Wednesday, April 29, 2015

TOS Review: La La Logic's Preschool Curriculum

La La Logic Review

I recently received a Lifetime Membership of the Preschool Curriculum developed by La La Logic to review. I was given 5 student accounts. Lilac Mohr is a homeschool mom to 3 and the brilliant developer of this program.

Basic Product Description
La La Logic is an early learning online preschool curriculum that teaches problem solving, reasoning, logical, critical thinking, and cognitive skills. The curriculum is suitable for children ages 3-6 years old. However, older children can definitely use the curriculum depending on their abilities and interest level.

The curriculum is divided into two parts:
Online
  • Brain Challenges
  • Extra Practice Sessions
Note: The online portion of the curriculum will work on a PC, MAC, iPad, or Android tablet.

Offline Printables
  • Weekly Agendas
  • Worksheets
  • Enrichment Activities
The preschool curriculum contains a total of 100 weekly content lessons divided into 20 sets. Each set consists of 5 weekly lessons.

How I Used La La Logic's Preschool Curriculum?
My daughter, Alyssa (Age 7 1/2) utilized La La Logic's Preschool Curriculum as a way to increase her cognitive and critical thinking skills. She works at an advanced grade level but she still thought the activities were enjoyable and fun. She saw it more as a "reward" for work completed even though I required her to utilize the program at least 3-5 times each week for minimum of 10-15 minutes a day. Our goal was to complete one lesson on a weekly basis. We completed the lessons in sequential order because the material is progressive which means it gradually increases in difficulty. We used Chrome as our Internet browser on a MAC 10.6.8 computer. Adobe Reader was used to access the PDF files.

After logging in, we clicked on the La La Logic Curriculum link listed under my daughter's name. Alyssa would go to the brain challenge under the appropriate "Set" and "Week" on the green blackboard. Then, she clicked on the orange start button which initiated the brain challenge sequence. I supervised the first brain challenge session more out of curiosity and to familiarize myself with the program. Repeated sessions were completed independently. My daughter would frequently leave notes for me to read about the activities she liked and disliked in the white box below. I printed the weekly suggested schedule and any enrichment activities or worksheets by clicking on the blue download button seen below.

I glanced at the suggested agenda for the week. Then, I divided the lessons over a 3-day time period. You can easily spread out the activities to cover a 1-3 year span if desired. Alyssa would complete the same weekly brain challenge at least 3 times per week allowing for repeated exposure.

Each day she would also choose 1-4 extra online practice activities to complete in addition to and following the online brain challenge. She never complained about having to do the extra practice, about it being boring, or about it being too easy. She always said that she had fun and wished she could have more time on the program.

Several printable activities (1-3) were next on the agenda. The daily activities varied each week and there was not a method to my madness. The spontaneous pick and choose method worked well for us. We spent a total of maybe 30 minutes working through both the online and offline material.

If we used the program for more than 3 days, then the continuous mode was utilized on the iPad as we traveled to extracurricular activities or appointments. My daughter also requested La La Logic time during her free time and when she was sick. I would also add in an extra practice session or an enrichment activity if we had time on these days.

A Subscription Includes:
Each lesson includes web-based interactive Brain Challenges and Extra Practice Materials. The two parts can be used separate from one another but they reinforce content if used together.

Brain Challenges
There are 500 online brain challenges included in this program each one lasts approximately 5-10 minutes. The test questions are modeled after IQ tests and based on plasticity research. The session concluded with a "You Did It" celebration finale.

As stated earlier, a continuous mode is also offered for children who want to "play" nonstop without interruptions. It is the perfect option for free exploration of all 500 brain challenges. You can start at the very beginning which is highly recommended or you can start at a specific session.
La La Logic Review
You Did It Finale 
Extra Practice Materials 
The additional online practice gave Alyssa the opportunity to practice a particular skill or type of activity. The downloadable, printable PDF worksheets and enrichment sets consisting of 3-4 pages are available under the "Extra Practice" section.

