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All About Spelling review | Homeschool spelling program

All About Spelling Review - This homeschool spelling program offers multisensory learning by including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning tools.

DOES YOUR CHILD whimper and sink low in his seat when faced with his weekly spelling list? Is your current spelling method failing to capture his attention or produce desired results? Then perhaps All About Spelling by Marie Rippel is the spelling curriculum you have been looking for.

It isn’t your garden-variety, ho-hum spelling program. This looks like fun!

A Multisensory Approach

All About Spelling capitalizes on multisensory learning by including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning tools. It invites children to approach spelling and vocabulary with curiosity and enthusiasm for the learning journey.

Also, to accommodate even the most reluctant speller, the curriculum incorporates the use of phonograms, a tool that aids a child’s ability to sound out unfamiliar words and master spelling.

Rippel’s purpose in writing this curriculum is to teach children spelling in such a way that they always have the tools they need “at hand” to successfully and consistently spell accurately. And, due to the multisensory integration in All About Spelling, children are apt to internalize the principles taught and remember them easily.

You can begin working with children as young as preschool age. The program targets any school-age child who is working to establish and solidify spelling skills. Older children who struggle with spelling will benefit from reviewing the skills in this curriculum also.

Program Features

Each level comes prepackaged with both teacher and student materials.

All About Spelling Review - This homeschool spelling program offers multisensory learning by including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning tools.

Teacher’s Manual: This product is a series of paperback books, Levels 1 through 7, which serve as teachers manuals for the series.

Material Packet: Each Teacher’s Manual comes with a corresponding student Material Packet, also available separately. Each student will need his own.

Each Material Packet includes nearly everything your student will need to successfully complete all the lessons in that particular level. For Level 1, where most students begin, items such as progress charts, flashcards, index card dividers, and a completion certificate are included in the material packet. As the levels progress, more items are added to each material packet to accommodate growing spelling skills.

Interactive Kits: You will need to make a one-time purchase of either the Basic or Deluxe Interactive Kit, which you will use in Levels 1 through 7. The Interactive Kit contains items such as letter tiles, magnets, and Phonogram CD-ROM.

How It Works

To use All About Spelling, follow step-by-step instructions that guide you through the teaching process. The teacher’s manual provides sample dialogue along with tips for teachers, encouragement from the author, and hints for how to motivate your student.

Each book level is comprised of up to 28 lessons, with every lesson thoroughly mapped out so you can easily follow along. How much time you spend on a lesson is completely customizable. You decide if your student needs to spend a few days or weeks going over a particular lesson, or if your eager learner is ready to plow through a handful of lessons at a time.

Together, you and your child practice principles from each lesson using the provided flashcards to help the student master phonogram and letter sounds. The flashcards include:

  • Sound Cards for parent to dictate letter sounds for the student to write
  • Phonogram Cards that teach the sound of each phonogram
  • Key Cards with quiz questions to test your student’s memory
  • Word Cards that incorporate the sounds your student is learning simple words your child can recognize by sight

Nearly everything your student needs to complete a lesson is provided, including perforated flashcard-sized dividers for orderly storage of your flashcards. You will need to provide additional items such as lined paper, colored pencils, and stickers. An optional magnet board and letter tile magnets, available from All About Spelling, further enhance the learning experience.

Integration of Learning Styles

What I like most about All About Spelling is the integration of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles. The broad appeal to the various types of ways children learn allows parents to capitalize on their own child’s individual strengths instead of highlighting their weaknesses.

Also, easy-to-follow instructions liberate overwhelmed parents by taking the lesson-planning stress out of teaching vital spelling skills. With very little needed beyond the included material packets, this curriculum is a one-stop shop for teaching your child how to spell.

Through Rippel’s well-planned parental guidance and your encouragement of your own children, All About Spelling sets children up for success.

Click to receive free spelling downloads, or visit All About Spelling’s FAQ page to learn more about the program, see sample lessons, and get placement help.

Courtney Parkinson holds a master’s degree in counseling (MFT) from Cal Baptist University. A former WriteShop student herself, Courtney now works as a child therapist. 


