Friday, July 15, 2011

Curriculum and resources: What would you recommend?

If you aren't already mopping your brow in relief for having purchased your curriculum, you're in the mad dash to collect the best resources. You're likely aiming to match texts with your child's aptitudes and learning styles--and help teach all the fascinating things you'd like them to learn this year.

With that in mind, I'll get the ball rolling for recommendations with a few ideas that have helped us. Some have already been mentioned on the blog. And would you please chime in with the curriculum you love so we can all benefit?

1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: I must admit: Because I am a visual person who loves four-color interiors to hold my kids' attention, I was initially turned off by the black and white interiors and only occasional pictures. But it builds solid readers, and my kids don't seem to mind it--especially when they get going. The lessons take less than 20 minutes, are done well sitting beside each other or sitting on your lap, have been teaching kids to read for decades, and have your child reading at a second-grade level when it's all said and done.

2. Story of the World Audio CD, Volume 3: This worth every penny last year for our family. My kids listen to them over and over while they play Legos, before they go to bed, and when they're running around their room. It even became a joke in our house when one of my sons would spout out some random history fact that I never knew: "Where'd you hear that?" "Story of the World!" Like, hello, Mom! Because homeschooling gives me a lot of quality time with my kids, I actually value having some solid activities in my back pocket that allow them to learn deeply while I, say, fold the three piles of laundry that have been waiting their turn, or sit down to eat breakfast.

3. Draw Write Now: Wonderful for kids working on handwriting, this resource combines a drawing lesson with copywork based on the resulting picture. Each volume is based on history (like American history) or science (like the Antarctic). I'm not extremely linear, so I don't mind allowing my son to pick out which lesson he's going to do next. He's learned to draw basic forts, people, airplanes, and animals so far!

4. Building Thinking Skills: I'll give a shout out to Tamara Sims for showing me this series and its company, The Critical Thinking Co. These books cover more than one year and progressively teach logic skills. (It's great paired with software like Zoombinis.) Though again only boasting black and white interiors, the books claim to improve vocabular, reading, writing, math, logic, and spatial skills as well as visual and auditory processing (think of the analogies used in the SAT).

5. Big Truths for Little Kids: We're going to use this for the devotional element of our schedule for our second grader this year. It uses fun little attention-grabbing stories to drive home simple catechism questions and Scripture.

6. My ABC Bible Verses: By the same author of Big Truths for Little Kids, this book has short stories that illuminate 26 Scriptures to memorize together.

7. Seeds Family Worship: We have purchased every one of these! Each one has at least 12 verses put to catchy music that you don't have to play in the back of your minivan to keep your sanity. If you've got a child in K4 or K5 this year, they'll be learning songs from Seeds of Courage and Seeds of Faith, I believe. These have increased my own meditation and memorization of Scripture, and I don't even mind the tunes running through my head. They're definitely sung around our house!

8. Hot Dots pen and make-your-own Hot Dots: I posted about these last year. Though there are available flashcards and interactive mats that are sold for the pen, we use it for test prep--and my son loves it. To use, I find or create a multiple-choice worksheet, and place a "hot" dot on the correct answers--and "cold" dots on the others. When my son puts the pen on the correct answer, the pen lights up and tells him, "Correct!" or "Good job!" or some sound of success--and of course the opposite for a wrong answer. They're great for reading comprehension cards like these.

9: Ten-drawer cart: This purchase literally saved my school year last year. This is essentially our homeschool day planner and regulator. Julie posted the concept of workboxes last year, and both of us used it the whole year with our sons. The main benefit: It removes me from being the driver of my son's day, and puts his schedule squarely in his hands, teaching responsibility, time management, and more independent learning. The night before, I spend 15-20 minutes filling each drawer, putting in all needed materials and a sticky note explaining the requirement for the box. I alter activities he likes with those he doesn't like, counter worksheets with hands-on activities and art projects, and include fun, active things like "Kung Fu for Kids for fifteen minutes". I request that he get started by 8:30 in the morning, and if he's got all his boxes finished by 2:30, he gets a reward--the kind that motivates him every day (you'll have to leave a comment if you want to know!). This means I am hands-on when teaching a new activity or offering help, and otherwise am considerably hands-off. No more driving.

10. Your buddy: Grab a friend at the Comm. Central meeting and see if they'd like to swap resources with you back and forth. Julie and I traded hands-on activities like floor puzzles and continent puzzles, file folder games, math manipulatives, sorting activities, games, etc. It kept our days (and our workboxes) more varied and fun.

Okay, help us all out! What resources would you recommend?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Janel! Isaiah really loves his interactive LeapFrog World & US maps. Very fun way to learn counties & states. They also add interesting facts about the people & their culture. We love Big Truths for Little Kids as well. We used it as a family devo after dinner & have been surprised at how many questions Elijah could answer!