Friday, May 24, 2013

Joyce Herzog: Budding Authors and 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar Review

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I recently heard a friend of mine telling me how her mother-in-law, a teacher, was concerned about the lack of writing skills in children today and she was concerned that homeschoolers would also have problems. It made me quite happy that I had just received Budding Authors and 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar, my review products from Joyce Herzog.  Joyce Herzog has more than 25 years of teaching experience in both public and private school settings having taught elementary and learning disabled students. Additionally, she has been a huge help to homeschoolers for a number of years. 

I was thrilled to discover, "Her unique philosophy to learning enables learners of all ages and abilities to progress."  It was also encouraging to find out that her "methods fit well with most other approaches, including the 'real book' method, unschooling, relaxed homeschooling and the Charlotte Mason learning style."  One of the reasons I was drawn toward My Father's World as our core curriculum was the Charlotte Mason influence. I loved the idea of narration, copywork and dictation.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the Budding Authors series.

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The Budding Authors Series is a set of 5 spiral-bound books that progress a step at a time, starting with simple sentences using simple words and finishing with researching and writing about U.S. History.

The 5 books are:
Step Into Writing
Step On Into Writing
Adventures in Writing
Then and Now
Writing U.S. history

Budding Authors: Step Into Writing is for beginning readers and it uses short vowel words and some sight words. This is the book we started with as Tabitha is only 6 years old. With her reading skills, I think she may have been able to do the next book, but I didn't want to overwhelm her with the writing. The first sentence to be written is, "A cat has a rat," definitely easy when it comes to the reading portion for her.

This first book utilizes three kinds of pages: copywork, dictation and experience story. 

The sentence I mentioned is the first copywork sentence in the book. Your child will find a page with a short passage on the left, a picture illustrating the passage on the right and several lines for them to write on. A child is to write the passage as neatly as possible, not rushing through to get it done. The CPS columns on the right help your child check their work and remember to focus on getting these details correct. The C stands for Capitalization, the P stands for Punctuation and the S stands for Spelling. A column is purposely left blank so you can determine if there is anything your child is struggling with or you want to see improvement in. 

You will notice that the lines are not the same as normal lines we probably all grew up with, top, bottom and middle dashed line. This paper is the same as that used by Handwriting Without Tears. Most of the letters fall in between the double lines, with capitals starting above the line and some letters, like g, j and p continuing below the line. 

The second type of page is the Dictation page. The child is presented with another page of lines, with the CPS columns, along with a Word Box and a picture illustrating the passage. 

The dictation stories are composed of words the child should know, however, if a child doesn't know one or more, or is unsure, the parent puts the words in the word box at the top of the page for the child to reference  while writing.  The parent will find a list of the passages with the corresponding picture at the beginning of the book. These sentences are to be read one at a time by the parent. The parent should say it twice and the child should repeat the sentence. If the child is still unsure, the parent can repeat it again. When the child is confident he or she can write the sentence without it being repeated again he or she may write as neatly as possible, remembering to keep track of those capitals, punctuation and spelling. 

Here is the first dictation passage,

 and here is the final passage in Book 1.

The third kind of page in the Step into Writing book is called an Experience Story. The first step is to discuss the picture with your child. You can talk about who the people are in the picture, what they are doing, where they are, etc. Then your child tells you the story while you write it down. The most important thing, I would say, is to make sure they are giving you complete sentences. 

Tabitha loves to give me a title to her story before we start. Sometimes the story only ends up with a couple of sentences related to the title. We are going to work on having her stories be a better representation of the title. 

We have been working our way through Step Into Writing quite slowly. It has actually been a bit slower than I had expected knowing that Tabitha enjoyed writing stories. I had wanted her to work on her handwriting and organizing her writing. I think at the beginning I was having her do too much at one sitting. I thought she would be able to do more than she was really able to. So, we are now sticking to the recommendation of the author, "For most students, 10 minutes is a reasonable working time." When I set the timer for 10 minutes I did notice that Tabitha got most of her copywork done. I had her finish the last sentence and then we moved on to the Experience story. 

