Thursday, July 31, 2014

My First Reports Review

The main curriculum we use requires the student to write a 1-2 page report every day. A couple years ago, I started having Jake (8 yr) write a summary of what he had read that day, but he struggled and complained that he didn't know what to write. Then I tried encouraging him to write about anything--anything--he wanted to. That still brought frustration to meet the predetermined length. I admit, I stopped requiring the daily writing. His writing assignments came just every now and then. That didn't solve the problem though. He still didn't understand how to write a story, summary, or report.  

Enter Hewitt Homeschooling. They believe that the best option is home school, not school at home, by encouraging hands-on learning and making it exciting. Their goal is to combine excellent academics with character development, instill the work ethic, and develop a spirit of community service in the next generation. Their My First Report series teaches elementary students basic writing skills to write their own simple reports. This was exactly what we needed to overcome the frustration of Jake's writing assignments. They offer many sets in the series such as Bugs and Worms, My State, Western United States, Reptiles and Amphibians, and more. We chose My First Report: Outdoor Activities.

The curriculum comes packaged in an envelope, already hole-punched to make it simple to toss in a 3-ring binder. The reports are designed to teach your child to express his knowledge in written form. He'll practice writing in complete sentences, language, penmanship, and researching skills (library, encyclopedia, dictionary). 

The outdoor activities set comes with pages for each of the following topics:
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Sport fishing
  • Hunting
  • Climbing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Cycling
  • Playgrounds
  • Roller Sports
  • Playing on Water
  • Cold Weather Activities

I allowed Jake to peruse the topics and choose which one he wanted to start with. It came as no surprise when he immediately picked hunting. He loves talking to his daddy about the subject and even accompanied him on a trip last fall, where they shot a deer and filled our freezer with venison. 

The report pages include 5-6 simple questions on each page to give the student a starting place and get him thinking. Which animals are big-game hunting? small game? How are decoys used in hunting fowl? Why do people hunt animals? Jake knew some of the answers already. I helped him research the others. He wrote all his answers down in a notebook to make it neat and easy to find the information for his report. There is also a vocabulary box with a list of words at the bottom of the page to further the study. The curriculum includes pages with differing line sizes and a space for a picture to write the actual report.

There is no instruction for how to write the report. Jake had a list of questions and answers, but still didn't know what to do with them. I explained to him how to take those facts and work them together to tell a story. He immediately went to work and showed me his finished report after just a few minutes. Four sentences. He filled the front of the page under the space for the picture with 4 sentences. It was then that I flipped the page over and showed him the entire page of lines for him to complete. The look on his face was quite funny. The summary didn't flow as smoothly then, but he did complete it. 

The other sub-topics continued in the same manner, getting easier each time. While he did enjoy learning more about the individual activities, his favorite part was incorporating the unit study portion of the curriculum. There are pages filled with deeper learning falling under every subject: Bible. history/geography/social studies, reading, language, math, science/health, physical education, music, art, and field trips. We talked about King David's hunting methods in Judges, played outdoor activities charades, learned about map symbols, practiced camp cooking, and had a lot more fun. Unit studies help the student to fully understand the topic by applying the learning in multiple subjects. I have personally seen the benefits of unit studies with my kids. They get a full understanding of the topic and have fun while doing it.

The My First Report: Outdoor Activities is geared towards kids in 1st-4th grade. The entire pack including the report pages and list of unity study topics costs $8.95. It has helped my 8-year-old to learn how to find information and write a simple report. I wish there were some instruction for the student to help him combine the info into the report, to make it even easier, but it has helped in our home.

Hewitt Homeschooling offers many other products like their Lightning Literature series, Joy of Discovery, and Chronicles of . . . A State History Notebook.

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If you'd like to read more reviews of My First Report or any of the other products from Hewitt Homeschooling, you can head to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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