Monday, January 6, 2014

VCF- The Power in a Word

You know how some people are a little obsessed with office supplies?  You know- the type that shop all of the back to school sales even though they KNOW they have enough pens for the free world and just as many notebooks.  OK, yes, I am one of those people.  I admit it.  As long as we are confessing, I also admit I am a curriculum junkie as well.  You know- buy it in case you may need it and then make your children use it in the summer even if they are out of the age range.  Yep, I am that person too.  But when is the last time I went to a curriculum fair?  YEARS!  Really, my kids were all probably still in elementary school at the time, meaning there were only two of them then, not four.  It was actually a local homeschool convention, but let's just be honest, I went for the curriculum.  I may have listened to one or two speakers, but I stalked the vendors.

Curriculum speaks to me.  It is one of the reasons I do reviews.  So much curriculum, so little time!
And that my friends, is why I love Susan's idea of a Virtual Curriculum Fair.  I do not have to leave the house and I can stalk everyone else's curriculum choices.  Win-win for me!  So let's get started!

I do find it amusing that Susan decided to start with what I consider the hardest category- Language Arts.  It really has been the hardest for me to choose and folks, I have been on this ride over 15 years.  I have been there, done that with more stuff than I even care to admit.  Let me say, I do not think I am fickle, but I am choosy.  And, I have learned that each of my children learn a different way and so with each one I have to think outside the box a little to find the "perfect" match.  There is NO such thing, by the way.  Sometimes you just find the best choice for the moment and move forward.

That being said, let me share some of what I consider the best out there!  For now.

Let's start with spelling.
I am NOT a five days a week, pretest, post test spelling curriculum fan.  I have used several and had no luck.  I do not like for my children to spend a week studying words they know how to spell, while doing mindless word searches and other time wasters. (not opinionated at all, huh?!)  So here is what I suggest-
All About Spelling- This is new to me with my last child.  Figures!  It is hands on, easy to follow and genius!  My 1st grader has just started level 2 and we will plan on doing level three for his second grade level.
Spelling Power- This one we have been using since my oldest was in elementary school.  I am sure the format has changed a bit, but the bottom line is that you call words until your child misses a few and then they study those words.  There is a little more to it, but you get the idea.  One book, all grades, period.  I would start it in third grade and finish when your child has completed all the levels.

Two of my kids learned to read magically.  OK, I know not possible, but it sure seemed like it!  One I am proud to say is NOW a great reader but was at one point in time, hopeless.  Our last blows me away daily with his reading.  We have tried everything but if I was starting over here's what I would do.

PAL from IEW.  This was a review item and by far, hands down the BEST thing we have ever used.  Again, only with my youngest.  Again, figures!  I have no doubt this kid would have learned to read regardless, but we would have never had this much fun!  Hands on, active and, did I mention, fun?!    If you have a child that likes to be busy, they will enjoy this.  There is some writing involved, but also lots of games and activities.  The initial prep time is hefty, but worth it.  Start here and you will not be sorry!

Two "extras"- Reading Eggs and Reading Kingdom.  Both are computer based, both make reading fun.  If you have a visual or auditory learner, these may be worth checking out.  We use them daily.

OK, I am going out on a limb here- but after your child learns to read, can I suggest that is just what you do?  Read. And read some more.  Talk about what you read, notebook if you want, but I am here to tell you that all the extra fluff does not help your child to read.  It just takes up precious time that could be spent reading!  If you are worried about comprehension, after they are finished reading - TALK about the book!  Ask questions, discuss.  Not only will you know if they are comprehending what they read, you are spending quality time with your kiddos.  Here's what I figured out about Literature- every program out there recommends your child read something different.  Every public school out there is the same.  And some of those choices are HORRIBLE!  So my recommendation is find what YOU want them to read and have them read!  Make a list at the beginning of each school year and dive in.  It's more fun anyway.

For beginner readers, I love Write Shop!  Again, this was a review item that we were blessed to use with my then 5th grader.  As soon as we were done I bought the first book for my youngest.  It is simple to use, inexpensive and just well done in my opinion.  We will continue with it probably until about 5th grade.  The first level has simple writing pages you use with each lesson and some cute activities.  The older level we used incorporated more games and grammar components as well.

At that point (6th grade) I switch to IEW.  If you do not know about this company, you need to do some research about them!  My kids love Mr. Pudewa and his humor.  The videos are invaluable, and the skills taught are wonderful.  My college student has been complemented for her writing by numerous professors, and trust me, she did NOT learn any of it from me.

Two "extras"-  You know, for those summer school times...heehee
1. One Year Adventure Novel
We have used both and I highly recommend them!

