Review: Memoria Press Second Grade Literature Set

We have really loved using the Second Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press to explore great books like The Courage of Sarah Noble and Little House in the Big Woods.  Unlike my older children, my current second grader hasn't naturally loved reading or easily identified parts of stories the way her brothers did as second nature.  She needs a little more guidance and a lot more structure when she reads, and so I was very excited to receive this set to try.
I really like to use great books, as opposed to some of the "pop culture" books that are now popular in schools.  I want main characters with great character and values, not ones that tell other people to "shut up" on the playground.  When I saw the list of books available in the Second Grade Literature Set, I was really excited.  These are books that I remember loving as a child, and I was excited to share them with my daughter, especially Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It wasn't the easiest book in the set, but I decided that we'd start there anyway, because I was really excited to go back to the Little House in the Big Woods, myself!

I really like that the study guides include teaching guidelines right in the book.  I also liked that included in the teaching guide it encourages you to alternate between teacher-read and student-read passages if necessary.  My daughter gets tired of reading and then gets frustrated, even though she's capable of reading harder material.  This makes chapter books frustrating for her, so having "permission" from the curriculum to let her have a break for a paragraph was nice for me.  My mom reminded me that in public school you read a paragraph and then someone else reads a paragraph and so on, but it's a class of 25-30 kids, so you get a good long break.

I like that there is more than just reading comprehension in each section of the student study guide.  There's a "pronounce and spell", vocabulary, an activity (like a compare and contrast or a "play pretend" or even an extension lesson like cooking a candy your family has a recipe for), and then comprehension questions.  There's also an "Honors Activity" section.  In Little House in the Big Woods, this included learning more about Wisconsin, craft ideas, fact and opinion exercises about statements from the book, and even a "Use Your Manners" poster.  None of the extra activities is very difficult or really required special supplies- we did have to run to the grocery story to get nuts to make candy, but it was grocery day anyway, and we could have picked something else!

The teaching guidelines encourage you to have your student do at least one composition activity a week, which fit in with what we typically do, which is a daily journal entry about a topic of my choice in addition to our writing curriculum.

When we moved on to "Tales from Beatrix Potter", which we did next because we already owned the book and our set did not come with the readers, I enjoyed that there was a difference in format.  If I was starting this program earlier in the year, I'd definitely start with the shorter stories, like Tales from Beatrix Potter, and end the year on The Courage of Sarah Noble and Little House in the Big Woods as my child increased in fluency and confidence.  In the student book for Beatrix Potter, there is the pronounce and spell section, vocabulary, comprehension questions, and then each tale has a language lesson, such as identifying subjects and verbs, followed by a life lesson and an activity.  Each student book is a little bit different to really get the most out of the type of story you are reading.  Animal Folk Tales of America, for example, includes how to introduce the genre of folk tales in the teacher section, and the student section alternates between discussion points and art projects for additional enrichment

Finally, your set comes with an answer key- which is really very nice to have.  While I typically read with my second grader, some days she'll request to do her chapter with a sibling who is done with their work while someone else is having a lesson with me, and while I've read most of these books, sometimes you forget things like what Pa's bullet pouch is made of!

Even if you're not a homeschooler, I would really recommend ordering this set to use over summer vacation to keep your child reading.  Teachers tell me all the time that the best thing parents can do for their children is to not let them lose skills over break.  I'd go with grade your child just finished if they're struggling, and grade they're entering if they are more advanced, but check out the book titles to help you decide- you know your child best!

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
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Take a Second Look: Prince William Academy

Prince William Academy, a private, non-sectarian school in Lake Ridge, VA is making some top-down changes to its NAYEC and VISA accredited programs. The changes start with new Head of School, Dr. Jason Lody whose background in international education and school reform make him uniquely postured to turn PWA into the premier educational option in Prince William County.

Dr. Lody was drawn to the 27,000 square foot facility with an international focus because of the difference in what's offered by the curriculum.  The school offers Spanish language instruction and one additional language (Arabic, French, or Mandarin) at all grade levels, as well as full art, technology and music.   While the class sizes at this International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate school never exceed 15 students, that doesn't prevent them from also offering ballet, karate, art, sports, music lessons, and student clubs after school.

While what's great about the school is staying the same, many things will be changing under Dr. Lody's direction, including a focus on offering a full middle-school program as an alternative to public or parochial middle school options that currently exist in PWC.  