The extra practice online sessions were short focusing on a specific type of activity such as Shadow Matching, Symbol Identification, Counting, Sorting, and and so forth. The format of these activities were similar to those found in the Brain Challenges except that additional examples were created to further challenge your child. The following activity covers colors, shapes, and positions. Alyssa said that these activities reminded her of brain puzzles. Can you spot the correct answer? I have to admit I really like these activities!
La La Logic Review

Worksheets
The printable worksheets available developed fine motor skills. I saved on ink costs since the worksheets were black and white. Alyssa was asked to color, cut-n-paste, gluing, sequence, match, and categorize items.
Flower Sequencing Online Challenge
Reinforced Learning
Seasonal Shoe Sort and Pair Matching Activity
Categorizing and Sorting Pictures
Shadow Matching Cut-n-Paste
Enrichment Sets
I chose 1-3 of the recommended activities to complete each day. For example, I would read aloud the short classic story and asked the related comprehension questions while the story was fresh in her mind. Alyssa would then narrate and illustrate the story as part of a daily lesson. On another day, I might choose the science experiment and artist study and discuss any connections she might have to the story. There are plenty of activity suggestions. The program is extremely flexible and adaptable to your scheduling needs so you can chose what fits your schedule best!

Week 5 was our favorite weekly lesson so far. There were a wide variety of activities. Many academic subjects were integrated into the weekly lesson. This particular lesson included a narration/illustration activity, comprehension questions, poetry, science experiments, a nature study, artist study, copywork, and more.

We thoroughly enjoyed the classic stories included in the curriculum. We appreciated being introduced to new, unfamiliar stories. We both wished there was at least one classic story provided for each week. Alyssa had a blast researching and discussing the characteristics of white water lilies on the iPad. She even viewed Claude Monet's water lily paintings. She hasn't completed the art painting project yet but she has it on her list of things to do soon. Check out Alyssa's narration of the story, "The Water Lilies" retold by Ida Coe in the photo below. I scribbled down abbreviated notes for her and she recopied her retelling using complete sentences. Then, she illustrated the narration. She decided to depict a sequence of illustrations to retell the story. However, she didn't feel like coloring it.
  

Here's another fun enrichment activity. We started with three household objects. Alyssa would name and touch the objects from left to right. She skipped, ran, or hopped off into the other room while I mixed up the objects. Her task was to put the items back into the correct order. We gradually added more objects to make the game more difficult. Putting six objects back in order proved to be a challenging task! We also played another game where one item was removed from the group. We started with three items and I increased the number of objects I removed each time. Alyssa would tell me which item(s) were missing.   
Week 2 Enrichment Activity:
Math and Logic Game
What We Liked
  • I really liked the assortment of enrichment activities provided and suggested in the weekly lesson plans. The suggestions integrate other subjects into the day including but not limited to reading, writing, math, science, nature study, art, and more. Click on the image below to enlarge and view the water lily Internet research activity, a land and sea animal sorting game we played, and a copywork excerpt from the short story we read aloud during the first week.  
  • The age-appropriate online activities were colorful and offered in a "game-like" format which added a little more fun to our day while she developed practical lifelong educational skills. 
  • If you follow the suggested agenda, the lessons are short and manageable for younger children who have shorter attention spans.
  • The printable PDF enrichment activities and worksheets extended and reinforced learning. The activities didn't challenge my daughter (Age 7 1/2), but she still enjoyed them.
La La Logic Review
  • I appreciated the useful teacher checklist and note-taking section in which goals can be set. You can also jot down notes about the program. I liked having a way to check off the completed lessons. 
  • Positive reinforcement and verbal praise such as "Sensational" and "Astounding" was given as Alyssa worked through the online challenges. Incorrect responses were encouraged with a gentle "Try again" message.
  • I have the flexibility to choose which activities to complete on which days and which to skip since my daughter is older than the recommended age range. 
  • Alyssa can complete one week's worth lessons or more working at her own pace.  
  • The curriculum is user-friendly and easy to implement. It requires minimal teacher prep while limiting the child's time on the computer. Teacher prep was limited to printing out materials and grabbing a few household items. 
  • Basic preschool and kindergarten readiness skills for younger children were introduced including but not limited to colors, shapes, counting, identifying and sorting letters, emotions, fine motor skills, patterns, sequencing, go-togethers, science concepts, number identification, and more. They even had a measurement activity Alyssa liked. She measured images to the nearest inch.  
  • There is a "Listen" tab which allows the child to hear the directions read aloud or have them verbally repeated if necessary.
My Thoughts
La La Logic's Preschool Curriculum teaches kids to think at a higher cognitive level while following a learning path that progresses in difficulty. The curricula balances engaging online and hands-on offline components requiring a minimal time commitment. Several enrichment activities support a Classical Education homeschool approach such as narrations, copywork, nature study, poetry, and high-quality literature selections. Children can increase their intellectual abilities while utilizing modern technology to practicing basic mouse skills. My daughter and I enjoyed playing games and participating in hands-on activities. We're always looking for ways to spend more time together since she's working on more advanced, independent work lately. I have seen an improvement in Alyssa's memory, attentiveness, focus, and cognitive skills since she's been using the program.

