Tuesday, March 29, 2016

REVIEW: Essentials 2nd Edition by Logic of English

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to review new edition of Essentials 2nd Edition by Logic of English!


Essentials is a comprehensive, all-in-one, reading, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary curriculum that now includes three levels of instruction in one convenient package.

The second edition Essentials set I received included:

  • Teacher’s Guide Volume 1
  • Student Workbook Volume 1
  • Spelling Journal
  • Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference
  • Spelling Analysis Card
  • Phonogram Game Tiles
  • Flash Card Decks:
    • Basic Phonogram
    • Advanced Phonogram
    • Morpheme
    • Spelling Rule
    • Grammar
    • Phonogram Game Cards (2 decks)

This complete Essentials Volume 1 Set is available for just $198

In addition, I received digital files for the new Essentials Reader ($17.60), its Companion Teacher’s Guide ($16), and its Companion Student Activity Book ($9.60).  These, I printed and bound with spiral comb binding.  They will soon be available in physical copies, but at this time they can be downloaded digitally.  This set is optional to Essentials, but it can be used as a complete reading comprehension and composition program for students in grades 3-5.

Essentials Volume 2 will be coming in January 2017 for $98.10 and will include the Essentials Teacher’s Guide Volume 2, the Essentials Student Workbook Volume 2, and Morpheme Cards Set 2.

This edition of Essentials is designed for ages 8 and up, and the complete 2-volume set can include up to 3 years of instruction.  It includes Levels A-C, allowing you to use the set 3 consecutive years with differentiated instruction in each year (approximately grades 2-4, or as deemed appropriate based on the included placement testing).

Also new to the second edition are placement testing and ten optional pre-lessons to help you know where each student should begin.



I did not tell my kids we would be reviewing this set until it actually arrived at my house.  This is because most kids don’t get excited when you tell them they “get to do” extra English work! Smile

However, from the very first lesson, I can honestly say that they got excited about doing this program.  In fact, my 6th grade daughter actually asked to do the work and went on and on about how much fun it was!  And keep in mind that we were doing this program after our full regular school days, and yet they were willingly adding this on to our regular work!

I think this is because Logic of English Essentials provides a framework that is unlike any other typical English program I’ve seen.  It’s a mix of traditional lessons with fun games, a variety of activities, and new ideas that may be new to your child and to your past teaching experiences.

We started with the placement testing.  My 8-year old son, Holden, is finishing up 2nd grade this spring.  I expected him to test into Level A because sometimes he is not the best speller.  But he surprised me by testing into Level B.  I was really glad for that reason that I took the time to do the placement tests.  My 11-year old daughter, Haylee, is finishing up 6th grade this spring, and she tested not surprisingly into Level C.  She’s an excellent speller, so that’s right where I expected her to be.  The placement testing is atypical, as well, as it covers a combination of phonemic awareness, handwriting, reading, and spelling to determine where your child should begin.  My kids did not need the pre-lessons, so we jumped right in with Lesson 1.

I’d like to point out that although this program gives you an excellent pacing guide and lays the lessons out for you on a 5-day schedule per lesson, it’s super easy to adapt this program to fit your schedule and the individual needs of each child you are teaching.  I did not complete the program the way it was laid out, as I already knew my kids had their own individual needs.  But I loved how easy it was to make those adaptations and also go at our own pace. 

Both of my kids had already completed 4 years of formal phonics instruction previously, so we mostly skipped the “Essential Concepts” section that was typically scheduled on Day 1 of each lesson.  It included instruction on phonograms and exploring sounds.  I did review the spelling rules in that section, though, before we moved on. 

Day 2 was the “Building Words” section and covered some review (including phonogram games with things like the game tiles, bingo, etc.), working with the Spelling Journal where your child records words with similar spelling patterns, and Spelling Analysis.  My biggest focus here with both kids was on the Spelling Analysis.  They each received a new word list for the week, and I learned a wonderful technique here that turned out to be a big help to both of my kids.  In the past, I always gave my kids new words with their actual pronunciation.  Not surprisinDSCF4587gly, they often struggled with spelling unusual words that were not spelled the way they sounded.  With Essentials, the teacher’s guide instructs you to pronounce new words the way they are actually spelled, and the Spelling Analysis section tells you just how to say it and gives you a sentence to read aloud for contextual meaning.  The purpose for mispronouncing the word in this way is so that the first time your child writes down the spelling of the word, they form a visual of how the word is spelled in their minds before they write it.  Thereafter, you can pronounce it correctly once they’ve cemented it in their minds in this way.  I found this technique really worked for my kids, as they would mentally recall the mispronunciation as a means of spelling the word correctly, even when I said the word the right way on subsequent occasions.  Brilliant tip!

