Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our Year in Review

We homeschool year round, but even though we began in September, our curriculum for the year is pretty much finished. So I thought I'd give a review of what worked, and what didn't. I apologize for the length of the post.

Sonlight Core A History with Grade 2 readers: We loved this core, and zipped through it. With all the times my kids begged me to read "just one more chapter", we were completely finished by February. However, I won't do that again. In order for the material to match their emotional maturity level, I'll have to be careful not to go too fast through the cores. Plus I can't afford two cores a year!
I took out the religious materials, and I immediately sold the Language Arts portion and just used the reader's schedule. I'm not a fan of Sonlight's LA.

What we loved : There were too many great books to list them all. My daughter loved the Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia(she still uses the history links daily), Living Long Ago became her bedtime read of choice, The Llama Who Had No Pajama convinced Bess and Max that poetry could be enjoyable(now they happily choose poetry selections from the library), the two Dolphin books and the James Herriot book became Max's favorites, and we all loved No Children No Pets. There were so many good titles! The markable map added to Bess' geography knowledge to a great extent. Labeling every place we read about, and occasionally reviewing, was all it took to make her an avid map lover. She labels countries now for fun. Yeah, I know. Weird kid!

What we didn't like : Besides the religious stuff, we didn't care for the following titles- The Story About Ping, Mary on Horseback, and Johnny Appleseed:Story of a Legend(how can you make Johnny Appleseed boring? This book manages it.). I also found the Core A Tips CD next to useless. You can do a google or pinterest search and find way more interesting crafts and activities.
The majority of the timeline stickers were for the religious readers, so I wish there had been more historical figures instead of missionaries and such.

But overall, I'm really pleased with this purchase. I've heard people say Sonlight costs too much. Yes, it is expensive, but not overpriced. For a huge box of books, plus curriculum with a high resale value, the price seems reasonable to me.

Horizons Math 1: Well, Bess and I would probably write opposing views about this one as she's not a math fan, but even she would admit this is way better than what we were using(Saxon). I'm not slamming Saxon. I used it K-12 with my older two, but it wasn't working for Bess. She hated the boring black and white graphics and constant repetition. Horizons has plenty of practice built in, but it's colorful and seems more fun somehow. I like that it moves much faster than Saxon which I think is pretty slow in the elementary years. It isn't secular, which is odd. It's math! But the Christian stuff was pretty minor. I think there might have been a cross on one page, the three wise men, and a handful of other things, but not much. The teacher's guide has inspirational quotations at the bottom of the page. It's pretty trivial, and the program more than makes up for it in quality, in my opinion.  I will definitely be buying Horizons 2.

Mathtacular DVD: I'm not sure how much of the actual math my kids are soaking up, but they love this. They watch it for fun. I'll be purchasing Mathtacular 2.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting K & 1, and Spelling 1: These are colorful, not too expensive, and functional. I will be buying the next levels.

Noeo Biology 1: This was the big let down of the year. It's the kind where I wish I could build a time machine and warn myself not to waste the money. A few of the books were good, but some seemed dry and textbooky. The experiments didn't always work, but that might have been our fault. What really disappointed me was the Instructor's Guide. It just divided up the reading and experiments into a schedule for each week, which I could have done on my own. It didn't offer any extra information or suggestions on what to discuss or teach. Noeo uses a Charlotte Mason approach and expects kids to draw, write, or talk about what they've learned. I'm fine with that for other subjects, but wanted more guidelines for science. Oh well, live and learn. I won't be buying Noeo again. We'll try BookShark's Science next.

Evan-Moore 6- trait writing 1: Easy to do, quick writing assignments. Bess liked it. I feel sort of indifferent about it. We probably will try the next level. I'm still debating with myself about it. It's difficult to gauge how much she learned from it.

Language Smarts B: Bess really liked this. I felt it didn't have enough practice. I prefer Rod and Staff, but know she will hate it. I'm currently searching for a middle ground, something colorful and fun, but thorough. I will not be buying Language Smarts C.

Building Thinking Skills Primary: This was okay. But I bought the wrong level for Bess. It was way too easy, and we gave up after a month. I don't think I'll buy a higher level, though. I'm not sure it's worth the cost.

Artistic Pursuits Book 1: I had fully intended to read and do projects from this once a week, but we didn't. It was probably wishful thinking that with a new baby in the house we'd have enough free time to be artsy. Hopefully, we'll get some use out of it this year.

Mathematical Reasoning A: This was a nice introduction to math for Max, who has autism. The concepts were easy enough without a lot of repetition. I will say, I don't believe this is a complete math program. It was for Max, but not for kids who don't have learning challenges. There just isn't enough skills practice. I'm not sure if I'll be buying the next level or not. I'm still thinking about it. I am happy he seemed to enjoy this. He even asked to do math occasionally.

Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons: Our copy, bought years ago, is looking worse for wear. I taught Peter and Ethan to read from this, and now Max is a third of the way through it. Best $20 I ever spent. I'll continue to use it with Max. We're moving slowly, and I'm bribing him with TV time to get him to sit still for the lessons, but it's working! There are times when Max is sounding out words that I start to tear up a bit. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to teach him at all, and now I can actually visualize a day when my son will be reading books on his own.

Evan-Moore Everyday Literacy Science K: This would probably be too easy for most kindergarten students, and I think it's too easy for Max, but he loves it. Sometimes with kids with learning challenges, it's a good idea to let them succeed at something rather than learn something. Max feels proud of himself when he works on this book, and he's learning that school can be fun. That's good enough for now. I will be buying him the next level.

And that's it. We supplemented with loads of library books, and titles from our own bulging bookshelves. We managed a few crafts. We cooked together. Took nature walks(Max's are more like nature runs). Bess took ballet this year and loved it. We went to many, many library programs. We played with friends. We played with our hilarious and animated baby, Rose. It's been a fun year. One of my favorites. I hope your school year was a happy one, too!

Until next time!

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