K5 Review

About 6 weeks ago, we started our free trial of K5 Learning.  

Butterfly girl FT

My daughter loved to work on all the programs and especially enjoyed the creative activities.  She (recently turned-12-years old) said this,

“I enjoyed the options the program provided and the fun activities.  The lessons were very helpful and gave me a boost in Maths.”

Let me start from the beginning ~

Their initial assessment was excellent. The results were detailed and clear, and for the first time in our homeschooling career, I had an accurate breakdown in my child’s Maths and Reading skill levels and abilities.

My daughter loved the Maths Facts section – mental maths “designed to help kids develop instant recall of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts”. She worked positively to maintain high scores and loved to see her mastery results on the K5 Math Fact Matrix display. What impressed me was that the program constantly adapted to reinforce specific maths facts which she missed or took too long to recall.  

The Maths program has excellent explanations of new maths concepts with good, clear examples of the work, followed by the exercises.  Without too much fuss, K5 gave a quick sound effect to indicate success or mistake.  After the exercise series, my child was given time to play on an “arcade game” which gave her a few minutes of  fun as a refreshing break.

The Reading and comprehension was thorough and very comprehensive. I was impressed with the comprehension questions and the vocabulary extension.

We struggled with the Spelling program because there was no “teaching” or pre-learning component on the spelling lessons presented.  The program presented the vocabulary test and practice almost blind.  Despite trying to change the grade levels, we didn’t seem to find our level and so we did not enjoy the spelling program. 

My only regret was that we didn’t have reliable, speedy Internet service during our free trial period and so we missed several days each week of online learning.  But I highly recommend this program to any homeschooler!  It is excellent and very effective! From an educational perspective, it is outstanding and their methodology is excellent.  From a parent’s perspective it is very easy to use, log in to assess and keep in touch with the child’s progress.  For the child, it is simple to log in and work on his or her own.

K5 learning badge125x125

K5 Learning has a referral program, which pays participants $25 for each new subscriber that clicks over to K5, so my daughter and I will be very grateful if you click here to go start your free trial!


Free Trial K5 Learning

I seldom promote products and have never done reviews, but an invitation to try K5 Learning caught my attention.


K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I’ve been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

After receiving this invitation, I popped over to check out their website and I was very impressed.  Their demo videos looked so inviting and their approach and methodology seemed excellent.

My initial thoughts were that my youngest is already in grade 5 & 6 and up in most her subjects and that this might not fit into our homeschool schedule, but their Math Facts heading caught my eye and I thought that this would be worth doing the free trial.  They explain ~

“Learn math facts online and say goodbye to counting fingers”

“Recalling math facts efficiently is critical because it allows a student to study more advanced math topics without being bogged down by simple calculations.”

So, I hope to use K5 Learning with my youngest and trust that she will both enjoy and learn a lot more than she does with my Mental Maths fun worksheets and Bananagram spelling games.

For more information please go to http://www.k5learning.com/.  I will be back with my honest review in 6 weeks time.


Amazing Arrows

Long ago, when I studied remedial education, I learnt about the arrow chart. This chart trains children in spacial awareness and directionality, and it is extremely effective. Arrow Chart

Free DownloadArrow Chart  (Updated September 2014)

Back in the day, as a grade 6 & 7 public school teacher, I conducted my own research using the arrow chart for 2 of my 3 English classes (I taught 3 homogeneous classes the same lessons).  Classes 1 and 2 performed a few random rows of arrow movements, then they sat and wrote their spelling test. The 3rd class simply entered the class, sat and wrote the same spelling test. I recorded their results on the back of my board. By the end of the month, the 3rd class was clearly lagging in every result. When they saw the results, they begged me to do the arrow exercises with them. Their improvement was instant and very encouraging. It takes just a few minutes. Homeschool2 It is fun! It is physical.  It’s effective. It is simple.  It is mentally stimulating.  It is amazing! These exercises are especially effective before maths classes, handwriting lessons, early reading sessions and before any test.  I found that these activities  help “center” the child, especially after a break, or after outdoors activities, when they need to settle down to concentrate on their books.  While it is fun and stimulating, it helps the child to focus on the next task at hand.  Children with attention deficit disorders especially benefit from these arrows activities in between lessons, or when they are distracted.

