I take some time in December/ January to look back on the last semester and figure out what has been working and what was a complete failure in our homeschool. Sometimes, let’s be honest, there are a lot more failures than successes. But I am excited we’ve found a few really good fits for us this year. And, of course, for everything that hasn’t worked out that just means we’ve got a chance to try new things in the spring (gotta look on the bright side, right?). AND SO, here’s what worked for us in Fall of 2014.
Life of Fred
Little Man (now 7) is crazy good at math but has the attention span of a fly. Life of Fred offers short lessons that reinforce everyday concepts, introduce really big ideas in bite-sized pieces, and sometimes throw in some questions about grammar, history, and geography just to keep everybody on their toes. This year we have been using it as his primary math, though it is intended to be more of a supplement. Now that he is a proficient reader, he’ll be moving in to more challenging and independent math, but we’re still going to keep up with Life of Fred because we both enjoy the story and the extra information we’re gleaning from it. You can find Life of Fred on christianbook.com through the first link or on Amazon. Sometimes you can find it at a discounted price on Educents as well (Educents is where we purchased our set). Many libraries also carry a set.
Big Boy (9) and I have struggled from the very beginning when it comes to math. We just do not seem to communicate well AT ALL. That means when I discovered a program that pretty much does everything for me, I jumped on it. I got lucky and found something Big Boy really seems to understand and enjoy working with. With Teaching Textbooks, he just opens the program and starts his lesson every day. It requires nothing from me unless he chooses to ask me a question. From the computer program he gets a lesson and quiz, and there are optional “hints” throughout if he needs extra help understanding something. After he finishes I can log in to my parent account and check on how he’s doing, see what questions he missed, and how many times he had to try. It’s so easy. Some people find the material covered too easy for the specified grade level. I felt after all the struggles we’d had with math in the past, Big Boy needed some remedial work so I did not mind at all. He works with Math 4 (4th grade, the program starts with Math 3 and goes through high school) and is definitely learning new things. I have begun adding in some multiplication drills just because I want them to have their times tables memorized, and Teaching Textbooks thus far has not focused on that, but other than that we both love this program.
It took him until he was 7 1/3 years old, but my Little Man is finally a full-fledged reader. Because he was so reluctant, handing him fun books just was not cutting it. We added Reading Eggs to his daily schedule and immediately saw improvement. No, he did not become a super reader overnight, but Reading Eggs made sure he got at least twenty minutes of practice learning letter sounds and reading words every day, all while he was having fun playing games. Reading Eggs continues to be helpful as he works more on his spelling and reading comprehension.
OK, this one might sound silly, but it’s how I learned the parts of speech and it seems to be working just as well for them. Sure, sometimes it involves a lot of poop jokes by the time we’re done, but at least they know that poop is a noun and pooping is a verb now. They’re a cheap, funny way to reinforce grammar lessons, and you can find Mad Libs books on just about any subject (or any television character) you can imagine.
My kids are not reading War and Peace, but they are reading! Garfield comic books have become a mainstay in our house. As soon as Little Man graduated from Piggie and Gerald, he started in with Garfield. Garfield is universal: the whole family can share a Garfield joke and nobody feels like it’s dumbed down or annoying, nor does it go over anyone’s head. I think many of us (myself included) have held negative opinions on comic books, feeling like they’re somehow an inferior form of literature to the good old fashioned novel, but I’ve quickly learned that whatever will get my kids enjoying reading is an amazing tool in our homeschool.
We had a pretty whirlwind fall, and I think our school semester shows that. A lot of plans I had for learning fell through, but there are always a few things that go right. These are the things we’ll continue using through the rest of the year, and we’ll see what surprises Spring holds for us!