Writer’s Toolbox Giveaway!

Writer's Toolbox book

Writer’s Toolbox is a great resource for budding writers. It contains 6 separate books in one and helps teach students how to write letters, fairy tales, poems, reports, and more!

A customer recently posted asking if Writer’s Toolbox was scheduled in the Guest Hollow Language Arts Curriculum. It wasn’t (the individual book titles were), but it is now, and for those of you who choose that option (instead of buying the individual titles it contains) should save some $$! As an added bonus, there are two more stories in the Writer’s Toolbox in addition to the ones I scheduled in – one about journals and the other about writing scary stories. Writer’s Toolbox is a nice resource and a bit easier to handle than trying to get all the individual book titles. Now you have BOTH options! 

Even for those of you who aren’t using Guest Hollow Language Arts, Writer’s Toolbox is a great resource to have on your homeschool shelf.

Now that I’m done using a copy to schedule in pages, we are offering this NEARLY brand-new copy of The Writer’s Toolbox in a giveaway! Just post in the comments to be entered. We are also hosting the same giveaway via the Guest Hollow Facebook page. You can post and share there instead of here if you wish! A winner will be announced on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Cathy Duffy Reviewed Beowulf’s Grammar!

Cathy Duffy reviewed Beowulf’s Grammar!

https://cathyduffyreviews.com/homeschool-reviews-core-curricula/composition-and-grammar/ungraded-multi-level-resources-grammar/beowulf-s-grammar

“Author Jennifer Guest’s goal is to make grammar more enjoyable for children to learn. For Beowulf’s Grammar, she has created a family that is featured throughout the book: siblings Abigail, Henry, and Grace plus the family dog, Beowulf. Lessons incorporate sentences and stories involving the family, all within the context of normal family life. The content is much more relatable for homeschooling families than the typical content of grammar books designed for classroom use. In addition, cartoons, colorful illustrations, fun graphics, cut-and-paste activities, games, puzzles, drawing activities, and occasional silliness make the course more appealing than traditional grammar courses.”

…so says the venerable Cathy Duffy Cathy who is best known as a curriculum specialist. Ms Duffy is the author of the two-volume Christian Home Educators’ Curriculum Manual where she researched curriculum and methodology for all subjects and all grade levels.

We are very pleased that Cathy said so many nice things about Beowulf’s Grammar and the attendant curriculum and workbook.

Please check out Ms. Duffy’s review as linked below, and remember, for a few more days you can still take advantage of our special Easter discount by using our 15 percent off coupon for purchases of anything in the GuestHollow Store (http://guesthollow.com/store/)! The coupon code, (which will be good ONLY for this week), is:

easterdiscount2018

If you enter “ easterdiscount2018 “ when doing a checkout on the GuestHollow store anytime during the next week, you will receive a 15 percent discount on your ENTIRE order!

Check out Duffy’s review below!

https://cathyduffyreviews.com/homeschool-reviews-core-curricula/composition-and-grammar/ungraded-multi-level-resources-grammar/beowulf-s-grammar

Guest Hollow Language Arts is ready for purchase!

Homeschool language arts

Our new language arts program is ready for purchase!

http://www.guesthollow.com/homeschool/english/language_arts.html

Our language arts program is unlike any other language arts program I’ve seen! Be one of the first to check it out and get your kids to love language arts!

Guest Hollow Language Arts is engaging, contains customizable elements to make a great fit for all types of learners, and approaches language arts subjects through diverse and colorful resources instead of a pile of boring workbooks.

Our language arts schedule is a little different than most homeschool language arts curricula in a variety of ways. Some of the key differences:

 It can be used for a variety of ages and grades, from grade 2 through grade 6. This means you can teach multiple students at once without having to use (or pay for) multiple language arts programs!
 It uses literature and a variety of books to teach concepts rather than tons of boring workbooks.
 It provides (optional) teacher education with parent/teacher reading assignments and articles to help YOU become a more informed homeschool teacher.
 It gently guides you into making your own curriculum-related decisions, so you can feel more confident doing things “your” way in future years.
 It’s flexible, so you aren’t locked into a set of books that doesn’t work for your student.
 Tried-and-true traditional methods are incorporated in the program mixed with fresh and fun new ways of learning things to reach a variety of learners – from the gifted to the reluctant!

