Spelling You See: Modern Milestones (a TOS Crew Review)

The items we received for review

The items we received for review

Many of you will recognize Demme Learning as the ones who brought you Math-U-See, a favorite in the homeschool world. They now offer Spelling in their line-up of products. This review is limited to only one choice of many, depending upon skill level, of the Spelling You See curriculum called Modern Milestones.

About the product (Modern Milestones)

What we received: Spelling You See Instructor’s Handbook ($14.00) and Student Pack ($30.00) which includes a pack of erasable coloring pencils. Never knew these existed! Love them!

Book G in the Spelling You See line-up, this curriculum is skill based rather than grade based. For this review, my 8th grader worked on it. He has struggled a bit with spelling, and mainly sounding out hard words. I was hoping that a refresher in Spelling would help him.

For those familiar with the Math-U-See program, the pages will look familiar (A,B,C….etc) for each day/lesson. The time period used for Modern Milestones is early modern and is not just limited to the United States. The focus of the passages studied is on “artists, musicians, scientists, and others who have influenced our world since early modern times” (per the website). One example of a character used is Johannes Gutenberg.

The Instructor’s Handbook begins by introducing you to the how and why of the method used in Spelling You See Modern Milestones. It is also very helpful with lesson planning, showing you how the lessons are organized. It also provides the passages for dictation, answer key and even a section of FAQ’s! This book is also small enough to take with you on the go–not bulky but not tiny so that you can’t read the writing. I found this guide VERY helpful in helping me to understand this particular method of Spelling. As he was learning, I was learning as well. In my opinion the program is difficult to use without it, especially with the answer keys and dictation passages. I would dare say it’s mandatory.

Now to the fun part! The Student Book! Colored pencils are a must for this so I was glad to see them included. The student reads passages and marks items in various colors depending upon what is asked for. Students are encouraged to look for prefixes and suffixes added to base words to ‘learn’ these. They are then marked with the appropriate color that the lesson calls for. An example is to look for, and mark in yellow, the suffixes -ed and -ing. Modern Milestones uses reading passages, dictation, marking, and copywork to provide a multi-sensory approach to learn Spelling.

Each lesson has an interactive activity for the student. They start out each day by reading the passage aloud either to you, or to themselves depending upon your child’s ability and your comfort. Copywork is included in 4 of the 5 days. They read the passage each day (it is the same passage each day), then ‘copy’ it on the following page. On another day the students are given the opportunity to use what they are learning in context with a page titled “Workshop.” The final day has the student doing copywork from an oral dictation by the Teacher. These aren’t short passages, and they are challenging without being overwhelming.

Final Impressions:

As a mom/teacher, I really enjoyed the multi-sensory approach. I am a firm believer in repetition, repetition! I also believe there is much to be said about reading and writing the same things over and over. What is brilliant about this curriculum is that it uses figures in history to do so! While they are learning how to spell, they are also tucking away facts on History, Science, Art and more. This would also lend well for those who love Unit Studies and/or the Classical Method to use in addition to the time period you are in.

My son didn’t completely share my enthusiasm, as he tends to bristle at repetitive work. That said, he did find much joy in reading the passages–Biography is one of his favorite genres of Literature. He is also big on those “Useless Information/Facts/Trivia” books so I was FINALLY glad to have some USEFUL information to fill his noggin with.

All in all we were well pleased with this curriculum, and I have two younger girls who love this type of thing, and I look forward to perhaps trying it with them when they are old enough!


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Spelling You See Review

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At The Cross…Scripture Share

Scripture Saturday 1

He was despised and rejected by men; a man

of sorrows, and acquainted with

grief; and as one from whom

men hide their faces

He was despised,

and we esteemed Him not.

(Isaiah 53:3 ESV)

Draw near to Him,

o’ hear our plea,

One whose burden set us free.

From blood soaked prayers,

to Calvary,

our King is lifted

for all to see.

Lord of Lords,

and King of Kings,

One whose birth

the angels sing.

Draw near to Him,

the Lamb Who was slain,

God’s perfect offering.

