Jan 25, 2013

Discovery at Home Review and Giveaway

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          Do you have a “struggling” reader? Maybe you have a reader(s) that just needs a little extra help? We have a struggling reader in our house and I know from personal experience how frustrating, disheartening, and tedious reading becomes for both you and your child.
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          Toward the end of October I became part of the Reading Horizons review group and had the opportunity to give feed back about their soon to be released Discovery at Home program (the release date is February 4th).  We have been homeschooling now for over three years. In that time we have worked with several different phonics programs, trying to find the program that best fits our families needs. We needed a program that was easy for me to implement and understand, and very flexible. I have three kids with three VERY different personalities and strengths/weaknesses.  The Discovery at Home program has worked well for all three of my kids. Boo (who is 9 yrs old) HATES handwriting, so we do fewer worksheets and more work at the white board. Sis (who is 7 yrs old) has a very short attention span, so we do our work in chunks. Bean (who will turn 4 in March) is so young I wanted a very hands on fun program, for her we work on the floor with our letters, skip the handwriting, and play lots of games from the “game supplement” book. This program is by far the most flexible reading program I have ever used.
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          What makes Discovery at Home different than anything we have ever used? The program not only teaches how to read but how to “see” the words. Other phonics programs are like teaching math using only flash cards, your child may have all their addition facts memorized but they don’t understand why 1+1=2. The Discovery at Home program is like using math manipulatives to teach math. You place one counter on the table and say one, then you place one more counter on the table and say plus one, you push them together and ask you child how many counter there are in all. They of course can “see” why 1+1=2. As they grasp the concept and can “see” the problem in their mind they will move away from the manipulatives. The Discovery program works the same way, it shows your child step by step how to “see” the word by using a marking system. As they become comfortable with the marking system they can “mark” the word in their mind and decode ANY word. If your still not too sure, take an hour and go through the Parent Training Workshop, you will see how different the program really is.
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          Another HUGE point for me is the Reading Horizons company itself (you can read about them HERE). There are so many companies out there that sell phonics programs, they put a few instructions in the teachers manual and hope you can figure it out. They don’t actually stand behind their program. Reading Horizons is NOT that company!!! Reading Horizons provides parent training, webinarsgames, and assessments. They have a Facebook page where you can ask questions you have about the program. They also have an on-line resource center  called Accelerate (included with the program). There is a timeline to help you schedule the program, all the black line masters, worksheets, and tons of additional resources to help you teach your child. It’s a huge help for me not to have to worry about scheduling a program, the “Timeline” does the work for you. Currently there are a few small glitches with the timeline but Reading Horizons is working those out as you read. You can choose if you would like to view a day at a time, a week at a time, or a month at a time. Here is what my “Timeline” looks like for the month of January.
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          You can click on any of the lessons (in blue) and it will show the breakdown of the lesson. Below is what it would look like if you clicked on a lesson. Each week I receive an e-mail that gives me a quick overview of what we will work on that week, you can opt out or change the settings to receive an e-mail each day, week, or month based on your preference.
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          Another major plus for us was having an “all in one” program.  It was frustrating switching between curriculums. We had one program for grammar, another for spelling, another for handwriting, a list of sight words, and another program for phonics. With Discovery at Home it’s basically a full language arts program for the first four years. There are 15 reference lessons through out the program, things such as; contractions, punctuation, capitalization, alphabetical order, sentence structure, antonyms, verbs, nouns, commas, prefixes, suffixes, and much more. The first chapter focuses on the basics of reading and writing (including letter formation) and then it move on from there. It’s SO much nicer not worrying when I need to teach this or that, it’s all right there, laid out in an easy to use format. All I have to do is show up and teach :-). If you go here, scroll all the way to the bottom under “Learn More About” you will find a link for the Scope and Sequence.
        Purchase Options are as follows;                         image         
          When you look at the pricing consider how many children will use the program, how many years each one will use the program, and the fact that the instruction material is not consumable so it can be reused indefinitely.   Maybe online software works better for your family, you can create up to two student accounts  with each online software subscription.
  What is included in the instructor material package;
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*Teachers Manuals- There are six teachers manuals, one for each chapter and every aspect of the program is color coded to coordinate with the chapter color. This is one of my favorite parts of the program. It’s REALLY nice for me, having three kids, to have separate manuals and an easy way to organize everything. Boo is in Chapter 3, his “color” is blue. Sis is in Chapter 2, her “color” is yellow. Bean is in Chapter 1, so her “color” is red. It’s nice to look at the color and be able to grab everything that is needed (manual, readers, and transfer cards).
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*Transfer Cards-  These are an amazing “quick review” tool. When I have one of those “I’m not functioning at full capacity but still don’t want to throw in the towel” days, I grab our transfer cards and have each of the kids do some work at the white board.
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*Six Wall Posters-  The posters are great for the kids to look at when they need a quick refresher. Included are blends, 42 sounds, vowels, special vowel combinations, 5 phonetic skills, and the two decoding skill posters.
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*Game Supplement-  I really like this book. The games are quick to set up and don’t require much prep work. There are lists to look at based on the specific skill your child needs to work on. For example; Bean has been working on her slides, for reinforcement I can look in the games manual for “Games that Reinforce the Consonant/Vowel Slides” and look at those games to play during her reading time.
*Readers- The Instructor Material comes with five readers, one for each chapter (except Chapter 1). You can also purchase two additional sets of readers. I ordered both the Kindergarten Little Book set and the Grades 1-3 Little Book set. If you already have a “beginning” phonics reader set (like BOB books) I wouldn’t necessarily recommend purchasing the  Kindergarten set. We like them but they don’t have anything more than other beginner phonics readers. The Grades 1-3 Little Books on the other hand I highly recommend. We have an issue creating a bridge that takes a reader from phonics books to pre-chapter books. The Grade 1-3 Little Book readers have engaging stories and slowly build in length and difficulty. As they progress through each chapter the books get a little longer, the print a little smaller, and the word count on each page increases.  This helps seamlessly put them into pre-chapter books and then into chapter books. Below you can see how the text progresses from Chapter 2 books to Chapter 4 books and finally to the Chapter 6 books.
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          Now for my all time favorite part! The giveaway, starting on Monday January 28th. The give away is for; 1 grand prize of the Discovery at Home Bundle (software subscription and Instructor materials) and 10 Discovery at Home software subscriptions.
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The giveaway will end on February 25th

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