Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ancient Civilizations and the Bible Review

Are you looking for a world history curriculum to use with your youngest learners?  Do you want a fun, easy, and flexible curriculum with a Biblical perspective? Are you wanting to ditch the textbook approach for teaching world history? Read on to find out how you can do it. Remember to click on photos to enlarge. 

I had the pleasure of actually meeting Diana Waring at the Mid-South Great Homeschool Convention in April.  My daughter and husband met her first and came running upstairs to tell me ALL about her and how nice she was to them.  My husband said, "She was really down to earth." Alyssa was giddy. I met her on my way to the restroom ... no joke. We stood outside the bathroom discussing her curriculum and Alyssa's abilities. The intriguing discussion lead me to wonder whether this curriculum would meet our history needs. It was an honor meeting such a dedicated, popular homeschool convention speaker that strives to reach out and help teach children Biblical truths in history.

Our Background
I was curious how Alyssa would react to Diana Waring's Ancient Civilizations and the Bible curriculum and if it would be possible to use it with her at such a young age. My daughter, Alyssa, is 4 1/2 years old - she will turn five in November. She is a little younger than the intended or recommended age for this curriculum (K-4th grade). When I taught second grade in a public school ... I dreaded teaching history.  I am definitely not a history buff. It was just one of those subjects that I didn't look forward to teaching or learning when I was younger. The textbook approach always made teaching the subject dry and boring. I searched for some way to make history more fun, interesting, and age appropriate for my daughter. This curriculum is a great way to expose young children to world history with a Biblical perspective and to spark a new interest in history.

Product Description
We were graciously given the History Revealed: Ancient Civilizations and the Bible Elementary Activity Book and 2 sets of audio CD's to review. This set was created by Diana Waring and published by Answers in Genesis. The activity book is suitable for children in K-4th grade. It is a companion or accompaniment to the elementary 5th-12th grade curriculum. I feel that the CD's are a foundational aspect of the teaching process and somewhat required for implementation of this curriculum. The topics on the audio CD's will most likely be too advanced for the younger children (K-2nd), however they provide a foundational amount of background knowledge for the parent. The audio CD's are geared more towards older elementary students. My daughter did listen, but I am not sure if or how much information she retained from the CD segments. She enjoyed listening to them and was excited to hear Diana's voice. We used them more as an audio exposure to world history. The 80-page activity book containing black-and-white text is in softcover or paperback format. This curriculum definitely takes on a Christian-based or creationist approach to history.  Do you want to hear more about her curriculum and practical tips - check out her You Tube channel!

What's Included?
The package that we received was the Junior Pack. This package includes the following products:
  • Elementary Activity Book (K-4th)
  • What in the World? CD Set: A fascinating four-disc collection revealing accounts in history which discusses accurate scientific evidence based on the Bible's authority about people, events, and civilizations while providing archaeological information.
  • True Tales CD Set: A three-disc collection containing historical and biographical vignettes of people, events, and more for the time period being studied.

Organized Structure
This curriculum is organized or structured into nine units beginning with "Creation and the Flood" (approximately 4004 BC) and ending with "Jesus Christ Immanuel" (29 AD). Each unit consists of four phases and covers the three main learning modalities throughout the curriculum: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. Each phase targets activities for different learning styles including the Feeler, Thinker, Sensor, and Intuitor. The learning styles mentioned are based on the Meyers-Briggs system and are explained further in the book. Don't worry! There is no need to have a thorough understanding of learning styles in order to implement the ideas in the book.  The author's brief introduction is the only thing needed and it is provided within the activity book. The author has also considered the eight mental intelligences when suggesting a variety of lesson activities.
There are nine units or topics to be explored using this curriculum:
  1. Creation and the Flood
  2. The Rise of Civilizations
  3. Egypt and the Exodus
  4. The children of Israel
  5. Assyria and Babylon
  6. The Persians and the Medes
  7. Greece and the Hellenists
  8. The Rise of Rome
  9. Jesus Christ, Immanuel
Each of the nine units should take approximately four weeks to complete. There are four phases or segments within each of the nine units that are meant to take you on a week long adventure in world history. The activity book can be completed in 36 weeks or one full school year if used this way.
Here is the break down of the four phases:
  • Phase 1: Introduces the child to the topic using the "Feeler" learning style. Your child will participate in reading activities and thought-provoking discussions. Each unit in phase one contained discussion questions. They will discover people and events from our history and listened to the audio CD's related to the topics.
  • Phase 2: During this phase your child will explore and discover new information using the "Thinker" learning style. This phase consists of word scrambles, word searches, crossword puzzles, and coded messages. 
This is one of the word searches from the book
  • Phase 3: This section contains hands-on activities including mapping exercises, mazes, arts and crafts, science experiments, and cooking activities.  These activities correspond to the "Sensor" style. 
  • Phase 4: Children creatively express what has been learned through drama, song, poetry, art, dance, and games etc. in the last phase using "Intuitor" activities. 
Would you like to see if this curriculum would work for your children? Click the link to view a sample of the Ancient Civilizations and the Bible Elementary Activity Book. There are also track titles for the What in the World CD or you can hear an audio sample of the CD. Scroll down to the "What in the World CD" and click on hear audio sample.

Initial Reaction
Hmmmm - how can I make this curriculum work for us this summer? I immediately noticed that there were more than five readings mentioned in Phase 1 and they were longer in length than I expected. Young students or children may not sit still long enough to hear the suggested Bible readings, so it may be beneficial for parents or educators to break the longer reading assignment into shorter reading segments throughout the day or week. I also felt several of the topics were very broad in scope and needed to be broken down a bit further for a more in depth study. There was a list of suggested books that looked absolutely wonderful! Unfortunately, we ran into problems obtaining the books the very first week of reviewing this product. One of the main reasons I was attracted to this curriculum was that it was literature-based, so I REALLY wanted to read the suggested book titles for the lesson or topic. Honestly, at first I was a bit overwhelmed with the structure of the curriculum. It was unique ... in a good way ... it was different from other history curriculums I have used in the past. Luckily, I had time to wrap my mind around the the big picture as I waited for the interlibrary book loans to arrive - which took FOREVER.  It was also much easier to implement after reading the introduction several times and glancing through the activities.  

How did We Use the Curriculum?
The Ancient Civilizations and the Bible Activity Book replaced our current world history curriculum for the duration of the summer. I wanted a more relaxed approach over the summer months while still completing meaningful, fun activities. It was a bit overwhelming for me at first. We tried to follow the flexible weekly lessons plans, but I lost track of time when preparing the house for the market. I did not get as far into the curriculum as I would have liked due to my schedule. We ended up spending approximately 30 minutes - 1 hour two or three times a week on history lessons from this curriculum. If Alyssa was not finished with a project and wanted to continue, then I allowed her some extra time and freedom to complete the activity.  It was suggested that you could spend one week per phase which means your family would complete the entire book after 9 months of use.  We chose to spread out the learning activities and readings and to add in additional activities to further enhance our study, so it will obviously take us longer to complete the units. We often used the audio CD's in the car while traveling. We will continue to use the curriculum until we are finished with the book. We may take a break soon for an upcoming move. This curriculum could definitely be used as a supplement to any chronological world history curriculum based on the Bible.