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Weekly Wrap-Up, Week 21

weekly wrap up week 21

This has been an amazing, fast paced week! We kicked it off on the blog with a review of our new FAVORITE Phonics curriculum from Memoria Press. The early part of the week was also busy, as it saw my two sons running for an office in our local chapter of Junior Civitan. The youngest (age 14), will be the 2014-2015 outgoing Secretary and was seeking PR Coordinator for the 2015-2016 year. The oldest, (age 16), was seeking the office of President for the 2015-2016 year. It was a TIGHT race! I have been SO thankful for the huge difference this group has made in both of my son’s lives and am so glad they are loving it!

The weekend saw us doing lots of yard work….and learning happened!! We recently rented a home that desperately needed a landscape clean-up. This is one of my favorite projects, and we were amazed at all the beauty, and nature, that we found! Our oldest daughter LOVES all things birds and nature related. For a while she had a pretty strong obsession with birds and checked out several library books on them. While mama was hacking away at a HUGE overgrown ‘shrub,’ a bird’s nest was spotted. Immediately she wanted to know what type of bird laid the eggs that were in it. She remembered a book we had on our shelf that we had read multiple times, and one of her favorites.

weekly wrap up 21 bird book

weekly wrap up 21 bird eggs

The pictures in her book that she used to identify the eggs!

She was so excited when she discovered that those three little eggs matched one of the pictures…perfectly….and no, it wasn’t a Robin. She triple checked that. Her dad even disbelieved what she saw until we showed him the eggs and the picture. These very light blue eggs had brown spots. Yep, you guessed it! Hawk eggs! This was surreal to us as we didn’t think they laid their eggs so close to the ground but this bush was majorly overgrown. Each day this week she has checked on ‘her’ eggs. I’m afraid mama may have abandoned them :(

The next words out of her mouth were priceless…you must know my amazing girl!!

“Mama, if you keep trimming that bush, maybe we will find an Emu egg next!”

Oh, mercy, child….let it NOT be so! This led to a great teaching opportunity for her brother, another animal/nature lover, to tell her about all things Emu…and why she needn’t worry over finding one smack in the middle of the neighborhood!

If that wasn’t enough, she caught a teeny tiny baby frog and decided she wanted to keep it. Umm..no child…let the animal go free…Next up on the agenda was catching a caterpillar and placing it into my Rubbermaid tote until it “turns into a butterfly mom.” Hmm..ok, that one I can deal with…until said caterpillar made a strange move… “a ball came out her bottom mom!”At that point it was all over for me…I waved the white flag and let her name her Faith. Oy. Do caterpillars excrete ball like substances? That research is for another day (or never)!

On a more serious note, the latter part of our week found our 16 year old boy sitting down filling out the paperwork to take his permit test Friday…which is tomorrow (almost technically today–I am a night owl!) I fretted over this for so long. Anyone who knows our story, knows that this moment has been in the back of my mind and on the prayer list often, especially in those early years. There was a fear that maybe it would never be for him. That fear was then compounded by the fact that he needed paperwork ‘notarized’ as to his homeschooling status. Ugh. Well, fear number one was abated when his Neurologist released him to drive, cautioning him to be careful if he got tired but otherwise zero restrictions (Praise God!) Fear number two was also abated when I called my church to get a notary recommendation, (and fearing that I would have to  PROVE to the notary that he IS homeschooled), when once again-a familiar voice calmed my fears. Glory!! Our church secretary is not only a notary, she homeschooled as well! We were free to drop by the church and get those pesky papers signed! This wasn’t the first time a familiar voice on the line at church had calmed some fears. That is exactly how we rented the house we were in. We needed to move pretty quick. One of the ladies answered the phone and just happened to have a home to rent!! Thank you Abba!! My church family is just that….my family. They have the most caring hearts ever, and we enjoy being there as often as we can!

I hope you enjoyed a peek into our week, we would love for you to link-up with us and share yours!!


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Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition~(a TOS Crew Review)

We received the book on the left; the rest of the items were what we purchased for Semester One. Not at all expensive!

We received the book on the left; the rest of the items were what we purchased for Semester One. Not at all expensive!

One thing that has impressed me the most about homeschooling is the fact that my kids have been able to pursue their interests. It has also enabled me to see gifts and talents that may have not otherwise been known…or developed. Art is one such subject. We were recently blessed with the ability to review ARTistic Pursuits curriculum, Book 1:The Elements of Art and Composition, which targets the high school grades.

