Logic of English Essentials review

Logic of EnglishI’ve grown up with phonics all my life—learned it, used it, taught it, explored variations of it. And yet, I have absolutely been blown away by the Logic of English phonics.

I received the Essentials Teacher Manual, one Essentials cursive student workbook, and one set of Basic Phonograms flashcards to review with my children. And every time I open the book I have a new epiphany. This program is hands-down amazing.

  Logic of English Essentials curriculum

“The Logic of English Essentials curriculum includes 40 lessons, introducing 74 Basic Phonograms and 30 Spelling Rules. While the spelling list includes 480 of the most frequently used words, students learn thousands of additional words with the lessons as they learn how to write compound words and add prefixes and suffixes to form derivatives.”~ from the website

In other words, this program is very comprehensive and thorough while breaking the concepts down into easy-to-handle lessons. It’s phonics, spelling, and grammar all in one.

Logic of English
The Teacher’s Manual provides detailed scripted lessons that require minimal teacher prep and are easy to teach from. Plus, it’s a beautiful, high quality hard cover book.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.

The lessons are not intended to be completed all in one day. Rather, you can take as much or as little time as your student needs to master the material. Each lesson is divided into three parts: phonics, spelling, and grammar. While the program is intended for older students and adults, there are plenty of helps and suggestions for younger students.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working through the Essentials program in two different ways. Middlest is working on the material through the Intro of the book before Lesson 1. We’ve been working on phonemic awareness activities and phonograms. Oldest has been working through the complete program, taking roughly 10 days to finish a lesson (working 15-20 minutes a day).

Unique features of curriculum:

  • The most obvious is that it really explains and makes sense of the language. The curriculum claims that 98% of all the English “exceptions” can be explained with phonics; and I’m now convinced that’s true. Her approach to phonics is very logical and progresses steadily, eliminating nearly all of the traditional “sight words.”
  • This program has suggested activities that appeal to all modes of learning. A lot of curriculums claim that, but this particular curriculum makes it easy to see and choose the activities that fit your child. Even the layout of this curriculum makes sense! Activities are coded for each learning style.
  • The program blends phonics, spelling, and grammar into each lesson. The phonograms are incorporated into the spelling list, the spelling words are incorporated into the grammar lesson, and the spelling and grammar is solidified with simple dictation and composition activities at the end of the lesson.
  • This program is intended to be user-friendly for any age, young to adult. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities, but the curriculum and the material would not be insulting to an older student or adult. The author has provided sample schedules for dividing the lessons into daily assignments based on the age of your student.

The author Denise Eide, in her video presentations, describes readers as either intuitive or logical. Intuitive readers have a feel for language, and usually do not struggle when presented with an exception or variation on a rule. Logical readers, however, need all the information up front and struggle considerably when a word does not follow a memorized rule.

I am learning this first-hand. My son was definitely an intuitive reader; he could easily read words and phonograms we hadn’t even covered yet. He had a “feel” for language. My daughter, on the other hand, is apparently a logical learner. She struggles with exceptions, and  I long gave up trying to teach her any sight words.

How has this curriculum worked for both of my learners? My son’s spelling frustrations have turned to absolute delight as he explores and understands the language, and my daughter has absolutely flourished.

Logic of English Essentials curriculum

Here’s a break-down of a daily lesson in Essentials.

Phonics

The phonograms lessons are a mix of drill and experiencing the sounds. In other words, the student is allowed to really understand what the sound is doing and why. Vowels are the sounds we can sing or sustain, the sounds that can be made louder and softer. For instance, I asked my daughter if she would be able to yell /b/ or /m/ from across the yard and have me hear her inside the house. No, of course not. But if she yelled /a/, I would definitely hear her (and often do, I might add).

This experiencing the sounds has been phenomenal with both of the kids. We talk about what part of our mouth is actually making the sound (tip of the tongue, back of the tongue, teeth, or lips) and whether the sound is voiced or unvoiced (s and z; b and p, for instance). We’ve even gotten a mirror and looked to see what our mouths are doing. It has really helped her with some of the tough-to-tell-apart sounds like e and i.

There is also a terrific emphasis on phonemic awareness, a concept I really knew very little about before we began this program. I always thought that phonemic awareness had to do with “reading readiness” and whether your child was interested in reading. But these exercises really help a child to understand how to break a word into its individual sounds and how to “glue” those sounds back together. Game ideas include variations on “I Spy” and “Charades” and more.

Doing these exercises has solved a lot of the reading issues I was having with Middlest, like random guessing at words rather than sounding them out. What I thought was a personality conflict between the two of us was actually a gap in her learning! And she has loved our time together with these game and activity ideas.

Logic of English

In addition to drilling the flashcards (or we often used their Phonics with Phonograms app), the student is given several suggested kinesthetic and auditory activities to reinforce those sounds.

