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.

The Things You Never Knew (Or Were Too Busy to Learn)…

I was blessed and privileged to spend over a year of my life in London, England. And this is one fact I never knew…but probably should have.

There is an obelisk that stands in London on the River Thames near the Embankment Tube stop.  Now I know I have passed this, probably several times, in my year in London.  I walked everywhere back then.

But I don’t remember stopping to read the story (odd since I’m a tourist at heart).  In fact, I don’t even remember noticing it.  But I know I must have passed it.

In all honesty, if I didn’t stop and read its history it was because I assumed it was fake.  Just some replica erected for some purpose.

Well, in truth, it is a real obelisk, given to London by the Egyptian ruler in 1819 and was constructed by Tuthmosis III (Eighteenth Dynasty) which would be approximately 1450 BC or almost 3500 years ago.  This is a real piece of Ancient Egyptian history, standing in the middle of London, England.  This obelisk was almost lost at sea during transport.

I have always loved Egypt and Egyptian history.  And if Brown University had accepted me, I would have majored in Egyptology (but they didn’t).

We are doing Egypt in homeschool right now.  Next week is our last week and it’s a final wrap up and I’m learning an intense amount (I’ll have to do a Rosetta Stone post separately).

What I’ve learned is one of the reasons we have so much information about Ancient Egypt is because their writing (hieroglyphics) has been preserved for so long.  Why?  Because of the dry climate in Egypt.

If you compare the photos of this obelisk when it first arrived in England to now, it’s a sad sight:  the constant rain in England has done it’s damage.  Most of the hieroglyphs are now obscured, gone to us forever, in just a mere 100 years.  Sad, isn’t it?

New York City has its twin standing in Central Park in the same deteriorated condition.  Paris had one as well but from a different time period (I know I’ve seen this one.  I remember seeing it.  But again, I never took the time to stop and find out what it was.).

In modern times, it’s a travesty.  Can you imagine Egypt today giving away one of its ancient treasures?  No.  In fact, they are trying to get a lot of them back that have been taken from them (another story altogether).

But 200 years ago, the mind-set was completely different.  And 200 years ago, no one could read hieroglyphics (this wasn’t until 1822 when the code was cracked. Another story).  So the importance of these monuments was unknown.

These obelisks are even misnamed:  known as Cleopatra’s Needles (when Cleopatra wasn’t born until 69 BC (1400 years after these were constructed).

It’s sad.  I’m sad.  I’d like to see all of these returned to Egypt and placed back where they should be before they are no more than rough limestone that appeared much as it did before being engraved.

But who am I, right?

My point: somehow I feel I should have noticed this.  I should have known this.  I should have been taught this.  I have walked by two of the three and never paid any passing notice to them.  What a shame.

I pray I have a second chance in this life; a second chance to return to these places (hopefully with my kids) and see what I had not seen.  Learn what I have not learned (which is what homeschooling is doing now for me).  And be where I have not been.

Some say I have lived a privileged life.  I admit: I have.  Not as privileged as some but definitely not as hard as most.

Somehow this all has to fit together.  It has to.  Still waiting though.  Not for sure how long.  But I am…

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!

What’s Worse: What You Know or What You Don’t Know?

I have a “car book” that I read only in the car.  I finally finished it after 8 months last week!  Yeah!  I love historical fiction but rarely get to indulge in it.

In Ireland by Frank Delaney, a boy learns the woman who he thought was his mother is really his aunt and his aunt is really his mother.  So the above question was posed:  “Which is the worst, huh, what we know or what we don’t know?” P. 479

I started thinking about this in my own life.  As many of you know, I have struggled this whole year with my kids’ school and deciding whether or not to homeschool in the future.  If I hadn’t of homeschooled before, I wouldn’t be having this dilemma.  If I hadn’t of known there was a better option, I’d be quite content with my kids in public schools.

