Kumon Writing Workbook Curriculum Review

Kumon Writing Workbook Curriculum Review

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Kumon Writing – Grade 1 is the first in Kumon’s writing workbook series. I used it in our homeschool with both of my older boys for their first grade year.

Kumon Writing Review

The Kumon Writing – Grade 1 workbook contains 36 lessons (two pages each) that cover writing and grammar topics with increasing difficulty, starting with some vocabulary and ending with very basic story writing. The last two lessons are review, and an answer key is at the back of the book.

While this is purportedly a writing workbook, I felt that it was more of a grammar workbook with a nod to writing. So I actually used it as part of my students’ grammar instruction.

In the note to parents on the back of the front cover page, it states that the workbook is designed for students to work in on their own. However, the reading level required to even read the instructions was beyond even my advanced first grade reader. Abstract concepts, like “first-person singular verbs” (introduced in lesson 19), also precludes this workbook as both independent work for a first grader and maybe as appropriate for a first grader at all.

Thanks to the colorful drawings and simple activities, my students did enjoy this workbook for the most part. And once they became accustomed to the types of activities included in this workbook, they were able to do some of the work independently. But the inconsistent difficulty level throughout the book and some advanced topics made me question its effectiveness.

Teacher Prep

This will be an open-and-go workbook for most. But it could be helpful to plan an activity to introduce grammar topics as they appear in the workbook (i.e. pronouns).

Student Time

Due to the amount of reading required on each page and the difficulty level of the reading, it could take a first grader a solid 20 minutes to complete a lesson.

To whom would I recommend Kumon Writing?

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

Recommend to…

  • Students that do well with Written Word learning methods since so much reading is required and concepts are introduced via text on the page.
  • Students that prefer Independent learning since this workbook was designed for students to work on their own.

I would NOT recommend to…

Students that have a strong dislike for learning via the Written Word and instead prefer learning via the Spoken Word. Parents can give verbal instructions, but since this workbook is designed for independent work, it does get a bit awkward and tedious.

My Best Tips for Using Kumon Writing

  • Decide how you want to schedule this workbook. For example, you could schedule for your student to work out of it three times a week and complete it in a semester, or once a week and supplement with related activities.
  • Plan ahead for hands-on activities to solidify difficult-to-grasp concepts.
  • Consider your student’s reading level and comfort with abstract concepts. It may be preferable to use this “Grade 1” workbook with a second grader, instead, although some concepts will still be a little above their heads.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Kumon Writing

Kumon Writing – Grade 1 is, in general, a low-stress and low-prep grammar choice for a parent, but that convenience should be balanced with the expected effectiveness for a particular student.

Bob Books Workbooks Curriculum Review

Bob Books Workbooks Curriculum Review

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The Bob Books reading program now has companion workbooks to further reading skills. I’ve purchased the Bob Books Beginning Readers Workbook and Bob Books Emerging Readers Workbook to use with my youngest.

BOB Books Review

I recently purchased the Bob Books Beginning Readers Workbook and Bob Books Emerging Readers Workbook on a whim since my boys have enjoyed the Bob Books readers so much. I thought that the workbooks’ colorful pages and variety of activities would be a fun way for my preschooler to get in some extra phonics practice.

Each workbook is based on specific boxed sets:

The workbook activities in the Beginning Readers Workbook for the Alphabet and Beginning Readers box sets focus mostly on the alphabet and letter sounds, with a lot of coloring, matching, and letter and word tracing. While at first glance these seem like good activities for a preschooler learning to read, I developed a different opinion once my son started using the workbook. Having already taught two other children how to read and write, I felt that the handwriting aspect (tracing both uppercase letters and then writing them on their own) moved way too quickly. As a matter of fact, my preschooler has spent the past year learning to form uppercase letters, and will spend next year learning to form lowercase letters.

By contrast, the Beginning Readers Workbook teaches letter formation at the speed of light, which means that it would serve better as a review for kindergarteners/first graders that have already learned how to form all letters, both uppercase and lowercase. In that case, it wouldn’t actually serve as a companion for the Bob Books readers since students should be operating at a higher reading level by that point.

