Tuesday, September 30, 2014

{Crew Review} Fix It! Grammar

I have a confession to make.

I don't know how to diagram.

I am sure at one point in my education I did learn diagramming, but it is forever lost in my brain somewhere. And I really don't miss it.

Does that mean that I don't think that grammar is important to learn? Absolutely not, in fact grammar is a necessary part of my children's education, and the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) grammar program is a wonderful, pain-free way to learn grammar.

Fix It! Grammar Review

What It Is:

Fix It! Grammar has six levels. I received both the Fix It! Grammar The Nose Tree [Book 1] Teacher Manual, and the Fix It! Grammar The Nose Tree Student Book. Meant for grades 3rd and up, this grammar books moves sentence by sentence through The Nose Tree, a Brother's Grimm tale.

Before I chose the level, I used the placement test on IEW site; this actually gave me a good feel for how the book is laid out.  Each of the levels or Books, are different stories:

  • Book 1 - The Nose Tree (basic parts of speech)
  • Book 2 - Robin Hood (clauses and phrases, sentence combining, cumulative adjectives)
  • Book 3 - Frog Prince, or Just Desserts (sentence openers, hyphens, semicolons)
  • Book 4 - The Little Mermaid (essential and non essential elements, parallelism, appositives)
  • Book 5 - Chanticleer (advanced punctuation, conjunctive adverbs, active and passive voice)
  • Book 6 - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (invisible sentence openers, mid-sentence elements)
Every book is foundational on the one before so it is highly recommended that you begin with book 1 which is what we did.

Fix It! Grammar Review

The book is laid out very simply. The lessons are week by week and day by day, with 4 days of exercises a week. Each day you will work on one sentence from the story. First you read the sentence with your child and talk about the meaning. One word is written in bold, which is your vocabulary word. Your child looks this word up in the dictionary and decides which definition is the best, and then adds it to the back of their writing notebook. Then they work on the sentence.

They will label parts of speech, choose the correct homophone (words that sound alike but are spelled differently) and give the sentence an end mark. The last step is for your student to copy the sentence into their notebook.

The pace was excellent; each week, a new grammar concept is introduced. We used this for 4 weeks and Dasher learned:

  • Week 1: nouns, homophones, and end marks
  • Week 2: articles
  • Week 3: quotations
  • Week 4: pronouns
Each week builds on the previous week, so by the fourth week she was labeling nouns, pronouns, and articles, understood end marks and quotations, and had a full page of the copied story.

Fix It! Grammar does follow the IEW method of writing and so includes awareness of  Stylistic Techniques, or "Dress-Ups" (helpful hints on a checklist that give writing tips). But don't feel that you need to be familiar with this teaching style to use this; the Teacher Manual lays out exactly what you should be covering each day, and gives specific questions you can ask your child.

What You Get:

The Student Book ($15) is spiral bound and has a glossy cover.There are enough lessons for 33 weeks of study. In the back of the Student Book are reminder cards to cut out; these are of heavy cardstock and are like grammar flashcards to review all the concepts. The Teacher Manual ($19) is extremely helpful and describes each day what you should expect and be teaching your child.

There are not only questions to ask and the correct sentence labeling, but notes on advanced grammar and "grammar lovers" notes. This would be especially helpful when teaching this to older students who might have a higher foundational level of grammar.

In the back of both the Student Book and the Teacher Manual are identical Glossaries. This section includes all parts of speech, punctuation, sentence, clauses and phrases, stylistic techniques, and additional rules and concepts. This was a great help to me, when Dasher would ask me out of the blue what part of speech a word was.

With the purchase of the book you will also receive access to the online Student Book 1 e-book, Mastery Learning e-audio, and But...But.....But.....What About Grammar? e-audio.

How We Used This And What We Thought:

Dasher struggles with reading and grammar. When she reads, she is so focused on getting the word read correctly that she sometimes doesn't even pay attention to what she is reading. So teaching grammar to her can be a challenge, since the meaning of the words tell you what parts of speech they are. And that is where this program was an incredible fit for her.

