Monday, August 30, 2010

Peterson Directed Handwriting Review


This review came at a really wonderful time for my family!  My 3rd grade daughter has been asking all summer long when she can start learning to write in cursive.  When I told her that we were receiving a handwriting program to review for the TOS Homeschool Crew, she was thrilled!  Mary Grace is a very young 3rd grader since she started school a year early, so I wasn't sure if her motor skills would be good enough to tackle cursive writing.  Since we needed to review this writing program, though, I decided to let her give it a try and see how well she can do.

I had heard of Peterson before receiving the materials for this review, but I had never looked at their materials or used their program before.  I was interested in trying them out because I never know when I might come across something that I really like and just never took the time to look into before.  I have to say that I'm really glad we were asked to do this Peterson review!  We like the program a lot! 

You will find all the details about the program and exactly how to use and teach it on the website and in the materials.  One of the first things I read in my materials told about the three basic movements that Mary Grace would need to learn in order to create the four basic strokes needed for cursive writing.  (The "movements" refers to the movement process--the actual physical ways she needs to learn to move her arm and hand and pencil--in order to form the basic strokes and letters.  There is lots more information about this on the website.)  The four basic strokes are them explained and given names. 

The basic strokes are the "sharp top," "loop top," "round top," and "roll top."  You can see examples of each of them here.  These strokes are difficult to describe in words, but when you see the examples on the website, it will make perfect sense to you.  My daughter really loves the way these strokes are named.  I found that, when I used the names for the strokes, she remembered exactly which stroke she was supposed to be making and was able to use the correct one.  If she was supposed to make a lowercase "h," for example, I reminded her to use the loop top.  This helped her remember that the top of the "h" is not supposed to have a sharp point like the sharp top, but instead it is supposed to have a small loop at the top.  (Remember she is doing the cursive letters, so the top of the "h" is a loop, not a sharp point.) 

There are several steps that are taught and used to help the child learn how to move in order to make the correct strokes to write the letters.  There is demonstration, air writing, finger tracing, and write & say.  If you are interested in learning more about the Peterson Method and the science behind it, you can click on this link to see a video which explains all of that.  The video is a bit technical, but you may enjoy watching it if you are interested in learning more about why this method is successful for so many children.  For me, though, more important than the science behind it all is whether or not it seems to work well for my own child. 

As far as Mary Grace and I are concerned, this program works very well for her.  She loves learning to write in cursive and is highly motivated to do it.  She enjoys saying and writing the basic strokes and seems to really benefit from knowing the names of the strokes in order to help her make sure she's using the correct ones at the correct times.  She enjoys all of the other activities that help her learn to make the correct movements.  She likes the colorful example letters (with the different parts of the letters made with different colors to help show which stroke to make) and the colorful practice pages.  In fact, the only thing she didn't like is that she "had to" learn a few preliminary things about the system before she was able to pick up her pencil and actually start practicing the letters! 

You can visit the Peterson Directed Handwriting website to take a look for yourself.  You can click on quite a few links from there, but I found the Information Directory option very helpful myself.  If you check out the website, you will be able to find out much about the basic method, view examples, learn the science behind why it works, find out how to know which level to use for your child, and more. 

When I asked Mary Grace what she wanted to say about the handwriting program on this review, she said to say, "I like it!"  So that's the official word from Hilton Christian Academy (our homeschool!).  We like it!

Complete homeschool handwriting kits are available for about $40.00 each level.  You can view an order form to see the exact prices.  Look on the left-hand side below the shipping and payment information, and you will see the homeschool kit prices there. 

Some other Crew members used different levels of this program. Some used the cursive program as we did, and some used print.  If you want to see their reviews and see how the program worked for them, you can do so here
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NOTE:  I received the materials for this review free of charge in exchange for writing this review.  The opinions in this review are my own.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think some of the "back-to-school" commercials on tv are rather insulting?  I don't watch much tv, but occasionally I will watch a show with my husband in the evening after the kids have gone to their rooms.  I've noticed a few commercials that talk about how wonderful it is (for the parents!) that it's time for the kids to go back to school.  They either come right out and say it, or at least they imply that the parents will be so much happier without the kids at home all day.  I realize that they are trying to catch people's attention (and it worked!), but I hate that they do it that way.

I have to say that it is nice to have a break now and then.  I don't mind admitting that I sometimes go out to eat with a girlfriend or go on a shopping trip by myself.  And I will also admit that, just like everyone else, sometimes my kids, well..., get on my nerves.  I am so thankful that I am able to homeschool them, though, and that I don't have to send them off to school every day. 

I hope that those parents whose kids go to school outside the home are truly able to enjoy the time they have with their kids when they are at home.  I also hope that parents who homeschool are able to enjoy the time that they (we) have with our kids when they are at home.  There are, admittedly, days when I'm not feeling like it's such a blessing for my kids to be at home with me all the time.  (I'm just telling the truth here.)  Deep down, though, I know that there really isn't any other place I'd rather they be. 

