One Minute Reader

One Minute Reader is a product created by Read Naturally, a company founded by a former special education teacher and her husband. They provide different, structured intervention programs aimed at helping children succeed at reading. Their programs develop and support the five essential components of reading , with the One Minute Reader being primarily focused on building reading fluency.

Reading fluency is the ability to read without having to stop and decode each word. A fluent reader will be able to read without pausing every couple of words to figure out what the next word says. Fluency is important, because if a child can read fluently, they can spend less time thinking about what each word says, and more time focusing on what the passage they are reading is about (comprehension). As a former teacher of struggling readers myself, I can tell you that students who were able to read fluently were typically stronger readers than those who could not AND they usually enjoyed reading more. Think about it, how much fun is it to read when it takes a significant amount of time just to sound out each word?

The Read Naturally approach combines elements of teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring to improve reading efficiency. The One Minute Reader does this by having students repeatedly read the same passage over a period of time, both out loud by themselves, then out loud with an audio CD, and finally, out loud to an adult, while keeping track of their reading rate at the same time!

The One Minute Reader starter pack came with a book, a timer, an audio CD and a colored pencil for keeping track of the score. A few of the things I really like about this program are that it doesn’t take a long period of time (my son spent just a few minutes on it each day) and it really is something your older child can do on their own! One Minute Reader includes six different levels, and there are sample stories you can use to determine which level will be best for your child. My son, who has grown tremendously in his reading ability in the past year yet still struggles with fluency, used Level 3 (the purple book).

Now, my son is not a HUGE fan of reading, so ANY extra reading we have to do is pretty much always met with groans! However, when we got this package, he thought the timer was cool, and liked that this was something short that he could do on his own (there are very easy to understand instructions printed on the first page of the book). Plus, the passages in the books are also short (around 200 words or so at this level) and very high interest. This is important because many kids who struggle with reading need a story they will LIKE if they are going to read it willingly. The book I received had stories about a fire, the dust bowl, and Titanic’s sister ship!

On the first day, he read the story by himself and took his “cold” score. This is the number of words he read, minus the number of words he missed, and he recorded it on a graph at the back of the book. The next day he read the story with the CD and again recorded his score, and, yes, he did better. The day after that he read it a few more times himself, then read it with me, and we recorded his “hot” score in red on his graph. After the three days, his score went up by about 70 words!! The book also includes a short quiz students take when they are done, to help build comprehension, and a puzzle they complete as they work through the book. There is also a glossary at the end of the book to explain any unfamiliar words or expressions.

Now, for the important question, did this practice spill over into my son’s every day reading? Because, of course, if it doesn’t then what good is it? Well, I can tell you that I have seen improvement in my son’s day-to-day reading as well. As he becomes more confident, he stumbles less and is now reading entire paragraphs without having to decode. In my classroom, I saw similar improvement with students who used programs like One Minute Reader as well.

This program has won numerous awards, including the Mom’s Choice Award, and the iParenting Media Award. One Minute Reader even has a website where you can get more information about how the program works, see videos, and find out about their risk-free 30 day trial offer!

One Minute Reader starter packs cost $24.95. A “bundle”, which would include the timer, the colored pencil, and 8 books with audio CD’s costs $99.95, and you can buy individual books with CD’s for $12.95.

I really like this program, and I think the cost is reasonable for what you get, but I have to say, I don’t have an extra $100.00 in my budget for this. I would, however, consider getting a few of the individual books to use with my son. If you bought a few at a time, it wouldn’t be too much of an expense. You can check out One Minute Reader and more Read Naturally products at the company website here:
http://www.readnaturally.com/index.htm

Remind me why I’m doing this again??

Hmmmm….so the topic for the TOS Blog Cruise this time around is “Why did you decide to homeschool?” Well, that is a rather loaded question. First, I have a confession to make: there are days when I (gasp!) think about how much easier it would be to enroll my kids in school and get a 9-5 job. Really…I love my children, and I love being home with them, but there are days when I just DON’T want to do it anymore.