We also had a difficult time finding and obtaining the library books on the suggestion list as previously mentioned. We waited patiently for the books to arrive using the interlibrary loan system. I am grateful to have FREE access to books out-of-town without any charges. Our library is a little smaller than most and does not carry many Christian books if any. I had to just let go and accept the fact that everything was not going to work out the way I wanted it to. We missed a few lessons and needed to adjust a few days to make-up for lost time. We did not always follow the plan of doing one phase each week. At times, I found it easier to read to Alyssa and then do an activity related to the readings the same day. It lead to greater comprehension and interest. Other days, I had no choice if books were unavailable at the library. I also had to break up the Bible readings into smaller segments. A lot of information was covered and I didn't want Alyssa to miss the relevant or main purpose for the readings.  There were several occasions when Alyssa read aloud from my Bible. She did this a lot during one of our camping trips. Click the link to read about that trip.
Reading part of suggested material from my Bible
Working on her Noah's Ark Masterpiece 
Explaining her Noah's Ark Drawing
Alyssa's masterpiece of Noah and his family. The leveled ark contains a few small hard to see animals. She added arms to the people and more animals later that week. She laughed when she realized they were armless. 
Alyssa's Favorite Activities
Alyssa definitely has some favorite activities such as making stuffed dates and walnut sandwiches, sorting animals and plants, making musical instruments, creating a fossil, measuring the ark, the archaeological dig, the games, and of course all singing activities. Making the stuffed dates were so easy for her to do independently. She even made a small batch of stuffed dates for our friends. I think the sticky texture of the dates intrigued my daughter.  This was our first time eating dates.  We all thought the dates were yummy!
Delicious Stuffed Dates
Another favorite activity of hers was searching for fossils in a box of rocks we had collected from the front yard. She was thrilled when she found a shell fossil in one of the rocks. I added in this activity to complement the next activity.  
Alyssa enjoyed the next activity tremendously!  She was able to create her very own fossil. We bought clay from Hobby Lobby (40% off) she rolled it in a ball, flattened it out, and pressed the shell into the clay to form an imprint.  She also made an imprint of her hand. She rubbed in brown shoe polish and I sprayed it gently with hairspray. We will dig a hole later to bury her imprint in our new yard once the house is built.
Unfinished project
Least Favorite Activities
Alyssa's least favorite activities, surprisingly, were the mazes and creating masterpiece drawings. She did not complain when asked to "Draw a Picture of Noah, the Ark, and the Animals." She usually loves to draw pictures and figure out mazes. However, it was difficult for her to see some of the concepts using her imagination. For example, she was supposed to draw an ancient city ... something she has never seen before in books or on television. She told me, "Mommy I don't know what an ancient city looks like ... I don't want to do this activity." Later that day we discussed ancient cities further, we did a little research online, and we sculptured an ancient city together using Playdough. The mazes definitely seemed more appropriate for older children. Small print and lines were used making the worksheet seem busy. We did attempt to complete them, but she ended up giving up so we skipped the whole activity. The maze was honestly too busy for me too. I brought the maze back out the next day only to receive the same reaction.

The current retail price at the time of this review was $42.95 plus shipping costs for the Junior Package Deal #7 as seen here. Many other wonderful history curriculum and products are available for purchase. Click here to learn more about the History Revealed products. If you have multiple children, varying in ages, learning about the same topic, then you might want to consider adding one of the Ancient Civilizations packages suitable for children in 5th-12th grades to your shopping cart. This would enable the entire family to learn about the same topic together.  Click here to see samples of the curriculum for older children. The curriculum is cost-effective when compared to other curricula and can be used for ALL children depending on the products purchased.

  1. The curriculum uses a chronological approach to studying world history; the author gives a quick overview of the time period from Creation to Christ.
  2. The concepts within the curriculum has a Biblical perspective or worldview based on creationism. Children are taught how God was always in charge of historical events and how He influenced the people involved. The curriculum topic revealed God's hand in history and how he had a plan with a purpose. It teaches children an account of "His" history and His impact on the world. I loved that we were reading the Bible in order to understand history better and more thoroughly.  
  3. The activities are project-based in which learning modes and multiple intelligences are addressed. The children and the parent has a variety of choices as to which activities they would like to complete for the year or for individual topics. 
  4. Diana Waring is an extraordinary storyteller and was able to captivate both my daughter's attention and my interest.  She is very enthusiastic and you can tell she loves Biblical history. I could tell she had a love for history during our conversation in person too. I loved hearing the excitement in her voice. It really made me wish I was taught history differently! 
  5. If you have older children in 5th grade and up, then you can purchase the History Revealed: Ancient Civilizations and Bible for them while using the Activity Book with younger children - that means children can cover the same topics for the same time period while learning together. This makes the curriculum more versatile for families. 
  6. This is a multi-disciplinary curriculum - history was integrated with several other subjects including but not limited to Bible, science, math, language arts, music, and geography which helps the child make connections across disciplines. I loved how geography and other subjects were integrated into the world history curriculum.
  7. This curriculum can easily be integrated into a three-year history cycle. Diana Waring's world history curriculum is divided into three time periods each with their own scope and sequences meant to be used for one year (give or take). The time periods covered are Ancient History, Middle History, and Modern History. The activity book and CD's I reviewed are part of the first time period in a three-year cycle.     
  8. The guide was organized in an easy-to-read format with flexible scheduling options. 
  9. The curriculum is compatible with the Charlotte Mason's approach to teaching and learning history. Read this article prepared by guest expert, Catherine Levison. She also prepared a schedule on how Charlotte Mason home educators can use Diana Waring's History Revealed series. I teach using an eclectic approach but I love implementing Charlotte Mason's methods into our homeschool day. 
  10. The curriculum suggests and recommends living books and other popular literature for further discussion and exploration of topics. Literature is very important in our household. Alyssa was able to independently read aloud several of the books on the lists including the Bible.

