Tuesday, November 6, 2007

10 Week Curricular Round-Up Pt. 2: "Mixed Bag"

We just started our 11th week of DD's kindergarten year & I'm reflecting on which materials have worked for us so far and which have not. Yesterday, I discussed the "hits". Today, I'm reviewing the materials about which I have mixed feelings. Some of these items that are fine for what they are but just not the right "fit" for our family. Others are more of a disappointment because although they have certain aspects I really like, they are flawed.

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. I really liked The Well-Trained Mind by Mrs. Wise and her daughter Susan Wise Bauer. The neo-Classical approach appeals to me with its emphasis on academic rigor and building children's minds through exposure to the best of previous generations. So why did Mrs. Wise choose to alter and "dumb-down" the selections of poetry & stories for narration? Very disappointing :-( I also feel that many of the concepts covered are far too easy for the target audience of 1st & 2nd graders (days of the week, months of the year, seasons, holidays, family relationships, the child's address, and so on). These are the kinds of things taught in the preschool program DD attended back when I had to work full-time. The grammatical concepts covered are good but dragged out too long and then excessively returned to. Having periodic "refresher" lessons to review previous concepts is fine but they don't need to be as frequent as FLL has them. I'd originally figured that we would condense FLL down into 1 year but we've covered almost the entire first half of the book in just 10 weeks. At the rate we've been going, we'll be done by January.

Story of the World Volume 1 Activity Book by Susan Wise Bauer. This has been somewhat of a useful reference for our study of Ancient History. The book suggestions are helpful and DD seems to have enjoyed the crafts & other projects we've done. The biggest issue I've had has been with what is lacking from the book. It's been tricky trying to figure out how to incorporate Biblical history back into the secular history of SOTW. I'd looked at some of the popular Christian history programs but they had their own set of issues for our family (Protestant viewpoint, "Young Earth" chronology, minimal or no coverage of non-Western civilizations, etc). I did end up buying a unit study on Ancient Israel from History Links to supplement SOTW.

Biology for Every Kid and The Human Body for Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave. DD has really liked some of the experiments we've tried from these books but others did not capture her interest.

Think Analogies A1 & B1
from Critical Thinking Press. We've been using these to prep for the WordMasters Challenge. I think these are a great introduction to analogies and also helpful for teaching vocabulary. I've seen real progress in DD's analogy-solving abilities since we began using them. However, DD thinks they are boring. She really wants to be on the Word Masters team, though, so she's been plowing through a page a day. But it definitely is not the highlight of our day!

Knights of the Square Table from Winter Promise. This actually seems to be a pretty good introduction to chess. DD has definitely been making progress in learning to play. Unfortunately, she does not seem to have a great interest in the game. That is probably my fault, as I don't care much for chess myself and my lack of enthusiasm is likely showing. I'm trying to get her to the point where she can play with DH, who enjoys chess but doesn't have the patience to play with a novice.

Language of God Level A from Catholic Heritage Curricula. We've been using this as a supplement to FLL since that book is secular and does not have any workbook exercises. It's been fine for that purpose, but it definitely would not be enough on its own as it's designed to be. I debated whether to put this as a "hit" because I've been happy with the product. I ultimately decided to list it here as I feel the need to qualify my recommendation of it.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss the "misses"- products that have been total duds in our homeschool.

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