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Oct 22, 2014

Middlebury Interactive Languages ~ Spanish K-2 Review

Xavier has been asking to learn a foreign language and after talking it over with Micah, we narrowed it down to a few languages we had particular interest in as a family.  When the Schoolhouse Review Crew offered the opportunity to review Middlebury Interactive Languages online language course, Xav and I were excited to take part.  I did entertain the idea briefly of having him take a level 1 elementary course for grades 3-5, but we chose Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2.


Middlebury Interactive Languages Review


Selecting a K-2 level course, made a language choice much easier as there is only one language at that level.  Middlebury Interactive Languages currently offers four language choices (Spanish, French, Chinese, and German) and three to six levels of instruction for each.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

The Spanish K-2 lessons cover 5 topics and then a review unit.
  • Greetings
  • Numbers
  • Family
  • Colors
  • School
  • Review
Each unit (except Review) consists of six lessons.  Six and a half weeks of instruction is provided if done daily (or several lessons each session, like Xav enjoyed doing) as it's laid out in the calendar*, the recommendation for this course is 2-3 days or lessons per week.  Each lesson is broken down into even more activities, so the student would do five to seven activities each session.  Activities include matching words and phrases to pictures, clicking pictures to color a section and hear the vocabulary, listening to stories, and a speaking lab.  It helps to have a microphone for the speaking lab, but it isn't necessary unless you purchase a course with teacher support.  Most of the activities are completed on the internet, but some are printable worksheets.

*The calendar has a lesson scheduled for every weekday, from the day Middlebury sets up your account.  I didn't see a way to edit that schedule anywhere.  Since the K-2 program is a semester course with 35 lessons, it would have been really nice to schedule a lesson for every Tuesday and Thursday, or whatever works for your family.  We completely ignored the calendar.  I preferred the file folders to access the current lesson.  The green check marks made it simple to see what was next.

Three ways to access the current lesson; calendar, files, and pictures.
 
I've printed off the coloring pages and worksheets for Xav.  The worksheets aren't typical worksheets, I call them "thinking sheets."  They consist of something like (paraphrasing here), "What holidays does your family celebrate?  Some families celebrate holidays differently than your family or even celebrate different holidays.  Draw a picture of your favorite holiday."



There are also transcripts in English and Spanish of all of the stories.  The unit vocabulary is highlighted.   You can also print a "cheat sheet" of all the Spanish with the English translation.  (I would never call it a cheat sheet in front of Xav!  Ha.)

There is a gradebook which gives a score for the story quizzes and the matching exercises.  It also lists the date each was submitted and when it was scheduled on that calendar.  For some reason, Xav's scores for the story quizzes all read as 0.0/0.  There is either a glitch in the grading or for some reason the grades aren't recorded.

Gradebook


Xav likes to share the words he has learned with others and he does remember them pretty well.  I get a smile when I think of the day we all went hiking shortly after beginning Middlebury and he said, "hola!" to every hiker we met on the trail.    

Malachi claimed to have no interest in learning a new language, but he enjoys the stories as much as Xav.  They often watch the stories again after the lessons are complete.

I. Am. Kicking. Myself. for not putting Xavier in Elementary Spanish 1: Grades 3-5.  Kicking myself.  This is a full semester course and he has six months access to it and he has completed it already.  I wish it was six months of complete access to all the levels to move through the language at the student's pace.  On the up side, we won six months of access to Middlebury at about the same time I was selected to review it.  That means Xav gets to move on to the next Spanish level which looks a bit more challenging, even though he will be repeating some of the topics.  I'm OK with that.  He really likes Middlebury Interactive Languages.  As of this morning, it was pretty much the only thing he likes about school.

For grades K-12.  I think it would be perfectly suitable for an adult.  This specific course is for grades K-2, but I think some second graders could be ready for a more challenging level.  If you're interested in a kids' language course in one of the other languages and have a second grader, I would seriously consider placing them in the level 1, grade 3-5 course.
Price: $119, or $175 with teacher grading.


