Old Fashioned Reading Lessons ~ Eclectic Foundations a Crew Review

I have been teaching reading in one way shape or form in my home school for nearly 18 years. I have tried so many different reading programs with each of my daughters that I have lost count. Most of those learn to read programs I used with Supergirl. I've learned that I really prefer a phonics based approach. I've learned reading is complex skill that is as much about a child's developmental readiness as it is on the program you use and, that no matter what program you use, fluency seems to come best when real sentences and stories are used.

The one approach I hadn't tried yet was the old fashioned curriculum idea.  How about using McGuffey's Eclectic Readers to teach reading? I was excited to see that Eclectic Foundations would be offering their Language Arts Levels A, B, and C to the Homeschool Review Crew.  Let me start by telling you how I settled on using Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A with Supergirl.

Because I am a crew leader, I received all three currently available levels. I wasn't sure exactly which level, A or B would be the best fit for Supergirl. Looking at Level A, I was concerned that it would be too easy for her as the focus is learning the alphabet. The McGruffey's Eclectic Primer is not used until nearly the middle of the program. Supergirl already knows the phonemes of the basic 26 phonograms as well as a few more phonograms such as ai, ch, and ck.  Level A at first blush looked like it would bore her.

According to the Which Level Should I start With page, a child who knows how to read basic CVC words should be fine to start with Level B but when I looked through my copy of Level B, I wasn't comfortable starting her there because the first lesson includes a word list with the silent e pattern. This is covered towards the end of Level A. Also I didn't believe she was reading fluently enough to feel confident with Level B.  The First Reader starts out simply enough with CVC words but does move quickly into longer more difficult words.

I was worried that I would not be able to use either level with her so I sat down and paged through the Teacher Guide of Level A. There is definitely material in the second half of the program that she has not been introduced to. She has not learned the "silent e" rule and this is part of the scope and sequence of Level A.

I decided the *best* plan was to start at the lesson when the McGuffey Primer began: Lesson 65.  This was the perfect fit and the perfect place for Supergirl to start

The Program

I highly encourage you to read the company's perspective on Why Eclectic Foundations.

In addition to using the Revised Editions of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers, Elizabeth Ratliff based the phonics portion of the program on Word Mastery. She also includes daily Mother Goose rhymes from a 1916 version of the Real Mother Goose.

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts is designed to be used 4 days a week for 36 weeks. There are 144 lessons. The first 26 weeks or 104 lessons teach the alphabet 1 letter per week. They are not taught in alphabetical order but instead in an order to facilitate reading real words as quickly as possible. Blending of two and three letters begins in week 2 and in week 3 reading practice includes reading two CVC words.

The Overview in the Teacher's Guide lays out four sections:


McGuffy's Eclectic Reader ~ Students begin to read the McGuffey's Eclectic Primer starting in Lesson 65. Students will study the picture, read the selection, and color the word cards. The selections typically have a few words for practicing and then a few sentences. Every 5th lesson in the McGuffey's reader is a review passage. These are longer and incorporate the words the student has been reading in previous lessons.  Ms. Ratliff suggests reading the selection at least 3 times. Students can and should use the flashcards for more practice.

This is a sample page from the Primer reader.

Phonics ~ For most of Level A the phonics lessons are basically learning the letters, one letter at a time, but this shifts with lesson 105.  Beginning with lesson 105 students will have a list of words to practice reading.  These words are not related to the McGuffey reading section.  There are a variety of activities in Lessons 1-104 to teach phonemic awareness, tracking, and the sounds of the 26 letters of the alphabet. There is no instruction other than to help your student read the words for the lessons for lessons 105- 144.

Handwriting ~ For the lessons through 104 handwriting focuses on learning how to print the letters.  A variety of activities are offered each week from building the letter with playdough to writing it in sand to actually practice writing the letter in the student workbook handwriting page.  Lesson 105 the handwriting becomes copywork as students practice writing by copying a sentence from the day's McGuffey Reader selection.

Mother Goose ~ For Level A simply read the daily rhyme to your child and enjoy it together.  Ms. Ratliff suggests that if your child is artistically inclined she may want to draw a picture to go with the Mother Goose reading.

