Monday, March 24, 2014

The curriculum sampler. What I have walked through so far this year 2013-2014

I feel like for some reason it is my job to try every curriculum out there and it is costing me a fortune. Well, comparatively we have yet to a cumulatively spend as much as one child's tuition at a private school. See perspective is everything. As homeschool parents, this is what we do, we try everything until we find a fit.  My local homeschool friends always ask me what are we using now. They love it, because I will get rid of it cheap. Nice for them.

So here we are 7 months in and I have an exhausting list of things we have tried. Her is the list and the pros and cons of each we used. Maybe you can glean some experience from this and not have to go to the trial and errors.

Easy Peasy Homeschool
This is a free program put together by an amazing woman. She has created an independent curriculum that just requires your child to work through each day's work. The site uses videos from you tube, free domain books on, along with other free resources she has found. She has amazing resources.

We used this for a month in the summer to see how it would fit.

Pros: My kids could work pretty much independently of me, especially for my child that can easily read. A lot of times,  my daughter would get up at 5am and would work for 4-5 hours to have most of her day free. The children enjoyed the time on the computer.

Cons: I had a difficult time keeping up with my kids to insure that the work was done and done correctly. I will admit that this could be the fact that I have 5 kids under 9 years old. I also could not insure that my little to no reading son did not just click through the work, I caught him. 

So this was just not a fit for us.

AOP lifepac
So with the start of September, I decided that we were going to finish those workbooks that I paid so much for. I made them suffer through three more weeks of it. Before I knew it was time to stop.

Pros: easy to follow teacher manual that went with the workbooks. As the children could read, they became more independent of me. The years worth of work is broken up into 10 small workbooks. This is nice because it doesn't get the children overwhelmed to see how much they have to do.

Cons: The workbooks are broken up into 3 sections and it is assumed you would take three weeks to complete. Well, there is not a start and finish to the day. They break the section into a list of activities, so spelling will show up five times, but in a random order. We had a hard time with knowing when enough was enough for the day. Sometimes the day would end in the middle of the page. This just made it difficult.
Also, my daughter found that the pages got busy and distracting with the images and she would often times get lost on what is the purpose to this exercise.

Sonlight - Core B & PK/K
So next I found sonlight and loved the reading, especially since my daughter consumes books like a bag of potato chips. I enjoyed the idea just a relaxed reading atmosphere. We easily submerged ourselves in this for about 5 weeks. 

Pros: everything is laid out for you. You get an amazing instructors guide and a forum that is not comparable to anything I have discovered. 

My favorite part that I will not part from is the science that they use in the beginning. It is a Usborne science activity do book that they paired up with a sonlight made DVD to walk you through each activity, that you can get a box with every tool you need for the experiments. I can't say enough about it.

I love the book selection also. Also, I was introduced to explore the code for my son that ended up being a great fit for him, but not for his sister.

Cons: you better have nothing else to do. The required reading of a few pages from several books a day times 2 became daunting for me. I would prefer a max of just 3 books at one time. Most times they would forget what we read from the day before. Some days I would read short excerpts from up to 16 books!

The instructors guide is through, but huge and overwhelming. Most times I would get lost in it, even after pulling out that weeks instruction into a smaller binder for my ease.

We had no success with the grammar, within 3 weeks I was asking a fellow homeschooled doing sonlight, what she used. 

This program is a video instruction on DVD with the use of manipulative and a very simple workbook to reinforce. We used about 16 lessons of this.
Pros: they can work on this independently, are you seeing a trend on what fits with us. It uses pretty blocks and is simple enough.
Cons: I live in a world of distractions and most times they did not watch the instruction carefully. There was such a distance between the video and the practice my children were not retaining the building blocks to the lesson.

I know of another family that this works well with. We used it from the end of September to the first of December.

Explode the code
Great black and white drilling of phonetic principles with spelling. My son was able to work independent through the lessons with little oversight. Is a great fit for him. My daughter's attention was not held and she would lose sight of the intent on the page. We could not use this as a stand alone phonetic curriculum, we have completed 1 & 2, we have book 3. He wil finish book 3 and then we will not continue with explode the code, for now.