Prince William Academy invites you out to take a first, or second, look at their 3 acre campus, with a full size gym and rock climbing wall, 
commercial kitchen with nutritious lunches prepared by a CIA trained chef, and 10% tuition reduction for military, law enforcement, educators, and nurses.  If you've written off private education in Prince William County, Dr. Lody would like to personally invite you in to change your mind.  

To find out more about Prince William Academy, visit them online, or on Facebook to learn more about the exciting things happening and changing at this International School. To schedule a tour, call  703-491-1444, and ask for Dr. Lody directly.  He'd love to talk to you and answer any questions you may have personally. 


Circus Xtreme Coloring Page!

 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME is coming to EAGLE BANK ARENA from APRIL 6 – 17, 2016.

Pssssttt-- wanna win tickets for your family? Enter using the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Feld Entertainment is neither a sponsor nor endorser of this promotion.  By entering, you agree to all of our Giveaway Rules. PwcMoms, its sponsors, owners, and writers are not responsible for show content, travel, venue, or any other portion of your experience.  Winners assume all risk, liability, and taxes associated with this giveaway. 


World Down Syndrome Day

I was asked to join a few moms sharing their experiences with Down Syndrome and Autism at Animated Child yesterday for World Down Syndrome Day.  I met with Yukiko, Heather, Devin, Amanda, and Drew (who, I would like to point out, I gave back to his mother, but only because I had to) to talk about some of the joys, challenges, and helpful organizations when you're raising a child with a disability.

First of all, Devin and Drew were both the sweetest ever.  Devin is a 22 year old man with Down Syndrome, and he lives independently.  He has a job at MCBQ working in the mess hall, and his own apartment.  He is polite and kind, and any mom would be proud to have raised such a young gentleman.  Drew is 18 months old and the cutest toddler ever.  He let me hold him while I filmed and was just so happy to play with his socks I can't even tell you. (I learned I cannot turn my camera when I periscope I can't turn the camera- sorry about that!)  If you watch the video until the end, you'll see him find himself in my screen- ADORBS.

Speaking of socks, the theme of the day was "rock your socks off", and nobody told me, which made me so sad.  I did not wear cool mismatched socks and it kind of threw me off my game that there was a time and a place for my embarrassing sock collection and I didn't get to take advantage of the opportunity.  There were even sock cookies from Heiseycakes, you guys....sock cookies....
But, that's okay, because I got to chat with these cool people :) Here's a copy of our Periscope chat since it was the middle of the first day of spring break and a lot of you probably didn't get to watch!

I wanted to take a second to give you guys links to some of the organizations mentioned by the moms.  Here's what we've got:

PWC Autism Facebook Group

PWCS Special Services

Special Olympics

Bowling Special Guys

Parent Resource Center at the Kelly Building

Early Intervention Services

Child Find of Prince William County



Capital Music Therapy


Also, take a look at this link, which is to a list of reader's recommendations for different ABA and other therapies:
PWC Moms Reader Question on ABA Therapy

Obviously there is a lot to learn and know when you have a child with special needs, and I can't even pretend I know what that has to be like.  However, I want to say that all three of these moms were amazing, and I didn't get to meet Yukiko's son, but Drew and Devin were just amazing kids, well- kid and adult- and it was such a pleasure to meet everyone and hear more about their experiences.

If you have additional questions for any of the moms, I would be happy to put you in touch.  If you don't have a child with special needs, I just want to reinforce what Amanda said about going up and talking to families who are out with children who might be different than yours.  You probably shouldn't instantly steal their kids (like me- although I did ask first) but don't be afraid to go up and talk to someone- you might find out that they're a lot more like you than they are different.


Guest Pots: Tips for a Happy, Healthy Easter

Thanks to Health Wise Home for this fantastic set of tips for keeping Easter Happy AND Healthy!! 

Tips for a Happy, Healthy Easter

Easter is almost here! As an adult, I look forward to our family’s traditions that surround the holiday. When I was a child, I looked forward to many of those same traditions, but my main focus was centered around one common theme: Easter candy! Between school celebrations, a visit from the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, and family celebrations, I was practically swimming in jelly beans, marshmallow chicks, and chocolate bunnies by the end of the Easter weekend.
As a health-conscious parent in today’s over-commercialized world, trying to maintain a healthy balance can be especially challenging around the holidays. It seems like everything is centered around candy, and lots of it. I have found that the best solution for our family is to allow our children to enjoy the celebrations outside of our home (class parties, community events, etc.) at their own discretion, and try to make our home and family celebrations centered around more meaningful things, like having fun together!
With a little planning, you can help create a happy AND healthy Easter for your family. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1.     Choose a Healthier Theme for Easter Baskets. Chances are, your kids are going to get plenty of Easter candy between school, community, and family celebrations. Instead of focusing on filling their baskets up with candy, pick a healthier theme that appeals to your child’s interests or upcoming events. In years past, we have done a Sports theme, a Beach theme, a Garden theme, an Art theme, and a Rainy Day theme. My kids look forward to seeing what the new theme will be each year!

