Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Christmas school

Seems like a lot of homeschoolers choose to take it easy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Especially this year, I'm seeing the perks of taking a break and switching it up.

Are they still learning? Yes, ma'am!

Some things we've done so far:

  • Reading lots of Christmas books. I added a few more to our collection.
  • Making ornaments. Some are for us, others are for gifts. Some were from craft kits, and others were made with supplies we had. This is low-key but fun. Fine motor skills! 
  • Made gingerbread houses (a kit, thankyouverymuch)
  • Learning and singing Christmas songs
  • Making cards
  • Driving around and enjoying lights
  • Children's Museum Jolly Days
  • Baking
  • Watching Christmas movies
  • Doing our advent calendar
  • Preparing for our church Christmas program (I will have a shepherd and an angel and they will be singing! CAN'T WAIT SO CUTE)
  • Bought gifts for impoverished children overseas


Unfortunately, we have been sick on and off for awhile and so we haven't been able to do as many things as I'd like. We missed a field trip at Garfield Park that would have been fun. I'd like to go to Christmas at the Zoo, but we'll just have to see. Also would like to go to the Indiana State museum for their Christmas things and get a membership.

But overall? This is a fun time of year. Next week is birthday week. I will have a 4yo and a 6yo. My word. Time is speeding up.

J is reading well, and reads to himself daily. I read aloud daily. He is into making comic books lately, so there's lots of writing and drawing going on. Oh, and I grabbed some "model magic" and also some air-dry clay and they've been creating stuff.

I am glad we can be together and savor this time of year! 

Once January hits, I think we'll try to get back to the 3Rs more formally, especially math. kbye

First live theatre performance for the kids!

I would love to take my kids to as many fine arts performances as possible. I think it's valuable to expose them to plays, concerts, exhibitions, ballets, and such. It's educational, hopefully fun, and something we can do as a family. What's not to love?

So mid-November, J and V went to the Sleeping Beauty performance at Beef & Boards. I haven't been there since middle school. My mom and grandma went with us. Shane had to stay home with the baby because she was sick :(. I don't think she would have done so well with it anyway. It was an hour-long performance and she would have been to antsy, I think.

The kids were familiar with the story ahead of time (hi, Disney version coming out of the vault last month). I should have read the non-Disney story version but whoops, I didn't. Oh well.

They both enjoyed the production and would like to go again some time. Yay!

Beef & Boards puts on a few children's performances each year. These are cheaper than the regular dinner shows. In fact, they ask that children under 3 do not attend the regular shows (and I can see why).

The snack provided was a juice box and a rice krispie treat in a package.

The actors were good and seemed like they were having fun. I think they connected well with their audience.

We all had a nice time and I'm glad we are able to enjoy these types of things!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Learning Chess at 29, and 5. Who knew?

I never learned how to play chess. The rules seemed too complicated. What do you mean the knight moves like an L? And the bishop can shoot across the board in one move?! If my friends played, they didn't tell me about it. It just wasn't on my radar.

That changed last week.

I came across a blog post about using chess as part of your home school, and it was a little light bulb moment for me. Improved logic, you say? Better math and science understanding, you say? Ability to plan ahead, predict outcomes, practice good sportsmanship? Ok!

I think it's important for my own brain that I learn new things and challenge the remaining brain cells I have. I downloaded the free app, which has lessons, tactics training, game play vs. computer and vs. people, etc. (Parents, note that the app has a chat function) So far, I haven't won. I'm appreciating just how hard it is to win.

But that's not the point. I now understand the basic rules and movements, and it's on to learning more strategy with openings, middle moves and closing it down. It is so fun!

I grabbed some books at the library the other day and hopefully they can help.

Meanwhile, Johnny saw me playing a game and was curious. I handed him my phone and let him play the rest of the game vs. the computer. He wanted to learn more, so I found Kid Chess, which has some kid-level tutorials and a computer game called EZ Chess that will basically let the kid win. I don't plan to use that game too much, but I think it helps to cement how pieces can move. Plus, getting a checkmate is a confidence boost and perhaps it's enough to keep the interest going?


Anyway, I'm thrilled that Johnny is showing an interest and I plan to teach all of my children how to play chess. If any of you have advice for me on that front -- recommended books, websites, certain game boards, etc., lemme know. I want to find a set with distinctive pieces. Some I've seen, it's difficult to tell some of the pieces from each other. No good.

Meanwhile, I am on a mission to beat both my husband and my sister. At minimum. I'm ultra-competitive by nature, with absolutely nothing to back it up. Yikes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adding on some Math Mammoth

As I mentioned previously, our RightStart math program has been met with some resistance. I adjusted my approach, and decided not to push too hard since hi, early months of kindergarten.

Perhaps since lessons bounce around and use a variety of manipulatives, it's bothering my son? Maybe it feels too jumpy. Hard to say.

We've done a little more with RightStart, but last week, Johnny was doodling some addition. He wanted to know something like 13+13. I showed him how to work it and he thought it was pretty fun, so he made a few more problems for himself.

I printed some addition pages from Math Mammoth to see how he'd like it. It was love. I told him this was actually first grade work and he thought that was really cool that he could do it.

