Learning A-Z

There are a few curriculum-related items that I have been wanting to write about, but I have not had much time and I wanted to be sure to do them justice because they are really great products.  The first of these is Learning A-Z (learninga-z.com).  I was introduced to this site by P’s kindergarten teacher, who used the online books for him.  Basically, there are several different subscription-based products and while I liked them when I first took a look at the site, I was not sure that it was worth the very high (almost $100) price.  After using it for most of this year, I can say that it certainly has been worth the price for us and my only regret is not using it sooner.
 

Learning A-Z is made up of the following:

  • Reading A-Z – Printable leveled books, from pre-readers through fifth grade, both fiction and non-fiction
  • Raz-Kids – online leveled books
  • Vocabulary A-Z- printable vocabulary activities that correspond to the books (or words can be chosen on your own)
  • Writing A-Z – leveled writing resources for K through 6th grade
  • Science A-Z – leveled science resources for K through 6th grade
  • Headsprout – one decoding program for K through 2nd grade and another comprehension for 2nd grade and up

My experience has only included Reading A-Z and Vocabulary A-Z.  Since my budget is limited, I only planned on getting Reading A-Z and that was because it was on sale (10% off the $99.95 original price).  Even with the discount, I decided and undecided over and over again until the last minute.  When I purchased the Reading A-Z subscription, it offered an extra 5% off my order and any of the other products (plus the 10% off from the original sale price), so I decided to get Vocabulary A-Z, because I know that vocabulary is a weak area for both D and P, and it ended up costing me something like $25 extra for the one year subscription.

Some of the books we have used this year

Some of the books we have used this year for D and P

Reading A-Z: Why We Love It:

The best thing about Reading A-Z is the fact that they have so much variety!  I have probably used 100 books or more from this site this year, and I didn’t start using it until late fall.  When I signed up, I thought that I would just use whatever books they had on the two boys’ reading levels for reading comprehension, but I have actually used it more as a supplement for just about everything we have studied this year, especially in social studies and sometimes in science.  I type in a subject and the options will appear.  The results can be filtered by reading level or other criteria like fiction or non-fiction or you can search by the skill you want to work on (i.e. author’s purpose, cause and effect, etc.).  Each book comes with several comprehension activities and a quiz.
Here are a few other features:

  • – Books that focus on specific higher order thinking skills (books with lesson plans that focus on these things)
  • – Book “pairs,” which will give you two related books along with a guide for comparing and contrasting the two books
  • – Literature circle activities
  • – Practice with graphic organizers
  • – Comic/humor books
  • – Serial Books with characters that appear is a series of books
  • – Poetry – everything from a nursery rhymes for little ones to more sophisticated collections of poems for older students
  • – Books about current (or fairly current) events like Hurricane Sandy, the 2014 Olympics or recent oil spills
  • – Some classics like Frog and Toad, The Snowy Day, Little Bear and others
  • – Many come with complete lesson plans that emphasize reading strategies like visualization or summarizing
Foreign Language Learning

We also use Reading A-Z for our Spanish learning.  Many of the books have translations available in other languages, like Spanish or French and they also have some blank books, that only have pictures, no words.  I choose a book around first grade level in Spanish and we read it and make note cards for new words.  On another day I may give him a blank book and he can use his note cards to write his own sentences in Spanish on each page.

Multi-Level Learners

I know that many families teach their kids social studies and science together and just modify the activities for the level of each child.  I think that Reading A-Z would be especially useful for these families.  If, for example, you were studying Abe Lincoln, you could find books on several different reading levels about him.  Some books are even “multi-level” books, which have the same content on three different reading levels, so that three children could be reading the same book, but with vocabulary that is appropriate for that particular student.

Really, my only complaints about Reading A-Z are:

  1. It only goes up to a fifth grade level.
  2. I wish that all of the books had Spanish translations, not just some of them.
  3. It uses a lot of paper and ink because books are printed out.  You can save some by using the “pocketbook” versions, which are just smaller versions of the same thing, but on the longer books for older kids the font gets very small because there is a lot of text on each page.  You could also use the online program Raz-Kids, which are done totally online, but I like being able to write on the books and I do not want to pay almost $100 more for the Raz-Kids subscription.

Vocabulary A-Z

Vocabulary A-Z is primarily companion vocabulary program to Reading A-Z.  If a book is assigned in Reading A-Z, there is usually a vocabulary list to go along with it and activities can be printed out for the words on your list including definitions, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, analogies, cloze sentences, some games and a quiz.  You can click the link and get a whole set of activities for your words.  I also discovered that you can make your own lists and if the word that you want is not in their huge database, you can add it in pretty quickly.

I rotate vocabulary words, so that one week we may work on the words that are found in our social studies reading, while the next week we may work on the words in the novel we are discussing and the week after may be the vocabulary words from our writing program.  I have found that doing the activity packet (which is usually one or two pages of work per day) helps D really grasp the new vocabulary in a way that study cards or just writing out definitions do not.  Another important tip for new words is one that I learned from Lindamood Bell, and that is have your student make a clear mental image for each word.  If you can’t picture it, you can’t understand it.  Between visualizing and using the Vocabulary A-Z program, we are finally making good progress in vocabulary after trying many different methods with little success in previous years.

If you decide to try it out, they do have a free two week trial subscription, but the number of books you can download in that time is limited (so that you don’t just download 100 books to use throughout the year and then not subscribe).  I had done a trial several months before I subscribed, but I really didn’t understand how great it was until I had the full subscription.  Also, I found out about the sale by following them on facebook, so you may want to give that a try.

Starting Homeschool: Where to find what you need

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

This is the third of four parts in the “Starting Homeschool” series.  You can download the entire printable guide here: Starting Homeschool Guide.

