Wednesday, September 30, 2009



Let me begin by telling you that the curricula I am about to review for you is by far the best I have ever used for children with emotional and/or special learning needs. Of course, there is a good reason why this material works so well. The author has spent many years teaching children and adults with learning, emotional, physical and mental difficulties. While this is true, don’t let that stop you from reading my review if you have mainstream or even advanced learners. There is something here for EVERYONE and NOT only for your children. I will be reviewing several fantastic products that work to prepare your child to succeed in college, career and communication in life itself.

Author Jill J. Dixon who created this company is a seasoned educator and homeschool mom with a B.S. degree in English Education and a Masters in Special Education. When you head to her website, you will see her other very impressive credentials. Her husband, Theodore Dixon is also involved in publishing the curriculum.

It is my privilege as a member of TOS Homeschool Crew to select four of their products for review. Being a free-lance writer, I want to teach creative writing to my children, but because of their educational backgrounds, they do not have a good foundation in grammar and writing. They also have some learning challenges that are resultant from a lack of nurture in their early years. Because of this, the courses offered by EDUDPS are perfect because of their skill building through step-by-step analysis, vocabulary lists and varied approaches for learning styles.

The first product, Write With The Best, Volume One, Grades 3-12, is one that I thoroughly enjoyed! The subtitle hints at what is in store: Modeling Writing After Great Works of World Literature.
(This usually sells as an ebook for $19.95, but it is on sale now. It’s also offered printed at $22.45 with no binder or at $24.95 with a three ring binder.)

Each unit breaks down into daily goals for learning objectives. First, students read and study a short selection of classic literature by a great fiction author. They put the principles to practical use as they write an assignment patterned after the sample. First, they describe an object, then a setting, followed by a character and last, they learn to write dialogue. In addition, they imitate short stories, fables, letters, poetry and even ballads!

My boys, at first, did not have the logic to decipher which parts of speech were being used for which types of writing, but after some trial and error, they began to finally grasp the concepts. This is amazing as I spent most of last year trying to teach them parts of speech so that they could learn to write! They just weren’t getting it prior to this. The methods used in this curriculum made it clearer to them than ever before.

Here is how writing and grammar are taught together. First, the story is read to them; then, over several days, they study the descriptive language used in the story and discover how writing incorporates these elements.

The course is not “dumbed down” at all but on the contrary it is intense and motivating. Nevertheless, it is also very teachable to children with ADHD or dyslexia. A few words were above comprehension level so I encouraged the boys to look them up in a dictionary and thesaurus. Then we would discuss them. They protested at first but then became very proud of themselves for the new words they learned. They began trying to use them in real life and were mostly successful. The dissection of literature continued in bite-sized chunks from day to day. Along with this were opportunities to find parts of speech in the written piece, by circling, underlining or highlighting words according to color codes. This made it easier for them to see the nouns and verbs next to their modifiers, while noting how they all work together in writing.

Literature works of high quality keep the course educational and challenging so that advanced students or adults even enjoy doing the work; however, the selections are small enough to not overwhelm a student who struggles with learning language skills.

NOTE: It is my opinion that the teaching principles of scaffolding and modeling are necessary to teach language courses to children with special learning needs. These methods are an integral part of this curriculum BUT the course can also be completed independently by an advanced student or an adult who already has good reading skills and desires to improve their overall writing ability.

Other superb features of this curriculum are the writing guides in the back of the book, proofreading checklists and suggestions for teaching to various learning styles. Since I have two students with different learning styles, I was able to incorporate both visual and hands-on teaching techniques as well as auditory aids.

I looked but found no negatives unless you compare classic literature with current writing trends. Fads in modern writing promote using fewer adjectives and adverbs and using instead stronger verbs. In the writing groups I attend, you are likely to be critiqued for using –ly words too frequently (oops, I used an –ly word, didn’t I?) or for using too much description. I found that old world writers flood the page with descriptive words.

The author of Write With the Best follows classic literature with her use of customized dialogue tags. I prefer this method as well but some modern writers leave off the tags altogether or at least use them in a minimal capacity. To some degree, one must determine whether he or she is writing for personal improvement or for publishing. This would require understanding the preferences of the publishing house to which a writer would submit his or her work (this is done by reading things they’ve published). Though there are popular trends, there is some flexibility in the actual writing market. It is a matter of opinion for each editor. I’ve seen published work with and without the tags as well as with frequent –ly adverbs. One must determine what is a trend and what is timeless writing. Overall, I agree with author Jill Dixon and renown authors of classic world literature.
Either way, you can’t lose by learning from what has already worked for centuries in writing. This course will sharpen your language, grammar and writing skills.

I can’t wait to dig into Volume Two, which normally sells at $24.95 as an ebook but is on sale now.
Here’s a sneak peek at it:

Write With the Best, Volume Two, Grades 6-12 roots deeper into the bones of writing as it teaches students to study all sub-genres of non-fiction to improve their own writing ability. Included are: instruction in writing business letters, free verse poetry, persuasive and expository essays, articles, book reviews, speeches and even a literary critique.

Both of these courses will strengthen your sentence and paragraph structures, demonstrate how to create quality writing yourself, teach you about various genres and improve your ability to “write with the best”.

Another excellent product on my favorites list is Roots and Fruits, A Comprehensive Vocabulary Curriculum covering Grades K through 12, using English forms of Greek and Latin Roots and Prefixes.

This course sells as an ebook for $14.98 or printed pages only for $17.48. You can buy it with the binder for $19.98. (No, I’m not lying; they are really this affordable.)

