September 29, 2014

Cowboys, Indians, the Pony Express and the Wild Wild West

It's the last Monday of September and that means it's time for a new theme for the Poppins Book Club. Last month we explored the future with the theme "When I Grow Up...". Did your child answer that question with the words "I want to be a cowboy!" or "I want to be a Cowgirl!"? If so then they are on the path to our theme for this month! It's all about the Wild Wild West...

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links.

I had grand plans for activities this month...I mean, what a fun theme, right? But with the death of my aunt, I lost the week I was going to be working on it. So this post is going to just be some great Wild West themed storybooks that we read!

by John Frank

If you are looking for a book that brings hilariousness, THIS one is sure to do it! The boys were cracking up at the story and the illustrations and quoting lines from it all day long after we read it.

This is the story of "Grizz Brickbottom, the toughest cowboy ever to drive a herd of cattle across the open range." Grizz realizes one night after dinner (Fried boots and lizard gizzards) that they are missing something out here with his three friends. Something that will help them get a bit more refined...for he's tired of his friends using their "fingers to clean their teeth and pick their noses."

Did I mention I have boys who found this book hilarious?

There was the word "dang" in a few times, but I just left it out as I read...it WON'T detract from the story at all. You also won't be able to read it without adding a bit of western twang to your voice!

by Roy Gerrard
This is a cute book following Buckskin Dan and his pioneer friends as they pursuit new pastures on the Oregon Trail. The story is written in rhyme making it a fun one to read aloud. 

by Glen Rounds

Have you read any of the Mr. Yowder books? These are great books for reading aloud with their pen and ink illustrations and tall tales. This one is no different. Mr. Yowder was minding his own business when one afternoon a little snake wiggled into his camp. The snake was excited to discover that not only did he like snakes, but he SPOKE the language of snake as well. Mr. Yowder encourages him to make something of himself--even giving him body-building exercises and before you know it, he's become the largest snake on the Great Plains! See what happens when they go off on their amazing adventures together!

retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

We are fans of Tomie dePaola and enjoy other books that he has written. He has a gift for words and his illustrations are beautiful. We enjoyed the journey he took us in this book as he explored the Native American legend of the Indian Paintbrush.

We also explored a few non-fiction books for this theme...

by Cheryl Harness

This is an excellent book for giving a history of the incredible Pony Express and what a great thing it was for our country. The illustrations just make it come alive and it's jam packed with information about the Pony Express.

by Ann Graham Gaines

A few years ago we were fortunate to be able to go to Texas and tour the Alamo. I enjoyed returning there with this book about the life of Jim Bowie. There are a lot of photographs and maps and other tidbits about the life and times of Bowie.

by Karen Bornemann Spies

It was only fitting that we look through a book about Buffalo Bill Cody since he has come to simple all things Wild West! We enjoyed all the tidbits of photographs, side notes and other information that this book had to offer.

So what activities were we going to do? 

I hope that you can get some great ideas for books from these that I've shared and that you enjoy an exploration into the Wild Wild West for yourself!

Wild West Learning Bundle Giveaway!

Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky cowpoke will strike gold and win a bundle of fun for the theme of the Wild West.  This bundle will include a copy of the storybook Westward Ho!: An Activity Guide to the Wild West (Hands-On History) and one Wild West Toob. So mosey down to the corral for your chance to win today!

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here {http://enchantedhomeschoolingmom.org/disclosures/}.  Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by to check out our Wild West fun! I hope you will considering seeing what some of my fellow co-hosts have shared for the month!

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God's Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy's Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~ Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ Laugh and Learn ~ A Mommy's Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~ Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~ Where Imagination Grows ~ Lextin Academy ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A "Peace" of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am ~ eLeMeNo-P Kids ~ Simple Living Mama

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Do you have a Wild West themed post sharing books or wild west activities? We'd love to see them! Just link them up here!

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September 28, 2014

Fix it! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] {Curriculum Review}

With a reluctant writer on my hands, I am always looking for grammar/writing curriculum that my eight year old (3rd grader) will enjoy. He prefers things that are short and allow him a lot of independence...oh and not much writing. When I heard about a great grammar program that integrates basic writing skills as well as encouraging vocabulary, I was very intrigued. I looked forward to my review of the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] Teacher Manual and Student Book from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

Product Information

Fix It! Grammar Review
Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)  is a company with roots that go back to a Canadian primary school teacher in the 1930's. The idea of a phonics based reading and writing program was enhanced and adapted in the 1970's by that primary school teacher's nephew, in an effort to teach college students how to write properly. In the 1990's, the current director of IEW brought the concepts to North America and Institute for Excellence in Writing was born. 

