Tag Archives: spelling

Alphabet Train Flashcards for Sale

Well, Jessica and I just opened our Etsy store, and our alphabet train flashcard deck is now for sale. I have some sets printed out already, and I will print more on demand. You can visit the shop here: Engage and Grow.

Here is the listing:

When my son was five, he loved trains, but he hated learning to read! These flashcards were the solution to that dilemma. Building words became a game for him. Children always learn best when they are engaged and having fun, and this was no exception. Five years and lots of hard work later: he is now a great reader, thanks in part to these creative flashcards.
It occurred to me that other children might benefit from this product, so I recreated them to make them more attractive and opened this shop for the express purpose of offering them to you! I hope they fill your days with fun and learning!

Each card is 2 1/2″ x 4″ and printed on card stock.

Set includes 1 engine, 1 caboose, 26 freight cars, and 26 cargo cars – 54 cards total.

This product comes pre-wrapped in colorful fabric squares, tied with a ribbon. Your Christmas or birthday wrapping is done for you!








5th Grade Curriculum Ideas – Reading and Writing

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you as you teach, especially if you are looking for no-cost, low-cost options. I have spent less money than ever this year on curriculum, yet it has been our best year by far.

This year, Ian is doing much more on his own. I am directly overseeing his writing, grammar, and mathematics. We are using IEW, Grammar, Fix It and Singapore Math respectively. If you want to read more about these subjects, I posted about them here. In addition to these curriculum choices, we are doing a few extra things for these topics.

For writing, I am spending a few minutes per day dictating to him from Little House in the Big Woods. As I dictate, he writes. He always tries to spell everything on his own, and I will stop and correct him as we go. Sometimes, this spawns a discussion about various spelling rules. So far, this exercise seems to be more productive than regular spelling lists.

In addition,  I have just printed off some texts in cursive that I intend to have him trace. The first one I have printed is the initial paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. We should start this exercise tomorrow. While we haven’t formally taught him to write in cursive, we realize the importance of being able to read original historical documents. I also intend to order a book that contains pictures of some of the originals in order to have him practice reading them.

My excuse for not teaching him cursive was the fact that typing seems like a much more important skill right now. That, and he is still struggling with the physical motion of writing at all, although he is improving in leaps and bounds this year. So he will spend about 5-10 minutes per day typing. We have tried two or three typing programs geared towards children, but Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing is still his favorite.

I have been reading to Ian like crazy lately. Not just living history and science books, but Uncle Eric too (which is his favorite series so far). We are also reading tons of fiction together. I am beginning to wonder if we should have gone with the Sonlight curriculum this year! On second thought, they are quite expensive, and we are doing well using whatever we can get our hands on.

I am simply falling in love with our local library. I never appreciated them because they have catered mostly to children, and I never had much use for them before. Almost all of their adult books are either outdated or pop-fiction, neither of which I enjoy. But now that Ian and I are reading together so much, I am rethinking my opinion of our library.

I think there must be a homeschooling family that is selling their old books to our nearest V-Stock, because I have found tons of great resources there lately.

Also, as I mentioned in my last post, we have found LibriVox quite invaluable. Right this moment, we are listening to nursery rhyme recordings.Educational Audio Since yesterday, when he listened to The Story of Dr. Dolittle in its entirety, he has listened to the first hour of The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, a bit of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and now nursery rhymes. I know it seems he is too old for nursery rhymes, but I skipped over them inadvertently when he was younger, so we are filling in the gaps in his education. They are quite pleasant! I am also intending to use this site for catching up on some poetry and perhaps listening to a few things in Spanish. The usefulness of this site seems endless!

Wow, I had intended to fill you in on what we were doing for some of our other subjects this year, but this topic got away from me, so I will save those for another time.

Free ways to teach writing and spelling

Ok, so this year we finally took the plunge and purchased curriculum from Institute for Excellence in Writing. I did it because having a curriculum is easy, and I truly believe that their ideas will help Ian learn more about writing in the long run.

However, up until this year (5th grade), I had not invested any money at all into a writing curriculum. Here is what we had been doing:


When I spell today, I am not thinking back to some memorized list from the third grade. I can spell because I read a lot. If I misspell a word, I usually know right away because something looks off about it. Reading well-written compositions also help when it comes to writing. Students learn what good writing looks like.

