Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program


Our family recently got the opportunity to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning.  This is an online program designed to teach reading or enhance reading ability.


This program is a sturdy, no frills program, suitable for learners of any age.  Older students who may need remedial help will appreciate the absence of cartoon characters and catchy jingles that make many phonics programs seem too babyish to use for remedial work.


Since Katie is still learning to read, I started her at the beginning of the program.  She is able to sound out most of the words on the word lists so far, and when there is a word she gets wrong, I hover the mouse over the word, and the computer says it correctly.

There is also a Reading Test on the website, where you can determine the best place to start your student, if they're not at the beginning, like Katie is.  I had Jack, who is 12, do the 3-4th grade page of the reading test, and he missed 14 words, indicating that he would also benefit from using this program.


We sit together when Katie works on Ultimate Phonics.  There are no quizzes or tests, which can be helpful for students with test anxiety, so listening to and observing her efforts lets me know exactly how she is doing.


After the word list, the program breaks down each word into tiny pieces and helps students sound them out.  I've been having Katie skip this part most of the time, since she's already able to sound out the words on her own.  Next comes the sentences, like the one pictured above.

This is one of the times when sitting with Katie while she works on the program is especially helpful.  She may be able to sound out each word, but after half a dozen words or so, cannot tell what the sentence she just read says.  So we go over each sentence twice.  Once to sound the words out aloud, then the second time, she reads the whole words.  If she needs to, she can sound out a word in her head.  By saying whole words, she is better able to grasp the meaning of the sentence.


I think the plainness of the program will appeal to homeschoolers who like Amish readers and homeschool materials without a lot of pictures and "fluff" or "twaddle" as some educational philosophies look down on such things.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

Ultimate Phonics sells for $69.95.  With this one time fee, you receive a download of the program to the computers in your household.  You can use it for as long as you like, with as many students as you like, with no additional charges.  Future updates to the program are free to you, as well.  This may be a more cost effective option than consumable phonics workbooks over time for a large family.

I like that once you download the program, it does not require an internet connection.  Our internet is slow, and having one more thing sucking up bandwidth in our household of multiple devices would not be popular.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

You can try Ultimate Phonics free for 10 days and see if it would be a good fit for the learners in your house.

You can connect with Spencer Learning on Facebook or Twitter.  To read what other Crew families thought of the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program, please click the box below.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Week with a Shrinking Household


Another action packed week at our house!


Josiah needed a few last minute things, which necessitated a trip to Target.  I hopped out of the van and started heading in, only to turn around and see these guys.  All in black, they make an imposing security detail.  


Miss Katie needed some time away from the other kids, so I asked her to come and do a puzzle.  She picked one of the hardest ones we have and did a great job on it.  I guess it's time to think about thinning out our tray puzzle collection, if she's already outgrown most of them.


Monday was The Big Day.  Can you believe this was Josiah's only luggage?  Talk about flying COO (carry on only)!  I remember Zach taking more stuff than this when he went into the Air Force.


Early morning goodbyes.  This was Jack.


And Eli.


And Paul.


And by the time he got to me, he was pretty much over the picture taking.


And Katie.


And Brianna.


We didn't do the big airport goodbye, because of the time he needed to leave.  Paul took Josiah to the airport, and I took Brianna and Eli to school.


I did okay until right about here, when I started to cry.


Paul sent me this from the airport.  He called after his second flight landed, so we know he made it there safely.  We won't see him again until around Thanksgiving.

Josiah wasn't the only one to take off this week.  Sam has been helping Zach and Heather with child care, so he's been staying with them a few days at a time.  With both boys gone, it's been really quiet around here.  In fact, when Paul took the girls to the dentist, it was just Jack and I here at the house.  It felt weird.


One of our writing assignments recently was for the kids to write about what they'd like to dress up as on Halloween.


Hannah picked a tiger, but when it arrived, Brianna decided it looked big enough for her to wear.


Not quite, as it turns out, but she made a valiant effort to fit in it.


I finally finished up the other nightgown that I'd cut out for Katie.  Excuse the messy bath hair.  It's actually big enough that I think Hannah could wear it.


The mornings are getting chilly, and I found myself wearing my Air Force hoodie over my Army Mom t-shirt on the way to school.  I'm so very proud of my boys!


