A few months ago I found a company online called All About Learning Press. I have an advanced reader and, after trying some of the basic Houghton Mifflin Language Arts Workbooks for first graders, I decided I needed something a little more engaging and challenging. While he is a great reader, he needs a little help with his spelling.
All About Learning Press offers programs for reading and spelling so I thought I would give the All About Spelling program a try first. It has gotten great reviews from users and I like that it has manipulatives for hands-on learning. My son retains an amazing proportion of the things he reads, but when it comes to teaching new things at the table he is much more focused when he has something to touch.
The website suggests starting all learners off with Level 1, but after reviewing the sample content I knew it just wouldn’t be challenging enough for him. I ordered Level 2 as our starter set. We are missing the first 32 phonogram cards that are included in the Level 1 kit, but when we come to the reviews that discuss these first phonograms I simply practice the sounds with him without the cards.
We’ve been using All About Spelling for a week now with good response from my first grader. He doesn’t argue or whine when I tell him it’s time for spelling and he interacts with me positively through the whole lesson. We give this one a thumbs up. I like that the lessons are scripted so it’s easy for me to sit down and teach without having to do a lot of research beforehand. I can improvise now and then, but I really appreciate being able to use proven teaching methods without having to draft my own script and lesson plan every week. My 3-year old loves it too. I don’t do the lessons with her, but she plays with the magnetic tiles when we are done with our lessons and she enjoys trying to spell her own words.
Level 2 materials include the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Packet (with all the cards you’ll be using for your lessons). The Level 2 Basic Spelling Interactive Kit comes with letter tiles, magnets for the letter tiles, the phonogram sounds app, and dividers for the included cards. The Deluxe Package includes all items in the basic kit plus the index card box, a tote bag, and stickers. I do recommend the box for holding the cards – I ordered the basic kit, which doesn’t include the box for the cards , and I realized quickly how super helpful the box would be to keep all the cards in one place and to make it easier to navigate through them. They do sell the box separately, so I may order it for myself if I get tired of fumbling through my rubber-banded card stack. Most of our letter tiles are currently set up on our easel. The magnetic dry erase side allows us to set up the tiles for the lessons and we can easily bring it close to us during class time. The first time or two setting up the tiles can take a few extra minutes so I make sure our board is set up the night before – then I turn it facing the wall so my little one isn’t tempted to get into it before I teach the lesson.
The All About Spelling kits are affordable, too. I purchased the Level 2 kit for $39.95 and the Basic Interactive Kit for $22.85. We are looking forward to purchasing one of the All About Reading programs next!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. I love the product so when I saw they had an affiliate program, I signed up! I will never recommend products that I don’t honestly believe are worth your time or money.
My kids love reading. It’s one of those things that they just do. While my three year old can’t read on her own yet, I often hear her in her room making up her own stories to go along with the pictures she sees, or summarizing in her own words what I’ve read to her. My son started reading just before he turned 4 and in kindergarten he was reading at the third grade level. Today, you’ll find books everywhere in my house. I would like them put back on the bookshelf, but that only happens if I do it myself. Instead the books are on the couch, the floor, my bedside table, even on the bathroom counter. Sometimes I find myself frustrated with the mess and then I realize how blessed I am that my children love books.
In kindergarten, my son had a reading buddy from the 4th grade class and it was his favorite activity. So now I’m adding story time to our homeschool schedule but the difference is that my son gets to be the older boy and read stories to my daughter and her preschool-aged friends. I’m planning a story time for next week and he’ll be reading Snowbear’s Winter Day and Snowmen All Year.
I also started a chapter book exchange with our friends and old classmates. We meet and each child puts a chapter book in the pot, then everyone gets to pick something they haven’t read before. Sure we could go to the library, but it’s a fun way to get kids to talk about their reading together and also gives us an opportunity to play with our friends.
I look forward to hearing them talk about their reading, “What’s this about?”, “Is this funny or scary?” Then when we get together again they can tell each other what they thought about the book. Group reading activities are fun – good readers get to read, not-so-good readers get encouragement and help from others, and everyone has a good time.
Also, I like to try to incorporate an activity into the story time – sometimes it will happen and sometimes it won’t. But Snowmen All Year has a built-in activity. Each illustrated page has hidden images (it tells you what to look for on the dedication page). My son and I were looking for them last night and we spent at least 30 minutes together talking, laughing, and searching.
Do you do any group reading activities or book-related activities with friends? Tell us about your adventures or share your favorite winter story below!
As a new homeschooler I’ll tell you that there is no shortage of days that seem to blow up in my face. Maybe it’s a slight change to the routine, maybe we just woke up on the wrong side of bed. Whatever the reason, some days are not great. And on those not great days, I ask myself, “What am I doing?” But I find peace in the words of seasoned homeschoolers who say the first year is the hardest. You find your rhythm. You find your routine. You find what works and what doesn’t. Families who have four, five, even ten years of homeschool under their belts are going to have bad days.
On those days I ask my son if this is what he wants, and he has consistently answers “yes”. Even on the bad days. When I think I’m doing something wrong, I think about our kindergarten class in public school. There was a behavior chart, and if you weren’t having a great day, you had to move your clip down. If you were having a fantastic day, sometimes you got to move your clip up. I don’t have any clips. But I know that even in a public school classroom, some days will be good and others won’t go so well. And I was okay with that then, so I should be understanding of it now.
Monday for us was a nightmare. Every assignment was a fight and transitions were horrible. Today, I took a different approach and started the day off with a fun activity. Leftover marshmallows from Thanksgiving’s candied yams allowed us to build with toothpicks and marshmallows. Then, we used them to make snowmen and igloos. The rest of the day we eased into new subjects with care and each was a success.
