AlphaSkills Intro

20150217_125141We are the Orr family – a homeschooling family of four traveling year-round in our Airstream with a plan to see the entire US and Canada over the next 5 years, and we love AlphaSkills! As of the 2014-2015 school year, our oldest son Elijah is 9 years old in the 4th grade, and he has been using the AlphaSkills Read with Sarah resources since he started homeschool PreK in 2009. Our youngest son Malachi is 6 years old in the 1st grade, and he has been using the AlphaSkills Read with Sarah resources since he was about 2 years old. After 4 years of traditional homeschool, we started traveling full-time in the fall of 2013, and AlphaSkills has been such a godsend to us! This weekly blog will highlight how we use the AlphaSkills Read with Sarah curriculum every week, and hopefully it will help others who are trying to decide if AlphaSkills is right for their family – whether it be for traditional school students’ extra practice throughout the school year, summer bridge activities, or full-on curriculum for homeschool. To find out more about our family adventures, visit us at wanderingnation.com, or visit our AlphaSkills blog as well.

Over the years one of my very favorite things about using the AlphaSkills Read with Sarah curriculum has been that each lesson has all the needed materials in a handy kit that we receive in the mail and send back when finished. There’s no need to store anything; and shipping costs are included in the rental fee! This is such a lifesaver for our family, especially because of our limited storage space, but no matter how much storage space one has, I believe it is the best way to access a wide variety of resources for a low price. There is absolutely no way I would be able to find, purchase and store this many books on my own – not to mention from so many different authors and publishers and the expert lesson plans and activities that accompany each one!

20150217_125054I also love the fact that I can determine the schedule for sending and receiving the AlphaSkills materials. Over the past several years there have been many times that we have taken field trips or decided to study something more slowly, and I have had to adjust our plans with sending and receiving AlphaSkills materials accordingly. The staff is always happy to meet my requests for keeping kits longer or returning them at different times, and they also are always able to get me the new kits I need as well.

I’m always amazed by the way the AlphaSkills staff knows exactly which books and resources will engage my children the most at their appropriate levels, and because it is a rental program, the fee is so much lower than it would be if I had to buy these materials and store them to use with all of my children or try to sell when finished. This rental program saves me so much time and money, and the guided lesson plans help me structure the instructional time in such an efficient way that I still have time to supplement with additional materials in the areas I choose. At the end of each year I truly feel as though my children have learned as much as possible, and I know it’s because of this program.

This curriculum also makes lesson planning so much easier! I used to spend hours every weekend getting materials and activities together for my two boys on different levels, but not any more! With AlphaSkills, I literally pull out the materials on a Sunday evening and am able to get ready in no time! An added bonus is that my boys love to learn together, so I know that the materials I rent for my 4th grader will be overheard by my 1st grader and vice versa, which is like getting twice as much for my money! Plus I think it is absolutely adorable that my 4th grader still fondly remembers the books he read in the 1st grade and genuinely wants to hear his brother read them aloud!

I could go on forever talking about how our family has come to love AlphaSkills for so many reasons, but I will close with a short note about the technical benefits. AlphaSkills aligns with the national Common Core standards, and each grade level is updated as needed to remain in compliance with these standards as they change from year to year. This gives me a lot of peace as a homeschooler, because I know that if my children do need to enter public school they will be more than ready. Also, the AlphaSkills resources have regular assessments built in at regular intervals. The assessment materials come in the kits with instructions for administration, and we complete them and send them back to the AlphaSkills staff. They then score the assessment at no extra cost to me and adjust the schedule of materials based on my child’s progress. This also gives me peace in knowing that we are not using resources that are too difficult or too easy for us. If you had asked me when I started homeschooling 6 years ago if I thought I would ever be able to afford tailor-made curriculum for my two boys, I would surely have laughed you out of town, and yet, here I am! AlphaSkills Read with Sarah is unique in that way, and I know it’s just what my family needs.

What we love about the 4th grade materials:

Each book comes with a Read with Sarah Guided Lesson plan that provides direction in numerous areas to support teachers, parents and homeschoolers:

● Exploring content, spelling and vocabulary.

● Completing a “Survey Chart” to explore predictions, outcomes and learning to apply to future predictions, as well as visuals, subtitles, headings, facts that he/she already knew and new ones too.

● Surveying the book in the SQRRR format (front cover, publication page, Contents, pictures, illustrations, charts, Glossary, and Index) to teach print concepts.

● Reading independently and discussing vocabulary terms as new or review.

● Responding to the reading in various ways, such as writing main ideas, facts found, and reasons why this book belongs in its particular genre, utilizing skills in the following areas: language arts, writing, reading comprehension, critical thinking, analysis, and interpretation.

What we love about the 1st grade materials:

Several times every month the kits include a special book that provides details for learning through “Shared Reading” over 5 days. Shared Reading is something the Read with Sarah model encourages several times throughout the year where the teacher/parent and student/child read together a book that is approximately six months above the student’s instructional reading level. The books chosen for shared reading are predictable and appealing for the age level targeted. The purpose of shared reading is that the student learns what reading is and develops confidence in his/her ability of becoming a fluent reader. The Guided Reading Lesson for each book outlines very specific steps to take. First, I read the book aloud to Malachi in several different ways and we discussed the pictures on the front cover. I named the author and illustrator and we discussed their roles. Then, as the plan outlines, I had Malachi make a prediction based on the title and front cover. As guided by the lesson plan, I built necessary background for story words and concepts that I thought Malachi may not already know. I love the way Dr. Sarah, the Guided Reading Lesson author, guides both me and my husband in being such confident home teachers. What we love about the Shared Reading books is the confidence they build for our little budding reader! He is able to read books that are a little above his normal reading level because they are full of rhymes, repetition, and a fun story to go along with it!

Every other book comes with a Guided Reading Lesson that outlines the 7 step Read with Sarah process:

1. Reading Practice with a book he/she has read before

2. Word Recognition and Phonics Development (Word Analysis/Phonics/Structural Analysis/Punctuation/Grammar)

3. Vocabulary Development (Sight Words/Meaning Words) lists that help the student prepare for the words he/she will see in the book

4. Pre-reading Comprehension Discussion; 

5. Silent Reading

6. Comprehension of Silent Reading and Oral Reading

7. Connecting Writing and Reading

Several books also come with a Guide to Linking Reading to Social Studies, Science or Math, which provides an activity to complete before the reading and afterwards. These activities teach first graders additional content that a parent or teacher may not know to focus on themselves.

For more information about AlphaSkills, visit alphaskills.com.

 

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