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Standard Deviants Accelerate ~ Online Learning Resource Review

We're enjoying more and more online learning resources. I've learned that Mal and Xav really benefit from a multi-sensory learning experience.  Standard Deviants Accelerate fits the bill.  The videos are jam packed with information and delivered in a funny, catchy way.  SDA has been around for 20 years, but don't worry.  You won't be subjected to dated videos and outdated information.  It's all new.  This review is for Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

This online curriculum supplement provides course instruction for grades three and up in Math, Science, Social Studies, English, and AP Test Prep.

Arithmetic - Grades 3+
Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
Earth Science - Grades 6+
Nutrition - Grades 6+
Algebra - Grades 7+
Biology - Grades 7+
Chemistry - Grades 9+
English Comp. - Grades 9+
U.S. History - Grades 9+
AP Biolody - Grades 11+
AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+

Danielle at Cerebellum (SDA's parent) was very accommodating and helpful about scheduling a webinar with me when I wasn't able to log in for the original appointment with The Crew.  I'm not sure how many ladies took advantage of Danielle's expertise, but it was well worth the time and she was able to answer my questions, correct my setup errors, and tell me a bit about what might be in the works to make the program more homeschooler friendly.  She also graciously accepted the few suggestions I had and took note of needs/wants I expressed.   I recommend scheduling a webinar when you start SDA.

Video
Humorous videos with several short, memorable segments cover the topics.
Transcripts of the video lessons are available to print, read, and highlight.  Highlighting.  It's a sickness I have.  Seriously.  The video session also allows for note-taking right in the program and saving that to the student's "locker" for future review.

Vocabulary
The student can read these or click on the little speaker and listen to the vocabulary word and the definition.  These are taken directly out of the video.

Diagram
Rather than scoring right or wrong answers, this section records how many tries, or clicks, the student needed to complete the activity correctly.  I didn't like that only the correct answers would stick in place.  I tend to prefer to see where they are making the mistake, whether it's one area or the whole thing.  When I spoke with Danielle, it all sort of made sense, though I still disagreed on that point.  I just like grades.

Nutrition - We're just starting this course.
Quiz
A short quiz checks for retention.  The neat thing about these quizzes, if you miss a question (or five) the answer is provided along with a direct link to the video segment with the correct answer.

Written Answer
Answer a critical thinking-type question or two.

There's a grading rubric, which is editable.  I've never used one before, but I think it's a useful tool.  I will likely use it as is.  I see no reason to reinvent the rubric wheel.  In fact, I wouldn't know how to reinvent a rubric wheel.  They have terrific explanations already.


The chapter review is made up of three sections;
  • a group activity.  This hilarious activity is for a group.  I had a class of one.  That class was Malachi.  There is no playacting with him.  Many families could complete this activity if siblings and parents were willing participants.  And why wouldn't they be?  This truly is a funny exercise.  Choose your audience, teach them a topic.

Now *that* is funny!

  • a post-test.  This test consists completely of questions already tested.  If the student misses many questions, they'll all be questions they've missed.  Otherwise, it's a random assortment of questions from the quizzes.
  • and a critical thinking section.  There were two choices for the critical thinking section, which you choose based on the student's mastery of the topic.  These questions are pretty silly, involving aliens, apple stealing squirrels, and wedding cake.  Not all at the same time, though!
Critical Thinking questions from an algebra section.

Parents/Teachers can use the progress report to see how they are doing.  Here are Mal's quiz scores.  The written reports and group activities will have arrows in them as well when that part of the topic is completed.  Simply click on those sections to see the scores there.


Students need their own email to sign in.  I needed to use three of my various emails to set up a teacher account for myself and an account each for Malachi and Xavier.  I ended up not using SDA at all with Xavier yet.  Malachi has been using Arithmetic at a very slow rate.  He grasps concepts fairly well, but he really struggles with his facts.  He's learning new things, but doesn't have the tools to apply that information in practice.  Arithmetic covers decimals, fractions, and graphs, as well as the basic adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.   I did speak to Danielle about the younger ages of my boys and we both think the Nutrition and Earth Science courses could certainly be used in a limited way for both of them.  Those courses are for 6th grade and up.  Vermont likes to see some health education on our portfolios, so SDA can fulfill that this year with Nutrition.

