The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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Mott Media Review by Christine Field and Heather Jackowitz

112 E. Ellen St.
Fenton, MI 48430

George Mott had a vision to find a curriculum that would give children a Back to Basics education, steeped in faith, and American tradition. The result is the broad Mott Media Classic Curriculum, called the "marriage of the principles of the 19th century and modern technology and teaching methods," consisting of the reissued McGuffey's Readers, Ray's Arithmetics, Harvey's Grammar, Spencerian Penmanship, and other materials. At the website,, a classic curriculum scope and sequence is available to help the parent choose appropriate materials.

The McGuffey Readers are wonderful and now have companion workbooks available. Ruth Beechick, Ed.D has also written a parent-teacher guide for the readers. The McGuffey Readers have been used to educate over 120 million children, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers. As you read these stories of Christ-centered character and just plain good literature, you will be in good company.

Mott Media is also your source for the other writings of Ruth Beechick, including her book Language and Thinking for Young Children, and others. They are also the publishers of The ABCs and All Their Tricks by Margaret Bishop. This simple volume contains everything you need to know to teach phonics - without the expensive flash and dash of many other programs. It is well organized and contains answers to all your reading questions and problems. The Eclectic Progressive Spelling Book is a well-organized comprehensive spelling program to accompany and complement the readers.

Harvey's Elementary Grammar and Composition is the only grammar book you will ever need. Covering everything from sentences to syntax, the book clearly explains grammar and requires regular composition exercises to put the theory into place. The suggested scope and sequence suggests the use of this book beginning in fourth grade.

Do you want your child to have beautiful handwriting? Mott Media is your source for The Theory of Spencerian Penmanship in Nine Easy Lessons. The reusable guidebook can be used for multiple children with the addition of five levels of accompanying workbooks.

Ray's Arithmetic is delightful! The instruction is presented in an orderly fashion and takes the student through the study of mathematics piece-by-piece. The frequent use of story problems allows the student to increase reading comprehension skills while learning mathematics. The work requires the use of real objects, such as fruit, counting blocks, or marbles in the manipulative stage, then moves the child through the mental image stage and the abstract stage. The books range from primary arithmetic to higher arithmetic and have available a parent-teacher guide to assist the parent in guiding the child through eighth grade math. Stuck at the end of this book is a fun section on math projects and games.

Mott Media also publishes a government text called Under God by William Hendricks. It is a well-written treatment of the American system of government starting with the basic conviction that civil government is God ordained. An accompanying teacher resource booklet contains exams and answers for a complete course.

In the homeschooling culture of more glitzier and spiffier, Mott Media is a breath of fresh air. These materials are challenging, straightforward, and just plain good! If you are looking for a no-nonsense back to basics approach to your homeschooling, check this out!

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, Senior Correspondent, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

The Three R's
By Ruth Beechick

Never have I seen three such little books filled with SO much wonderful information! A Strong Start in Language, A Home Start in Reading, and An Easy Start in Arithmetic together make up The Three R's series by Dr. Ruth Beechick.

A Strong Start in Language introduces us to the "natural method" of teaching. Dr. Beechick says, "Listening and speaking are to spoken language what reading and writing are to written language." Copying and dictation are the two basic methods used to teach language skills to beginning writers. Grade-level guidelines are included to reassure parents that they are covering what is typical for each level. She explains three approaches to spelling (common word, phonics, and personalized) and recommends a bit of each. Fourteen sample lessons and Bible sentences for copying and dictation are included.

The next book is A Home Start in Reading, which could easily replace an expensive, complicated reading program. Dr. Beechick takes us through five steps to reading: pre-reading, beginning, blending, decoding, and fluency. Pre-reading involves real-life experiences, such as talking, listening to stories, and exploring the world. She also helps parents discern when their child is ready to learn to read. In the beginning section, she gives ideas for activities to teach one or two vowels and a few consonants. Next comes blending those few letters; this is the toughest step, and one that cannot be rushed. Decoding follows, which is when you teach all the letter sounds and combinations. A handy phonics chart is included with the book to use during this step. She also offers tips for teaching sight words, writing, and spelling at this point. Fluency, the last and very important step, involves lots and lots of easy reading. Each level gives good ideas for games and activities. Finally, she tells parents how to evaluate whether books are appropriate for independent reading, instruction, or if they are just going to be too frustrating. I've now used about five different highly touted phonics programs with my children, and I can honestly say that I could have achieved the same results with just this book and lots of good, easy readers! But even if you choose to use a prepared phonics program, this book is useful for understanding the process of learning to read.

