Monday, February 25, 2013

Spelling City review coming up!

I've been given a Premium Membership to for a candid, personal, online review. I'll share my thoughts on what we liked and didn't soon. With our love of POE, I'm curious to see how this program might enhance (or take away) from it. I plan on using it for the spelling/vocabulary words from POE (NOTHING in addition to) and also have my 8th grader use it with his spelling/vocabulary words. To give you more information, VocabularySpellingCity helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as Unscramble, Hangman, WordFind, and Crossword Puzzle. Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of free teaching resources on topics such as Multiple Meaning Words and Possessive Nouns . Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience. I'll let you know how it goes! DISCLOSURE: * I've been given a Premium Membership to for a candid, personal, online review.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Trail Guide to Learning - Paths of Exploration

It's time! Time to share my thoughts on the uses and functions of the Paths of Exploration curriculum, part of the Trail Guide to Learning series.  I shared my excitement with you when receiving the box of curriculum in the mail here and I also shared how I organized our "path" here.

I am going to start with the end... which is to say... I. LOVE. THIS. CURRICULUM!  There. I said it.  I do, I truly love this curriculum.  It fits my son SO perfectly and has resolved so many struggles that he's previously experienced in other curriculums.   "Oh sure!", you might say.  I know what you're thinking... how can ONE curriculum be the answer?  Well, let me tell you how.

First, let me give you a little background, though.  I am using this curriculum for my 10 year old (turns 11 tomorrow) ALL boy, boy.  When I say he's "all boy" what I mean is he is a rough n tumble, can't sit for very long because I need to move, kind of kid.  He is easily distracted and enjoys DOING rather than sitting.  He is not one that is thrilled to sit with a book for hours on end and he will certainly slump into a puddle of human goo at the thought of being handed a dry textbook to read.  I love this boy to death but he is a very different learner from my 13 year old son who is content to be handed a stack of books and a checklist and sit for hours reading to learn.

I'll be honest... I took a chance with Trail Guide to Learning. It was a departure from the style of learning I'd been using before and what I was used to.  It was scary to spend money on a curriculum I wasn't sure would work and I was fearful that if POE DIDN'T work, I'd be left scrambling mid-year to find something else.    But, I'm so glad I did take that chance!

We started school after Labor Day and my son actually ENJOYED the first few weeks of school with POE (Paths of Exploration).  Insert BIG MISTAKE here.  I got panicky and thought maybe we weren't doing enough since he was finishing earlier in the day than we were used to, so... I added more curriculum.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.  Within a week, the boy that was beginning to take an interest in learning, now was back to his old ways of dragging his feet at doing anything remotely to do with learning, complaining and miserable.  We both were.  What was I thinking??  So, the beginning of October, I scrapped all "extra" curriculum and have been flying solo with POE ever since!  It's been enjoyable... for both of us now!

So here are my seven reasons that the Trail Guide to Learning series is the answer to our curriculum needs for my second born:

* IT HAS BUILT-IN HANDS- ON ACTIVITIES.   POE provides a perfect balance of hands on activities to keep the "active" part of my son engaged. I was always left scrambling to come up with hands on activities that would fit our lessons before OR they would be dropped by the end of the day because we'd finish too late to start one (often because he would drag and resist moving from subject to subject; he was miserable!) Now, instead of feeling like the hands on activities compete for our time, they are built into our days!  Most importantly, this engages my son's learning style!

* IT'S ORGANIZED WELL.  POE is organized very well.  It takes a great load off of my plate having curriculum so well laid out.  I even did the printing in advance of all the units, organized them into weekly file folders and then moved the daily sheets into daily folders for his each week.  I do some quick skimming of what supplies, if any, I need for that week and that's it!

* THE THEMES FLOW TOGETHER.  I'll be honest, at first this bugged the history major in me.  I like my history chronological.  While POE seems to "jump" around through US History, it is actually connecting themes together.  For Paths of Exploration the theme is, well, exploration.  Yet, so much more is discussed and learned than just exploration.  My son has walked away from the first 3 Units with a solid grasp of Christopher Columbus and his era, Jamestown and their struggles, and the Pilgrims and their struggles to survive and make a new start.

*GEOGRAPHY IS INCORPORATED.  This is a topic we never got around too, so my husband and I are amazed by my son's knowledge of the areas he has studied thus far and his ease with reading a map!  All thanks to POE!

* IT IGNITES INTEREST IN LEARNING.  Yes, this is a big claim but it is true for our household.  While I always admired the Charlotte Mason approach, I never could nail down the timing of moving from subject to subject.  The teacher in me felt that more time meant more learning and no matter how hard I tried, I would slip back into that mentality.  Prior to POE, I was a Charlotte Mason failure.  POE has brought this style of learning into our home successfully and my son has benefited greatly from it.  POE does an excellent job of dividing up the information into short, manageable chunks (something that made me panic in the beginning because it felt too short).  They are just right for my son's style of learning.  However, for me, I was sold once I saw that he was RETAINING the information, shattering the myth that long amounts of time needed to be grasp a concept.  POE provides short bursts of concepts that are reinforced throughout each unit which has led to success for my son!

* IT INCREASES RETENTION.  I can't claim this for every child but for mine, POE has been a lifesaver.  Due to lack of interest and a growing resentment to learning in prior years, my son didn't retain information presented to him. Now, he is blossoming!  He is remembering information which allows him to taste success and confidence in his knowledge base.  He no longer feels like a failure in education.  This, to me, is top on my list of why POE is the perfect curriculum.

* IT BRINGS IMPROVEMENT IN WRITING AND SPELLING.  My son struggled with his handwriting and with spelling.  He still does but we have seen great improvement over the past few months in both areas. I give POE credit for this because of the daily copy work and spelling words he is exposed to.  I will say that we have had my son tested for Dyslexia.  He still shows some evidence of this, even if mild, so we may add a program next year to give him greater support.

I know this review was long but there is so much I could speak on regarding this curriculum.  I can't answer what this curriculum will do to revolutionize the learning in your own children, I can say that it has definitely revolutionized and ignited an interest in learning in a child that was otherwise fed-up with school, at the ripe ol age of 9.   He still has areas of struggle but, through POE, he has been given a taste of success and has improved his confidence, his interest and his desire to learn more!  We can't wait to start Paths of Settlement next year!  Please feel free to leave a comment with questions you may have that I didn't cover here.

** In exchange for an honest review of my independent thoughts, I was given a discount on the Paths of Exploration curriculum.**