Christian light education,
This was brought to our attention from another home schooler. This is one of my favorites. We started it at the end of October and we still use it today in some areas. It is much like lifepac with the best qualities and some even better ones. We use the reading/learning to read and the language arts. We gave the math a try. But it was not a fit.
Pros: budget and user friendly with no fluff or frills that has helped my kids immediately learn. I can't say enough about it, my son's reading has drastically improved with this strong phonetic based program.  The 10 workbooks are laid out with a lesson a day, so it is clear and obvious where to start and end. The lessons maintain the same format so my children know what to expect and after a few lesson the instruction becomes strictly about the skill and not the technicalities on how you are to practice it. 
The phonetics are excellent and spelling training begins right away. Also another awesome way to reinforce reading.
Cons: in some ways it is a con, cle so effectively teaches the principles from the start, that as a consequence I had to have my third grader go back to the second grade reading and language so she would not miss the skills. So as a con, you almost have to work through every lesson to pick up the skills needed.

I love cle and plan for everyone of children to work through the kindergarten and first grade work.

Robinson curriculum
So I actually found this last year and tried to implement it and we were just not ready yet. Well as we approached December, I realized it was time to see if it was a fit again. Sure enough it is a good fit now. A bit of background, I actually heard Art Robinson on Moody radio a few years back, he and his wife homeschooled their 6 kids. She got sick and died within 24 hours. He decided to continue homeschooling them but did not have time to teach them. So he did an experiment that worked. He first liked the math they had, so he had them do 2 hours of math, if that ment 1 lesson or 2 or even half a lesson, this is what they did. They used Saxon 5/4 and up only. Next, he required his kids to write every day. When they were young, this was in the form of copy work, as they got older it was an essay. Next he put good books in front of them.  He packaged his curriculum up with the course of study that has stand alone value in its self. Then he has a collection of the enough books to give a 12 year education that you can convert to an e-reader pr print. He has a 2 hour video where he fully explains on his website. He is no nonsense or frills.
Pros: this is cheap with a mastery of the three Rs, arithmetic, reading and writing. Although the focus is just this and not social studies, science and everything else, it is enough. You have a wonderful experience in nature and experiments from the literature and an amazing basis of history. The vocabulary is amazing. You essentially do the parenting of teaching your child to learn and then be responsible for their own education.
Cons: although it is a k-12 program, you are required to teach reading before setting them off on their own. Reading is not included, but you are pointed to use a strong phonetic program. You better have a laser printer and a cheap toner source.  
I find my children do best when the books are on paper, I keep an electronic reader for when I am in a pinch and need new books now. So I print and bind a months books at a time and it takes me a day. So,entires I am just not in the the mood to do it. You must purchase math separately.

Ultimately, this is what my kids will use with minor supplementing. The rest of my children are in the pursuit to begin program. I tantalize my younger ones by reading them a page from a cool book. For instance, my son was in love with the letter from the author of Josephine Pollards book U.S. grant that states girls will not like this and she wrote it just for the interest of girls. Wow, did my son light up. I read with him the first page and then stopped, telling him he could read this himself as he masters phonetics. It keeps him motivated.

Saxon math 5/4 and higher
my daughter just hated math. It was a useless process as far as she was concern. Well, using art robinson recommendations I started saxon 54. I am using the third and second editions because they are cheap and easy to get on eBay. I purchased initially the textbook, answer keys, and test book. There is so much mastery in the textbook, I feel that the testing is unnesseccary and I will not require it from my kids.
Pros: it is easily purchased for around $40 for everything you need, it is not consumable, so it will be used by all 5 of my kids, making it an $8 investment per child. Since it is out of print, I will more than likely sell it  in 9 yrs for $40.
The lessons are laid out with a short warm up of about 4 problems to get the mind warmed up. My daughter usually needs to talk it out with me for the last problem, but gets it on her own with a bit of discussion. She then reads a 2 page lesson with example. Then works 5 problems on what she has learned. Then she works 25 problems from what she has already learned. 
The nice part about the 25 problem review is it gives her the practice to master it. And she is given a note to tell her what lesson the problem is from, so she can review the skill.
Cons: you need to have your math facts for at least addition and subtraction when starting and then simultaneously learn multiplication and division. My daughter resented matering the facts. It started catching up with her at lesson 10, by becoming very slow at her work. I made her take a week off to master her facts, it has helped tremendously. Since my son can not read by himself, he has mastered the facts better than her.
Also, your reading comprehension will become obvious. For me this is a blessing to find the weakness of other subjects, so you can correct it. For others I know, this has become an extreme stumbling block that has them disliking their saxon textbook. With discussion with my friend's kid, she quickly concluded it was not the math skills that made it difficult, but the reading.

So as I always say, hopefully we have found our fit and will not be changing anytime soon. I have also found some great supplements that keeps us on course with our Robinson Curriculum (RC), but I will save this for another discussion.

Hope this helps you,

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