Thursday, August 25, 2016 - Can Do Cubes Review

Earlier in the week, we posted a review for the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar programs from  We also had the opportunity to use the Can Do Cubes from and  just2ducks LLC.

Can Do Cubes for Synthetic Phonics is a set of wooden phonics blocks that can be used alongside the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar programs or any other phonics program that you may be using.  They are specifically packaged for you to use alongside a synthetic phonics program.  Synthetic phonics is when your teach a small groups of sounds in specific orders.  Each set builds upon itself allowing children to create words.

The Can Do Cubes Complete set contains everything you need to teach Synthetic Phonics to your student:

  • Stage One and Stage Two books on how to create the spelling variations of over 200+ sounds that make up the English language.
  • Student tray containing Stage One, laser-engraved cubes (27 cubes)
  • Student tray containing Stage Two, laser-engraved cubes (30 cubes)
  • Instruction/activity book for Stage One
  • Instruction/activity book for Stage Two
  • DVD With Interactive Demonstration of Sounding Out of Letter/Sounds Presented by Debbie Hepplewhite, who is a synthetic phonics consultant
  • At-a-Glance word chart
  • Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart
  • CD with Laurie Fyke's Teacher's Guide and Template Book for Stage One

The Can Do Cubes can be used for very young students through elementary age.  They are durable and the laser-engraving which means that the lettering will not wear off when used with one student.  They can be used by several children.

The special packaging put the cubes in stage order as you teach sounds to your children.

We printed the Can Do Cubes workbook to practice our phonics sounds.  Caty really enjoyed matching up the sounds with her pages.  The pages were well laid out and allowed us to review all the sounds in stages.

This was a great spelling review.  The cube worksheets allowed her to visually see the separate sounds that make up the words.

I really like that blends shared a single block.  It again helped her to see that the letters worked together to make the sound.

The Can Do Cubes are a great visual addition to your phonics program, whether you are using Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar or your choice of programs.  They provide a multi-sensory approach to both your phonics and spelling curriculum.

The instruction booklets included in the complete package are a great help to furthering your student's progress.   Broken into two stages, they suggest extra ideas to make an early impact on your child's reading progress from an early age.  It explains how to teach synthetic phonics and spelling.  Stage Two booklet continues with more advanced blend sounds.

There is a disk included that gives you three PDF booklets that you can easily print off from the first introduction of sounds through the spelling of words.  It also includes teacher instructions to help you out as you are teaching the lessons.

The wall chart is helpful if you have room to hang it up.  It's mainly for you as the parent though to plan out as you are teaching the sounds.  It is a great quick reference to see where you are at in the program.

Caty has enjoyed using the Can Do Cube during her lessons.  They have been a great visual addition to her learning.  Of course it helps that when we are done she can build a tower.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out Can Do Cubes.  Take some time for visit their blogs and see how they used them in their homes and how they worked for them.

Can Do Cubes

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Phonics Curriculums can be a hard program to make a decision about.  We recently had the opportunity to review the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar program from

The Jolly Phonics program was written for children in early pre-k levels though 1st grade.  You could even use it with children who are struggling in upper grades.

Jolly Phonics uses a systematic phonics approach to help your student.  This multi-sensory approach helps students by giving them an action with each letter sound they are learning.  Sounds are taught in a specific order, not alphabetically.  This allows children to begin forming words early in the program.  They can feel as if they are accomplishing reading much quicker, which allows them to build extra confidence.

Jolly Phonics uses a 5 step approach that works along with the Jolly Readers and Jolly Grammar program also offered by just2ducks LLC.

Jolly Phonics teaches these 5 skills:
1.  Learning letter sounds
2.  Learning letter formation
3.  Blending - Mixing sounds together
4. Identifying the sounds in words
5.  Tricky words.