Day 3 was the “Words in Context” section and covered review and some grammar work.  I liked the way this was laid out.  I would typically teach a grammar concept such as defining a particular part of speech, and after some oral practice or practice on a chalkboard, the kids would go back to their word lists and mark all the corresponding words that could be identified with that part of speech we just learned.  They would also practice identifying parts of speech in phrases, and then I would give them some dictation phrases to write down in a notebook using their spelling words.  I really liked the practical application of their spelling words in this way, which simultaneously helped them learn vocabulary by using the words in context.

Day 4 was the “Words in Action” section and involved some review and then some vocabulary work, each at their own level.  For Holden doing Level B, this involved working with things like prefixes, suffixes, using words in a sentence, and baDSCF4580sic morphemes.  For Haylee, this more heavily involved morphemes and learning the meanings of the individual parts of words.  We used the morpheme flash cards extensively and played games with them, creating words from them and defining them once we put the word parts together.  She did so well with these and really learned a great deal!  I wasn’t sure how well it would stick with her, but she amazed me by really recalling them when it came time for assessments!  Then they each did more dictation phrases, and Holden worked with his optional Essentials Reader and related activities.  I have to tell you how very much he loved his own little reader book.  The very first lesson in the reader involved quips.  These tongue twisters were so much fun for him!  Then the activities in the Companion Student Workbook were a blast.  He willingly did the handwriting page in there, whichDSCF4588 amazed me (this child detests writing), and he did a better job of staying in the lines than I’ve ever seen him do in the past.  It gave him a list of words, and we took turns using the words to make up our own quips, and then the other person had to try to say them really fast.  He laughed so hard!  He wanted to do this all evening long.  It was nice to see him having so much fun with this.

Day 5 was designated to “Check Your Understanding,” which was essentially the test day.  We all reviewed our grammar rules with the flash cards, and then Haylee would do some more activities with her morphemes.  Then we moved on to the assessment section.  Again, we skipped over testing the phonograms and vowels here since they’re both past the stage of needing to practice those things, and we started with their dictation phrases.  This was such a great way to have them apply their spelling words in context as vocabulary at the same time!  Then to test grammar, they had to go back and label the words in the dictation phrases as they identified the parts of speech they had learned.  I really loved how all the instruction was brought together so cohesively in the assessment portion!

I can’t express how impressed I am with this program.  The fact that my kids actually liked it spoke volumes to me.  The morpheme activities were essential for helping my daughter to truly understand vocabulary, and it sparked some great questions from her as we did the work.  She took a lot of pride in all that she was learning and recalling, and that did wonders for building her confidence.  I saw both of my kids improving their spelling, and I was able to do some of the writing for my younger son so it didn’t slow him down, while at the same time, he showed more willingness to write some of the time than I’ve seen in the past.  And although the basic outlay for the lessons is the same, Essentials does a great job and changing up some of the activities to keep things fresh and fun!  From manipulating game tiles, to building words with morpheme cards, to playing bingo or little board games, Essentials keeps the kids interested and engaged with a great balance of workbook and hands-on activities, plus both written and oral exercises.

I also wanted to mention that although the Student Workbook includes all three levels of activities, but it’s intended for use by a single student, as outlineDSCF4578d in the copyright information.  So because I was using this with two children, I opted to purchase the student workbook in digital format so both of my kids could do this program and have their own individual workbook.  I actually liked how that worked out, because I didn’t need to print the whole thing for each child.  Since they were working on different levels, this allowed me to customize each of the workbooks by printing only the Level B pages for Holden and only the Level C pages for Haylee so they didn’t need to skip over any of the pages.  I printed them and spiral bound them with their names on the covers.  The digital student workbook can be printed as many times as you need for your own family, and it is available for only $9.60.

I really wish I’d had this program when all of my kids were younger (my oldest is a high school junior!).  It’s a one-stop shop for all of your language arts components, and it’s so simple to use.  And it helps kids to see how all of those individual language arts skills are so highly interconnected in practical everyday use.  It’s a great way to consolidate instruction time for spelling, vocabulary, reading, and grammar into a single seamless daily lesson that is effortless to teach and flows really well.  I loved how easy it was to adapt for each child’s needs and how easily it lent itself to natural stopping points based on the attention span of each child.  I would really encourage you to give this program a try!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this and other great products from Logic of English by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

One Crazy Week!