And that brings us to Grammar!
Ugh!  This one is just tough.  We tend to hit Grammar hard in the middle school years and then move on.  I am just gonna lay a few out for you and when you find the "great"one, please come back and share.
Logic of English- A newer one that I recently reviewed.  A little over my youngest's head but I think it may be what we try for next year. (2nd grade)  They also have a lower level called Foundations that I hear good things about.
Analytical Grammar- If you like some diagramming this might be a good program for you.
All in One Grammar- This is just a little workbook that does a solid overview of basic Grammar.  I really like its simplicity and use it in 4th grade.
Bridgeway English.- very workbooky (my made up word) but we have had good success with it.

Wow, is that all?  You forget all that is covered in language arts, don't ya?  No wonder it is such a hard subject to find.  I know there are several all in one programs out there, several which we have used, but I have found that because I am so particular, mixing and matching in this category works best for us.

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Confused or still not sure what to do?  Head on over to these other VCF participants and see what they recommend! Remember, in the end, no one knows your child like you do!  Don't be afraid to try something new and move on to something else if you need to.

3 Reasons to Read to Your Teens by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Language Arts {Virtual Curriculum Fair} by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
A Classical Take on 6th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
The Power in a Word by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays
The Latin Road to English Grammar Volume 1 by Kristi K. @ The Potter's Hand Academy
Starting a Foreign Language in Elementary School by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling
These are the words we say by Christa @ Fairfield Corner Academy
A Peek into our Homeschool: Language Arts by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ English by Renata~Sunnyside Farm Fun
Virtual Curriculum Fair: A World of Words by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
It Starts with the Alphabet by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Playing w/ Words-Charlotte Mason Style by Lynn P @ Ladybug Chronicles
2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life
Our PreK-1st Grade Language Arts Mix by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
Fun (or Not) With Spelling by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
Word Nerd Love by Lisa N@Golden Grasses
Our Favourite Resources For Teaching Elementary Language Arts by Kim @ Homestead Acres
Unconventional Reading Lessons While Homeschooling by Lori@My Journeys Through Life
My Favorite Writing Curriculum for our Boys by Monique @Living Life and Learning
Virtual Curriculum Fair: Playing With Words - Language Arts  by Stacie @Super Mommy To The Rescue
Fun With the Language Arts by Mary @ Winecup Christian Homeschool
Our Grammar Path by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Virtual Curriculum Fair !!! by Jessica @ Modest Mama
Creating a High School English Course (or two) by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
Language Arts in Our Homeschool This Year by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

If you would like to link up a curriculum post we would love to have you join us!

Join us next Monday when we talk about the next VCF subject- Math and Science


*** Just a quick note.  I am not receiving any compensation for recommending these products.  All mentioned are my personal opinions only.  I added some links just to make it easy for you and linked reviews I have done in the past if you want more information.***


  1. Love your post Michelle. Very good ideas and recommendations there.

  2. We used PAL too and son and I both loved it, but we sort of fell out of a rhythm with a newborn, then a move . . . so we use Reading Eggs right now, and it's working. :)

    1. Reading Eggs is used daily here! I encourage you to go back to PAL when life settles down again though! :)

  3. Thank you for sharing all of these. I wish I had used IEW with my son when he was younger because he struggles with writing now, and I've heard such great things about IEW.

    1. It is never too late to start using IEW! Promise!

  4. Isn't it amazing how differently children learn? I've had to use different products for different children. Part of it is I am a curriculum junkie too so I like to try new things.

  5. I agree that reading real books is the way to improve reading skills once a child is an independent reader. We become good at doing something by doing it. I'm a curriculum junkie, too. Maybe that's why I started this Fair, lol! Thanks for joining us.

    1. A BIG thank you to you, Susan, for this fair! I have loved reading everyone's posts and making a new wish list!

  6. Great recommendations. We moved to reading good literature instead of a reading program shortly after starting our homeschool journey , and it has been so much more successful,

    1. Do you have a favorite book for each age group Christy? We would love to see what you use!

  7. I keep looking at the One Year Adventure Novel. My oldest daughter enjoys writing fiction with nanowrimo.

  8. We've used so many of the same things! I wrote how much we loved All About Spelling--the first time through, and then I went back to that old school learn, study, test method on the next kiddo. And I love your reading choices, especially PAL and Reading Eggs. I'm going to look at some of your grammar choices, then--we haven't really made that a priority over here to this point.

  9. Wow! You've really got everything covered with lots of great suggestions. I've had difficulty with my kids when it comes to writing. My involvement squashed motivation. This year we tried a much more laid back approach which has been working well. -


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