The workbook activities in the Beginning Readers Workbook for the Rhyming Words readers add word searches to the coloring, tracing, writing, and matching activities. I felt that the word searches were the most useful aspect of this jumbo workbook, so it’s up to the parent to decide if the cost of the purchase of this workbook is worth a limited set of truly useful pages.

The Emerging Readers Workbook has many of the same types of activities as the latter part of the Beginning Readers Workbook, with the addition of color-the-word (like color-by-number) pages, sight word identification activities, and more of a focus on sentences. While I still feel that the writing activities may be a bit too advanced for students operating at the reading level of the Bob Books readers on which the activities are based upon, some students may do ok with them.

Considering the weaknesses of these workbooks, I’ve chosen to use them simply as a source of worksheets. I identify the worksheets that are appropriate for my preschooler’s handwriting ability and skip the rest.

Teacher Prep

As long as you have crayons and pencils, these workbooks should be open-and-go for the parent.

Student Time

Each page in the Beginning Readers Workbook should take less than five minutes to do, while pages in the Emerging Readers Workbook may take a little longer. Kids that love workbooks, and especially the types of activities in these workbooks, may want to do several pages at a time, so you may move through these workbooks faster than expected.

To whom would I recommend BOB Books?

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

Recommend to…

Normally I would say that workbooks like these are good for students that do well with Interactive and Visual learning methods. But since I feel that these workbooks are inconsistent in matching activities to reading/handwriting level, I actually have a hard time recommending them at all.

I would NOT recommend to…

  • Students that resist learning One-on-One since the disconnect between reading level and handwriting ability will require a lot of parent help.
  • Parents that want to use most pages in a workbook to feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

My Best Tips for Using Bob Books Workbooks

  • Use them simply as a worksheet repository, identifying the worksheets that are appropriate for your student and skipping the rest.
  • Parents may be tempted to treat these workbooks as independent work, but I highly recommend working with your students one-on-one when it comes to the writing activities. Otherwise, students will invent ways to form letters on their own. As a parent that has worked very hard with my students in regards to writing skills and correct letter formation, I can tell you that bad habits are easy to create, and much less easy to break.
  • Students that require more Interactive learning methods may enjoy these free Bob Books printables from This Reading Mama.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Bob Books Workbooks

While we have greatly enjoyed the Bob Books readers, and my preschooler does enjoy the workbooks, the workbooks have not been as big of a hit with me. You may want to investigate these free Bob Books printables from This Reading Mama before purchasing the workbooks.

First Language Lessons Review

First Language Lessons Review

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First Language Lessons is a language arts curriculum published by The Well-Trained Mind Press. I’ve tried Level 1 of this curriculum for the first grade year of my two older boys, although I did end up abandoning it before the year was out. I’m not sure yet if I’ll try it with my youngest.


First Language Lessons Review  

First Language Lessons is a parent-led, scripted language arts curriculum. It contains ## short lessons (should be about 15 minutes), and each lesson shows a back-and-forth conversation between parent and child about grammar topics (nouns, common nouns, proper nouns, verbs). Most of the lessons consist only of a script, but some suggest copywork or work in a picture study.

Besides the script, the other major portion of First Language Lessons is poetry memorization. Poems are introduced in lessons, with reminders to practice the poems throughout the book.  

While First Language Lessons does seem to contain all of the elements of a good language arts curriculum, I found it to be awkward and clunky to use as written, for some of the following reasons: 

  • Students are expected to answer questions from the script in complete sentences, which I found got in the way of the conversation that I was supposed to be having with my child, and created an unnecessary complication for my young student. I quickly abandoned this expectation.
  • Examples used to describe parts of speech were also unnecessarily complicated and sometimes required pre-reading from the parent in order to make it applicable to the student. For example, students are taught that nouns can be a person by going into various family relationships (talking about brothers and sisters, but also your mother’s brother’s children being your cousins, etc.). It got confusing very quickly, and got in the way of the point of the actual lesson.
  • Students are not taught one thing at a time, for example that a noun can be a person. They are then given a complicated lesson on family relationships. So lessons often ended with both my child and I feeling a bit bewildered.
  • I felt that poetry memorization was somewhat rushed, and ended up abandoning the suggestions in the book and going at our own pace with the poems.   