These 5 steps build upon each other to help your student become a successful reader.  The Jolly Phonics program contains several components that are designed to be used over a 3 year period with your student.  The program includes:

  • Jolly Phonics Teacher's Guide
  • Jolly Phonics Student Book 1, 2, and 3
  • Jolly Grammar I Teacher's Guide
  • Jolly Grammar I Student Book
  • Jolly Songs in print letters

How did we enjoy the Jolly Phonics program?

Well Caty struggles a bit with remembering letter formation and sounds.  Here is the kicker...she can read, but when it comes to writing the words for spelling or creating sentences, she cannot do it.

The workbooks are full color and even though they are made for younger students, are not cartoony.  They contain letter writing practice to work on the letter formation that you are working on.  There is a picture that they could color if they would like.  There is also a picture of the action for that letter sound.  Also included on the page is word practice for that letter sound and pictures questions to allow the student to Hear that sound in words.

Jolly Phonics recommends that you introduce a new letter sound each day, but you know what your student can handle each day.  Caty started at the end of Book 1, where letter combinations are introduced.  She quickly has moved into book 2.  We do follow the rule to do 1 combination a day.  So far that has kept Caty from feeling overwhelmed.

Each lesson is only a page long in the Jolly Phonics book, so it's perfect for Caty's short attention span.  The Teacher's Guide lays it right out for parents and makes it very easy for them, even if they have never had the opportunity to teach phonics before.

The Jolly Songs in Print Letters is a great addition as you are learning the letter sounds.  Not only do you have the actions that students can do when working on the sounds, but they also have a song to go with many of the letter sounds also.

When your student has completed the Jolly Phonics program, you start up with Jolly Grammar.  This program not only works on grammatical skills such as nouns, verbs, etc.  But it also works on spelling also.  All combined into one neat program.

The Jolly Grammar workbook is set up very similar to the Jolly Phonics workbook set up.  The difference being the spelling.  I really do like the layout of this spelling book.  It gives students a visual list and mixes in the parts of speech work as you go.  No separate program you need to worry about.  All the practice is in one place.  The pages also seem to be written for short attention spans like Caty.  She is able to finish her work in an acceptable amount of time to her.   That is a big deal for her.

We have been using this program 4 days a week now and with some review, Caty is remembering a few more of her letter combination sounds.  So I have been impressed.

Here is a short video about this program:

The Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar have become a great supplement to our homeschool day.  Caty has been showing more confidence in her reading abilities.  This has been wonderful for her.

Check back tomorrow and see how we have been using another just2ducks LLC product, Can do Cubes.  

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar programs from  Take some time to see how they enjoyed these products by visiting the site link below.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Week 10 - 12 .. The Fair Season Begins....and then the Whirlwind season is over

So we found out last week that Ms. Caty won an Outstanding Award for her Nutrition Project at the State Fair.  She was very happy!!  This is her first time entering projects at the State Level.  She had done county and enjoyed that, so she is happy to see that trophy sitting there for her!

We helped set up our 4H Clubs booth at the fair.  The kids went with a Minecraft theme.  Our little club is a great group of kids.  We had a very high percentage of county awards, considering we have only around 22 members.

On Monday the older kids had a shift at the 4H Milkshake Barn.  Joey is allergic to dairy, so I didn't let him work.  Caty wasn't old enough this year.  So it was just Lydia and Brayden.  They both had a really good time.  I knew Brayden would love it there.  He is a budding foodie.

Tuesday we met some friends at an area park.  They are home for a few short weeks and moving to Chile.  We love reading about all their new adventures and were very excited to see them again.  The boys had plenty to talk about since they play Minecraft together on the server.  We heard a lot of Minecraft exchanges while we were there.  It was so much fun!

We came home and started back on our light summer school load.  We are finishing our last couple states for our US Geography and the kids are working on getting their projects ready for Open Class at our county fair.  They are also working on some review so that I can verify their progression.

Caty though has started her first food history study.  I recorded some episodes of American Eats.  We are learning about the history of cookies this week.  She created her own cookie recipe, studied the history of the cookie, what materials are important to cookies and did some cookie baking experiments.