2.     Mix Up the Egg Hunt. Who says that all of the plastic eggs have to be filled with candy? Mix things up a bit. The anticipation of “What will be in the next egg?” makes the egg hunting even more fun. Fill some of the eggs with trinkets, money (always a BIG hit), or family fun “passes” (family movie night, stay up 30 minutes past your bedtime, a trip to the zoo, etc.). You can even turn your egg hunt into a scavenger hunt by filling each egg with a different clue leading everyone to a final prize or destination.

3.     Play with Your Food. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. That’s what Pinterest is for, my friends! With a little creativity, you can create an Easter spread that is healthy and visually appealing to your children. Better yet, let your kids play with their food to come up with their own healthy Easter creations.

4.     Enjoy the Holiday. At the end of the day, holidays are meant to be joyful celebrations that bring family and friends together. Don’t stress over the little things. Instead, try to find a healthy balance that works for your family and then focus on enjoying the moments and time shared with those that bring the most love and joy to your life.

Happy Easter!

Sarah Young is a wife, mother of three, Health Education Specialist, and healthy living advocate. She created Health Wise Home several years ago to help educate, empower, and inspire others to "Eat Healthy. Live Well.". In her spare time, she enjoys running, hiking, gardening, and spending time with her family and her dog, Maple. You can find her at her website, Health Wise Home, and on Facebook, too!


Review: EdTechLens Rainforest Journey

Our most recent Schoolhouse Review Crew opportunity was to check out EdTechLens' Rainforest Journey program.  With three children in various grade levels, I am always interested in trying out digital options that might give me the opportunity to have each child engaged, even if I need to be providing one-on-one support to another child.  Our science coop is studying animals this year, so I thought that the Rainforest Journey would be a great way for my second grader, especially, to dive deeper into learning about animals.  We also received the 4th grade version, but my son wasn't interested at all- he thought that it was "too young" for him, and so we focused on 2nd grade. 

She's really enjoyed exploring the different families and species this year, and the Rainforest has some of the coolest animals on the planet, in my humble opinion. 
Rainforest Journey comes with a teacher account and a student account, and we initially had a little bit of trouble figuring out how to navigate to the student account and I actually had to email tech support for assistance, but they were incredibly friendly and taught me the trick- which was to sign completely out of the teacher version and use the assigned student ID (which was not the ID I gave my child, but a randomly assigned name) and password.  This fixed the problem and we were able to log in successfully.  
The pictures and videos are really vibrant and engaging.  Each lesson is divided into very manageable pieces that took my second grader, Savannah, about 8 minutes to get through.  The course is divided up into 5 units, and each unit is then divided into chapters and each chapter into lessons.  Generally, the lessons start with a picture followed by some information, generally 1-2 sentences, which you can opt to have read to you by clicking on an audio button.  At the end of each lesson, there is the option to print out an enrichment activity.
I like that the program tracks your child's progress for you, so you know where they're at.  I feel like there could be more information provided, especially since there is the capacity for embedded video, so even readers that lack confidence could enjoy more information without struggling. The amount of information is really just a tidbit. 
We think that Rainforest Journey has a lot of potential.  It's definitely not a "use alone" course that my second grader could do without me because it requires a lot of clicking and scrolling.  On page one of the lesson, you have to click up to 6 times to get through the lesson, if you want the sentences read to you, and many of the "pages" end up being several screens.  Also, the enrichment activity isn't on the computer, which I think would be nicer.  If I’m going to use an online program, I would really like it to be an online program, not something that I have to prep for by printing and gathering materials.

At the same time, my daughter has really enjoyed the pictures and will ask to do "that science on the computer" when we have time in the afternoons.  I like that they included primary sources and scientists, and I love the idea of Rainforest Journey as a supplement, but I would invest in it after it’s made a little more user-friendly and requires far less clicking and includes a little more information.  
Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review
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