Friday, May 17, 2013

Joyce Herzog: Budding Authors and 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Joyce Herzog is an experienced teacher in both public and private schools and has been helping homeschool families for more than 25 years. She's the author of various educational materials which help parents focus on meeting their children's unique and individual needs. Her philosophical approach to learning works well with many different types of learning styles including unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, Charlotte Mason approach, and the "real book" method.
 
Her website offers valuable information such as educational support, products, and services, and she also includes links to other helpful resources.

Recently, the Schoolhouse Review Crew had the privilege of reviewing several of her educational products. I received the Budding Authors set and 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar.



 

Our review package included the 5 spiral bound workbooks in the Budding Authors series:
  1. Step Into Writing  ($10)
  2. Step On Into Writing  ($10)
  3. Adventures in Writing  ($10)
  4. Then and Now  ($12)
  5. Writing U.S. History  ($15)
 We also received the 40-page softcover, 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar. ($12)


Budding Authors is a step-by-step writing skills series which starts off with simple sentences and advances all the way to researching people and events in American history. As your child completes each book, he will be able to see his progress and at the same time create a nice keepsake.

These books can be used alone or they can be used with the Scaredy Cat Reading Stystem.


Budding Authors Book 1: Step Into Writing (Sample pages)

In this book, your child will take his first steps in writing short sentences and short stories. This book deals primarily with short vowel words, number and color words, and what Joyce Herzog calls sight words. To help your child develop thinking skills, verbal expression, and vocabulary, three types of pages are included: Copywork, Dictation, and Experience Story. There is supposed to be a Dictionary page included to help your child with unfamiliar words that he will encounter in the book, but it looks like this page was left out of the book I received and included instead in the second book. There are 41 pages in the first book.

* I had my 7-year-old daughter skip the first book since it was too easy, so I will go into more detail about the types of pages below.




Budding Authors Book 2: Step On Into Writing

I will be focusing on this particular book in the series since it's the one my daughter has been working on during the review period. It follows the same format as Book 1 except for the added page, Write Your Own Story.

So, the main reason I wanted my daughter to start this series is that she really needs extra practice with neatness! She doesn't like to write neatly at all. Also, I've noticed that when she writes she struggles with knowing when a sentence should end and when a new one should begin. Her reading skills are excellent, but it was time to backtrack a little bit on writing skills!

First of all, let me introduce you to the 4 kinds of pages in this book -- (these pages will appear in order over and over again.)

Copywork

On this page, there is a picture and a story which is comprised of four simple sentences. The goal here is for your child to copy the sentences neatly at his own pace paying close attention to capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. The Copywork pages have columns to the right labeled C for capitalization, P for punctuation, and S for spelling. The purpose of this is so you and your child can check each skill. Our own rating system is star, smiley face, minus, and X. One column is left blank for you to choose a particular skill -- I chose to label this column with an N for neatness.

These sentences are very easy for my second grader to read, but again, our focus is neatness right now. A first grader could probably do well using this book.



Pictured above is the type of paper this program uses. My daughter had never written on this kind of paper before, but Ms. Herzog says she believes it's the same type of paper used in Handwriting Without Tears.

Dictation

For this page, you will read four sentences out loud while your child writes them on the paper. Any words you think your child won't be able to spell on his own can be written in the Word Box at the top of the page. Your child is encouraged to try and write one sentence per line, but my daughter sometimes had trouble with this. Some of the sentences did seem too long for the amount of space provided. Since neatness is the main focus for us, I didn't really fault her for it.

 
 
Experience Story
 
For this page, you and your child will talk about what you see in the provided picture at the top of the page. You should try to get your child to tell the who, what, and why in the story they make up. He can also come up with a title for the story. You will write down the sentences for your child.
 
It was quite a challenge for my daughter to come up with short, solid sentences. She tends to give lots of information since she loves telling stories. That's a good thing, but for this particular lesson I wanted her to focus on making sure she provided shorter sentences with obvious subjects and verbs. Plus, I wanted her to focus on beginnings and endings. When her sentences get too long, it's harder for her to tell when they should end.
 
 
 
Write Your Own Story!
 
Here, your child will get a chance to write his own simple story based on the picture provided. After discussing the picture with your child, you can write down any words he mentions that you don't think he will be able to spell on his own.
 