We have talked about finding your philosophy/method of learning here, and we talked about some of the best known publishers of homeschool curriculum here.  Now we have a list that I could only call “Other Resources.”  There are online “stores” here as well as blogs from people that develop homeschool supplements, online classes, sites that direct you to free resources, video supplements for certain topics, and more.

If you have any other places that you love to use, feel free to add them in the comments so I can check it out.

Other Homeschool Resources

ABC Ya
abcya.com
educational games

All Kids Network
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com
lots of free worksheets and ideas

Amazon (of course)
http://www.amazon.com
new and used curriculum/supplements

Ambleside Online
http://www.amblesideonline.org
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Charlotte Mason-style, Christian

BrainPop
brainpop.com (for 3rd grade & up)
brainpopjr.com (for K-3rd)
We use this free through our school district, but I did have a subscription at one time.  It is another expensive one, but it really has so many topics and the companion activities are good.  Here is a list of the BrainPopJr topics (K-3rd) http://www.brainpop.com/educators/community/bp-jr-topic/?brainpop-subject=all
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Christian Book Distributors (CBD)
http://www.christianbook.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy).  Look for sales and free shipping specials.

Code
http://www.code.org
free code/programming lessons

Code Academy
http://www.codecademy.com/learn
free code/programming lessons

Code Monster
http://www.crunchzilla.com/code-monster
free code/programming lessons

Confessions of a Homeschooler
http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com
Blog by a homeschool mom who creates curriculum – very good and affordable for complete preschool program and supplements (music, literature and others) for older elementary students

CurrClick
http://www.currclick.com
Downloadable curriculum and supplements and online classes

Deep Space Sparkle
http://www.deepspacesparkle.com
Really great art class ideas

Easy Peasy
allinonehomeschool.com
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Christian

Ebay (of course)
http://www.ebay.com
new and used curriculum/supplements

Education.com
http://www.education.com
printable supplements (lots)

Educents
http://www.educents.com
Hardcopy and downloadable curriculum and supplements

Enchanted Learning
http://www.enchantedlearning.com
some free, LOTs of printables with subscription

Evan Moor Teacher File Box
http://www.evan-moor.com/t/teacher-file-box
subscription-based, access to their workbooks, must be printed from their site, cannot download pdfs, sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Exodus Books
http://www.exodusbooks.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)  New and used available

Free Homeschool Deals
http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com
Alerts you to free and very cheap resources (great site!)

Freely Educate
http://www.freelyeducate.com/
Blog with GREAT free resources (sometimes they repeat)

Homeschool Buyers Co-op
http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org
Group discounts on curriculum/supplements (deals are rotated throughout the year), Free homeschool ID too!

Homeschool Classifieds
http://www.homeschoolclassifieds.com
Used curriculum (anything and everything)

Homeschool Freebie of the Day
http://www.homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com
They will send you an email once a week with a free downloadable resource for each day of the coming week.  I usually don’t download them, but every once in a while there is something good.  Christian, very conservative

Howard Hughes Medical Institute
http://www.hhmi.org/educational-materials
FREE educational materials.  They don’t even charge you for shipping!  High quality dvds and other materials (all from a secular perspective).  Middles school and up.

Internet 4 Classrooms
http://www.internet4classrooms.com
Online activities to supplement your learning

Khan Academy
http://www.khanacademy.com
Free online learning.  Main emphasis is math, but also science lessons also.

Learning A to Z
learninga-z.com
Free trial.  Basically, these are leveled readers.  This is by far the most expensive resource we use, but we can use it for all three kids for Reading, Social Studies and Spanish.  We also added the vocabulary one, which creates a vocabulary lesson for many of the books.  We use probably well over 100 books a year from this site, so it is worth it for me. My review is coming.

Muzzy
Muzzy Languages
Free through our library.  Online language learning.

PBS
pbslearningmedia.org
A ton of classroom ideas for PBS documentaries, some ready-made lesson plans that can be adapted for homeschool.  Sign up to get access.

Rainbow Resource
http://www.rainbowresource.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)
(new and used)  They also have a free GIGANTIC catalog they will send you if you request it.

Saylor Foundation
saylor.org
Free online classes (K-12 classes launched in 2013)

Scholastic
http://printables.scholastic.com/printables/home
subscription based, large variety of subjects/grades

Spectrum (Carson Dellosa) workbooks
http://www.carsondellosa.com/cd2/searchcatalog.aspx?k=brand:Spectrum
good for review or extra practice, not teaching concepts in detail

Starfall
http://www.starfall.com
Lots of free early learning activities (Preschool-1st grade)

Super Teacher Worksheets
http://www.superteacherworksheets.com
subscription-based, printable worksheets/supplements (lots)

Teachers Pay Teachers
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com
printables created by teachers
Newsletter sends you 10 free each week

Time 4 Learning
http://www.time4learning.com
Free two week trial.  We have used parts of this site for different subjects.  In my opinion, it’s better for the younger years (Pre-K, K, 1st) but the kids usually love it.  You can cancel at any time. Sometimes I have used it over the summer as a review.

TumbleBooks
http://www.tumblebooks.com
Online books (mostly little kids) Read to them or read on their own.  Pairs fiction with non-fiction.  We use this free thorough the school district and the library also has a free subscription.

Vocabulary Spelling City
http://www.spellingcity.com
Subscription-based spelling and vocabulary activities.  Some activities are free.

Well Trained Mind
forums.welltrainedmind.com/classifieds/
Used curriculum – mostly classical education

Youth Digital
http://www.youthdigital.com/
computer classes/video game design (expensive but very good)
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op