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Archive for August, 2011

A few months ago the Growing With Grammar folks released their new writing program – Winning With Writing. Since Growing With Grammar has been such a success in our homeschool, effectively getting her grammar skills up very fast our first year, I was very anxious to start Winning With Writing. We haven’t found a writing program that we found both effective and easy to use until now with WWW. Satori’s writing skills have really blossomed this summer, and I know that WWW has played a large part.

The kind folks helped me select which level of book to start with and even sent me a free book to review. This does not affect my review however, and I am not affiliated with them other than this free book. I wanted to get through the program enough to be able to write an informative review, and we will be starting Lesson 14 next week, when we officially get back to serious schoolwork again. Although we have only three month’s worth of a very relaxed summer under our belt, this blog post will detail our initial thoughts and experience.  I definitely plan to blog again this fall once we’ve gotten more into the program.

What Is Winning With Writing?

The Winning With Writing (WWW) program is a complete writing program with 8 different levels, from Grade 1 through Grade 8 (named Levels so that students can work higher or lower without thinking they are behind/ahead). Each level has 36 lessons, which corresponds to a typical 36-week school year, with each lesson comprised of five days. The first day introduces the concept with a short exercise. The next days expand on the concept with more exercise work. Toward the end of the lesson, the student may be exploring and experimenting with their own writing. The books are divided up into two semesters – First Semester and Second Semester, dividing the books so they are easier to handle. All lessons and written work is included in these books, it is the ultimate open-and-go curriculum. They are spiral bound so they lie flat, which we like very much. The Complete Set, which is the best deal, is only $25.99 for the two semester workbooks and two semester answer keys.

Which Level?

I was up in the air about starting with either Level 3 or Level 4 though, but with the help of their customer service and the fact that Satori does not yet effectively write in paragraphs helped me solidify my choice – Level 3. Level 3 starts the student in Paragraphs by Lesson 13 in the First Semester and expands on various paragraph types throughout the Second Semester, expecting one paragraph work at that time. Level 4 assumes 3-paragraph work in which Satori would not be ready at this time.

A complete Winning With Writing Scope and Sequence can be found on their website to aid you in determining your child’s appropriate level.

Level 3 Table of Contents

(You can see the Table of Contents and Sample Lessons for any Level on their website)

What We’ve Learned So Far in Level 3

As Satori has an insatiable appetite for writing, so the first few lessons of Level 3 have been a review. Pretty much everything we’ve covered so far she has enjoyed learning and has consequently utilized the concepts in her independent writings. Shortly after learning the basics such as Word Order and Sentences, the program gets into helpful writing skills like descriptive verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Her writing is filled with such descriptive parts of speech, and I thank both Growing With Grammar (we also use Level 3) and Winning With Writing for that.

New for Satori that we haven’t learned in any other grammar or writing programs was learning about Similes and Metaphors. I’ve noticed she is now spicing up her writing by using such techniques.

Varying Sentences lesson has been helpful, as children at this age typically write short choppy sentences.  We learned that using different sentence lengths makes the story easier to read. She cannot stand to read early reader books as they have such short sentences, she calls it “bad literature”, lol. Even I’m learning to improve my own writing. 🙂 Satori’s own writings include a nice combination of long and short sentences, so I’d say she took these lessons to heart as well. For another peek into the program, you can see 18-pages of sample lessons.

As you can see, the lessons are short so reluctant writers shouldn’t have any problem getting the program done each day. Some “Days” only take us a few minutes however, so we’ve been doing 2-3 lessons each workday.

After every five Lessons, there is a 5-day Lesson review, covering the previous five lessons.

Best Deal – the Complete Package

If you get the Complete Package (adds $2 for both answer books) or order the Answer Keys separately ($3), you’ll get smaller spiral-bound books with the answers. Maybe in the early grades you may not need answers, but I find the Complete Package such a great deal that we will probably get the whole set going forward.

There are no tests included such as they offer in the GWG program, but it’s easy to see if concepts were indeed learned just by looking at my daughter’s writing.

Ending Thoughts

We really look forward this fall to continue using Winning With Writing – the only writing program we’ve found so easy to implement with its open-and-go ease! It’s very structured so age-appropriate writing skills are gained quickly. The lessons are all laid out so there’s no excuse not to get to writing each day. I think that this program could even possibly be used independently, perhaps Satori will use it that way at level 4. The price is great, their shipping fast, and the lessons absolutely painless to include everyday.

As mostly classical homeschoolers ourselves, writing is one subject we stray from the recommendations of just doing narration and dictation for writing for the grammar years (grade 1-4). Writing brings such pleasure to Satori that I am happy to help her along with the skills to write even more.

Creating a Reading Tree has been a dream of mine for a few years and finally I am just going to build it. If anyone has any links to photos of Reading or Book Trees that they’ve done that are similar, I am all ears! I’m still in the brain-storming phase.