Phonograms Bingo
Phonograms Bingo is a favorite that we play often.

Spelling

Here’s where I could park for a long time. The method for teaching spelling is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I love it!

The spelling words provided, about 15 for each lesson, follow both the phonograms and the spelling rules introduced within the lesson. In other words, not only are the phonograms taught to help the student read the sounds, but spelling rules are also taught in the same lesson to help the child know when to use those sounds in writing and spelling.

The student is taught how to think through the sounds in a word before he attempts to spell it. “How many syllables?” “Let’s sound out each syllable.” You then coach your student through the phonograms and the letters that make those sounds, having him mark the word as he spells it.

The student book provides a place for the words to be written, a page that is similar to his own dictionary page. The student writes the word by syllables on the blanks provided. Then, throughout the lessons, he refers back to this page to add more information: the part of speech, the plural spelling, and the past tense spelling of the word.

There are also suggested activities for making spelling cards on 3×5 cards that can be used in the grammar lesson. We did both of these activities on different days during the week. As my son becomes more comfortable with the process, I could easily assign him to do his spelling cards independently after we have done the list together.

As in the phonics approach, the spelling rules are both drilled and explored. In other words, there is a flashcard for the rule that you will review and require the student to learn. However, the exercises are geared toward exploring the rule and learning how and why it works. For instance, several similar words will be shown, and as the student studies the words, you help him to see the similarities in those words. (Deck, duck, stick, lick—”CK is used only after a single vowel which says its short sound.”) Then, several suggested games and activities allow him to think of his own words that follow the rule.

One area where my son has really struggled this year is understanding when and how to add suffixes. A terrific feature of this program is that in addition to learned rules, there is also a flowchart that allows a student to ask questions and logically follow a process for deciding how the word should change.

The rules are very thorough and can, in some instances, tend to be complicated. But the combination of both memorizing and exploring the rules through a variety of activities helps to make even the more complicated ideas memorable.

There are both spelling rule and grammar rule flashcards available for purchase. However, we made our own to fit our 3×5 card system.

The spelling words are further taught within the grammar lesson, so I will continue explaining that process below.

Grammar

Within each lesson, one or more grammar concepts are introduced. For instance, in Lesson 1 the concept of both nouns and singular/plural were introduced. Again, I loved how the spelling words were the foundation for this lesson.

The student is asked to find the words in his list that are nouns, label them on his spelling list, and/or draw a red box around them on the spelling cards. Another suggested activity was to allow the student to illustrate the nouns in his list. Then, an exercise in the student workbook had him spell both the singular and plural form of the spelling words using the grammar rule that had been given.

To me this was priceless. The student is not simply memorizing a list of words but actively using those words in their different variations.

Other activities include creating phrases by combining words from the spelling list, either by dictation or by copying phrases made with the spelling cards, providing opportunity for both copywork and dictation depending on the your child’s level of ability.

Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a "composition" activity.
Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a “composition” activity.

The grammar rules introduced in the next lessons not only apply to the current list for that lesson but also refer back to previous lessons. For example, in Lesson Two, adjectives are introduced. The student labels adjectives in both List 2 and List 1. Everything in this program builds logically and smoothly.

Assessments

The program does not come with tests and quizzes per se, but assessments are worked into the curriculum every fifth lesson. Even this, however, really reflected the teacher’s heart that the author has. Her assessments require the student to show not just that he can repeat a drilled list of words but that he can use those words in various forms; and built within the assessments are lots of additional activities to reinforce trouble spots.

You are not simply drilling and testing. You are teaching and assessing and teaching some more.

On the Logic of English blog, Denise has also provided alternate lessons, either to add more challenging words or to help a student who might need a little more practice with a particular rule. Again, to me this really reflects her heart for those using her material. She has a passion for helping students understand the language.

Summary

Logic of English Essentials curriculum makes sense, in every way! From the phonograms and rules to the layout and teaching methods. Your child will never again complain that English is a language that doesn’t follow the rules.

Is there anything I didn’t like? Not really, but there are a few points that might be an issue for some.

Cons:

  • There is not an easy way to go back to lesson material for reference. There is no index, and the table of contents provides only the lesson number. When trying to find information, I instead went to the website to the teacher training video which provided page numbers for the teacher manual.
  • There are no readers that accompany the Essentials curriculum. This would be one reason why I would hesitate to recommend this for younger beginning readers; reading practice is limited. For those first-time readers and pre-readers, I would recommend investigating the Foundations curriculum that Logic of English is currently working on.
  • This is a curriculum that will require teacher involvement, particularly with younger students. That said, the lessons are well scripted for the teacher; and as the teacher and student become familiar with the process, there are opportunities for the student to work independently. The lessons also allow the teacher to customize how long the lesson will last each day and over how many days the lesson will continue.