This was one crazy week!  We did only half a week of school so we could have the end of the week to get things ready for our pending vacation, but then life happened! 

My daughter went to get ice cream on Thursday night, only to find that it was soupy!  That’s when I realized that the freezer had obviously gone kaput, and that would explain why we didn’t have any ice for almost a week!  Ugh.  I thought there was just a problem with the ice maker.  No sir!  I worked late into the wee hours of the morning cooking as much meat as I could salvage in my oven, stovetop, electric grill, and electric pressure cooker, all at the same time!  Then I had to let it all cool, vacuum seal it, and freeze it.  Major pain!  Then all the rest had to be thrown out.  Stuff was melted all over the place!  Yuck.

By the next morning, I realized that the fridge was also way warmer than it should have been.  Like in the 60’s!  Not good at all.  So I rushed out to get ice for the camping cooler and put what was salvageable in there, then went shopping for a new refrigerator!  I like Kenmore, so I went to Sears.  I was limited to a choice of 3 because our opening only fits a 33” wide appliance.  I wanted stainless steel, and I really wanted an in-door space-saver ice maker so I’d have more shelves in the freezer side.  All of my choices were on backorder for TWO WEEKS!  Ugh.  I talked the manager into selling me the display model (no discount) just so I could get it delivered the same day!  That was a blessing.  So then I had more food to throw out, moving of furniture to get the fridge inside, and all the cleaning up from the mess it made.  Then once it was hooked up and cooled down, I had to put food back into it.  It took all day when I should have been packing for our trip! 

That made Saturday extra busy.  I was in a frenzy of making grocery lists, menu planning, shopping, and packing.  I had to get instructions ready for my neighbor to care for our pets, and I had to clean out the hamster cage (Cookie was going with us). 

Sigh.  I’m tired all over again just thinking about it!  We were up so late.  And we’re leaving this morning.  Yes, we’re traveling on Easter Sunday!  The plan is to arrive in Front Royal, VA by early afternoon, get checked in, unpacked, grocery shop for essentials, make it to evening church services at the Front Royal Church of Christ, and make dinner before collapsing into bed.  Yay! 

Let the vacation begin!  (Our cabin porch view is below)

Sunset from Cliffside

Photo courtesy of Cliffside Cabin, L.C.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

REVIEW: The Gospel of John by FishFlix.com

I was really looking forward to reviewing The Gospel of John on DVD from FishFlix.com.



The Gospel of John is a powerful film that is simply that…a visual depiction of the book of John in the bible.  True to scripture, it provides uses both acting and ongoing narration to reveal the actual words of the bible in the context of the time and place where the events took place.  It is based word-for-word on the Good News Bible translation of the American Bible Society.

You can watch the trailer and get an idea of what’s in store.  You can purchase this wonderful DVD film for just $6.95.

FishFlix.com offers a vast array of Christian films on both DVD and Blu-Ray.  Take a look at the huge list of films and documentaries available!  You’re sure to find something for everyone on your list.



I’m usually a little bit leary of cinematic depictions of bible events.  That’s because writers often take poetic license and over-dramatize things or add words or actions that aren’t actually revealed in scripture for dramatic effect on the audience.  But after watching this 3-hour film, I was pleased to see that this is simply not the case with The Gospel of John!

From start to finish, the film depicts exactly what the book of John describes to us.  I made a mental note that there was no mention of Judas feeling guilt for his betrayal of Jesus or his subsequent act of suicide, and there was no mention of the conversations between Jesus and the thieves on the crosses beside him where Jesus guaranteed the one that he would be with Him in heaven.  That’s because those events were only recorded in other gospels, but not the book of John.  That impressed me greatly!  Throughout, the film stayed true to bible text.

While the backgrounds and scenery weren’t always as realistic as Hollywood films, I found it really didn’t bother me at all, because I was so mesmerized by the eloquent words spoken by Jesus, played by Henry Ian Cusick (probably best known for his role in the television series Lost).

The film was not overly violent, meaning that although Jesus was scourged and crucified, the actual striking and nailing were not shown.  Instead, you could see someone using the flail and see the box of nails, but you were not forced to watch Jesus’ flesh being torn in either case.  I would say the film maker did a great job of keeping the film appropriate for the whole family without taking away from what actually happened to Jesus at the cross.

