Review of Kumon Math Workbooks

Introductory Note:  I purchased all of these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I was looking for additional math fact practice and didn’t want to spend the time, effort, energy, and money in printing out my own off the Internet.

So I found Kumon.

These books are great and are cheap off of Amazon.

I purchased the Addition and Subtraction for Grade 1 and 2.  Both are filled with problems that teaches in a progressive manner, introducing one concept at a time, practicing it, and then building upon it.

Conclusions:  These have turned into life-savers because I use them as filler time when I’m teaching one kid and the other is waiting.  Great for extra practice and variety in any math program.  Good value for the price.

Review of Singapore Math

Introductory Note:  I purchased these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

Choosing Math this year was a tough call.

My old charter school used Singapore Math so I decided to look into it.  It was between this and Saxon.  Basically, it came down to my own experience.

I had grown up with Saxon Math all throughout school and when I thought back to my experience it wasn’t good.  I didn’t remember much and didn’t really like the books all that much.  This is what tipped the scales for me.

Singapore Math uses a Textbook and a Workbook.  The textbook teaches and then the kids apply this knowledge in the workbook.  Singapore Math offers Extra Practice Books as well as Test Books.  I bought the Test Books and use them as Extra Practice essentially.

Each Level comes with a Home Instructor’s Guide which is essential to the curriculum. The parent/teacher reads the guide and then teaches the student.

There are two editions:  Standard and US Edition.  Both are very similar and according to Singapore Math’s Website, Standard has a bit more extras thrown in so I chose this one.

The Textbook is full of bright pictures for the kids and the workbook uses a lot of illustrations as well.

Conclusions:  I bought Level 1 and 2 (first and second grade respectively) and have been pleased with both.  My girls are learning and not dreading math (except my second-grader who hates math facts).  I see us continuing with this program throughout the years as long as progress is being made.

You purchase everything individually (the workbook, textbook, text book, and home instructor’s guide).  So it gets pricey but its comparable to other math programs.  I like this because I can pick and choose what I want to use and tailor it to my needs.

Review of Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

Introductory Note:  I purchased these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

I ordered Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack Level A and coughed up the $239 based upon its excellent reviews.

The different levels are for different age groups.  Level A is for 3rd-5th grade.  Level B is for 6th-8th Grade.  Level C is High School Level.  The material covered is the same just directed at these levels and the intensity is changed as well.

Andrew Pudewa is an engaging speaker and my kids loved watching him on the videos and following along.  It was a good break for me as I got to sit and not have to teach.

It was a good investment.  We finished Level A in the first half of the semester.  I did not do this intentionally.  I didn’t realize they recommend doing only a little bit a day whereas I did most of it in one day so I ended up in December going, “Now what?”

IEW recommends after this to go to Student Intensive Continuation Courses, which is a video series again.  Same material covered just more lessons for another $240.  However, there is no written materials for this course.  I was miffed.  How can they charge $240 for just CD’s?  This was my biggest hindrance.  You have to print out all the materials yourself.  Well, paper and ink is not cheap so the cost of this program is much more than $240 for a few CD’s.  I do wish IEW would reconsider the cost of this program as we all know 10 CD’s do not cost $240 to reproduce.

Well, I didn’t want to cough up another $240 just for the videos so I invested in Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons since we are studying Ancient History.  These are written directly to the student, cover the same material in the writing course, and contain lessons on what we are studying for only $29/each.

This was more in my budget.

Admittedly, my first-grader is struggling with these concepts.  I have told her she can wait and do these next year but she refuses (always the one who wants to keep up with her older sister).  She is getting it, but it is taking much more time for her to grasp the concepts and methods.

We are thoroughly enjoying Ancient History.  The book is packed with vocabulary words the kids have to memorize and use in their writing and wonderful lessons.  The kids are encouraged to illustrate their stories, which is the favorite part for my girls.  They eagerly finished their final copy so they then can do the drawing!

Conclusions:  I cannot say enough about IEW.  There was a glitch on their website over Christmas break and I ended up not being able to order clearance copies so I paid full price for regular copies because I needed the material right away due to our move.  IEW refunded the difference in cost without me even having to ask.  As homeschoolers every penny counts so this was much appreciated.

Furthermore, they only shipped me one copy of Ancient-History Student book.  When I called to inform them of their mistake, they gladly shipped me my second copy UPS so I’d receive it as soon as possible with no charge to me.