Grammar ~ While not stated in the Overview there is a fifth component woven though out the program: Grammar.  Grammar lessons are gentle introductions of topics that will be studied more in-depth in later years. The flashcards are used, not just for reading practice, but also for a gentle introduction to the parts of speech. As part of the McGuffey Reader part of the  lesson, the student will cut out and color the words from the reader.  These words are color coded according to their parts of speech.  Red for nouns, Green for verbs, etc.

From lessons 65-104 periodic grammar lessons introducing the parts of speech appear during McGuffey Reader review weeks. Starting with lesson 105, grammar is covered daily. These are simple lessons such as learning about capital letters and starting a sentence with a capital or learning about proper and common nouns and other lessons introduce punctuation.

Using the Program with Supergirl


As I stated above we started with Lesson 65.  We do not do all of the activities such as forming the letter with playdough.  Some lessons take us longer than others depending on whether I introduce a new phonogram from the Reader or we choose to use Can Do Letter blocks to build words instead of the laminated appendix.

We follow the suggestion to read the passage 3 times. I thought Supergirl would balk at reading the same passage 3 times but she doesn't mind and I truly see her reading and confidence build. We do use the word cards if there are any words that she really struggles with. We also use letter tiles and letter cubes to build any words she struggles with.

We do the student workbook pages as assigned for the lesson because Supergirl enjoys them and I think they help her solidify skills such as tracking and discrimination.

Two of my favorite worksheets are the letter matching and the maze. With the letter matching students are instructed to match the mama letters (Uppercase) with the baby letters (lowercase). These letters are written in different styles and fonts. The maze has the student trace the path created by the letter of the week.  This teaches tracking and discrimination.

Supergirl completes a letter maze.

Most Lessons include a game.  There are two variations of a "listening game" that develops phonemic awareness, a foundational reading skill.  In the first one,  Starting ? Game, you listen for the target to sound to identify if the word starts with that sound. In Begin, Middle, End? you listen for the target sound and identify whether it is in the beginning, middle, or end of a word.  The target sound corresponds to the letter of the week.

Supergirl and I both love the Word Building Game.  This teaches another foundational phonemic awareness skill: segmenting.  She calls it spelling because when we break the word down into it's segments we are identifying the phoneme and writing down the correct phonogram.

Things I think would make this program even better:

  • I wish that this program included phonogram cards or a cheat sheet of what sounds the letters make. 
  • I think it would really help if there was something in the Introduction of the Teacher Guide that addressed the concept of "sight words" or rather words that do follow more advanced patterns but are introduced now to make the stories more interesting to read.
  • I would love a heads up in the teacher guide about which "sight words" are introduced that day in the McGuffey reader. 
  • I find it jarring to have Supergirl practice reading CVC words in the phonics but reading CVCC and longer words in the Reader. Something in the Introduction or some notes in the Teacher Guide for each lessons would be great.  Something like "today your student will read stand. You may want to introduce this flashcard and practice blending before reading today's McGuffey selection." 

Our Thoughts:

Thoughts from Supergirl:

I like it because I love to read.  I like the word building game because it is like spelling.  I like the reader and I like reading to my mom. It is fun. I am learning to read and write words like frog, cat, Rab, dog, stand, catch, and sit.
Supergirl reads the daily selection three times!

My Thoughts:

I love this program for Supergirl right now. I love how short the lessons are but most of all I love seeing my daughter's fluency improve and her confidence grow.  I like how simple it is.

I do want to point out that this would not have been a good fit for Supergirl a year ago and this would not have been a good fit for BooBear when she was first learning to read at age 4/5.  However, this would have been near perfect to use with Turtlegirl and Tailorbear who understood phonices much more instinctively and both were ready to read at age 4/5.

When we finish Level A we will move into Level B and if that goes as well as Level A, we'll continue with Level C.

Some crew members reviewed Level A, others Level B and a few reviewed Level C.  Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read their reviews!

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Just Chilling

I would have posted this last week but we were in recovery mode and I was too tired:

Last week Supergirl had a cardiac catherization.  She's doing great and all looks well with her heart

I snapped this picture of her chilling on the couch after we got home from the hospital. She needed to lay low for a while longer and keep her leg straight as much as possible.  She thought it was great to lay back on the couch and watch Netflix.