We had a few schedule changes, so we only really did two full school days this week.  I intended on three.  But we'll catch back up easily next week.

I really did find it hard to stay motivated and keep them going.  I have been in pain for several months now.  I went to the chiropractor finally and she discovered what appears to be a bulging disc putting pressure on a nerve.  So I am going through treatment, but the last treatment didn't seem to help much.  I worked on adding back in walking on the treadmill since I haven't been able to run since my injury.  I was in a lot of pain on those days.  I need to keep moving though.  Even if I am hurting.

Caty  worked hard on her Cookie project.  She practiced measuring and learning how important measuring is in baking.  She also invented the bacon chocolate chip cookie.

 All the kids participated in the 4H bake off this year.  Lydia got 2nd place for her pumpkin doughnuts

Joey got 1st place for his peanut butter-less cookies.

Joey found his name on the Wall of Fame.  He placed first in the county for his Exploring Ponds project.

Here they are walking their baked goods around the arena during the baked goods auction.

Joey got to go to State for judging.  Joe took him down while I took the girls to their cheerleading competition.  Brayden was excited that he got Rock-It's autograph this year!

The girls and I met Joe and the boys at the State Fair.  Caty earned a 1st place award with one of her Girl Scout projects in Life Skills.

Caty was very proud accepting her award.

They got to sit in a Columbus Police cruiser.

Caty with her bacon on a stick.

Enjoying the model trains.

I was joking that his milkshake was as big as his head.  He took me literally.

Then we came home and some gracious and generous friends began replacing our back deck.  The whole deck was rotting on top.  That took a few days and it was a lot of hard and hot work.  They did an awesome job!

This whole time we have finished 4H Fair, then we finished up State Fair projects, and then it was on to our own County's Open class projects.  Yep...that's right...I was sucker enough to let them enter 3 different fairs this year.  My living room looked like this for a few days while we gathered the projects and tagged everything.

Brayden's veggies from his garden.

Caty's decorated cupcakes

Joey's decorated cookies

New to us this year...Flowers....Caty entered her marigolds that she grew from seed.  In the first show she earned honorable mention because they looked nice, but I didn't leave enough leaves on what we cut off.  The second time she earned 2nd place for both her entries.  She was very proud.

Joey earned 3rd for his cookies.  He entered some drawings also, but they didn't place.  He did a wonderful job on his OverWatch art Manga though.

Caty earned 3rd for her decorated cupcakes.

Our county fair holds a cheerleading competition and our cheer squad takes part in it annually.  This year it was SOOOOO HOT!!  We struggled to keep everyone cool and hydrated.  We were very fortunate.  Other squads not so much.  There were many cheerleaders sick.

Our team placed 1st in Spirit division.  They were so happy!!  Lydia got to go up and get the trophy this time.

Caty is loving Raddish Kids.  This month was Brazil.  We were having company over, so she decided to cook up her new recipes.  She was getting the meat ready for the marinade here.

Then she and daddy made the lemon bars together.  She needed his strength to squeeze out the lemon juice.

We had a very busy fair period.  I won't post all 54 projects....but they did wonderful.  I entered photographs, and so did the girls.  We also entered sewing this year, a pillowcase that Lydia made.  They collected quite a stack of ribbons from all the fairs.  Lydia even earned Best of Class and Best of Show for her Recycled bird feeder.  She was very proud of those rosettes!

We also walked with the cheerleaders in the fair parade and handed out candy.  The kids enjoy this every year.  They have so much fun!  The kids had two friends over and they walked with us.  I gave in and broke my fair rule of not riding rides.  They had so much fun together.

Now we are taking a fair break and going to start planning for next season.  I think a plan of action is going to help us soooo much.

I have our lessons planned and we are starting this week with a new format.  We'll see how it goes.  It will definitely keep me a lot  more busy in some aspects, but give me more peace of mind about what they are learning.  Now to just keep up and get my motivation going for starting!

Hope everyone is having a great August!  Stay tuned for Regular school programming soon!