In addition to Capitalization, Punctuation and Spelling, we are working on Spacing. Just in the few weeks that we have been using the Budding Authors book I have seen quite the improvement in her handwriting, especially in the consistency of her letter and word spacing. 

I wanted to share a little bit about the remainder of the series. 

Budding Authors: Step On Into Writing is the second book and it follows almost the same lesson pattern. The child will have copywork, dictation and an experience story, however, they will also get to write their own story.

Budding Authors: Adventures in Writing takes it a step further and has the child look at the picture and answer some specific questions. Then you can choose to have them use words from the word boxes, or not. The child is to write a short story in a single paragraph. This book no longer has the double lined paper, but uses the same lines as in the experience stories of the previous two books. 

Budding Authors: Then and Now asks the child to compare the past and the present by reading about a picture of how things were in the past and asking the child how things are similar and how they are different.

Budding Authors: Writing U.S. History is the final book of the series.  In this book the child will actually do research and write their own U.S. History in chronological order from beginnings and native inhabitants of America to current day and disasters such as natural disasters and man made disasters. 

There were a few concerns I had as we were working our way through Step Into Writing. It was quite confusing to be confronted with the double lined paper without having an explanation in the introduction. Once I realized it was similar to the Handwriting Without Tears paper I was less confused. My concern would be for those who have never had any experience with Handwriting Without Tears, because I have never seen this paper anywhere besides there. 

I also was confused because the introduction states there should be a dictionary which includes the number words, color words and sight words. I found a dictionary in the second book, Step On Into Writing, which includes these words with a picture to illustrate it. So, I am not sure if the dictionary is missing in my book, or if there wasn't supposed to be one. 

All in all, this series of books is going to be enjoyable to work through with Tabitha and I have plans to purchase them for the other children when they are ready. I love that Tabitha is practicing neatness and improving her handwriting. She is learning about sentence structure and is able to use her imagination. We will be able to see how she has progressed, from the first page of the first book, through the end of the book and then on to each book in the series.

They other book I received was 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar.

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 I feel, at this point, that this book will be a help to me to remember things I have forgotten. I have always struggled with Grammar and I would like to refresh my knowledge before I need to teach it to the children. As she has stated in the book, younger children do not need to be taught grammar, or the "abstract" concepts in grammar. Children learn grammar by having it modeled for them in real life conversations, by teaching letter names and sounds, by teaching spelling and syllables, things we don't even think of as grammar. 

Here are the concepts you will find in this book:
  • Eight parts of speech
  • Three kinds of sentences and one variation
  • Five sentence completers or complements
  • Simple and Compound subjects, predicates and sentences
  • the difference between a phrase and a clause
  • kinds of sentences by function 
  • kinds of sentences by structure
There are some great appendices in the back of the book too:
  • Capitalization Rules
  • Punctuation Rules
  • Spelling Rules
  • Verbs
  • Verbals
  • Irregular Verbs
I am looking forward to digging into this book more, though it will be quite a while before I will be using it with the children. 

You can order these books from the Joyce Herzog website
Then and Now is $12 and
The 6 Weeks to Understanding Grammar book is $15
(If you click on the links of the titles above, you can check out some sample pages for each of the books.)

It doesn't seem to me that there are any specific ages for these books, it appears that it goes more by reading level as the website mentions Step into Writing will fit well with students who are partway through the Scaredy Cat Reading System Level 2 and Step On Into Writing would work well for students finishing level 2 or beginning level 3. Adventures in Writing works well with Level 3 or as a beginning creative writing program.

If you would like your child to improve their writing skills and would love them to do so through copywork, dictation and experience stories I would definitely recommend checking out these books. And these are not all that Joyce Herzog offers, so head on over and check it out. 

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