About the Product: Book 1:The Elements of Art and Composition by ARTistic Pursuits

This book is intended to give the student an in-depth look at art and composition while producing original drawings using graded pencils and charcoal. No previous art experience is required to use this text. This course is for the high school ages. Another bonus is that it is written directly to the student and they are able to use this independently. Suggestions are given at the bottom of the product page for credits and course names. An example is one full credit for completing the entire book and it’s projects. Once the full course is completed, the student should be ready for college level art.

What is included:


Everything you need to teach/learn from this curriculum is contained in one book, however you do have to purchase your own art supplies in order to use this course. The book contains the lessons, book content and scheduling, supply lists, credit/scheduling advice and an evaluation sheet in the back for obtaining a number and letter grade. It comes comb bound and is printed on high quality paper. The colors are vibrant and the text is easy to read. List price on ARTistic Pursuits website for the book: $47.95. In my opinion, that is comparable, and a great deal, for a full credit of art. I particularly love how the supply list is broken up by semester with a section for additional supplies. That makes shopping so much easier. We purchased the full range of supplies for semester 1, along with some of the ‘additional supplies’ that we didn’t have on hand. It was very inexpensive.

How we used the product:

My 16 year old son, currently in the 11th grade, loves to draw. However, his preferred method of drawing is eyeing something, usually Anime, and trying to ‘reproduce’ it on his own. We decided to try and use this curriculum to teach him a more in depth approach. We went and bought the Semester One supplies to help in his endeavors. I enjoyed the text with each lesson. Using stories, images, famous paintings, and visual how-to’s, this set-up is perfect for any type of learner! As I said before, the pages are printed on high quality paper and makes the pictures come to life.

Each unit is broken up into parts: Lesson 1 is Vocabulary and Creative Exercise (where the learning begins). Lesson 2 follows with Art Appreciation and Art History. This is where the really neat paintings are located to view which helps reinforce learning from Day 1 by viewing real Art. This section also teaches on various art throughout history-for example, in Unit 1, Roman Art (500BC-475 AD) vs Art in the Middle Ages is discussed. Lesson 3 is Techniques. This is where a particular skill is taught, along with visual pictures of the lesson (HUGE help!!). Finally, the Unit culminates in Lesson 4: Application. This is where you create your own piece of art and includes materials, references (to research what is drawn), artist tip and a look back section.

The student is ACTIVE on each day of Lesson. This isn’t a hand it to them curriculum where they read a little bit and make a pretty picture on the final day. This is a highly interactive experience and requires as much. We chose to do “Art Days” on Tuesday and Thursday, taking two weeks to cover each Unit.



Drawing the clock

Drawing the clock



He was a little ‘shy’ about this picture and asked me to remind everyone that Anime is more his ‘thing’

Final Impressions:

Overall I was very pleased with the presentation of this course, as well as the cost for the Semester One materials. This is a VERY thorough, well thought out curriculum. I highly appreciated the fact that it was written TO the students, and used conversational tones without sounding boorish OR childish. The paper was high quality and the images were gorgeous.

The only concerns I have is in the book itself. One con that I see is the comb binding. For the price I would much prefer spiral binding. We use a ‘crate’ system to store school books in. This comb made that difficult and we were concerned about the comb coming apart or bending. Also, the cover page and back page were a little flimsy and perhaps printing on thick cardstock or laminating them would serve the presentation better.

My son thought it was presented very well, and stated that he did enjoy it (the Art History and images most of all). He would use it for a full semester. As a stubborn boy, he prefers eyeing and drawing without learning the techniques.

I would not hesitate to recommend this to another homeschooler, and I am researching the early levels for my younger daughters who love all things art! As a mama of 4, I appreciate the ‘leg work’ done for me and having a supply list where it belongs–in the front! I also like how it is broken down in the lesson pages as well.



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First Start Reading (a TOS Review Crew Review)

Phonics. Learning to Read. Those words have been scary for me, especially this year. You see, my older two boys went to public school for several years before this journey began. My next in line virtually taught herself to read. I have tried nearly every curricula on the market for my last child, age 6 finishing up Kindergarten, who also has vision issues. The opportunity to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press to use with our daughter really caught my attention for several reasons.