One sentence.

That was all she needed to focus on. We would read it multiple times, until she understood the meaning. We looked the vocabulary words up in a real dictionary, not online (a great skill that every child needs to learn,) and she wrote down the meaning of them in her notebook.

We also used the grammar cards to reinforce each day the parts of speech and other concepts she had learned.

On the back of the cards is a simple definition to memorize. And each card conveniently shows which week to introduce that concept. 

She would then label the sentence as directed (and I would follow along in the teacher book to make sure she was getting them all). Sometimes I would give her hints and tell her how many pronouns were in the sentence. This was also a huge plus for her.

 Like I said above I completely forgot how to diagram, but most of us know what verbs, nouns and adjectives are, and could label them in a sentence. This type of grammar learning makes so much more sense to me and is how I teach my children the parts of  speech. After she had labeled the parts she knew she copied the sentence in her notebook.

Once we got the hang of this, we spent only 10 to 15 minutes a day in the book. And she absolutely loved it. We are starting our 5th week with this, and each day she is very eager to read the next sentence and find out what happens in the story. And I catch her re-reading parts of it from her notebook at times too.

I really loved this product. A couple years ago I reviewed Fix It! Grammar and since then they have completely changed the formatting, which I like for the better. The Student Book feels much more user-friendly, and the Teacher Manual is easier to navigate.

I am definitely going to have Dasher complete this program....I was even trying to think of a way we could incorporate this into our weekly co-op, but we have a full schedule already. Maybe next year I will add it as a subject for the students.

Other members of the Crew reviewed other levels; check out what they thought by clicking below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That my arms are sore. A friend and I are doing a weight-based workout together 4 days a week. And man, I am out of shape.

What I'm reading: I started a new book I found at our library Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. As a Chinese second-generation parent, she compares Eastern and Western child rearing ideas.

What I'm listening to: It's a Monday so the laundry is going.....I just have to remember to keep all the loads going so it all gets done today.

What we're learning: This week my students in Biology are learning about insects. In co op we are going to watch a DVD about unusual insects around the world, and then I plan to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of pesticides. The younger kiddos are learning about the parts of a cell in Anatomy and are going to be making an edible cell.

What I'm watching: Over the weekend My Sweetie and I watched 42 and really liked it. Harrison Ford did a great job in that movie.

What's cooking: This week I am making Japanese Curry, Spaghetti, and Creamy Chicken. Tonight it is comfort food with homemade tomato soup and sourdough grilled cheese.

What I'm buying: I need to get online and purchase the meat goat and sheep handbooks for 4H....I am thinking to do a joint project this year and need to begin project planning.

What I'm thankful for: That my faith is not based on what I wear, how I educate, how I look, or what my kids are like. Instead it is completely and fully resting on the Gospel and God's perfect mercy.

What I'm planning: I am re-thinking some of my bookshelves in the school room, and trying to figure out if there is a better way to store them. When you have tons of books and not much wall space, it can get tricky finding places for everything.

What we did this last weekend: We did some stuff around the house on Saturday and took a fun trip to Ikea to look around. Saturday night was movie night so all the kids piled into our room and we watched Agatha Christie's Murder On The Orient Express. Sunday was church and Sunday School, then to a park with friends for baseball, cupcakes, and fellowship.

What I'm looking forward to: I am getting together with a friend later this week to celebrate her birthday, and we have our 4H officer meeting this week too. All four kids are officers, which mean a third of the whole board is from my family.We had better not miss any meetings!

A picture to share:

~Happy National Coffee Day!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Universal Studios {Journal Entry}

After we had done Sea World, and one day at Disneyland and California Adventure, we headed to Universal City and to Universal Studios.

We tried avoiding traffic by leaving a little later but let's just face it, no matter what time you are on a freeway in LA, there is some sort of traffic.

It took us about 45 minutes to get there.

After we got into the park, we decided to take the Studio Tour first so we knew what Universal was all about. (Duh, movies.)

The tour was interesting, and took us through the stages, offices, and sets.

