Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vocabulary Vine - A Review

I feel that it is only fair to say that we're pretty new homeschoolers without a lot of experience and so these reviews are not meant to be anything other than me shooting me mouth off and doing what I tend to do best - giving my opinion on things.

Since this is my first curriculum review post (heck, it's pretty much my first blog post ever) I spent some time tonight nosing around online to see how the pro's do it. What I found made me think about deleting my blog all together and hiding my laptop in the closet! They sounded so official... so competent... so everything I am not. One thing I am though is very stubborn and so here I am.

We have been using a root study curriculum called Vocabulary Vine for the past few months and I thought I would share how it has been going and what my opinion is.

According to their website: "Vocabulary Vine is the fun, easy, high-retention way to learn roots." "Your goal is to learn these roots to help you understand English vocabulary since more than 70 percent of English (and 95 percent of upper vocabulary) comes from Latin and Greek word origins."

The program takes you through learning 108 roots. If broken down into 3 times per week it should take you 36 weeks. We usually end up putting into the workboxes about 2-3 times per week and are doing 1 root per session. Sometimes it makes it in more often, sometimes less.

They say that the book is designed for 4th - 9th graders and I would have to agree... sort of. M. is in the 4th grade and can work on this pretty much unassisted. I'm sure that he could have learned from the system and enjoyed it at a younger age, it just would have required a more hands on approach from me when it came to writing the actual cards.

I know that there are a lot of different root programs out there and I'm sure they are all perfect... for someone. I've seen numerous sets of flashcards and other set ups that teach the same information we're covering now except for one main difference... the writing. The end result of this program is pretty much the same - you end up with a box full of flash cards. Cards full of the roots, definitions, example words, and their definitions. What's different is that in addition to reading them and using them for drills and games, the kidlet writes the information down themselves. The fact that this program includes that aspect in a short, basic way is a big deal to me.

Let me explain our basic set up. The whole program pretty much consists of 2 items - the book itself and a file box filled with 4x6 cards and alphabetical dividers. That's it! I am huge fan of anything that doesn't require 712 pieces and 3 square feet of storage space on any given day but especially since right now my "schoolroom" is in major upheaval after a roof leak awhile back.

The process is almost as simple as the set up. The session starts with opening up the book and choosing a root from the list of 108 provided, along with a blank 4x6 card. We take the easiest route and have just started at the top and are working our way down.

M. then writes the root in the upper left of the card - followed by the definition. He then picks an example word that uses that root and lists it on the card. Next he looks up the definition of the word, using both roots and writes it on the card. You can see in the photo that he looked up the definition of both "tele" and "graph" in the glossary in the back of the book to get the definition for "telegraph". Now the definitions he comes up with are not always the most eloquent and I'm sure that Mr. Webster is wincing when he hears them but the are always in the right area concept-wise and they help him to understand what the words mean based on their roots, which is the whole point to us. The next step is to underline the separate roots in the word and the different sections in the definitions. He does this for 3 example words and his card is finished.

The last step of the writing is to start cards for the roots that we used but haven't gotten to on the list yet. For those all he does is write the root and definition in the upper left of a new card and write down the example word underneath it. In this case he used "autograph" on the card for "graph" so he started a new card for "auto" since we haven't gotten to that one yet. This way, when it is time work on "auto" he already has a card started and all he has to do is finish it up. He does this for any new roots that we use each session. This time we had already used "tele" and "phono" so he didn't have to start new cards for them.

After the cards are complete I have him read through all the cards that he has. Just reading the roots, definitions, and example words on a regular basis helps him to keep them fresh. We also take a session every couple of weeks and just go through all of the cards without adding any new ones - just to recap. That is pretty much how it goes for us and a session generally on takes 15-20 minutes.

Now that I've covered the process I'll get to my take on the whole she-bang...

We've been very pleased with this program and would highly recommend it. The price is great - for both the book and the index cards/file box set up the cost was under $15. I have already seen a difference in reading comprehension and vocabulary, even when we are only 1/3 of the way through it. Most of all, M. is enjoying it and learning from it, what more could I ask for?

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