Possible Cons
Remember that all learners have unique learning styles and needs. The next list contains possible cons which may not be the case for your situation depending on your child's learning style and needs. The approach to teaching may not suit your teaching style. I try to see things from several perspectives.
  1. The guide was organized, however there weren't step-by-step lesson plans which I prefer. The curriculum does not include daily lesson plans. It is more like a buffet of activities for the week. The parent will need to "pick and choose" what to do with their child or children. Depending on your teaching style, this could actually be seen as an item on the pro list. 
  2. The manual or activity book was overwhelming for me to use at first. I had to learn how to relax a bit while using the curriculum. I needed to learn how to be more flexible and be ready to make adjustments when necessary.
  3. I am not sure if this curriculum was originally intended for private, Christian school use. I do know that many of the activities mentioned seemed more appropriate for schools or co-ops rather than home educators with few children. Several suggested activities may be easier for large families, co-ops, or school settings such as the dramatic reenactments and games.
  4. The suggested books were difficult to find at our small library - several books were outdated or Christian-based. I found myself bringing back previously read books from current world history studies. I also researched additional titles to read aloud from other resources.
  5. I wasn't always sure when to play and stop the audio CD's since it was not noted in the activity book.  
  6. Your child may not be interested in all the activities for the four phases. You'll have to accept it and move on or adapt. Never force a young child to complete an activity if they are disinterested. 
  7. It was difficult at times explaining, making connections, or relating the activities we were doing to the reading of the books and audio heard after a week had past. It might be easier to read, listen, and complete an activity that is related in one day for the younger learners to help make immediate connections. There were also some activities, that although they were fun, we weren't sure how they related to what we read and heard in the unit such as making the stuffed dates. I think we either missed some of the details on the audio or the background knowledge of ancient times was assumed. I still need to listen to the audio again and read the book titles to confirm whether it was assumed or our loss for not paying close attention. With everything going on it is possible we missed pertinent information from the books or audio. 
  8. We had a difficult time finding a location for particular activities and the time to travel to the location to complete the activity.  For example, the "Measuring the Ark" activity. Our yard was too small so we needed to find a large open area to complete this activity. The closest park that I could think of at the time was 30 minutes away. We put this activity off until we figured out a time and place to go.  Once completed, it was another one of Alyssa's favorite activities. I forgot to bring the camera with me when we ran out the door. 
  9. I feel that the maze worksheets might be too difficult for some K-2nd grade children to complete. 
Possible Improvements
  • Provide more detailed daily lesson plan options and schedule help for those Type A personalities ... like myself.  I felt like I needed a little more direction. 
  • I would also suggest including more easily accessible book suggestions for each unit in addition to those already mentioned. I appreciate that the bulk of the learning is from the Bible.  Having access to more picture books and living books would help bring the topic alive. I would suggest adding more book titles to the suggested unit book lists. I found the Yahoo Group late in the game, otherwise I would have utilized this resource during he review period. 
  • Notations are needed in the activity book that guide the parent or educator as to when to play certain audio segments if CD's are purchased. After I got the hang of it, I managed to figure things out. Things worked well and lessons were smoother. It would make it easier though if all prep work was done.   
  • Another suggestion would be to create and offer leveled mazes for different age groups or grades levels. 
  • It might be beneficial to smaller families if adaptations or activity suggestions were added in the book to meet their needs. This is mainly for home educators with one or few children. It would limit prep time for those parents using the curriculum. 
  • Is it possible to create an additional audio CD meant for the younger children in K-2nd grade to be used in conjunction with the activity book? I know that the CD's sold now are meant for older children or adults, but it would be a great supplement to the curriculum.  Families could have children listen to the audio at their individual levels. 
Adaptations or Modifications
  • Break up reading into segments for younger children.  It may be difficult for the young children to sit for long periods of time and you want them to understand what you are reading. This meant that it actually took us longer to cover the unit topics since we needed to spend more time reading. You could graduate the length of the readings until your child gets used to paying attention for a particular amount of time. We listened to the audio on the day that we read if it applied to the daily topics.
  • We added in notebooking, lapbooking, and verbal narrations to help retain the information.
  • The games always seemed to need adaptations. The "Rhyme Time" game could not be played since I only have one child.  This is how we adapted and played the game. We played a game that I called "Rhyme Time - Noah, May I." I would call out an animal name and give her some time to think. Alyssa would say, "Noah (that was me at the time) may I please take two big hops using my two small feet." I would say, "Yes, if you can give me two rhyming words for the given animal name." If she responded correctly then she was able to take two big hops.  She won a kiss, high five, or hug once she reached her mama ... I mean Noah. You could also give two pairs of animals each time she reaches you to see how many animals pairs she can collect during the game. Then, you can skip count by 2's to find the total on the ark at that time.
  • One thing I found helpful during word scrambles and coded activities was to use letter tiles with Alyssa.  For the coded messages, I would have her remove all the letter tiles noted on the worksheet and then switch them out in order (left to right) using the key code. The coded word suddenly appeared ... it was as if mom were a magician! She realized quickly after a couple of words what we were doing and no longer felt the tiles were necessary. We used them for unscrambling the words too.  She removed all the necessary tiles and I told her to think back to what we read and heard on the audio CD's. She worked with the tiles and unscrambled the words successfully eliminating the need to erase mistakes on paper. We usually completed the word scramble activity over two days. Once the word was unscrambled, she wrote it neatly on her paper. I thought this activity would challenge her but it was a great fit.  

Complementary Products
We used many resources in conjunction with this curriculum. You may see several overlapping photos within my reviews. These items are definitely not needed with this curriculum, but were fun additions to our lessons.  Here are just a few we enjoyed.  This section will also contain links to reviews I have written about Zane Education and Map Trek products.
  • Notebooking helped Alyssa remember or retain the information taught and learned during lessons. We compiled them in her history notebook over time including all the activities from the activity book. We used products from Notebooking Pages to complement this curriculum when appropriate. Notebooking Publisher is also available if you are a treasury member - this allows you to create your own specific, custom notebooking pages for any topic.
  • Dynamic Moms Ancient CivilizationsAncient GreeceTimelines, and Bible notebooking and lapbooking resources were helpful.  If you haven't ever been to this website before it is wonderful! 
  • Map Trek Ancient Map Set - We incorporated map lessons as much as possible while using this curriculum. The activity book contains sufficient map activities already for young learners, but we were so excited about reviewing Map Trek simultaneously that I couldn't wait to see how well the two products worked together! We used the two products together in order to study more advanced geographical information and to extend on the learning topics. I used Knowledge Quest's Curriculum Integration Guide alongside Diana Waring's curriculum. In the photos below, Alyssa completed a map drill assignment. She studied Map Trek's "Descendants of Noah" map and then labeled it. She was given a list of the items to label in random order for spelling purposes.  She did quite well.  This was an extension activity we did during the use of our Ancient Civilizations and the Bible study. You can read my review to find out how I used Map Trek with world history by clicking the provided link. She did many map work activities throughout the curriculum. She has a new love and interest for mapping exercises. 
  • During the review of this curriculum, our family was blessed and won a copy of Reading Through the Ages by Trisms. This resource was extremely helpful and provided additional book suggestions to use for each unit especially when those on the list were hard to come by even through the interlibrary loan system.
  • The Big Picture Bible Timeline - This book can also be purchased through Veritas Press, Inc. I found my copy on Ebay several months ago and we absolutely love it. You could also use the Old Testament Timeline from That Resource Site (Resources for Catholic Home Educators) available on their website. You can remove any pictures or information that you don't want to use with your child due to their age of your belief system. We are not Catholic Home Educators and the resources on their website are still very high quality and helpful. I feel it is important to begin a timeline in order to help your children see the big picture and what's happening over time as you study world history. Alyssa's would place the Old Testament timeline pieces in sequential order based on our Bible readings from Diana's curriculum.
    That Resource Site Timeline
  • Zane Education - We watched Zane Education's Ancient Egypt History videos for elementary children since we have a subscription now. We also used their interactive research tools to look up and research unfamiliar ancient history vocabulary terms mentioned in the activity book or on the CD's.