Their customer service is stellar and they have won me as a customer for life.  I will be using their products for many years in the future.

I remain disappointed in the cost of their continuation courses and do wish they would reconsider.  They bill these as use for 1-2 years of instruction, which for me will be considerably less.  Still, I will probably never purchase these because of the added printing costs.

Come to find out my old charter school uses this program as well. Go IEW!

Review of Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting

Introductory Note:  I purchased these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

My kids started this in their charter school and I continued it for this year.

I like it much better than traditional cursive.  It is much, MUCH easier to read and in this day and age of computer technology legibility is more important than style.

My kids love doing the student books and I have not purchased any teacher’s manuals.  The books are self-explanatory and if you follow alongside them you will learn the rules of handwriting as well.

The books are instructive as well.  Book C teaches the months, seasons, and sayings.  Book D teaches the planets, days of the week, and even a poem.  Much more is included as well.

We did books B, C, and D so far.  Book C begins cursive and continues throughout the other levels.

Conclusions:  Even though computers are everywhere I believe it is still important to be able to write legibly.  These books are relatively cheap (less than $10 a piece) and a great alternative is you are not interested in the looped, old-fashioned cursive.  I always hated cursive when I did it in school but this is actually fun!  I emailed the company with some questions and Barbara Getty herself responded!  How cool is that!  Highly recommended.

Review of the Riggs Institute’s Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking Level I & Level II

Introductory Note:  I purchased these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

This is my all-time favorite program.  This was also the first program I ever used in homeschooling.

The concept behind the method is based on explicit phonics (teaching the sounds of English in isolation, without key words and pictures) using the Socratic Method where kids think through the answers based on questions.  Spelling words are dictated once the phonograms (sounds in English) are mastered as well as spelling rules.  Then reading begins where kids “decode” the text by using their spelling rules.

Level 1 is for Kindergarten students and first-graders.  It goes through teaching the phonograms, dictating spellings, introducing letter formation and writing, and grammar/spelling rules as the book progresses.  It contains 160 Lessons to be used throughout the year.  It recommends doing a lesson every other day for kindergarten students and every day for first-graders.

My old charter school taught the phonograms to the kids.  Admirable but not enough, I thought.

The method relies on you integrating all of its components so following it to a T.

Admittedly, I do not.  I use a separate writing program, a separate grammar program, and a separate hand-writing program (all of which is covered in Riggs).  I guess I’m one to believe in more is better.

Level 2 continues right where Level 1 left off with spelling, grammar, syntax, and composition all integrated.

My favorite surprise of Level 2 is it contains a free copy of Essentials of English by Henry Carr Pearson and Mary Kirchwey.  What a gem!  My kids and I are going through this slowly and it is a wonderful addition to their other English lessons.

Conclusions:  I credit the Riggs Method for the reason my girls are such good readers and spellers.  When coming upon a new word, they almost always can sound it out or spell it.  If they miss it, they miss it with one of the other phonic sounds such as ea instead of ee.  Joy always fills me when this happens.

Having had my daughter in a traditional public school for a few months before I began my homeschooling journey I can attest to the fact teaching key words and one sound of the alphabet is horrible.  My daughter was lost and she was placed in a remedial class for help.

Naturally, I was horrified and couldn’t figure out why.  Until I started this book.

Blessedly, she was only in that school for 2  1/2 months but I had to undo what that school did.

Look-and-see only works for memorizers but I believe they will be hindered for life if they don’t know the why behind it all.  I know because this was me.

I cannot recommend this program enough.  If you do nothing else in homeschooling, this is the one I’d buy.  It’s worth every penny and your child will reap the rewards.

Homeschooling Science Curriculum

I would say this is THE MOST DIFFICULT curriculum to choose.  For me at least.

There is just not a lot out there outside of the Biblically based.

I looked into doing what The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie and Susan Wise recommended for first-graders but it seemed way too easy and basic.  So I bought Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) and hated it  (see review HERE).

Now what?

My old school just uses the Core Knowledge Sequence and supplements.  I’ve been using a combination of all three.

Why is there a lack of a good science curriculum? I ask myself.

Still don’t know.

I think Science is hard to teach to little kids because of all the difficult content involved, advanced work in mathematics it requires, and higher order thinking skills.  But it needs to be done and can be done.  I just haven’t discovered anything yet that meets my needs.

So next year I will be on the search again so any recommendations would be much appreciated.