once all the numbers were sewn on I used a blanket stitch around the edge. You want to make sure they are spaced fairly close together so the stuffing beads don't fall out. Leave one side open so you can fill it with stuffing beads and then tie it closed. 

We look forward to using these bean bags for counting and math activities! 

Update: Our Felt Number Bean Bags are now available in our Etsy store! Customize your order by choosing your own colors!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Yankee Doodle Homecoming and Minuteman Camps

Last weekend we attended a local event called the Yankee Doodle Homecoming. (I'm sure you have heard of the Yankee Doodle song.) Well it's an annual event with a parade, Minuteman camps, craft stalls and food stands. It's a lot of fun for kids and adults and we usually find really neat stuff. I won't bore you with the hundreds of pictures I took, so I'll share a few highlights from the parade and Minuteman camps.

They were both excited about the fire trucks! Weeewooo weeewooo!

And the old-timey fire trucks.

We saw a couple superheroes in the parade, including Batman, Superman, and Iron Man. And yeah, that's an old batmobile car.

Munchkin loved the classic cars.

The Billerica Colonial Minute Men.

The kids were thrilled when they shot their rifles.

After the parade they had their faces painted. Of course Bean requested Captain America. Munchkin had actually wanted Iron Man, but the artist didn't know how to do an Iron Man mask, so he had to settle for Batman.

He liked it though. :)

Then we went down to the field and visited the Minuteman Camps. Bean first saw these when she was about 2 years old and absolutely loved them. I was so glad we were able to come again this year so she could see them. The kids love exploring the tents and talking to the colonial era people. We're still exploring the Colonial Era for our unit study, so this was a perfect time for them to visit and see the camps.

The camps were open, so anyone could check them out. You could ask them questions about the colonial era and they were happy to talk about their jobs and the lives of their family. The women were sewing and embroidering, some explained how to make candles and others talked about the clothes they wore and how they couldn't let anything stain them, because it was probably the only set of clothes they owned.

This man talked about how bullets were made using a small brazier.

This is the type of wooden bucket they used to make lye for soap. Though soap was used for clothes and not for bathing.

Taking a peek into one of the tents. And here is the woman talking about her clothes.

Examples of furniture.

A table for making straw brooms. This is grown locally specifically for the Colonial Minute Men.

They had an open fire pit and showed the kids how to chop wood.

Here's the doctor and all his fancy tools.

The tents are pretty awesome and Bean really wants one.

I spot something that doesn't belong here...

Some more examples of the cooking tools and furniture they used. This was a candle-making kit.

And it was lunch time, so some of the people were settling down to eat. 

And here are the goodies we came home with! Three beanie babies in sleeping bags and two Usborne products, Our World book and Big Machines to Spot cards. We also got two bowling ball pieces of art that are really neat and an origami flower, but I totally forgot to take a picture of them.

And to top it off, we ran into some cousins and the kids got to play, so that was fun. It was a really fun day full of learning. 
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