For quick sessions, especially for groups, call the children to stand up next to their chairs and use both arms to move quickly straight up/down/ left or right.  I turn the chart around a few times, then I hold it where the group can see it, and randomly point to a row.  I usually only do 2 to 3 rows in a session.

Ideally, the movement should be a large physical movement, especially where the child’s whole body changes position. Good movements should cross the body’s mid-line to stimulate the left and right sides of the brain:

DON’T speak.   Simply point.  This is a visual activity.  (But it can be easily made into an auditory message, if the parent calls out the direction and the child moves.)

How it works:

  1. Place the chart in view, orientated randomly. (Any side is on top.)
  2. Describe what action the child must do in the same direction of the arrow. (Suggested actions listed below.)
  3. Start on any row.  Start beginners on the shorter rows.  Always start from the left and go across to the right.  Once the child gains confidence, start some rows from the top and work down to the bottom of the row.  ( I almost never work right to left, or bottom to top.)
  4. When working one-on-one with a child, the parent/ teacher can simply point along the row.  Once the child gains confidence, simply point to the starting arrow in a row and the child progresses along the row at their own pace, performing quick, clear movements.
  5. When working with a group, the teacher/ parent must tap each arrow with a pointer. The children must be trained to execute the movement instantly, quickly and then stand ready for the next tap on the following arrow.
  6. Once a row is complete, point to the next random row.  I often turn the chart around so that the child does not anticipate the direction or row to follow.

Suggested movements: You will need: a foam square or a small pillow, about 6 bean bags, a small plastic chair, an inflatable beach ball & a hula hoop.  Use your mini trampoline too, if you have one! 

  • Stand in a clear space and quickly stretch both arms straight up/ down/ left or right.  When stretching arms left or right, the one arm will stretch cross the body.
  • Stand on a foam square and jump off the square and immediately back into the square ready for the next arrow – jump in front/ behind/ left/ right.
  • Stand in a hula hoop on the ground and turn and lean down and touch the ground with both hands & immediately stand up – touch in front/ behind/ left/ right. (They could also jump out of the hoop, and back in, instead of touching the ground with both hands.)
  • Place a small plastic chair in a clear space and the child must sit ready to move.  They jump up, take a few quick steps to the front/ back/left or right of the chair and then quickly sit down again.
  • On a mini trampoline mark the center with a small masking tape cross and place a small arrow pointing in all 4 directions on the rim of the trampoline. The child stands in the center, on the cross, and jumps forward/ back/ left or right according to the arrow chart and immediately back to the center cross.
  • Sit on a pillow or foam square on the ground and hold a box of bean bags in their lap. The child must take the bean bag in the right hand and place it in front/ behind/ left or right on the ground next to the pillow.  They can alternate doing a row using the left hand and then a row using the right hand.


Throwing and catching is fun too!

  • The child has the bean bags and throws them in front/ behind/ left or right of a target like a foam square/ a hula hoop/ a bucket.
  • Draw a large square with chalk on a wall.  The child holds an inflatable beach ball and throws it to the position up/ down/ left or right of the square on the wall.  The ball will bounce back and the child needs to catch it again.  (I place the chart on the wall near the chalk square and point to the arrows in the row.)
  • A partner/ parent or sibling stands in front of the standing child. Place the arrow chart on the ground in front of the child.  The parent tosses one bean bag to the child who catches it and tosses it to the front/ back/ left/ right of his feet.  He then quickly stands ready to catch and toss the bean bag for the next arrow. When the row is complete, he picks up each bean bag and tosses it back to the parent.

My youngest child, now 12-years, still LOVES these quick, fun sessions!  Not only is her concentration more focused after a few arrow drills, but all her skills show a marked improvement too.  Her handwriting speed and control is noticeably better too!

I highly recommend these amazing arrows.

