Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Logic of English Foundations: A Great Start in Reading and Spelling April 26, 2015

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:55 pm
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We’ve been using Logic of English products in our homeschool for about three years now! I’ve written mostly about my experiences using Logic of English Essentials, a program that’s generally best for Ages 7 and up.  Today I’m excited to share about my experiences using Logic of English Foundations with Mr. K, who is currently 6. DSC_0694

I’m actually using the Foundations material for the second time.  I purchased a beta-test version of the Foundations curriculum when Mr. E was in Kindergarten.  I didn’t get in on the first round of beta testers in the fall of Mr. E’s Kindergarten year, and purchased it about half-way through that year.  The Foundations lessons weren’t in their final form yet, everything was in PDF (so workbook pages had to be printed out), and I had already been teaching him reading using standard phonics and some Logic of English methods for almost an entire year before we even began Foundations — so I didn’t feel my experience was “typical” enough to really write about it.

Mr. K is my first child that I have taught to read entirely using Logic of English materials (not counting adding in additional easy-reader/phonics books)!  I began Logic of English Foundations A very slowly when Mr. K was about 4.5, and we continued through his whole PreK year.  Since I felt pretty comfortable with teaching the initial 26 phonograms, we used the program pretty loosely, and mostly when he felt like working on it.  By the end of the last school year, he was reading most any CVC word, and knew all the sounds of those first 26 phonograms.

I waited until this fall to teach him lower case letter formation — he really just wasn’t interested last year as a pre-K’er.  He had taught himself how to make upper case letters, and was content with that.  So, after an initial couple weeks spent on letter formation, we started Logic of English Foundations B near the beginning of this past fall when Mr. K was 5.5 and a Kindergartener.

Mr. K absolutely loves “doing dragon” as he calls Logic of English Foundations (the workbook covers have cute dragon illustrations).  He loves that the lessons have a lot of variety, including games and movement activities.  This year we’ve shot at phonograms with a nerf gun, drove toy trains around a track to “follow the directions,” crawled through the tunnel of a “silent e machine,” as well as plenty of hopping, skipping, slapping and tossing baskets as we practice words and phonograms. Mr. K also loves the satisfaction of writing words and reading interesting books that are included at the back of the workbook.

LoE Foundations 2014-2015

There are a lot of things I love about Foundations — the teacher manual is well laid-out and easy to understand, it’s easy to keep the attention of even a distractable kid, and the prep-work for me is minimal. Lessons typically include a short phonogram and/or spelling rule lesson, sometimes a phonemic awareness activity, phonogram practice (usually a game or active activity), a couple of interesting workbook pages (they might be matching, reading, rhyming, or writing) and five spelling words to write down.  After each five regular lessons, there’s a review lesson.

For us, an average pace of about three lessons per week has been just about perfect.  We finished level B in January and moved right on to level C, which we should finish up right as we end the school year at the end of May.  Early on we may have done closer to four lessons per week, and it has been a bit more of a challenge to complete three lessons per week in the second half of level C as the lessons get a bit longer.

It’s hard to think of very much I don’t like about Foundations! Perhaps the one thing I’ve noticed is those pacing differences as we progress in C.  I feel like the last handful of phonograms are being presented a bit more quickly and there is more material to cover.   I know Mr. K needs more time to learn all these new phonograms — and with so many new phonograms he as started to confuse some “old” ones he had previously mastered! So, I’m not really expecting mastery of all the more obscure phonograms.  While I have followed the teacher manual for Foundations a lot more closely than I follow the teacher manuals for a lot of programs, if there is one thing we’ve slacked on a bit, it is probably phonogram games —  certain games take longer than others (card games in particular), or introduce extra distractions as our three-year-old thinks he should play too (it’s tough to tell the toddler that he can’t have a turn to shoot the phonograms, so we usually just let him have a turn too).  We’ll play extra phonogram games all summer and review them next year as well in Level D, which should hopefully make up for this shortcoming.

Mr. K is a pretty good reader for a six-year-old Kindergartener.  While we haven’t done a lot of reading outside of Foundations lessons lately, I am excited for a break from new lessons in the summer just to read! With having had at least exposure to all the basic phonograms by the end of the school year, he’ll be ready to dive into plenty of real books.

