Review of Shurley English Homeschool Level 1 & 2

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.

Review of Level 1:

I bought the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Workbook as a package.  The Teacher’s Manual has most of the teaching.  The Student Workbook has all the activities.

I bought this for my first-grader and almost returned it before we even started and I’ll tell you why:

The first five chapters are devoted to classifying.  I thought it lame.  A typical first-grader should know how to sort.  So I called and was ready to return it but in the end decided to try it.

So I skipped the first 5 chapters and started on Chapter 6.  From there on out, it’s been great and what I’ve expected.  It comes with a CD of jingles that the kids love and recite the rules of grammar to.  Sometimes I thought it progressed slowly so I would do 2 lessons in 1 day, especially in the beginning.

When they introduce writing, I think Shurley goes too fast.  It expects a paragraph a day.  For me, this was too much so we only did a paragraph a week.  We have a separate writing program though that we do that has writing every day.  See review HERE.

But I also had my first-grader do Level 2 alongside my second-grader so they could be on the same grammar level next year so she had already done much of the writing.

Also, because we skipped the first 5 chapters, we will be done incredibly early (not something I like) so I feel this was a waste.  But I will have her do Level 2 along with her sister but this is my case.  If you just bought Level 1, you will be without grammar for a bit at the end.

Review of Level 2:

I bought the Teacher’s Manual and the Student Workbook as a package.  The Teacher’s Manual has most of the teaching.  The Student Workbook has all the activities.

What I expected for a Second-grader.  The writing portion is a bit redundant but we are also doing IEW so I think I am skewed because of that.

It comes with a jingle CD as well.  Every chapter has a vocabulary section where the kids look up words which I love so they get to know a dictionary.  Level 2 is exactly like Level 1 just a bit more advanced (not much though) and introduced sooner.  Same format.  Same material.

There is also no place to write out the sentences or contractions in the books so be prepared to  use your own paper.  We used the whiteboard for this which worked well.  But at least for the contraction section, it would have been a time saver to have it written out for the students.

I wish they would have spent the extra money as well to put a reference section in the back of the Teacher’s Manual with definitions printed out.  Instead, I fold the pages down so I can find where in the book they talk about a subject pronoun for example so we can refer back to it.  I wouldn’t waste my time even looking in the Student Book.  It’s confusing enough as it is.

What I absolutely cannot STAND about these books:

I’m assuming in an effort to save paper and keep costs down the company has arranged the Student Book in very confusing sections.  You have to constantly flip to different parts of the activity book to do activities and sometimes multiple sections within the same lesson.

For me, I’d rather pay the extra $2 or whatever to have it all laid out in an easy-to-follow format that was easy on the eyes with the chapter sections all together instead of split up.  These books have no pictures or color.  Anywhere.  Great for teachers.  Not so great for the kiddos!

Conclusions:  My old charter school does Shurley English so I thought it would be easy on my oldest since she already knew the format.  I am glad we did Shurley English this year but I am not for sure we will use Shurley English next year.  I am looking into Thompson Grammar to be honest right now and will make my final decision in the spring.  My kids have mastered the material and I’d like to try something new.  Plus, I just don’t know if I can do another whole year of the Student Book.  And I would like some color.

I think there is a balance between saving costs and making the material enjoyable for the kids in a fun, easy-to-follow format.  I think Shurley Grammar has not found that combination.

Homeschooling Curriculum 2011-2012

I have been promising to update you all on my curriculum choices and I finally got it all ordered.  I had to wait until after we moved so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Disclaimer:  I haven’t tried any of this.  It’s merely a product of my months of research.  Later in the school year, I will post individual reviews after we have tried it for a few months.

Math:  Singapore Math Level 1A & B and Level 2A & B  Plus, I bought the Home Instructor’s Teaching Manual and the first set of tests.  I’m unsure if I will use the tests but wanted to have them on-hand in case I do.

Grammar:  Shurley Grammar Homeschool Level 1 & 2

Writing:  Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Teacher/Student Combo Pack Level A

Writing with Ease: Strong Fundamentals by Susan Wise Bauer

Handwriting:  Getty-Dubai Italic Handwriting Book B, C, & D

Spelling:  The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Writing Teacher’s Edition Level II

This is put out by the Riggs Institute (a little company out of South Dakota) and I love them!  I love everything about their program.  I did Level I with my oldest and my youngest will be doing Level I this year but everything they do is superb in my opinion.  I credit them with my kids’ ability to spell and read so well.