Feel free to ask questions and share your experiences with this arrow chart with other readers in the comments below.

All in grace,

Learning Phonics the ABACARD® Way!

When I started homeschooling over 12 years ago, I used ABACARD® to teach phonics and early reading.

This system, created by © Shirley Epstein and other teachers and artists,  have designed picture clues within each letter shape.  This concept assists memory of the shape and sound of each letter.

“It works because the clue is contained in  the letter shape!”

When my young children showed signs of reading readiness, I put the wall chart up on near their beds.

I simply pointed to and read each letter sound and named the picture inside it, such as: “a is for apple“, “b is for ball”  and “c is for colours“.    Then they repeated the sounds and named the picture clue inside each letter.

Each day I revised the previous letters and continued with the next set.  Within 3 days or so, we had covered the alphabet.  At each bedtime and nap-time we would run through the chart.

I was delighted to hear my young 4-year-old reading the chart aloud on her own to herself as she lay down for her midday nap after just a few days!

Then I took out our ABACARD® cards.

They come in a nifty hanging plastic holder with clear plastic pockets containing packs of 4 of each letter.  My kids loved the colourful jellytot sweets design on the back of these cards.

We revised the letters and then played games several fun games like “snap”, “memory” and “twin and win”.  The pack comes with a lovely instruction booklet.

Then we started building words with the cards. Taking just the letters p, t, b, g, and the vowels a, e, i, o and u we made the word bag. We swapped a and made beg, then big and bog and bug. Using this principle we made up lots of words – my child WAS READING!

When we moved on to early readers, we used these cards to make up the new vocabulary and played games until these new words were easy to read.

ABACARD® is an excellent tool for remedial work too.  Because each letter has a picture inside it, children are less likely to confuse letters!

I highly recommend this to anyone with young children who are ready to learn to read.

When I contacted the company, I was given the following email address and contact telephone numbers:


(South Africa) 011 642 9828

Contact them to ask for a catalog and order through them.

(I have no idea of their current prices or mailing costs and I am not affiliated to them or their products. :)  )


Is it b or d? New Posters for b/d Reversal

Aren’t these posters gorgeous?

They so clearly show the difference between b and d.

Here is your free download ~ bed or deb posters

Mari Saaiman created these lovely graphics.

You can see my other posts with Games for b/d reversal and letter confusion and some gentle encouragement when there are problems.


Sliding Sound Blends for reading practice

I needed some remedial activities to reinforce my youngest child’s reading and spelling,

I used my very useful reference book, Remedial Education in the Primary School, by M.C. Grove’ and H.M.A.M Hauptfleisch, pg.155, for some hands-on reading practice tools.

These authors state that,

“Reading, spelling and word-building are very closely related and exert a reciprocal influence on one another.  For the purpose of remedial teaching this fact must always be borne in mind and reading, spelling and word-building should be treated as a unit.”

So, in a nutshell, children must recognize letter sounds to read and spell.

I went ahead and made some …

Sliding strips and frames to reinforce sound blends and practice reading.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I would love to share these with you all!

Please click here for your download ~ Sound Blend Strips

Some practical tips:

  • I covered mine strips with clear tape, but you could laminate them or put clear contact adhesive plastic over yours for durability.  (These strips are handled a lot!)
  • Tape the strips together where they run over 2 pages to create 1 long strip.
  • Leave the top sound blends heading on each strip so that you can put it in the correct frame if it falls out.
  • The sound blend strip and frame are the same colour, so they are easy to match.
  • Store the slide strips in a large Ziplock bag in your remedial file.
  • Store the child’s slide strip/s for the week in a smaller Ziplock bag in their file/ workbox.
  • Select just a few slide strips (or 1 long one) for each week.
  • The child must write those words formed for spelling.
  • They  must practice reading and spelling daily for a week or until the child has mastered the blends.

How do these strips fit into my reading and spelling program?

This would be your progression before you can use the sliding strips:

1. A child must learn all the letter sounds of the alphabet;

a for apple, b for ball, c for cat and so on.