WriteShop received a set of books from All About Spelling at no charge in exchange for Courtney’s honest review. No other compensation was provided. We did not promise a favorable All About Spelling review, just an honest opinion of this product. However, because of our positive impression of the program, WriteShop is now an affiliate. This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy
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Review & Giveaway: Little Pilgrim’s Progress

Little Pilgrim's Progress Adventure Guide - Moody Press

I started reading the book Little Pilgrim’s Progress when I was a lot younger. In fact, you could say it was far back enough that my parents had to read it to me! Honestly, it was one of my favorite books of all time. For a reason unknown, eventually the paperback volume was left on a shelf, unfinished. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally picked it out, dusted it off, and started again from scratch.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautifully written book, and although the theme could steer some away, it has everything you’d want in today’s fiction or fantasy. Being one of the most compelling and imaginative books I’ve read, the pages are full of morals and fantastic hidden meanings. It’s filled with unreal scenarios and wonderful characters, although the main aspect of Christianity is just so perfectly placed. It’s easily one of the novels that you can get completely lost in.

But that’s enough about the feel; it’s time to get straight to the book itself!

Little Pilgrim's Progress Adventure Guide

The book centers on a young boy named little Christian, living in the faraway town of Destruction. He has lived there all his life, never leaving, never drifting away. He has always heard the loveliest stories about the world outside Destruction, how there are beautiful kingdoms ruled by a King who loves the children of the world.

After hearing enough stories, little Christian embarks on his own journey, seeking the promised land of the Celestial City. His quest brings him down many paths, both pleasant or treacherous, and he meets many people—friends and enemies alike.

Sixty years after John Bunyan’s classic was first published comes the new Anniversary Edition from Moody Press. It is complete with lovely illustrations, along with a redefined Adventure Guide by Deanna Conrad.

Combined with the book, this extra booklet can really help the younger audience understand Little Pilgrim’s Progress, pointing out unseen implications and simply adding some fun to the process. Nonetheless, whether young or old, pilgrims of all sizes are sure to enjoy Helen Taylor’s novel from cover to cover.

~Jessica Stilwell

From a Mom’s Point of View

I just love the Little Pilgrim’s Progress Adventure Guide that accompanies the book! The Guide is divided into six “sessions,” each containing:

  • Vocabulary list to complete
  • In-depth questions about the story
  • Short chart to fill in allegorical concepts
  • Questions about the setting
  • Biblical application
  • Character chart with character matching (matching a description to a character)

This little Guide is so packed with information, it could easily be used as a language arts program over six weeks. For the younger child,  a lot of parent interaction will be needed as some of the terminology will probably be over their heads. I do think most older elementary students, as well as middle schoolers, would enjoy the process of going through the book and Guide on their own.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress would be a wonderful book club pick for children! For a church group, it would make a great small group or Bible study.

~Kelly Stilwell

Jessica Stilwell is a 13-year-old who loves art and gaming. She attends a virtual school for most of her classes. Her favorite class is media/animation. Jessica plans to be a video game designer.

Kelly Stilwell (Jessica’s mom) is a stay-at-home mom of teens blogging about family life in the fast lane at Virtually Yours. Kelly writes about food, travel, education, and hosts a lot of giveaways! You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter too.

Giveaway

We are happy to be giving away both the Little Pilgrim’s Progress book and Adventure Guide!

Enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget below.

  • See my complete giveaway rules
  • No purchase necessary.
  • All giveaways are void where prohibited.
  • Open to all age 18 and older.
  • Winners are chosen randomly by Rafflecopter.
  • Unless otherwise stated, winners have 72 hours from the close of the giveaway to claim their prize. If the prize is not claimed within 72 hours, an alternate winner will be selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sonbeams interviews Kim Kautzer

I just finished doing a fun interview with Candace of Sonbeams. She asked me a bunch of questions and I answered away!

Here’s your chance to get to know me (and WriteShop) a little better and to read Candace’s review of WriteShop Primary. Click on over! (And pssst . . . there’s a coupon code too.)