But I do know.  I know I can do a better job.  I know I can save a lot of money, time, and hassle doing it myself.  I know my kids thrive on the challenge at home.  I also know they are both acing public school because they know so much from what I taught them.  I know my oldest daughter questions all the time why public schools do things (for the 1% who can’t follow the rules).  I know I have a passion for teaching and learning and for teaching and learning the Bible that I can pass on to them.

But if I didn’t know all of this….I’d be quite content in my ignorance without some of the hassles of my mind.

The boy in the book–his whole world was turned upside down with his new knowledge.  He was frantic.  And 2 pages later is the best answer I’ve heard when a girl asks the boy:

“What’s the good news inside it?  There’s always good news wrapped up in bad news?”

For the boy, a lot was explained about his childhood: why his “mother” acted the way she did, why his “aunt” acted her way, why his grandfather left the family, etc.

There are many of these examples in my life and probably in yours:  where we know things we wish we didn’t and where we didn’t know things we wish we would have sooner.  For the former, homeschooling. For the later, BSF and things about the Bible I wish I had known sooner.

For me, the good news about homeschooling is there’s options in life.  I know I have choices about my kids’ education.  I know I can teach.  I know my kids can learn.  And I know homeschooling is a viable option for me and my family.

For me, I’d rather know.  I don’t like living in the dark no matter how painful or life-altering the news may be.

In the end, the boy found peace.  And so have I.

What Would I Do All Day Without Babies?

Admittedly, I’m bored.

And I don’t get this way often.

Usually, there’s babies running all around and I’m busy running a household or reading or writing, exercising or sleeping.

Today, however, it’s just me and my son (the other two are at school).  The house is clean.  I really don’t want to work on my novel since I like it absolutely quiet.  Same with reading.  My son is sitting next to me, reading a dinosaur book, asking me with every page turn, “Mommy.  What him name?”  So I read the name and then keep typing.

This got me to thinking, “What would I do when all my kids are off at school?”

Sure, I could get errands done, go to coffee with friends, take some classes, clean the house, talk on the phone, go to the gym, and other miscellaneous errands.  I could read and write all I wanted and probably overall get a lot accomplished.

Yet, I don’t know if I want that.  You see, right now, my house is quiet–too quiet.  It’s abnormally empty.  I walk in my girls’ room and no one’s there.  I don’t like it.  Not one bit.

My youngest is bored too.  He misses his sisters to play with him.  He asked me this morning if his sister will be home today (she’s only half-day kindergarten) and when I said, “No,” I got an “Awww.”  Poor guy.

This got me thinking, “What am I going to do when my kids’ are all 18 and gone?”  Which, if I think about it, isn’t really much of a stretch.

God willing, I’ll be around when they leave.  But for me, I want to postpone that as long as possible.

I can understand women who want a career just for this very reason–what to do when the kids are gone.

Hey, I’m selfish.  I want my babies for as long as I can possibly have them–for as long as they want me.  I cherish when my son says, “Mommy, I want you.”  I ask back sometimes, “Are you gonna want me when you’re 18?”  He laughs and says yes. Mommy laughs but isn’t quite as convinced.

Hence, my decision to homeschool.  And homeschool for the next 15 years of my life.  I wasn’t ready to decide that one year ago.  But one year ago I had my babies with me.  And they were really babies.  I feel completely different now when I go long stretches with no noise in my house.

Admittedly, I’m a different person than I was a year ago.  And not because anything traumatic happened. Just because I grew. Mostly I grew because I wanted to.  Because God wanted me to. Because He was leading me to this moment in my life.

Life changes in a blink of an eye.  Odds are for us, we are moving in the next 6 months.  Where to?  Only God knows.  And this is hard for a planner such as myself.

I look at my two old dogs who live each moment as it comes. They have no worries.  They have no cares. They have no fear of the future.  Or even think of one.  No complaints.  They have no opinion on where we move.  But I can tell when I look at them, their only request is to go where I go…where we go…where this family goes.

