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.
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!)