Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Horizon's Math

When my daughter started kindergarden, she was already starting to do math in her head.  I took it as a sign that she was ready and embarked upon the task of finding a good kindergarden math curriculum.  

I hear a lot about Saxon Math, so that's where I started my search.  It looked good to me in their descriptions, so I ordered all of the materials (teacher's book, K calendar, and manipulatives). But when I got everything out to look at the lessons and so forth, I didn't like what I saw.  Everything was scripted (something I'm not to keen on, especially in math and science), and it seemed like it was meant more for Pre-K then Kindergarden ("These are called bear counters.  What colors do you see?  What is your favorite color?  Let's play with them for five minutes and then put them away until the next time where we will do the same thing").  The lessons, in the attempt to cover everything, progressed slowly.  Only about half way through did it give any sort of "real" math. 

While I had been waiting for the Saxon stuff to come, I came across another curriculum, Horizon's Math.  Like Saxon, it used a spiral method of teaching with lots of short reviews. It had no scripting (which appealed to me), all of the manipulatives used were easily found around the house, and the workbook pages were colorful and attractive.  It was also rated highly by other homeschoolers.  So, I decided that I would order that curriculum as well and compare the two, sending back whichever I decided not to use.

When I compared them, Horizons won hands down.  Not only was it less expensive, but it progressed at a good pace and wasn't dumbed down in order to cover "everything".  By the end of the first month we were starting addition, telling time to the hour, and reading calendars.  At the end of the year, we were working on subtraction, skip counting by 2s, 3s, and 4s, and reading clocks to the five minutes.  Things also covered were counting to one-hundred by 1s, 5s and 10s, counting money using pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills, measurements in centimeters and inches, and introduction to gallons, cups, liters, quarts, word problems, and a number of other things.  I really, really liked it.

My only gripes were that, I felt, occasionally they would introduce too many things at once and that I found little use for the instructor's manual.

We are now starting the 1st grade set, this time without the teachers manual.  The lay out is a little different, and they have added tests every ten lessons or so (I  haven't decided weather I will use them or not). The curriculum promises the same spiral method and advanced speed.  I'm optimistic.

Other reviews can be found at Homeschool Reviews.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


We have been on "vacation" for a week now, and I have discovered something I find interesting.  With all of my extra free time, I have become less productive.

I haven't done much this week.  The house wasn't cleaned half as much as normal.  I put off going to the store for over three days.  Snacks and lunches have been erratic.  I never did clean out the garage like I planned, and I've barely reached 100 pages in the book I wanted to read.  I've been basically unmotivated.

It seems that, for me, the less I have to do, the less I get done overall.  I end up not even doing those things that are needed, because I have tuns of time in which to do them.  So I guess for me, vacation is vacation, and not time to plan on doing big projects simply because I have "more time".

On the reverse side, I have been better at keeping the house decent, making healthy snacks and lunches, paying attention to my kids, and getting routine things done since I started teaching my daughter at home.  Homeschooling has it's advantages in more areas then I realized.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A typical K day

Her is how our days typically went in Kindergarden.  

9-9:30am: quick clean up of family room (kids) and kitchen (me) and a healthy snack (like apples with peanut butter and pretzels, tuna on crackers with cheese, or vegetables with dressing and toast)

9:30-10am: Sierra reads a Bob Book at/below her level, then we do one lesson in Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading (I don't typically do reviews.  I just remind her of past rules when she comes across them again).  The last five minutes or so Sierra spends doing handwriting or copy work.

10-10:30am: I go over her math paper (from Horizon's Math) for the day with her, helping  where needed, and she finishes the rest by herself. 
We also have rest time every day while the little ones nap, and in the evenings, Daddy reads stories to the kids before bed time.  A couple times a week we have play group.   Some times we have swimming lessons and the like.  And that's it.  Not much to it really.

The Well Trained Mind

When I was first looking at homeschooling my children, I found myself being drawn toward the Classical method.  I like structure.  I like organization.  I want my children to learn more about the classics and history then I did in public school.  And what's wrong with Latin anyway?

So, I was thrilled when I found The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and her daughter Susan Wise Bauer.  In it, they lay out how to give your children a Classical education.  They give you practically everything you need: curriculum to use,  book lists,  schedules, time frames, vendor addresses, and more.  They even break down their teaching methods into the three parts of the trivium where they devote a chapter to each subject explain how to teach it.  That book gave me the structure and confidence that I needed.  After reading it, I finally felt like I could give my kids the education that I wanted for them.

Anyone who is interested in homeschooling should at least take a look at this book.  It covers more then just the Classical method.  For those who want to pursue the Classical method, it is a must.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The test of time

I have been homeschooling my oldest daughter for a year now,  and I've decided that I will continue.  I figured that kindergarten was a great way to test the water, and if it didn't work, no harm would be done.  Well, kindergarten is now over, and everything went reasonably well.  She learned more then I had hoped in some areas, a little less then hoped in others, and I still have my sanity.   I think that I will call it a success.

Even so, first grade looms before us.  The hours of school will double along with the subjects taught, and my youngest daughter, who is 3 1/2, has decided she wants to do "school" too.  It's a daunting task.  Maybe I should consider this year as an experiment as well.  I'm not half as intimidated as I was at the start of last year, but it's still a big change.  

We're just going to take things a year at a time.