It's too soon to tell if Math Mammoth will replace RightStart for Johnny or if it'll be just a break. I think I should look at RS and maybe pull some concepts and do it without him seeing my teacher's manual. Maybe that's a trigger for him. No idea.

Then yesterday, I didn't do any math with him. We did some other things. He went to his desk in his room and made some math problems for himself. Ok!?

So he did things like 20+20; 1000+1; 100+10; 200+500 etc. He got all but 2 right.

Rather than put an X on the incorrect ones, I took my pencil and put a dot next to them. I said, "I'd like you to take another look at the ones with the dot by it," and he corrected them. I turned the dot into a check mark. He thought that was fun.

Personally, I still love what RightStart is trying to accomplish and I would like to use it for him in some capacity. I'll need to tweak my approach, though.

If you are interested in Math Mammoth, you can get it for superduper cheap. I bought the entire light blue series for grades 1-6 during a Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op sale. You can also opt to buy the pdfs by topic, in the "blue series." For example, the 1st grade level addition is $3.95. WHAT.

Topics in the blue series would be good for reinforcement or a different approach.

There are a LOT of pages in the program, so printer ink is a concern. I've just printed a few at a time, but I might have it printed by some copy shop.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Highlights from September

The end of September already? We had a good month. Here are some highlights and a progress report:

Field trips/classes:

  • An orchard for an apple tour
  • A physical fitness/martial arts class (just one session)
  • Trip to the zoo
  • Fire station tour
Other outings to the library and parks, and some visits with grandparents

Family trip:
  • Went on a quick getaway to French Lick, Ind., and also Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind. Visited Spring Mill State Park. Very nice park! It has a pioneer village, with buildings from nearly 200 years ago, and some history interpreters on site. Kind of like Conner Prairie. Worth a visit. Also, Holiday World was basically empty when we went. So fun.
Academically, Johnny is moving right along with All About Reading. He went from lesson #33 at the beginning of September, to part of #47 today (level 1 goes to 49 lessons), and so I expect he will finish this level later in the week. We will start up with level 2 immediately after.

He is becoming more confident with reading on his own, and I'm grabbing a variety of materials for him to read from the library. Besides some of the typical Dr. Seuss books he enjoys, I selected a few joke books and comic books for him to try. 

He's reading through a huge collection of Calvin and Hobbes and enjoying it. 

For our road trip, I borrowed a Magic Tree House audio book. It had 5 books in the collection. Ahead of our trip, I read the first story in the series to familiarize ourselves with the characters and gist of the series. Quick premise: Two kids discover a magic tree house which contains books. They can travel to the location in the book and learn more about that moment in history. We've heard about the Titanic sinking, something out in the West, and something to do with Australia, I think? I haven't been paying terribly close attention.

It's an ok series. Formulaic, as series like these tend to be. Enough info to get an idea of what might have happened. I don't think I'll get more audio books from this one unless the kids request it. I do think I'll suggest Johnny reads some on his own, when he gets more confident with chapter books. He did read some of one title on his own, it just took awhile. 

With My Father's World, we did the units on octopus (ocean life), insects and goats (farm animals). I bought an ant farm and it has been SO COOL watching the ants at work. 

Math was light this month. Lessons 18-24 in RightStart. Uh. Yeah. Light. I had better get back to it in October.

But, Johnny worked on some math things in his Rod & Staff workbooks. Really simple things, like handwriting practice for numbers, writing the quantities of items in a picture box, etc. 

I've had him do more handwriting things and practice with scissors. 

In his free time that I still consider perfectly educational, this month he's made marble runs, constructed various things with Lego, Lincoln Logs and wood blocks; read (and been read to) a stack of books; made plenty of pictures and little books.

His latest thing is to use a pen to draw some sort of scene, make a photocopy of it and invite his sister to color it with him. Haha!

There have been other little things that I recorded in my log, but overall it was a nice, lightish month. I have no complaints, as we are achieving the goals I set out for him here. Fun, a focus on reading, and a good number of field trips and time outside while the weather is nice.

Coming up for October:

We have several fun field trips on the calendar! Also looking to go to a show at Beef and Boards dinner theatre. We've never done a live performance and I'm hoping it goes well with the baby. Speaking of the baby, she turned 1! Oh, my heart.

More of the same -- moving forward with reading, lots of books together and independently, etc.

More handwriting practice, and I'd like to get back with RightStart and do more with it this month.

Adding All About Spelling. Probably will go slowly here, but we'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Combating a fussy attitude with a to-do list

The other day, I attempted to have Johnny switch gears from coloring a picture to doing our math lesson for the day. Instant resistance.

My motivation to do math at that moment: the baby was happily occupied playing with toys nearby and I thought ooh, we can do math now.

Johnny's motivation: he wanted to work on another drawing. He didn't want to switch gears. Hence, protest.

At the time, I didn't quite understand the issue since he wasn't communicating what he actually wanted to do. He was making it sound as if he didn't like math, period.

So...after a time-out for an attitude adjustment, some chatting with my husband to see if he had any insight, and the sort, we were able to sort it out. My husband even did the next math lesson with Johnny so he could see what he was learning and so we could both observe him doing the work. It went well. We saw that the math program is continuing to be age-appropriate, interesting and educational.