The program's main focus is to successfully equip students of all ages, ability--even those with special needs or ESL students--to not only build written and oral communication skills, but also improve critical thinking.

Fix It! Grammar ReviewOne of their newest additions to their curriculum is the Fix It! Grammar series. This daily grammar work series is geared for grades 3 and up. In this series, students work on grammar in bite sized pieces--just one sentence a day! In these books, students will hunt for and correct grammatical errors in daily sentences, which when put together, tell a story.

There isn't just a grammar lesson, there is a daily vocabulary that gets researched and recorded. In addition, every day once the student corrects their sentence, they write it down with the corrections, and in doing so, write a complete story by the time the curriculum is completed! This allows the students to use their new grammar skills in context, which in turn allows them to transfer these concepts into their own writing. 

Are you worried that your student might know too much grammar for these to be of use? IEW has a placement test for you to see which book in the series is the best starting point for you! Here is a link to a Fix It! Webinar to help you see how the program works!

Here is the list of titles in the Fix It! Grammar series:

Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1]
Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2]
Fix It! Grammar: Frog Prince or Just Desserts [Book 3]
Fix It! Grammar: Little Mermaid [Book 4]
Fix It! Grammar: Chanticleer [Book 5]
Fix It! Grammar: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [Book 6]

Each of the spiral bound teacher manuals retails for $19.00. Each teacher manual includes a download of the e-book version of the student book. Printed spiral bound student books are also available for $15.00. The entire collection is available for purchase for $89.

After looking at the placement test, I opted to start with the first book in the series. 

We were given the Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1]Teacher Manual and the spiral bound printed Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] Student Book to review.

How Did We Use This Product?


Fix It! Grammar Review
Once I received our product, I went to the beginning of the teacher manual to read about the set-up. It was very basic. To use this program you will need the following supplies in addition to the curriculum books:

*3-Ring Binder or notebook w/ dividers
*Notebook paper
*Scissors
*Envelope
* Access to dictionary--either paper or e-book form

These are all supplies we keep on hand, so it was easy to finish getting the product ready to use. The binder is where Little Britches will copy down his rewrites of the daily sentences and keep his vocabulary list. 
The Introduction Page--gives all the information you need to get everything set up.

These are the only two things that are needed once set up.
Because we have the printed version of the student book, we only needed these two sections in our binder
Once we got everything set up, we read through the information detailing how the curriculum would work. This is printed in the teachers manual AND the student book so it's easy for them to follow along if you are reading it to them.

After reading about the way the program worked, I noticed that the directions for the rewrite included things that were going to be something new. Up until this point we hadn't been working on writing double-space, nor with an emphasis on paragraph indentation. We also had to discuss margins on paper.  I was very happy to have this laid out for him to learn now.

Once we got the set-up completed, we moved on to the first lesson. Each week has a "learn it" page that explains the grammar that is going to be covered and gives examples. 

It also notes things like "cut out your grammar cards for week _". The grammar cards are included in the student book at the back and are clearly labeled by week. 
Little Britches kept them in an envelope--but kept misplacing the envelope. So I hole punched it and he keeps it right in his binder for quick reference.
The first step for each day is to read the sentence out loud--either you or your child. Little Britches easily did this--needing help usually just for the new vocabulary words. As we continued on, I had him read the story completed to date from his re-write. He liked this AND it help him find areas where he might have forgotten to copy a word or end mark correctly.

The vocabulary words were always bolded in the each sentence. Sometimes it was a phrase like "in due time" but it was usually a single word. The second step in the daily work is to look up the vocabulary in the dictionary and find it's proper meaning as fitting for the sentence. Dictionary work is new for us...but he quickly caught on and now enjoys it.

He copies his vocabulary into his binder. I have him start each week writing "Week _" and then each day he writes "Day _" and then the word. Then he copies the definition.

