Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking Back: Curriculum Review

Wow, is it really almost time to start looking for next year's curriculum? (Insert any "where did the year go?" type cliche here). Thought I would review our last year's curriculum out loud, both to help me make decisions for next year, and to give you some ideas in case you are looking for something new for your homeschool.

Here we go...

I'm going to start with the winner for my absolutely favorite teaching resource from this year:

MATH:

TEACHING TEXTBOOKS!

We discovered Teaching Textbooks about mid-year, and I can't tell you how much it has eased my anxieties about both teaching math and trying to fit all our subjects in each week. It is a computer-based curriculum (CD-ROMs), starting at 4th grade. I got it for my daughter, who is in 4th grade, and she can often be found doing her Teaching Textbook lesson when it's not even a school day (i.e., just for fun!) You can see free sample lessons at their website. The samples will speak for themselves so I won't go on about it, other than to say: definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a new math curriculum. By the way, we replaced Saxon Math with Teaching Textbooks. My daughter enjoyed Saxon, but is having more fun with TT, and the time it frees up for me to teach other subjects is invaluable.


SINGAPORE MATH:


We also used Singapore Math this year. My 7th grade, ADHD son really, really likes Singapore Math. Each semester has a small, colorful textbook and workbook and my son can usually work through these easily (and happily) on his own, with a short lesson explanation from me from the textbook. What I love most about Singapore is it makes students work a lot of mental math, which is something I never mastered in school and wish I had. My issue with Singapore is that now that my son is getting up towards the higher levels, I'm a little afraid the texts won't give enough of an explanation for me to be able to help him, and math is not my strong point. For that reason, I'm thinking of switching him over to Teaching Textbooks. However, when I asked my son which he would rather do, he chose Singapore, and that is saying a lot because he would live inside a computer if he could, and to chose a non-computer curriculum over the other means he really likes it. Still making the decision on that one. But will probably at least try a year of Teaching Textbooks with him to see how it goes. Guess we can switch back if we need to. For some reason my 4th grade daughter (BeachPea) never liked Singapore, which is why we were using Saxon before we switched to TT. So I guess it's not for everyone.

But my 1st grader and 4 year old use Singapore Math and are very happy with it. The pages are colorful and concise enough that math is not a chore, for me or for them. If math can be a happy thing right from the start, then I would imagine their life-long attitude towards it would be more positive (unlike it is for me - just the word math usually sends shivers of ickyness down my spine). Another good thing about Singapore is that it is cheap. For that reason, I'd say it's worth trying out if you are looking for something new. Amazon often carries it at discounted prices.


LIFE OF FRED MATH:


I read about this program on another blog and it sounded wonderful: quick, funny lessons, few problems to work, and an affordable price. We tried out the Life of Fred: Fractions edition. My kids absolutely loved the stories, about a 5 1/2 year old university math professor named Fred and all his adventures of trying to cope with life (using math, of course). They couldn't wait for me to read the next day's chapter. At the end of each chapter are questions where the student applies math to real-life situations. And then there are several "tests" or "bridges" to cross every five or so chapters. One of the selling points of Fred's program is that one doesn't need tons of practice problems to understand how math works, however, for my kids, there wasn't quite enough practice. I ended up having to make them extra pages of problems to work before they could remember a new math method well enough for it to be ingrained in their heads. And for me, who, if you will remember, is NOT strong in math, there was not quite enough explanation on how to work new problems. However, there was lots on the WHY we work the problems, and for that reason, I would recommend Life of Fred math. As a supplement.

I do truly think Fred helps them understand that math has a purpose, and that it can be useful and exciting to use - other things I never picked up from math when I was in school. It isn't too terribly expensive, and lessons can be done relatively quickly, perhaps as part of your read-aloud time, or on the student's own time. They say you can start using it once your child has mastered their times tables and division.

Speaking of times tables and division, let me mention another favorite resource from this year:

TIMES TALES:

If your kids are having trouble memorizing their multiplication facts, TIMES TALES is the resource for you. It uses cute stories and illustrations to help students memorize each fact, and it took my kids less than two weeks of using this method to learn all their facts. Several months later, they still remember them, or can recall them quickly by remembering the story. It is a one-time purchase you can use for all your students (just make copies of the worksheets, which by the way, my kids loved doing).

I would recommend Times Tales and Life of Fred Math even for those who don't homeschool. I think they would be great supplements to a public school education, and would give you some fun family time (even if it is MATH (*shivers*)).

Hmm, I was a little more long-winded than I meant to be, so I think I'll review the next subject, Language Arts, next time. Until then, I'd love to hear which math curriculum YOU love...


2 comments:

  1. I appreciate these reviews, as math is what I struggle with teaching the most. This is our first year with Math-U-See, and we're enjoying it (as much as one can enjoy math, I guess.) I'm going to check out your recommendations further. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love your site, and reviews. I am using a variety of things for my Kindergarten son. Singapore, McRuffy (not sure if I will continue) but son love is so far, www.ixl.com, Christian Liberty Press K math and The Verbal Math Lesson. I know thats a ton of things for one subject for one kid. I too don't feel that there is one complete curriculum and this is my first year so I overdid it but I am making notes for future years. I am hearing a lot about Teaching Textbooks it reminds me of The Verbal Math. Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding -Science and The World God Made. I could on for other topics but I feel I have said enough.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...