For every book read, we will add a leaf to our tree. I do have a leaf punch that I believe will work well. I didn’t want the leaves to be too big, as I envision a colossal tree with a huge abundance of leaves in the years to come. But I still need room to leave the details. We’ll add a little thumbnail of the book to the leaf, as well as date and one of the following codes:

  • IR – Satori Independent Read
  • RA – Mom or Dad Read Aloud
  • AB – Audiobook

These thumbnails might be a bit too big yet, I’ll still have to refine our leaves. Branches will be another decision…

Next, where to put the tree? I have magnetic walls in parts of our Reading Room and we stuck a small magnet on the back of some sample leaves and they stuck to the wall perfectly.

The advantage of this is we can take down the leaves easily and put them back up, without affecting the wall. Satori can easily reach the Reading Tree here. This location also “sets off” the leaves nicely with the deep green and vivid orange-yellow.

I would take down our Dr. Seuss shelf and timelines here to make more room. The disadvantage is that if our door is open, it will hide the wall.

So that leads me to wonder if we should place it on the far wall. I’d take down our map and make a grandiose tree in a position that would be a showcase in our library. It is not magnetic so I’d probably use some kind of putty to stick the leaves to the wall. Once I can make an appealing brown branch tree design on brown paper, I’d cut it out and put it up and then stick the leaves near the branches.


Anyone have any suggestions or ideas? Has anyone done this or know someone who has? Any help would be appreciated!

Satori has discovered the iPad/iPhone game Pocket Frogs that she started playing yesterday. It’s free and I like that it has goals that she has to work to reach. She budgets her money to save for things she really wants without blowing all her coins as soon as she gets them. Satori wanted to share with you her new game and typed it out on her blog. Below is entirely unedited by Mom except for the insertion of a few photos.



Posted by Satori, age 6

I want to talk about Pocket Frogs.

“At the Pond”

You level up, and earn more interesting frog kinds. Sometimes you win awards, new frogs, and prizes! You can earn money, breed, buy stuff, and unlock frogs as you level! Potions are very good.

Frogs must be in nursury or other habitats.

I’m almost at level 4!

You can also do puzzles and races!

In attempts to prepare for the upcoming school year in which we start in earnest September 6th, I wanted to creative a more engaging atmosphere in our Learning Loft. Yesterday while shopping at our brand new local IKEA, I scored this “as-is” Trofast frame! Nothing was wrong with it except no packaging and it was all assembled.

If you’re curious about what’s sitting on top, head to my Vocabulary Power Flip books post to learn more.

We cleared out a spot for it in the loft and today I set about making labels for the subjects.

We haven’t gotten into the Workbox system, but I did have this sheet made by Heather, a fellow homeschooler/scrapbooker/workboxer, so I thought it would add to the motivation to get our subjects completed each day. (This was over two years ago and she most likely isn’t offering to do this for just $10 anymore, I see she just had a baby.) I framed her chart and laminated the numbers so they’d last longer. Currently they’re attached by magnets, although she originally used velcro on them.

Underneath the Workbox chart is a clipboard with timer attached that shows our actual schedule. I print this out everyday from Homeschool Skedtrack, the free online scheduling program we use.

I figured we’d put it on all our subject bins each morning and then add them back to the chart as we get done with each subject. Hopefully by the end of each day we’ll have a full chart. 🙂 It’s been awhile since I read my Sue Patrick Workbox System guide, but I don’t think they specifically label the bins. We’ll modify the system to work for us though.

There are a few subjects we do in our Reading Room library, so I have three subject bins in the library closet – Story of the World, Writing with Ease, and MCT Grammar Island. These are stored in the tall, white IKEA frame that has ten slides to insert bins/shelves.

Congratulations to Cindy, who won the All About Spelling $50 giveaway! Thanks everyone who entered.

I plan to do a few more contests/giveaways to kickoff the typical start of a school year. I am going to be blog-reviewing a few of our favorite products and will likely do some giveaways of those products. I’d also like to give out some Amazon gift certificates. Check on back in the next few weeks for updates!



Last week I wanted to totally wrap up SOTW1- Ancient Times by making flashcards, but was daunted by the amount of time I knew it would take. To my delight, Mary from Lizards and Ladybugs posts on the WTM forums to share her SOTW1 Timeline Cards for Ancient Times! Check out her blog post of her photos and download her free cards.

The cards correspond exactly to the events listed in the back of the Story of the World Ancients textbook. There are interesting slot games you can play at about the story of ancient world. There are 82 events in total. There are some events which aren’t mentioned in SOTW1 book, but perhaps covered in level 2 or other history books. I’m perfectly fine with that, these are all important dates to know.

Mary made up pages with two events with photos per sheet. Each image is six inches across, so you’ll need over 40 feet of space for the images. I don’t have that much space in the room I wanted to put the cards in, so I printed off four pages in one page, making them much smaller, and only three inches across. I then laminated, cut, and rounded the edges. Here’s the entire finished stack!