Sonbeams interview with Kim Kautzer

And make sure to visit Candace’s Sonbeams website if you’re homeschooling preschoolers. Her site has tons of ideas and resources!

We’ve got (more) mail!

It’s always so encouraging to open up my inbox each day and find a glowing review or happy testimonial from a homeschooling mom who’s been using WriteShop with her children. It’s been nearly ten years since we first published WriteShop I and II, and believe me, I never dreamed the results would be so far-reaching.

I’d love to share some of these comments with you. Be blessed!

WriteShop I and II

“Thank you so much for a fabulous two years!” ~Mindy

“Kudos to WriteShop! I have found your program to be the most clearly laid out program that I have ever used. My son and his friends went from whining about a writing project to being capable of producing a great essay in a short period of time. Best of all, they now see themselves as writers. I simply cannot believe the difference.” ~Kristel

Write Shop has been a wonderful program for us. I don’t think my dyslexic daughter would have ever learned to write without it!” ~Dena

“I’m using this program with my 13-year old son. I used it with my freshman-in-college son also. I believe WriteShop gave my oldest son amazing writing skills; in fact, he aspires to be a writer. Thanks for putting out an amazing curriculum!” ~Roseann

“We have used your products for three years and love them!” ~Lisa

“Let me tell you what a wonderful writing program you’ve created in WriteShop I & II. I used it with my son, who received a journalism scholarship to Samford University in Birmingham, AL … Your material covered every reasonable thing he needed to know about sound, solid writing and enabled me to objectively assess his work. I recommend WriteShop to everyone who talks to me about writing skills.” ~Mary

“WriteShop is a Godsend to us…Thank you so much!” ~Linda

“I love your program! I have taught in the public schools, and I have also homeschooled, so I have seen my fair share of writing curriculum, but this is the best. It’s not hard to teach from the teacher’s point of view, it’s not hard to learn from the student’s point of view, and—it’s fun! Plus, thank you for the twenty-two pages of word lists—they’re fabulous! …Your program has answered many prayers.” ~Sharon

“You should call this program Writing for Children Who Have Mothers Who Didn’t Pay Attention in High School. It’s just so easy to teach!” ~Becky

WriteShop Primary

Book A

“My son and I have already dived right into Book A—he’ll be starting Gr. 1 in the fall. I have been very impressed so far at the fun we’re having and how well this has been put together.” ~Dianne

“I am working through your WriteShop Primary Book A with my 2nd grader. He loves this program. He told me that it is his favorite subject. He loves the creative part of dictating the story and illustrating it each day.” ~Tami,

“This is the best writing experience my kids and I have ever had. They are writing!!! My little one (Kindergarten) is writing as well as my 2nd grader and both are doing so much better than I ever expected.” ~Mia

Book B

“A special thanks to the dedicated staff at WriteShop for a wonderful curriculum! We really enjoyed using WriteShop [Primary] together. It was challenging and rewarding, and also held his interest because of the subject matter and creative way that it was presented.” ~Julia

“My son progressed in his ability to organize his thoughts before starting to write, and he learned the importance of choosing the right words to express his thoughts…. I love the way the curriculum guided him through the writing process in small steps, and the way it offered me lots of options to tailor it to him.” ~Debbie

Book C

“My daughter, who has always loved to write, feels like she has gotten much better at writing paragraphs. I would agree with her! She’s never lacked confidence, but just needed some guidance and this program has helped her tremendously…. She loved this program so much that she has been writing paragraphs on her own during her free time!” ~Beth

“I am thrilled with my 10 yo’s progress…. This last project was so encouraging!! It was a ‘Yes! This is why I am homeschooling’ moment…. Now he is much more OK with writing on blank page—once we stop and do the brainstorming! Since I’ve used your other products I must say—you do such a great job of breaking it all down—making the end project attainable. It’s fun to see kids even at this level able to make so much progress!” ~Sharie

Read more testimonials here.

. . . . .

Visit our website at writeshop.com to learn more about WriteShop I, WriteShop II, and WriteShop Primary.

Photo of boy © 2009 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved. 

Book review: All About Homophones

The Confusing World of Homophones

“If your going too the movies, make sure you don’t by to many sweets.”