Alyssa's Thoughts
"La La Logic is fun and educational! I think my friends, Drake and Lily, would like this program. My favorite online activities were the concentration games, frog bongos, pattern tiles, flashlight counting, and tomato basket counting. The games are very colorful. I do have one question mama, "Which came first the egg or the chicken?"
La La Logic Review
Pattern Tile Brain Challenge:
Click on white box until colors match the tile design. 
Honestly, she had a long list of favorite activities!

Price
You won't believe the price tag on this homeschool preschool curriculum! A LIFETIME membership will ONLY cost you $29. Your login will NEVER expire. Guess what? There's more! You will receive a lifetime subscription which tracks progress for up to FIVE students. Now . . . that's what I call a FANTABULOUS offer!

Recommendations
I recommend La La Logic's Preschool Curriculum to preschools, daycare providers, schools, and parents with toddler and preschool-aged children as a supplement to their curriculum. I would also recommend this preschool curriculum to libraries to use as part of a kindergarten readiness program. It can also be used as a stand alone critical thinking curricula. This high-quality curriculum will help support intellectual growth while developing early learning skills. It will appeal to children who enjoy computer-based programs. I plan on using this program with children (under age 6) that I care for in my home.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • I would consider offering bulk licenses to local libraries and preschools as part of their kinder readiness programs.
  • Create a list of Family Fun activities to choose from on Fridays. 
  • Provide one classic story or more each week. 
Social Media
Facebook

Visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog or click on the button below to read other La La Logic reviews from my fellow crew members.
La La Logic Review

Crew Disclaimer


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: A Fun Day at the Beach

We visited Surfside Beach during our recent trip to the Lake Jackson area. My daughter LOVES the beach! Unfortunately, we didn't bring a bathing suit. Watching her play brings a smile to my face and fills my heart with joy.
I Love You MORE Alyssa!  
It's COOOLD!
Alyssa Jumping Waves With My Sister
Cartwheel Time

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey! I hope you'll visit us again soon. I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday Linky
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

God bless,
Tracey 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

BookLook Review: Motivate Your Child written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

I am so glad that the BookLook Bloggers Program offered me the book titled, Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need To Do Without Being Told to review. This 288-page paperback parenting book was written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. It was published by Thomas Nelson. It explores tools for teaching your children about their internal voice and motivation. 

As a parent, I often wish that my child came with an instruction manual - something to guide me as I train her to be a daughter of God. But, it doesn't work that way! We don't have any major behavior issues at this time, but I've been using external motivators lately more than I probably should. My daughter used to do things because of her internal drive, but I've been hearing myself remind her quite often about completing her chores and attending to other daily expectations. I'm glad that I had the chance to read this book, because he gave me the opportunity to adjust my ways and gave me the tools needed to train my daughter using a heart-based approach. I have a strong desire for Alyssa to be driven by her conscience and for her to develop an internal motivation to do what's right without constant prompting.

Author Biographies
Dr. Scott Turansky - has been a pastor and missionary for more than 33 years. In addition to pastoring full time, he also conducts parenting seminars on Saturdays (http://www.effectiveparenting.org/). He is the cofounder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting (www.biblicalparenting.org). Turansky is also an author of several books and has co-authored four books.

Joanne Milleris a pediatric nurse with 26 years of experience. Miller is the the cofounder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting. She is also the coauthor of seven parenting books.

Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN, teach parents how to help children form the internal strength they'll need every day as they grow older. Parents have the greatest influence on their children's character. Mom or Dad's words, choices, actions, and reactions mold a child's view of almost everything. It can be a terrifying thought. But there is hope. 

Book Summary (Taken from the Website)
Most parenting approaches end up encouraging children to ask the wrong questions about life: What’s in it for me? Are you going to pay me for that? What’s the minimum I need to do to get by?
But God’s Word gives us a better way to parent, one that builds strong internal motivation in children. When parents change the way they parent, kids change the way they live. This practical book explores a theology of internal motivation and then gives parents real-life solutions to equip their kids for life.
Open the book’s pages to learn . . . 
  • How to parent in ways that build internal motivation so that kids don’t have to rely on you to get things done
  • The four promptings of the conscience and how to coordinate your parenting to take advantage of them
  • Ways to energize your spiritual training with fun and creativity
  • How to help children respond to mistakes instead of blaming, defending, or justifying.
The greatest gift you can give your child is strong moral and spiritual development—this book shows you how! Every chapter includes practical examples of families applying the Bible to their current issues.
Book Description
Motivate Your Child is a straightforward guide that emphasizes the idea of the healthy "conscience" and how it should guide your child's behavior down the right path. It gives you practical tools based on Scripture to compassionately teach your children how their actions should be based on integrity and honesty. It teaches them to take initiative to do what's right both inside and outside the home. The book is chocked full of advice from real families and experts applying God's Word to their situations and lives. Would you like to get your children to do what they need to do without constant nagging or being told repeatedly? 

