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Monday, December 31, 2007

Choosing Curriculum Part 2

The Lost Files
Prologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1

Math U See combines the concepts of two of the best traditional programs available,
Saxon math and Morteson Manipulatives. Math U See uses a multi-sensory approach to math with manipulatives and systematic review. The reason I like this program is because my youngest child is definitely a visual learner and from the demonstrations I have witnessed, these manipulatives makes the math concepts clear. In addition, the
workbooks give sufficient drill work for the child to master the concept.

Math U see requires the parent to re-learn the math concepts using Math U see methods
before you can teach the child. I may very well purchase this program when my youngest is in 3rd grade level (her 2nd year in home school).

Smart Math is a complete and systematic computer based tutorial program. Designed by a local Georgia company to bring fifth through eighth graders in failing schools up to and beyond grade level in math, it is most widely used to help failing eighth graders to pass standardized tests with excellence. This is the first year it is available to homeschoolers.

Because it allows a child to grasp all fifth through eighth grade concepts in one year's time, fifth grade homeschoolers who get their hands on this program will be ready for high school Algebra by sixth grade.

Smart math needs very little parent intervention and uses the computer, which few math programs do. I would have purchased this curriculum, but there were a few 4th grade concepts my son had not learned yet. They were a prerequisite to using this program, so we had to wait.

Math Games and online resources are what I have decided to use for our first year of
homeschooling. I came upon a great set on math games called Muggins, which
demonstrates and reinforces math concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication,
division and fractions. Muggins is has also been approved by Mensa and thus is a great step toward math genius training. The best part is children barely realize they are learning math as they play. In addition to math games, I have found great free and cheap online sites like math.com, edhelper.com, and Compass Learning Odyssey that provide pages and pages of math practice sheets and in-depth tutorials we can utilize when needed. We felt that this would be sufficient math work for our second and fourth graders first year of homeschool.

It later turned out that writing my own curriculum seemed like a good idea at the time, but I did not know how much work it would take. I found myself spending twice as much time figuring out what I would teach the children, than I actually spent teaching them. This got old, and so my search continued. Of all the math programs I looked at, I decided to use Compass Learning Odyssey (also named childu.com), based on price, and the computer interactive feature. Lucky me, it also happened to cover all other subjects as well.

During the month of June, the kids and I struggled through our math lessons. It was
rough. The purchase of the online homeschool program, childu.com for $19.99 per month, made the same math very easy. I was very glad to admit defeat and spent a few
dollars a month instead of sticking with my original plans. Because the purchase included math, reading, vocabulary, science and social studies, I dropped the unit studies, which were also a struggle, merely observed, and occasionally interjected while they did their lessons.

Because I started teaching in the summer before we officially started homeschooling I
had time to see what would work and what would not work. What would not work at this
point was Mommy trying to explain anything. My children were cynical and seemed to
have trouble believing anything I said. I guess they were already that age where parents are idiots by the time I pulled them out of public school. Fortunately, by purchasing this program, I had a computer to back me up.

One reason I chose childu.com to homeschool my kids is that I did not want to pay a lot of money in the first year, especially in the case that the curriculum turned out to be a bad fit for them. I also knew that I wanted something on the computer and interactive, especially for my younger child who needs tons of interaction. She wears me out quickly.

She and older child as well had been using interactive programs since they were 18
months old, and I knew it would not be too much of a stretch. I also knew that I wanted something that we could access from anywhere in the country and would not have to carry a suitcase of books when we travel, which we plan to do a lot. Online access was absolutely necessary.

By the end of the school year, however, I found my joy over future hopes and plans with the ChildU program would be short lived. It turned out that the school systems have taken to this program, and homeschoolers were no longer a priority. I received the bad news when I placed a call to ask about some changes to the website, only to find out that they where weaning themselves away from the homeschool market, and customizing their product for use within the public schools. I was dumbfounded. The rep went on to tell me that they were no longer accepting new enrollments into the homeschool program, and it would be a matter of time before existing homeschoolers were removed.

ChildU or Compass Learning Odyssey is still through charter schools where a teacher is involved, to allow children to learn at home. However, this will increase the price greatly. I am presently paying just over $200.00 per year, by paying through a charter school, I would have to pay over $500 a year per child, and would have many rules and restrictions imposed as to how we used the program. I am extremely disappointed because this program was a perfect learning tool for my children. It took a full month for me to find programs that began to compare with the program we were using. I guess that is what made it so attractive to public schools.

My original plan after learning that homeschoolers only had the program until June was to continue using it until then. However, we found that with over time, we received less and less access to the website as it often froze and shut down. Because my daughter had already finished the second grade curriculum, I started her on a third grade curriculum with another company. We are now using it on a trial basis. Math and language are accessed over the internet and the other subjects are accessed through learning games on DVD's. I like this game concept as the children learn passively. They feel like they are playing computer games vs. doing schoolwork. This homeschool program is found at www.riverdeep.com and is made by Broderbund, the makers of Reader Rabbit.

Because of the difficulties with the previous site, I moved my son to
www.clickatutor.com, which has complete homeschool curriculums for fourth grade
through twelfth. It is not nearly as animated as what he is used to, it is a lot more cut and dry requiring him to do a great deal of reading. I had him take all the chapter tests as it was not apparent were one curriculum stopped and the other started. He tested well through most of the curriculum leaving a handful of units to tackle for the remainder of the school year. To supplement this program and to make it more fun, we use a site called www.brainpop.com to view animated movies on each subject.

This is where I am right now with curriculum. I miss the ChildU program because it was very user friendly. The children taught themselves. Now I have to give them my utmost attention during the time they are using their new curricula. The timing for such a change is good though, as nearly a year has passed and they are now more willing to accept the fact that I might know a little about education even though I am not a professional teacher. In this time, I have learned to remain flexible and open for something that might work better or at least just as good as, what the children are currently using. I also learned that when it comes to a subscription curriculum, there is not promise that it will still be available to you in a year, or even a month.

(later we ended up spending 2+ years using Time4learning which was the predecessor of ChildU, for homeschoolers)



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