Overall, I highly recommend Logic of English Foundations if you have a 4-6 year old who is ready to learn letters and letter sounds.  With the variety of activities, it should be adaptable to the needs of children with many personalities and learning styles.  If you are hoping for a quick “sit for ten minutes a day and get it done” sort of program with no other activities or extras, you might not enjoy Foundations as much.   But if you want to tackle teaching reading and spelling in a fun, multisensory approach, then Foundations is definitely a curriculum you should consider.

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Our Continuing Experiences with Logic of English — Part 1 (The 2013-2014 school year) February 25, 2015

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:37 pm
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IMG_20130927_141540When logging back into my blog after my long blogging hiatus, one thing I noticed is that my various posts about Logic of English are still getting frequent visits.   We’re still using and benefiting from Logic of English, and I feel like I have learned as an instructor how I can better use the Logic of English techniques and curricula with my students.

To read a little bit about our past journey with Logic of English, you can check out these posts:

I’ll pick up in this post where I left off in the last post, which I wrote at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.  That year, I had finished up using Essentials with Miss M (a third grader at the time), and had completed most of the beta-test lessons of Logic of English Foundations (we primarily used what became levels B and C) with Mr. E (a Kindergartener at the time).

As I had planned, I used the Advanced Lists for Essentials with Miss M (4th grader at the time), and started working through Essentials with the basic lists for Mr. E (a 1st grader at the time).

One of the first things that went out the door was the idea of keeping both kids together on the same “week” of the curriculum with different lists.  Mr. E wasn’t ready for a full Essentials lesson each week.  Had Foundations D been available that year when Mr. E was a 1st grader, it would have been a perfect fit).  He had a basic knowledge of the phonograms, but needed more practice at using them.  He needed more reading practice with early readers and easy chapter books to gain fluency.  But, alas, Foundations D wasn’t published until this school year due to various delays.    As it was, I tried my best to make reviewing phonograms and learning the spelling rules fun for Mr. E while we worked through Essentials, and we varied in pace through the year, doing half lessons some weeks and full lessons other weeks.  By the end of the school year, we had completed about 25 lessons.   He made lots of reading progress through the year as he practiced reading daily, and was spelling more than adequately for a first grader!

Miss M had a mixed experience last year with the Advanced Lists for essentials.  The advanced lists for Essentials weren’t necessarily designed as a “second year” of Essentials, though they certainly can be used that way.  The LoE website describes them as an “alternate” to the basic lists provided in Essentials.   Not having any other ideas of what to do with Miss M for spelling and knowing she needed continued instruction and practice, we gave the “Advanced Lists” a go.

Without a doubt, Miss M’s spelling continued to improve as she practiced analyzing and then learning a list of 25 words each week.  However, some words on the advanced list were almost too easy or were repeats from the previous year, while other words were quite challenging.  “Ice” was too easy, while “Cacophony” was not only a spelling and vocabulary challenge, it was a word that my 4th grader was unlikely to need to read, much less spell, any time soon.

I wish I would have realized before the end of the year that 25 words is too long of a list for Miss M in particular.  We’ve used much shorter lists for spelling this year (more about that in an upcoming post), and she is much better at mastering new words, however difficult, when she is less overwhelmed by a long list.

Meanwhile, Mr. K (who turned 5 in February of 2014), started showing a growing interest in learning to read.  Since, as a beta tester, I already had in hand the Foundations materials, I began working through Foundations A with him in January of 2014.   He turned out to be a natural at many of the phonemic awareness activities! With very little practice or prompting, he was able to blend, segment and identify beginning, ending and middle sounds.  Most of the spring of last school year for Mr. K was spent with me loosely going through Foundations A to teach him the sounds of the first 26 phonograms, then helping him with reading the I See Sam beginning readers.   He wasn’t very interested in learning to write, so I decided to save that for Fall 2014, his Kindergarten year.

At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, I was definitely pleased with everyone’s progress.  But I also knew I needed to take things a little bit of a different direction for Miss M and Mr. E, while at the same time really diving into Foundations B with Mr. K.   More on that in my next post!

