Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring Semester Update Pt. 1

It's been forever since I did an update on how our homeschooling is going, so I figured now would be a good time. We've made some curriculum changes for the new semester, which I'll be detailing in a series of posts.

The biggest change has been switching Miss Scarlett's math curriculum from Right Start to Singapore. Both programs are based on the Asian way of teaching math, to which I've always been drawn because of the combo of stressing both the underlying concepts AND mastering traditional algorithms. I'd originally been a bit intimidated by Singapore as a new home educator who didn't have a strong background in the subject. By contrast, I found the scripted lessons of RS very appealing. Also, Miss Scarlett was only 4 yrs 10 mos. when we started and I thought the "hands-on" nature of RS would be a better "fit" than the workbook-heavy Singapore.

I loved, loved, loved RS Level B. I think it laid an excellent foundation for Miss Scarlett in math. The challenge level was good, too. It did take her 13 months to get through it because we had to "sit" on certain concepts for a while. But on the whole, I felt the pace was appropriate.

When we finished RS B midway through the fall semester of 1st grade, I was in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy. So rather than starting up Level C right away, I took a relaxed approach to math for a few months. Not exactly "unschooling" since I did require Miss Scarlett to do math every day, but I allowed her to choose what she wanted to do from among the various supplementary workbooks & games we had on our shelf.

We started RS C last March. It was just okay. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I noticed Miss Scarlett had started to prefer pencil-and-paper work to using the manipulatives. Her eyes lit up when she learned the algorithm to do subtraction with borrowing rather than physically trading the beads on the abacus. When we took a break from RS to do Hands-on Equations, she figured out all on her own how to solve the algebraic equations on paper rather than using the little pawns, dice, and "scale".

She also seemed like she would benefit for a greater challenge level than what RS C was offering. I found myself compacting the RS lessons and using the extra time to work on more challenging problems related to the topic studied from the Singapore Challenging Word Problems series and Edward Zaccaro's Primary Grade Challenge Math book.

I looked over the final 2 levels in the RS elementary series and it just seemed like there was too much review and not enough new material for her. It struck me as having about a year's worth of material spread out over the 2 books. I understand that many students do need lots of repetition and a gentler pace, but she's not one of them.

So after Miss Scarlett finished RS C, I switched her to Singapore. She's using the 3A textbook with the Intensive Practice book rather than the regular workbook. She'll also complete the portions of the CWP books that she has not already done.

I've been fairly impressed by what I've seen of Singapore so far. For example, here's a problem from the Intensive Practice 3A book that I suspect many adults in this country would have difficulty solving: The sum of A & B is 4215 greater than C. C is 1833 less than A. What is B? I don't think I saw problems like that until my jr. high algebra class!

I do think that Miss Scarlett may need a more thorough explanation of multi-digit multiplication & division than what's in the Singapore textbook and my Home Instructor's Guide. So I downloaded the Math Mammoth single-topic workbooks on those. I like the way Maria Miller walks the student through the concepts explicitly step-by-step-by-step whereas Singapore assumes the child can make the leaps in logic. Even if Miss Scarlett doesn't turn out to need the extra explanation, she may benefit from having additional practice problems on those particular topics. The MM downloads were cheaper than buying the regular Singapore workbook and focused exclusively on only the areas where I suspect she may need the extra help.

I'm planning to start "Rusty" in RS, probably with Level A some time next year. I really do like the program for the primary grades. If that turns out not to be a good "fit" for him, I'll try Singapore or possibly the full Math Mammoth curriculum. Stay tuned!