The last book in the series is An Easy Start in Arithmetic. After explaining the different modes of thinking (manipulative, mental image, and abstract), Dr. Beechick gives tons of real-life methods of teaching arithmetic skills. A scope and sequence shows what is typically taught in grades one through three. She suggests that some parents may prefer using a textbook, but she reminds us to teach to the child, not to the text. A hundred chart is on the back of the book, as well as on the back of the phonics chart, and many activities are suggested for using it.

These three little books offer a wealth of time-tested wisdom. They would make a wonderful gift to a new homeschool mommy or a refresher course for the more experienced. I find myself returning to them again and again for encouragement when the going gets tough. Ruth Beechick has such a common sense approach to teaching that destroys my ideas of "school experts" and encourages me that I am the best teacher for my children.

-- Product Review by: Heather Jackowitz, Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Publisher's note: Mott Media has so much to offer! While we would disagree with certain items offered that point to Catholicism as a saving faith (Teresa of Calcutta/The Sowers), 90 percent of the line is excellent. My sons love biographies, and Mott Media offers some of the finest. Additionally helpful is the fact that Mott Media publishes Ruth Beechick materials, a wonderful homeschool author. Also of interest is, a site sponsored by Mott Media. Everyone is familiar with the McGuffey Readers, another Mott Media fave!

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
By Dr. Ruth Beechick

So, you've read The Three R's series by Ruth Beechick and loved her common sense philosophy and wonderful teaching ideas for grades one through three. But your children are growing, and now you have fourth through eighth graders to educate. What now? You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Beechick! Picking up where The Three R's left off, Ruth takes you through reading, writing, and arithmetic goals and teaching methods for older elementary and middle school grades. But it doesn't stop there! About the remaining quarter of the book is devoted to "Beyond the Three R's" - history and social studies, science and health, music and art, and Bible. Helpful charts scattered throughout the book include vowel and consonant sound spelling charts, common-word spelling lists, a hundred chart, an addition/subtraction table, and a multiplication/division table.

Part I, Reading, helps parents understand what to do once their child knows how to read. She explains three types of reading: textual (nonfiction), imaginational (fiction), and functional (signs, food labels, newspapers, ads, phone books, etc.). She explains the elusive concept of "reading comprehension" so parents can confidently do away with reading textbooks and turn their children toward real books. Suggestions are included to increase vocabulary, build reading speed, and develop good study habits.

Part II, Writing, is a hefty section dealing with everything related to writing: composition, mechanics, spelling, usage, and grammar. Dr. Beechick's emphasis is on actual writing, not just the mechanics of writing. "To learn to write, write!" she says. Eleven sample writing lessons are included, each containing five days worth of work. Dr. Beechick says, "These lessons will have served you best if you get ideas from them to continue this kind of holistic language teaching using literary models that you choose" (Page 70).

Part III, Arithmetic, opens with a chapter on the wonder and order of numbers. She talks about the history and uses of zero, the decimal system, and place value. She then goes on to give practical ways to teach for meaning. Two more sections cover everything related to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Finally, she offers grade-level scope and sequences for grades four through eight. Wonderful teaching tips are sprinkled throughout all sections to help your child learn arithmetic.

Part IV, Beyond the Three R's, begins with history and social studies. Ruth encourages us to move beyond textbooks and discover the rich world of literature available when studying history. She goes into detail about using timelines, encouraging us to keep them so simple that children can memorize them. She also challenges us to see timelines differently for children than we see them for ourselves; for us, they pull everything together, but for children, they are something to hang pegs on as they encounter new people and events. A typical social studies scope and sequence is offered, and a final section discusses what concepts to cover in U.S. civics.

The next section in Part IV is science and health. After discussing the how's, what's, and why's of studying science, Ruth talks about teaching creation science. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ruth Beechick's interest in creation science, I direct you to her books Adam and His Kin and Genesis: Finding our Roots. In You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, you will get a short course in creation science and tips on how to teach it. Health and safety are best taught at home, and she gives lots of good tips to incorporate this into your life curriculum.

Music and art come next in Part IV, and Ruth obviously has a passion for these subjects. She explains the importance of these subjects and explains key music concepts for non-musical parents. Again, lots of useful tips are included.

The final part of Part IV covers teaching the Bible as literature, history, and science. Ruth believes that every child, Christian or not, needs to understand the foundations of our Western civilization. Ruth's devout Christian beliefs shine through this excellent chapter.

Several things I love about Ruth Beechick's books are her common sense approach, her easygoing style, her life experience, and her knowledge of history. She helps me have a wider perspective on education than the one I grew up with as a product of public schooling. And she gives practical, home-style advice that just inspires me!

I simply cannot say how helpful I find this book to be. It is the book I take into a long, hot bath when I feel like a terrible homeschool mother, and I always come out feeling inspired and reminded that my husband and I are our children's best teachers. Be encouraged!

-- Product Review by: Heather Jackowitz, Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine