Back to School – Supplies

Today I am going to share one of my deepest secrets…shhhh….

Despite the heat and the bugs, this might be my favorite time of the year. Back to school. More specifically I really love the school supplies. Love. Love. Love. Newly sharpened pencils, fresh markers, crisp white paper, unblemished composition notebooks, and naturally a pen or twenty.

We have ten children at home, but only eight of them are in need of school supplies. Want to do the math on that one? If we aren’t careful, school supplies could be a problem. While I try to stock up on composition notebooks and pencils, the other supplies are kept at a minimum. Budget and space are great boundary setters when it comes to going crazy down the school supply aisles.

I typically do not buy the supplies all at once. I, not so patiently, wait for the school supplies to hit the shelves and buy a little bit on each grocery shopping trip. As of today, I think I have all the basic must have items. I am pondering if I want to splurge on one or two fun, colorful items or not. Really, guys, I need more post-it-notes! Yes, I do!

Here are my Top Five Must Have Back to School items:

1 Ticonderoga Wood Pencils – I do not enjoy mechanical pencils. There is nothing like a nice, sharp point on a wood pencil. Ticonderoga is by far the best I have ever used. I love them so much that I received some on Mother’s Day. I do not share. I do hide them if necessary. Stay away from my pencils!

2 Composition Notebooks – They are a bit pricier than the spiral bound notebooks, but it is a small splurge I am willing to indulge in. I grow weary of the spiral unwinding and catching on clothing. Also, the composition notebooks are firmer and sit up nicely on our bookshelves. This year we found fun designs at the store. We do carefully look and find the college-ruled composition books. My children do not like the wide-ruled books. I do still buy a few spiral notebooks for the youngest ones to use for different needs.

3 Pentel White Erasers – For years I bought the pink erasers or the small pencil top erasers. I grabbed a few of the white erasers one year and found that I prefer them. For us they seem to provide  cleaner erasure and hold up longer. I have only grabbed one pack of three so far as they are not on sale. Ack! We are out of erasers so I need to replenish our stash.

4 Index Cards – White, colored, plain, or ruled, I love them all. Flashcards, notes, bookmarks, and so much more. I buy a few packs every year. This year I am going to have the younger children make up a few bookmarks for their various readings; personalized to the subject/story being studied/read. I definitely need a few bookmarks. We need a few math facts cards remade and my son needs sight words for his reading. I may need to grab another pack!

5 – Coloring Pencils – If you are around my children any length of time you will learn a few things: they all love books, they all love to draw, and they are all a little bit crazy. That means that I have to keep books, paper, and pencils on hand at all times or life can get ugly. For birthday days and Christmas, we invest in something nicer such as Prismacolor pencils. However, I just can’t pass up paying $.97 for coloring pencils to have on hand. If one gets misplaced or broken, no worries! I only have four of these currently? I definitely need to grab a few more!

And a bonus must have back to school supply: hand-held pencil sharpener! I have an amazing manual pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies. Not only does it sharpen my pencils amazingly well, it is fabulously red. However!!! Coloring pencils will not be sharpened with that shiny, red sharpener. No way. I have found it is better to invest in a well made metal hand-held sharpener than those cheaper plastic ones. My children us them for their coloring pencils daily.

With these supplies on hand, we have everything we need to get our work done. Do I have other supplies on hand? Sure, but these are my basic and favorite supplies. What are your must have items?

 

**This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to make a purchase, I make a very small percentage from that purchase. Your pricing and buying experience are in no way changed or altered. 

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program – A Review

In our home, teaching phonics and reading has been approached in a simple and straightforward manner. This has worked well for us as I have a houseful of avid readers across the ages. While the approach and resources have not changed over the years, I am not opposed to adding in extras to help supplement in weak areas of phonics and reading. Two of my children have been using Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning to supplement their reading instruction and practice.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is a downloadable software that provides reading instruction for beginning readers to older readers who may be struggling at various levels.  Due to the presentation of the program, Ultimate Phonics is not limited to a young age range but can be helpful to mature readers.

You can view a DEMO and have 10 Days to use Ultimate Phonics for Free.

Ultimate Phonics consists of 262 lessons that covers all the phonic sounds and rules. The lessons cover sounds, words, and sentences. While the lessons build on each other, you have the freedom to begin at any level based on the needs of the reader. You can also choose to complete parts of the lessons instead of the whole. As the reader progresses through the program, you may find that a bit of review may be necessary. This is not a problem as moving back and forth in the lessons is a simple click of a button. The Scope and Sequence for Ultimate Phonics is a great resource for an overview of the lessons. A  Placement Test is available which is so helpful in finding a starting point for your reader.