I think one of the greatest benefits I received from watching this film was a deeper understanding of scripture.  One thing I’ve always said in bible study class at church is that I just could never understand why the Jews failed to believe Jesus, despite the fact that they saw him in the flesh, he walked among them teaching them, and he did many miracles in their presence.  But in watching the words of the bible come to life in this film, I could see why it may have been difficult for them to accept the truth.  He spoke in parables and with lots of symbolism.  I can see how it might have been confusing to them and how they may not have really understood.  I guess that’s what the scripture means when it says they have seen but not perceived, and they have heard but have not truly listened or understood.  Also, we have the benefit of seeing the whole bible in its entirety, whereas the Jews at that time were living the events as they happened, not necessarily comprehending the whole of what was happening.

I also thought the film did a great job of depicting the pressures that the crowd placed on Pontius Pilate to judge and crucify Jesus when he repeatedly said he could not find any reason to condemn him.  It was clear that Pilate wanted no part of convicting Jesus, but the people used his fear of Caesar to push him to do their bidding.  And when Pilate refused to change the charge nailed above Jesus’ head, it was clear that he believed what Jesus had said, that he truly was the King of the Jews.

The narrator and Henry Ian Cusick did an amazing job of speaking in a way that kept my complete attention.  It made me feel as though I were there, hearing the words of Jesus from His lips.  I was deeply moved to tears at several points throughout the film.

This film is truly a “living Bible” that does not stray from the scripture in the book of John.  When it was over, I only wished it could go on to the rest of the New Testament, bringing it all to life for me in a whole new, enlightening way.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this and other films on DVD from FishFlix.com by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Welcome Spring…Today’s FREEBIE!!!


Today is officially the first day of spring, and as such, all nationwide locations of Rita’s Italian Ice are giving every customer a FREE Italian Ice from noon until 9 PM!!!

So find your nearest location of Rita’s and enjoy your first treat of spring!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

REVIEW: Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens

We had the pleasure of reviewing Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens.


Rainforest Journey is an online science program for children in grades K-5.  It covers the life science portion of elementary sciences by having kids explore the amazing habitat of the rainforest with all of its diverse plant and animal life through stunning photographs and engaging written and oral text.

It also includes quizzes in multiple formats for each unit and a total of 34 lessons per grade level.  You can gain a year of access to any one grade level for one student for just $50/year.  There are other pricing options available for multiple students, so check the website for details.



I’ve had two children working through this wonderful science program.  My 8-year old second grader has been doing Grade 3 (I chose that because he starts his new school year in June), and my 11-year old 6th grader has been doing Grade 5 (because that’s the highest grade level available, and even that looked interesting to her).

I started off by logging in as the teacher and printing off the written review sheets and the quizzes for each unit by accessing them in the teacher’s resource section, and I DSCF4577made a nice cover for each grade level and bound the pages with a spiral comb binding to make little workbooks for each child.  It wasn’t entirely necessary to print off the quizzes, because they can be completed (and instantly graded, with the exception of the open-ended one) online, but it was nice to see what material they’d be quizzed on ahead of time.  I was able to choose in the settings if I wanted them to be free to explore the program in any order or if I wanted them to follow the guided program.  We chose the guided program. 

My kids have really enjoyed the Rainforest Journey!  The photographs are really impressive and particularly captivated Holden.  In the first chapter of the first unit, he was given a general overview of the rainforest and its 4 layers, and then he moved on to details of each of the layers and what lives and grows in each one.  He also learned about different types of rainforests such as cloud and temperate rainforests.  There were 5 lessons in the first chapter.

Then in chapter two of unit one, he learned about the importance of both water and light in the rainforest.  He learned how the water cycle works, and how the plants use the sun to produce their own food.  There were 4 lessons in this chapter.

