Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What comes after "Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons?"

"What do I use after "Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons?"

This is exactly the phrase I googled after we finished the book I raved about here.  The program "Teach Your Child to read in 100 easy lessons" (TYCTR) is so good that it literally has your child reading at about a first or second grade reading level at the end.  The problem is what to do after finishing the program.  Since we finished this book before we officially started Kindergarten I wanted something to solidify what she had learned and to help her fluency in reading.

Actually, at the end of the book TYCTR it suggests a list of books to have your child read to build up their reading skill.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't trust it...I needed a concrete program to tell me that I was correctly teaching my child to read!

In the time I was researching programs to spin off of the book TYCTR, Sofia began searching out books on her own to read.  She started with the easy board books we already had, then she began reading her High Five and Big Backyard magazines, and then...the sky was the limit!

Huh? Reading can be taught by just....reading?  This sounds painfully obvious to me now but I sympathize with any fist time homeschooler finishing that book and looking for the....what now?

So, here is what I did:

1.  Explode the Code Books 1,2,3

 Soon after finishing TYCTR, I purchased Explode the Code Book 1.  It is a workbook with black and white pages.  It teaches a systemic approach to phonics, reading and spelling. Each lesson builds on the next and the lessons all follow a similar format.  This similar format is wonderful because after teaching Sofia how to do the first few pages, she was able to do the workbooks independenlty (read: I have time for the other kids during this workbook time...priceless!)  Sofia has completed the first three books of the series and we are currently on the fourth book.  It has gotten to the point where she groans a bit when we have to sit down for this workbook time because by book 4 there is a lot more writing (words are longer.)  I think this is an amazing program, however, and I would highly highly recommend it.  Since we needed a little bit of a break with this program we have been trying out:

2.  MCP Plaid Phonics 

"Plaid Phonics" is a program I learned about from my fellow homeschooling friends. It is a colorful workbook with pages you can tear out.  We have started with Book B and we use this workbook 1-2 times a week alternating with Explode the Code Book 4.  MCP phonics includes word analysis, reading comprehension and creative writing.  In addition to it's lessons, it has fun activities at times like crossword puzzles and tear-out books.  For me, I don't see the logical progression of phonics like I do in Explode the Code...but Sofia really enjoys it!  I tear out two pages at a time for her to do and she can complete them pretty independently aside from the creative writing portion of it.  There are some pages that I have skipped because they seemed confusing even for me (i.e. What is the middle sound of the word given only a picture of the object to be named).  

This is a program that I purchased a while ago after reading what seemed like a million positive reviews!  It was a program that I had never seen or met anyone that had used it.  The continuous talk about it on forums, however, was enough to get my attention.  When I purchased this spelling program, it looked overwhelming...flash cards, phonegrams, magnetic letters, large white board, no scheduled lesson plan, ahhhhhh! 

In the last few weeks I have pulled it out and boy I wish I had done it earlier!!!!! This program is awesome, I mean really awesome!  It seems to be the program that has really brought together all the phonetic awareness learned in TYCTR and the sequential word building in the Explode the Code Books.  The thing with this program is....I don't hear groans when I pull it out.  Sofia loves this!! Even her 2 year old sister looks on for these lessons!  She is not working in a workbook, instead she builds words with magnetic letters, she writes them on a big wipe away board, she reviews letter sounds and gets to put STICKERS on a chart to show her progress!  Anyone with a little girl will understand the magic stickers have in motivation!  I will dedicate an entire post to talking about this program soon...so in the meantime...check out the website!

Phew! That was a long one...hope it helps anyone out there who has completed TYCTR successfully!  I continue to sing praises for that book...I really think it made a huge difference in Sofia's reading and spelling since it taught phonics so early.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Horizons Math isn't working for us...

A benefit of homeschooling is that you can tailor curriculum to best fit your child.  If something isn't working then it is pretty easy to switch things up (easy theoretically, not always financially!)  In our homeschool it has happened already with the math program we chose, Horizons.

I chose Horizons because it was recommended by Sonlight for first time homeschoolers.  It also had very high reviews in almost every forum I visited.  When I looked at sample pages, I liked what I saw: self-directed problems, spiral approach, colorful workbook to keep kids engaged, lots of manipulatives and it was organized well.  Actually, I really loved the fact that it taught math the way I learned it.

And that was the problem.

Although I was very strong in math in school it was not because I understood it, it was because I was good at remembering how to solve a particular type of problem.  To this day, I can not do mental math, I tediously have to count everything out.  

Initially, I thought Horizons was working very well for my daughter.  She loves doing math and often asks to do more than one lesson at a time (lessons are one page front and back).  We got up to lesson 54 when I really started noticing that when she was adding numbers on a number line, she had no clue what  addition really was, she just taught herself how to look at the problem and figure out what numbers had to be plugged in!  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree :)

Looking at the above snapshot of her math workbook is pretty impressive for a Kindergartener huh?  But, if you ask my daughter what 2 + 3 is, she would not be able to do it without counting each number out (one, two plus one, two, three is one, two, three, four, five....even if she was holding all five fingers out.)  You can see how this logic can not work for numbers above ten (unless she used her toes I guess.) 

I thought that I would love all the manipulatives. 

I don't.

In fact, they do not seem to fit in at all with the lessons.  They are awkward and don't really help solidify what has been taught.  We did use the flash cards a couple of times to learn the names of two digit numbers but besides that, we have not found a use for them at all.

Fortunately, we bought the program through Sonlight which has amazing customer service (my husband called the office and said the person he spoke to was as friendly as Michelle Duggar!)  Since we bought the program less than 6 months ago, we are eligible to return it for a full refund!  Now, I'm not sure if we will get all our money back from the workbooks since we are already on lesson 55, but I will update when I get more information on that.  You can't ask for a better guarantee than that!

We have ordered Rightstart level A to try for math.  It has a 60 day guarantee for refund.  Many of my friends use this program and love it, so I hope I will as well.  It seems more parent-involved then Horizons did, but since school seems to go by so quickly here, maybe Sofia will do well with some more one on one with mom. 

 I'm looking forward to trying this math program.  It uses an abacus to teach groupings into 5s and avoids counting strategies.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is that you literally get to learn alongside your children....who knows, maybe this will be the math program that will finally get me to stop counting on my fingers (and toes!)