Becoming a Writing Apprentice with Apologia – Review

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
My oldest Ben, who is 11, is really interested in becoming a writer. He loves to type out stories on his computer and is quite creative. However, I’ve been having a hard time finding a writing curriculum to help him hone his creativity and teach him how to become the best writer he can be. When I saw that Apologia Educational Ministries now had a writing curriculum I was so excited. We have loved everything we have ever used from them so I was pretty sure that Writers in Residence would be a hit, but with how picky my son is and how much he has loathed writing curriculums in the past I was still a bit weary.

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And then the product came in the mail and it was HUGE. I mean the student book is MASSIVE. It’s hard to tell from this picture but you can tell from the bright green binding, which in my opinion makes the book so much fun! We immediately were drawn to the bright colors, both my son and I. We also use fountain pens in our home and are kind of addicted to collecting them and playing with different inks and such so we loved that it had one on the front cover. It’s the little things that impress us. 🙂 But first impressions are important. So although Ben was intimidated at first by the size of the book he loved the way it looked and was excited to give it a try.

Just like any new homeschool curriculum first mom had to read the front material about how the product is designed to be used and why they wrote and so on and so forth. I was impressed with how they have written this product to teach children to write how they will need to write in the real world. This is a program to mentor them to be influential writers in society, not just to be able to write to pass a class. The goal is to have Christian authors and writers who can write from a place of conviction with the reader and audience in mind and this struck a huge chord with me. I was hooked. I also loved how they continually talked about how perfection is not the goal but progress. We want them to be moving towards writing better and better and gently mentoring them in that way. There is so much more written about this and much more eloquently put in the beginning of the book so make sure to read through that when you get it. The answer key (the smaller book) is just that. It is the answers for the exercises that have more hard and fast answers. It also has suggestions in the front for how to grade and evaluate your students work.

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These are the Christian writers spotlighted in the book. I didn’t realize how blurry this picture was but on here we have some incredible talents like the writer of the McGee and Me movies, Phil Vischer of VeggieTales, and even the guy who wrote the screen play for many famous movies including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. These are some incredible writers that your children will learn some amazing tips from. Ben was super excited when he read about it. He had to go show dad and then his grandparents when they came over. I know he loves something when he wants to tell everyone about it.

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I love this page because it gives you an example of how vivid and fun the pages are. I was so tempted to just take picture after picture of the book but well you have to buy it to see it all. 🙂 This is the six traits writing model which I won’t really go in to but it’s a great model for learning to write.

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Let’s talk about why we ended up loving Writers in Residence and why we can’t wait for the whole series to come out. First of all my son loves it because it treats him like a writer. It doesn’t act all little kiddish and allows him to be creative. He can work at his level and he can see his progress. He can see for himself that he is progressing and learning to write better and that motivates him. The title, the way the program is structured, him being an apprentice, and me mentoring him all help him feel more confident and more motivated to improve his writing. I love it because it is easy to use. He can easily go and see what he needs to do on the suggested daily schedule and then check it off when he is done. If he has questions or needs me I’m write there but if not he just works right through it. We all know as busy homeschool moms how nice it is to have something that a child can work through easily on their own (when they are old enough), but even if you were doing this with a younger child that needed more help the lessons are fairly short and wouldn’t take much time or effort from you.

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The book is broken up by modules and then further down into units. After each unit there is a rubric for your child to check off that they have done everything and then for you to give them points based on what they did. This is great because if you are having them do a lot of it on there one this is where you get to check up on them and make sure they are progressing and talk through where they are struggling. If Ben didn’t have things finished we would talk about why and usually it was because he needed help or didn’t understand and so we would go back and finish it up. A lot of times when he does this I can’t help him with something right away so it sometimes sits undone until we grade it. The next part is the part my son loves. The transferring of the points. 🙂

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In the appendix near the very, very, very back of the book is this apprentice log. For every 10 points your child earns in the rubrics that I talked about above they get to mark it off. When they reach that yellowed out 85% mark they get to report that to Apologia and they will earn some sort of prize or certificate. I’m not sure what they get but my son can’t wait to get there. I guess this should teach me that that is the way I should do all his subjects. He’s motivated by that.

As if it wasn’t clear by my gushing in this review, we are in love with Writers in Residence and will definitely be using this with Ben from here on out. I would highly recommend this for your child grades 4th through 8th. It really doesn’t matter if they are in the higher grades and just starting in this book. They will not feel like it is below them as it is written in such a way that they can just do the exercises at their level if that makes sense. Anyway, this product gets 5 stars from us!