In addition to regular math worksheets we used our hundred chart to talk about counting by tens and we used tangrams to build puzzles. We used the internet to research the Mojave Desert for our study of environments and printed out the Junior Ranger Handbook to get to know the plants and animals that inhabit the area. We worked in our social studies handbook and completed step two of our new program All About Spelling. When school was over, the kids cleaned the living room and then spent well over an hour playing with Play-doh. I made homemade spaghetti for lunch and homemade clam chowder for dinner. Yesterday we ate take-out chinese. Every day is different. If you are new to homeschool like us, embrace the amazing moments. There will be more of them, I just know it.
What are your struggles with homeschool? I’d love to start a conversation about challenges and how we adapt to the ever-changing children that we teach and love.
We love science! In my Studying Habitats post I talked about the Science Fusion program we are using. And we love it, but we like to mix things up so we have some other books we like to throw into the mix now and then. Last year at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival we stopped into a booth with an Usborne book consultant and we loved the products. In fact, now that I’m homeschooling I’m thinking about becoming a consultant myself because of the awesome variety of non-fiction books, as well as fiction and activity books. I think it might be a great way to give us access to new material on a more regular basis.
Anyway, even though they’ve been read many times, we still use See Inside Science and Look Inside Your Body from Usborne as references. I’m teaching first grade science and we go back to the human body a lot, and I have a 3 year-old who likes to get in on the discussion, so Look Inside Your Body is a great resource to have. It’s full of facts and each page has flaps you can lift to find an answer or get a deeper explanation. For example, the “Eating Food” section shows your intestines and as you lift the flaps you find out how the process works and finishes off with a fun fact about the length of your intestines.
See Inside Science is like a general introduction to several scientific concepts: the solar system, molecules, energy, even the periodic table. Again, this book is full of flaps and super fun for little ones to read.
In addition to these and other regular books, we also have a backup science program. When I originally ordered Science Fusion, Houghton Mifflin mistakenly sent me the wrong science book. They sent us a different first grade science program but the standards seem to be more aligned with the younger set. When I called to see if I could get the correct order they immediately had the proper book sent out and they told me to keep the other one as well. Huge high five to the customer service on that one. I will definitely order from Houghton Mifflin again. The content is great and I love that the teacher material is all available on the CD-ROM that comes with the text, but it’s too basic for my advanced reader. We like to use it for the science experiments and I sometimes print out additional material from the teacher CD.
Finally, if you have a science lover like mine, Lakeshore has some fun science kits that are great for independent exploration. I got the magnification set and the magnet set and my kids love them. We use the contents often, and I like that it has a lot of the things we need to conduct the science experiments from our texts. You can read about these sets here at my previous blog.
What science programs or activities do you use with your kids? I’d love to learn more about what other people are using. Please share in a comment below!
P.S. No Affiliate links here – just me sharing with you!
disclaimer: Usborne Publishing Ltd. (UK) has no connection with these pages and does not sponsor or support their content.
I realized tonight that I have a shortage of Thanksgiving-themed books. We picked up Arthur’s Thanksgiving at the library and it’s cute, but we’ve read it now about 10 times. We also read Across the Wide Dark Sea, a story based on the true events during the Mayflower voyage from England to North America. I was pleasantly surprised though, when I pulled out the Berenstain Bears and the Prize Pumpkin and found that it was in part about Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to the Scholastic warehouse sale coming up next month so that I can stock up on educational and seasonal books for our homeschool adventures.
Are you looking for new Thanksgiving stories to add to your collection? I found a few lists that have great additions and I hope to pick up a couple myself. Check them out here:
Reading Rockets: http://www.readingrockets.org/articles/books/c359
Oh, and if you are interested in the Scholastic warehouse sale you can visit the website here and find out more information about events in your area.
p.s. No affiliate links here. Just me sharing with you.
We’re studying environments and habitats in first grade science right now. We chose to use Science Fusion by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this year. It’s a good program with a text they can write in, and it encourages using the pages to take notes and draw pictures to reinforce what they are learning. It also comes with online access to a digital platform that offers a ton of additional resources like leveled readers and virtual labs and lessons. Earlier in the year he was able to virtually test how a lizard would respond to terrariums with varying elements: sun vs. shade, grass vs. sand, etc. He really enjoys the digital aspect and the write-in text. Even though it’s packed full of resources, I still find myself looking for supplemental information. He’s a bit advanced so sometimes we need more than just the basics.
I’m a writer and I sometimes have articles published in AppleSeeds magazine. I realized that I had just gotten my contributors copy of a past issue that was all about deserts. It was fun to be able to incorporate some of my own work into his learning. Not to mention the other great articles in the magazine that discuss different aspects of desert life.
If you’ve never seen it, AppleSeeds magazine is a children’s nonfiction magazine focusing on social studies. They have a “You Are There!” emphasis on the writing to allow the kids to see things from their perspective. The magazine is targeted to kids aged 6-9 but my early reader started reading it at 5 and it will likely hold the attention of your 10 or 11 year old too.
Our next step will be to go out and explore to find different environments and habitats for people and animals. We like our local nature centers for this type of activity, but another good activity would be to visit an exotic pet store so they can see how different animals require different things in their habitats for them to survive. Reptiles need lots of light and sand and water to drink, fish need to be in water, birds need branches to perch on and seed and water, etc. We’ll bring along our notebooks and draw pictures of the different habitats we find and write about them when we get home.
Have you had any fun habitat exploration adventures or know of a good book on the topic to include in the lesson? Share it with us in a comment below.