Those days usually go like this: I wake up to find that one (or more) animals has thrown up on the floor…usually I discover this by stepping in it! Then as my angels finally come grumbling out of their bedrooms, and sit down in the kitchen I discover that what WAS their favorite breakfast cereal is now disgusting and they absolutely can NOT stomach eating another bite! What follows is a back and forth that usually ends with me saying “Fine, I guess you’ll just be hungry then!!” (seriously…sometimes I feel like the meanest, most unsympathetic mom in the universe). The day goes on, filled with questions about why something has to be done (math for instance…what is it’s purpose? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and the boys periodically acting like they want to kill each other. By the end of the day, I am exhausted, and I have a messy house, and dinner to cook and things to get ready so I can do all this again tomorrow!! Why am I telling you this? Because I want to make it clear that homeschooling is NOT an easy thing to do. Why do I keep doing it, after days like this? The reason has to do with WHY I started homeschooling in the first place.

Let me take you back to when my kids were born….my husband and I were so excited! I had just graduated college, our oldest son was a newborn, my husband was already a firefighter, and I had my first job asย a middle school teacher to look forward to in the fall! We were fortunate to have my grandmother living with us to take care of the baby, so I could be sure he was in good hands while I was gone. I went to work….and promptly found I missed my little boy. I would come home and spend hours grading papers and prepping for school and I felt like my grandma held my boy more than I did. Still, this was how things were supposed to work? Right?

When my oldest started kindergarten, his brother was two. I was still working. We met someone in our neighborhood who said they were going to homeschool their child, who was the same age as my oldest. “Homeschool?” my husband and I wondered, “that sounds crazy!”. As my boys got older, I was fortunate to be able to have them both at school with me. I “felt” like I had the best of both worlds…I was working and earning money, and I still got to be around my kids….in the car, the hallway etc. But a few years later, I started to realize something…the time I spent with my kids revolved around doing homework, eating, taking baths etc. I started to question if I was missing out on something. Around this time, we went to a new church, where several people (including some good friends of ours) homeschooled. The more I thought about it, the more I felt God tugging on my heart saying “Brandy, this is where I want you to be.”

So you would think that after feeling the Lord’s call I would jump right in, right? WRONG! Let’s just say I am a very stubborn woman. I argued, “but what about my college education, did I do all that work just do I could stay home?….and how will we get by without my income?…and what about my students? they need me too!” This conversation between God and me, and my husband went on for a few years! ย And then it happened…my school had a special Thanksgiving lunch. I was able to get a sub to come to my room so I could eat with my youngest boy (this is the one who is mommy’s baby). We’re eating lunch together, and I start seeing parents of some of my students…I tell my son (who was in 3rd grade at the time), “just a minute, I just have to go talk to so-and-so, I’ll be right back”. Needless to say, I did not come right back. I was so intent on doing my job well, I forgot about being a good mom. I remember looking back at my son, after what had been way too long, and seeing the tears on his face…he just wanted time with mommy. I felt terrible, like a total failure..I was a good teacher…but not a good mom.

I went home that night and prayed for hours. This homeschool thing had been weighing on my heart for years now, and I told God if He wanted me to do it, I would, but I needed him to speak to my husbands heart as well. About six months later, we had some major financial changes in our lives (not necessarily for the positive) and at that time, my husband said, “If you want to homeschool, you might as well do it!” So I did, and I’ve NEVER looked back since. You see, I realize that even on those difficult, frustrating days, I am now a mom who is fully engaged with her children all the time. Yes, in a LOT of ways, teaching full time was less challenging, even with middle schoolers…but I know that kids grow fast, and I already regret missing so much time with my children…I refuse to miss anymore! On those days when things are tough, I remind myself how it felt in that lunchroom when my boy had been so hurt because all he wanted was mommy’s attention.

