Monday, January 19, 2009

All About Homophones.....another treat from the publisher of All About Spelling

All About Homophones is the latest release from Marie Rippel, publisher of All About Spelling. If you have read my previous review of All About Spelling then you will remember that I do not have enough words to tell you how much I LOVE the curriculum. True to the spirit of All About Spelling, All About Homophones is fun, creative, engaging and designed to reach children in the way they learn best. It is a breath of fresh air and wonderful supplement for any language arts curriculum.

Homophones, in case you have forgotten, are those wonderful, tricky words of the English language that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. For example, “read” and “red”; accidentally use the wrong homophone in your writing and your sentence can take on a whole new meaning. I was never aware as an adult of the frequency of homophones within American English until I had to teach my first child to read. All About Homophones covers 99 pairs of homophones including a second look at “to, two, too” . The book is designed to assist students in grades 1-8 in grasping the intricacies of the English language.

In addition to age appropriate worksheets for homophone review, Rippel has included graphic organizers for students to keep track of the meanings of new homophones, crossword puzzles, classic card games like “Pig”, “Snap” and “Old Maid”, student record sheets for personal homophone lists discovered, tongue twisters, riddles and puns, and a mega list of homophones. All About Homophones is not a curriculum to be conquered, but a wonderful, fun-based educational resource to be pulled out time and time again. The publishers recommend the book for grades 1-8, but I think even high schoolers could benefit from occasional review with this handy resource.

All About Homophones is available in e-book format for $27.95 or traditional printed format for $29.95 on the All About Homophones website. The e-book format, of course, arrives as a PDF immediately to your inbox and allows you the opportunity to print the worksheets and games which most appeal to your family. I am still a bit on the fence with e-books being an old fashioned pen and paper type of girl. I did spend an afternoon printing out the e-book format of All About Homophones, however, and am happy to report it printed clearly without a hitch. You will want to be prepared with a three hole punch, binder and lots of paper to feed into your printer if printing your e-book as I did. All About Homophones is over 240 pages long! This is a tremendous resource!!

Sample pages are available on the All About Homophones website along with a very fun tool, the Homophone Machine designed to stimulate interest in homophones with kids, but also give adults a peek back into the confusing world of learning to spell the English language. Simply enter a sentence into the machine and click on the convert button. My sentence was “Regenia read the red book while the knight rode his horse to the castle one night.” Converted by the Homphone machine this sentence became, “Regenia red thee read book wile thee night road his hoarse two thee castle won knight.” Scary isn’t it? But, oh so fun!

To celebrate the release of All About Homophones, the publishers are offering readers of this review $10 off any order at! To receive the discount, visitors to the site need to enter "FUN" in the customer code box during checkout. The coupon code is good for one week, through February 2, 2009.

If you are still doubting whether homophone study can be fun I would like to leave you with one more thought from the All About Homophones website.

QUESTION: Why did the baker quit making doughnuts?

ANSWER: He got tired of the hole thing. :-)

Deeper Roots Bible Studies: Rooted and Grounded

One of the benefits of homeschooling your child through high school is having “extra time” for great discussions. Once children are in their teens they are ready to tackle some of life’s tougher questions and eagerly seek out answers from peers, mentors and teachers. Lucky me, as a homeschool Mom/teacher/mentor I am usually available for listening, discussing and advice giving when the moment arises. I am reminded frequently during these years of the importance of making sure the foundation of my young adult’s life is solidly supported with Biblical truth and knowledge.

Rooted and Grounded: A Guide for Spiritual Growth published by Deeper Roots publications was co-authored by former homeschool Mom, Jan Harris, when she became frustrated with her search for a Bible curriculum that could meet the needs of both teenaged student and teacher. After asking friends Howard and Bonnie Lisech, accomplished authors of devotional books, for a Bible curriculum to fit her needs Harris was told the couple would write the curriculum only if she would help co-author the study. The project took three years to complete, but is a beautiful testimony to the trio’s hard work and devotion to the project.

Rooted and Grounded is designed to be an academic Bible study for high school level students rather than a typical devotional. The curriculum includes sample lesson plans, writing assignments, journaling exercises, memory verses, cultural study of unreached people groups, tests and grading suggestions for the teacher. The 255+ page spiral bound teacher’s guide is very user friendly and complete allowing teachers the opportunity to begin using the curriculum with very little preparation. I simply read through the descriptions of the different aspects of the curriculum at the beginning of the guide minutes before my 17 year old daughter and I met to use the study for the first time. A 49 page appendix in the teacher’s guide provides the text of all scripture used in the lessons although the author’s encourage making use of a Bible to look up the scriptures used.

Rooted and Grounded is designed to “guide students in the understanding and the disciplines of a daily walk with Jesus.” The course contains 27 lessons, and 8 Unit tests. Lessons are designed to take one to two weeks to complete. The authors suggest completing the curriculum in a single school year, however taking extra time if needed is also encouraged. A free PDF which includes introductory pages, a table of contents and a sample lesson is available on the Deeper Roots website.

My daughter was in the midst of Christmas break when we began using Rooted and Grounded. Keeping in mind that we were in “vacation mode” we chose to complete all the assignments together by looking up scripture and discussing the questions. Sammi wrote our answers in her soft bound student book for future reference. I preferred using the curriculum this way as it seemed a bit more typical to my previous experiences with Bible study, but homeschoolers could definitely choose to use Deeper Roots as an academic course as the lesson plans clearly state which portions should be completed by teacher and student during class time and which portions are “homework” assignments.

