Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Kingdom - Reading Without Rules

Phonics has been used to teach reading "since Hector was a pup", as my dad would say.  The team behind Reading Kingdom has an alternative.  Learning to read by mastering 6 basic skills:  sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension.  And they provide all the tools necessary in a fun, child-friendly online program. 

Our happy little owl friend starts 4-10 year olds and ESL students off by having them take a skills assessment test.  The object is to place the student at the appropriate level, and then the program customizes as students complete subsequent levels.  With minimal supervision, most children can work through the program on their own.  Parents can log in to check daily progress.  If students are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the keyboard and mouse, they can start with the keyboard and mouse training. 

My second grade son is already an enthusiastic reader, and felt the program was just a little too tedious for him.  The skills survey placed him in Letter Land, for more keyboarding practice, despite what I think are pretty good typing skills.  Apparently he wasn't fast enough, and quickly lost interest.  The fun stuff is really in the Reading and Writing Section, with six new books on each of six levels.  So maybe for a beginning or struggling reader it would be more fun.  Especially if your child is not reading well with a phonics based program.  Try Reading Kingdom for FREE for 30 days, then if it's working for your child, convert to a monthly subscription at only $19.99 for the first child and $9.99 for additional children.  Subscriptions can also be paid by the year at $199.99 - that's 2 months FREE PLUS the FREE TRIAL!

Lots of other homeschoolers reviewed this product, see what other Homeschool Crew Members have to say;)

We received a one year subscription to Reading Kingdom in return for our review of this product.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Homesteading on the Road

Such a busy time we've been having.  What with weddings and visitors from overseas and other family crisis, we haven't been on the homestead too much this past month.  But that doesn't mean our whole lifestyle goes out the window.  In fact, our frugal practices only help when it comes to traveling.  Our homeschool curriculum fits nicely in one bag.  Supplies and extras are in a "carschool" bag.  A cooler and a snack bag carry our food.  Clothes and such for Mrs. D and Li'l Homesteader fit into one shared suitcase.  A few business essentials, soaps and some packaging, fit in another bag.  Everything fits into the jeep with room to spare.  All can get packed up and ready to go within an hour. 

Traveling was not always this way.  Many years of camping and running to and fro have honed Mrs. D's traveling skills, and there is still much room for improvement.  There are so many aspects to streamlining a road trip, Mrs. D would like to focus on just one for now:  food.

One of the biggest costs on any road trip is food.  Restaurants are so expensive.  So are convenience foods.  But it's not very convenient to whip up a satisfying meal in the front seat of a jeep, either.  Sometimes what seemed good when you packed it, is not appealing at lunch or dinner time.  Rest stops can be windy, too hot, too cold, or downright dangerous.  Eating in the car can be so messy.  But everyone needs to stretch their legs every couple hours.

Mrs. D abides by some very basic principles for road food.  One medium size cooler, one grocery bag size snack bag. 

In the cooler go:  gallon size ice jug, gallon water jug, any perishables.

In the snack bag go: plastic bowls with lids (can be used for eating and/or holding leftovers), plastic utensils, plastic cups (for drinks and/or cereals/soups), napkins (cloth or paper), dry goods, coffee mugs, drink mixes, tea bags, instant oatmeal/soup mix.  Thermos of hot water.  Drink bottle for each person.

Some of Mrs. D's food choices:  hard boiled eggs, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, homemade bread, crackers, carrot and celery sticks, dip, chunks of fruits and veggies, chopped lettuce, salad dressing, apples, oatmeal, cream cheese, lunch meat, popcorn, homemade tortilla chips, nuts, dried fruit, yogurt. 

How to put the above together for meals?  Use the hot water and cups or bowls for oatmeal and soup mixes, coffee, teas, hot chocolate, hot apple cider.  You can refill your hot water at most gas stations, or your destination.  Refill water bottles from the gallon jug, refill gallon jug at any filter machine or your destination.  Make sandwiches or eat sandwich makin's individually.  Keep a trash bag handy.  Put some dip or dressing in a bowl for veggie and fruit chunks.  Keep napkins handy.  Eat apples whole.  Popcorn, homemade cookies, tortilla chips, nuts and dried fruit for munchies.  All of these items can be replenished at grocery stores along the way.  If so desired and you have the time and room, a small camp stove, cooking pot (don't forget a towel or pot holder), dish pan and soap can be added to your supply.  Oh, also a small bottle of propane and matches to light the stove.

Though homemade is best, don't overpack food.  It will spoil and get squished and nobody will want to eat it.  It's just as frugal to replenish along the way.  By saving money on food, you can save frustration finding a place to eat and waiting to get served.  Children can run and shout while adults stretch and relax at the picnic site.  Everyone eats healthier!  More road trips;)