Handwriting Resources from Pacon: Review

When I was doing my student teaching in college I became familiar with many of the companies teachers relied on for materials in their classroom. When I started homeschooling my first priority was curriculum. Now that we’ve been at this for a while we’ve been able to slowly add some wonderful resources we frequently use during our day. Pacon is one of those companies typically associated with the traditional classroom, but many of their resources are incredibly useful for homeschoolers. Pacon has given me the opportunity to review their Mini Pocket ChartSuper Bright Sentence Strips, and their Multi-Sensory Raised Ruled Tablet
All three of these products are just delightful and have been a wonderful addition to the resources I already have. When I rearranged our schoolroom I took a long time to try and find a spot for my new pocket chart. I hung it with clips on our easel for a while, but it felt rather awkward. Then one day I was staring the room down for a new spot and it hit me…the window! We have to leave the blinds shut anyway because of how hot the sun gets in this room. It has become the perfect spot! The girls can all see it from around the room and it isn’t taking up any extra room. The rest of the pictures are from when we had it on the easel. 
Grace is at the point where she knows how to write most of her letters correctly, but needs work with neatness. She loves to write, but get frustrated at times with how her letters look. These tools have been a great asset to our handwriting lessons. I really like being able to put what I want her to copy onto the sentence strips and then into the pocket chart. It is good for her have larger letters to see at this point. The strips are much brighter than they appear in the picture online. I like using a black permanent marker to write on them so they show up well. 
The pocket chart itself is very durable and of high quality. I’ve used some cheaper, smaller versions of the pocket chart and there is an incredible difference between those and this one. The plastic pockets are tight enough to hold the strips in place so they don’t flop forward, but short enough it isn’t difficult to slid the strips in. Pocket charts are a great way for young learners to play matching games as well. This one is perfect for this and could easily hold thicker cards for word games. 
I love the handwriting paper. With my older girls getting them to stop at the bottom red line when they were first starting out was always a challenge. It had been a challenge for Grace as well until this new paper! 
You can see that almost all of Grace’s letters start right at the top and stop right at the bottom. The reason is because these two lines are raised just slightly. She can actually feel a little ridge at the top and bottom to help her start and stop. This is seriously the most brilliant idea or handwriting I’ve ever seen! She was already forming her letters fairly well before we started, but she pretty much refused to try and stay in the correct form on writing paper. She said she really liked this paper because it felt bumpy and that made it fun! 
Grace is four, so to see her writing this neatly is very exciting for me. You can buy various amounts of this paper and if your student is just starting out with handwriting or you have a child struggling to stay within the lines given, this tactile tool will be incredibly helpful.

Pacon has many other wonderful and useful resources available. I’ve also been using their GoWrite! Dry Erase Music Staff Roll with my piano students. Wow! That is a really cool product! Click here to see my review of this awesome music resource!

Disclosure:  I received these products from the Pacon in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Fundanoodle: Review

 photo fundanoodlelogo_zps4636896c.png
When beginning homeschooling for kindergarten one of the first things everyone looks for is a handwriting curriculum. There are so many to choose from! With so many choices it can be hard to know what is best. There are many, really good ones, but I’m really excited to share something brand new to me and what I think I’ll continue to use with Grace through Kindergarten. 
 photo builduppercaseletters_zpsbf68708f.jpg
Fundanoodle is a really neat company I was not familiar with before this review. Their learning activities are very hands-on and all about experiencing while learning. When you have time, take a minute to read about their company and philosophy. You’ll see why I’m really behind this company. We reviewed the I Can Build Upper Case Letter! activity kit ($29.99) for ages 4-5 (Pre-K-Kindergarten). What a blessing it has been for Grace!
This is such an amazing value! The kit includes a magnetic dry-erase board, a set of magnetic curves and lines for buildling letters, a dry-erase marker, activity cards for gross motor skills, and a wooden dice. There are other handwriting systems which incorporate building the letters with a set of basic curves and lines, but not for this price with everything included. The magnets are very high quality and sturdy. Directions for building the letters are also included. 
Upon opening the box I hadn’t even taken everything out before Grace was trying it out! She knew it was for making letters and without any guidance she built D and was so very proud of herself. I know it wasn’t exactly how it was intended to be built, but she was discovering on her own and loving it. I knew she was hooked and this was going to be fun!
Although many schools are doing away with recess researchers agree physical activity throughout the day is vital to stimulating the brain and provide more focus. Fundanoodle provides a very easy way to incorporate gross motor skills with this program with the gross motor cards. These were soooo fun. I honestly didn’t know how they would go over. They seemed so simple, but this was one of her favorite things! She simply rolled the dice to choose which card we would do, flip it over, then follow the directions, which was always moving the same way as a specific animal. 
Don’t these shots just say it all? Grace loved roaring like  lion and hopping like a kangaroo. Just as expected, her focus and attention was increased when we got down to the core of the program. 
First Grace built the letter we were working on. I chose to have her do the same letter every day for a week because of her age. I’ll explain why below. I would hand her the pieces needed for the letter and let her do the best she could…which was pretty good as you can see! For some letters I had to help her align them a bit, but she got the idea from the start and this was something I really liked. Having her tangibly form letters with these basic shapes seemed to cement them in her mind. 
I really like that the straight-lined letters are taught first. Some handwriting programs teach the curved letters first. Some teach them in ABC order. Others teach consonants and then vowels. To me, this makes the most sense. 
You can see there are several rows for the students to practice on. Because of her age (not quite 4) I felt it would be best for Grace to work on one line each day. The first three rows are in boxes which really helped her form her letters better. Again, I’ve seen other curriculum use this method, but not with as much clarity as is used in this book. I also like that the last two lines are traditional practice paper for her to use. This was much harder for her, but she gave it her best and really did quite well. This is the first time she’s really used handwriting paper even though she’s been writing letters for a while. 
Another really fun aspect is each letter has its own special sticker for her to place on each page when she is done. She loved these I like the reward. It was something to work towards which was very simple. 
This program is good…so, so good. I hadn’t disliked any of the other handwriting curricula I’ve used with my girls, but I hadn’t yet found one I loved. Now I have! 
Read about this and the many other wonderful products from Fundanoodle from my Crewmates!

