Monday, May 19, 2008

Curriculum Review From A Novice

Here I go with my feeble attempt at reviewing the curriculum that we used this past year as well as lay out a tentative plan for the upcoming new year.
It's the middle of the afternoon and I am moving that second part until tomorrow.

Remember I am but a babe in the world of homeschooling so keep that in mind when you consider my shared opinion :)

Here's the link from last year where I listed my curriculum plans. I pretty much followed this game plan at first but when the wheels started falling off I had to scrap a few things and reevaluate. It looked something like this....

Hannah- 7th grade
Emma-5th grade

Math-Saxon Algebra 1/2 I love Saxon. I can see where it would have been beneficial for me to have been teaching my children incremental math so that I would have a full understanding along with them :) It might help me not break into hives and/or a full sweat when approaching certain ominous word problems. Still, the book is helpful to fill in the gaps and we have made our way through with only one minor adjustment. Right from the beginning it seemed that Hannah was grasping but just barely. She would finish her assignment but would often be in a heap of discouragement and she still had an unacceptable level of anxiety over math.

She is my daughter.

So we decided to break the book in half (not literally, although it sounds like fun, huh?) and stretch it over the course of her 7th & 8th grade year. Since she was already in what was considered "honors math" in public school most of the concepts had been introduced but none had actually taken root. We have taken two days for each lesson, really driving home the basics and completing the odd problems one day and the evens the next. I think it worked out wonderfully!

John Saxon writes in the preface of the book about the benefits of long-term practice beyond mastery. It is this concept that encouraged me to prolong the time we spent in Algebra 1/2. I would rather Hannah master each problem with speed and accuracy than struggle through the mechanics again and again. Saxon says this:
Students often resist this practice because they feel that if they have already mastered a concept, no further practice is required. They do not realize that being able to work the problem slowly is not sufficient. They need to be reminded that mathematics is like other disciplines. For example, playing a musical instrument well requires long-term practice of the fundamentals. Playing football, golf, tennis, or any other sport well requires long-term practice and automation of fundamentals. Mathematics also requires this long-term practice.
Emma completed 7/6 with flying colors but I am not sure if we will go to 8/7 or hop over to Algebra 1/2 with Hannah. I am seeking some guidance in this. Emma is proficient in math but I am not sure she will be ready for Advanced Math in the 8th or 9th grade. Any advice?

Shurley Grammar- O.K. I hate to confess this but I am gonna keep it rill for you gals. Me & Shurley? We are like oil and water. She ain't my favorite (get it....the bad grammar?'s a joke) Shurley doesn't like jokes. She says "DO THIS!....SAY IT LIKE THIS!......NOW WRITE IT LIKE THAT!". I imagine her with a stiff ruler across my knuckles. Basically.....she scares me.

I still think it is a good curriculum which means that it is thorough and quite comprehensive. I am not even sure if we are truly finished with it but I need to really dig and evaluate where my girls are since they have been through the public school system and grammar was pretty well covered. I think my situation is unique in that we hit certain areas where it is quite repetitive (because my girls jumped around for testing purposes in public school) and then other areas we are knee-deep in the world of reflexive/intensive pronouns and my eye starts twitching and then I pretend that the dry erase markers have given me a headache and we close up the grammar shop for the day.

And here is where the love of my homeschooling life enters....

Total Language Plus -By far, my most favorite thing! I found out about this from my friend Tiff and saw it first-hand during our visit to Texas over Thanksgiving. Their philosophy:
Total Language Plus is an innovative curriculum focused on teaching thinking and communication skills using literature as a base. The authors believe an integrated system is more efficient than a fragmented approach, discovery style learning is the most effective and learning should be enjoyable. The "discover, do, drill" method is employed throughout the TLP program with activities focusing on thinking skills.
I would encourage you to browse through their website for a really in-depth look at what they offer. I love that the curriculum is centered around the book which makes the assignments relative to something they know already and have interest in.

The units are broken down into about 1-2 weeks worth of assignments. We usually completed them within the 1-week span but at times spread them out when necessary. Each and every unit will include a multitude of writing projects, art projects, field trips, and personal thinking. In addition there are comprehension questions, intensive vocabulary, dictation, and a bit of grammar.

This is a Christian curriculum that weaves scripture into the lessons and requires the student to examine how God's Word addresses particular situations or the heart issue of the characters.

An example of a Pen & Paper Project from The Hobbit is....