Copy and Dictation

I would generally have Ian “write” a paragraph from scratch about his day, or about his video game, or whatever he had just been doing. Basically anything simple that he wouldn’t have to think too much to come up with. He would dictate it to me, four or five sentences, and I would write it down. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Afterward, I would have him copy what I wrote onto a separate sheet of paper. Then, the next day usually, I would dictate that same paragraph to him, and he would write it down on another fresh sheet. I would always help him with spelling, and cover any spelling rules on the spot if anything came up. I would also show him other words that use the same rules for reinforcement. This exercise is also great for suggesting alternate ways of writing a sentence or correcting grammar mistakes. As your child becomes a better writer, suggest more and more changes, but don’t overdo it because you won’t want to discourage him. Basically, using this method, you could probably get through your entire K-12 without ever purchasing writing (or spelling) curriculum, as long as the teacher is a competent and confident writer. That being said, you would still want to eventually move on to things like essays, business letters, and resumes. I haven’t looked into myself, but you can probably find examples of all of these things online, along with tips for writing them. For help with streamlining a research paper, look here.

Writing stories together (see Creative Writing and Flying)

A new twist on writing stories together is fan fiction. I recently downloaded a MineCraft novel on my Kindle and began reading it to Ian. Now he is hoping to write one of his own and publish it as an eBook. He has never wanted to write anything before, so this is cropped-img_4390-copy.jpgvery encouraging to me. You can find lots of fan fiction online, but most of it is poorly written. Also, you have to watch out for inappropriate content, so be careful before just turning your children loose on these sites.

Spelling City (for students using word lists)

For help with hand writing (print or cursive), see my blog post here.

I hope I’m not missing anything!

When Ian was in kindergarten, I completely forgot to teach him how to write. I was so focused on math concepts and teaching him to read, that it just slipped my mind. When first grade came around, I gave him his first language book, and then it hit me! My baby barely knows how to write! So during the first part of first grade, we moved very slowly through his language book. I made up copy sheets for him every day. At first he started out tracing, but eventually I was able to write a line and skip a line, and he was able to copy each of my lines into each blank one. Fast forward one year, and he is writing well, but he still hates it. I hope I didn’t do that to him…

I was reading another homeschool blog earlier this morning. She talks about taking the eclectic approach for English with her ninth-grader. She also has a fun list of what hasn’t worked for her family. You should check it out!

Anyway, reading her blog reminded me that I’ve been wanting to give you all an idea of what we do around here. As I may have mentioned before, we begin each day with language. He likes that subject the least (probably because it involves writing), so we get it out of the way first. So far this year, we have done Total Reading Grade 2. While the title implies reading skills, it is so much more than that! It covers grammar, writing skills, testing, and has some creative writing projects as well. We have finished that book, all but the last ten or so pages, which I am saving for stressful days because he actually enjoys the testing section of the book. Today we will begin Language Arts 2, which is published by Harcourt Family Learning. We move at a rate of about 6 pages per day, so I intend to be finished with this one by Christmas. The topics covered in this book are Parts of Speech, Sentences, Mechanics, Vocabulary and Usage, Writing, and Research Skills. Both of these language books I picked up at Barnes and Noble, and I really like them. We enjoyed the first-grade versions as well. After finishing the language books, we will move on to Harcourt’s Writing Skills for Grade 2. I’m expecting this book to slow us down, but as long as we finish by April or so, I will be happy. After that, we will be focusing on creative writing. So our breakdown of the morning is as follows:

30-120 minutes on language (depending on how much time he wastes not focusing).

20 minutes reading for leisure (I always let him choose this chapter book – it is usually Magic Tree House).

30 minutes reading for science or history (always a chapter book such as a nature reader or book about Abraham Lincoln – I choose).

10 minutes reading aloud to me (admitedly, sometimes we skip this step).

I’ve been wanting to begin reading literature to him, like Peter Pan or something above his reading level, mostly so he can learn new words. Right now, I only read his science and history textbooks aloud to him.

30 minutes or so on Spelling City online. I’m using the word lists from A Reason for Handwriting, but when we finish that book, I’m just going to get some lists from the internet.

5 minutes on cursive writing. He’s learning one new letter a day at this point.

Hopefully, my somewhat eclectic approach is covering everything!

What methods/techniques do you use for language?