Your/you’re. By/buy. To/too/two. These often-confusing (and frequently misused) words are called homophones—words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

While the difference between its and it’s may not seem like a big deal to some, using these two little words—or any homophone—incorrectly can make us seem ignorant and uneducated. You see, whether or not they mean to, people often form first impressions simply by reading our writing. Isn’t this why our shelves brim with English references, grammar programs, and spelling books? It IS important to us that our children write as accurately as possible.

It’s never too late to teach the rules to your kids. And if you didn’t quite grasp these concepts during your own school days, it’s not too late to learn or re-learn the rules yourself.

All About Homophones

All About Homophones is an exciting new curriculum that will unlock your children’s understanding of these confusing word sets. Author Marie Rippel says:

“Teaching homophones can be tough! They sound the same, but they aren’t spelled the same, and they don’t mean the same thing . . . [All About Homophones] is a complete teaching tool kit that helps you demystify homophones and homonyms for students. They’ll learn and master spelling easily through interesting worksheets and games they love to play.”

One Book, Multiple Grades

Take time to teach your children about homophones so they’ll learn to correctly spell and use these word sets.

Because the worksheets are divided into sections by grade level, All About Homophones is perfect for teaching multple grades. One book includes reproducible worksheets for grades one through eight, making the program budget friendly too.

Lessons You’ll Love

The book includes a comprehensive list of common homophones and recommends which grade to introduce each one. And All About Homophones offers a variety of activities that appeals to different learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

These aren’t your ordinary dull worksheets! Whimsical illustrations and engaging activities maintain your children’s interest while helping them make sense of each new set of words. Here are some of the ways your children will learn about homophones:

  • Homophone Worksheets to reinforce reading and writing.
  • Graphic Organizers to help teach the meanings of each set of words.
  • Crossword Puzzles, Riddles, and Tongue Twisters to reinforce with fun and humor.
  • Card Games with cards and instructions for playing several different games.
  • Student Record Sheets
  • List of Homophones
  • List of Homophone-rich Books to read with your children

Click here to see sample pages from All About Homophones.

Now in the WriteShop Store

We’re always looking for top-notch products that reinforce writing, grammar, and spelling, so we’re excited to announce that All About Homophones is now in stock in the WriteShop store. Stop in and check out this great new resource. Teaching your children to use homophones correctly is one of the best gifts you can give them. Order yours today! 

Homophone Humor

If I haven’t yet convinced you of the importance of teaching homophones—or if you think your children can simply trust their spell-check to correct these troublesome words, you’ll want to read Owed to the Spell Checker. One of my favorite examples of homophone confusion, this humorous poem illustrates just how easy it is to mix up words that have similar sounds.

Book reviews: Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib

I’ve always been a reader. As a child, nothing made me happier than checking out a new book from the library.

OK, that’s not exactly true, for I also loved to read—over and over—the old friends that lined my bookshelf at home. Among those treasured favorites was a well-worn hardback of Betsy-Tacy, the very dearest member of my small collection and a book I’ve read at least a dozen times since I was seven.

Reviews . . . and a Giveaway!

Eventually I read (and loved) all the Betsy-Tacy books, so imagine my joy when the current publisher—Harper Trophy/Harper Perennial Modern Classics—sent me the whole set to review and give away on my blog! I’ve decided to do the review—and the giveaway—in several parts, mainly because I haven’t finished reading the later books in the series, but also because it’s more fun to spread the love!

Today I’ll review the first two books in the early series: Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib. In a day or two, I’ll post my review of the third and fourth books: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill and Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. And on Friday, I’ll tell you how you can win the set for your own daughter, niece, granddaughter, or young friend.

About the Early Betsy-Tacy Books

Written autobiographically by Maud Hart Lovelace, and whimsically illustrated by Lois Lensky, the first four Betsy-Tacy books are a recollection of the friendship and simple little escapades of three best pals—Betsy, Tacy, and Tib—during their carefree childhood at the turn of the twentieth century. Though their life 100 years ago doesn’t much resemble ours today, their joys, worries, and adventures remind us that children will always be children. Even with a century between us, I still think these girls are among the most relatable children in literature!