 

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
 

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Learning to Read, Write, and Type with Talking Fingers – Review

 Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I find it funny and ironic that just after writing up a review in which I talked about how important it is to have good penmanship I am now doing a review in which I am going to talk about important it is in this day in age to also be able to type well. 🙂 But it is the truth. I believe strongly that it is just as important that our children learn from a young age how to type and how to do it well. Our children are living in a digital age and need to learn how to use computers and how to use them well. I could get on a big soap box here but I’ll refrain for now. LOL Anyway, I’d heard great things in passing about Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. so I was super excited to give it a try.

Read, Write & Type is a online software program that teaches phonics, spelling, typing, and word processing. It’s amazing. It is made for ages 6 to 9. We used it with my 7 year old, Hadassah. She loved it immediately because it was on the computer and to her that is getting to be a like a big guy in her words. I can already tell that the two younger ones who are 5 and 4 now will be wanting to use this when they are old enough because every time sissy was using it they pulled up chairs and sat and watched her.

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The program started by having these two hands (whose names are escaping me but they are super cute) come out and land on the keyboard on the screen. They explain the whole keyboard and the different letters but then the little bad guy alien comes and steals all their stories. The object is then to get all the stories back by learning to type and read. It’s a lot of fun. They play games to learn and they can always click on the hands or other areas to get help if they get stuck. As they continue on in the program extra areas open up such as the email tower, my daughters favorite. She loved sending emails out and getting them back from different countries. They also have a story tree and other fun areas.

 

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I was worried at first that the kids might think the graphics were a bit cheesy or that the whole premise of a silly little blobby bugger looking alien might not intrigue them but it did and I even found it drawing me in. It really is a fun little program and teaches kids how to read and spell and type all at the same time. It actually makes a lot of sense to combine them like this. I’m not sure if I would use this as a replacement for other phonics programs but I do think it is a great addition to your phonics program. It’s only $35 for one user for a year so it’s totally worth it.

 

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I did find that after awhile I looked over and she was not following the correct steps for putting her fingers where they were supposed to be and really struggling so I just went into the really handy teacher area and started her over. You can do that or you can start it over at a certain lesson. It can be a bit tricky to navigate that area but there is a user manual at the top of the administrative area to help you guide it through it all that I highly recommend. It does seem to be optimized more for schools so for a homeschool mom it can be a bit more confusing, but all in all it’s not too bad.

All that to say, we really enjoyed this product and I don’t think my daughter will allow us to not continue using it. She loves it so much. I’m happy that she is learning to type while also reinforcing her reading skills. My husband who is a software developer is also very excited that she is learning to type at a young age so this program as many seals of approval.

 

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

 

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Practicing Handwriting with Homeschool Copywork – Review

Homeschool Copywork Review
I truly believe that continuing to teach our kids how to print and write in cursive is very important. I know there are those in our country who are starting to lean away from writing, especially cursive, because most things are done on computer now, but there is still so much value in being able to write, especially when it comes to being able to go back and read what others have written before us. But anyway I digress. Because I think this is so important I am always looking for ways to keep my children’s handwriting practice continuing. I have known of Homeschool Copywork since my friend Amy started it way back when. I actually met Amy on the crew. Anyway, for this review Amy was generous enough to give us a Lifetime Membership.

Let’s talk a bit more though about what copywork is. While it does help with handwriting, which is one of the main reasons I wanted it, it also helps with so much more. It helps with spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary, learning about great writing, reading comprehension, and the list goes on. It is one of the things that Charlotte Mason talked about a lot. When you have children do copywork from great pieces of literature they are learning not only how to write good but what good writing looks like. They are learning where the punctuation goes, what the words look like when they are spelled correctly, and so on. That is why copywork is so beneficial and can really help children who are struggling with handwriting and growing weary of writing the same letters over and over and over again.