Check it out here: http://www.guesthollow.com/homeschool/english/language_arts.html

An illustration I recently finished…(and other news!)

I just finished an illustration for livingpageslibrary.com (coming soon!). YES, I also do illustrations for “hire!” If you or someone you know is looking for an illustrator, keep me in mind! 

In other news, I am a couple of weeks or so away (hopefully) from finishing my brand new language arts curriculum schedule for grades 2-6. I’m really happy at how it’s coming along. It schedules in Beowulf’s Grammar as a grammar spine as well as lots of other colorful books that cover L.A. subjects without workbook drudgery! The subjects included are grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, poetry, and literature – all done Guest Hollow style!!

One of the terrific things about this program is that it’s truly adaptable for grades 2-6, so you can use it with more than one student at the same time without having to juggle separate programs and resources. It’s also creative, unique, and appropriate for all types of learners, even those who are reluctant writers with an aversion to picking up a pencil, lol…

If your kids don’t love language arts or aren’t as successful in that area as you’d like them to be, you’ll want to take a look at Guest Hollow’s Language Arts Level 1 (grades 2-6) in the next couple of weeks or so! I can’t wait to share more soon!

Encouraging Reluctant Writers – Happy Mail

Happy Mail

If you have a reluctant writer, you know that getting your child to get even a sentence down on paper can be an exercise in extreme frustration for you both! I explored lots of different ways to get the not-so-enthusiastic writer in my family to write, and one thing I found that worked was to have him write letters! I arranged for my son to write letters to everyone from the president, to family members, to restaurants. He worked hard to get his letters just right and was always excited to get a response tucked in our mailbox. Over the years we saved the letters he received back, and some of them will always be treasures, like the letters from his beloved grandfather who has since passed away.

While working on my up-and-coming language arts curriculum, I was looking for some books to get students writing in a creative way and stumbled across Happy Mail. I will be adding it to my curriculum schedule in the writing assignments. The writing portion of my curriculum is being designed to be a gentle, non-pressure introduction to writing for grades 2-6. I’m taking my experiences with students who both LOVE and HATE to write and incorporating these into my book and resource choices.

Happy Mail is the perfect book to get kids and young teens engaged in the old-fashioned art of letter writing and card making. It starts out with an introduction to letter writing tools – all the fun stuff the artist in me loves like felt-tip pens, card stock, and even the humble black crayon. Some of the supplies call for a craft knife, so an adult will need to supervise or assist with a few of the projects.

The next section covers letter writing basics: parts of a letter, salutations, how to address an envelope, and so on. After that there is a section of simple writing prompts (perfect for kids who would otherwise stare at a blank page for hours), as well as a 30 days challenge with plenty of letter writing activities and ideas for your budding writer.

The next section covers lettering styles. Each letter style shows a complete sample alphabet and is followed by a lined practice page like this:

Letter writing for kids

There are 5 lettering styles:

Paper Cut Alphabet, Brush Lettering, Open Alphabet, Ribbon Alphabet, and a Storybook Alphabet

The book emphasizes that there is no need for perfection, and kids are encouraged to add their own touches and styles to their lettering.

After playing around with some hand lettering, there are several projects that are shown in detail with all of the needed supplies listed. Some of these projects are:

Cut Paper Love Notes, a Quote Note, Emoji Note, I Love You More Than…, a List Letter, Birthday Card, Wildly Grateful Thank You Card, Salty Pretzel Sorry Card, and plenty more for a variety of occasion like holidays, congratulations, etc. There are even simple instructions on now to make a homemade envelope. I like the Letter to Your Future Self idea. It’s something I did when I was a kid, and it’s fun to look back as an adult on some of my younger self’s ideas and dreams!

Letter writing ideas for kids

The last section of the book has some pre-designed cards, notes, and templates with cute and full-color art, along with some black-and-white samples your child can color in.

card projects for kids

Happy Mail is a good book to get your child off the computer and into the world of pens, pencils, and the excitement of sending off a letter or card the old-fashioned way!

Beowulf’s Grammar is Ready!

Beowulf's Grammar Curriculum

Beowulf’s Grammar is ready to go!! We are having a 2-day sale on the Beowulf’s Grammar Bundle (both the workbook and the teacher’s manual). Get both for an amazing $30! After 2 days the sale price is going up to $35, and then, after a week, the combo will be full price ($40 – a 10% bundle discount). Get it now at this amazing deal!

