Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity. ~ Margaret D. Nadald

Our Father also gifted us with the nature to nurture, keen sensitivity to the Spirit, selflessness, discernment, and heroic faith. No wonder our Father placed us at the heart of the family and thus at the center of the plan of salvation. We are the Lord's secret weapon. ~ Sheri Dew

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24 March 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things

It's getting to be that time where a lot of people are looking for new curriculum, so I figured I'd share what I've enjoyed over the years. My qualification for curriculum is that it has to be fun and reinforce what is learned in an enjoyable way (games for instance). My husband and I spent enough time in school doing worksheets and "getting work done," that it's made it very important to us that our children apply and internalize the information they learn and have it become a part of them. Additionally, while some of my children learn no matter how things are introduced, my daughter is the poster child for unmedicated ADD/ADHD... so capturing her attention is vital. She really is the epitome of childhood, so if a program is not enough that she can spend 10-15 minutes engaged with me, then it's really just not enough. Plus the multi-sensory programs that I've found help engrave knowledge further for my other learners. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite things:

I'm really lucky that I had a friend who had Right Start Mathematics. I didn't know many more options than Saxon Math, Math U See and Singapore. I watched a few videos on Math U See and realized that wasn't for us. While it is a really wonderful program, I wanted to be my child's teacher, and I didn't feel like doing worksheets was something that we needed to be doing. I had also heard a lot of really great things about Saxon math, but I didn't feel like their program was the best for
our home either. And while it's funny reasoning, I wasn't really okay with supporting Singapore Math because they had a "California Standard" version of their products that conforms with CA law that requires their curriculum to be a little more neutral... i.e. word problems can't involve a husband and wife/"traditional" family.

When I saw Right Start Math I knew it was PERFECT for us. They had me at "abacus," but the
more I learned the more I loved how the program was introduced and reinforced. There were lots of games and connections being made. I think we learn math in a more complete way that helps the children enjoy what they're doing and beg for math time. The lessons are straight forward and the teacher's manual gives a simple list of everything that is needed for the lesson. Did I mention the abacus? So, not only do I get to teach their lessons myself, but we're applying math to life ("look around the room and tell me what we have 2 of?") and we're taking advantage of an age old way of calculating numbers and visually interpreting information (8 is 5&3). I like how they discourage counting... although this is a very hard habit to break... and embrace the idea that 5 and 3 is equal to, or the same as, 8. It's not just some abstract fact. So, if you haven't heard of Right Start Math, it's worth giving some time to research if you're looking for something different. Their customer service is also incredible. I bought 3 abacus' when I ordered my kit and one wasn't in the box when I received my shipment. They were easy to get ahold of, and quickly sent out the missing piece with their apologies.

Happy Phonics: I really enjoy being able to just have fun with my children. Before mentioned OCD issues makes it difficult for me to just sit and let loose, so Happy Phonics is a great way to learn with my children and play games that make phonics real to them. I found a copy of this program on Amazon about 2 or 3 years ago from a mom that previously used it with one of her children and found it to not be the mostaffective for a subsequent child. The result of that was being able to have everything cut out for me, all I did was laminate it and cut out and we were ready to go! I was also fortunate enough to watch and learn from the mom that suggested this program and really get some great ideas of how to make phonics come alive for my children. It had a whole lot less to do with the actual information and way more to do with my reactions. Amazing what a few "Wow, that was great! Good job!" can really mean the world to a small child. The program recommends using it in conjunction with Explode the Code. We haven't done this, but I know it's worked for a lot of people.
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Now, I'm Reading: I LOVE this series!!! Everyone that comes in contact with these books loves this series. I actually recently got a call from a mom that I had talked to last year who wanted me to remind her the name of it because she remembered liking them SO much and now that her son is ready to read she couldn't get it out of her head and couldn't find anything close to it anywhere else. These books reinforce words throughout the book (The Cat, The tan cat, The tan cat ran) etc. They don't throw out words randomly without prepping the child for them, which reduces frustration. The books run through a series and there's a guide in the back of the book to tell you what is being introduced, and even has questions to help the child focus on comprehension. The illustrations are great and my children love the stories. Despite bookshelves packed with books, my children gravitate to these several times a day and there are A TON of options in these books. Things start with Playful Pals and move up through more Advanced books and even have "Independent Readers" that let the children explore Science and Math in a way that is not overwhelming because they've learned the skills to decode the words.
Product Details