If you are educating anyone in late elementary, middle school, or high school, there is a course or more for your family.  And... if it's important to you, Standard Deviants Accelerate aligns to state, national, and Common Core standards in every one of the classes offered.

Price for regular courses is $99/year or $24.95/month.  The courses include a full year of content.
AP test prep is $14.95/month.
Ages 8-Adult.

Try out a course with this six month free trial.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

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Oct 16, 2014

Weeks in Review 8/10 and 8/17/14

    In my life this week…
Ordered our homeschool t shirts from Great Products annual T-shirt sale. $5.99 for regular Ts.  I bought the Lego shirts for each of the boys, the safari T in a size big for Merrick, and I splurged on a V-neck for myself.  I love this sale and I love these shirts, but this year my shirt was a different brand and was larger and a slightly different cut.  It also had one wonky sleeve.  Last year's shirt was much better.

    Xavier...
Xav decided it would be a good idea to pop a laundry soap pod. He got some in his face. After flushing for 10 minutes and consulting with my on-call MIL/nurse, we decided he probably would live. Then he asks this: What if I accidentally forget how much it hurt and do it again?
*Moms. Accidentally forgetting how much it hurt since the dawn of time.*

    Malachi... 
Mal greeted me after church with a huge smile and told me, "I rode the four wheeler, but I didn't have any fun." Then why are you grinning?   

    In the yard... 
Pickings from the garden; peppers, beets, carrots, and corn.


Micah tore out my poor, dead cherry tree.  This winter was just too much for a few of our plants.


    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Lee's party - A fun surprise birthday party for one of the Friday School dads.  We went on a nature hike/scavenger hunt, wrapped watermelons with rubberbands until they exploded, ate cake (of course), and the kids found forts in the woods.
Target - After that we stopped off at Target, since we were in NY anyway.  That's how this family parties.

    I’m cooking…

Banana "pancakes."
One banana and two eggs.  I did add some vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.  The whole time I was making them, all I could think was that I was basically feeding my kid a banana omelet.

    We surprised the kids this week by…

We surprised the boys with a trip to the COG Railway and a ride up to the peak of Mount Washington, the highest point in New England.  I'll be writing about that another day.

Completely oblivious about our destination.
We also saw a hot air balloon over the road on the way home.


    A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…
This fish theft.  

    This week's reviews... 
Wizzy Gizmo 
UberSmart Math Facts 
Happy Kids Songs 

Review of Apologia's iWitness Book Series

I'm a big fan of Apologia Educational Ministries.  I'm also very interested in Biblical archaeology.  When Apologia very generously offered The Crew the chance to review three of their iWitness books, I literally begged for the opportunity!  I received iWitness Biblical Archaeology, New Testament iWitness, and Old Testament iWitness for review.


Musician and apologist author Doug Powell has written these three books as well as two others in the series, Jesus iWitness and Resurrection iWitness.  Mr. Powell wrote these books for people like himself, to answer the questions for which he once wanted answers.  He wishes to empower other Christians with a defense for their belief.  Learning to use Christian apologetics is a goal of mine for all of us. 

These engaging books are paperback, sized about 9x6 inches, with mostly sepia-toned pages giving them an old parchment kind of look.  Each book is jam-packed with information.  I don't know what it is, but kids really seem to like books that have the fun jumbles of information and illustrations like these books have.   Though these books are considered interactive, I tend to think interactive implies lift the flap, turn a dial, pat the bunny...  OK.  Maybe not the last one.  There is none of that here.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology
This was certainly my favorite title.  I pretty much expected it to be all along. I am SO interested in Biblical Archaeology. I love seeing proof of the truth of God's Word. I don't need the proof to have faith, but I love to see it!  I rarely see something about Biblical archaeology that is truly interested in showing the truth of the Bible. Too many times, I see something that is called Biblical and the articles have been misleading or downright blasphemy. It breaks my heart. I want my children to feel the truth of God and to see it in tangible ways when possible. I want their faith so deeply rooted, it can never be shaken.