Supergirl chilling on the couch watching Netflix!


A Simple Prayer for Lent

We've entered into Great Lent.  Most people are familiar with the idea of "giving up something" for lent or fasting but Lent is also a time of increased prayer and almsgiving.

I want to take just a moment to talk about increasing prayer. The other night at the Soup Supper and Talk my priest said that we can increase our prayers through repetitive prayers.  He specifically mentioned the Jesus prayer and the most simplest prayer of all "Lord have mercy".

The Jesus Prayer is a simple prayer that is perfect for increasing prayer during Lent.

The Jesus prayer is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

If you think in terms of mercy being "not given what you deserve" , then it might seem that our simplest prayer is just a cry to avoid punishment for sins.  That's more a judicial or legal term view.

But the words in Hebrew and Greek that are translated into our English word "mercy" have deeper broader meanings.  The Hebrew word means lovingkindness.  In Greek the word is closely related to the word for oil.  Olive oil is used for food, for lamps, for annointing, and for healing.

When pray "Lord have mercy," we are asking God to pour out his lovingkindness on us to heal us, to illumine us, to bless us and to provide for us.

I love the Jesus prayer.  It is simple. It is beautiful.  It can be powerful.  On Sunday at church the choir sang this prayer as prepared for communion.  I found this version on you tube. This is similar enough that I think you get the idea.

If you would like more information on the Jesus Prayer, I recommend this video with Frederica Matthews-Greene.

I am linking this post up to 40 Days of Seeking Him hosted by Day by Day in Our World.  


Traveling to Egypt ~ Project Passport World History Study {Review}

One of my favorite curriculum companies is Home School in the Woods.  I first encountered Amy Pak through her wonderful Timeline Figures that we used with our history program.  Through the Homeschool Review Crew, I've discovered that Home School in the Woods offers so much more than just figures we can use on a time line. Supergirl and I have been visiting and exploring Ancient Egypt with the HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt.

Home School in the Woods, Project Passport Study: Ancient Egypt #hsreviews

I prepared for our journey by printing out the Travel Planner: Quick Stop Itinerary.  This 3 page document gives a brief overview of the 25 Stops we will make on our trip. Stop 1 and Stop 2 Lay the Foundation.  During these two lessons students will prepare their passport, luggage, and Scrapbook of Sights. The passport and luggage will be used for each Project Passport Study.  I'm kind of relieved that we will not have to make a new luggage folder for each study!

Supergirl shows off her Scrapbook of Sights #hsreviwes  #ancientegypt

During the first two stops you also begin two long term projects: a newspaper and a lapbook. Because I am only using this with Supergirl we are skipping the assignments related to creating a newspaper.  She loves lapbooking so are going to be making the different books to put into a final lapbook when we reach the end of our trip.

Some of the Stops include:
  • Everyday Life
  • Education
  • Arts
  • Religion and the "gods"
  • Egypt's Most Famous Woman
  • Egypt Fades Away
  • Ancient Egypt and the Bible
  • and it ends with Final Stop -- Packing it Up!
If you haven't guessed each "Stop" is a lesson.  How long a lesson takes is left up to you.  If a stop is more interesting to your students you might spend more time there.  If it less interesting you may choose to skip some of the activities and move on.  Just like when you are traveling you may spend hours at one museum because you find it fascinating but cut your day trip short because the water park was just not as thrilling as the guide book suggested.

The PDFs are all organized into folders.  One folder is Text which is your "Travel Guide" another is Itineraries. Each Lesson or "Stop" has a Text PDF and an Itinerary PDF.  I am reading the Text aloud from my computer but you could print it out and bind it into a nice book or do what Home School in the Woods suggests and store the "Guide Book" and the Itineraries in a 3-ring binder.  I am printing out each Itinerary as I need it as this is the "what to do and how to do it document".  I could print it all out and once but I am just not that organized enough.