All About Spelling: I was introduced to this program a few years ago, but didn't take the leap to actually buy it until a few months ago. I borrowed All About Spelling from a friend and really enjoyed the multi-sensory aspect of things (again, I have a daughter who would surely be on Ritalin if in a publicschool setting). This program breaks down words and reinforces phonics. We even ended up buying a large whiteboard and mounting it on our kitchen wall specifically for this program. My children are all smiles when they work with all about spelling. They use magnetic tiles to build words, practice writing words on paper, and learning how to hear the different components of the words. It's amazing when even your 2 year old is picking up phonogram sounds... I love osmosis!
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Handwriting Without Tears: Again, this system is very multi-sensory. The children color, use chalk boards, create the letters with wood pieces... and other products I didn't feel itnecessary to buy, but am glad I have the option to if I feel the need. I like that the children can reinforce their writing on chalk boards, they are the perfect size... then I buy sponges at the grocery store, wet them, and they practice again by erasing what they just made in the same order. While this system may not provide the "prettiest" handwriting, it does give the children a perfect starting point, so if they're interesting in progressing to a fancier script they have a solid foundation to go off of. I'll also mention that ALL of my children are left handed. That's an anomaly right? Anyway, their instructions are perfect for any child and show you how a pencil should be held and the proper angle on the paper. Speaking of paper, they also have paper you can buy. I did this so that my children can again, reinforce what they're learning. There are many companies that also provide writing practice in the HWT style. I picked up a free booklet at Currclick.com last month. Unfortunately, it's no longer available for free, but I'm sure that things like this will come up again. You can also buy the font and there's a TON of support on the Handwriting Without Tears website. I don't buy the teacher's guides, I feel like the program is pretty self explanatory, but I'm sure there are wonderful tips and instructions in there on how to make the program come even more alive. I watched some videos on their site and it's really fun and all encompassing. Oh! And the sell a box of 144 golf pencils (the perfect size for little hands) that are pre-sharpened. LOVE that! I didn't buy them the first time around, but this last order I sprung for them and it's been $9.75 well spent!

Song School Latin: I like this program because it uses songs and an activity book to reinforce teaching points AND it's inexpensive! Maybe that's my favorite part. Everyone sings the songs/knows the words, and I get that for a fraction of the cost of other programs. This is a great primer for future feats in Latin. I feel like teaching my children Latin will be beneficial to them
because it is the root of so many languages, including our own! I can't tell you how many times I've figured out a new word because I was able to use preexisting knowledge of Latin roots. This is definitely not a dead language! My cousin teaches Latin back east and goes to many conferences where they only speak in Latin. This language is making a come back in incredible ways and gives insight to all the romance languages! I highly recommend finding a Latin program and implementing it in your home. Song School Latin is a slow easing in to things, and again, at such a small price you can get a feel for where you'd like to take your Latin learning in the future.

Alfred's Piano Books: I really enjoy these books. At about $6 a book they're inexpensive and on Amazon.com they are available for 4 for 3, which gives me a free book! There are all-in-one versions of the books, still trying to feel those out... I think they're great for older students, but 3 & 4 year olds, and those young at heart, would enjoy the separate theory, and note speller books. I have one lesson book for the family and then buy the write in books for each of the children. You'd save money just buying the all-in-ones, so with more children to teach piano to this is something that I've considered. However, I think I really like the separate books for level A and then maybe going to the all-in-ones after you've established a relationship with the piano and your child. I'm a self-taught pianist, so it's nice to go back and reestablish a base... these books are fun and there are endless ways to reinforce what's being taught.

And lastly, while you've read about these before:

Discover the Scriptures: I think these packets that follow the scripture stories put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, provide questions and activities for any parent to help their children increase their scriptural knowledge. They also provide FREE helps to memorize the Living Christ. I also appreciate their approach to Christ centered holidays (Christmas and Easter) and will write about those soon!
LDS homeschool curriculum


crazy4boys said...

We seem to have similar taste in curriculum! Glad you have found so many things that work for you...and still work for you. Great reviews!

Cherie said...

I was just lucky enough that we had similar taste at the time when I was looking for these products! Sitting down with you really helped establish that I could find programs that would help our children learn in the way that we felt was best for them. So, thank YOU for putting in all the hard work that helped me unscramble the crazy world that can be homeschooling curriculum. :-)

Milk and Honey Mommy said...

We are also RightStart fans which is included in our curriculum again this year. I was in search of a math curriculum years ago and almost gave up until I walked through the last aisle at a homeschool conference; the very last aisle.