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

PreScripts Cursive Letters and Coloring from Classical Conversations: Review

Logo photo classicalconversationslogo_zps461acbc8.jpg
There is much debate currently over whether cursive is relevant to our tech-savvy society. Advocates on both sides spout figures, facts, and passionate discourse. My reasons for firmly staying the course with cursive have nothing to do with the latest trend in education or the movement from homeschoolers to teach more traditional subjects public schools ignore. My reasons are much more personal. One of my most treasured belongings is my grandmother’s cookbook. I discovered after receiving this that there were several handwritten recipes she had tucked away into this book. Although I can’t talk with her anymore because she came face-to-face with Jesus when I was just a little girl, I feel as if she is chatting with me as I read over her recipes, hastily written on whatever was nearest. I know she probably didn’t think her granddaughter would be saving and cherishing these handwritten mementos, but they are so very dear to me. I want my daughters to be able to read these and other inscriptions from their own history. 
 photo classicalConversations-lettersandcoloring_zpseefb78a5.gifChoosing a handwriting course is as daunting as choosing reading instruction! While I have been satisfied with our current books, I hadn’t yet felt overwhelmingly in love with them as I am with some of our other curriculum. I was excited to review Prescripts: Cursive Letters and Coloring from Classical Conversations. I have a good friend who uses Classical Conversations for their core curriculum. I knew it would be solid and I was interested to see how it differed from our current handwriting curriculum. 
The first thing which I noticed, which thrilled Beth, was the coloring after each lesson. I have never known a child who loved to color as much as Beth. She colors several pages every day by choice in one of our many coloring books. Her previous handwriting instruction included coloring and that was usually her favorite part of the day! Combining coloring and handwriting is the perfect mix for her. She asks daily now if she can work on cursive and on the rare occasion I initiate cursive practice I am met with jumps and squeals. Seriously, I may have loved cursive, but this girl gets crazy excited about these lessons! 
I am also pleased with how young cursive instruction begins with Classical Conversations. Prescripts: Cursive Letters and Coloring is in intended for children ages 3-7. Three???? I love this! One of the challenges with handwriting for Beth in the past is that she always wanted to decorate her handwriting, adding curly cues, smiley faces, and hair to many of her printed letters. I hate to squelch her creativity, but this tends to drag handwriting out rather long and she is typically more concerned with her decorations than correct printing form. Teaching cursive younger removes this issue for a creative girl like Beth.
I also like that the letters are taught in a traditional ABC order. Our previous curriculum taught letters based on similar type, which made logical sense to me as an adult, but seemed to confuse my oldest daughter as we progressed through cursive the first time.. The capital letter is taught first, followed by the lower case of the same letter. In between is the previously mentioned coloring page. 

Beth was clearly ready for cursive instruction for her K-5 year, but I hesitated to begin because our old program encouraged waiting until 2nd or 3rd grade. I also know our public schools teach cursive in 3rd grade now. I am finding more and more freedom as I continue to homeschool realizing that just because something is traditionally taught at one level does not mean I cannot teach it sooner, or later if needed, at home. I plan to change handwriting curriculum and stick with Prescripts in our homeschool as we move forward. 

Check out more reviews here from my Crewmates! Photobucket

Draw and Write Through History: Review and Giveaway

Rose has done a great job transitioning to cursive as a 7-year-old second grader. This is a little earlier than most schools teach it. She began learning some cursive last year and has continued to do very well this year. Her only big issue is being able to think about both how to spell the words correctly and form each letter correctly as well. When I mentioned this problem to a more experienced homeschool mom she said this is typical and explained how copywork helps this issue. Draw and Write Through History has given her the opportunity to combine her love of drawing alongside cursive practice. 