To whom would I recommend First Language Lessons?    

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

  • Recommend to…

    • Students that prefer the Spoken Word learning method since it’s the primary (by far) learning method used.
    • Students that do well with receiving instruction One-on-One because First Language Lessons is written as a scripted conversation between parent and child. 
  • I would NOT recommend to…

    • Students that strongly prefer any learning method other than Spoken Word, if using this curriculum as written. (See my best tips below).
    • Students that have a strong dislike for One-on-One learning, if using this curriculum as written. (See my best tips below).
    • Students that are not yet comfortable with abstract concepts (like common noun and proper noun).
    • Students that are not yet reading – may want to focus on basic language arts skills, like writing sentences, first.  

My Best Tips for Using First Language Lessons 

As written, I feel like First Language Lessons is appropriate for only a specific type of student – one that has a strong preference for learning methods focusing on the Spoken Word. So I would recommend using it only as a spine, meaning using its progression through parts of speech as a guide, and supplementing with worksheets and activities from Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest.

I also recommend getting these printables of the poems, laminating them, and using them for memorizing at your student’s pace. If you have a student that prefers Written Word or Visual learning methods, allow them to read the poems with you.

    The Last Thing You Need to Know about First Language Lessons 

    Many parents may feel like they need to customize First Language Lesson heavily in order for it to be effective for their students. This could be a positive (getting an inexpensive base to a language arts curriculum that the parent can customize for their own child) or a negative (wondering if the work required to customize is worth it, or if it’s better to purchase a curriculum that more closely fits the student’s preferred learning methods and therefore requires less customization).

    Spelling You See Curriculum Review

    Spelling You See Curriculum Review

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    As the name implies, Spelling You See is a spelling curriculum published by Demme Learning. I’ve used Level B in our homeschool with my oldest, and Level A with my middle boy. I’m currently trying out Level B with my middle boy.

    Spelling You See Level B Review 

    Spelling You See takes a unique approach to spelling. Rather than using word lists or learning phonograms, students learn to spell by marking (“chunking”) letter combinations in a passage, then using portions of the passage for copywork. The same passage is used for a week, with the parent dictating the passage for the student to write at the end of the week.

    While I’ve heard of other homeschoolers having great success with this program, it did not work at all for my oldest. The primary learning method used by Spelling You See is the Written Word, and that’s one of my oldest son’s least preferred learning methods. But my middle boy does better with the Written Word, so I’m trying it out with him.

    Curriculum Elements 

    • Instructor’s Handbook – This little handbook holds a lot of information. Highlights are a description of the philosophy behind this curriculum, parent instructions for usage of this program, parent instructions for each lesson, and an answer key.
    • Student Workbooks (Parts 1 & 2)
    • Colored Pencils
    • Guide to Handwriting

    I will mention one of the things about this curriculum that drives me batty – the font! In the font the curriculum uses, uppercase “I” looks like a lowercase “l”. I found this to be unnecessarily confusing for my kids, that were within a couple of years of having learned to write their letters.  

    How It Works 

    Spelling You See has 36 lessons, split into two workbooks (18 lessons in each). Each lesson has five worksheets (ex. 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E). 

    In the first student workbook, each lesson consists of the student marking certain sounds or letters in a passage, and then writing words dictated by the parent (words for dictation are found in the Instructor’s Handbook).   

    In the second workbook, the student marks up a passage as instructed, then uses a portion of the passage for copywork for worksheets A-C of each lesson. Worksheet D gives the student a chance to be creative, while on worksheet E the parent dictates the passage after the student “chunks” it.

    Teacher Prep 

    I would recommend that a parent using this curriculum for the first time familiarize herself with the Instructor’s Handbook and read the Getting Started pages. 