"Write a psalm of praise to God for the joy of spring and the beauty of His creation. (ch.19)"


"Find a scripture that speaks of counting the cost before beginning a project. Explain how the scripture fits in with this story. (ch.11)"

Keep in mind that choosing the projects are at your discretion. The book is full of ideas for making the story come to life which my girls loved! The personally thinking questions were great conversation starters and the vocabulary was awesome! It's hard for me to find a negative with this study but I have to admit it is not rich in grammar and I would definitely recommend a supplement.

The other thing to consider is that you are limited to the selection given by TLP. My girls have read: The Hobbit, Anne of Green Gables, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, & The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. There are plenty more for them to choose from this upcoming school year, but after that we might be looking at slim-pickin's.

Apologia General Science- Remember when I talked about the wheels falling off? Remember when we were building an addition on to our home and I was 7-months pregnant? I had to start cuttin' our losses people. Science? It didn't make the cut.

We choose General Science because of the recommendation for it to be first in the series. I think the curriculum is great but starting with General Science was not a good move for us.

The website says:

The course covers such topics as the scientific method, designing experiments, simple machines, archaeology, geology, paleontology, biology, and human anatomy and physiology.

You see the part about the scientific method? Ummmm....that's about as far as we got. We will start in the fall with Apologia Biology for a fresh start :)

Veritas History/Old Testament & Ancient Egypt- I love Veritas. I love this curriculum and the recommended reading that goes with each lesson. I love seeing God's perfect provision for mankind throughout history. We will definitely stay with Veritas. I can see where this curriculum might be a bit much for a 2nd grader (which is the recommended age for starting OT & Ancient Egypt) but my girls didn't start until this past year so it worked great! I bought some of the resource books that I knew I would use again and I checked the other ones out from the library. We did a handful of projects which the girls enjoyed.

Pathway Readers- I still really love Pathway and plan on using it for my younger children all the way through. Unfortunately my girls didn't start with this type of reading and it was hard for them to attach themselves. I plan on using it through the summer because I like to finish what I start and it is a good quiet activity that also requires some level of thought. This kind of fell into the same category as Science when we had to make adjustments in order to survive the season we were in.

I can... not.... believe how long this post took.

Glory Be.
Have Mercy.

I will write more later about our plans for the upcoming year to include Samuel's Kindergarten Curriculum! Art! Critical Thinking! Latin! Music! Sewing! Cooking! Baby Rockin'! and still managing to work in the three R's!

I can't wait to see what you guys think. Give me details!!!! I know I greatly depended on the consensus of those whose opinions I valued in order to make my initial decisions. I couldn't have done it without you all :)


Anonymous said...

I was wondering how you liked Veritas History! I've always wondered about it and whether or not we would like it. I haven't used it, but I keep it in the back of my mind. Maybe when mine are looks kind of complicated. Is it as complicated as it looks? Do they have plans and schedules for you to follow? The other history I'm interested in is Tapestry of Grace. I've read great things about it, but it is also one I am considering for when all of mine are a little older.

Wendy said...

We use Pathway Readers too and I really like them.

I'm switching to Saxon this year (for 2nd grade) too and considering Apologia.

4kids&luvit said...

THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! I've been wanting some ideas for Langauge arts. I also have been interested in the Apologia Science so was glad to read your review of it. We are about to start our third year of Saxon Math- I LOVE IT. Why didn't I get to learn this way when I was a kid? I'll also have to take a look at Veritas, we've enjoyed the Beautiful Feet literature based history curriculum. VERY GOOD and well planned, even I learned quite a bit, also it's a Christian curriculum and teaches good character principles.

Tracy said...

Well, I would participate, however, since I no longer have a blog...kinda hard.

Looks like you are doing great. I love Saxon, but I am going to try Teaching Textbooks for next year. I have to do NOTHING. I like that word. NOTHING. It is on the computer and specifically says I have to do NOTHING. They might not use that word, but that is how I took it. I actually think it said "parents need to know NOTHING".

I don't like Shurley either, but my English teacher hubby picked it out for me because the writing portion is thorough and A Beka's is WEAK! I love Sonlight history and Michael is doing an on-line science called QuickStudyLabs (electronics) and he LOVES it. He has that kind of mind.

Anyway. We are almost done. We end whenever I decide. Not necessarily when we finish the books (although science is over, he just took the last math test and English...we're getting there). That is the nice thing about knowing he will be home again next year. We can pick up where we left off. :) We have "beach school" in June.

Kim said...

Tracy! Where did you go??? E-mail if you want :)

Christina said...

We're on lunch break right now, and I'm trying so hard to finish this year strong! But the ants have invaded and everything seems to be falling apart! Anyway, I'll try to come back and link something later. I love talking homeschool.

Thanks for posting on what you did. It is always so encouraging.