And of course, our bad days are few, and those moments of giggles and hugs and handholding and love, more than make up for them! So that is why I homeschool. If you would like to see what other crew members have to say about this topic, click here:

Thankfulness

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18

As Turkey Day is approaching, the topic for this month’s TOS Crew Blog Hop is “I am thankful for…” Wow! There are so many, many things I am thankful for…and so many more that I SHOULD be thankful for everyday, but never seem to take the time to notice. The bible verse I began with says we should rejoice ALL the time, and I have to admit….I can be a bit of a grumbler. Far too often, I take my focus off of what I have and put it onto what I don’t. It seems so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day difficulties, and forget the big picture of the blessings you have. I am working hard to change that line of thinking, by taking time daily to remind myself of how fortunate I am. So…here goes:
1. I am thankful for God and the salvation given to me through His son, Jesus Christ.
2. I am thankful for my two crazy, loud, funny, exasperating and healthy boys!
3. I am thankful for my hard-working husband who makes so many sacrifices so that I can stay home with our kids.
4. I am thankful for good friends who support me in what I do.
5. I am thankful for the support I get from other homeschoolers…both in advice and encouragement on those days it seems too hard.
6. I am thankful that each day is a NEW day and I am given a chance to start over and correct past mistakes!!
7. I am thankful for good books and sweet kitties to curl up on my lap when I read.
8. I am thankful that we have a home to live in.
9. I am thankful for my mom.
10. I am thankful to have the ability to homeschool my kids.
11. I am thankful for our service men and women who are far from home fighting for our country.
12. I am thankful that my cousin came back from his year in Afghanistan.
13. I am thankful for all the delicious flavors of coffee available during the holidays.
14. Ditto for ice cream flavors!! ๐Ÿ™‚
15. I am thankful for cozy nights on the couch watching holiday specials and other movies with my family!
16. I am thankful for date nights with my hubby! (even if they don’t come frequently enough ๐Ÿ™‚ )
17. I am thankful for Netflix, which provides entertainment to this cable-free family!
18. I am thankful for the beach, where we love to spend our time.
19. I am thankful for theme-parks, because we love to go ride the rides.
20. I am thankful for my this slightly unusual, frequently crazy, often difficult, but totally beautiful life that I live!
I could list more, but then you’d be here reading forever. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and have many chances to count your blessings. To see what other members of the Crew are thankful for, click here:

http://homeschoolcrew.com/784111/

Keyboard Town Pals

Let’s face it, knowing how to type, quickly and without errors, is a VERY useful skill in today’s world. With technology growing at what seems like the speed of light, I can only imagine how important a skill it will be when our children are grown. While I lament the loss of hand-written letters, I have to admit, email is just soooo very convenient! ๐Ÿ™‚

I remember taking typing my sophomore year of high school. All of the students sat in front of a keyboard with our little flip book and typed away! I got pretty good at it, at least good enough to type on the computer without getting frustrated. Now, when I see my boys “hunting and pecking” while trying to type, it’s another story…frustration is written all over their faces!

Keyboard Town Pals is a learn-to-type program aimed at children ages 5-10. This is not the “flip-book” typing you may remember, instead, it’s fun, and a lot more like a game! Kids are able to proceed through the program at their own pace, and there are no timed tests, just videos featuring the puppets that live in Keyboard Town!

Your host in Keyboard Town is Sunny, and she introduces children to the characters and set up of the program.

Each puppet lives in a house in Keyboard Town, which is divided into sections (uptown, downtown, and home key street). The video lessons feature the puppets talking about some of the things they like to do in Keyboard Town (i.e. “Frank and George take Violin lessons” when a child is learning the keys F, G, and V.) While they are watching the video, children are prompted to type the target letters, and the outline of a hand over a keyboard appears on the screen to tell them how to move their fingers. Lessons are short, and you can decide how many you want your child to complete. The Keyboard Town website has video previews available if you want to see how it works!

My youngest son, who tried this program, is 10 years old, so he is at the older end of the age range for it. I have to admit, he did kind of roll his eyes at me when he saw Sunny and the puppets, however, as he progressed through the program, he found he was getting the hang of this typing thing, and that was very motivating!! Since he started, he’s figured out how to properly place his hands on the keyboard, and he can type most of the letters with his index and pointer fingers without looking!

Keyboard Town Pals is available in English, French and Spanish and the cost of the program differs based on what you want to buy. A web-based learn-to-type program will cost $39.95 and is valid for one year from your activation date. You can also purchase a CD-ROM version of the program for the same price. Keyboard Town also offers “bundles” that include Keyboard Town Pals Learn to Type and Little Hands Can Type. You can get more information at the website here:

http://www.keyboardtownpals.com/

**Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.