Sunday, February 27, 2011

Curriculum Review

Back in August, I did a post about what curriculum we were using this year.

Now that the year is winding down a bit, it's time for me to start buying some of the books we need for the next step, so I thought I'd do a run down of what we're keeping and what we're ditching.

What we're keeping:
Evan Moor Grammar and Punctuation: We finished this book a few weeks ago and it was really good for teaching Sierra the basic rules. She understood the lessons and did well with the worksheets. It seemed a bit hit or miss with what transferred over to her regular writing though, so I also got the Evan Moor Daily Language Review and have been doing that with her so she gets some practice editing sentences. This book would be very frustrating to her if she hadn't done the grammar and punctuation one first, but it's been great as a follow up. For grammar and punctuation, I gave her the entire week's lessons in one day. For daily language review, I am doing the same thing, but we do it Tuesdays and Thursdays, so she's covering two weeks of material every week. Next year I think we'll do the same thing again, just move on to Grade 2 for both books.

Evan Moor Spelling: This is another one I'm very happy with. Her spelling has improved greatly and with no frustration on her part. We do these lessons as they're laid out. She gets the list Monday, does a worksheet each day and there is a test on Friday.

Evan Moor Geography: She LOVES doing these. I also give her the whole week's worth of these worksheets in one day. They're very easy for her, but she has learned a lot about map reading. I've already ordered grade 2 and have decided I'll let her work through it as fast as she wants. I haven't looked real close yet, but I think we will need to switch to something else later on because these don't seem to move on to the basic "learn the states, find Italy on a globe" type stuff anytime soon.

Right Start math: I'm still loving this program. I think what is so appealing to me is that it doesn't teach math the way I learned it in class. It teaches math the way I learned it in math club (yes, I was THAT dork)...where we were taught the fastest, easiest way to do things so we could do well on timed tests at competitions. It can seem like she's "behind" because she's only doing addition, but it's all mental math. She has also learned telling time, counting money, and some basic geometry (parallel, perpendicular, vertices, diagonals...). Next year's book picks up subtraction and multiplication. I've learned a little curriculum lingo this year and Right Start is an asian-based spiral curriculum. Other parents/kids are happier with a mastery curriculum. If you search spiral vs. mastery you will find enough information to keep you busy for days. What I like about spiral for her is that she is constantly reviewing, but if something is just really difficult for her, she's not stuck with it for more than a few lessons before she gets to take a break for a while. Right Start is VERY hands on for the parent though. There's no giving them a book and worksheet and leaving them to work, you have to sit down and go through every lesson with them step by step. That may be a problem in the future, but for now we can always find the time, so I'm sticking with it. I will also be starting Sedona on Level A either this summer or in the fall. Josh and I have decided taking a full summer break from math would be a bad idea, so we intend to continue with the math lessons year round, but on a lighter schedule (probably 2 lessons a week instead of the 4 a week we do now).

Usborne Prehistory and Usborne Ancient History: I have been happy with these, but I have needed to come up with my own hands on activities to keep it interesting for her. I plan to use these same books again for Sedona. I haven't decided what to do for next year though. We will be moving on to the Middle Ages and I'm not sure if I'll stick with Usborne books, or buy the History Odyssey program. I definitely want to get started on a time line soon though and I'm liking the looks of the one Pandia Press just released

Reading: The child loves to read, so I stopped pushing the issue, because I realized I don't need to. She has been reading easy chapter books (Freckle Juice is the latest one I saw her with) on her own. She's also joined a Liberty Girls group and is reading the American Girls books for that (Kit and Addy). I am still reading Harry Potter to her. She is very interested in the story line and has read some of the chapters on her own when I was busy. We're almost to the end of book 2 though and I'm not sure how much further I'll let her go at this age.

What we're ditching:
Evan Moor Nonfiction Reading Practice: Just not impressed with this. The topics are all over the place. If I had several years worth of books, I could probably take the time to pull out the readings that are relevant to other things we're studying, but the benefits of the set up don't outweigh the hassle it would take for me to do that.