The book is divided into two main sections which address both moral development and spiritual development.

Part 1 covers the following moral development topics:
  • Internal Verses External Motivation
  • Parenting Requires Strategy
  • What is the Conscience? 
  • Helping Kids Choose to Do What's Right
  • When Kids Make Mistakes
  • Learning to Value Integrity
  • Compassion: Thinking Beyond Oneself
  • Kids Taking Initiative
  • What About Consequences?
  • Putting the Conscience to Work Outside the Home
Part 2 addresses the following spiritual development topics:
  • God's Plan
  • Family Time Once a Week
  • Relationship is Foundational
  • Scripture + Creativity=Impact
  • Practicing Faith Teaches That It's Real
  • Prepare for Resistance
  • Leading a Child to Christ
  • Children of the Holy Spirit
  • Connecting Children to the Bible
  • Going It Solo
  • Will You Take the Family Challenge
My Thoughts
Motivate Your Child is an interesting read that reminded me that parent-based training doesn't occur overnight. It'll take time and patience to reap the results I am so desperately searching for at times. It also reminded me that I need to role model appropriate behaviors and attitudes. 

After reading this book, I've discovered that I want my relationship with my daughter to be even stronger. I really don't want to look back in life thinking she only behaved because she doesn't want to face the consequences. I want her to have Godly character and allow her conscience to lead her down the righteous path with regards to her obedience, attitude, and behavior. Not to mention, I've realized that my current parenting strategies aren't working the way they used to work. I was inspired to reevaluate how I approach discipline and make sure that my words are encouraging and uplifting not demanding and commanding. I plan to have a family meeting with my daughter where we discuss the rules, clearly lay out our expectations, and plan our goals for the future.

The "Going It Solo" chapter was relevant to my situation and filled my heart with hope. It's difficult to raise my daughter while passing on my faith when the other parent isn't always on the same page and there's a lack of support with regards to my efforts. My daughter's father is a believer but after our recent divorce it seems to be even more difficult for us to work together in order to teach Godly values. Things changed dramatically even though I was under the impression we had the same goals and beliefs. I will stand strong focusing on my personal, spiritual influence over my daughter and I pray that she'll continue to choose a Godly value system based on the Bible. The author states that, "God works through our weaknesses. He often uses limitations and challenges to fulfill his vision." This statement helped me realize God has a bigger and better plan for our life and how important it is that we trust in Him. I do wish that this chapter contained more advise and suggestions for single parents.

Chapter 5 titled, "When Kids Make Mistakes," discusses the difference between guilt and shame. The chapter also emphasizes forgiveness of sins and wrongdoings while providing parents with scripture help related to the topic. This chapter has great content that will help any parent value correction by giving children an understanding of God's purpose for correction and how they can learn from it to increase their quality of life. The parent is told to have margins in a day for corrections and to develop a plan for correcting behaviors, because these positive, non-reactive conversations are most important and lead to heart changes. The author provides the parent with a memory card game idea that may help the family work on the habit of forgiveness. The book also covers how to discipline with a positive conclusion which consists of three questions and a statement.

I benefited from reading many of the chapters in this book, but I can't tell you about all of my experiences because my review would be too long. The practical ideas found within the book's pages can be immediately implemented into your life. The authors captured my attention with Biblical truths and informative content. I will most likely need to reread this book in the near future to absorb all the practical advice and wisdom scattered throughout the book. I'm not one to mark up the pages, but I sure have a lot of post-it notes peeking out the sides. Skimming my notes will remind me of my action plan and family goals.

Price
Faith Gateway Store $16.99
Amazon $13.48

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice. 

Recommendations
This is one of the best self-help parenting books I've read so far this year! I highly recommend Motivate Your Child to all Christian parents wanting practical ways to instill and teach their child about internal motivation. I believe it is an absolute must read for EVERY parent and grandparent. The Biblical knowledge packed into this book will profoundly impact and deepen the relationship your family has with each other and God.

