Monday, January 28, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things....

Here's a list of some of our favorite homeschool resources this year...I purposely added a few things that aren't "textbooky". You don't homeschool? Check it out anyway! This list is mostly fun stuff anyone could use.

Math U See-- This is our first time using this program, and we've only been using it for a couple of months, but I find it a vast improvement over Saxon. Saxon is wonderful and very, very thorough, but it is very time consuming. It would take me all morning just to do Saxon with Maria and Kain. Math U See is much more homeschool friendly, especially with older children. I spend about 15 minutes or so once a week watching the new lesson with each child on the dvd and making sure they understand the new concept. Then I spend a few minutes a day checking their worksheets as they work on their own. They move at their own pace through the lessons, and each new lesson takes as little as three days or as much as a week or longer. Two thoughts though...Math U See has a different sequence than most math programs. The Gamma book that Maria is using, for example, is pretty much all multiplication, and you don't do any division or decimals or anything like that until future books. Because Maria was still learning multiplication in Saxon when we switched though, I decided to start with Gamma, which has put us about a book and a half behind where I would have liked her to be for her grade. However, math is one of her stronger subjects and she will catch up quickly. Right now she is easily completing a new lesson in three school days. Second thought, Math U See has adequate review of concepts built in, but there isn't enough fact review. I have ordered Calculadder for Maria to start using. It only takes a few minutes a day and has been highly recommended to supplement Math U See for building speed with math facts.

Phonetic Zoo- Finally, I think we have found a spelling program that Maria will actually *learn* from. It's expensive, and if your child is learning spelling well from $15 workbooks it probably wouldn't be worth the investment. But Maria, who has visual learning problems, just was not learning spelling from workbooks. Not at all. Her spelling is 2-3 grade levels behind now. Phonetic Zoo is completely auditory and they work at their own pace through it. Each lesson teaches a specific spelling "jingle", and they are to work through the list until they score 100% twice, earning an animal collector card that illustrates the new spelling rule in the process. It is highly recommended for kids with dyslexia and other visual learning issues. We have only been using it for a few weeks, but I can already see *much* higher retention. As a big bonus, Maria actually *enjoys* the program and works through it without complaint. One caveat, it is not meant for younger kids. They need to be old enough to operate a cd player easily on their own, able to write quickly, etc. It is intended for third grade and up. Although Kain seems to pick up on spelling far more easily than Maria, I will use this program with him since I already invested in it. He will start it when he finishes the Explode the Code series.

Handwriting Without Tears- I started Maria with this program for cursive in the 3rd grade. We had tried a couple of other series and she found the flowery, complicated script too frustrating. This series has a very simplified script and short lessons with an emphasis on writing a few letters very well instead of laboring through a long lesson. They also have a printing series though. When Kain entered the picture, it proved a lifesaver. He has motor skill issues and writing is very difficult. The short lessons have been important for him. Plus, this workbook is the only one I've seen that is set up in such a way that the lessons use a correct model from the book for each and every letter written by the student. I'm going to try to explain this and hope it makes sense. In other texts, a student may be told to write a line of letter "m's", and there will be an example of this "m" at the beginning of the line. Once the child has written their first "m", they are looking at their own previous "m" as an example for writing the next letter. As a result, I found that with each letter *their* "m's" got progressively messy. With HWT, they are looking at the letter in the book each time they write a new letter.


Fun Stuff!

Beethoven's Wig- This is a series of cd's. I think they just came out with the third. They are so fun and such an easy way to become familiar with classical music. The lyrics are truly funny and tolerable even on the 42nd listen through in the car. Warning, you will never be able to listen to these pieces again without the lyrics coming out of your mouth.

Signing Time- These dvd's are a favorite with everyone in the house. Even John and I have picked up on a fair amount of sign language from watching these with the kids. They are well done and not hokey or irritating the way some kids dvd's can be. Jack especially loves the show and watches it *every day*. Cheapskate's note- our local PBS station airs the show on Sunday evenings. We Tivo it and keep his favorites.

Bill Nye- Remember him? The kids love Bill Nye. Even Jack will often sit through these shows. On a busy week, this passes for science around here. Again, we record him on the Tivo. Tivo is wonderful for homeschoolers!

Board games- Fun, fun, fun learning. The kids never see it coming. We love Made for Trade, a game in which you barter for goods a la colonial American style, and Scrambled States of America for geography and state capitals. Next I'm wanting to try 10 Days In Africa, which is actually a series of games about different continents.

Puzzles- Jack has plenty, of course, but these are great for big kids too. Here's a favorite of ours we did a couple of years ago and I plan to break it out again soon, called the Global Puzzle. Warning, this is *hard*! I had to help through the whole thing, and I mean down on the floor, atlases open, working for hours help. But we loved it!

Music Masters- This is a series of cd's worth having for actual music appreciation. The selections include biographical information and snipets of certain pieces by that artist, and then at the end the complete versions of those pieces. Very painless music lessons, perfect for car use.

Ok, I'm done, though I know there are other things I will think of. Feel free to share your own finds!


entropy said...

This is our first year with MathUSee too and we love it. Especially the first grader. The oldest is doing Gamma too but, like you, I wish she was in the next book but I wanted to make sure we had a strong foundation before moving on and she's doing great so I shouldn't be complaining since math isn't her strong subject.

For fact drill have you gone to mathusee's website? They have a fact drill that times them for 20 questions. I make the oldest do it and she has to keep doing it until she can get certain facts in 60 seconds. (I always take it first just to show her it can be done in 30 seconds).

Beethoven's wig looks cool.

mel said...

I did see those, I'm trying to remember what I thought of them...I don't remember, haha! I know I liked calculadder because it had more advanced drills like reducing fractions and square roots and that kind of thing, so I thought it would get a lot of use as the years go on. I bought the cd too, so you can just print what you need.