This book was doubly fun (for me anyway!) because I could follow up by reading the Bible verses mentioned and easily enough search for more information on the various artifacts mentioned.  Some of these include Hezekiah's tunnel which was dug in Jerusalem to withstand a seige, various bullas and cylinders, the infamous Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shroud of Turin.

New Testament iWitness
This title teaches the criteria used for all of the books in the Biblical canon, who determined the books qualified, why some books did not meet the qualifications, and how the New Testament was copied and handed down, among other things.  The details provided were listed "backward" timeline-wise in this one and I was confused, not by the information, but by the decision to present it this way.  That decision was actually explained in this author interview.  This was covered in the first half of the book.  The second half was the more technical aspects of getting the New Testament into print; copying manuscripts, dealing with differences in copies, choosing the most likely version to be closest to the original.  It was all very interesting and eye-opening.  There are three major text types, or manuscript families, used for NT writings.  We learned which current Bible versions are based on which text types.

Old Testament iWitness
Covered in this installment is, how does the Old Testament differ from the Hebrew Bible and how Jesus is revealed in that scripture.  We learned that the copying process for the Old and New Testaments are completely different.  Where the NT uses the oldest copies available because they're believed to be closest to the original, the OT uses the newest manuscript copies, then old or damaged copies are disposed of in a special burial ceremony.  This book also covers the Septuagint (which means 70), Torah, major and minor prophets, and the Apocrypha.

Two more iWitness books will be released, I believe, in 2015.  They're titled iWitness World Religions and iWitness Heresies & CultsThey're on my wish list, too.

Reading level is for age 11 and up.  You can certainly read these to or with younger children.  Personally, I feel tween to adult is about right.

$14 each

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Oct 8, 2014

Week in Review 8/3/14

    In our homeschool this week…
We used Legos and Schoolhouse Rock videos to introduce multiplication.  The boys have already memorized many of the songs that are more like skip counting; threes, for instance.

We had our last VBS of the summer this week.  The theme was Blast Off to God's Faithfulness.
Day 1, I entertained Merrick at Trish's.  Day 2, I found out he could attend the tot class and I had two quiet hours of reading in the car.  Sadly, Day 3, he was frightened by the use of the word "elevator" during a time machine skit and that was the end of my quiet time in the car for the week.  He did well, he just needed me nearby.  The bigger littles received good reports and made fun projects every day and learned new songs and Bible verses.

Almost got everyone looking in the right direction.
     Merrick...
Merrick has been alternately sleeping in his crib and in Beepa's bed in his room.  Sometimes, I tuck him in one place and find him in the other in the morning.  Next time a grandma visits, they may have to fight him off!

    Xavier...
 I have a tendency to cringe and coil like a spring on the inside any time someone asks, "Are you (insert child's name)'s mother?"  I'm pleasantly surprised when I hear things like I did at this week's VBS.  There was a woman there struggling to walk with a cane.  He asked her about the cane and told  her he was sorry that she couldn't walk well.  She told me he was such a sweetheart and she really appreciated their conversation.

    Malachi...
Mal found his favorite ship in the clearance section at Staples.  He convinced me to buy the last four TEAtanics; one for myself, one for a friend, and one each for him and Xav.


    What we're reading... 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Yes, this book will take for. ev. er. at the rate we're going.  But it's all good.)

    In the yard... 
The boys would not stop monkeying with the ladder to the lower level of the treehouse.  One day, we had friends over.  Trish and I sat in the house chatting when we heard the kids shouting.  It didn't sound like anyone was hurt or upset, so we just laughed about how much fun they all seemed to be having out there.  Periodically, the shouting would start again.  Eventually, all the kids ran inside and told us they had been trapped in the treehouse when the ladder fell.  The neighbor boy had let them down.  And we laughed and laughed.  Excellent parents.  Many parenting awards coming our way!

Everyone was over to pick blueberries.  We found this little guy and watched him for a bit.



Had a snake in henhouse, too!  I saw it in there a few times, but whenever Micah looked it was nowhere to be found.  Finally, he caught it.  Did he kill it?  No!  He threw it back into the woods.  I've just been waiting for it to reappear, since it knows where a nice cozy home is.  YUCK!

