Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rod and Staff English Review

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It is rare that I come across an item I feel compelled to review all on my own, but after such a long quest of looking for English/grammar programs that are rigorous without being ridiculous, finding Rod and Staff has been such a blessing that I had to share!

When we first started homeschooling, going on six years ago, my main focus was of course phonics. I didn't see the need to purchase fancy curricula with multiple books and excessive numbers of worksheets. We went with a simple approach and used Explode the Code. It worked great for the girls. I credit the girls learning to read more to that program than I do to myself. Once we left the phonics world, I panicked. Reading, writing and being able to speak properly are very important to both me and my husband and we wanted to be sure that we were doing the best we could for them.

I am going to be honest, I got swept up, for a short time, in the it has to be short and fun craze. I did not particularly enjoy the curriculum that I was taught in school (Abeka) and I didn't want my kids to feel the same way. I also had this desire to be the fun homeschool mom that everyone wants to be. So, we tried Easy Grammar. I didn't hate Easy Grammar, in fact, I still think it is a fantastic supplement, but the longer we did it, the more I realized that it wasn't going to meet our requirements for a complete English/grammar program. Because Easy Grammar only covered the grammar portions of English, I also tried IEW writing. I flip flop back and forth about IEW. I think the program is probably fantastic for those who like the system. Our very own contributor Christa, put her sons through it and it really worked for her family. However, for ours something just didn't quite click. I really believe it was because I had my heart set on a traditional writing program and IEW follows a different, not bad, but different pattern of teaching. I digress, back to English.

This year, I have decided to come out of the it has to be super-duperty fun and look nothing like traditional schooling mindset and decide that sometimes, traditional methods of learning work for us. In fact, most of the time traditional methods work for us. In part because of learning style, in part because of teaching style and our goals for our children, and in part because the schedule of a competitive gymnast will make it impossible to do anything if you don't have a really solid plan.

Rod and Staff is a Mennonite publisher of an entire line of homeschool curriculum. For the purposes of this review, I am only covering the English 4 Building with Diligence book. If you are considering coming from another program to English 4, I suggest looking carefully at the website to be sure your children are placed correctly. My children were actually both doing grade 4 last year, but the rigor of English 4 by Rod and Staff, made it necessary for us to repeat 4th grade English. I would say the books are a year to two years ahead of most English programs.

Rod and Staff English Pros:

The most notable pro is the price. All of R&S curriculum is affordable and can easily be found used even cheaper. A lot of the books are non-consumable texts once you reach the 4th grade, so the books can also be resold to recoup some of the cost of purchase. This English program is a rigorous traditional English program that uses "old school" methods such as diagramming and writing to teach grammar concepts. It covers English grammar usage and structure as well as writing. Writing is interspersed throughout the book so it is introduced gently, but at a good pace. Because the company that publishes it is Mennonite, you will get scripture and religious themed sentences, but it is not so overwhelming that if you felt the need to leave those out that it would change the program or even make it unusable if you were looking for a secular option. There is a good mix of oral review and written work and quizzes are mixed in as a way to measure retention. The teacher manual is solid and while not scripted, offers enough information and prompting that even a parent who struggles teaching English can follow the program.

Rod and Staff English Cons:

It is writing intensive. The book is a non-consumable text so much of the work is copied. To some this is a good way to help the student retain the information, others may need to make more of the work oral or skip some of the problems.

Other Points:

 This is not a program for parents who don't want to be involved. The teaching of the concepts will require some teacher prep and some parental involvement with teaching. I find that once a topic is introduced, I will need to be available for two to three lessons after to help the children solidify it before they are comfortable and able to do it on their own. Since almost every lesson introduces a new concept, I am always required to teach at the beginning of a lesson if nothing else.

  As mentioned above, this is a faster paced program than most that we have seen.You will have to consider moving your child down in grade, and/or slowing the pace for those students who struggle or need more time.

Over all, I have been very pleased with the intensity and the methods used by Rod and Staff. If you are looking for a traditional English/grammar program, this is definitely one to look into!

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Discover a Surefire Method to Teach Your Child to Read

There are many different methods and opinions on how to teach a child to read - while all are well-intentioned, some methods could actually lead to reading difficulties in children. Learning to read is a critical step towards future academic success and later on success in life. If you cannot read, you cannot succeed. There is an amazingly simple method - actually, a combination of two methods - that can teach anyone to read, even children as young as 2 and 3 years old.

The combination of these two methods has been used in the Children Learning Reading program to successfully teach thousands of young children to read. So what are these methods?

It is the combination of synthetic phonics and phonemic awareness. Most have probably heard of phonics, but phonemic awareness is a concept less well known and ?it's not something you hear about often. Certainly, phonics is absolutely necessary to develop fluent reading skills; however, there are different types of phonics including embedded, analogy, analytical, and synthetic phonics. While using some type of phonics is better than not including any phonics instructions at all, you will achieve FAR BETTER results by employing synthetic phonics, which is by far the most easy and effective method for teaching reading. Multiple studies support this.

In a 7 year study conducted by the Scottish Education Department, 300 students were taught using either analytic phonics or synthetic phonics. The results found that the synthetic phonics group were reading 7 months ahead and spelling 8 to 9 months ahead of the other phonics groups. At the end of the 7 year study, the children were reading 3.5 years ahead of their chronological age.

Very impressive!

Through their amazing reading program, the creators (Jim & Elena - parents of 4 children and reading teachers) have taught all of their children to read phonetically by 3 years old and have helped thousands of parents to successfully teach their children to read as well! Some are small 2 or 3 year old toddlers, others are young 4 or 5 year old preschoolers, and still others at ages 6, 7, 8 or even older.

>> Click here to watch amazing videos of young children reading, and see the amazing results so many parents are achieving with their children.

The Children Learning Reading program works so well that many children will achieve reading ages far ahead of their chronological age.

Take Jim & Elena's children as an example: their oldest child, Raine, was reading phonetically at 2 years 11 months old, and by the time she entered kindergarten at 5 years old, she was reading at a grade 5 level with a reading age of 11.9 years - almost 7 years ahead of her chronological age. Their second child, Ethan, learned to read phonetically by 2 years 9 months, and at age 3, he was reading at a grade 2 level with a reading age of 7.2 years - progressing at a similarly quick pace as his older sister. Find that hard to believe? You can watch the videos posted here.

There are many different phonics programs out there, but rarely do you ever hear a mention of phonemic awareness (PA), and PA is absolutely an equally critical component to developing reading skills in children. What makes the Children Learning Reading program so unique and amazingly effective at teaching young children is that it seamlessly combines the teaching of synthetic phonics along with phonemic awareness to enable children to develop superb reading skills.

>>> Click here to learn more about the Children Learning Reading program and teach your child to read today