History:  Story of the World Volume 1:  Ancient Times and the accompanying Activity Workbook by Susan Wise Bauer.  I skipped the Test book and will in the future as I feel my kids should be tested on more important subjects such as math and grammar. Plus, I intend to have my kids do memory work from History, which will be test enough.

Science:  Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) K-2

Of all my orders, this is the one I’m taking the biggest chance on. I’m not sure how it will work but we’re going to give it a try.

We are also doing a Nature and Weather Journal this year.

Foreign Language:  Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Homeschool Edition

Song School Latin

Song School Greek

Bible/Religious Studies:  Foundations 1:  Preparation for Christ by Anne Elliott

Art:  Artistic Pursuits

Music:  The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson

Guitar Lessons

Memory Work:  Select Poems and Historical References

Supplemental Material:

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

I love this book.  This is the book I first bought when I was considering homeschooling.  This book does a great job of laying the case of Classical Education.  What I don’t like about it is now that my kids are in 1st and 2nd grade, I think Susan underestimates the capabilities and abilities of students.  I read about what kids their age used to have to do in the mid-1800’s and this is peanuts in comparison.

I just finished perusing Susan’s Writing with Ease: Strong Fundaments, which I bought as I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do for writing.  I like the idea of narration, copy work, and dictation but I think it’s unnecessary to do that alone.  I think you need to do this in addition to something else (hence why I bought IEW).  Further, I think she spends way too many weeks on doing it.  All my opinion, of course.

Map Trek: The Complete Collection by Terri Johnson

What Your Third Grader Needs to Know by E D Hirsch, Jr.

This is the Core Knowledge Sequence, which I’m a fan of.  It’s a good reference book for where your child should be. It has great history sections (although not in Chronological Order.  It’s all covered.  It just jumps around–something I’m not a fan of).  I also have the Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd Grade Editions of these which I used a lot in my previous homeschool year.

Student Atlas:  I ordered a student Atlas but it was cancelled by Amazon (couldn’t get it).  I have a globe and I think I will be doing enough as it.  I think the historical maps but the study of a continent a month will be sufficient for now.

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock

Keeping a Nature Journal by  Clare Walker Leslie

The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia

The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World

Final Advice About Choosing Curriculum:  It’s funny because I went into this having an idea of what I wanted to use and then once I started delving into it, I changed virtually all of my orders/decisions.

It’s hard ordering curriculum sight unseen but “you do your best and forget the rest” as Tony Horton says.

Due to the increase in competition in homeschool curriculum, I would say there are a lot of good choices out there.  I would first choose your overall philosophy (classical, biblically-based, unschooling, unit studies, etc) and then go from there.  I think you will find there are amazing choices out there and choosing which one is the hardest part!

Good luck and happy schooling!

Seven at One Blow

Ever since I started homeschooling, I have read hundreds of books to my kids (this is just since November) and have really gotten into the great kids books and stories out there, most of which I’ve never read since my mom didn’t have the time as a single mother to read to us.  I’ve even had to restrain myself from putting books on hold at the library because there are just so many good ones out there (I now have a running list of hold books–sad isn’t it?).

Anyways, one story that we’ve read lately has really grabbed my kids’ attention.  It’s “Seven at One Blow” by the Brothers Grimm.  I love classics and love reading the classics to my kids but this one was just one I grabbed off the shelf at the library.

It’s about a common tailor who kills seven flies at one blow and that becomes his mantra.  He decides he’s better than a common tailor and sets out on adventures using his seven at one blow mantra to prop him up.  Most people think he’s killed seven men or giants at one blow and not flies.

The version we are reading is by Eric Kimmel who writes in his intro:  “The tailor is one of the most appealing characters in Grimm.  There is nothing heroic about him, but because he possesses such supreme self-confidence he inevitably becomes the hero he pretends to be.  As the saying goes: whether you say you can or can’t, you’re right.”

I love this.  The guy so believes in himself and his ability to accomplish even the most daunting task, that it happens.  He does it.  He finds a way.

