Sunday, November 11, 2012

Institute for Excellence in Writing

I have been blessed greatly by being a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I have been introduced to so many wonderful companies and have received some fantastic products. This product is easily one of the very best.

We received the entire PAL, Primary Arts of Language program by Institute for Excellence in Writing. The program is based on the award-winning work by Anna Ingham. The PAL system has two main parts: reading and writing. The two components work together to provide the student a solid reading and writing foundation in K-2 grades.

The reading portion teaches phonics and whole words through poetry. The student is introduced to letters through fun little stories that are easy to remember. The complete package costs $69 and includes everything you need to teach your student to read:

  • Teacher's Manual
  • DVD-ROM (instructional video, multiple mp3 audios, student e-book)
  • Phonetic Games
  • Phonetic Farm Folder with Stickers 

The writing portion is divided into three parts: printing, copy work, and composition. Spelling is also included throughout. This package costs $89 and contains the following:
  • Teacher's Manual
  • DVD-ROM (instructional video, multiple mp3 audios, student e-book)
  • All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit
  • All About Spelling Level 1 (teacher manual & student material packet)
  • Bonus e-audio downloads

It's a lot of information. It's a lot of curriculum. It's a lot of overwhelming-ness. That's why you have to start with the instructional video. Jill Pike, creator of the program, beautifully explains how to use it. When I opened my box containing all the goodies, I was immediately giddy. There are so many wonderful resources as part of the PAL system. What initially excited me, soon overwhelmed me. How was I going to figure this thing out? Would I be able to implement all of this into our day? Could I do this? Then I sat down and watched the video. Within minutes I thought Wow, I can do this. This makes sense. Jill has a way of simplifying the program and giving you the confidence you need to teach your children.

The curriculum is spelled out for you. There's no guessing. There's no struggling to find supporting materials. Everything you need is clearly included.

While there's no independent research you must do, there is plenty of set-up in the beginning. For instance, there are many file folder games that need to be cut, possibly colored, glued, and laminated if desired. You can make the games as you need them, but I found that it disrupted the flow if I stopped to add to a game. It works better for us to have the games all set to go before we need them.

A typical lesson looks like this and can take 1-2 hours:

Poetry - a brief rhyme to be enjoyed and discussed
Class Journal - models how to properly write words and the date, includes a few sentences as a diary
Printing / Copy Work - letters introduced and practiced on a white board
Story Time - short story that engages and teaches sequence and summary 
Foundation & Reader Words - simple games that reinforce what was taught
Agenda or Work Period - independent work time, might include a worksheet, coloring page, completing a chore, playing a game, etc.
Phonetic Farm - farm setting picture that makes phonics fun
Read Words / Sentences - practice for what was learned
Informal Spelling Test- review the letters learned that day
So, what do we think? 
Honestly, I love it! I've been focusing on using the program with Alyssa (4), but Jake (6) and Zac (3) have been included in portions of the it as well. Things like the journal, poetry, and the story we always do as a family, and all of them love playing the file folder games. While Alyssa and I practice the copy work and such, the boys are sitting right there, working on other things, listening by default. I know that Zac is already picking up some of the info because he'll point out letters and say, "Look, it's the kicking letter!" Alyssa asks every day, "Can we do my letters now?" There's no better sound to a homeschooling mother's ear than to hear her child ask to learn. That right there is reason enough to purchase this system. 

I will definitely continue to use this program with my children. I am thrilled that everything is reusable and the student book printable so I will be able to use this for Zac and baby Tyler as they get older as well.  Better than just a thorough program, it's a program that works.

If you really want a good feel for the program and how it all work, I suggest you watch the introductory webinar. It will answer any questions you have and truly make you feel that you too can use this program.

If you want to see how PAL worked for other homeschooling families, you can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

* Disclaimer: I was given this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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