Recommendation and Results
Yes, I would recommend this curriculum for advanced preschoolers through elementary children in K-4th grades especially for individuals looking for lessons plans that are open ... allowing for flexibility and choices. This curriculum can be used with home educators, co-ops, and private christian schools. The CD's make this curriculum a great option for auditory learners. Alyssa enjoyed learning about history through the Bible and I was pleased with what she remembered by actively participating in the activities. She always seemed to crave more information which led us on learning tangents. I was also able to relearn ancient history in a creative manner with my daughter. Adaptations can be easily made for younger children and families with few children. Remember not to let the curriculum guide control you; you decide which activities to do with your children and when you want to do them. This activity book and the accompanying CD's can be used as a supplement to any other world history creation-based curricula or as a standalone early exposure curriculum for younger children as I have done. It is a great understandable option for exploring world history. Diana's passion and love for Biblical history is contagious. Her storytelling makes history come alive and leaves you desiring to know more about the past. I do recommend that you spend time reading through the manual and listening to the audio CD topics before attempting to begin the curriculum.  Make any changes to the curriculum in advance, gather materials in ahead of time, and have fun with your children. I am sure you'll create meaningful and valuable memories throughout the year as we have done.

If you are looking for a history curriculum that is Bible-based, then Ancient Civilization and the Bible might be a good solution for your family especially if you are drawn to the unit study approach. So are you ready to purchase your world history curriculum or are you wondering if this curriculum is right for your family's needs? Click here to read more about this curriculum series and to determine if it will be the right choice for you.  If you do purchase one of her curriculum series, be sure to sign-up for her Yahoo Group where additional book lists, resources, and internet links are posted.  

If you have any questions about this curriculum please contact the company here. They can also be reached at 765-393-1818. You may want to take a peek at the FAQ section before contacting the company. I found the answers to several of my questions there before contacting them. Be sure to check out Diana's blog where she posts information about history activities and her curriculum. She also has a monthly newsletter you can sign up to receive titled, "Education That's Relational." Monthly promotions are offered in her newsletter along with tips and clips. You can also follow or become a fan of Diana Waring on Twitter or Facebook.  

Thank you Diana for the opportunity to review this curriculum and for be willing to work with my schedule!!!  

Disclaimer: I received Ancient Civilizations and the Bible Activity Book and two audio CD sets, at no cost to me, in exchange for a professional, honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by the product or company.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Math Curriculum Choices 2012-2013

We have been blessed this year having the opportunity to review many great items for the Schoolhouse crew including several math programs. We will finish up summer school soon ... we school year-round. Our plan is to start the new fall curricula and subjects the first or second week of September. We are waiting until that point, because I didn't want to start new subjects or curriculum before we move to a new place. I haven't had much time to do intense planning like last year, because things have been hectic and crazy around here so it's a good thing I made a few decisions in advance. I will discuss our math plans after the update. It will be easier for me to discuss our curriculum choices and options in short bursts rather than listing our curriculum choices on one post. We have just been so busy packing and organizing for the upcoming move - it is hard to find enough time to sit down and type it all out.  Besides, I like to discuss the topics a little more in depth.

Addition and Learning Made Easy Update
I did want to give you an update on Alyssa's progress with Addition and Learning Made Easy. You can read my review post by clicking the link here if you haven't already read it. Last Thursday, Alyssa completed the addition fact program with complete success. I gave her the posttest and timed her while she worked diligently. All 40 addition facts problems were completed correctly and written neatly in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.  She was so excited!  She enjoyed the program and asked me if there were any additional activities.  I told her , "No, you finished the entire program and now we can move on to another curriculum."  She said, "Like Math U See!" The Addition and Learning Addition Made Easy program helped her learn the handful of addition facts that she was struggling with this year.  I hope that the knowledge will be retained and not just memorized short term. We will continue to practice addition facts with hands-on games, other curriculum, and Montessori activities. Occasionally, I will throw in a drill exercise or timed addition test just to double check ... to make sure she hasn't forgotten anything.

2012-2013 Math Curriculum Plans
We usually do school six days a week due to my husband's schedule. What?  Don't worry Alyssa gets plenty of time to play freely.  She plays with her puppet theater, kitchen, dolls, games, puzzles, etc. Please don't judge our decisions - this is what works best for our family. Our goal will be to take Sunday off for worship and to spend time with family and friends. As with any curriculum, these plans are subject to change at any time. 

Calendar Time - We will begin all lessons with calendar time. This activity will have to be another post because it involves so much.

Math U See Alpha - She completed Math U See Primer many, many months ago and will continue using this program. I bought the next level back in April at a homeschool conference with plans to use it in the fall. She has been eagerly waiting to get started and asks me several times a week, "When will we start Alpha momma?" I think she may be a bit excited about it. I do believe Alyssa will breeze through this level since it focuses on addition and subtraction. This curriculum usually is done on days when she goes to dance or gymnastics since it is easy to complete. We'll use this curriculum 2-3 per week. Sometimes I split a lesson between two days so that not all worksheets are completed on one day. There are some days that she is motivated and wants to complete them all on the same day. I know that many home educators feel that if a problem can be done easily, then the chid can move to the next lesson. There are only 1-3 problems per page so if you are using this curriculum for the first time choose what is best for your child's needs and abilities. Math U See uses manipulative blocks and worksheets (we put them in a sheet protector).

Right Start Math Level ALast year, the plan was to alternate these two math curriculums throughout the year to provide a variety of activities utilizing different approaches and to cover many topics. Right Start Math is a great balance because it is more hands-on and involves the addition of games. What child doesn't like to play games?  Even better the child can learn while having fun!  In the beginning, we followed the plan perfectly. Then, I found myself wondering if I were rushing her and trying to do too much, so we used the curriculum off and on until I completely eliminated the Right Start Math curricula from our schedule. It was more teacher intensive involving a lot more prep. I think I only thought that way, because I let the beliefs of others intrude on our plans. Never again ...  this year Right Start Math WILL be used alternately with Math U See Alpha. I know my daughter best and what she can handle. We both LOVE learning! I love the program even though it involves more prep time and regretted NOT using it the full year.  I haven't figured out which days will be dedicated to which curriculum yet, because it depends on her extracurricular activities. I usually spend 2-3 days per curricula.  The Homeschool Buyers Co-op will occasionally offer deals on this curriculum.  You can read about the co-op here.