We had to make changes and revise our format to make this more legible. We now have it with double spacing between each vocabulary word and clear separations between weeks and days.
I was happy that I always have the vocabulary word with it's definition in my teacher manual for quick reference. Sometimes we had to restate the one from the dictionary to make it work.

Speaking of the teacher manual...it is very easy to follow. There is a guided dialogue to help you (if you need it) each day and all the information you could possibly need to teaching the lesson is right there--from the corrections on the sentences to explanations for each grammar marking. And yes, the vocabulary and it's definition. There is also advice about how to work with an advanced learner. 


Once the vocabulary is recorded, Little Britches works to correct the sentence and mark the grammar. He found this very easy to do, especially as he realized it was something we had worked on previously. 


Once everything has been corrected and marked, he moves to the rewrite. Our first few days of rewrite were very sloppy as he struggled to understand what was expected of him. As I mentioned above, it was new for him to focus on indentations (as they are given in the story) and the double spacing. We also hadn't really spent time learning how to write on regular notebook paper (wide-ruled). But he really worked hard and is proud of how "neat" his rewrite looks at this point.


Once we went through the first week of the program, it quickly became "old hat" and now 6 weeks in, we fly through it each day. 

I did notice a typographical error in the teacher manual for week 5, but it isn't anything really major...just enough to throw me off when I first looked at it. You can see that the grammar notations are slightly off.

 It's something that I would like to see fixed for subsequent printings of the book.

What Are Our Thoughts On This Product?


Little Britches:
"I like doing just one sentence each day. I like that it's easy because i know about nouns and stuff already. I like learning the new word, but sometimes I already know it! I think the story is fun. Oh and i can do most of it by myself."

Me:
Pros
*15 minutes per day lesson
*Each lesson is one sentence per day
*Reviews parts of speech with lots of repetition
*Has grammar cards for reference
*Each sentence builds a story
*Teaches vocabulary every day
*Encourages dictionary work
*Teaches double space writing and paragraph indentation 
*Spiral bound manuals and student books
*Teacher manual is easy to read and use
*Once set-up (which is easy), it's open and go every single day
*Easy 4 day a week curriculum
*Promotes independence for the student
*Reasonable cost for quality of product
*Easy to read font

Cons
*Typographical mistake in Teacher' Manual (minor)
*Possibly too easy for a student who already has grammar experience

In summary, there are WAY more pros than cons!  I was beyond pleased with this product. I came into it hearing great things about Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). I wondered if it was as good as it was said to be...and I think it is! 

As you can see from Little Britches comment, this curriculum is right up his alley. He loves things that are easy to do on his own, and don't require a lot of writing. He really has started enjoying the vocabulary part and he has taken to using the dictionary. He really enjoys trying to see if what he thinks the words mean, really match the definition and gets excited when he's right. He also has peaked ahead to read what happens next in the story--he really likes that he's writing out a story.

What would I change?
Nothing. I think it is simple to use, teaches a grammar lesson in an easy to understand method, encourages learning new vocabulary and does it all in an interesting and unique way. Even though he came into this already knowing about parts of speech, I have discovered that we still needed work on identifying them in sentence form.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Absolutely! ESPECIALLY if you have one who doesn't really like doing much writing or needs short lessons. Even if you have a child who does well with longer lessons, this book is very well done and keeps everything in bite sized pieces--perfect for daily grammar work. I also think that you can EASILY start this in second grade--we had begun learning about the parts of speech last year which is why this was a review for us.

Will I be purchasing any more of these books from Institute for Excellence in Writing? Yes! This one has worked remarkably well and he loves how easy it is. It will be great since we had a chance to start with book one to continue with the series. In fact, IEW has some "scratch and dent" versions of the books in their clearance section. I am going to snag me at least the next book in the series.

Want to Know More?

I reviewed Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] Teacher Manual ($19.00) and printed Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] Student Book ($15.00) from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). You know what we thought of it, but there were 99 other reviewers and four more books in the series! Make sure you go check them out!
Click to read Crew Reviews
Want to know more? Make sure you stay in touch with Institute for Excellence (IEW) via their social media sites:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/excellenceinwriting
Twitter: http://twitter.com/iew
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/iewriting
Google+: http://plus.google.com/+Iewriting/posts
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/iewtv
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/iewtv
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It is so nice to have a great grammar curriculum that is loved and one where he is willing to do it every day. I hope that you will consider this program for your own family! I know that I will be checking out some of the other curriculum that IEW has to offer for future use!