In fifteen minutes per day, your student can learn that words are not just floating on a page but that they actually have roots and meanings. Building on those meanings by adding suffixes and prefixes their definitions either change or enhance. Using an alphabetized list of ACT and SAT words, Roots and Fruits can increase your child’s ability to understand language and reading, improve decoding skills and comprehension in school subjects, thus raising test scores.

The book contains recommendations on how to implement the program into your homeschool curriculum plans. I did apply some of them but also adapted the course to fit our own schedule and learning needs.

Since my boys are junior and senior high school age, I divided the words into blocks or units, where they had 9 or more words per lesson. Every day, they write the words several times each and use them in sentences. We also look them up in a couple of dictionaries, write down the definitions in green colored pencil on file cards with the roots and words in red on the opposite, un-lined side. Sometimes I will write the definitions on a white board and have them copy them. I also write them on file cards and make an extra blank one so that we can later play Concentration with them. This involves playing a game to see who can find the most matches of words to definitions. By trial and error, they learn the definitions enough that I can verbally drill them on it. When I feel that they have had enough practice with writing, reading and matching up the words, I will give them an oral test first and then a written one, also using the vocabulary words as spelling lists. Every week, I include “bonus” words on their tests using words from previous weeks to help them retain the information they have learned so it is not just rote memory with no long-term retention.

My boys have really learned to understand language better through this course. Their reading comprehension skills are improving as well. Once in a while, I will hear them trying out the six million dollar words in normal speech. One time, they each used some very large words in a personal way to tell about some experiences in their lives prior to being adopted. The way that they used the words showed me that they really were learning and understanding Roots and Fruits, which honestly, I thought, would be too difficult for them. I am impressed! This curriculum writer really does know how to teach language skills to all types of learners. In fact, as a lover of words, I’m enjoying the refresher, too! (It sounds like a great course for my character, Dr. Wordwielder, to recommend to readers of my other blog, Rather Be Writing. In fact, he will be referring readers to this post, I think.)

As far as I’m concerned, this curriculum has many pros and few cons. The program is very good at instructing the teacher in how to implement it, giving multiple options for various learning styles. It is an effective tool for increasing vocabulary and comprehension. It doesn’t take hours away from other studies. We completed the daily work in 15-20 minutes per segment of words. The only improvement I would recommend is to include or offer written tests for the vocabulary lists. Of course, as someone creative in the writing department, I didn’t have a hard time making up such a thing but it did take a little extra time on my part. Of course, to me that is a big deal.

Please do not let these comments deter you from buying the curricula I reviewed! I loved these courses more than any I have ever seen or taught in Language Arts! Over the years of teaching special needs and mainstream children, I have tried many.

Go ahead on over to the EDUDPS website, but not yet! I still have one more awesome product to introduce to you. It is a must have for every junior and senior high school student and any adult who wants direction career-wise.

The product to which I refer is called, The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers. I have to interject here that I wonder why the titles like these always limit themselves to say “Homeschoolers” on them. They are so much more applicable to wider range than to one group. People could benefit from this resource no matter what their educational background might be.

We had a wonderful experience using this book. I only used it with my high schooler and for myself, but I am certain that I will use it later with my soon-to-be eighteen-year-old son and my junior high level son as well.

Owning this book is like having your own personal career consultant. You know, like the image and career consultants to whom you pay hundreds of dollars to have their expert opinions on skill assessments and career direction.
This book is normally only $34.95 as an ebook or 39.95 soft cover. (Check out their 25% off sale right now.)
Contained in this guide are:
· detailed lists of career paths
· learning and skill aptitude tests
· assessments for preferences and personalities

We learned a whole lot of information about our son that we did not know and confirmed some things that we had previously observed in him. This book is going to help us to steer and transition him through high school into adulthood, including courses of study and electives.

In the back of the book are references on creating high school transcripts for college bound and vocational training, as well as links to CLEP tests and colleges that accept them. There is also insight for success in taking ACT and SAT tests and obtaining college and/or AP credits while in high school. There are suggested subjects for each career path, course and career planning worksheets, sample transcripts and resumes. This is especially helpful to homeschoolers who are not under an umbrella school program and need to create transcripts and translate their learning into high school credits.

As well, there are suggestions for homemakers who want to re-enter or keep connected to the workforce. Many homeschoolers are one-income families and in this day of economic pressure, homemakers are looking for ways to supplement their family incomes as well. This book contains several ideas for how to do this.
I am amazed that the author could write so many excellent books and curricula on such a wide variety of subjects. I’ve only reviewed four of them but if you visit her website, you will see a whole lot more. I think I will be developing a relationship with this company as soon as my budget opens up to purchasing more products. I can see how these products would be good for my family as well as others in our homeschool community. I’m excited about what EDUDPS has to offer and very, very impressed with the quality!

Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services, if you are reading this, I want you to know that your products are the best home schooling products I have ever seen!

Readers, if you want to take a peak at what they have to offer, go to the website below. They have some great deals at this time. Their products were already affordable but now they are being offered at a steal! You will find free downloads there at the website as well. Hurray. If you love learning but your children don’t, it’s not too late to scoop them up onto the “I love learning” wagon. These products will help you do that. To check them out visit here:

VENDOR: Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services
CONTACT: T.L. Dixon (Theodore) PHONE: 912-921-8921
Be sure to read the special instructions for downloading e-files.

To read what other TOS CREWMEMBERS are saying about this and other vendors’ products, click on the banner in the right upper and lower sidebars of this Leaders In Learning blog. Thank you.

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