(I have had amazing success with the ABBAcard system where each letter has the picture of its sound in the letter shape.  i.e: a dog in the d, an umbrella in the u, etc.  They have a large wall chart which we look at and read aloud together for several days until my child can read the alphabet without any help.  They have a set of the same picture alphabet with pictures on cards.  We play snap and build 3-letter words with the cards.)  But, what ever your program is, make sure your child know letters by their sound first!

Only once the child knows letter sounds for the alphabet very well, should the letter names be introduced.

2. The child can now learn alphabet names;

a = ay, b = bee, c = see and so on.  I usually introduce a chart with capital letters next the lower case letters and we sing the alphabet song.

3. Next the child must learn basic letter blends;

sh-, th-, ch-, -mp, ee-, oo-, str-, and so on.

4.  Now we can practice reading with the sound blend strips.

  • Introduce the blends.
  • Start the slide and say the new word with the first letter.
  • Allow the child to read all the new words.
  • Challenge the child to find these new words in their readers.  You’ll be amazed at how they spot all “their” new words!

5. Practice spelling the new sound blend words.

  • Practice spelling on a white board.
  • Let them write these words in their spelling list sheet.
  • When you test spelling, always give the word in a sentence.
  • Let your children make up silly sentences using as many of the words as they can.
  • Older children can write out the dictated sentences in their tests.
  • Use these words for weekly spelling and add thematic vocabulary for older children.

Hope this helps other struggling readers and spellers!


Confound those confusing letters!

Last month my youngest child was quite ill.


Play dough

Image via Wikipedia


She lost weight and she lost her appetite.

She also lost ground at school.

Old weaknesses resurfaced.

She struggled again with reading, spelling and maths.

She lost her confidence and joy.

Everything seemed harder.

I have to boost her physically with prayer, tonic and a healthy diet.

At school I boost her with prayer and…


Remedial  Activities.

We play with spinners,

magnet letters,

bean bags, hula hoops

maths rods and counting blocks.

To combat letter reversals I pulled out my old remedial Games for b,d,t,f,p,q reversals .

I was amazed at how quickly we played the games.

Just a few minutes of play and the confusion was gone!

I decided to reinforce this and made a few more new activities.

Click here for this download ~ Confusing Letters Spinner and Activities

Letter Spinner

Mount the pointer and spin!

  • Make the letter with your whole body lying on the floor
  • Form the letter with a stick, hula hoop and skipping rope
  • Form the letter play dough/ in sand on a tray/ with shapes
  • Grab the correct magnetic letter from the row laid out in front
  • Call the letter sound out loud
  • Say the letter name out loud
  • Match the letter to its upper case letter
  • Make the felt letter match the spinner letter

Felt Letters

  • Felt letters are large and durable
  • They can be reversed so this is great to play b/d/p/q reversal games
  • Likewise they can be turned upside down and kids can play with u/n
  • Letter shapes can be built with felt as it sticks in layers
  • Felt board/ a carpet tile works well to display felt letters
  • Make pictures with the letters to reinforce the direction
  • Use arrows to play direction games with felt letters (turn the b to the left – it now is …)

Some dry-wipe marker worksheets

  • Place these pages in plastic protectors and use dry-wipe markers for quick easy games
  • Do just 1 or 2 activities at a time
  • Enlarge the page for younger children

During my formal teaching career I saw many children battle and struggle and “fall through the cracks”  because the system does not offer safety nets for those who can’t keep up.  Children who are given remedial help, label themselves and live with stress, fear and low self-esteem.

Homeschool is the perfect place to build up confidence, boost self-esteem and progress at a pace that the child copes with.  Parents can tailor-make their schooling to suit the child’s learning styles, interests and needs.

I am so grateful that I can quickly respond to my child’s difficulty.  I don’t mind spending a week on the mat instead of her weeping over her notebooks.

Even my middle child joins in because she doesn’t want to miss out on the fun!  And why not?  She can reinforce her skills and boost her confidence.  My children have fun and catch up without even realizing that we are doing therapy.