I encouraged my daughter to keep the story to about 4 or 5 sentences and to keep them short so she could focus on her three struggle areas: neatness, beginnings, and endings.
 
 
I am pretty pleased with her improvement in neatness, but she tells me she only does it because she has to. Well, at least she's honest! I am really hoping, though, that the repetitive writing practice will spill over into her other subjects.

A Dictionary page is also included at the beginning of the book. It provides pictures and words your child may not know how to spell yet. A blank Dictionary page is provided for you to write down any other words you wish to add.


Budding Authors Book 3: Adventures in Writing (Sample pages)

In Book 3, your child will begin writing down his own thoughts. He will be given a picture prompt and series of questions to stimulate the thinking process. Word Boxes are provided to spark ideas as well; one box contains words that are easier to read and the other contains more challenging words. In the introduction, Ms. Herzog provides several suggestions on how to use the word boxes to help keep your child interested in writing stories. Included at the end of the book are pages in which your child can provide his own pictures to write about. There are 38 pages in the third book.





Budding Authors Book 4: Then and Now (Sample pages)

In Book 4, your child will begin learning how to write paragraphs and make comparisons. The picture prompts in this book are from the early 20th century, and your child will write about how family life and jobs are different today than they were then. There are 42 pages in the fourth book.





Budding Authors Book 5: Writing U.S. History (Sample pages)

In Book 5, your child will be introduced to the skills of researching a topic and taking notes. He will continue to improve upon writing skills while learning about American history. Each pages provides a picture prompt and an accompanying word box to help your child begin researching the particular topic. Topics/events are presented in chronological order starting with the beginning of time to 2010.

I really like that Budding Authors is simply laid out and easy to follow. Each book builds upon what the child has learned and practiced in previous books. It's predictable and flexible. So far, it's helped my daughter to slow down a bit and practice writing strong, neat sentences.


6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar is a 40-page softcover that covers 7 basic concepts in 6 lessons:
  1. Eight parts of speech
  2. Three kinds of sentences and one variation
  3. Five sentence completers or complement
  4. Subjects and predicates
  5. Difference between a phrase and clause
  6. Sentences by function: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory
  7. Sentences by structure: simple, compound, complex

I chose to read through this book myself to see how to best use it with my children at their varying stages of grammar instruction. Ms. Herzog's philosophy for teaching grammar is different from the one I have followed. She suggests that formal grammar need not be taught until a child reaches a mental maturity level of 12-14 years old.

Well, my children are 13, 11, and 7, and I have already instructed all of them in grammar lessons since the first grade. So, for my two older boys this book would really serve as a review of concepts they've already learned. Since my daughter is just only on the verge of completing second grade, I may be able to implement some of the methods I have been exposed to in this book.

I pretty much spent this entire year teaching my daughter to memorize definitions and learn what Ms. Herzog suggests are abstract concepts. I don't think learning them has done any real harm, but I got a taste of what she is talking about when a couple of weeks ago I was asking my daughter to locate certain types of words (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, interjections, and so on) in a story. She struggled immensely with this task that her grammar lesson was asking her to do. She'd spent all year memorizing and learning about various concepts but was having a difficult time applying what she'd learned. (Except for nouns - she's awesome at identifying those!)

Hmmm, I may have to rethink my grammar teaching methods. I can't really backtrack, so I may try and use this grammar book as a guide and go a little slower next year making sure she masters one concept at a time.

Despite the title, this book is flexible and can be used in any way that best fits the child. For some, this book can simple be a review and won't take 6 weeks to complete. For others, each lesson may take longer than a week to complete. With my daughter, I won't be following the 1 lesson per week schedule!

While I was reading, I noticed that on page 12 the last few sentences were accidentally left out. Ms. Herzog went back to her original writing and graciously sent me the completed paragraph:
 
"Spend a few days working with 2-word sentences. Remind yourselves that there are two parts of a sentence: Subject and predicate. Identify the subject; tell if the kind of word used in the subject is a noun or a pronoun. Identify the predicate; Identify the kind of word in the predicate as a verb. You may like to call it an action word or action verb."

She informed me that this paragraph will be added to the next printing.

My plan is to continue using both Budding Authors and 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar to help my daughter become a strong writer. If your child could use some help with writing or grammar, you may want to consider checking out these materials for yourself!
 
 Click to read more Joyce Herzog reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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