Disclaimer
I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLook Blogger Review Team Program in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

I review for BookLook Bloggers


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fly By Promotions Review and Giveaway: gMovies Subscription

Fly By Promotions recently contacted me to review gMovies and even though this April was one of my busiest months, I couldn't resist. I am one of those mothers . . .  you know the one that doesn't allow her child to watch "certain" shows that many people don't find offending or repulsive for children to view. I am disgusted by what I see on the television today and can't believe the cartoon options available for children to view. gMovies has brought our family movie night to a new level! I am ecstatic to have good movie selections that don't make me want to cringe. 

What is gMovies?
As part of Fly By Promotions, I reviewed and received a FREE 6-month subscription to gMovies powered by UP, America’s favorite TV network providing uplifting entertainment. UP offers the best in faith conscious entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ has twice awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to UP for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” UP is the ONLY television network to be so honored. 

gMovies is similar to Netflix except that they offer mainly faith-based and family-friendly content. The company has over 2 million monthly viewers that enjoy the content in their subscription. You’ll gain instant access to OVER 300 Christian movies in addition to broadcasted TV shows. New titles are added on a monthly basis which provides fresh and new viewing choices. Check out the most popular and featured movie titles below! 

The website contains a variety of family entertainment genres to explore including:
  • Animated
  • Bible
  • Adventure
  • Documentary
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Comedy
  • Christmas
  • Kids
  • Drama
  • Sci Fi
  • TV Shows     
gMovies also includes the bible-based animated series “Pahappahooey Island;” a teen drama “Much Ado About Middle School” starring Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether and Amanda Waters; and the “Left Behind” drama series starring Kirk Cameron which is based on the New York Times bestselling books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

Technology Requirements
Adobe Flash Player is the video player you’ll need in order to view the content on the gMovies website. Make sure that the web browser you are using will run the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. Your internet download speed should be at least 3.0 Mbps. An internet speed test can give you the information you need before subscribing. You can stream from your iPad, Android, and even your PC or MAC computer. Just make sure you download the gMovies FREE app to watch gMovies on your Android or ipad tablet.

Price
gMovies is a reasonably priced option for streaming videos online. Rather than exposing Alyssa to distasteful television shows and movies; gMovies serves as a wonderful alternative. The cost for a subscription is $4.99 per month. No contract is required and you have the ability to cancel anytime. But . . .  once you view a few movie selections, you may be hooked like we are!

Note: State sales tax will be added to monthly subscription fees for customers with billing addresses in the state of CA, GA, TN, IL, MD, NY, and NC.

Our Experience and Thoughts
This review came at the perfect time since we recently had to cancel our cable. We are movie lovers and enjoy snuggling on the couch together at the end of the day. Finding family-friendly movies can be difficult at times. gMovies made this process quite easy. My seven-year-old daughter could easily navigate the website to find a movie we could watch together. So far, many of the movies and shows we've seen have been appropriate for children containing no foul language or inappropriate scenes. I want the shows my daughter watches to be valuable and clean cut. However, some of the options we have on television and at the theaters are terrible. gMovies provides us with a solution to this dilemma. There's also a SEARCH option enabling you to find or search for particular titles. 

I can't tell you how excited I was to find several "Friends and Heroes" episodes available for viewing. I've entered giveaways in the past in hopes to win their DVD's but never won. This movie series became a huge hit and newfound favorite with my daughter, Alyssa. She'd watch an episode every night if I would let her. I found them to be Biblically accurate and of high quality. She's learning a lot by watching them.

"Friends and Heroes Episode 15 Over Walls" was the perfect show for us to watch, because my daughter could make movie connections to her Bible History studies. Another popular animated series I found available for young children besides "Friends and Heroes" was "Davey and Goliath.

Several of our favorite gMovies movies so far were Marriage Retreat, Raising Izzie, My Mother's Future Husband, Finding Normal, Heaven is Waiting, Meant to Be, What If, A Cross to Bear, and The Carpenter's Miracle.

A couple of the movies mentioned above were on my list to watch, but I couldn't find them at the library or at movie rental locations. I did a little happy dance after finally seeing a few of the shows I wanted to see. Many of the available movies are feel good movies that teach valuable lessons.

I can't wait to further explore the documentaries in hopes to match movies up with my daughter's history studies. I saw a neat "Faith of Fathers" documentary that would be great to utilize this year. I even found a documentary on gMovies that is mentioned as a resource in one of our American History unit studies titled, "The Role of Pastors and Christians in Civil Government."   