Betsy-Tacy

Want a book that completely captivates your inner child? Never mind your daughter—you’ll want your very own copy of Betsy-Tacy!

How I love this book about the spirited, imaginative Betsy Ray and her best friend Tacy Kelly! When they first meet at Betsy’s fifth birthday party, the two become inseparable. They share all sorts of adventures on their safe little street at the very edge of town: supper picnics on the hill, playing paper dolls, dyeing Easter eggs, and dressing up to “go calling” at the chocolate-colored house with the stained glass window.

Betsy loves to tell stories, and even her make-believe experiences—such as floating on feathers or riding in a buggy pulled by a talking horse—will delight every young girl’s fancy. Experienced through Betsy’s and Tacy’s eyes, the ordinary days of childhood are somehow transformed into a magical place of wonder!

Just as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books deal with difficult issues in an age-appropriate way, the Betsy books are similarly sprinkled with reminders that a little trouble comes to all of us. For example, the subject of death is gently broached when Betsy, in her childish innocence, finds a touching way to comfort Tacy after the death of her baby sister. And Tacy, one of nine children, finds just the right words to encourage a befuddled Betsy at the “surprise” arrival of a new little Ray bundle.

This sweet book is filled with stories both humorous and tender, making Betsy-Tacy a treat for the heart.

Betsy-Tacy and Tib

When my own daughters began reading the Betsy-Tacy books as young girls, I loved that they could escape into such an untroubled, innocent time and place to join hands with Betsy, Tacy, and their new friend Tib.

As the title suggests, the inseparable duo becomes a trio when good-natured Tib Mueller moves into the chocolate-colored house on Pleasant Street—and the escapades continue!

It was strange that Betsy and Tacy and Tib ever did things which grown-ups thought were naughty, for they tried so hard to be good.

Betsy is usually the ringleader, but Tacy and Tib participate eagerly. Whether cooking up a mess in the kitchen or thinking of ways to remember one another after they’re gone (think “hair” and “scissors”), their antics often manage to land them in a hot water. But when the girls are naughty—and it seems (in this particular book) that they often are—it’s always with the best intentions to do right; they even form a “Christian Kindness Club.” Even so, when Betsy, Tacy, and Tib do act impulsively, they experience conviction, remorse, and contrition, and their parents impose appropriate consequences. I appreciate that!

This book explores friendship, loyalty, and the joy and curiosity that come with being carefree eight-year-olds. Although they do get into occasional mischief, the girls set a positive example of how to behave in a friendship: through thick and thin, they’re faithful to the core; there’s no finger-pointing, quarreling, or envy among them; and they rejoice in each other’s successes. Betsy-Tacy and Tib is a wonderful sequel to Betsy-Tacy.

Note: Betsy-Tacy begins when the girls are five. By the fourth book, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, they are pre-teens. As Betsy, Tacy, and Tib grow up, the situations, vocabulary, and reading level become slightly more complex with each book. While a five-year-old would enjoy hearing Betsy-Tacy as a read-aloud, she may not show interest in the other three books until she herself is a bit older. But a 10- or 12-year-old is sure to enjoy all four in the early series.

More to come . . .

Stay tuned! I’ll post my review of Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill and Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown in a day or two. And then I’ll tell you about the giveaway!

How to write a book review, Part 4

Over the past several weeks, I’ve given you tips on how to write various kinds of curriculum and product reviews.

Smiling womanAs we wrap up the series in Part 4, let’s look at the personal review. This type of product review makes a personal recommendation. It not only presents the facts, but it adds the writer’s opinion based on her experience with the product.

So even though Part 3 explains how to write a positive, opinionated review, using the materials is not a criteria. On the other hand, the personal review must be written by someone who has actually used the program, book, or product. She loves it and will gladly tell you why. 

The personal review will include facts sprinkled liberally with opinion. The reviewer may also indicate how her children enjoyed the materials or how their skills have improved as a result.

