Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TOS Review Crew?!? To be, or not to be!

I applied this weekend to join the TOS (This Old Schoolhouse) Homeschool Review Crew!  Woot!  I'm excited at the possibilities.  I really hope it works out.  I was asked today to write a sample product review, so here's what I came up with this afternoon and sent in for consideration.  I feel really good about it!  Let me know what you think.  :)  My husband read it and said he thought it was really good and seemed very helpful.  We shall see!


-By Kelly Burgess

Wordly Wise 3000 is a vocabulary building workbook series available for grades K-12, brought to you by Educators Publishing Service.

The vendor recommends the use of the Teacher’s Resource Books in order to fully implement the lessons for levels K-1, but levels 2-12 can reliably be used as stand-alone vocabulary workbooks without the use of the teacher’s guides. 

The latest release is the new 3rd edition.  Having used both 2nd and 3rd edition workbooks, I can say that the content is essentially the same, but the visual appearance of the 3rd edition is definitely more appealing with the use of more color on the pages.

From the vendor’s website, here are the key features of Wordly Wise 3000:

Skills & Strategies

·                                 Vocabulary development

·                                 Reading comprehension

·                                 Critical thinking

·                                 Using a dictionary and pronunciation key

·                                 Word usage

·                                 Test taking/assessment

·                                 Context clues

·                                 Synonyms and antonyms

·                                 Multiple-meaning words

·                                 Using word parts to determine meaning:

·                               prefixes

·                               suffixes

·                               Greek and Latin roots

·                                 Homophones

·                                 Picture clues and captions

·                                 Analogies

·                                 Word origins

·                                 Repeated exposure in many contexts

There are 15-20 units in each workbook, each focusing on a specific new word list.  I’m going to focus on book 4 for the purposes of this review.  The words are introduced in dictionary-style format with definitions, pronunciation guide, and sample sentences using the word in context.  This is followed by a series of 5 workbook activities:

  • Finding Meanings - the student matches two phrases that make a true sentence about one of the words and then rewrites the completed sentence

  • Just the Right Word – the student replaces a bolded phrase in the given sentence with the vocabulary word it defines 

  • Applying Meanings – the student is given a question that gives application of the vocabulary word and then must choose one or more of the multiple choice answers that correctly answer the question

  • Word Study – the content of this exercise varies with such topics as synonyms, antonyms, word origins, prefixes, suffixes, etc.

  • Passage – the student reads a passage on a non-fictional cross-curricular topic such as history, science, literature, etc. and then answers comprehension questions that in some way use the vocabulary words from that unit

After every four lessons, there is a review activity in the form of a crossword puzzle.  Words from the previous four word lists are used to answer the clues.

Word lists are repeated in the margin on most pages of the workbook to keep the student from wasting time flipping back to the initial word list for each given unit.

My children have thoroughly enjoyed using these workbooks, and I’ve seen a definite advancement in their range and accurate implementation of vocabulary.  I love that this is a product I can use throughout their homeschool experience, even through the high school years.  The predictable format makes the lessons very user-friendly so the student can progress without much, if any, guidance from the parent.

Answer keys are available for purchase with solutions to all of the workbook activities to enable quick grading of your student’s work if you so desire.  In addition, if you wish to test your students for comprehension, you can purchase an optional test book with quizzes for each unit in a multiple choice format.  The answers are included in the back of the test booklet.

In addition, you get free access to their website to enhance the student’s learning.  This is one of my kids’ favorite features of the product.  At www.wordlywise3000.com, you can click on the “student” area and access audiovisual files that “teach” each of the word lists, complete with self-check activities that give immediate feedback.  The audio files can also be downloaded for learning on the go.  Students can also play a variety of games, such as hangman and battleship, which aid the student in checking their understanding of the words.  My kids really enjoy those, and it’s a great way to get them to keep practicing application of their words!

It’s easy to adjust the program to each student’s skill level by simply reviewing the word lists on the interactive website I mentioned above to see where you feel your child’s level of understanding best fits into the program.  It doesn’t necessarily have to correspond with their “grade” level.  With the predictable number of activities, I have found it easy to schedule out the book over the course of a school year, or you can simply let your child progress at their own pace.  It’s up to you!

At a cost of $11.50-$13.20 per workbook, Wordly Wise 3000 provides a good return for a minimal investment.  I really like that I don’t have to buy a lot of frills to go with it, and it includes enough material to fill up the school year with a solid foundation of vocabulary expansion. 