This was the old west set.

 There was also a cool airplane crash scene, a Jaws scene, and a creepy guy (actor) at the Bates Hotel who tried to freak out the last row of the tour. (We happened to be in the second to last row.)

The San Francisco earthquake was pretty cool too.

The only bummer with the tour was that the gigantic King Kong 360 3D didn't work. Our tram sat there for about ten minutes but we had to skip it and move on.

Our first ride was Jurassic Park.

 I had written up short details about each of the rides at the parks and so we knew there was an 85 foot drop somewhere in the ride.....

Obviously before the drop.....

The animatronics were okay;  the next day we went back to Disneyland and went on the train, and the dinosaurs in the tunnels seemed more real than these.

Okay, here comes the drop.....

And we did survive. The surprising thing is that you drop mostly in the dark, and only come out at the end.

We did everything in the Lower Lot, which included Transformers and Revenge Of The Mummy.

The Mummy was in indoor in-the-dark roller coaster, which was fun because you had no idea where you were going. Then when you got to the end, the thing sent you backwards all the way through again.

Transformers turned out to be a great ride; it is 3D, with really impressive flight simulation. You felt heat, mist and really thought you were in the Transformer Movie.

Then we headed to the Upper Lot.

Waterworld was a must see, and it did not disappoint.

The actors entertained us before the show began, by squirting unsuspecting guests as they tried to find seats.

This was one of the best action shows I had seen; there were fist fights, jet skis jumping (and splashing), fireballs, and an airplane that seems to fly in and crash.

Watching this made me think of theater, and how people were entertained before television.

We never got on the Simpson Ride...that line was 45 minutes long, and the Front Of The Line Passes that we each got for the broken tram ride didn't work on it. (We used it for Jurassic Park, our last ride of the day when the wait was 25 minutes.)

We watched the Special Effects Stage Show; 20 minutes of stuff we kind of already knew about how they do special effects in movies.

And we also watched Shrek 4-D; again, not really worth it.....A Bug's Life in California Adventure which was also 4D was way more fun.

Next up was Despicable Me.

I love those minions, and had to get a photo of my minions.

The ride was good; you sat on a roller coaster car, but the ride was 3D with a motion simulator. The wait in the line (10 minutes) was just as good as the ride, because Gru is up there entertaining you on a big screen.

You exit the ride into Super Silly Fun Land; a carnival like area with a couple of kiddie rides.

But we were very interested in this:

There was this huge water play structure and since it was 95 degrees out today, we all got a bit wet.

The kids lured My Sweetie out onto a platform where they knew buckets of water were being dumped randomly....and yup, he got soaked.

One thing Universal Studios had that was awesome was water misters. They were in every line, and almost at every corner. Those were very nice to walk through.

There were a few cute little streets to explore too.

The food here was not that great.....we all had pizza or corn dogs for lunch and they were so-so.

Before the park closed we went back down to the Lower Lot and rode those rides all over again. (After Waterworld, that was the best part of the park.)

The only person in our family who had ever been here before was My Sweetie, so I was really glad we got go here.

For dinner we went to City Walk (right there outside the park), and all picked stuff from a food court to eat.

Stayed tuned to hear what we did in California Adventure!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Disneyland {Journal Entry}

Our first leg of the vacation was spent in San Diego, at Sea World.

Now we were in Anaheim, where we would stay for the rest of the week.

My Sweetie did an amazing job of researching hotels in the area; he was very good at closing the windows on his laptop when any curious eyes came by.

We stayed a couple of blocks from Disneyland at a hotel which included a full breakfast. Our room was two rooms, connected with a bathroom. The kids room had a sofa bed and bunk beds which they loved sleeping in, and we had a queen bed in ours. Each night we had snacks, sodas, and fun treats to share.

{Obviously Bookworm here had a bit of sun that day}

The one thing that saved us at all of the parks we visited were these:

These 8 ounce water bottles, which we attached carabiners too, we slipped onto the belt loops on our pants or skirts.