The following review is written by a mom who uses and loves WriteShop. She glowingly describes how her kids’ writing has improved, what she loves about the program, how easy it is to use, how helpful various parts of the Teacher’s Manual are to her, etc. You’ll easily see how you can use this method to review any of your favorite products!

Review by Heidi Shaw

for The Old Schoolhouse magazine

    This is a GREAT program. I don’t usually start out so strongly but a program like this in the home school community has been needed for a long time. Let’s take a look.
    Starting with descriptive writing, and carrying on with narrative and informative, WriteShop has everything you need to guide your students on the path to becoming excellent writers.
    Sure, I can hear you say, but how will I KNOW they are becoming excellent writers? Aha, that’s where the beauty of this well laid out program becomes evident.
    Lesson by lesson, step by step, the student is taught how to evaluate and improve his own writing. And the parent/teacher is taught right along with him. Every lesson has self-checking evaluation worksheets for both student and teacher. They actually teach us how to assess and edit every lesson. We start with describing an object and move on up through to conducting and writing an interview; the lessons are interesting and fun! Each lesson follows a basic format so it is easy to implement…. (Read complete review here. )

You never know when you’ll have the chance to review a book or curriculum, whether it’s a brand-new product or an old favorite. Now you have the tools to write with greater confidence by following some simple steps and then deciding whether the review needs to be neutral, positive, or personal.

How to write a book review, Part 3

Reviewing a homeschool curriculum or textbook is different from reviewing a novel. In Part 1 of this series, I shared four basic steps to writing a homeschool book review, and Part 2 looked more closely at writing a neutral or unbiased review.

But what if you’re so impressed with a curriculum or book that you feel you MUST give an opinion? More than simply summarize its main features, you want to share your enthusiasm and encourage others to check the product out, too! If ths is the case, you’ll want to write a positive review.

This type of product review is designed to influence a purchase. It not only presents the facts, but it adds the writer’s personal bias.

The reviewer has not used the material but clearly loves what she sees, and doesn’t hesitate to say so. So when you write a positive review, even if you haven’t used the product, share why it appeals to you and mention the features that make you say, “Wow!”

If you’re visual like me, it always helps to see an example, doesn’t it? This review, written by Deborah Cariker of Eclectic Homeschool Online intermingles facts about WriteShop with her personal excitement about the program, even though she hadn’t used it herself. While she stays focused on the program’s key features, she also manages to impart a “Where has this been all my life?” flavor to the review.

Review by Deborah Deggs Cariker

for Eclectic Homeschooling Online

    I met veteran homeschoolers Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar, saw their curriculum, and knew that I was looking at something special. I am a writer, but I never really learned how to write. No one sat down and taught me how to paint pictures with words. I did very well in English and Literature, but can’t tell you why. I won the National Council of Teachers of English award my senior year and had my essay published in an English textbook, but can’t tell you what was so special about what I wrote. I have believed throughout my ensuing writing career—for radio, television, newspaper, and magazine—that “my ability” is God’s gift. I also thought that this was impossible to teach.

Next week, we’ll close out our series, “How to Write a Book Review,” by taking a look at Part 4: reviews written by homeschooling moms who have actually used the products they’re reviewing.

How to write a book review, Part 2

The Neutral Book Review

In Part 1, I suggested four steps to writing a book review. Today, let’s zero in just a bit more on the neutral review. This type of product review presents facts and summarizes key aspects of the product or book, and should include very little to no personal opinion.

Sometimes it’s just best to give some examples. Below are some book reviews written by professional reviewers who did NOT use the WriteShop program. You’ll notice that the tone is, for the most part, neutral. Neither review gushes over WriteShop, yet both authors clearly favor it.

This kind of review is meant to give facts and to hold back on personal opinion as much as possible, but you’ll probably spot a few “bias” words such as “great resource” or “I like the flexibility of this option.” Still, all four reviews manage to keep their focus on the features of the programs without editorializing.

Reviews by Cathy Duffy

for Cathy Duffy Reviews

  • WriteShop is a great resource for homeschoolers because it’s written for the teacher who knows nothing about teaching writing. It features detailed, daily lesson plans along with student worksheets that cover not only the lessons, but also evaluation and grading…. (Read complete review here.)
  • WriteShop Primary, designed for grades K-3, was written by a different author than the original WriteShop. It has many of the same elements that make both programs good choices for homeschoolers…. (Read complete review here.)