I had just enough space in the library to hang 30 cards. One more minor adjustment I had to make was that when I put the clothespins on the cards, it covered up the dates. So if you were to print them out, make sure you leave some space on top! In my case, I had already cut them, so luckily I had some clear tags with holes on top lying around. I stuck them to the back and fastened the clothespin to the tag instead. They look like they’re hanging in mid-air now, kinda cool.

Another advantage of the tags is that they can be stored together in a ring when not in use! I previously was pondering hole-punching each card, but this works even better.

So here’s our wall of time cards before I ran out of space and clear tags. I will have to make two more of these to fit them all. But I love how they look in the library, which is where we have been doing our SOTW History subject this summer anyway.

We can also easily stick them (with some putty) to our laminated Pandia Press timeline for removable cards. Love the versatility. Thanks again to Mary of Lizards and Ladybugs for all her work in making these timeline cards!

Next-Day Update

I’ve had a few questions regarding some of the things I’ve done here, so I’m going to append to this post a bit.

First of all, the clothespins are Lara Craft’s Painted Wood Mini Clothespins I got at Michaels craft store. I don’t have a link, but I’ve seen them there recently. They come in a box with a set of four, and there is a Spring and Garden set. Here is the Spring set with a few pieces from the Garden set. I also sprinkled a few other mini painted clothespins, probably also found at Michaels. The only link I could find on the web was of the Garden set at another online store.

Next, to print off  four pages to one actual page, you’ll need to select that setting when you print the page. This is the setting for my HP printer:

under Page Scaling

Lastly, someone mentioned that they had a hard time downloading the file. I do not know Mary’s email, but based on the comments on her post thread, she is responsive, so I’d let her know in a comment that you’re having issues obtaining her file.

This Giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winner Cindy!

The All About Spelling spelling program has been such a highlight of our homeschool experience, with Satori quickly picking up the skills to enable her to spell effectively so she can write her stories.

They’ve recently added an equally stellar reading program – All About Reading to complete the program. Satori already learned how to read before this program came out, but I have heard great things about it. If you haven’t checked out their new website yet, head on over to see what all they have to offer!

To celebrate, we are offering a $50 giveaway toward a product of your choice in the All About Learning program!

Whether you are already using the program or if you’re eager to start your child with a fun and effective program, you’ll be sure to find something. Simply comment on this blog post for your entry, and (just for fun) let us know what you’d choose if you win. A winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, August 22 before 9pm CST.

We ourselves are just starting up All About Spelling Level 5 this month. We seem to complete approximately two levels a year. The Level 5 packet includes the Teacher’s Manual and Student Packet. The Student Packet contains all the cards we’ll need for this level, which we store in the blue Spelling Review Box.

Our magnetic whiteboard that props up on the ground stores all our tiles. Here I’ve set it up so it’s all ready to start Level 5.

The first lesson in level 5 reviews all the Phonogram Sound and Key cards, as well as important previously learned concepts such as Syllable Division Rules, Syllable Types, and Suffix Rules.

The Student Packet includes several materials you’ll need, including a Syllable Division Rule chart which we used in the first lesson.

Here Satori has separated the word “survive” into syllables, adding the syllable labels. All this syllable work has been tremendously helpful in learning how to spell, read, pronounce, and understand longer words.

This first lesson will take us several days to do all the review. We then teach two new Phonograms – SI and IE (they were hanging out by themselves on the whiteboard in one of the above photos). We’ll do alphabetizing work, starting with the second letter, and ending with alphabetizing to the fourth letter in Level Five. This also comes in super handy so Satori can look up unfamiliar vocabulary in a dictionary.

Lastly, we’ll have the Dictate Sentences task. This level, I will be only saying the sentence once and Satori will have to listen closely and repeat the sentence before she writes to avoid mistakes. For the Step 1, we have 20 sentences to dictate, usually we do 12 sentences. Below is an example from Step 7 with the typical 12 sentences. As you can see, it’s a great way to make sure that past lessons have been retained.

We keep the Student materials we’ll need as well as paper to write Sentence Dictations and Words in a designated All-About-Spelling binder. Here is a sample page that Satori recently did for Level 4.

After that’s all done, we mark up our Progress Chart with another sticker!

Here’s our completed Level Four Progress Chart. Satori just loves to place fun stickers of her choice on the chart. 🙂 Here on every 10th Step, she placed a large sparkly heart sticker!

As we progress, we’ll be learning all kinds of Spelling Strategies, spelling clues and tips, rules and rule breakers, and so on. For example, by the end of Level Four, Satori could successfully spell correctly all the -er words, which can be confusing as there are numerous spellings.

I am an All-About-Spelling affiliate, but I would be posting about the program regardless, as it has worked wonders in our homeschool. We think the program is just perfect! (This word is covered in Level Five, Step Two.)

So head on over to their website, All About Learning, figure out what you’d like to have in case you win, and come back here and leave a comment to this post. What do you wish to win? The Deluxe Spelling Kit? Mix it up with the fabulous All About Homophones book, Phonogram File Folder Game and a Reader? How about your next AAS Level kit? Or maybe apply your credit for an All About Reading package… It’s up to you!

Enjoy the Giveaway!