Supplementary Programs
Professor B Math
This year we were introduced to a wonderful online advanced arithmetic curriculum called Professor B Math.  We will continue using this program after the above mentioned curriculums throughout the week at the end of our math time block. I carved out a certain amount of time for Math and once the lessons have been completed, we'll do a lesson or two in Professor B. The concepts covered in the first level simply amaze me! This program will give Alyssa the challenge that she needs and help expose her to concepts I know won't be covered in the other curriculums. You've never heard of Professor B Math ... well you can read my review by clicking on the link here.

Montessori Math
We have been doing Montessori Math for quite some time now. I will continue incorporating activities from this CD throughout the year. We were blessed and won their Deluxe CD-ROM Collection from Living Montessori back in April.  Thank you so much Montessori Print Shop and Living Montessori!! I am extremely grateful that I won this giveaway!!! We have been using and enjoying the curriculum items and products.

*There are other supplementary materials that we have to be used in conjunction with the two previously mentioned curriculums when it deems fitting.

Online Curriculums and Programs
We will also alternate the use of online math programs.
  • Dreambox - My absolute favorite online differentiated math program is Dreambox. We renewed our subscription through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. If you decide to join the HSBC, please join through my link because I will receive 100 Smartpoints. I use the SmartPoints to purchase additional curriculum for Alyssa. You can read all about it here. I have saved so much money on curriculum by joining the HSBC for FREE. Alyssa completed the kindergarten and first grade math concepts in less than 6 months without consistently using the program. She recently began the program's second grade math curriculum. The concepts are becoming a little more challenging so she's having to slow down and concentrate.  We will consistently use it this year and this online program is Alyssa's favorite by far. 
  • IXL - She also has a subscription to IXL Math which expires in November.  We most likely won't be renewing this subscription due to the lack of use and funds. She likes it but asks for Dreambox more often.  She will continue using this program at her own pace until it expires. IXL is also offered through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op at a reasonable price.
  • ZooWhiz - We will start reviewing this program at the end of the month.  Stay posted and come back later to visit my blog and read my review. Alyssa is overjoyed and has been counting down the days. We are currently using the free program with ads until we have been upgraded to a premium membership. As with any review product, Zoo Whiz will be become a priority and be used more often than the other online programs for the duration of the review. Afterwards, I evaluate the situation and make decisions as to how often the program will be used throughout the year. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time is Running Out!!!!

I recently reviewed a product from Super Duper Publications called Webber HearBuilder Auditory Memory (Home Edition). You can read my review here if you are interested. Super Duper Publications offered our readers several gracious coupon codes for the products that the crew reviewed. These awesome coupon codes expire soon!  Click on the links below to read about each product description and then go to the Schoolhouse Crew Blog to read our reviews.  Thirty percent off is an outstanding discount and I would hate for you to miss out on such a deal!  Check it out before time runs out!      

Jeepers Peepers
Coupon Code:    BLGJP30
Save 30%   Expires 8/31/12

HearBuilder Following Directions Home Edition
Coupon Code:        BLGFD30
Save 30%    Expires 8/31/12

HearBuilder Auditory Memory Home Edition
Coupon Code:       BLGAM30
Save 30%    Expires 8/31/12

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Vocabulary Spelling City

Are you looking for a way for your child to practice spelling and vocabulary using educational and engaging games?  Are you tired of finding or creating spelling worksheets and want to try a different approach? Look no further ... seriously ... Vocabulary Spelling City will most likely be the answer. Well, at least it was for me.  Read all about our experiences with Vocabulary Spelling City in my review. Click on the links for more information throughout the review. 


Vocabulary Spelling City created by Vkidz Inc. is an interactive, award-winning, online website enabling teachers and parents to create and save customized spelling or vocabulary word lists. It's no wonder that 5% of elementary students are successfully using this website at school with such amazing features being offered. The company has recently changed their website name. It was previously known as "Spelling City," it is now called "Vocabulary Spelling City" due to the addition of vocabulary games and activities including concepts such as definitions, parts of speech, synonyms, and so forth. I received the premium membership to Vocabulary Spelling City to review as part of the Schoolhouse crew team. I signed up for the free membership to Vocabulary Spelling City in the past but never really stuck with it. I am not exactly sure why I never used it, because the program is simple to use and there are so many advantages for using the program. I was thrilled to hear that we would be receiving the premium membership. I was also curious what the difference was between the free and premium memberships. After having the opportunity to review the premium membership with additional benefits including premium vocabulary content games, no ads to distract children, ability to group children and/or lists, and the opportunity to track progress and have automated record keeping features. I definitely prefer the premium membership over the free account ... hands down!

I would say that this program is suitable for many subjects and for children of all ages. Children in preschool through high school can reap the benefits of learning spelling and vocabulary this way. Some preschoolers may need assistance with mouse control (coordination and motor skills) and several of the games may be too advanced depending on their abilities. My daughter is 4 1/2 years old but she reads fluently well above her age or grade level so she does not need much assistance with this program. Every child's needs will be different as well as their abilities. I wanted to find a way for my daughter to practice new and previously learned spelling or vocabulary words.  I didn't want her to memorize the words short term and forget them over time. I wanted to make sure she actually mastered the spelling of her words and applied the spelling rules instead of just memorizing lists temporarily. I spent hours exploring Vocabulary Spelling City the first day I received access. I found many essential and helpful spelling lists already created and available on their website including but not limited to geography word lists, Dolch-Sight words, math vocabulary, AVKO (Sequential Spelling), science, and other grade level, subject specific word lists.

There are two membership levels available to parents or educators:
  • Free (Basic) Membership - You must register for a free account otherwise your lists will NOT be saved. It's FREE so why not give it a try! You won't regret it and you children will have fun while learning!
  • Premium Membership - Click on the word premium to your left to view a table revealing the benefits and features of a premium account and/or look at the table below that shows the difference between the features of the free account and the premium account. You will receive a 12-month calendar year subscription valid from the date of purchase. Check out their You Tube Video about the premium membership. Go to this website to read about the benefits of upgrading your free account and to try a few of the premium games.  Read through my review to hear more about the advantages of having a premium membership over the free membership.   
The chart above compares the two membership levels.
This resource is only a whopping $29.99 per year per family with up to 5 children.  Register as a parent and keep in mind that parent's with family premium memberships cannot add on or purchase additional student licenses. Classroom subscriptions cost $49.99 and can be used with up to 25 students.  Individual student licenses may be purchased for $1.95 each for classroom or teacher memberships. For me, the cost is affordable and reasonable considering the features of the premium membership.  In my opinion, it is definitely worth the value!