This year, I finally found a math program that works for my 8th-grade son.  It has been so wonderful checking his work each day and seeing the satisfaction on his face when he does well on it.  I know he would never admit it, but he is really proud of himself for doing a good job.  I see his progress up close from day to day and year to year.  It makes me feel proud to be a part of teaching him.

With my older daughter, the one who has autism, I saw first-hand what a tremendous difference homeschooling made in her life!  She used to come home from school (where I thought the "experts" would do a better job with her than I could do at home) tired, upset, frustrated, and unhappy.  When I decided to bring her back home to homeschool, she became a different person!  Once she realized she didn't have to go back to school any more, her whole personality and attitude changed.  She became the content, happy girl she had been before I ever sent her to school.

I would never trade all the "snuggle time" I have with my 7-year-old daughter--time I wouldn't have with her if she left to go to school outside the home each day.  Just this morning she was snuggling in my lap reading her book to me, I thought about how nice it is to have her here. 

I know that homeschooling is not for everyone.  I just wish that those silly commercials didn't make it sound/look like all parents just want to get rid of our kids!  So what do you think?  Am I taking them too seriously?  Should I just laugh and "get the joke"?  Or do you feel a little insulted too when you see those commercials?  I'd love to hear your opinion!
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Showing Our Love

Have you heard about the organization called Locks of Love?  I heard about it several years ago through a woman at my church.  She and her daughters had beautiful long hair, and then one day they all arrived at church with shoulder-length hair.  I wondered if they suddenly decided that all of them needed a change at the same time or just what else might have caused them to cut their hair so much shorter.  When I commented on their hair cuts, one of the younger girls told me that they had donated their hair to Locks of Love.

I asked what Locks of Love was, and she told me that it is an organization that makes wigs free of charge for children who have suffered hair loss (usually due to a medical condition or cancer treatment, etc.) and cannot afford to buy a wig.  I thought it was wonderful that such an organization existed, and I even thought that maybe one day my girls and I would like to donate our hair to them, but then it slipped my mind and I never got any farther.

Over the years after that, it did enter my mind several times, but I never really checked into it.  I kept thinking that "some day" I would get more information and see about donating.  A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to actually checking it out.  The person donating her hair (or his hair) must have at least 10 inches of hair to donate.  My girls and I all have pretty long hair, but I wasn't sure if we had hair long enough to donate 10 inches and still have much left!  I got out the ruler and measured our hair and realized that, if we each got 10 inches cut off to donate, we would still have at least shoulder-length hair left.  That sounded do-able to me!

My friends know that I have more or less always had long hair.  Once or twice in my life I've gotten my hair cut pretty short, and I've never liked it that way.  For some reason, I just prefer my hair long.  On top of that, my husband prefers for the girls and me to have long hair too.  He doesn't mind if we get it cut a little shorter now and then, but he does like it longer.    When I mentioned it to him and told him what it was for, though, so he said he wouldn't mind if we got our hair cut to donate. 

So, a few days ago, off to the beauty shop we went!  My older daugher's hair was down to her elbows, so we easily cut almost 12 inches from her hair and she still has shoulder-length hair.  (She is the daughter who has autism.  I thought it would be so neat for her to be able to help another child who suffered from some kind of medical condition--even if it is very different from her own.)  My younger daughter (age 7) wanted to donate her hair as well, so we cut off almost 10 inches from hers, leaving her hair at a little bit shorter than shoulder-length.  If her hair isn't long enough to make a wig, then the company can sell it to help make the money they need to do what they do.  My hair was not quite down to my elbows, but we were able to cut almost 11 inches off, and my hair is still shoulder-length. 

It has been very strange getting used to such short hair since mine has been this short very few times in my life!  It is really neat, though, to think that 3 different children will be helped by our donations.  I feel like I should mention, however, that this post wasn't written so that we can get pats on the back for donating our hair.  It was written to bring attention to the organization so that, hopefully, some of you out there who have long hair (or have a daughter or friend who has long hair) might consider donating or sharing information about how to donate.  If you want to check out the organization, you can do that at  You can take a look at their donation guidelines here.

Keep in mind that they cannot accept colored hair for making wigs.  They will accept gray hair to be sold to help offset costs.  If your hair has just a tiny bit of gray in it (like mine), they can accept it for making into a wig.  (Which is one reason I decided to go ahead and donate now.  In a few years when my hair is long enough, it may have too much gray in it to be used!!)  They also accept monetary donations if you don't have long hair to give. 

Also, I want to let you know that this post was done on my own.  I was not asked to post about this organization and didn't receive any compensation.  In fact, our hair hasn't reached the company yet (there are certain guidelines for mailing it in), so they don't even know about us or our donations yet.  I simply wanted to share some information about something that I felt like was worthwhile!