We keep the sessions short and sweet.  And with repetition, she will quickly improve her skills.

(While these activities were created for remedial work, young kindergarten children will benefit playing these games to boost their pre-reading skills.  Use colours and shapes instead of letters. :) )


Maths Mini Office for Middle & Senior Students

A Mini Office is a collection of reference materials your child needs to refer to while they work.

Most mini offices are pasted into the child’s own file folder.

This makes it easy for them to find information or important facts.

Mini Offices replace the wall charts that most classrooms have on display.

My grade 5/6 and grade 9 children refer to math reference pages often.

I created this Maths Mini Office for them.

I have combined current middle school and high school Maths work in this  13 page download ~ Click your download here ~ Mini Office Senior Maths A4

Included in this Maths Mini Office are~

  1. Multiplication Chart
  2. Shapes and Counting
  3. Roman Numerals and Angles
  4. 3D Shapes with formulas for area & volume
  5. 2D Shapes with formulas for area & circumference
  6. Circles with formulas for area &  circumference
  7. Triangles with angles, area & Pythagoras Theory
  8. Maths Symbols and Compass Points
  9. Fractions, Decimals & Converting Fractions

Here are some examples of the download:

Multiplication Table

Shapes & counting

Roman Numerals & Angles

3D Shapes ~ Pyramid, Sphere & Cones

Read more ~ go to  Mini Offices


Partnered Reading Helps Improve Reading

Reading is a complex process and most young children need a certain level of maturity to master the skills required to read fluently and with comprehension.

Some children struggle with reading and many experience frustration learning to read well on their own.

A very successful method of  assisting a slow or reluctant reader is

partnered reading.

What is partnered reading?

Basically, this method uses an advanced reader who sits shoulder to shoulder, or with the younger  reader on their lap. (I use the word “younger” in place of “weaker/ beginner” reader.)

The advanced reader reads the passage first, and assists the younger reader sound out or read the passage.

An older brother or sister, granny or extended member of the family can help the young reader in the same way.

Very young children are happy to sit on mom/ dad’s lap and read together. Reading should be an intimate and enjoyable time.

I found that my youngest child was far more relaxed sitting on my lap than next to me.   When on my lap, she would breathe with more ease and not squirm as much when she battled with her reading. I loved the security and comfort that I could give her just by cuddling her as she battled through her decoding.

What does the partner do?

The advanced reader must read  the passage aloud (in a normal voice)  to the child first.  This helps the young reader recognize the words when they re-read the passage.

The younger child then reads as the advanced reader whispers the same words right near the young child’s ear.

The young reader should read aloud a  little louder than the helper.  They will hear the slight whispered echo and this confirms what they are reading.

If  the younger reader battles to read a word, the helper assists decoding (breaking up the word and sounding each phonic sound out), he/she should point to each letter and sound the letters out.  Encourage the younger reader to sound it aloud with the helper and let the young reader say the decoded phonic sounds fast and “put it together”. (e.g.: “ss …aa … tt… = sat” )

The next day the young reader reads the same passage with the help of the partner.

The same passage or reading section must be practiced for several days.

In this way, the young reader reads with more confidence and fluency.

Of course, if the child become bored with the section or has just memorized the passage, go on to a new passage.

If the child makes more than 3 errors in a sentence, or still struggles with decoding, but has repeated the passage for several days, just move on and get on with the story.  Boredom will add to the sense of frustration.

Add some remediation activities in your schooling schedule.  (Phonic skills, letter recognition games, matching letters, blending sounds, flashcards etc.)  If your child still makes no progress after some time, he/she may need professional assessment.  Sometimes, an occupational therapist can give excellent therapy exercises which greatly improve reading skills.  Check your child’s eyes.  Many reading problems are wonderfully “solved” when all the child  needed was glasses.

Practical tips:

The child should hold the book while they read.

Place the book on a pillow for added comfort and better posture.

The beginner reader should point under each word as he reads.