Getting Started and Initial Reactions
Logging in once my subscription was activated was extremely easy and took less than a few minutes (if that). I created a parent and a student account each having individual passwords. I previewed several of the teacher training videos and tutorials to familiarize myself with the website before getting Alyssa started on her first word list.  I wanted to make sure I knew how to use this resource before jumping into it. I created several lists and allowed Alyssa to explore the games freely the first day so that I could see initially which games she liked the most or least amount.  We did use their grade level lists as a starting point and during free exploration time. She absolutely LOVES Spelling City! I don't know how we homeschooled without the use of this helpful, outstanding resource ... not just for spelling but for all subjects. The possibilities are endless! One place I spent hours exploring after discovering it was the FORUM.  This is where everyone shares their lists and you can import them to your account. I was in hog heaven!!! You can also search for a list by teacher or parent name, user name, exact list name, or school zip code. I can tell you now that at first I thought "What's the big difference? Why is the premium subscription so different?" I said this before actually trying the premium membership. I am pretty impressed with how it works, how easy it is to use, and how much fun Alyssa had practicing spelling words.  I love having access to the additional premium games which are mainly vocabulary development games. The record keeping features are most helpful allowing me to track my daughter's activities and grades.
Well, do YOU think she likes it? 
She's all smiles when it's time to practice spelling or vocabulary.
Our Vocabulary Spelling Plans and Usage
Alyssa used Vocabulary Spelling City 4-5 times per week for 30 minutes.  Occasionally, I would allow her to play for an hour on packing days or when she used her tickets for doing her chores in a timely manner. Ticket items earn an extra 15-30 minutes on a selected free item of her choice during her free or play time. Alyssa is given a daily assignment of 5-10 activities that correspond with a particular word list for the day. The activities chosen vary each day. I tried assigning specific activities for each day of the week, but I ended up randomly choosing different activities on a daily basis. I like to mix things up a bit to make learning fun and I wanted to make sure we tried as many games as possible. Each of our word lists contain 10 words. There are a few lists containing more than ten words. Upon completion of each assignment, Alyssa has time to explore the games freely based on her interests.  Her favorite premium games are "Word-O-Rama," "Sentence Writing," "Speedy Speller," and Crosswords." Her least favorite premium game in the beginning was "Letter Fall."  She enjoys playing all of the free games especially "Hang Mouse," "Alphabetize," "Missing Letter" and most definitely "Word Search."  Take a look at the following screen shots below showing several of Alyssa's favorite games to play.
Word-O-Rama - This one seriously gets her excited!
The numbered boxes corresponding to the word puzzle are highlighted - creating a visual for children. I LOVE IT!

Word Search
Hang Mouse (Similar to Hang Man)
The sound effects are a bit annoying on this game after the correct word is guessed. 
The first thing I did, after the initial exploration day, was to create and name custom spelling word lists to use in conjunction with our All About Spelling curriculum. I liked the fact that I could add words in increments of 5, 10, or 15. Users can also add a description or grade level to the lists created. Additionally, the parent or educator has the ability to create their own sentences and definitions for the words on the lists. There were days that Alyssa typed the word lists into the system for me. Vocabulary Spelling City is currently being used with All About Spelling Level 1 words. Alyssa will start All About Spelling Level 2 in the fall, which unfortunately won't be until mid-September due to an upcoming move. I am using the first level spelling word lists in order to make sure she has reached mastery level with them before moving on to the next level. After choosing a word list to complete, the child is given five options at the bottom of the list:

  1. Spelling Test - The child can take a spelling test. A blank screen is given and each word is stated and used in a sentence. 
  2. Vocabulary Test - The child can take a vocabulary test. Aha ... just noticed that we have not used this feature yet. We will be trying this feature soon. 
  3. Teach Me - The word is stated and then the child will be taught how to spell the words one letter at a time.  It can also be read in a sentence or the word can be repeated as often as the child needs. The sentences can be customized or personalized by the parent or teacher.  
  4. Flash Cards - The flash cards are customizable and can be printed in five different sizes. The child hears the word and clicks on the keyboard to flip over the card to read the definition.  In the future, I will have Alyssa write more difficult words and their definitions in her word notebook. She will read the word, guess the definition, and flip it over to see the answer.  If she is incorrect, then she writes the word and definition in her notebook.  She will read the correct definition at least one more time.
  5. Play a Game - If Alyssa does not have an assignment to be completed, then she would be able to choose from a wide variety of games or activities to play in her free time. 

Each word list assigned began with a spelling pretest. I gave Alyssa the option of skipping lessons or games if she made a 100%, but she always chose to play even when passing the pretest with a perfect score. The child is given the opportunity to retest only incorrect responses or to retake the entire spelling test. You will see an example of one of Alyssa's spelling pretests in the screenshot below. This was a required activity for every word list. She was able to click on the "say it" tab to hear the word or the "sentence" tab to hear the word used in context.  The bottom screenshot shows the results of a pretest taken at a later time. The computer provides audio feedback in the form of "cheers" for the child's success and places a checkmark next to correct answers. You will notice a blue box to the right which allows you to print the test results or to print a black-and-white certificate.  Alyssa loves to hang the certificates on our file cabinets or on the fridge. I print or save the reports for record keeping purposes even though our state doesn't require this action. It lets me know what was accomplished. The scores will also be noted in the online gradebook.

I never thought creating assignments could be so easy or fun for that matter.  If the user clicks the blue arrow on the right side of the screenshot, a video tutorial for creating assignments can be viewed. At times, Alyssa would help choose and create her assignments. First, we would select a word list. Then, we select which activities she'll complete. I have the choice of assigning that particular word list to some or all of the children. I can choose to add assignment details such as due dates and instructions.  The child can see exactly what activities have been completed and which activities are not done. The program crosses off the completed activities.

I printed several handwriting worksheets for her so that she could practice writing the words using her best handwriting. There were a variety of handwriting options for creating worksheets. They offered four different font styles including Print (Manuscript), D'Nealian, Cursive, and Sign Language (ASL) along with several type size choices. At times, I would have Alyssa trace the spelling word and them write a short sentence for each word on her paper. The photo below is an example of one of the worksheets created - this is a tracing and word writing exercise.

One neat feature we enjoyed was printing worksheets or word lists in ASL. After fingerspelling the words, we cut them into sections and pasted them on index cards to create flashcards. I printed them in the largest font size available and they seem small. Keep in mind they are meant to be worksheets not flashcards as we have done. In the end, she will have a ASL word bank for fingerspelling practice or exercises of previously learned spelling words. If I ever get around to laminating the ASL cards, then I can use tally marks on the back to indicate whether or not she can fingerspell the words without looking. Another thing you can do after creating the flashcards for older or capable children is to make a concentration or memory game. Remove the actual words from the ASL printout. Write the words on index cards and lay all cards (mixed up) face down.  Play the game by matching the fingerspelling to the spelling word.