Bottom line, I love this program. I was impressed by the website and videos and have been equally impressed by the curriculum. I have learned a ton, and I’ve been surrounded by phonics my whole life!

In fact, I love this program so much that I am discontinuing our current program (phonics, language, and spelling) with Oldest and switching him to this next fall. And I’m seriously considering switching Middlest to the Foundations curriculum, geared for the younger students, when it prints. (That’s saying a lot, folks, since I have a very long-standing relationship with our current program.)

Want to see more? The Logic of English website provides great samples of both the teacher manual and the student workbook (available in cursive or manuscript) as well as a video tour of the lessons. Also, the teacher training videos available for free on her website give you a very comprehensive look at the program’s approach to both phonics and spelling.

Whether you are looking for a spelling/language program for your young reader, a remedial program for your older reader, or a literacy program for adults, Essentials is a fantastic solution. And if you are needing a curriculum for your beginning or emerging reader, be sure to investigate the Logic of English’s new Foundations program.

Disclaimer: I received these materials for free for the purpose of review. I was not paid or compensated for a positive review, and all the opinions in this post are my own.

SpellingCity.com Review

SpellingCity.com
Vocabulary Spelling City has probably been one of my favorite products to review so far. It is a game-based online program that teaches spelling and vocabulary while allowing the teacher to customize the list or choose from thousands of pre-made lists. The website includes 25 online or print-off activities for reviewing the list: handwriting sheets, alphabetical order, matching definitions, Word Scramble, HangMouse, Speedy Speller, and more.

The website was very user-friendly. Adding the lists, assigning the lists and corresponding activities, reviewing reports—all of these steps were easy to do. Plus, video tutorials are available to help with every step of the process. There is also an audio aspect to the site; a voice says the word, spells the word, and provides a sentence for each word on the list.

Vocabulary Spelling City icons

Activities to assign are not limited to games, either. Flashcards are instantly created for every word on the list and may be used virtually or printed off for traditional use. “Teach Me” allows the student to review the list with the human voice repeating and spelling each word. Handwriting pages are also instantly created with the spelling list.

Unfortunately, many of the games on the site were a little too difficult for my son: “unscramble,” “word search,” “letter fall,” etc. But the ones he could play, he absolutely loved, especially “Hang Mouse.” Spelling words are used as a “hang-man” game; get the word right before the cat wakes up to eat the mouse. Other games he enjoyed had him finding missing letters or playing “memory match” with the words from his list. Another game I really liked was “Speedy Speller,” which allowed my son to beat his own time typing his spelling words. I tried to introduce this game pretty close to testing day, though, as he got frustrated if he missed the word too many times.

Vocabulary Spelling City
HangMouse

 

SpellingCity.com
pre-made list for Goodnight Moon

When it came time to take the test, a voice spoke the word and used it in a sentence just like a teacher would do, and my son typed the word and hit return for the next word.

Vocabulary Spelling City

Every aspect of this is customizable. Create your own list, write your own definition or use a provided definition, write your own sentence for the word or use the provided sentence, and select the activities you want your student to complete. However, if you didn’t want to customize a list, there are literally thousands of pre-made lists to choose from, including many lists from local public schools across the nation (if you are concerned about meeting state standards). Another tool was the grammar videos, which I already have penciled into our lesson plans to help me teach syllables and alphabetical order.

I’m also really looking forward to using this with the Tapestry of Grace word lists that are included each week for reading vocabulary and geography terms. It will be a fun way to teach the Tapestry words. I am also using it to supplement our current spelling program with a little more variety for review; already it has helped me detect where my son was not as proficient as he appeared to be. SpellingCity.com has been a terrific tool for reinforcement.

Though much of this program is designed to be done independently, I did like to be with my son when the lessons were first introduced to emphasize the rule for his new list. Depending on your student, you may or may not need to supervise his use of this program.

Overall, I loved this product and will definitely continue to use it throughout our school year. I’ve also contemplated creating a few simple lists for Middlest as she begins to put together her own 3-letter words.

A premium membership is only $29.99/year for up to 5 students. Try SpellingCity.com for free and take a tour of the site. Then, read what other reviewers thought about the program at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Photobucket

 

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

 

Lessons in Chalk

There are two items in our homeschool that are always the envy of our school room: the wipeboard and the chalkboard. I’m not sure what it is, but any lesson done on one of these boards is suddenly spectacular. Knowing this, I take advantage of it whenever I can, skipping the worksheets and bringing out the chalk (or dry erase markers).

When the oldest had a language lesson on compound words, we brought out the chalkboard and colored chalk. I wrote a few examples on the board, did a couple together, then had him divide the word into its two parts on his own.