 

Logic of English Essentials: A One-Year-Later Review May 12, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:45 pm
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I mention our use of Logic of English Essentials pretty regularly in my week-in-review posts, but it has been many months since I’ve written a comprehensive post with our thoughts about the program.  It’s now been a little over a year since we started the program and Miss M (age almost 9, third grade) has completed 36 of the 40 lessons of the program.  We took a break for a part of the summer, spent two weeks on a few lessons, and of course had a few other vacation weeks during the year — which explains why in about 55 weeks we have not finished a 40-lesson program.  🙂

IMG_20121204_115456

As a bit of background, here are a few other posts I’ve written about Logic of English:

A review of the book “Uncovering the Logic of English”

My initial review of Logic of English Essentials (also includes background of our previous spelling curricula attempts).

My last long “update” post from late last summer

A post about how I organized my LoE flashcards and game cards

 

I’ll just cut to the chase and talk about results first, then go back to some nitty gritty details of how we’ve used the program and our plans for the future.

Just to give you an idea of where Miss M was coming from shortly before starting LoE, here’s a few sentences she wrote last winter (Jan – March of 2012, 2nd grade):

On a worksheet about the five senses asking, “What did you smell,” Miss M wrote: “I donde no waet I smeld.”

A few more example sentences (they seem random, because they are from a writing curriculum we tried last winter and are in response to various prompts or pictures):

“I licke free time becus I can do waet evr I want.”

“The chilin are sackbordin.”

“I had cholitk melk. It was fomy.”

“My famly went on are vry frst bike ride this yaer.”

So, you can see why I was very eager to find a spelling curriculum that would work for us.  Not only was Miss M making a lot of errors (though possibly not more than some other 2nd graders), her errors didn’t necessarily make sense…they weren’t always even phonetically regular errors!  There were times when she would write something out, and later herself couldn’t even read what she wrote because of the types of spelling errors she was making. She told me she hated writing because it was so hard to figure out how to spell everything.

 

So what does Miss M’s writing look like now?

 

I don’t have a ton of examples handy of Miss M’s recent writing.  I made conscious decision to focus on spelling this year, and not ask very much in terms of a formal writing program.  Miss M has, however, recently taken up writing notes back and forth with a neighbor friend. She typically has me check these notes for spelling errors.  Here’s a recent note with spelling errors intact:

“Dear L______

I got your letter.   It was wet and hard to read.  Why was it outsid in the rain?  What kind of feald trip did you go on today?”

So, two errors.  Miss M found the “outside” error quickly when I asked her to look at that word again.  I then praised her choice of a phonogram for the /long e/ sound of “field,”  in that it was a choice that made sense — then I let her know what phonogram she should have used instead.

Miss M is only eight (she turns 9 in a few days!).  I don’t expect perfect spelling from her. But I am super pleased that when she does make mistakes it is often a letter carelessly left out or written out of order (that she can find quickly upon review), a wrong-but-logical phonogram choice, or a word she really can’t figure out (but almost always knows she has spelled the word wrong, and marks it that way before she hands it over to me for editing).

As she is writing notes on an almost daily basis these days (and doesn’t have to think so hard about how to spell each and every word), she’s applying her knowledge of spelling to the words she uses frequently, and is more consistently remembering which phonograms to use and how to apply the rules she has learned this year.

One of my favorite comments from her recently came when I was reviewing a note in which she had spelled the word “flower” correctly, and I had praised her for this spelling.  Her comment  was, “Mom, I used a lot of logic to figure that one out.”   🙂  I think she may have had “flower” on a spelling list at some point, but hadn’t used that word much since then.  Now she has the tools and “logic” to figure out a word like that even if she didn’t have the spelling automatically memorized.

Now on to a few “nitty gritty details”, for those readers looking for that sort of thing!

 

How we used Logic of English Essentials:

 

First, I want to say that I am terrible at using curricula as written.  I don’t think I use a single product exactly the way it is supposed to be used.  I am always tweaking, modifying, changing and experimenting. So these adaptations we have made are no knock on the curriculum.  I end up “changing” even the things I really like.  🙂

Each and every week we used the “lesson” on new phonograms, spelling rules, exploring sounds, and so on.  We often played phonogram games and occasionally played spelling games.   I dictated a spelling list to Miss M on each non-review week.  We did some spelling journal assignments.