Evan Moor Reading Comprehension: I thought these were good, but Sierra hated them. She can learn to focus on what is happening in a story and why by discussing what she's currently reading or doing little projects like drawing a scene from the story. No need to force her to do something she hates for a subject she normally likes.

Evan Moor Science: These worksheets were pretty good and Sierra learned a lot from them. I will probably do them again with Sedona. I think Sierra is ready to move on to something more involved though, so I'm planning to start her on R.E.A.L Science Odyssey from Pandia Press next year. I'm a little worried about the amount of parental involvement it seems will be required (I can just imagine getting a science experiment all set up and then the little girls throwing a fit and interrupting what we're doing). I figure we can always do science on the weekend if we need to though.

Power Glide Spanish: This wasn't bad but it didn't quite impress me either. Sierra was picking up the information, but she was also getting distracted and "glazed over" at times (this version involved listening to a CD while following along in a book). I had to sit right with her for every lesson too because there were times the CD was asking her to say things, but not giving her enough time to actually do it, so I would have to stop and start the lesson. What we have is the old version though, the company is now called Powerspeak and the lessons are online.

What we're thinking of trying:
Foreign Language: Honestly, the powerspeak lessons are a bit pricey for something that I haven't heard a whole lot about from other people. I have heard a lot of other parents rave about Rosetta Stone, but they say your child needs to be about 9 to get started on that. Right now I'm thinking we may just put language off for a couple of years and then get Rosetta Stone (gulp! that's an investment!) and work through it together. Not sure if we would go with levels 1-5 or just do levels 1-3, then pick up a third language and also do levels 1-3 on that one.

Reading: In the not so distant future, I'll be starting her on a reading list of the classic books/stories. I have a few elementary text books I've picked up at library sales that I might use for that and I've also been buying up paperbacks of the things I read in school when I've seen them on sale.

Summer Project: Aside from math, we will be taking a summer break (length to be determined!) from regular school work. I've been thinking of big, independent projects she might do during that time though. Maybe build her own Rube Goldberg machine, build a city out of boxes, start her own blog to "publish" the stories she writes... I don't know, I'm mulling ideas and haven't yet brought any of them up to her, because I'm sure she'll latch on to ALL of them, and that will make momma crazy.

Sedona: I ask Sedona every day if she wants to practice reading. Most of the time, she tells me no, so we don't do it. On the days she says yes, we get through 2 or 3 pages in a Set 1 Bob Book before she loses interest. When she loses interest, she starts purposely saying the wrong sounds while cutting her eyes over at me and stifling a giggle. Sounds like a certain uncle she has that insisted he didn't know his colors in Kindergarten, but really knew them all along. I'm not pushing the reading, because we both just get frustrated if I do. She knows all her letter sounds and I think the reading is going to come on its own without me forcing it on her. If she's still resisting the idea in 2 years, I might push a little more. She is very interested in math still and has picked up things just from being in the room with Sierra. The other day I gave her scrap piece of paper to color on that had some hexagons on it. She drew the diagonals and said, "Look! I drew the diagonal, I can do sister math!" Then she picked up the other paper I had given her, colored in a picture of a penny and said, "Look! I colored the penny!" and did a little happy dance. I didn't even know she knew those terms and what they mean. She definitely seems ready to start her own math lessons, but I will probably stick to 2 or 3 days a week unless she asks to do more. She is also picking up some language skills. When I say the words for Sierra's spelling tests, Sedona always whispers a sentence with the word in it to herself. I'll say "train" and she'll be over there at the playdoh table quietly saying, "as in: We took a trip on the train." It's annoying, but also very cute. She turns 4 this summer, so she's still got another full year until Kindergarten and I'll probably just keep letting her do her own thing until then.

Are you homeschool people out there buying supplies for next year yet? Is there anything you used this year that you just love, or just had to get rid of?

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