    My favorite thing this week was…

I love Willy Wonka's bottle caps candy.  Well, I like the cherry, orange, and grape.  I LOVE the root beer and cola caps.  Micah bought a box and picked out all of my favorites to give to me.  Yum!


    We surprised the kids this week by…
Micah went to his class reunion.  When he returned from his parent's place, he brought a little four wheeler with him.  Xav had wanted to know why he had taken the van and removed the bench seats.  I told him Dad was bringing something home with him.  He assumed it was a van full of school papers and was very disgusted.

All of the boys can fit in the backseat of a regular car now.  Not that I want to part with my van...

When Micah got home, we sent Xav out to start unloading all of that school work.  Priceless.

Micah also came home bearing gifts from his parents, popcorn and "bread," preserved via suck and seal.

    This week's reviews... 
The Schoolhouse Review Crew's Roman Roads Media  

Oct 1, 2014

Preschoolers and Peace ~ A Book Review

When the Crew was offered a review of the e-book Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet, I jumped at the chance to read a copy.  Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace has written a loving guide for integrating your toddler or preschooler into some of your school day.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

Many homeschooling families are raising and teaching children of multiple ages.  I know full well how difficult it is to teach school age punks with a baby on the hip or toddler under foot.  Mal and Xav tend to get distracted by Merrick when he is doing something different at the table.  Naptime is the easiest way to school Mal and Xav.  As Merrick got older, he first gave up his morning nap and now sometimes doesn't sleep in the afternoon.  I preferred the morning hours for school.  I think the bigger littles stayed focused better before lunch than after.  Right now, we're getting in one and a half to three hours each afternoon, plus read aloud time and some outdoor activities most days.  That just isn't ideal for us, though.

Preschoolers and Peace Review

In thirteen brief chapters, Kendra guides you through scheduling a school day that includes your tot, rather than banning them from all of the excitement they just know is going on in that other room.  I love the idea of circle time as it is in the book.  What I associated with calendar time with the boys a couple of years ago and evolved into their daily notebooks, can be kicked up a few notches to include preschoolers.  In Preschoolers and Peace, it's defined as, "...fabulous, all-ages-are-welcome, group teaching time that allows us to pray together, laugh together, and get to the things we often run out of time for."  As I think about ways to incorporate this into our mornings, I really see the beauty of it.  I've been pulling out activities that Merrick can sit at the table and do with us while we talk and learn.  Training the olders to be less distracted by him is as important as teaching him to work on his "school" quietly alongside us.   

Top: Merrick working on QTip painting numbers.  Bottom: Our letter sort box, learning alpha order and matching upper and lower case letters.
Don't let the thought scare you.  The suggestion to schedule your day is really just to create a routine for your family.  If you aren't sure how to occupy the littlest family members, Kendra includes a great list of educational and fun busy work.  We all know just how much simpler life is when they are occupied.  Who among us hasn't had that dreaded thought that the toddler has been just a little too quiet for a little too long?

Topics in the book include
  • How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Preschool Boys
  • Preschool Chores
  • Meal Planning 101
  • When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers 
There are so many more resources in this book.  Preschoolers and Peace is a very enjoyable little book.  Sort of like chatting with the neighbor mom over your favorite hot beverage.  Kendra is a wealth of doable and worthwhile ideas.  I suggest reading the blog at Preschoolers and Peace as well.  Then do some strategizing and gather those little ones right in.

$2.99 ebook
For homeschooling moms with toddlers or preschoolers, or any mama who wants to discover ways to spend meaningful time with their littles.

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Sep 30, 2014

The Nose Tree ~ An IEW Review

The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) was started to help students develop listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking skills.  IEW uses a program created by primary schoolteacher Mrs. Anna Ingham in the first half of the 20th century.  In the 1970's, her nephew Dr. James B. Webster adapted Mrs. Ingham's lessons for older students and began to teach other instructors in her methods.  Mr. Andrew Pudewa was one of those instructors and brought this method to the United States.  I recently received IEW's Fix It! Grammar books, Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Teacher's Manual) and Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] (Student Book), for review.