For us, I found the grammar was too much for our priorities this year.  I started out doing aLoE Spelling Journal few of the basic grammar lessons at the beginning of the program.  But things started getting a bit more complex, and I didn’t find Miss M was retaining the information without spending a lot of time on it.  Given that Miss M was only 8 for most of the the school year (we started using the program when she was seven), I know she has plenty of time to learn more grammar.   We used an alternative, fun program to learn the parts of speech (Sentence Family — read my review here), and shelved the grammar portion of Logic of English Essentials.

We also were somewhat sporadic about the writing exercises and sentence or phrase dictation.  For much of the year Miss M found sentence dictation to be really stressful.  I think she might be ready for more of that next year.  As the program went on I noticed a lot of the written exercises were tied in to the grammar lessons, so I decided to find other ways for Miss M to practice writing her spelling words.

 

What did our week look like? Here is what our typical LoE spelling week looked like for most of the year:

 

Logic of English AppMonday: Together, I would introduce the lesson — new phonograms, spelling rules, and so on (basically, all the parts of the lesson before the spelling list.  After the Logic of English Phonogram App was released, Miss M would also be assigned independent phonogram practice with the app

Tuesday: Spelling list dictation.   Because Miss M didn’t like the thin paper in the workbook if she happened to need to erase, I started having her do her lists in her own spelling notebook (just a little blank notebook from Target).  After we developed that habit, Logic of English released an e-book version of the workbook.  For students that don’t like the thin paper of the printed workbook, printing just the pages you need from the ebook is a good option as well.

Wednesday: Independent spelling practice with Spelling City.  I copied each and every list into spelling city, so Miss M could practice with the games on the computer.  If we had time, sometimes we also did a game for phonograms and/or spelling words.   On weeks where a Spelling Journal assignment made sense, she would sometimes do those as well.

Thursday: Independent practice of spelling words out loud (Miss M finds it helpful to read the word and then spell it out loud a few times), and also either Spelling City practice or a phonogram or spelling game together.

Friday: End of week test/assessment using the Spelling City app on the iPad.  I am terrible about not giving hints with my facial expressions when giving spelling tests, so Miss M takes her test from an “unbiased tester”.  🙂

 

Plans for Next Year:

 

We’re almost done with our school year, and due to standardized testing and other plans during the next two weeks, we’re now on “summer break” from formal spelling instruction.  Of course, I’m sure Miss M will still be writing notes to her friends, giving her ample real-life practice with spelling.  🙂

Including the final review week, Miss M still has four lessons left to complete her initial run through the Essentials program.  At this point I plan to complete those lessons with her in the late summer.  Then when we start the 2013-2014 school year next September, we will go through the Alternate/Advanced lists available on the Logic of English blog for LoE Essentials.

I have not yet decided if we will use the grammar portion next year.  I have another grammar program in mind I had previously planned to use with my kids starting in 4th or 5th grade, but I don’t yet own that program so I need to do further research as to what I think will be best for Miss M.

If you read my earlier posts about Essentials, you may have noticed I originally planned to use the program with Mr. E, my Kindergartener, as well this past year.   I did try and use portions of Essentials with him all fall — but I had a hard time getting the pacing and activities right for him.  I ended up buying the Logic of English Foundations Beta in January to use with both Mr. E and Mr. K.   In retrospect I really wish I would have bought it when it was first available in August!  But it has been a wonderful nearly five months of using it (mainly with Mr. E so far).  I am nearly all the way through Foundations, and that will deserve a review post all its own.

But, since Mr. E has completed what is currently written of the Foundations program (levels A-D, though really mostly C and D since he came into that program with prior knowledge), I need to continue his reading and spelling instruction next year as well!

Unless something wonderful and new comes along between then and now, I plan to try again on Essentials with Mr. E in the fall when he is a first grader.  A lot will be review — but I think that’s okay, because he seems to be retaining his reading knowledge from Foundations better than he is retaining/applying his spelling knowledge at this point.