When asked for a student’s perspective, Sammi answered with some positive and negative comments. “This seems like a pretty good Bible course for school, but I wouldn’t do this for a personal Bible study. I felt like there were a lot of repetitive questions and it wasn’t really geared towards teen life in general. It felt like a school course to me as we completed it. I would recommend this study, however, for greater Bible knowledge. I just don’t think it worked as a personal devotional book.

I liked how the curriculum incorporated a prayer focus each week for different areas of the world. Learning about the various unreached people groups built a great awareness for me of how much they need my prayers. The black and white drawings that accompany each lesson were beautifully done and create a mental image for me of the people living in these areas. They were very realistic and moving.”

Rooted and Grounded can be purchased on the Deeper Roots website along with other high quality Bible study curriculum for 4-6th grades, 7th-9th grades, short term missionaries and homeschool Moms. The teacher guide retails for $39.50, the student guide for $23.95 and the tests and answer key supplement is $3.95. Rooted and Grounded is worth the small financial investment as the quality time it will provide for you and your teen will be priceless.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Story Writing Contest

Exciting News from TOS! Attention writers!Grab your pencils and get those creative juices flowing!The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is hosting our second Storytime Writing Contest! We have two creative fiction categories: adults (16 and up 2,500 words or less) and children (15 and below 1,500 words or less). Deadline to enter is March 16, 2009. $7.95 fee per entry.Grand prize winners in both the adult and child categories will receive prize packages valued at over $1,000, publication in the Summer 2009 issue of TOS, and publication in our Storytime 2009 Compilation E-Book. Eleven Honorable Mentions from each category will also be included in the E-Book in addition to receiving gifts from top homeschool companies.We look forward to reading your entries!For a detailed list of prizes, official contest rules, to meet our judges, and to upload your story, please visit: Need help teaching writing? We have over 200 writing products in the Schoolhouse Store!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Alphabet Alley...Bible-based games for the pre-school set

I’ve always wanted my children to have a faith that was as alive and real on a week day as on Sundays. I have found it difficult over the years, especially when they are little, to incorporate Biblical teaching other than night time prayers into their daily lives. So many things call for their attention; computer games, television shows, videos, outside activities, flashy toys that shine and sing. Most of these kid-friendly products support contemporary culture in a wholesome way, but not very often in a God centered way. Weeks sometimes turn into months and I realize that I have done very little deliberate teaching to aid my little ones in developing a living breathing faith.

Alphabet Alley, “smart fun for little souls”, is a Christian company designed to help parents of little ones create play oriented experiences that aid in spiritual training. Their toys, designed for ages 6 months to 7 years, are nearly all Biblically based providing a natural springboard for Bible teaching as you play along. I received the Noah’s Ark Go Fish card game (ages 3+) and the Two by Two Matching Game (ages 3+) to review. I especially liked that both games centered on the theme of Noah’s Ark providing two different opportunities to focus on this popular Bible story.

The Noah’s Ark Go Fish game, priced at $5.99, consists of 40 matching card pairs with 10 different designs. The 4 x 6 cards have a heavy smooth finish and are perfectly sized for little hands. Each card is colored with a number in the top left corner, a clip art image in the center and printed word describing the clip art centered at the bottom. The cards can be used to play traditional “go fish” or as flashcards for number and reading practice.

The Two By Two Matching Game comes in a sturdy cardboard box for storage and consists of 24 colorful playing tiles which create 12 matching pairs. The tiles are 2” square and ¼” thick making them the sturdiest and best designed matching game that has come through our house to date. After nearly 10 rounds of play our game still looks brand new; a true test of its sturdiness. My four year old loved not only finding the matches during the game, but also lining up his winning pairs in perfect squares as the game progressed. The Two By Two Matching Game retails for $10.99.

Alphabet Alley was founded in 2004, by Marilyn Fontana, her mother Linda Bloss and Marilyn’s Aunt Mimi. The family owned and operated company is dedicated to providing consumers with “fun and educational faith-based toys for early childhood”. You can purchase the toys on their website,, The Old Schoolhouse Store, and many other retailers listed on the Alphabet Alley website.

All toys are reasonably priced and designed to provide hours of fun with a multitude of uses. Selections include Magnetic play sets with a re-usable vinyl bag for $14.99, Noah’s ABC Stacking Blocks for $21.99, a wooden ABC Bible Memory game in a wooden storage box for $16.99 and Bible based wooden puzzles with little peg lifters for small hands for $9.99. Bible references and a short synopsis of stories are printed on the back board of the puzzles to aid parents in facilitating discussion and story telling while playing.

After 19 years of childhood, and still counting, our house is just about saturated with every type of toy imaginable. Items have come and gone many times due to quality issues and durability. I love that Alphabet Alley products are classically designed and sturdy enough to stand up to years of play.

While playing the matching game four year old Aidan explained to me why he loved it. “You’ve got to see something, then you just flip it over, then you look and if you find something that matches you win!”

I noted his enthusiasm during the game as he turned over an ark tile and a zebra tile for one of his turns. Looking at the tiles and holding them in his hands his thoughts turned to something in his memory. He said, “Mommy! This is like the story when the animals climbed on the big boat and they sailed away!”
“Yes”, I said as I prayed a simple prayer of gratitude for a Biblically based game that could help my little boy draw closer to God.