"Pieces of Easter" had a good plot but the film quality seemed poorer than the others and the movie was slow. It was the only movie that I wasn't 100% pleased with during the review period. However, Alyssa liked it because it had a good message in the end. Other available Easter shows to watch are "Max Lucado's Resurrection" and "At Jesus' Side."

I will say that the "Max Lucado's Resurrection" movie did contain a few quick flashback bloody images of Jesus' injuries, but that is to be expected considering the plot of the story. They weren't too graphic and didn't seem to bother my daughter.

Special Note: Of course with any movie, including those on gMovies, you should consider watching the movie in advance to determine if your child should view it.

Vendor Suggestions
  • I do wish that the ratings for each movie were clearly stated. If the summary sounded questionable in any way, I would always do a quick search for the movie trailer and rating to be on the safe side. This wastes precious time that could be spend with my family.   
  • Each movie should also mentioned somewhere near the summary age ranges or notes about the content in the movie so that parents can make a more educated decision about what they want their children to view especially since we all differ greatly in what we allow our children to view. 
Would you like access to the subscription content? 

gMovies is offering my readers a two-week FREE trial subscription. Click on the link below for more information. Don't forget to enter the READER CODE.
  1. https://vod.gmovies.com/gmovies/secure/signup?productid=38   
  2. Enter Reader Code: FREETRIAL38
Recommendations
I highly recommend this subscription to families looking for Christian faith-based movies and shows to watch during family movie night. It would make a great gift for relatives and friends. I am going to watch as many movies as I possibly can in the next six months and I may consider renewing my subscription in the future. I also think this would be a great subscription for libraries to offer guests if that option is available.

Overall Experience
Reviewing gMovies was a pleasant experience often bringing laughter into our home. Several movies even triggered thought-provoking questions for us to consider and discuss. The movie messages had good hearted intentions. We could relax during a fun-filled family movie night knowing the choices were safe for our family. The movies reminded me of a few selections we've watched on the Lifetime or Hallmark channels which were two of our favorite television channels. I can't wait to see which movie titles and shows are added in the next couple months! 

GOOD NEWS!

Fly By has agreed to give away a FREE 6-month subscription to ONE LUCKY reader of my blog. 


Disclosure or Disclaimer - In accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”: Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Easter at the Trattoria Lisina Winery

We are soooo grateful for friends and family! Thankfully, our friends invited us to the Trattoria Lisina Winery and Restaurant in Driftwood, Tx for Easter this year. I wasn't exactly sure what we were going to do for Easter lunch until they invited us. Every meal served was absolutely delicious!

My sister from New York also visited us. Her birthday fell on Easter this year so we celebrated part of it at the restaurant by sharing a yummy piece of drool-worthy chocolate cake.

I hardly ever post photos of myself but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone a little this year so here goes . . .
Max, Pam, and Alyssa
The Gang
My Life and Love
Sisterly Love
Max's Do-Rag History Story
I pray that your Easter was also blessed with love, laughter, and happiness. 

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey! 

I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday Linky.
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Monday, April 13, 2015

TOS Review: New American Cursive Penmanship Program by Memoria Press


Memoria Press Review

I believe that it is very important that we continue teaching cursive to our children which is why I jumped on the chance to review the New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1 published by Memoria Press. Read this Psychology Today article or the Top Ten Reasons to Learn Cursive for information about the benefits of teaching and learning cursive.

Are you teaching cursive to your children?

Many schools today are eliminating penmanship from the curricula or not teaching cursive until 2nd or 3rd grade which often leads to the formation of bad habits. Not to mention, children tend to struggle during this transitional period. I have a strong desire to make sure that my daughter can write legibly and accurately in cursive. This workbook program was created for teachers in hopes that they'd consider teaching cursive first rather than manuscript to avoid transition problems with cursive in the later years. Looking back, I wish I had taught Alyssa cursive before manuscript writing.

Product Description
The consumable book consists of 114 black and white pages and is part of a cursive penmanship program written by Iris Hatfield who has 35 years of experience with teaching handwriting. This flexible cursive program is suitable for children in grades 1-4. It is NOT reproducible so you'll need one book for each child. It has a spiral binding at the top. The book is printed in landscape format and lays flat on the table making it easier for both right and left handed students to use. The binding doesn't interfere with their writing.