Purchase the bundle here:
http://guesthollow.com/…/beowulfs-grammar-bundle-save-over…/

Want more info on Beowulf’s Grammar? Check it out at:
http://www.guesthollow.com/homescho…/…/beowulfs_grammar.html

Say good-bye to your boring grammar curriculum! Beowulf’s Grammar makes learning grammar FUN!

Homeschool Grammar Curriculum

 

Grammar Sneak Peek!

Here are some screenshots of pages from my up-and-coming grammar curriculum for grades 2-6. During the 20+ years of teaching my children, I never found a grammar curriculum they or I loved. Everything was so borrrrrring and difficult to retain. Beowulf the Fox Terrier is going to change all of that….

If you’ve been looking for a new grammar curriculum, you’ll want to see this!

I’m working hard to get Beowulf’s Grammar finished by August or September of this year in time for the new school year!

A terrific addition to your homeschool…

It’s almost back-to-school time for those of you who don’t homeschool year round! I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown by. Our youngest graduated this past May, so I’m not partaking in my usual summer curriculum shopping, but I thought I’d share one of the items that got a LOT of use in my homeschool over the years for those of you who are. It’s not often that I ever found one item that could literally last me years, but Startwrite is one of the exceptions. I certainly got my money’s worth from it! I hope my sharing this review will help some of you who are still putting things together for the up-and-coming school year!

Startwrite is a handwriting “worksheet wizard” that has so many applications (of which I’ll discuss more in detail later in this post). I used it from the time my kids were little and still needed to trace letters, all the way up until middle school when they still needed some handwriting practice and/or copywork.

I am a big believer in handwriting – not just neat print, but also cursive. Learning cursive has cognitive benefits that are important for learning success and brain development.

Here’s an excerpt from a NY Times  article:

… learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing. As a result, the physical act of writing in cursive leads to increased comprehension and participation.

Another article in Psychology Today talks about the biological and psychology benefits from learning cursive:

Handwriting dynamically engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres. Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says that brain scans during handwriting show activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.

Another article states:

…scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

Studies have also shown that parts of the brain needed for reading are stimulated, and that writing by hand allows children to express more ideas and to produce words more quickly than they can when typing. Good handwriting activates more regions of the brain (associated with language, memory, and reasoning), and also has been shown to help improve learning difficulties like dyslexia, enhance auditory learning, and more! You can do a Google search for more info, if you are like me and love the science behind why cursive is so important to teach.

A lot of parents think it’s O.K. to forgo the time consuming process of teaching handwriting, especially cursive, as it’s just not “needed” in this age of typing and digital communication, but I strongly disagree. I think it’s a very important part of a homeschool, and made sure my children had plenty of opportunities to practice it.

So, now that I made my case as to WHY you should teach handwriting and cursive in your homeschool, I’ll share my love for the Startwrite program! Startwrite makes it really easy to get this important skill accomplished with the least amount of difficulty and cost.

For 39.95 (as of this writing), you can get Startwrite version 6 – the newest version of Startwrite’s software program. You can instantly download it from the website and have up and running in just a matter of minutes.

If you have an older version, you may be wondering if the upgrade is worth it. I think so! Version 6 has so many nice upgrades and is so much easier to use with many more options to truly customize your handwriting and copywork printables. You can click here to see the differences in a handy table.  If you already own an earlier version of the program, you can upgrade for a special price of $19.95.

Most handwriting workbooks run from about $10 to $14. Copywork books aren’t cheap either, and often you can’t find any that match exactly what you want to teach. If you have multiple children and want to have them learn and practice handwriting over several years, that can add up quickly! With Startwrite, you can make all of the handwriting sheets you will ever need for your entire family AND use it for other things like copywork for a multitude of subjects. That is a significant cost savings, plus you have the ability to totally customize what your children are writing / copying.

Before sharing how the program works and some of the great features, I’ll share some of the things I used Startwrite for in my homeschool.