In the end, that’s all that matters.  Our family.  Being together. All of us.  In our little paradise.  Until we reach the true Paradise.

So, here I sit, watching my son now play quietly with his trains at my side, wishing the other two were here to0, playing with him, and praying May will come sooner than I think.  Praying God figures out our job situation so my husband can be home more.

Praying for our paradise to continue as long as He wills.

I Have a SEVERE Problem

It’s a problem I battle every week.  I tell my kids over and over again, “We’re just getting a few this time.” But every time we leave, we end up with at least 20 and usually closer to 40.  And this is when I’m not homeschooling.

The problem?  Library books!

I usually have about 10 books I’ve placed on hold.  These are good titles from favorite authors I reserve from other libraries or so I don’t have to go and find them or forget to get them myself.  Then the kids and I head to books on tape and then to the Dinosaur section (my son’s favorite) then to easy readers for my 5 year old and then to chapter books for my oldest.

Now, if we stuck to this method we’d be good.  But we don’t.

You see, as we’re walking along, I am constantly grabbing books off the shelves that I think might be good. These are usually picture books but sometimes thicker books.  My kids and I always have a thick book we are working on that’s above their reading level but a kids’ story.

This adds usually about 10-15 extra books.  So, when we leave we are usually close to 40 and I always have library books at home we haven’t finished yet.

As a result, books are strewn about my house everywhere: in all the bedrooms, the living room, the basement.  My husband who was just home is blown away by it.  One whole chair in our living room is inundated with books.  You can’t sit in it.

But he never says anything.  I think his heart is filled with joy just as much as mine is when we walk into a room and my 3 year old and 5 year old are looking at books or my 5 year old or 7 year old is reading to my 3 year old.

I never used the library when I was a kid.  My mother never took me (she was a single mom).  It wasn’t until I started homeschooling last year that I re-discovered the library and it’s a wonderous place especially for kids.  We have read so many more books than we otherwise would not have because of the library.

In fact, we don’t really buy books anymore unless they are ones I think would be worthwhile for posterity. If you’ve ever moved, books are heavy to move and I have quite a collection of adult books already.  But I buy books now for reference purposes and leave the story books for the library.

This is one problem I don’t mind having; one that will foster a love of learning and reading in my kids for a lifetime.

I Felt Empty This Morning…

Every day when I drop my kids off at school, I feel empty.  I don’t want them there.  I want them at home with me.  This feeling increases with every day and I am using all of my power to fight it since my husband wants them to finish out this school year in school.

I used to feel guilty over this.  Am I being selfish wanting my kids with me all the time?  Is it my insecurities?  Probably, yes.

Yet time is so precious.  It is fleeting.  I mean, where did the month of January go?

Then I read Somewhere More Holy. Tony Woodlief described how they homeschooled because they want their kids near them (they lost their first child when she was 3) and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I’m not alone.  And it’s okay to feel that.  They have insecurities and so do we all.

They homeschool for the reasons I told myself I shouldn’t:  selfishness.

“We think they (his kids) are safer when they are near us, or perhaps because we feel less empty when we are near them.” P.142

My babies (who are not babies anymore despite my 3 year old’s insistence he be called a baby) will be gone in a blink of an eye. Once they turn 18, it’s bye-bye if they want.

I think my kids need me and my husband as much as we need them.  It was meant to be that way.  School distances them from us at an early age that I’m not so sure is healthy for a 5 year old.  We constantly say, “You’re a big girl, now” to our kids when they’re not.  I don’t want my kids thinking they can take on the world or they have to–at least not yet.  I get angry when they are taught to do things for themselves, which is good in one sense, but as we’ve learned in Isaiah, self-reliance can turn into pride and push God from the center.

I don’t know.  I have issues.  I’m trying to work through them.  And pray about them.  As you all can tell, I got a lot on my mind these days.  Family.  Friends.  Kids.  Life.  Priorities.  Purpose.  And how it all relates to God.