I'm always curious what materials other home school moms have found helpful and so I want to share what I'm using this fall for my kids and why.
I am a huge fan of the old standby Saxon Math. My three school-age children have varying degrees of natural math ability and different learning styles, yet this program has produced three children who excel in math. Here's one helpful aspect of the program: beginning in 4th grade, you can purchase a companion CD ROM called a DIVE CD. This is not made by the publisher, but by a home school dad who's a Christian and an excellent math teacher. He presents the math lesson for the students each day as they watch him writing it on the computer as if they were watching a chalk board (a great alternative to a talking head). Now, I love math, majored in it in college and can perform Calculus in my sleep (well...) but I simply don't have time to teach 3 separate math lessons everyday. This program is a home school mom's best friend.
There is one science curriculum that stands head and shoulders above the rest in my opinion: Apologia. It is everything that I want in a science curriculum. First and most importantly, it is Christian and creation-based. In my mind, it is unthinkable to study science without continually giving reverence to the Creator, His wisdom, His glory, all show-cased in the might of His creatures, His natural laws, the rhythms of nature, the intricacy of the cell, the enormity of the solar system. Apologia does an excellent job of pointing the student to appreciate the Creator.
Second, it's designed for the student to work independently. (Bonus!) I simply would not be able to home school if I had to be involved in all of my children's work.
Third, it's top-notch academically. Although we teach young-earth, flood-theory science, we want to carefully evaluate all arguments. We require that all scientific theories are supported with evidence and look to honor the scientific method. Apologia will not disappoint the discerning parent.
Last year Karis did Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. She loved it and learned a lot about zoology. This year Gloria is doing Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. Isaiah is doing Exploring Creation with Astronomy, and Karis is doing Exploring Creation with General Science. I'm so thankful for the amazing resources God has provided for us to educate our children!
Of course, we are continuing our creation/evolution debate skills by listening to the Jonathan Park series.
I love Shurley Grammar and think it's the best grammar program on the planet. Gloria is going to do Shurley 3. Karis and Isaiah know Shurley grammar so well that they could give a teacher training session on it. Now, I wasn't totally serious about doing calculus in my sleep, but I am serious about this--any student who completes several levels of Shurley Grammar will be able to do grammar in their sleep.
Since Isaiah and Karis have "graduated" from Shurley, in a sense, we are trying something new this year called Learning Language Arts through Literature. I haven't tried it yet so I can't comment on whether I'll like it or not. I will tell you the reason I picked it: it has all the different elements of Language Arts, spelling, grammar, writing, etc in one program. We will use classic literature as the base for learning. At the end of the year, I'll write a review.
Gloria is doing a program specifically for younger students (again, Karis and Isaiah have graduated, it's that good) called Riggs. I can't recommend it highly enough. If I had oodles of time, I'd sing its praises for page after page. It can be a little difficult to teach so some genius came up with a stellar program called the Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading to make the Riggs (aka as Spalding) method more home-school mom friendly.
The basic idea behind the method is that a woman named Romalda Spalding divided the English language into 70 phonograms. (A phonogram is a letter or group of letters that make a single sound. The letters P and H when put together make a phonogram, the single sound /f/. ) Children memorize the different sounds that each phonogram can make and learn spelling lists revolving around the sounds. The letters E and A when put together can make 3 different sounds in the English language: /ee/ as is each, /e/ as in bread, /ay/ as in break. (I hope I didn't just scare off everyone in the world by this complicated explanation.)
Really, all you have to do as a mom is hold up a flash card and say what's written on the back. It's amazing but kids memorize these cards readily. My three school-age kids have varying degrees of natural spelling aptitude--one with no innate spelling skill whatsoever, and the result of the Riggs/Spalding method have been amazing.
I've tried other stuff that just hasn't measure up. That's why I write these posts.
For third grade, Gloria is doing an American History program that I really enjoyed doing with Karis and Isaiah when they were younger. It is a history through literature program called Early American History Primary Level put out by Beautiful Feet Books. The literature used is by the D'Aulaires who wrote at the beginning of the 1900's. The books are beautifully illustrated and well-written. They are ones that would be worth owning, but are in the library if you are in a financial pinch. They bring history alive for the elementary student and make reading aloud a joy for the parent.
Karis and Isaiah are studying the Mystery of History this fall. I have not used this book yet, so I won't comment too much about it. However, one of the reasons I chose it is that it seeks to use the perfect history set forth in the Bible as a framework with which to study all history. I was quite disappointed that Susan Wise Bauer, in her Story of the World, mentioned neither creation, the fall of man, the tower of Babel with its world-changing effects, nor the world-wide flood in her well-written and popular series. Her world history begins by talking about hunter-gatherers who wandered for centuries before becoming farmers. Adam was a farmer of sorts, because the Lord cursed him by saying it would now be difficult to farm. After the fall, Cain farmed; he didn't just "gather berries." But I digress...
To me this is unthinkable. Studying world history without touching on these events is like studying American history and leaving out the war of Independence and the Civil War. We have to be careful. Not everything with the name Christian is written from a Christian belief-system. The Mystery of History claims allegiance to the accurate, infallible, inerrant Word of God, both in word and in practice. That won me over.
What have you used that you found helpful or disappointing?