  • Handwriting lessons and practice
  • Bible scripture copywork and memorization
  • Copywork for a variety of subjects like science, history, etc.
  • Spelling word practice
  • Character trait pages
  • Poetry memorization (copywork)
  • CHP Police Explorer code memorization worksheets
  • History & science notebooking – You can add in your own .jpg images to make some amazing notebooking pages!!

You can also use it to create some math pages with the clock and money fonts. See the screenshots for examples:

Various clock faces for telling time worksheets (some have a.m. and p.m. next to them to expand your options):

clock font

Coins – There are dimes, pennies, quarters, and dollars:

money fontquarters font

Counting items – There are math fonts that allow you to place numbers of items together for counting worksheets. You can get numbers in other fonts, too – not just how you see them depicted below.

math-02

Yet another option is to create phonics practice sheets. Startwrite comes with some free clip-art you can add to your worksheets in both color and black-and-white. You can also add in your own clipart and artwork by importing .jpgs, as you can in Microsoft Word and other word processing programs.

phonics clip art

You might be wondering if Startwrite is a good fit, if you’ve chosen a specific type of handwriting to teach your child. You’ll be happy to know the program comes with most of the well-known fonts that are featured in many homeschoolers’ favorite handwriting programs like:

fonts

There are also other fonts for those of you who are homeschooling “down under” like:

  • Victoria Manuscript and Cursive
  • Queensland Manuscript and Cursive
  • New South Wales Manuscript and Cursive

Last of all, there is a Palmer style manuscript and cursive. You also have access to your system fonts, just like any other word processing program.

Cursive fonts are a joy to work with in the program. They link up instantly and perfectly as you type with no additional steps you have to take like some other handwriting fonts  or programs for sale. I personally believe Startwrite is the EASIEST program to use for linking cursive. It also does (in my opinion) the nicest job. The fonts look terrific, smooth, and sharp when printed out, without any odd connecting letters as I’ve seen in some handwriting fonts trying to approximate D’Nealian cursive and other typefaces. I’m an artist /illustrator, so I’m picky about that sort of thing. Startwrite delivers. Please note that it does look sort of pixelated and junky (at least to my eyes) in the program preview, but once you print your worksheets out, they look beautiful.

Startwrite works like most word processors with lots of options for text, adding images, and much more. Open up the program and you’ll see this (I’ve loaded a lesson template):

startwrite review

Along the top borders you have everything you need to get going. You can choose if you want ruled lines and can change the colors of those lines. You can choose how you want those lines to appear (baseline? descender line? top line? etc.). It’s super-easy to add in pictures and to move things around on the page. You can add in borders, highlight areas you want your kids to pay extra attention to, and more.

You can choose your font and how you want that font displayed. Some of the options you have:

  • Stroke arrows
  • Beginning dot – where to start writing a letter
  • Letter outlines (to trace inside)
  • Decision dots
  • Connect-the-dots
  • Color letters

You can also choose the intensity and shading of the dots and letters.

The possibilities are pretty much endless. You are constrained to working within Startwrite’s software program, but the program is quite robust. It also comes with a variety of practice templates for handwriting already built in – a real time saver if you are just starting to teach handwriting. There are also some terrific videos on the website to get you up and running, if you are a visual learner.

Startwrite isn’t just for little kids! You can use it for your 6th grader with the sloppy handwriting, or for a teen who needs some additional handwriting or copywork practice, but is too old for 99% of the workbooks available for that purpose. Just type up some age-appropriate practice sheets and you’re older student will be on his/her way to improving handwriting skills, or working on grammar, punctuation, or other skills that may still need a bit of “brushing up”.

Startwrite is one of those resources I think every homeschool should have. I used my copy of the software for years for all sorts of purposes and ultimately saved a lot of money. I also loved how I could easily whip up some notebooking pages that had to do with exactly what we were studying with a minimum of effort!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Startwrite, click here!

You can also click on the link above to get a free, fully functioning demo of the program! The above link is an affiliate link, so your purchase helps support Guest Hollow!

You can also sign up to become a Startwrite affiliate and receive 60% commission on all the sales through your blog or website. I know you homeschool moms like making a little extra $$, so I’m sharing that nifty tidbit in this review, as well. 😉

In other news, I have decided to start working on a non-math high school physics course sometime this late fall, followed by a 3 level American history program. I’ll keep everyone posted via my blog here, and over on my Facebook page!

Happy homeschooling!