Blessings to you and your family!
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Getting Ready for the School Year

This past June I posted about my "schedule" that I go by every year when our school year is finished and I am preparing for the next school year.  You can read that post here if you like.  It is now August, and I am a bit behind on my schedule!  We will start school tomorrow, and I still don't quite have all of my lesson plans ready yet. 
I suppose we could just wait an extra week to start school, but I have a good reason for going ahead and starting next week.  Actually, I have two good reasons.  Here's the first reason:  Each summer, a friend of my children stays with us during the day while her parents are at work.  She doesn't homeschool, and she has to return to school tomorrow.  We usually go ahead and start school the same week she goes back.  I have found that it seems like a "natural" time for my kids to "go back to school" since their friend is going back to school too.  Besides that, it actually makes the transition back to school (after having a friend over to play and visit all summer) much easier.  Instead of my kids sitting around having lots of time to miss their friend, they are kept busy from the very first day that she doesn't come over regularly any more.

The other reason we start school so early is that starting early gives us plenty of days to get our school work done and still be able to take off "extra" days or even a week or two here and there during the year.  I've mentioned before that we often take off a few "just for fun" days in the spring and fall when the weather here is so wonderful.  We also like to take off a week or more at Thanksgiving,  two weeks at Christmas, and a week or two in the spring when the kids' friend usually stays with us while she's out of school for spring break.  And then there are often other things that happen that require us to take a day off.  Sometimes my younger daughter's ballet class does a daytime performance somewhere since there are so many homeschool girls in the class and they are able to take a day off to perform occasionally.  At times, a friend or relative needs me to babysit for a day or so.  Sometimes we just don't feel very well and prefer to rest a little that day.  It is so wonderful to have the freedom to take these days off and not have to worry about making them up since we have so many "extra" days already built into our schedule!  

I suppose I should have started seriously working on my lesson plans several weeks ago, but for various reasons I just didn't do it.  All this past week I've been staying up late and working as hard as I can to get them all done.  I don't technically "have" to do lesson plans, but I've found that the children and I all do much better when I do.  I have homeschool friends who write down what they get done each day but don't actually write lesson plans ahead of time.  I tried doing that once myself, and it just didn't work for me.  I found that I must have some kind of goal for what we need to get done each day.  Otherwise it's too easy for the children and me to slack off and not get enough done. 

Well, ready or not we will get started tomorrow!  To tell the truth, I'm really looking forward to it.  I love to be in a routine, and I enjoy teaching too.  I don't think my kids are quite as happy about it as I am, though!  I think they probably don't dislike it as much as they say they do.  I think it's just more that their friend won't be here every day and they will miss her.  Besides, whether they admit it or not, they really were beginning to get bored with so much "time off" this summer. 

Have the rest of you started school yet?  Or are you planning to wait until September to get going?  I would love a quick comment from you!  Whether you have already started or are waiting a few more weeks, I pray that this will be your best school year yet! 
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Monday, August 2, 2010

How Much Are You Worth?

Exodus 30: 11-15

"Then the Lord said to Moses, "When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted.  Then no plague will come on them when you number them.  Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel...This half shekel is an offering to the Lord.  All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord.  The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives." 

I read this several weeks ago during my "The Bible in 90 Days" reading, and it's been on my mind since then.  It's funny how a person can read a verse of Scripture over and over and learn something or notice something new every time.  As I was reading the above verses and thinking about the offering that the Israelites had to make to the Lord to atone for their lives, I thought about something for the first time. 

It had never really occurred to me before the reason why God required everyone, whether rich or poor, to pay the same amount of money as each one was counted during the census.  In the past when I read these verses or similar verses, it always seemed unfair to me that God required the same amount of money from poor people as He did from rich people.   I know that God is always fair, but I just couldn't quite figure out how He was being fair this time.

Then I realized why God required the same amount of money from everyone.  Well, at least I think this is why.  He was simply letting the Israelites know that they were all of equal importance and value to Him--no matter whether they were rich or poor or the same as everyone else or different in some way or whatever.  Those of you reading this may have realized that before, but this was a new revelation for me! 

Then I began to think about the fact that God really does value each of us equally whether we are stay-at-home moms, working moms, professionals, or whatever else our jobs or titles might be.  He really does value each of us equally whether we live in a big fancy house or a tiny little apartment.  He really does value each of us equally whether we are evangelists who reach hundreds or thousands or millions of people with God's Word, or whether we simply try to live our lives the best way we can and be a witness to our own children and husbands each day. 

Wow!!  That just amazed me when I really stopped to think about how much God values me personally.  The same is true of you, too.  God values you just as you are.  It's so awesome that God loves us and is willing to forgive us of our sins no matter what if we just love Him and ask Him to be our Savior and to forgive us. 

I have said before that making the time to do my Bible reading every day is getting easier, but it's still something I have to make a conscious effort to do each day.  It is worth it, though!  Whether I'm reading something I've read several times in the past or reading something "brand new" to me, I seem to learn something new every day--something that I've never really noticed or thought about before.  If you can't join me for The Bible in 90 Days challenge, I hope you will at least join me in reading your Bible each day--even if you just read a few verses.  I think you will find that it's well worth your time.  I'd love to hear from you if you are reading along already or if you decide to join in!
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