Spring Curriculum Round Up

Stuff We Liked

Miquon Math
We haven’t used this program a ton, but both the kids and I like it.  It’s an older math program which uses the “old new math.”  It’s very conceptual and skips around topics.  It’s intended to be somewhat child led and focuses on discovery.  For whatever reason, they never seem to get frustrated when they use it.  They think of it as “fun math.”  The Cuisenaire Rods are an integral part of the program and they like to use them with it.

Math Mammoth
We’ve also really enjoyed the downloadable program Math Mammoth.  We have the blue series, which breaks up the math into single topic workbooks.  We’ve finished the core of the first grade curriculum with this program and done many of the other topics as well.  The program asks kids to do a lot of problems, but we skip some if the kids are getting them all correct.  It asks the kids to slowly use different methods to build up to a thorough understanding.  The program has actually really grown on me as we’ve gotten farther with it.  Initially, I felt like it didn’t have enough conceptually and that it was too simple.  Now, I’ve begun to see how it asks the kids to think through things in different ways until they really get it.

Lollipop Logic
This isn’t more than a simple little workbook, and one that the kids finished relatively quickly.  However, it gave them a nice introduction to logic problems, analogies, and the like.  We liked it so much that I also got the author’s other workbook, Logic Safari, though we haven’t started that yet.

Progressive Phonics
Mushroom used this free online program very briefly at the start of the year in order to get a boost.  It teaches the early phonics rules and then provides readers where the child and parent read together.  We liked the method and ended up transferring it to other books as well, which helped him for awhile.  I wish it went further into more complex phonics, but it ends pretty quickly so its usefulness is limited.

The Library Curriculum
Really, the thing we like the best is the library curriculum.  We go almost every week.  Mushroom gets a few early readers.  BalletBoy considers whether he’s willing to read any of the chapter books I spread in front of him.  I comb the nonfiction shelves for my mental checklist of things: co-op topics, history, science, living math books, and any unexpected gems.  From the library we get many of the supplementary things I use constantly: the Janice VanCleave experiment books, the Mitsamisa Anno math books, the Let’s Read and Find Out science picture books, the various history project books, the piles of poetry books, the fairy tales and everything else.

Stuff We Did Not Like

Explode the Code Online
Even with the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op discount, it’s not worth it in my opinion.  I’ve posted a little about this before, but it is so strongly focused on speed over accuracy that it just didn’t work for us.  Plus, the pictures or even the vocabulary was too obscure for the kids.  Somehow, that’s cute in the workbook, but less cute when you’re being timed and playing on the computer.  Then there’s the typing component.  Most six year olds don’t know how to type and I’ve even read things that talk about how typing may be bad for kids this age.  My final straw was when Mushroom, who can’t read nearly as well as BalletBoy, managed to surpass his brother simply by playing it like a video game.  That was it.  We got less than a month’s use out of it.

This was so bad, that it didn’t even make it to get used by the kids.  It was offered free a few months ago and I downloaded it.  It’s a computer program for teaching phonics.  The program made my computer look like it had traveled back in time a full decade.  There were not enough menu functions so there was limited control.  It wasn’t interactive, which meant it was basically just a poorly made video.  I don’t get why anyone would ever pay the price tag they attached to this.  Maybe if it was 1997 this would look somehow innovative?

The Jury’s Out

Mathematics Enhancement ProgrammeVolume 2: The Middle Ages

MEP Math
I love it.  It’s free, it’s challenging, and it’s a bit outside the box.  On the other hand, it made the kids cry.  That pretty much sums it up.

Story of the World
Well, I had a whole post about this one.  We like many things about it and we love history, but finally giving in and getting the Activity Guide was a total waste.  Many of the things we like best are the things I supplement with: crafts, picture books, and field trips.  And I’m really questioning whether the academic goal of emphasizing the “great men” over any social history is something that I can find useful as a history spine going forward.

Explode the Code
This time I’m talking about the workbooks.  I think they’re a solid way to practice phonics and I like many of the aspects of them.  However, they were difficult for Mushroom to use just learning and too easy for BalletBoy who can already read all the words in them.  At first I thought they were giving BalletBoy a solid foundation of phonics to back up his reading skills.  Now, seeing that his spelling isn’t improving at all, I’m less enamored with them.  However, Mushroom has gotten into more of a flow with them.  We’ll see how it comes out.