Another amazing Vocabulary Spelling City feature that is currently in BETA testing is the student writing practice. They make no guarantee to keep this feature, but I definitely hope they consider doing so. As part of our membership, Alyssa was able to practice typing and writing her own sentences using her word lists.  She really enjoyed this feature! There were other writing practice options such as writing short stories containing several words from the list, riddles, synonyms, analogies, etc. but we chose the simplest activity that would be appropriate for her age and abilities which was writing her on sentences for each word.

However, we had one sad day that we forgot to save her progress and all work was deleted.  She restarted the sentences and I saved the work for her to continue after lunch, unfortunately for some unexplainable reason it never saved her progress.  She was upset but willing to do it one more time because daddy was so impressed with her writing and typing skills. After writing and typing all of her sentences, she wanted to edit a sentence by adding the word "red." She accidentally pressed the delete button and all her work disappeared.  She started crying.  She said, "Mommy those were my best sentences ever and now they are gone."  Luckily, I took a screenshot for this review and was able to bring it up for her to copy. She thanked me for taking a picture of them. She worked so hard coming up with these sentences.  She revised and proofread for capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. I ask her to create sentences only using words she can spell without assistance from anyone. She also loved the feature that enabled her to hear her own sentences read using text-to-speech technology. Before typing her sentences we watched several of the instructional videos including the subject-verb agreement, crazy commas, and more commas and so forth. I believe the instructional videos are only available at this time to premium members. The sentences she created can be printed out or saved. We almost always print them out for her to share with daddy, relatives, and friends. Here is the screen shot of her sentences that day.  I do not at this time grade these sentences nor have I created a writing rubric yet. I ask her to check for mistakes and try to create sentences that make sense.  The last two readers on the screenshot holding flags do not always make sense or pronounce words correctly when read.

Not bad for a 4 1/2 year old.  But, I am biased ... I AM her mother. 

The Teacher Resource section was choked full of educational articles, useful K-12th grade word lists for many subjects, and Language Arts lesson plans for a variety of topics from elementary through high school. We used several of the grade-based word lists created by Vocabulary Spelling City. A few that we used were the Dolch-Sight Words, Geography, and Math Vocabulary. There were several Language Arts lessons and instructional videos that were helpful during this review including the lessons on nouns, plural nouns, syllables, compound words, and parts of speech.

So Many Possible Future Plans

  • Spelling Words from Well-Known Curricula: (Spelling Power, Sequential Spelling AVKO, Natural Spelling, and A Reason for Spelling)
  • Weaver Bible Vocabulary
  • Apologia Flying Creatures of Fifth Day Science Terminology
  • Wordly Wise Vocabulary 
  • Literature Guide Vocabulary
  • Math Vocabulary Words: Math U See and Right Start Math
  • Alyssa's Word Bank Words -Troubling or incorrect words from writing or spelling activities
  • American History
  • Geography (States and Capitals)
  • English from the Roots Up - I tried creating a list and it didn't work because the words were not recognized.  I hope that foreign language words and markings will be available and supported. 
  • Prima Latina
  • Sonrisas Spanish
  1. Customization: You have the ability to customize word lists and they can be created based on your very own curriculum ... any curriculum or school lists can be used. You can also customize the sentences used for each word.  I enjoyed personalizing the sentences by using Alyssa's name, the names of family members, or the the names of states where relatives live. However, her name was unrecognizable to the program and pronounced incorrectly. I had to go back and change all sentences using the name Alyssa, but I still like that you can personalize and customize the sentences. Not only can you create your own customized, differentiated word lists but you can also save your lists on your FREE home page.
  2. You can create engaging assignments for each child, groups of children, or an entire class based on specific word lists. There are a variety of fun and interactive games to choose from for both free and premium memberships. Premium members can use all the free games and the additional premium vocabulary games including Letter Fall, Speedy Speller, Word-O-Rama, just to name a few. Children can choose from a smorgasbord of over 20 different games to practice spelling word lists online or via printable lists if they have a premium membership. This also includes many vocabulary development games. The game instructions are clear and easily understood by children.  
  3. A "real" person says the words, spells the word, and uses it in a sentence (in context).
  4. Teacher training videos are accessible from the website.
  5. There is availability of over 42,000 words covering a wide range of subjects to import to your library. 
  6. There are printable worksheets for handwriting practice. Many of the actual games are printable too.
  7. Free teacher resources with lesson plans for all ages and many subjects.
  8. Automatic grade reports and student gradebook to track progress for recordkeeping purposes. In fact, you can track all students and their progress or activities. You can see which activities were completed and the number of activities. This saves you the time that would be spent grading tests or lists manually allowing you to see exactly which words your child struggles with and needs to practice. The results are provided instantly - immediate feedback is given so there is no wait time to see your child's test results.
  9. Telephone support available if needed.  This is extremely helpful if you are having computer issues.  I didn't find the need to call for assistance, but I did e-mail asking questions on several occasions.  The customer service was great and the rep responded immediately and answered my questions thoroughly. 
  10. The program is user-friendly and easy to use. I am not sure why I never used the free section besides lack of time but now I make sure I have time to fit Vocabulary Spelling City into the schedule.
  11. You can differentiate the spelling lists and each child has an individual log-in with a password. In the past, theorists recommended that it was best to give only 3-5 spelling words to younger children to study.  I gave Alyssa ten words to study within each list.  For older students you can add more words and for younger children you can limit the number of words depending on your child's abilities.  Keep in mind that you can only have 300 word lists. You can make the word lists as easy or difficult as needed for that particular child.  You can group children or lists making it feasible for several children to work on one list.
  12. There are not any distracting, unwanted, or inappropriate commercial ads for premium members.   
  13. The subscription is cost efficient for one year (but ... that is just my opinion). They offer a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee on premium memberships. You may cancel within the first 30 days if you for some reason are not completely satisfied.  I am 100% happy satisfied with what this program has to offer. 
  14. The Vocabulary Spelling City forum is a place where users discuss their experiences, ask questions, and give feedback.  My favorite aspect is the list sharing feature in the forum - this is where users share word lists for different resources or spelling curricula they use. 
  15. Printable certificates and spelling awards for students word list tests. The awards note the percentage score reached and the number of words correct out of the total.  After a child completes a spelling test, you have the option of printing an award in black and white which saves colored ink costs or you can print the spelling progress report for each test taken. The certificates are personalized with your child's name.  It would be awesome if we could also personalize the "Deputy" and "Deputy Mayor" names.  I would use my name and my husband's name. The spelling report shows the results of the test including the number of correct and incorrect words.  There is also a section that records words not attempted by the child during the test.