There are many things I like about how this enhances history studies. The first is its biblical worldview. It is a privilege to teach my daughter the Bible is 100% true and I strive to make sure all of our curriculum reflects that.

It is also independent. There may be times when she needed a little guidance with perspective at first, but this is meant to be done independently which is helpful when teaching multiple children.

I also really liked that it used traditional handwriting paper for the cursive copywork. This made it much easier for Rose, still in the learning stages of cursive, to copy correctly. I did have to remind her to proofread because she sometimes forgets to cross and dot letters, but overall this was a much better way for her to practice handwriting than merely requiring her to write in cursive for her schoolwork.

Rose didn’t complain once about doing this work! I can’t say that is always true about our usual handwriting program. Coupling this with whatever history you are studying gives double purpose to the assignments. All of the copywork is related to history so students are learning at the same time that they are practicing handwriting.

Here is one of her assignments. She has been learning cursive for a little over a year and is now 7 1/2 years old to give you perspective. I was pleased that both the issues of letter form and spelling seemed to clear up almost completely! This is a part of the recommended Heart of Dakota curriculum so I’m excited to see it incorporated more fully next year into our days!

Are you ready for the giveaway now?

There are new options for entries! Grace-Filled Homeschooling has finally made it to Twitter and Tumbler! There will also be TWO winners! Each will receive a copy of the newest book: Invention, Exploration, and War: The 20th Century

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Draw Write Now: Review and Giveaway!!!!

One of my favorite past times from childhood was drawing pictures using coloring books. I would work for hours getting the dimensions just right. In our school we had a choice: Music or Art. You could not participate in both and I chose band over art. Still, drawing was a fun pastime of mine until I went away to college and other things seemed to take up my time. Rose especially has seemed to acquire my love of drawing. She has several notebooks of different categories where she draws everything from Angry Birds to real birds! When I told her we were going to get to review some drawing books she was over the moon!

The Draw Write Now series from Draw Your World is a clear instructional series which combines handwriting and drawing. These non-consumable books encourage looking at handwriting as art and combines the two skills seamlessly. Each lesson includes several sentences about what the child will draw and clear directions for how to draw the picture. The sentences are written in manuscript, but can easily be transcribed into cursive you like. They generously sent me a fun package to review including the eight-book series and a variety of pencil grips.

I used paper which had room for a picture at the top as well as handwriting lines at the bottom. I first had the girls practice their handwriting, then move on to the picture. My reason was that I knew they would become so engrossed in their pictures the handwriting would possibly be forgotten. I was very pleased with how quickly they completed their copywork and how neat it looked!

I knew Rose would enjoy this series, but I wasn’t sure about Beth. She likes to do things her own way and I’m having a hard time teaching her it’s not always okay to decorate her words with smiley faces and flowers! She has clear artistic tendencies, but getting her to conform to set standards is not easy. I actually love her decorated letters and words, but I also want her to know they aren’t always appropriate. I was shocked at how quickly her handwriting improved! She was incredibly focused on neatness and proportion of her letters for the first time.

Rose enjoyed drawing the pictures and also adding the background scenery. She made it her own and enjoyed coloring the scenes as well. She was so pleased with her work and I appreciated the simple instructions for her to follow. The books do not need to be completed in any particular order, but book 1 has the simplest pictures and instructions. Other topics in the series include a variety of science, historical, and geographical themes. These will be a lot of fun to include as we continue our studies throughout the years!

Although Grace is not really to the drawing or handwriting stage, the various pencil grips worked well for her. We tried several different ones and her favorite was the basic Pencil Grip. I love how it helps her know exactly how to hold the pencil so as she grows the grip will become second nature. From one who still doesn’t hold a pencil correctly this is a great product!

The girls tried out the other grips as well. Beth particularly liked the Twist ‘n Write. She uses this one frequently for a lot of her work! She likes to do things out-of-the-box by nature so I think that is why she is partial to this one!

Rose liked the idea of The Writing Claw, but said she felt like her fingers were too big to fit it. I think it was more a matter of too many years of not using a pencil grip. She did use one when she first started writing, but it has been about 3 years. I like how flexible this particular type was because it give the writer more individual control.

 I also really loved the pencils! They were so easy to use and had such smooth flow for writing. I have relegated these for handwriting/drawing only because they are so nice and we tend to break a lot of pencils around here with learning how much pressure to apply and all that.

Here is an example of Rose’s artwork: 
Rose – 7 years old
Here is an example of Beth’s artwork:
Beth – 5 years old

I am so proud of my girls, especially Beth. She always used to say, “I can’t draw pretty pictures!” Now she says, “Can I PLEASE draw using my drawing book?” What a beautiful change.

Are you ready for an incredibly giveaway now? Draw Your World has generously donated a $50 gift card to be used on their site! Enter several ways below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received the 8 book set of Draw Write Now and a pencil grip starter set in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received