I have this idea of keeping Miss M and Mr. E on the same “week” of the program with different lists, so they could review the same phonograms, spelling rules, etc together and maybe, just maybe even do some grammar work together.  I have no idea if this will actually work out for us! (I guess you can follow my blog and check back next year to see how it goes.)  🙂

 

Organizing the Logic of English Flash Cards and Game Cards March 6, 2013

Filed under: Getting Organized,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 2:56 pm
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I finally got around to organizing all my Logic of English flash cards and game cards last night! This project has been a few months in the procrastinating making.  😉

Logic of English Cards

With only one student doing a Logic of English program, organizing the phonogram flash cards was pretty simple.  I kept a pile handy of the cards we were working on, and the rest were in a drawer in a baggie or held together with a rubber band.  Even adding a second student, Mr E, didn’t cause too many problems at first because I was going through the Essentials program very slowly with him and not using too many cards.   At this point I also wasn’t making very good use of the spelling rule cards, so those just sat mostly unused in another bag.

But chaos broke loose with my phonogram cards once I started Mr. K in the Foundations program and transitioned Mr. E to this program as well.  Now I had stacks for cards Mr. K was using, cards mastered by Mr. E but not by Mr K (but that Mr K will need in upcoming lessons), cards currently needed by Mr. E, cards needed by Miss M, cards Miss M had mastered but were not needed yet for Mr E and finally cards no one is using yet (but of course Miss M will need in the upcoming weeks).  Oh, and plus those spelling rule cards! Whew, that’s a lot of cards!

The Logic of English flash cards are a bit of a challenge to organize because they are bigger than typical 4×6 cards, and are also too wide to fit in many of the other random plastic boxes I had around the house or could easily find at Target.

After much searching online and asking for advice on forums, the best option I came up with at first is the box I purchased (see the picture above — or here on the Target website). I liked the fact that the game cards also fit in the box, but I was a bit disappointed not to have a storage box with a lid!  I’ve found what I think will be safe place to store the box so that it’s less likely to be tipped over by our curious toddler.

After I bought this box I did find a couple of options for 5×8 file card boxes that close with a lid (here and here).   I’m going to see how things go with the box I purchased, but I’ll be keeping this type of box in mind for the future if we have too many spills of the no-lid box.  😉

In order to avoid buying special large divider cards, I made some using cardstock — I just needed to trim a bit off the side of a standard letter-sized piece, and then cut each piece in half.  I then hand-cut the tabs (as I’m sure you can tell from their uneven sizing!).

As of right now the game cards aren’t very well organized.  They are just separated into three groups – cursive, bookface, and special cards.  A project for a future day would be to organize them better by who might use them for a game.

 

“The Silly Plant” — A Story by Miss M December 7, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:57 pm
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Two weeks ago, when we were working on Logic of English Essentials List #16, Miss M started writing a story to practice her spelling words.  She didn’t finish the story before the end of that week.  But then when I asked her to write sentences including the “wor” phonogram words she learned for lesson #18, she decided to finish out her story with those words.

She wrote it out in pencil, then I helped her with a bit of editing.  I was so proud of how she spelled very few words incorrectly, and usually picked fairly logical phonograms to spell the words when they were spelled wrong.   Even the grammar and sentence structure was pretty good — especially considering we’ve done very little formal writing instruction (I figure there’s time for that later when we’ve finished our year of intensive spelling instruction!).

Here is Miss M’s story:

The Silly Plant

One day I had some dollars and cents. I spent it so that I could attend a school where I could take lessons on how to grow silly plants.  I get to pour water on my plant. I do not yet know what kind of plant mine is.

But the next day I find out that my plant is a new kind of plant that eats germs.

Today is the last day, and I get to take my plant home.  Now I own the plant. I have a wonderful idea! It would make an excellent gift for Lilly.

So I put the plant in a shoe box and started walking over to her house. But then all of a sudden, the plan started to grow and grow and grow!

“Oh no,” I shouted, “Oh no! It is too big!”

What am I going to do? This is the worst time for it.

“Help!”

“Hello,” said Lilly.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s too big now. I’ll have to grow another one.  It will be a lot of work though.  But I’ll keep my word to give it to you.  Ok?”

“Ok. You know I have a bunch of worms in my back yard,” Lilly said.

“That will be perfect,” I said, “Let’s go.”

“What a wonderful world,” said Lilly, “That’s definitely worth your time.”

The End.