Possible Cons
  1. We came across a few words that were not pronounced clearly or properly.  For example, Alyssa and I both thought the word stated was "dead" when in actuality the word was supposed to be "did."
  2. Is 300 word lists enough for a family of five children? I only have one daughter and I wonder if 300 word lists will be enough for me when using word lists for multiple subjects over a one year time period.  There would be 60 word lists per child in one year. You can always delete old word lists that have been mastered.
  3. You have only five student licenses. This works GREAT for me because I only have one daughter, but this might not work for a larger family with more than five children - especially if they are looking for something that will work for ALL children in the family.  
  4. The speed for the action games requiring children to catch and spell letters to form words from lists may be too fast for younger children.  In the beginning, my daughter was frustrated with the "Letter Fall" because of the speed at which letter fell.  I think they distracted her a bit too.  The screen was very busy when considering letter, movement, and speed.  The child has to have great motor and computer skills to play this game.  Alyssa has been playing on the computer since she was much younger so I don't think that was an issue with her.  She has pretty good control of the mouse.  The other day she played "Letter Fall" successfully going through all of their levels which are based on number of words and her progression through the total list. She was so proud of herself for not complaining and for believing in herself. 
  5. Writing Practice Component (BETA testing) did not save my daughter's progress at one point.
  6. It is difficult finding useful lists created by users without specific spelling word list titles or the exact name of the individual that posted the list. The only other way to access the list is to check the "List Sharing" section at the forum. 
  7. Apostrophes, hyphens, and spaces were left out or not used during particular games such as Word Search and Hang Mouse.  I will possibly avoid using these games for words containing hyphens or apostrophes, because I do not want Alyssa to see the words spelled incorrectly without them. 
  8. Users are unable to split apart or edit long word lists imported into their library.  There were several lists that contained too many words for my daughter.  I would have loved a "splitting" feature enabling me to split the word list in two or more sections.   
Possible Improvements
  • I think it might be beneficial to increase the number of word lists allowed for each family or subscription.  If a parent or teacher wants a child or their children to practice a year's worth of words, then I am not sure 300 word lists would be enough for five children working on different word lists let alone 25 in a classroom.  If the spelling word lists are differentiated as many of us do, more word lists may be needed for the year to meet all the needs of the children.
  • Giving parents the ability to add additional student licenses to their family membership.  I know several families that have more than five children that could benefit from using this resource.  If it is possible for teachers or classrooms to add students then parents should have the option too. 
  • This improvement is in regards to the BETA TESTING of the writing feature which we LOVE so dearly.  I would suggest eliminating the foreign language readers on the writing exercise unless "real" foreign language is used.  We clicked on the Spanish ones and it didn't make sense for most sentences.  I am not sure if the sentence was to be read in Spanish or using a Spanish accent.  It was confusing either way.  The first three characters were fairly understandable ... for the most part.  I also think it would be beneficial to not give the spelling words visually, but to allow the child click on and hear the word before attempting to write or in this case type a sentence. Another idea would be to give parents the choice or option of choosing whether the child can see or hear the word before creating their own sentences during writing practice. This way it is possible to assess their spelling words in addition to revising and editing aspects of writing. Is it possible to use the same familiar voice from the spelling test to read aloud the sentences created by the users? 
  • Would it be possible to add a game option that adjusts the speed at which the letters fall in the "Letter Fall" game? I think my daughter would have enjoyed this game more if we could slow down or adjust the speed a bit.  
  • The most important improvement would be to add special characters and native speakers enabling users to integrate or incorporate foreign language word lists.  It would be an advantage or benefit to us all.  We could have the children practice Spanish, Latin, or French vocabulary or word lists. 
  • My daughter and I love the "Alphabetizing" game. One thing I noticed was that the child must be capable of alphabetizing to the first, second, or third letter.  Is it possible to create a graduated or differentiated "Alphabetizing" game feature in which the child can choose one of three levels: Level 1: Alphabetize By First Letter, Level 2: Alphabetize by Second Letter, or Level 3: Alphabetize by Third Level? This would allow the child to build on successful attempts while learning how to alphabetize properly.  Alyssa was confused as to why she got so many wrong the first time she did this activity. I gave her a mini lesson on the topic and she did fine afterwards, but some children may need more practice in order to understand the concept fully.  
Other Products
Did you hear?  They also have a FREE Vocabulary Spelling City App available to download which makes spelling and vocabulary lessons portable. I have not downloaded it yet, but definitely plan to try doing it in the near future.  Your child can complete a lesson on the way into town, while waiting for appointments, or as you grocery shop. Vkidz, the creators and owners of Vocabulary Spelling City, offer two other products that you may be interested in including in your homeschool schedule. They are Time4Learning and Time4Writing.  Click on the links to read more about each separate program and their costs. 

Contact Vocabulary Spelling City if you have any questions about their program. You may find answers to your questions in the general FAQ section or you can also visit the Help section. They can also be reached at 954-357-1150. Don't forget to sign-up for their newsletter to receive more resources and updated information. You can also become a fan or a follower on Facebook and Twitter.

Overall, Alyssa enjoyed using this program tremendously and she is retaining the information learned! My daughter gives this program a double thumbs up with big grins and excitement. Alyssa thought almost all of the games were fun and enjoyable.  We tried most of the games during assignments. She is starting to like "Letter Fall" which was one of her least favorite games. It is difficult, at times, getting Alyssa off the computer when using Vocabulary Spelling City. The games challenged her at the appropriate level without leading towards frustration. Every time I tell a friend about Vocabulary Spelling City Alyssa chimes in and shows major interest in the topic and desires to play immediately. She received instant gratification while studying. Alyssa has passed almost all of her pretests before playing the games, so it is difficult for me to say whether she is retaining the words due to this program or her curriculum. I will be able to tell more after having time to use it with All About Spelling Level 2 this fall. I look forward to seeing if this website helps her retain knowledge of unknown spellings in the future.

Absolutely!  This fabulous educational resource is HIGHLY recommended for any homeschooling family or classroom at any type of school implementing any method or philosophy. There are so many possibilities with regards to how it can be used to enrich subject lessons. All learners including visual, auditory, gifted, ESL, and students with special needs will benefit greatly from this program. Of course children that enjoy computer-based learning will find this online subscription enjoyable. This is meant for anyone looking for an efficient, engaging, and interactive way for their child or students to practice using their spelling words. This resource helps parents and teachers differentiate and individualize spelling and vocabulary instruction for all children. We LOVE it! I definitely intend to renew my subscription once my yearly membership expires (as long as finances are available).  The price is very affordable and reasonable ... so I am sure that I will be able to come up with $29.99 in order to renew. We will make sacrifices if necessary! This practice tool is worth every penny. It is worth the time and effort to at least look into creating a free account.

Please visit the Schoolhouse review crew blog here to read other Vocabulary Spelling City reviews and experiences for the Premium Membership.


Disclaimer: As a Schoolhouse Crew reviewer, I received a premium online subscription to Vocabulary Spelling City, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by the company.