But then, if he gets a chalkboard lesson, Middlest is begging to use the chalkboard, too.

Middlest is beginning to sound out short vowel words. Because she has been singing her blends for nearly a year now, ever since her older brother started, she’s learning blends super fast. I’ve got her on a relaxed pace of one new blend each week, but she is usually reading that blend (without having to sound it out) by the second day. To add a little bit of a challenge, I’m starting to give her short vowel words to work on. Sometimes we do these lessons on our felt board; other times, I bring out the chalk.

Typically, I’ll write the blend first and have her read it or sound it out. Then, I’ll had a final letter to make a word. For instance, be then bed; to then tot; da then dad; li then lip; etc. She loves this game.

I love that they both love learning; and one of these beautiful days, I’m going to take our chalk lessons outside to the sidewalk. If compound words on a chalkboard is fun, how much more fun to work on them with sidewalk chalk in the driveway!

What items add excitement to your homeschool lessons?

Taming A Beka when A Beka’s too much

A Beka's too much | Abeka curriculum | making changes to A Beka | A Beka curriculum | when Abeka's too much

I love many things about A Beka curriculum: their colorful workbooks and activities, their readers, the thoroughness. But I also totally get when a family says that A Beka is a lot of work. As a matter of fact, even for us sometimes A Beka’s too much work. Sometimes, I have to tame it down—and trim and cut and splice—until it fits our family. I thought I’d give you a little peek at what that looks like.

2 simple changes when A Beka’s too much.

1. Choose only the workbooks you need

Evaluate what you want to cover with your child using formal curriculum, workbooks, and lesson plans. Are there topics that you feel you can cover with hands-on lessons, crafts, an online game, or free printables that you would like to use to add more variety? Are there areas that your child needs more help with? Are there topics you think you can cover without making them an entire subject?

When I took a good look at first grade for my son,  I honestly couldn’t believe everything required just for Language Arts: phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting, and grammar! Too much? Maybe not, but it is definitely more workbook pages than I care to assign. So I cut the Language Arts book; I didn’t even order it. From the curriculum, it seemed that I could definitely tackle this subject on my own. Teaching syllables, prefix/suffixes (in the context of the phonics sounds), and alphabetical order were concepts I felt I could point out and instruct along the way without making it an additional subject. I considered holding off on spelling until after he had completed the phonics book, but my son loves spelling, and I figured I could tackle it in roughly 5-10 minutes a day.

Reading is again much less formal for us. For one, though I own a number of the readers, they are all older editions that do not fit the lesson plans. Rather than try to manipulate them to fit the curriculum, I decided to just read them aloud at our own pace. My son is a voracious reader, and I have no concerns that he will get enough practice. And we just do the readers—no Handbook for Reading (gasp! I know, but I hated that as a kid, and I still hate it as a parent. I’d rather teach the words as they come up in his reading than subject ourselves to that torture. Perhaps, if he were struggling with reading I’d feel differently. But as I said, I made these adjustments to fit our family.)

As for handwriting, I have assigned those at my discretion for awhile now. There seems to me to be enough handwriting practice on the worksheet pages themselves, and with our notebooking he’s getting practice with writing complete sentences and some copywork exercises. He enjoys the pages more if I space them out and only assign one or two a week.

In summary, we’ll be doing two workbooks for Phonics/Reading/Spelling/Language Arts: Letters and Sounds 1 (phonics) and Spelling 1.

2. Simplify the plans

Each of us has our own unique teaching style, and for those just starting out, A Beka’s scripted plans can be very helpful. But for some of us, the notes seem much more appropriate for classroom instruction than a conversation with our child at the dining room table. Know what you need, and don’t be afraid to skip what isn’t helpful for you.

Over the last couple of years of homeschooling, I’ve found that I am no good at looking at a scripted plan everyday. But I also don’t want to miss important aspects to the plans. In the past, I’ve nearly re-written the plans into my lesson planners to be sure that I actually see what I need to see. It was a ton of work, much more than it needed to be.

So, I’m experimenting with a new system this summer. I’ve actually written some “plans” at the bottom of the workbook pages themselves. I marked “TEST” at the bottom of the last workbook page before a test is assigned. I also marked the language arts (LA) concepts as they came up. When I come to a lesson with an “LA” note at the bottom, I’ll know to look at the curriculum. It took me roughly 20 minutes to go through his workbook and make these notes, as opposed to the hours I was spending plotting out lessons.

 

By making adjustments, I feel like I get the best of both worlds—a quality curriculum with colorful activity books plus a schedule that allows for more than an endless line-up of worksheets. Sometimes too much can be a good thing by allowing you a plethora of options to choose from. When A Beka’s too much, tame it until it fits your family and your needs.