The book teaches both upper and lowercase cursive letter formations in alphabetical order using a multi-sensory method designed for beginning writers. Additionally, a few words beginning with the focused letters are taught and connections are practiced increasing in difficulty over time. Children are encouraged to say the name and sound of the letter. Younger children can air write or walk the letter on the floor which helps develop large motor skills. I asked Alyssa to trace the larger letter with her pointer finger since this wasn't her first time working through the cursive letters.

The book's guide or fun mascot is an animated cartoon character named Mr. Meerkat. He demonstrates each letter formation with a step-by-step approach using directional arrows which provide guidance to the writer.

An introduction discusses the development of the New American Cursive Penmanship Program. It also explains the reasons and importance for teaching cursive in the earlier years. The three-page teacher guide that follows these pages at the beginning of the book doesn't provide daily lesson plans. However, it does contain valuable teaching tips with regards to the 3 P'sPaper PositionPencil Position, and Proper Posture. The guide also discusses the goals of penmanship which are to write legible, fluidly, and automatically. Paper placement and pencil position reminders are noted at the bottom of many pages. Cursive letter and number charts are found on the inside of the front and back covers as seen below.

The simplified font is legible, appealing to the eye, and promotes easier formations with fewer strokes. These strokes aid the child's writing for speed and accuracy. Memoria Press states that "There are 26 fewer strokes than the top three most common cursive programs." Several letters (F, T, and Z) were similar to the manuscript form. One thing you should be aware of is that some letters don't start at the baseline.

Distracting, flashy images don't clutter the lesson pages of the workbook. The lines naturally slant to the right which reduces hand fatigue. The line explanations are first seen on page 26 using the "Letter House" terms: Attic, Second Floor, First Floor and Base to aid the parent when verbalizing the letter formation directions.

Additional lined reproducible pages using line size 36, 42, and 48 are included at the back of the book for extra worksheet practice. For example, these lined pages are used when children are working on legibility of their handwriting. They trace the "Pledge of Allegiance" into two parts and then write the entire passage on a separate sheet.

In the beginning, Alyssa quickly reviewed the three basic forms for cursive writing:
  1. Dot
  2. Straight Line
  3. Curve  
Three detailed pages cover letter connections which are taught using three easily remembered forms: A Smile, a Grin, and a Jump. A whole page is dedicated to understanding and practicing these forms. Helpful clues are mentioned to help you remember the difference between each one.  

She even had the chance to evaluate her own writing. At the end of the practice page, she was asked to "Circle the best letter." You'll also find a useful handwriting evaluation checklist on page 109. There's space for you to write additional comments for improvement. The educator can indicate which lowercase, uppercase, and numbers still need improvement by circling them on the list. The handy checklist evaluates the child's handwriting with regards to:
  • Style
  • Size
  • Line Spacing
  • Letter Spacing
  • Pressure
  • Margins 
  • Slant
  • Speed 
  • Word Spacing.
Evaluation Practice Can Be Given Weekly or Cumulatively
Handwriting Educator Checklist

How We Used It
I used New American Cursive 4-5 times per week for a minimum of 15-20 minutes each day with my daughter, Alyssa (Age 7 1/2) who was eager to learn a different way to write in cursive. I taught the letters in alphabetical order in the beginning, but we eventually decided to jump around (following a non-alphabetical order) to change things up a bit. Some days . . . I allowed her to choose the letter of the day just for fun.

Before beginning the core lessons we reviewed the 3 P's. Occasionally, classical music was softly playing in the background. My daughter covered one letter each day. Three exercise pages were supplied and completed for each cursive letter:

Instruction - Letter formations are taught on two larger line sizes.

Practice - She traces letters and will practice writing them twice on 1/2" lines. There's plenty of room to practice writing most letters in between the dotted, traceable letters. Two practice lines are given for both capital and lowercase formations. 

Play - She can attempt new letters in the space given. White space was also provided for free art time to develop fine motor skills and add her artwork creations. My daughter didn't utilize this feature very often. She would have been more interested and considered these pages fun had there been an artwork exercise lesson provided.  


The Fun Exercises and Artwork Pages promote handwriting and fine motor skills. There are a variety of exercises to complete:
  • Large Instruction Page Letter Formations 
  • Letter Connections
  • Individual Letters (Uppercase and Lowercase)
  • Short Sentences
  • Connecting the Letters of the Alphabet
  • Connecting Letters to Form Sight Words or Word Family Words 
  • Writing Your Name and Age
  • Writing Numbers and Number Words
  • Write the Days of the Week
  • Cursive Sentences
  • Thank You Note


Review and Practice pages occur after three letters have been taught with the exception of last two letters (Y and Z) being reviewed in one sitting. Alyssa was introduced to three new letters covering one letter each day and on the fourth day she completed a review and practice sheet. We continued with the next letter in alphabetical order when we worked five times per week unless of course we didn't work in alphabetical order.