So, I’m going to begin believing I am a writer and a published writer at that and soon enough, the Universe will open up, God will step in, and it will happen.

Lessons from Gilgamesh

I’ve been hesitant to give up homeschool and now I think I know the underlying reason–I have and am learning as much or more than my kids in the process.  I get to study what I want to study for once, investigate things and people I want to know about, and spend as much time as I wish.  This is probably one of the greatest benefits of homeschool and one of the strongest reasons to homeschool i.e. letting the child investigate what speaks to their heart and not what speaks to the State’s heart.

I grabbed a kids’ book on Gilgamesh more for me than my kids.  So I’m reading it and the afterward by a Professor Cyrus Gordon from my alma mater, Brandeis University (I wonder if he’s still around since this book is from the 1960’s).  It relates the historical significance/importance of this ancient Mesopotamian tale as it predates the Ancient Greeks and the Bible.  Particularly, it mentions the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC (previously thought to have been the first known dates of Mesopotamian cuneiform)–the very subject I am reading about in the Bible in Jeremiah, Lamentations, and now Ezekiel.  This is all stuff I never learned in school and so visiting it a second time has been…wondrous.

So, the tale of Gilgamesh is the tale of a man who became experienced and wise in his travels; and learned what all of us must learn in order to be wise (despite having failed in his mission to obtain eternal life):  to make the most of our earthly lives without chasing rainbows that are beyond our grasp.

I agree and disagree with this.  I agree with making the most of your life, but I see nothing wrong with chasing rainbows.  Dreams are what give us life and my writing career is definitely obtainable.  In terms of little kids, that’s all my kids do–is chase rainbows, unicorns, Pegasus, dragons, princesses, princes, castles, and fairy tales.

It breathes life into them and that’s all that matters in this world.

I can still learn right along with my kids while they are in school.  I don’t have to stop learning (and neither do they) as long as I choose not to.  They receive the benefits of being with their peers at a regular school and I can still learn whatever I want whenever I want.

Home School Update

I had promised an update on homeschooling so here it is.

Homeschooling is really about finding what works for you which is really a bunch of guessing.  No one can tell you what curriculum is the best or how to even do it.  Basically, you just start–plain and simple.  You sit down one day and begin.

I had mentioned I was doing the Riggs method of learning to read and I have to say IT IS THE BEST!  My daughter can now sound out most words with minimal help and can read books by herself and it’s only been 2 1/2 months!  I broke down and bought the Riggs Institute’s “Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking” Teacher’s Edition Level 1 and it’s the best purchase I’ve made.  It uses dictation which teaches the kids how to think as well as Socratic principles (which I love).  With this foundation, my kids will be able to easily take it to the next level.

I also love the Core Knowledge sequence developed by E.D. Hirsch.  We are currently on “What Your First Grader Needs to Know” after completing “What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know” in just two months.  Our school in Fort Collins was Core Knowledge and I loved it.  It has great stories and provides me with a guideline of what other kids are learning so I don’t forget anything.

We also have a daily reading lesson which I think complements Riggs perfectly.  It’s “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington.  It’s from “The Well-Trained Mind”, a classical education guide by Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise.  It’s easy to follow and my daughter loves the stories which are carefully crafted to use lesson words.

We spend at least an hour every day reading, be it history, geography, science, math, art, music, or plain old good stories and my kids love this time the best!  I can cater to what they like and they get excited about it.  We visit the library once a week where we supplement our teachings with cool books.

My methods are hodge-podge to say it best.  I love Classical Education as I believe the ancients have a lot to teach us and will continue to use their methods.  I pick texts that I like and that I think the kids will learn from the most and I just do it.

My daughter told me yesterday that my school is not as fun as her old school.  Let me tell you why:  we don’t fill time with meaningless projects.  We don’t make a lot of drawings.  We don’t do as many art works.  There is no time to sit and stare at the other kids and wait around for everyone to finish.  Once school begins, we’re on go mode and there is little time wasted.  It’s 3 or 4 hours straight of work.  I can honestly tell you my daughter knows more than most kindergartners right now just from the 2 months I’ve been working with her.  Kids this age are sponges and will soak up whatever fed them.

Will I continue to homeschool?  That is still up in the air.  As long as I’m doing what’s in my kids’ best interest and everyone is happy, I’m content.  I hope this helps.