And you can go into any restaurant in any of the parks and they will either refill your water bottle or give you a cup of ice water for free.

My little point and shoot camera went on another carabiner and then my Sweetie had a fanny pack, and that was all we carried. (Watching other people get off of rides with backpacks, bags, and purses made me really happy that we were literally carrying nothing.)

We spent a whole day at Disneyland another whole day at California Adventure, and then split the third day between the two.

And because we made the decision to go in September, we basically saw all of Disneyland in one day.

Our first ride was Star Tours, which with the new story line since I had been there, was lots of fun.

We worked our way through the lands, following a schedule I had found at Foder's, and that schedule really worked. We were done with Day 1 at around 1pm and Day 2 at about 6pm.

And which ride had the longest line? Not Indiana Jones, or Space Mountain, or the Matterhorn; but.........Peter Pan. 35 minutes was the lowest we ever saw it, and so the third day we bit the bullet and waited. I think they over estimate the wait times because we were getting on the ride after only 23 minutes.

This was the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

 {My pictures are not so great with my point and shoot}

That ride was okay; the laser thingys were hard to shoot at. There is a similar ride in CA that was way more fun.

Pirate's of the Caribbean. Loved this ride and the TEN minute wait.

Splash Mountain. This one went down as our favorite Disney ride.

We went on the ride multiple times in the three days we did Disney and CA; and started having fun with the cameras.

This one was the best.

{And was taken at around 11pm on Friday night, which made it the last ride of our vacation.}

We did all the rides we could, just to experience them. This was Pooh's Honey Pots and was a kiddie ride.

Small World, of course.

This was the Roger Rabbit ride and had a 35 minute wait so we did Fast Pass; came back an hour later and waited only about 5 minutes to get on. And let me tell you, it was NOT worth waiting 35 minutes.

Thunder Mountain was another favorite.

The teacups a few of us went on....Bookworm and I got ours spinning as fast as we could.

The first day we were there the Matterhorn had super short lines so we went on it three times on a row.

 {I was surprised that I got the Abominable Snowman in that photo.}

 I was surprised with this next favorite. The kids LOVED Autopia. And with a 5 minute wait, we went multiple times.

 My driver. Scary.

We went through Innovations and got to meet Captain America....check out his fake smile.

And the Astro Orbitor looks silly but is actually a fun ride.

Main Street. Yes, we had to take a picture here, like millions of other people.

And I am sure a billion other people have a photo of some precious child in front of the castle.

But we did not joins the hordes of people dressing up their girls like princesses....Nutsy said no way, she wouldn't want to walk all over the park, all day, in one of those things.

The Jungle Cruise, another must for a first time guest.

At the end of our first night, instead of joining the masses as they headed for the exit, we stopped at Gibson Girl for an ice cream sundae and waffle cone.

 The food here was much better than Sea World or Universal; we had already scoped out all of the places to eat and their menus, (this was the spot we used for that and was super helpful) so we all knew what our budget was for each meal. The quality of food was good and the price was not too bad.

Although we did have one flub with our snacks; I had read that the Bengal Barbecue with its meat skewers was a good bargain. We got two, at $4 each and when they came, my Sweetie and I started busting up. Each skewer had three chunks of meat on it. There are six of us, and so we each got ONE bite. Seriously, the lady helping us must have thought we were nuts.

Compare that to this massive turkey leg we got in California Adventure.....

that thing was $9 and we all gnawed on it for ten minutes, got full and couldn't finish it.

{Hidden Mickey}

Keeping to our budget the kids could get burgers, nuggets, sandwiches, and chowders. They frequently split stuff because we got a couple fun snacks to share each day.

And there were healthy options; one lunch my Sweetie and I split a delicious Chicken and Veggie Caesar Salad at the French Market Restaurant in New Orleans Square. It was plenty for both of us.

We also split the drinks between two people and only drank one soda in the park, the rest of the time we depended on our trusty water bottles.

So all of that secret planning and saving that my Sweetie and I did paid off; and our trip went smoothly.

Stay tuned for the rest of our trip!