Some children benefit by using a narrow cardboard strip as a row marker and cover the passage below the one they are reading.  This strip helps prevent the child “getting lost”.  It can also be used to help tracking (moving  just the eyes [and not the head]  from left to right.)

After reading:

Talk about the pictures.

Let the young reader tell you the passage in their own words.

Ask them what they think will happen next.

Ask them to tell you the most important part of what they just read.

Ask them to draw the story.

Ask “why” questions.

Comprehension is the most important aspect af all reading.  After all, we read to understand and learn.

I found this interesting article by examiner.com~

“If it’s true that children ‘learn to read’ from kindergarten through third grade and ‘read to learn’ from third grade through high school, then it stands to reason that those first few years of school are among the most important in a child’s life in terms of his or her academic future.

The bottom line? Parents have a near-sacred responsibility to read to their children — not occasionally, but DAILY. Reading aloud, pointing to pictures that represent the words being spoken and vice-versa, talking about the story — it’s all good, no matter how many times the giant falls down the beanstalk.  And the example you set for your child by taking the time out to do this, will pay off many times over.”

While most the resources I found on the internet refer to school classroom methods, partnered reading works perfectly at home.

Here are some references:

An excellent pdf document on partnered reading by ala.org

A pdf document on partnered reading by Texasreadingdl.edb

Read the article Helping Your Slow Reader at Heart of the Matter Online.

Reading Partners.org describe reading programs and its importance.

Reading Rockets describes partnered reading in their program.

(I do not endorse any program or web site.  These are some of the useful sites I found when I researched this topic. :) )

What other partnered reading tips do you have?

Homeschooling High School Maths ~ a challenge!

I’m a homeschool mom of 3 very different children.

They range in ages from 15 and 10 to my youngest who is 8 years old.  Most of what I post in this blog features my younger children, but I devote much of my time and energy to my high school daughter …

and in particular to her maths.

Congruent Angles

Maths was never my strong subject and I failed many maths exams and tests through my high school career, yet somehow still passed. I was always insecure and stressed about maths.  In my final school year I had a fantastic tutor who explained things clearly and slowly and patiently, until I ‘got’ it.

Despite his help, I did not feel confident doing maths.

Then, a few years later I studied to become a public school teacher and I was given 3 grades’ maths classes during a student practical experience.  I was terrified!  How could I teach maths?

I studied at least 3 different textbooks on the work I had to present, and I gained confidence.  The more I scribbled and practiced, the easier it became.  The next day I entered the classroom armed with my textbooks, and I  had some tricks up my sleeve.  I had my examples, manipulatives, some games and exercises that made maths come alive.

Actually, I was a good maths teacher!

Fortunately, when I qualified, I was given my favourite subjects to teach (English, History and Art) and I never taught maths again. (Sigh of relief!)

Now, many, many years later I am facing grade 9 maths with my daughter.  Whether it is hereditary, or temperamental, I don’t know, but she is also terrified of maths.

I can teach her,

I can urge her,

I can support her,

tutor her,

console her,

instruct, remind, exhort …

but she has to conquer her fear of maths for herself.

I must lay out each step slowly and clearly.

I must stay patient while she thinks the work through.

I need to try different approaches if the one I am using is not clear.

The textbooks may give us the break-down of each step, but we need to work through the concepts until it ‘clicks’.  I usually show her the principles, then show her some examples, and then she has to try while I watch.

While  she works I give some encouragement, whispered reminders, a nod, yes … you’ve got it!

If she keeps at it at her level long enough, she’ll eventually say, “Mom, I know this stuff.”


She has to work at it till she ‘gets’ it.  This means a lot of hard solo work.  She needs to keep at it until it shrinks in her view finder into the subject it is – and not the giant terror that it seems.

Teaching high school maths is a challenge.  The work is abstract and complicated and complex.  But, by far, the greatest challenge is the attitude and emotional issues that add stress to learning and mastering high school maths.

I’m reminded, even as I write this, the prayer is vital.

I pray for mental clarity,

for calm,

for grace,

for strength,

for courage,

for perseverance,

for confidence

to conquer maths.

What high school homeschool experiences have you had?