Homeschool Copywork has such a great variety of copywork available to you. There is everything from pages for your youngest preschoolers to your high schoolers. We ended up using some with my two youngest and then with my oldest who is 11 and I’ll share about them below. First, thought, I’ll tell you about the child that this didn’t really work for….yet. My 7 year old is still learning to form her letters and is at that point where we are formally learning how to do them. We are using another program to do this and she is really thriving. I looked at all the pages that I thought she would enjoy from Homeschool Copywork and I found that they didn’t offer enough room for her to fit the words on the page with how she writes right now. They do offer additional pages to be able to add so that you can make it work but I knew with her personality it would just frustrate her at this point. That being said I also know that if I just give it a year or even just 6 more months and she is going to fall in love with so many of the things on the site and be enthralled with copying the text and coloring the gorgeous pictures. She loves God’s Word and so I know she will especially love the ones that are from the Bible. So while it didn’t fit for her now I know it will very soon.

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Now let’s talk about my two youngest. Zeke and Enoch are 5 and 4 and are both doing preschool. Zeke is delayed in his fine motor skills so he mainly just colored the pages and tried to trace the letters and then scribbled when he got frustrated but I was still glad to see a little bit of effort on his part. Enoch would color and then depending on the mood he was in he would either just color his letters or he would trace them. What I loved though is that both of them would ask me what the letter was and what the picture was and we would talk about the sounds and stuff. They loved that they were doing school like brother and sister. It was such a great way for them to have a “big” kid book of handwriting practice and I can see us continuing to use others that are on the site.

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The copywork for the older grades allows for various types of handwriting, line types, translations of the Bible, ect. Each file is different but there are loads of options which is great, but make sure not to just go in and press print you want to make sure you are only printing what you need. For my oldest we used the Armor of God Copywork which is just the passage from Ephesians. I loved that he was copying the Word of God and he loved that here were all sorts of medieval pictures. 🙂 For the most part he was willing to do this without to much complaining. He hates writing so it is tough to get him to enjoy it, which is typical boy. I only made him do it twice a week however which made him happy. He is very interested in trying the Dragons of the Bible one and I know there are others that will interest him. There really are a lot of great ones for boys on the site.

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Overall we really, truly have enjoyed using Homeschool Copywork and I highly recommend it. If you are already incorporating copywork in to your homeschooling journey than it is a great tool to have in your toolbox and if not than it is a great way to get started.

 

Homeschool Copywork Review
 

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Yesterday was Full of Tears

Yesterday was full of tears, tears because the day I had been trying to avoid snuck up behind me and wrestled me to the ground. My back and pain have been getting worse and worse and I’ve been trying to push forward day by day and not give up. Even though most around me haven’t been able to tell each step, each breath, each moment has been a struggle to keep on going, to not give in, but I knew it was coming. I knew the day was fast approaching that I would be confined mostly to bed and my chair and I didn’t want to admit it. I felt like I was running with one of those bands attached to my middle that like pro athletes use to train (at least I think they do right? I’m not really much of an athlete) and that it was getting tighter and tighter and was about to snap pulling me down with it.

I cried and cried because I’ve been working so hard on getting routines in my house (ala Flylady) and now they are out the window. I can’t tell you the number of things I cried about yesterday. Letting go when you are just starting to gain some ground is hard. And lest some of you think it’s big things like decluttering or making my house perfect we aren’t just talking about that. We’re talking about things like showering daily, being able to sit up long enough to do my Bible study, and loads of even simpler things. It’s hard to let go.

I have gained some perspective today. I think part of why it was so hard is because last time it got real bad I was stuck in bed for six months before I finally got surgery. This time I’m not completely bedridden yet and I have a doctor appointment on Tuesday so that’s all positives. Also I have someone here to help and I have those routines I can run right back to and get right back on track as soon as this is all behind me. God has me in His hands.

That being said, I don’t think it’s wrong to mourn. I think sometimes those of us with chronic health issues in the church sometimes feel like we can’t mourn openly and for a long while because then we must not be trusting God fully. But trust me, I trust God. I trust Him a lot. I have to! If I didn’t I’d be even more of a mess than I am now. I wouldn’t just be a bundle of tears in the laundry room, the bathroom, while starting at my sink full of dishes, but I’d be wanting to give up on life and most likely be on suicide watch if I’m being honest. I’m trusting God will all my being.

In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon wrote that their is a time for everything. There is a time to mourn. It is allowed. God allows us to mourn, to cry out to Him. He holds us, comforts us. The times I’ve felt the closest to Him are the times when I’ve had these times of mourning and had to lean and trust Him for everything. Anyway, that’s where I am right now. Mourning with ugly, messy, tears, frequently in the laundry room bent over the washing machine because for some reason people rarely look for me in there, probably becasue they don’t want to get roped in to helping.

This entry was posted in Faith.