I think the main positives of this program are the overall value, ease of use, effectiveness of the activities to reinforce the learning, and a predictable format that is easy for the student to follow and easy for the parent to plan into the school year.  A potential negative is that with it being a workbook format, it wouldn’t be a good fit for a child who dislikes that type of learning.  Also, because the format is predictable with the same types of activities in every unit, the repetitive nature could become boring for the student if he/she dislikes any of the specific activities.  My oldest son, for example, really dislikes doing reading comprehension questions, so the “Passage” activity is the one he really dreads doing.  But overall, I highly recommend this series for kids aged 5-18.

Read more about Wordly Wise 3000 on the TOS Homeschool Crew Review Blog http://homeschoolcrew.com/?s=wordly+wise (there wasn’t a specific link about Wordly Wise on the TOS blog, so I put this link in merely as a filler for the purposes of the review sample).

Educators Publishing Services provided this product to me free of charge for reviewing purposes, but I was in no way influenced as to my impressions of the product.  My opinions of Wordly Wise 3000 are entirely my own.  (Obviously, that’s not the case, but I inserted this disclaimer for the purpose of following the format for the sample review.  I actually bought the products myself and have been using them for the last 8 years!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Good and the Not-So-Good

The good news is that I got the kids' CAT test results back.  Haylee scored 99th percentile for her 2nd grade test, and Hayden scored 95th percentile for his 7th grade test.  He has never scored below 98th percentile before so that was a bit of a surprise.  But he did the whole test in one day instead of breaking it up.  It's possible that he was just tired.  It looks like his lowest score was in Study Skills, so I will have to look at that section next year and see what kinds of things are in that.  I didn't even look at the content of his test before I gave it to him, so I have no idea what was on it.  In any case, they both did well, and I'm so glad to have it behind us for yet another year.

The not-so-good news is that we've decided Hayden must re-take Algebra I this next school year.  That's a real bummer to have lost a whole year of progress.  He was way ahead, and I think it was a mistake to skip Algebra 1/2.  He went right from Saxon 8/7 to Saxon Algebra I this year.  His placement test was right at 85%, which is the minimum to skip Algebra 1/2.  I gave him the choice, and he said he felt comfortable moving on.  But clearly, it was a mistake.  He was caught cheating several times on his tests, and when asked about it, he said it had just gotten too hard for him.  It was enough that it made him cry.  So long story short, I gave him the placement test for Algebra 2, and he couldn't even begin.  It was like he hadn't retained a single thing from this whole school year.  I see two problems with how math went this year.  One, he refused to show his work on each problem, and we told him at the beginning of the year that this step was essential to mastering all math from Algebra on up, but he didn't take it seriously.  Two, he never used the Saxon Teacher DVD that I bought him.  Every day, I'd ask if he had any problems with his lessons, and he'd say no.  But in truth, he wasn't fully understanding the lessons, and this realization didn't come to light until the END of the school year.   This makes me really frustrated.  If he was having problems throughout the year, he had ample opportunity to bring it to my attention and did not.  He had the teacher DVD to help him through the lessons and the problems, and he didn't make use of that resource because he said it was too "slow and boring."  Sigh.  Thus, here we are, at the END of the school year, having made ZERO progress in math.  I'm very frustrated.  The up side of this is that he was 2 years ahead in math, and he'll still be a year ahead of average, so it's not a major crisis, but I still feel like this year was a total failure.  I'm not wanting to have this happen again. 

Another not-so-good side to this is that in all of this coming out last night, hubby decided to play a bit of the blame game with me.  I am NOT happy about this.  I totally have my hands full, and they get fuller every year.  He said if time is a problem, then the kids need to go to school.  I said fine, MY life would sure be a whole lot easier!  But we all know we're not sending the kids to school!  There are a myriad of reasons not to do it.  Homeschooling is hard, and that's a fact.  It is eating up my whole life right now, and that's a fact.  The kids have a sorry attitude towards completing their work and have been that way for months...that's a fact.  I'm ready to pull my hair out.  What I need is some partnering in changing their attitudes and getting things back on track.  I'm open to suggestions on how to make schooling go better.  What I'm NOT open to is somebody who does not participate in the schooling telling me it's all my fault.  That is SO NOT COOL!  Okay, now I've gotten that off my chest.  I feel better.

New day, new chance at doing things better.  Hello, Monday!  Give me what you've got!