Handwriting Without Tears
Last year, we really enjoyed doing this program for kindergarten and liked the way that it introduced handwriting gently (though I can’t say it was completely without tears for my sometimes oversensitive boys).  This year, the kids finished the workbook super quickly and I realized that they needed more practice that isn’t really there to get from writing well with the example in front of you to writing well when you’re just writing.  However, I still kind of love their font.  I refuse to listen to the naysayers on that front.  It’s a lovely font, really.

I queued this post up last week (eek, now you know my terrible blogging secret, which is that I blog ahead of time and schedule my posts!) but then had to go out of town unexpectedly.  So, a slow week here, but I have more curriculum thoughts, a science post, and I’m sure some book reviews for next week.

9 thoughts on “Spring Curriculum Round Up

  1. We also love Math Mammoth. My Kindergartner found Explode the Code extremely dry and so we gave that up not long after starting. My K and 3rd grader are using HWOT, but I’m not sure if we’ll still use it next year. Like you, I didn’t find it to be enough (for my 3rd grader). Thanks for your reviews.

  2. I always enjoy posts like this – thanks for going into so much detail.

    It looks like our kids are polar opposites in math personality. As you know, Alex is sailing through MEP and loves the puzzle challenges. Miquon is the one that caused tears and fights in our house – I think the lack of structure made it hard for her to settle in. We still use it a bit to supplement, but “do the next lesson” is a much better fit for Alex’s personality.

    1. We have a balance between the “do the next lesson” with Math Mammoth and the “what would you like to learn” with Miquon. I think they like that if they’re in the mood for a challenge then they can find something that looks totally strange and get an impromptu lesson about it. Or they can find an easy page and just show me that they understand it. This morning, BalletBoy did a page of pretty easy subtraction and left it at that. Mushroom did a page of fractions, a relatively new topic for him, and liked learning about it with the rods. But if we just did Miquon, we would never get anywhere with math, so MM’s slow progression works for them pretty well to really solidify things.

  3. Helpful post Farrar. Thanks for your thoughts on Funnix and ETC Online, I had wondered about those, now I won’t bother 😉

  4. I enjoy reading these posts too, especially when the writer cites why a program or book worked and why it did not work for their child. Here is link to my round up if you care to read-http://www.wildiris4you.com/2011/05/homeschool-year-in-review-nitty-gritty.html

    About Story of the World: We like reading the stories, we never do the activities, yet we like the map part of the activity book, and surprisingly the separate test book for each volume is a hit. The stories are aimed at the elementary student and cover just a basic, slightly Euro-centric, outline of history, something to be built upon in junior high, high school and beyond. I would never recommend using Story of the World beyond 4th grade.

    Explode the Code never worked for my kids either.

    Thanks for the round-up.

  5. I found with HWT that we fly through the books, too. I actually had the girls do the more “advanced” printing books twice – and that seemed to help b/c I honestly thought that in 1st and 2nd grade they needed more work on it. I also started them with cursive much earlier – most of my kids have started in 2nd grade. The cursive books take longer (particularly the 5th grade level). But yes, handwriting just requires actually writing – not a book. I think what’s helped is that I tell the girls when they need to write neatly (papers, work that will be displayed, etc.) and when they don’t need to worry about it (journals, quick answers, etc.). I have liked the HWT personally – I can actually read their writing, and that was pretty much my only goal (legibility). My 3rd grader is almost done with the 5th grade cursive and with my oldest I didn’t continue with handwriting instruction after that. I just require legible writing. We’ll see how it goes with the rest of them!! =D

  6. I totally agree about ETC Online. What a waste! I’ve been looking at the books for my 5yo, but I’m not ready to really invest because she CAN read most of what’s in there. At least I’m not the only one wavering about that.

    I will say Funnix has worked beautifully for us, but mostly because my girl doesn’t care that it’s not a game, even if it IS on the computer.

    Loved your review post!

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