    Also, one of the weaknesses of Spelling You See is that information for each lesson is spread out all over the Instructor’s Handbook. So it’s helpful to mark the following sections in the with flags/paperclips/bookmark for easy reference: 

    • The section giving instructions for each lesson.
    • Dictation pages.
    • Chunking answer key. 

    Student Time 

    Lessons shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes, usually less. 

    To whom would I recommend Spelling You See? 

    (Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.) 

    Recommend to… 

    • Students that prefer the Written Word and Spoken Word as learning methods since Spelling You See focuses on copywork and dictation.
    • Students that prefer working One-on-One since there’s so much dictation (especially the first half of the curriculum), but Independent learners may do well with the second workbook since there’s more copywork.
    • Level B uses nursery rhymes for the passages in each lesson, so students that very much enjoy nursery rhymes may find that element of Spelling You See delightful.  

    I would NOT recommend to… 

    • Students that are below the reading level required for the nursery rhymes.
    • Students that struggle learning via the Spoken Word since there’s so much dictation.
    • Students that prefer Independent work – again, because of the dictation. 

    My Best Tip for Using Spelling You See 

    Set a timer for 10 minutes on the days you do passage dictation. A student that is struggling will not benefit from spending more time on this activity, and it may actually discourage and frustrate them so much that they resist in the future. 

    The Last Thing You Need to Know about Spelling You See 

    While I always encourage parents to customize the curricula that they use for their particular students, I feel that Spelling You See is not as easy to customize as other curricula, and that doing so would be time-intensive with questionable return on investment. Consequently, I feel that Spelling You See either works for a student or it doesn’t. And that the students that it will work for have an affinity for the written word.

    Bob Books Curriculum Review

    Bob Books Curriculum Review

    This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the links.

    Bob Books are a series of sets of phonics readers. I’ve purchased and used five sets of these readers in our homeschool, currently with my youngest.

    Bob Books Review

    Bob Books have been a fun addition to our homeschool as a supplement to our phonics curriculum. While each reader is short, simple, with usually only one color to a page (besides black and white), the stories are silly and short enough to become favorites with kids. The short stories allow even a beginning reader to easily read an entire book in one sitting, which has thrilled my kids and increased their confidence. I often hear, “I want to read another!” from my newest reader.


    Each set comes with: 

    • a varying number of brief, paperback readers (possibly 8, 10, 12)
    • a parent guide that gives tips for teaching your child to read
    • and some sets include an additional resource, like flash cards or puzzles. 

    Teacher Prep

    Teacher prep consists of choosing the box set appropriate to your student’s reading level. For help in this regard, refer to the back of the box – you’ll find available box sets listed in order. You’ll sometimes find even more specific information, like an “Appeals to” suggestion for grade (ex. “Appeals to Pre-K-1st Graders”) and a suggested reading level (ex. “Reading Level Kindergarten”).

    Student Time

    Since we use Bob Books as a supplement to our phonics curriculum, we usually read just one book a day, which take less than five minutes. Sometimes we extend reading time by discussing words that rhyme, reading comprehension questions, etc.

    To whom would I recommend Bob Books?

    (Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

    Recommend to…

    • Students that love the Written Word but aren’t yet fluent readers will likely love Bob Books and feel so accomplished when they can read an entire book!
    • Students that prefer Independent activities will enjoy these readers on their own, possibly after having read each reader with a parent.

    I would NOT recommend to…

    Students that are highly Visual may not love the simple aesthetic of Bob Books, although the charming pictures may make up for the simplicity.

    My Best Tips for Using Bob Books

    • The simplicity of each reader may tempt you into rushing through each book with your child. But remembr that, while the readers may look like pamphlets to us as adults, to your child each reader is a REAL BOOK. So treat them like real books. Allow your student to read it through slowly and to have fun with it. Talk about the characters. Ask your child what they think will happen next. Discuss how much you both liked, or disliked, the story.
    • Students that require more Interactive learning methods may enjoy these free Bob Books printables from This Reading Mama.

    The Last Thing You Need to Know about Bob Books

    My kids have been charmed by the Bob Books readers. Even my most reluctantly reader enjoyed them, and seeing his reading fluency and confidence increase made my mama’s heart happy!

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