Fix It! Grammar Review

Fix It! Grammar was written by Pamela White.  Mrs. White also teaches for IEW.  There are six levels of Fix it! Grammar.
  1. The Nose Tree, which I will be talking about, and
  2.  Robin Hood
  3. Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Little Mermaid
  5. Chanticleer
  6. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
The Teacher's Manual and Student Book are durable soft-cover with a spiral binding.  The student book can be downloaded as well.  Which brings me to the incredibly generous copyright policy which you can see in the image below.  IEW knows, acknowledges, and meets the needs of the homeschooling family and community.  Amazing.


The student book consists of the lessons, a grammar glossary, grammar review cards, and a certificate of completion. The Nose Tree begins very basically with nouns, homophones, end marks, and paragraph indentation.  By the end of the 33 weeks of lessons, the student will have a good working knowledge of basic grammar.  There are lessons in capitalization, contractions, clauses, and more with regular review weeks throughout.

This compulsive mama gave the cards to the boys to cut out.  You have to let go at some point and say, "Fly little birds.  Here are the scissors.  Please don't ruin our cards."  When I looked at some, I was going nuts and wanted to trim them all when I noticed they don't line up on both sides.  Fix It! Grammar's one, tiny flaw.  *smile*  I put two envelopes in the front of Malachi's notebook.  One holds the cards we have used or are introducing and one holds the rest for future use.


I love the look of the pages with plenty of white space for marking corrections.  That fact alone helps Malachi remain more focused on what he is doing and where he should be doing it.  Ahem.  "Should be."   There really is more space than there appears here.  Mal just writes really large letters.


And he flat out refuses to cross out homophones with a line.  Once he started X-ing, he continues X-ing.   My stubborn boy.  Each day consists of editing just *one* sentence.  No one needs to get bogged down, feeling overwhelmed.  Very few students can't correct one sentence, look up one word in the dictionary, and rewrite one corrected sentence.

The lessons begin with a page highlighting the week ahead.  There is an explanation of the new grammar topic with examples and a reminder to pull out the applicable grammar card.  This is followed by the basic instruction that remains pretty much the same each week.  Read the sentence, look up the vocabulary word(s), fix the sentence, and rewrite it.

First, Mal reads the sentence out loud.  He then decides on the end mark and locates the parts of speech we are working on or reviewing.  So far, we've covered nouns, articles, pronouns, quotation marks, and homophones.  Next, he determines what word to look up in the dictionary.  It's the bolded word or phrase in the sentence.  After looking it up, he writes it in his personal dictionary.  Then, he turns to the back of his notebook and rewrites the edited sentence.


His dictionary is a children's dictionary which was also chosen because there is plenty of white space and a couple of pictures on most pages.  That means that occasionally, one of the words or phrases he needs to look for isn't found in that book.  The Teacher's Manual contains a definition for all of these words.  All the answers are right there as well as plenty of teacher's notes and comments directed at "grammar lovers" intended to clarify anything that is considered too advanced for your Nose Tree reader.  The TM also has the scope and sequence listed for each of the 33 weeks and a grammar glossary.


With purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you will have access to a download of the Student Book and two helpful audios.

The Nose Tree Teacher's Manual costs $19.
The Nose Tree printed Student Book costs $15.

Even though IEW clearly states The Nose Tree is for grades 3 through 12, I like to teach the boys as much as I can at the same time.  With the unforeseen dictionary sharing hassle, I decided to have one boy look up all four words at once while one boy rewrote the four sentences that day, and one day to correct all four sentences.  This took only three days instead of four.  Three VERY long days.  It only took one week of that to realize that was a bad idea.  It was a horrible idea, actually.  I tried Xav on The Nose Tree for two weeks before I finally admitted it was just too much for him.   If it ain't broke, applies to a certain grammar program, too.  We're back to using it as intended with Malachi only.

Interested in IEW, but not sure where to start?  Go to IEW's decision tree
Interested in Fix It! Grammar?  Take the placement test.  Which, by the way, left me completely in over my head in moments. 
Learn more by watching this Fix It! Grammar webinar.

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