How We used Ultimate Phonics Reading Program

Two of my children have been using Ultimate Phonics over the past several weeks. Sam, 6, who would be considered a beginning reader, started this program at Lesson One. We continued our normal daily phonics instruction and added Ultimate Phonics in a few times a week to serve as a supplement for him. Since it was on the computer, Sam was happy to work with Ultimate Phonics and enjoyed the program.

I had originally hoped that this program could serve as a bit of independent study for Sam but I was mistaken. I quickly found that Sam was listening to the sounds and words being read but not attempting to read them on his own aloud. This was totally an oversight on my part especially given Sam’s age. We continued to use Ultimate Phonics and I had Sam read aloud with someone close at hand to listen in and make sure he was progressing nicely. Since this was a supplement resource for him, it worked out well in this manner.

Sarah, 8, also used portions of Ultimate Phonics. I would not classify Sarah as a struggling reader but one who needs to build her confidence in her ability. She reads well but often tries to read too fast and that jumbles her sounds and words. I did not have her complete whole lesson of Ultimate Phonics. Instead she only worked with the sentence portions of each lessons. This provided review and confidence building for her. Since she was ahead of Sam, she could also listen to Sam during his lessons. Sarah loves helping and was a great confidence boost for her.

Final Thoughts

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is a straightforward, easy to use and implement resource for phonics instruction. There are no silly graphics, characters, or games that limit this program to a young age range. It is definitely a bit dry in presentation and the automated voice that reads is a bit annoying. However, that means little distraction from the purpose of this resource which is to teach phonics and reading.

Ultimate Phonics works well as a supplement or a full phonics program. With the simple approach it can easily be used with a range of skill levels and learning abilities. Others on the Homeschool Review Crew used Ultimate Phonics so make sure you see how this program worked with a variety of readers!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
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Getting Started with French – A Review

In our homeschool, one of my weak areas is foreign language. Despite taking three semesters of Spanish in college, I can barely greet you in Spanish. Let us not even discuss my accent. Needless to say finding resources and curriculum to help my children experience, enjoy, and master a foreign language is important. When I heard that Armfield Academic Press has a foreign language resource, Getting Started with French, I hoped that it would be a helpful tool for my daughter, Mary, a high school junior.

Getting Started with French is a beginning French resource that works well for self-teaching students of any age. Whether it is used by a homeschool student like my daughter or an adult with a desire to learn French, anyone can quickly and easily put this program into practice.

Armfield Academic Press has other foreign language resources: Getting Started with Spanish, Getting Started with Latin,and soon they will have Getting Started with Russian.

How to Use This Book

Before handing Getting Started with French to my daughter, I did a read through on the “How to Use This Book” section at the beginning. This gave me a clear understanding of how the program worked and confirmed that my daughter could use this independently.

The set up is broken down into daily lessons that introduce new words, offer grammatical information, and translation exercises. One of my favorite aspects of this program is the free audio files that you can download. Being able to hear the correct pronunciation by a native French speaker is so helpful! My daughter found that the audio files were clear and easy to understand. She also noted that the pace or speed of the speaker was helpful.

The goal of Getting Started with French is mastery so you are encouraged to work on the lessons daily but to take time to review as needed. Practice speaking with your family in French or translating English text into French are great ways to work on review and repetition.

One way my daughter worked on review and repetition to build mastery was to utilize classic children’s literature. Our library had a few books such as Goodnight Moon and The Three Little Pigs available in French. We checked those out and she practiced translating the words into English. It was a bit more challenging than expected but a fun way to practice what she was learning.

Getting Started with French offers flexibility for your style of learning and setting your own schedule and pace. While the presentation is simple and user friendly, it is an effective approach.

You can preview Getting Started with French to get a feel for how the program is set up.

Mary’s Thoughts

Since Mary works independently I have very little interaction directly with this program but discuss what is being taught with Mary to keep an eye on her progress. Here is what she has to say:

I found Getting Started with French very easy to use. Since it can be used by all ages, I was worried at first that it might be too simple and not challenging or helpful. But that wasn’t a problem at all. It encouraged you to take your time and to not rush. It was very easy to understand the lessons and what was being taught. I found it very helpful in understanding the masculine/female gender usage and the pronunciations guides were very helpful for me. Mary – 16

Overall we are both very pleased with this program. I love the approach used and that Mary can work on it independently. Being able to set her own pace and schedule is a huge plus for Mary. She likes the flexibility that it offers.

As a homeschool family with a wide range of ages, I love that it can easily be used by different ages. I have Getting Started with Spanish on my to buy list. I think it would be a great addition to our Group Learning and be a fun family learning experience. Maybe I can finally get the proper Spanish accent?  Oh, and it is a non-consumable resource which is always a huge plus for our family. Just give everyone a notebook and we are set to learn a foreign language or two!

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}
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