This next writer begins her first article with a bit of personal commentary before launching into the neutral product description and review.

Reviews by Virginia Jones

for Eclectic Homeschooling Online

  • One of the gripes I hear from other homeschoolers and professional educators is that a lot of homeschool students don’t know how to write. I also hear the opposite—that homeschoolers have excellent writing ability. I think it depends on the family; if there’s an emphasis on writing, competent, perhaps even superior writers will result. However, writing often seems to be the last thing we get to in our day…. (Read complete review here.) 
  • WriteShop Primary A Activity Set Worksheet Pack is a set of worksheets used in the WriteShop Primary writing course. The set for Book A contains 20 activity pages plus two Primary Writing Skills Evaluation Charts geared to track your young student’s progress as you move through the program together…. (Read complete review here.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at some reviews that offer a more personal bias, even though the writers have not actually used the product themselves.

Photo © Caitlin Burke. Used with permission.

How to write a book review, Part 1

Have you ever wanted to sing the praises of a book or other homeschool product you absolutely love? You may have found that it’s easy to fill your friends’ ears when you gather at park day, but if someone asks you to write up a review for your support group newsletter, you may have no clue how to go about it.

Or suppose you want to post a review in your blog.

Or maybe you want to assign a book review to one of your teens as a writing project.

No matter who’s writing it, you’ll need a different approach to review curriculum than if you were to review, say, a novel. But it’s easy—and fun—when you have a little formula to follow!

I’ve seen three different kinds of curriculum or book reviews. You’ll choose the one that best fits your experience with the product:

  • Neutral review. Having never used the materials, will you simply explain the method and approach?
  • Positive review. Based on what you’ve learned, will you also give your opinion?
  • Personal review. Have you actually used the material? Can you review it based on your own experience?

Regardless of the type of review you write, make sure you include some basic information to familiarize readers with the product’s key features.

Describe the Book or Product

Start off with the basics. First, what is this product? What does this product cover? What’s included? Is it complete on its own, or will the parent need to purchase additional components to complete it?

Second, is it a book? Workbook? Is it hardback, soft cover, or spiral bound? E-book/download? Computer program? CD/Video? Game or manipulative?

Explain How the Product Works

Describe its purpose. Tell how the instructions say to use it. Or, if you’re reviewing a product you’ve actually worked with, describe how you’ve used it with your own child.

Next, tell who the product targets. What age or grade? What educational method(s) will it appeal to? What type of learner might benefit from this product? Is it created for homeschool use? If not, is it easily adaptable to the homeschooling environment?

Express Your Opinion

If you’re reviewing a product you have not used personally and plan to give an opinion, what appeals to you about it? What makes you excited? What do you think your children would enjoy?

And if you’ve actually used the product, how did it work in your homeschool? What did you enjoy or appreciate? Did your kids like it? Be honest but try not to gush.

Make a Recommendation

Again, if you want to give a personal opinion, use your closing sentences to let your readers know if you would recommend this product. Would you buy it were it not already in your hands? Offer a professional review, one that is honest but not overly enthusiastic. After all, this isn’t meant to be a sales pitch.

Finally, close by providing contact information, including company name, website, email address, and phone number.

This is a simple way to get started writing a review. As you can imagine, it’s always easier to evaluate a book or product you’ve personally used. But eventually, you can begin having fun reviewing products you’ve never seen before! And if you’re giving an assignment to a teen, perhaps requiring both kinds of reviews will help strengthen some of her writing skills as well.

Next week I’ll give more details about writing a neutral product review, along with some examples to follow.

Enter a Book Review Contest! [Contest has ended]

Successful-Homeschooling.com is sponsoring a contest with an opportunity to win FREE books! For every qualified product review that you submit by September 21, 2008, you’ll have various opportunities to win up to $100 in Usborne books!

So now that you have some tools in your belt for writing a great product review, what are you waiting for? Click here for contest information.

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