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September 19, 2014

Death is Rough

It's been awhile since I just had a random post, so I decided that I would do a Random 5 on Friday this week...just to ramble about some things that I have been dealing with this week.
The Pebble Pond

1. This week was rough. My aunt (my mom's sister) died on Sunday evening. She's been battling cancer for 13 years and could not fight it anymore. She fought so long and so hard and she just got tired. Even though it was expected (she's been doing bad for about a year), it wasn't any easier to accept that my sweet, beautiful, loving, generous and kind Aunt was gone. You can ask anyone and they will tell you that they have never found anyone as kind and generous and loving as she. She was unique. She would have celebrated her 51st birthday next month. Too young to leave this world behind. She was just 16 when I was born and we've always been close, even though for most of my life I live 2000 miles away on the other side of the country. She leaves behind two incredible daughters age 17 and 21--both seniors. One is a senior in high school and the other a senior in college. What a year they are going to have. How many challenges will arise that they will have to conquer. I plan on being there this spring when they each graduate. It's going to be hard. 

2. Playing the piano when you are emotionally compromised is rough. I was asked on Monday night if I could play for my aunts memorial (down in SC) on Wednesday. It was discovered that she didn't have many requests, but written on a form was one specific one "Have Lisa play my favorite song Claire de Lune if she can".  Have you ever heard that beautiful song?

I have never played this song in public before. It's a challenging song which pushes me to my limits even with the best practice. I also had not played it in months. It's not the kind you just pull out and go. And yet, that is what needed to be done.  So I pulled it out. I took it with me. My heart broke thinking about playing this song. But I ran through it a few times while waiting at my aunt's house and my fingers were crazy. How could I play this? But my uncle heard me and grabbed me and said "It is beautiful. She would be happy." So I took a deep breath and knew it was going to be okay--not easy, but it was going to be okay. Even if I sobbed while I played.

3. Playing the song your aunt requested, on your dream piano that you told your aunt you wanted to have a chance to get your hands on, is rough. About 4 years ago, I went to my aunts church to watch my oldest cousin perform her senior concert. While I was there, the beautiful black gleaming "Grandfather" Grand Piano caught my eye. I confided in her that it was my dream piano and the kind I loved to play more than any other. I had forgotten about this conversation until I went to the sanctuary to run through my song for her memorial and there before me, was the very piano I had mentioned. Yes, even in her death she had GIFTED me with her love. Her last gift. Her last bit of generosity. Her last "I love you". She wanted me to play her song on my dream piano. It was too much for me to handle and after I practiced, I went back to join the family and on the way I just stopped and my aunts best friend held me while I sobbed and sobbed.

4. Playing Claire de Lune with tears in your eyes is rough. My song was the Postlude. The song at the end. When the family leaves and everyone stands to pay respect. I had to play this song with the lights shining on me and everyone standing up waiting. With tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath and held my fingers suspended over the keys. I knew that the moment I began I would have to continue until it was over. Even at that moment I didn't know if I could do it. But I would give my aunt my gift to her. And so with a shaky breath I began and let my fingers speak the words in my heart that I could not express. Never had I played that song so well or so easily. I poured my heart into my fingers and made the piano sing. then the third page came. And it hit me. I started shaking as I fought back the tears. "Please Lord. Please let me finish." Finally, I made it to the final few lines...and so I passionately played them with all the love and skill that I could find within me. And left off the final note to hang in the air. 

5. Losing a piece of your heart is rough...but God will see you through. Losing my aunt was incredibly hard. Harder than even my grandpa earlier this year. Why? Because there was so much more for her to do! So many more lives for her to touch with her incredible selfless love. But her time was over. Her long fight against this terrible disease was finished. She needed to rest. We needed to let her go. It's never easy losing a piece of your heart. But God knows that. And He will always be there for you.  It is He would can get you through the "Valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23) and reminds us that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5). I know that we will have rough days ahead when our thoughts linger on my aunt and her legacy...but I have peace knowing that she is finally at rest from her suffering and she would want us to embrace life with her same zeal and love. God help me live up to her legacy of love.

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