To wrap up unit one, we had a review of vocabulary and another look at the illustrations that were used to explain concepts like the water cycle.  Then we were on to the first set of assessments.  There were 3 quizzes in sequence.  The Depth of Knowledge quiz included photographs to examine with multiple choice answers to the questions.  The Open-Ended quiz had basic questions where tDSCF4599he student had to write or type out their answers, which the teacher has to go in and grade manually at some point.  The Factual quiz had straight-forward questions with multiple choice answers but no illustrations.  I liked the two multiple choice quizzes, but I’m not a fan of open-ended quizzes in my homeschool.  I did type out what my kids answered for these questions in the first unit, but I did not offer a grade.  Rather, we used them as opportunities to further discuss their understanding of the concepts orally.  Going forward, I will most likely skip this quiz entirely or just discuss it orally, but I did notice that it affected their running grade tally until I submitted some sort of grade as the teacher.  As a result, I went into the teacher dashboard and unchecked the open-ended quiz so that it would not appear to my students at all while they’re working through the program.  It was simple enough just to put in a quick grade for the one open-ended quiz that we did do together (and you can even leave feedback for the student on each question they answered), but I deactivated the others for the remainder of the course.  You can pick and choose any lessons, videos, or quizzes that you want your students to see in the teacher dashboard.  I thought that was a great feature!

The review worksheets for Grade 3 consisted of simply recording five interesting facts that Holden learned about each topic, followed by his formulating a question that he’d like to ask and have answered about it.  This was another good springboard for further discussion on each lesson.  It was neat to see where his mind went with this and what wheels it caused to turn in his head.

For Haylee doing Grade 5, the layout of the unit was basically the same, but she got much richer content and more details for each topic.  She learned about cool things like the giant corpse flower that smells like rotting meat and the strangler fig tree that surrounds and “strangles” a host tree in order to survive.  Her review pages asked her to DSCF4598describe what she might see, hear, feel, and smell in each layer of the rainforest, and she was asked to describe things like the water cycle and the water resources and how they help the plants and animals to survive.  She was also asked to compare and contrast the type of rainforests.  I liked the worksheets for both grade levels overall, just because they encouraged the kids to take good notes.  For Holden, I let him dictate to me, and I did the writing.  Haylee did hers on her own as she watched each lesson.  It was a way for them to record the key points that they each thought was important for them to learn and remember.

We also really liked the option to have the lessons read aloud to you simply by clicking the speaker symbol in each section of text.  I projected the lessons from our school netbook onto our big living room tv so we could all watch them together, and the narration option allowed me to double-click on each photograph so the kids could focus on each illustration while listening to the lesson text.  I think this made it more fun for them, like watching tv, instead of like reading a book with pictures. 

Periodically, there were also additional features embedded in the lessons, like short videos for extra learning about a particular topic.  This usually showed someone going through and exploring the rainforest or a scientist explaining something they’d investigated further.  Those were optional extras you could watch before moving on to the next lesson.

Other great features include a progress bar for the student to shoDSCF4600w them where they are in the overall program, and the program also returns them to the spot where they left off.  If they start to complete a lesson they’ve already done, a message at the top of the screen tells them they’ve done this lesson previously.  Also, the website is mobile-friendly, so it’s ready to be viewed and used on any tablet or other mobile device you might be using, as well.  It looks great on an iPad, for instance!

Frankly, my whole family was rather fascinated by the content of this program, and we all found ourselves watching it with interest!  I think a lot of effort was put into making the lessons interesting, engaging, and filled with age-appropriate levels of content.  The amount of information seemed just right for each of my kids.  Even the adults and the teen in the house found it worth watching at times!

I also liked that the content covered the same topics but with entirely different details in each grade level, because that meant you could use this program multiple times at different grade levels and still learn new material each and every time.  And there were 5 units and approximately 13 chapters containing multiple lessons for each grade level, so there’s plenty of content to cover for each student you might have using this course.

I could definitely see Holden asking to view this program just for its entertainment value, even if we weren’t using the written activities and quizzes.  He loves to watch science-related programming, and this is right up his alley. 

There was a lot to learn here, and this program definitely has something for everyone throughout the elementary grades and even beyond in my opinion.

Check out what other Crew reviewers have to say about various grade levels of Rainforest Journey by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Another Freebie and an Almost-Freebie This Week!!!

Image result for dairy queen free cone day march 15

The weather is warming up just in time for this Tuesday’s celebration of Free Cone Day!  Stop by your local Dairy Queen and enjoy a FREE small vanilla cone.  We love thisImage result for ihop pancakes st. patrick's day treat day!

Then on Thursday in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, wear green and visit your local IHOP to enjoy a short stack of pancakes for just $1!


Monday, March 7, 2016

Freebie This Week

Did you know that Tuesday of this week is National Pancake Day

That means that from 7 AM to 7 PM on Tuesday, you can visit IHOP and enjoy a FREE short stack of pancakes, no purchase required! 

And if you feel moved to do so, you can make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital on your way out.

So grab a friend and enjoy your pancakes!