Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Curriculum

Our homeschool association had our "Curriculum Night" last night. I always enjoy this particular meeting. Everyone comes to discuss what has worked (and NOT worked) for them, curriculum-wise. It's great, because the curriculum sales and book fairs start up next month and it's fun to get ideas about what to use next year.

Last night's meeting went by subject, with the beginning of each subject discussion being what had not worked for a family in that particular subject area. Of course, we allowed for the fact that different kids learn differently, some moms like a particular style and some moms don't, etc. But I like to hear what doesn't work for someone for any certain reason, because it's possible that I would have those same issues in my home with my kids (kinesthetic learners, too much repetition, etc.)

There was a LOT shared, most of which I didn't write down, but here's some of what I remember:

Math: What didn't work for some was Saxon. This is pretty much a staple curriculum for homeschoolers, but some kids just find it too repetitious, too bland, too... much. Many of the moms there spoke in support of it as well, so really this is a learning style issue. What I thought as I sat there was that we are free in Christ to not make them do every problem, sheet or lesson. We used Saxon briefly when my daughter was in third grade, and she was quickly sorry she had begged for that instead of her Math U See. (All the friends used Saxon at the time... I suppose that's the homeschooler's version of having to have what everyone else has, LOL.)

One mom recommended something I'd never heard of before, but something that she has had great success in (because she does not like the "spiral approach," reviewing concepts throughout each year) and it was Mastering Mathematics. It seems to be a different approach than I've seen before, with books by skill area (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.) and you master the whole of addition up through the eighth grade level before continuing to the subtraction book. She said her kids have really thrived using it. It might be worth checking into if you're looking for math curriculum.

Someone brought up the subject of Everyday Math, as her kids are coming out of the public school system and that's what they were using. I'm not sure how readily available that program is in the homeschool market, but I must say that I have very mixed feelings about it based on what I've read online (both from those whose kids are using it and educators reviewing it.) If that's a program you're considering, I'd encourage you to watch this video, Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth. I thought it was very interesting. There is also a "rebuttal" of sorts at Youtube, but I didn't find it very compelling against the original video. At the very least, it seems to me like Everyday Math is to math education what "whole language" was to reading education when I was in college. But I'm not here to start a debate, LOL...

Several of us recommended Math U See for kinesthetic (hands on) and visual learners, and a couple of us had also had really positive experiences with Teaching Textbooks this year as well. The main problem with Teaching Textbooks is for those who have used grade 7. Apparently it is filled with errors, but the word from TT is that they are fixing those and sending out new discs to TT users this summer.

Someone also shared this Pizza Fraction Fun game that has really helped her kids learn their fractions this year. Apparently this game was a real hit at her house.

Spelling: What didn't work for a couple of folks was Spelling Power, as it is intended for use. The pretests seem to make some kids (including mine) feel like "failures" before they ever get started. It was agreed, though, that it is an excellent resource for the money, since it is for all levels of spelling up through high school, and that you don't have to follow the program the way it is laid out, but rather do traditional spelling lists. I have enjoyed the activity task cards that go with the program as well. Others liked Spelling Workout, Sequential Spelling, and one mom recommended the website wizardspell.com.

Language Arts: There didn't seem to be a big discussion of Language Arts. Everyone was pleased with what they used, whether it was Abeka, Bob Jones, workbooks, etc. One mom wholeheartedly recommended Learning Language Arts Through Literature, which I've looked at before and think looks excellent. Another mom said her child had enjoyed Switched on Schoolhouse Language Arts, but that after three years of it her son was getting bored with it. We have it for grade 6, and that is what I'm planning to use with my son next year. He did it for grade 4 and enjoyed it as well. We are "beefing up" grammar this year with Abeka, but are switching back to SOS for grade 6 for something different.

History: Many of us in the room shared that we are enjoying Story of the World. One mom shared that, while she and her children really liked SOTW, she was concerned that it didn't weave in Bible as well, so she said she had been supplementing with Mystery of History and that has been very enriching for them.

As a supplement to American history this year, one mom shared that her kids are really loving the book Yo Millard Fillmore for memorizing the presidents.

A couple of the moms have had great success using My Father's World and Learning Adventures, both of which are a unit study approaches using history as the spine.

Science: The hands-down favorite was Apologia, for all levels including elementary. I've always heard wonderful things about this curriculum, and most of my friends use it. When we decided to try a text, however, my kids really liked the BJU Science, so we have stuck with that for the past two years. Another recommendation was Rainbow Science.

Bible and Worldview: Of course, a favorite for Bible curriculum among homeschoolers is Awana material. Another favorite was BSF as well as the Precepts Inductive Bible Study Materials for kids. One mom recommended Picture This, which we have and use periodically. My son in particular likes this program. For worldview curriculum, someone recommended Thinking Like A Christian.

Whew! I'm sure there was more, but my fingers (and my brain!) are tired. I always enjoy getting together with other homeschoolers to share what's working/not working. However, I sat there last night thinking, "Be content. If it ain't broke, don't fix it." While the recommendations of others are helpful, if what you are using is working for you... stick with it! But hopefully, if you're shopping around, some of these recommendations might help.

Hope you're having a super week!

4 comments:

Kristi said...

Thank you! I always love to get insights from other homeschoolers!

Amberly said...

Sarah is using Saxon, but I'm thinking of trying Math-U-See with Nathan next year b/c he has a different learning style than she does. Also, we bought Mystery of History in the fall and let it fall by the wayside pretty quickly. Last week I ordered Story of the World and the activity sheets, so I'm hoping the activity sheets will help us stay on track! I'm now trying to decide whether to start SOTW now or wait until fall! I also just ordered a couple of elementary science books from Abeka. I hadn't looked at Apologia stuff, so I'll have to check that out. Thanks for the info!

playingschool said...

Thanks for this great review! I want to chime in that we're using LLATL for 3rd grade and I really like it. I think it's a nice, gentle approach that works well for my "younger" daughter.

Also, our groups around here just share what we love. I love the idea of sharing what did NOT work for someone, too!

staceyhoff said...

Hi :) I followed you over to your blog from Middle Years. I too am a SAHM and home schooling, and your comments were similar to mine on her blog ;)

Thanks for all your reviews ( and mentions of friends and associates reviews) of various curriculums avialiable. I have tried many of them, but still many I have not and it's nice to hear what others have found out about them.

Just to chime in here too, we
(5th grade son) have been using Saxon math for the first time here ( never ealized it was so popular!found a used book at a curriculum fair!)and it has been Great for him. He is ADHD diagnosed and it seems the repitition of reviewing all you have learned up till the cureent lesson, as well as the newer material, has really served him to keep everything current and cohesive and for us to have peace of mind knowing that he is not missing out on 'chunks' of math, seeing as how math really is building blocks one on top of the other and if you miss a few blocks, you can really be in trouble come high school math.
We moved around A LOT when I was a kid (I was a 'Navy brat' as they call 'em)and Math was always my 'behind' subject because I'd miss a block each time I moved to a new school district, basically. By the time I had gotten to High School math I had pretty much given up on ever being able to learn math easily like everyone else seemed to be able to, and you know how that can sometimes be- not easy, so youngsters tend to give up.
So, long story huh! But that's why WE like Saxon math. Plus he is a Christian, and we just love the added bonus of having curriculum created by a Christian who was also obviously such a smart man ;)

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