Although I've still got a month to prepare, I'm starting to think about what these guys will be doing for school while I'm in China.  At this point, I think I'm going to have Paul keep up with math and spelling, and I'll give them packets to work independently in a couple other subjects.  We can go over the packets together once I get home.


Katie finished her handwriting book this week!  I'll have to print some pages for her to work on now that she's done with Patriotic Penmanship.


We got started on a special art project that I hope to share with you next week.  We painted wooden apple cutouts.


While the apples were drying, the kids worked on the floor.  I was amused at the crazy position Katie was in while she was writing.


Josiah's room is empty.


Which sets off a room shuffle.  We're moving Jack and Eli in here while we paint their room, and then Jack will move back upstairs and Eli will stay in here.


Because we had a visit to Shriners this week, we did our library and park run Wednesday evening instead of Thursday at lunchtime.


My little climbers discovered some interesting holes in the rock formation that merited further investigation.  I think they concluded they were ant holes.


Speaking of wildlife, Eli called me downstairs one night to check out the family of FIVE raccoons in our back yard.  Note to self, time to start feeding the cat in the house.  These were fat raccoons.


The wall that we built a year ago when Luke came home from his failed placement has come down.  With Josiah gone until at least February, and Sam leaving in January, we decided that even if the unthinkable happened again, we could shuffle things around and free up a downstairs bedroom for him in a pinch.

Luke's current placement appears to be going well, and his new mama assures me that they plan to finalize, but I won't be able to really believe it's over until the papers are signed, hopefully in December.


Friday's visit to Shriner's was a little rough.  Not because of anything medical; both the girls are doing fine.  But it was 2.5 hours (into lunchtime, of course) and we were pretty fried by the time we left.


When we were here, we met two other families, each with 2 Chinese daughters being seen.  I always love seeing other families like ours.


Katie has grown!  She was 42#, 43.5", up from 37# and 42.25" in January.

Hannah has also grown!  She's currently 49#, 48.5", up from 46# and 47.5" in January.  Poor little peanut is only an inch taller.  I'm pretty sure Katie will catch up with her at some point.


So, this was probably the last smile from Katie until we left.  Shortly after this picture was taken, Hannah was pushing Katie (at her request) and Katie fell off the chair and smacked her head on the floor.  :(

After we saw the resident and the doctor and the prosthetist, they sent us upstairs to get a part replaced on Hannah's leg.  In order to go upstairs at Shriners, you have to sign in.  So we go into the lobby, and I tell the girls, "Go push the [elevator] button," while I'm signing in.  One of the elevators opens, and Katie hops on.  I turn around and say, "Katie!  Don't ever get on an elevator without Mommy!  The doors could..." and the doors shut.  Now she was only in there by herself for a brief moment, and most kids would be fine, but Katie was not fine.  She didn't cry, although she looked very unhappy, as I got on the elevator and explained why that was a bad idea (trying not to imagine searching a 7 floor building for my child).  However, once we were upstairs, Hannah sat down and started coloring, and Katie just leaned on a chair.  I asked her a question, and she didn't even seem to understand me.  Suddenly, it clicked.  Abandonment issues.  Being alone and scared unexpectedly had taken her back to a prior scary and alone experience, and she was not "with us" yet.  I scooped her up and held her for a while, explaining that she was safe now.  That's when the tears came.


This coming week has two field trips, three reviews, another trip to Shriners (hopefully less traumatic!), and a birthday.

We've been working on getting the boys moved downstairs, which set off going through all their drawers.  Plus we're starting to have chilly weather in the mornings so I pulled out a few long sleeved things in Hannah and Katie's room and started going through their clothes, too.  We've got several bags of stuff to donate to charity or pass on to friends.  I've even started going through my own closet, now that I've got a pile going of things that are (hurray!) too big for me.  Today's jeans are 3 sizes smaller than when I was wearing in May/June.  So I'm sure we'll have several more bags of stuff to donate in the next week or two.

I'm looking forward to being able to post some "after" pictures of the upstairs bedroom, once it's painted.  It's very strange to me that Jack, my 7th child, will be getting his own room soon.  Most of the kids didn't get their own room until high school.


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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Our Week with a Concussion


Last weekend we had a quick visit from Grammy and Annaliese.


I know it looks like last week's picture, but it's different, I promise.


Hannah and Katie adore Annaliese, and there were lots of Snapchat pictures taken and laughed at.


Grammy brought the girls coloring books, and she brought candy for everyone.


Grammy took Annaliese and Josiah out to lunch and Starbucks as a goodbye before he leaves for boot camp.


I've mentioned that we've been using our library more, yeah!  One of the features that the kids like best is the DVD section.  Lately, there have been Berenstein Bears and Arthur DVDs coming home with us each week.  Notice the 12-19 year olds?  They're watching Arthur in Fountain Abbey.  Cracked me up.

Hannah and Katie went to Shriners this week.  No pictures because Paul took them, but they were both casted for new legs, and we have a socket test fit appointment in 2.5 weeks.  They also go in next week, to see the lower limb doctor (we usually just see the prosthetics department most of the time).  I've found this to be the pattern with limb differences as a special need.  Most of the time, it's not a big deal, but then there are times when we can have a flurry of appointments.


In literature, we finally finished Mr. Popper's Penguins from last year and started on the Laura Ingalls Wilder classic, Farmer Boy.

Speaking of finishing, Katie completed an old Kumon workbook this week (yeah for decluttering!) and finished book one in her phonics program.  Fortunately, there are 2 more books in the phonics part and then another book of grammar, so we've got plenty to keep us busy for a while.


You may remember when we reviewed Figures in Motion.  I'm on their email list, and this week they sent out a link to this cool, super sized, dino printable figure!


My new printer does double sided printing all by itself, which made assembly a snap!  Hannah and Jack both helped with the cutting out.

Our new bendy t-rex inspired one of our journal entries this week, when the kids wrote A Day in the Life of a T-Rex, using first person to narrate what they thought a dinosaur's day might be like.


We're listening to an audio drama, so I busted out the play doh for the kids to keep their hands busy while we absorb the story.


For some reason, busy hands help keep the mind focused.

Sam spent some time at Zach & Heather's house this week, helping out with Brayden on days when both of them were working.


We only managed to do one art project this week.  :/


Positive and negative space from our favorite art DVDs.  A simple project with just construction paper, scissors, and glue sticks.


The results were quite interesting, though, and she alluded that we'll be building on the concept later, so this is laying a foundation for them.


Miss Katie is doing well with her new first grade math book.  She's currently using the math blocks not only to build problems, but also to measure lines.


If you missed our Field Trip this week, you can read more about it here:  Aerospace Museum.


This was from our time on the space playground afterwards.


There are two ropes between these two rock climbing structures.  Josiah climbed up one, used the ropes to get to the other, then climbed down.  He didn't want me taking pictures, though.


It's too bag this playground isn't more local to us.  It's a fun one!


In geography this week, the kids drew maps of North America from memory.


I've never been able to draw a map, so this was a great exercise.


Jack wrote about the aerospace museum in our field trip journal.  I'll have Hannah add to it later.


I noticed Hannah having a hard time with some basic math facts, so I re-started her on XtraMath.com.  It only takes a few minutes each day to keep things fresh in their minds.


Because we spent Thursday morning catching up on the work we missed due to our Wednesday field trip, we ended up going to the library later in the day, after dropping Josiah off at his last PT before boot camp.


We still got our bag of books and playtime at the park, though.


Friday mornings, Jack has speech at the local public school.  I've been having the girls bring their math books.


After finishing math, they can go find a book to look at.  We get a lot of funny looks from students and staff, who don't know what to make of a 5 year old and a tiny 9 year old at a middle and high school library.


Eli got hurt during football practice, and his coach wanted him cleared by a doctor before resuming play, so after speech, I took Eli in to be seen.  It was actually kind of nice to hang out with him.  He's been so busy with football and school that I don't see him much any more.


The doc confirmed that he does have a concussion, and wanted x-rays done to make sure his neck was okay.


He has beautiful bones, and his neck is fine.  So he'll be sitting out practices until his headache and neck pain are gone, and then following the concussion protocol to resume things a step at a time.

After Eli's appointment, Josiah needed to be taken in to the recruiter's office one last time to pick up his travel packet.  It's getting real now!  We're off to Target later today, to pick up a few last minute things he needs to take with him.

Whew!  Busy week.  Next week will find us saying our goodbyes to Josiah.  We're also scheduled for time at the dentist and at Shriners.  Next week is another home football game, but I don't think Eli will be able to play yet, so I probably won't go.


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