Learning to Read

This year my 4-year-old is very excited about preschool. I have made an extra effort to ensure that she has her own special work to do for preschool. Sometimes it’s as simple as pattern block puzzles or color by numbers. Other times, she gets special projects like mixed-media art and using buttons to spell her name.

One of her favorite activities though, is learning to read. When my son was in kinder his teacher gave him a sight word ring and we use that to practice some of our words. Then she uses the tiles from All About Spelling to copy the words onto the board. But what she enjoys most is Teach Your Monster to Read.

Start to Read Pack

Teach Your Monster to Read is an online game that pairs up with the Start To Read pack from Usborne Books & More. The game is free and anyone can register for an account to play, but it works seamlessly with the Start To Read pack. The pack comes with 8 beginning readers, a parent guide, and an alphabet poster to track our letter-learning progress. The readers are dual readers, meaning that the page on the left is meant to be read by the parent and the page on the right is read by the child. The child pages focus on letter sounds and identifying letter combinations that were taught through activities in the parent guide and through practice on Teach Your Monster to Read.

teach your monster to read

My daughter could already identify most of the letters when we started the program, except for the tricky ones that look different in certain fonts, but this has been our first real practice in learning the phonemic sounds. This is new territory for me as my son learned to read without any real instruction. He told me he could read one day and that was that. Now at age 7, he reads well beyond his age. I don’t have an educators background so some teaching experiences seem scary, but the Start to Read pack has been a great guide. I don’t have to guess what to teach, it is laid out for me. I also purchased the Phonics Workbooks and these are fun ways to reinforce learning the letter sounds while using hands-on interactive activities.

phonics workbook 3     phonics workbook 4

I’ve heard of several other programs that I am interested in trying for reading, but for the time being, I am very happy with how this program is working for us. And when my daughter asks me if we can practice reading, it makes my heart smile.

What is your favorite reading program to use with your kids?




13 Colonies Unit Study

13 Colonies Unit Study Cover

I write a few posts every month for the website DandelionMoms.com and I recently added an educational post about developing a unit study for the 13 colonies. I thought it might be of interest to some of my readers so I’ll share it here too. Follow the link to the original article.

You’ll find a printable checklist to help you organize your study and gather materials. You’ll also find the list of books that we used as well as some of the other curriculum that we follow. I also included a link to my notebooking pages that I used with this study which you can also find on my blog here.

Happy Studying!

Language Arts and Reading Review

language arts and reading review

We are trying a few new things for language arts here for the new year. We didn’t get a lot out of our language arts workbooks, so we are shaking it up a little. We are keeping what works, just adding a few new items to the menu. We started All About Spelling a few weeks before winter break and we really like the program. My son is able to learn and remember the “rules” without stress, and the lessons have multiple parts that only require a few minutes each, so it’s easy to transition from one part of the lesson to the next before he gets bored or loses focus. Click here for more information about the program and to read the original post.

This week I am going to start a new reading review activity. We’ve done this a few different ways already, but my son gets frustrated with writing for long periods of time. I’m trying to break up the writing with drawing, which he enjoys. Also, by using pictures instead of words I’ll see if he is able to summarize the overall concept with imagery and has a thorough understanding of what he’s reading.

I don’t have any fancy graphic design programs so I just use word or power point to create my documents, but I’ll share my efforts with you in case you’d like to use it at home too.

Here you go: Reading Review Activity Page

In addition to a few homemade activities, I purchased two new sets from Lakeshore. These fun boxes are meant to be used as centers in the classroom and there is enough material for several students to work at the same time. However, with only one current student and a preschooler, that leaves us open to having multiple centers throughout the day or using two or three different activities in a row.

language center

The Language Center comes with 4 different language skills flip books, 4 dry erase markers, and 12 write and wipe activity cards. With this box we’ll be focusing on learning parts of speech, dictionary usage, writing skills, building sentences, and so on.

informational text

The Reading Informational Text Center comes with 12 write and wipe activity cards, 8 different brochures, and 4 dry erase markers. The brochures touch on topics like the weather, food around the world, trees, and dolphins. With this box we’ll focus on learning how to identify the main idea and key details, as well as cause and effect, comparison, and so on.

language center work

I like the centers because while we are still reading and writing, the variety in the material and the tasks makes it more entertaining. And because some of the materials can be applied to other reading passages or texts,  some of it can be used beyond the set that it came with.

What do you do for reading review? Do you have fun activities that you incorporate into your day after they finish a book or a reading assignment?

All About Spelling

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.

All About Spelling

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.

All About Learning All About Spelling

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. 

Good Days and Bad Days


school bus bookworm homeschool

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.

marshmallow shapes


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.