  1. Memoria Press is from my home state of Kentucky…and….only about 2 hours from my hometown!
  2. We own one book from Memoria Press already and the older boys really liked it.
  3. I have always been intrigued in some aspects of the Classical Method and Memoria’s website, and book covers are very soothing! The website is easy to navigate to boot!

As part of the full package of First Start Reading, I received the Teacher’s Book and Student books A-D. The complete package is$42.95 and $28.00 for additional reader sets (the consumables part). This is a FANTASTIC deal! The paperback books are sturdy, well bound and the paper quality is excellent. Sometimes I have my Teacher Manual’s spiral bound for ease of use but no need to with this one. It opens, and stays open, easily. This book is listed on the website under the Kindergarten tag.

The teacher’s manual and student books go together. You need them both. The teacher’s manual is such a huge help-it is virtually scripted for you and offers lots of helps. To be honest, I learned a lot myself from it! It’s VERY easy to use, especially for someone fearful like me, and I felt immediate relief each day when we sat down to study. The guide truly holds your hand through the program. The student book is black and white, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! Many lessons call for the students to color the pictures or draw some of their own. My daughter loved this part!

Memoria 2

One of her favorite parts! Coloring the correct pictures

Although advertised as a Phonics program, we often found that some additional Language Arts activities crept in. One example is handwriting. While teaching the lesson for the letter to be learned, the student is instructed on the proper way to write said letter. Questions are asked for reinforcement, such as which line the letter starts on (top, middle, bottom) and how many times do you pick your pencil up to write it? After the first day, my daughter chattered this aloud with each lesson-she loved it! Another example is when reading sentences begins. They are introduced to capital letters, exclamation points/usage/and tone, apostrophe usage and periods. Another question is whether or not it is a complete sentence and why/why not?

Memoria 6

Teaching how to write the letter and which lines to start on


We used this product everyday as our primary Phonics curriculum along with Bob books for extra reading practice. I could honestly cry tears of relief and thanksgiving to Memoria Press. My daughter sees a vision therapist and we were told reading would be pretty tricky with her. We had tried so many programs and I was really getting nervous. After ONE week–yes I said ONE week-she took off with reading! The results were, and still are, very tangible. We were told that sight words would be very difficult for her. The word ‘the’ has always thrown her off and every program we have used has taught it as a sight word. Not First Start Reading! They taught her a way to sound out ‘th.’ Just sounding out those two letters made ALL the difference and now what is a simple word for most people to remember is now very easy for her as well!

FINALLY! She can now read “the” instead of fighting it as a ‘sight word.’


Another very helpful teaching method in First Start Reading is their blend method. Even I understood it! It’s breaking apart the words with a dotted line underneath. That’s it. No ladder,ball, tiles or anything else crazy. Now, when she gets stuck on a word anywhere, I write the word on the board using First Start Reading’s blend technique and she instantly gets it!

All words that start with F (from the student book)

All words that start with F (from the student book)

My daughter went from tears at Phonics time, to begging to do it before anything else! Just this week, we completed Book A and she wanted to finish all of the assessment tests so she could start book B on Monday! We started part way through the book with ‘new to her’ skills so that is how we finished so quick. There are several assessments in the back. One is all of the words covered and the student is to read those. There are notes to the teacher to know what to do. In the assessment lies another Language Arts component. One of the assessments is to have her ‘spell’ the words she learned in the book. I was amazed when I did this with her! Not only did she read every single word, but she spelled every one of them right including capital letters and apostrophes! She was so excited to finally have a Spelling test like her big sis! Big sis (age 7 and a very advanced reader), was pretty impressed too and asked to give her the final Spelling test. She loves the Teacher’s Manual as well!

I know this is long but I cannot contain my gratitude to this company, and this product-First Start Reading. My little girl now loves to read, is flying through Bob books, copying ‘big girl’ books into her notebook, and has begged for several Magic Treehouse books anticipating the day that she will be able to read them herself. I was so impressed that not only do I plan to continue using this all the way, I have acquired more of Memoria Press’ Language Arts curriculum for BOTH of my daughters and plan to use much of it as our primary LA from here on out.

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