Features We Liked
  • Landscape Format with Spiral on the Top
  • Simplified Formations Eliminating Unnecessary Strokes
  • Super Cool Meerkat
  • Directional Arrows with Start Dot
  • Words and Connections Added to the Daily Lesson
  • Weekly Testing or Scoring of Letter Formations to Evaluate Progress
  • Classical Music Reminders 
  • Short Lessons
  • Multi-Sensory Approach for Young Learners Addressing Different Learning Styles
Multi-Sensory Approach: Say, Feel, Write
Stating Letter Sound Aloud
Price
Visit the Memoria Press website to purchase the New American Cursive workbook which costs $22.95. Lesson plans are also available to purchase for $5.00-$8.00. However, New American Cursive does not require a teacher's guide, because the book contains lessons in addition to teaching suggestions which are all pretty self-explanatory. You can view the Sample Pages on the website.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Parents may benefit from having Mr. Meerkat's directions describing the letter formations more if presented at the beginning of each letter lesson as an introductory page. The teacher instructional help was very limited with regards to letter formation descriptions.
  2. It might be helpful to organize the letters by stroke formations, starting position, or letter connections.
  3. I also suggest one-inch lines for younger children and feel that one practice letter between each dotted letter is sufficient if working with children between the ages of 5-7. 
Our Thoughts 
Alyssa really liked the new workbook and preferred it over the one that we were previously using. We will definitely continue using this book for the rest of the year and throughout summer. I might spread out the exercise pages for one letter utilizing them throughout the week rather than completing all of them in one day. This is actually her third time through cursive letter formations. After this book, she'll move onto more complicated books or levels practicing sentences and short passages. We may purchase the Level 2 workbook with scripture quotes in the fall.

I love the fact that her cursive writing has improved, is more accurate, and is definitely more legible. Her letters connect with ease and seem smoother. We still need to improve and work on her pencil grip, because she holds it with a death grip! Alyssa pays more attention to the details now and isn't as frustrated with handwriting.

She also has the ability to read cursive writing better. We found a few old letters from her Great Aunt. It brought her so much joy to flawlessly read the cursive words. This is an fantastic penmanship program that makes handwriting a positive, pleasurable experience! New American Cursive is user-friendly and very simple to use.

Now that Alyssa is beginning to master the letter formations, we'll focus more of our attention on the 3 S's: Size, Spacing, and Slant. She does rush through the tracing exercises so one goal I have is to encourage her to carefully trace with accuracy.

We eventually decided that writing each letter twice was a little too much. She was squeezing them in the space provided and the letters were too skinny. I'd rather have a few well-formed, neat letters than many that may not be her "best" work.
One letter between tracings

Other Helpful Resources
We found out that Memoria Press hosts an annual New American Cursive Penmanship contest. The company provides you with a practice "Pledge of Allegiance" page at the back of the book (p.108). Alyssa is practicing in hopes to enter next year since we found out at the last minute.   

We also found this video helpful when working on pencil positioning.

Recommendations
New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1 published by Memoria Press is an excellent beginning cursive program for children new to cursive or for those with some experience with cursive. I recommend it for homeschool and classroom settings. I want to utilize this program with students I tutor in penmanship. Home educators utilizing a classical education approach will especially like this classical curriculum. I believe that it would be a great introductory book for first and second graders (ages 6-8) learning cursive because of the more simplified approach. Children in other grades (older and younger) may also benefit from using this program if they are beginning cursive or needing a refresher course. There are several workbooks available to choose from in this program.
Memoria Press Review

You may find it helpful to purchase the complementary StartWrite/NAC handwriting software program to create personalized cursive handwriting worksheets or copywork exercises in the New American Cursive font. Additional handwriting sheets can be created to reinforce penmanship and can integrate content from other subjects. I wish the newer version of the StartWrite program ($29.95) worked on MAC computers, because I would consider purchasing it.

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Read other New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1 reviews by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog or by clicking on the button below. Several Crew members are also reviewing the First Start Reading books. Keep an eye out for my Latina Christiana review in June which is also another product offered through Memoria Press.
Memoria Press Review
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