Activities include:
  • Souvenir Craft Cards - Supergirl is looking forward to the Dress like an Egyptian craft! The Cards have instructions for different craft projects.  These are stored in the
  • 3-D Projects ~ all of the Craft Cards I've looked at are 3-D but there are other 3-D projects such as making Mud Bricks
  • Audio Tours - the Project Passport Study includes MP3s.  In Stop 2 we took a tour down the Nile River. In Stop 5 we'll listen to "Interview with an Embalmer"
  • Snapshot Moments ~ these are items to add to the timeline which is stored in the Scrapbook of Sights
  • Edible Projects ~ We'll be making a Garbanzo Bean salad to bring to church for potluck!
  • and MORE! yes more
There are so many things to do with Ancient Egypt!  #hsreviews

Supergirl is not your typical 2nd grader though she is about the size of one.  She is my medically complicated, developmentally delayed medical miracle.  Ancient Egypt is recommended for grades 3-8.  We only do history 2 to 3 times per week and we are adding in many of the suggested additional resources such as movies, audiobooks, and books.  Spreading each stop over 4- 6 class times works well for us.  

I am really impressed with the HISTORY through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt.  We have Ancient Greece and Middle Ages. I can't decide which we should do next.  They both look just as fantastic as Ancient Egypt.

Home School in the Woods Review by Tess at Circling Through This Life

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HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

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Just a few of My Random Thoughts

I have a zillion thoughts or so it feels like running through my head and lots of stuff I want to share on my blog but alas I have not made writing a priority.

I just took a peek at my blog and *gasp* I have one post. ONE.  A single post for 2017.

So I'm going to do a Random 5 style update.  I miss my Random 5 posts.

1) 2016 was hard.  I lost two uncles, my beloved cat and my brother.  Never mind the celebrities that died in 2016 people (and an animal) that I love are gone.  I wrote a blog post sitting in my drafts called Saying Good-bye but I couldn't bring myself to post it.

Here are a couple of family pictures with my brother.  This first one is from the late 80's  In order: my dad, my brother, me and my sister.

My dad with his three kids

This one is the family portrait taken at my wedding.  Look at how proud my mom was and look how tall my brother is!

2)  Turtlegirl seems to be settling in well away from home at college.  I miss her so much and I am looking forward to her being home for Spring Break.  Here is my baby from when she was home on Christmas break.

Turtlegirl home form college for Christmas Break

3) Since we lost Lacy unexpectedly in July we've been keeping a closer eye on George.  He gave a us a bit of a scare because he seemed unwilling to walk.  Suspected arthritis.  Here he is chilling at the vet.  And yes it is arthritis.  He's doing much better now that he has some medicine to help with it

George didn't seem to upset by the exam room.

4)  I attended a wonderful women's pre-lenten retreat a couple of weeks ago. The topic was Restoring the Image: Women, Beauty and the Church. Some of my zillion thoughts I want to blog about are directly related to the retreat and how I am trying to have more beauty in my life.

5) The 2017 Homeschool Review Crew year is fully underway! Last week the Crew reviewed Home School in the Woods Project Passports.  I'll be posting a review here myself.  We're studying Egypt and Supergirl is loving it!

6) Speaking of the Crew,  I just received last week a product that the crew will be reviewing called Color My Conversation. I've started digging through the Instructor guide and I am so excited to use this with Supergirl. I think all of us at my house will benefit.

The Crew will be reviewing Color My Conversation from Northern Speech Services


More than just Valentine's Day!

Today many people celebrate. People eat chocolate, send cute little cards, and plan romantic dates.

 We don't just celebrate Valentine's Day today!

My family celebrates today as well but we celebrate something else.  Something much more special.  It's all about Love.  Eternal Love.

7 years ago on Forgiveness Sunday my family was received into the Eastern Orthodox Church.  My husband and children were baptized and the six of us Chrismated.  This took place before Liturgy and at Liturgy we had our first communion.

On February 14th we became Orthodox!

Forgiveness Sunday marks the beginning of Lent.  During the special vespers service we transition into Lent.  It's a beautiful service.

This year Forgiveness Sunday falls a little later in February.  On that day we'll remember that liturgically that is our anniversary.

Today my husband and I will have a little date.  We'll eat steak and shrimp and watch an episode or two of Doctor Who.  (I'm thinking the Christmas Special with River Song sounds perfect). Yes we'll celebrate Valentine's Day but as we enjoy our steak and shrimp we'll also be thinking of something much deeper and far more important.

In Him we have Eternal Life