The problem was attitude.

I've been suspecting our days would go more smoothly if Johnny knew what was expected of him in terms of our school work. I recently made a morning to-do list for him, and he so enjoyed going through each item and checking it off.

So, I asked if he would like a checklist for his school work. He loved that idea, so I made one real quick the night before.

After bible and his reading lesson, I had on his list to do 10 jumping jacks. Next was his choice, and I listed a few options. He chose to make a drawing taken from the vantage point on the moon, American flag on it, looking out and seeing the sun, the Earth and a comet going by).

While he was doing this, I gave Vivienne some one-on-one time. I selected a Lauri puzzle, the one with kid shapes doing all sorts of different poses. I asked her to put the pieces in piles based on color; do an AB pattern with them; lay out 3 green pieces and then add 2 more and tell me what she had, etc. Next was I think her favorite: I asked her to stand in the pose of each piece before putting them back on the puzzle. Some poses were extra-fun (standing on her head, doing a squat, running, etc).

Next, Johnny told me it was math time. How 'bout that? So we did lesson #23 and it went really well. No complaining. Asking to do one task again for practice (!). Win.

Next was handwriting, then I had him do some practice with scissors, and his last task on the to-do list was do a headstand. Hah!

It went swimmingly.

I think I could do a similar thing with a workbox, but I think it will take me less time to do a to-do list for him. He seems to get satisfaction out of checking items off (don't we all)? and there's the added benefit of him reading what I wrote. He sees what his school day will include and he knows when he will be done.

We finished and they had some quiet time in their rooms while I prepared lunch. The weather is gross today, so they are inside and watching a video. Amelia is sleeping now (on me, of course...whatever).

When she wakes up, we will read some library books. This week, we are reading about insects and pioneers (separately, lol!). I'll have them choose some puzzles or something else from our educational toy/game selection. I'd like to keep afternoons a little more light. If we can do our 3Rs in the morning, I think that goes more smoothly for us.

It has taken us more than a month to find our rhythm with kindergarten stuff, but I think we are getting there. Yay!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our first break and getting back into it again; AAR thoughts, RightStart etc.

We had our first break since we started kindergarten due to us catching a cold. Blah! One Saturday, we went to the Children's Museum and I'm pretty sure that's where we picked it up. It was nice to just pause where we were at, have our colds and not have the stress of J missing school and all that. So, we played a little, watched some DVDs, read, and took a break from our routine.

We did some reading and math lessons but it was low-key. Still learning, but not my goal.

This week, we were back at it and I was worried that our break would derail us. I took advantage of the fact my husband had Labor Day off to help ease back into it. I had him be a part of our math and reading lesson and I think that was really helpful for all parties. Yay!

Reading is going well and I'm going to place an order for All About Reading level 2 soon. At one point during AAR level 1, I wasn't sure if we'd go for level 2 or not. I wondered if we could just use other (cheaper!) materials and have the same success.

Then I decided to just forget that plan. Johnny really, really enjoys his reading lessons through AAR. He likes the readers, he likes the worksheets and activities, and the pacing and progression are just so spot-on. We got to a point where I suspected we'd need to spend a few days getting comfortable with a new phonogram, and I flipped ahead and saw the author was doing exactly that with the lessons.

This is a rock-solid program and I am seeing great results. Also? Johnny is reading words that I have no idea how he knows. Like when he's reading to himself, he'll read words (with no picture clues!) and I'm just!

I do want to keep going with AAR because there are a lot of phonograms that we haven't covered. And, he needs a lot more practice with fluency. He is not at the point of reading short novels to himself, by any means. Lots of words on a page still do intimidate him. Plenty more work to do. But this is fun work.

Rather than mess up a good thing by switching to our Phonics Pathways book, I'm just going to plow forward. I'll be able to use most of it (minus the workbook) with the girls. It's fine. I already have level 3 anyway that I got on sale.

I also plan to buy All About Spelling level 1 while I'm at it. Johnny has a strong interest in being able to spell words correctly, so we're just going to run with it. I briefly looked at other programs to see how they do it, but AAR has made a believer in me, in that the author knows exactly what she's doing and I trust her. I appreciate that AAS will teach encoding using phonics rules, rather than memorizing word lists by rote and doing worksheets that don't actually enhance learning and retention.


I like RightStart math. A lot. We have completed lesson 19 of 130 and I think it's going well. I'm surprised that 3.5yo Viv is joining us and understanding a lot of it, but hey I'll take what I can get.

Mr. Johnny on the other hand is starting to get a little fussy about math. I know he knows how to do it. I know it's not too hard, and the lessons certainly aren't taking very long. So I'm a little puzzled as to why he's showing some resistance.

I probed a little and he said he wanted to practice writing numbers (and lowercase letters, he said). Oh. Because math involves writing numbers, in his mind I guess? I'm wondering if he'd actually enjoy some math worksheets?! Gah.

I have Math Mammoth which is a worksheet-based program, with some manipulatives perhaps. My plan with MM was to use perhaps as reinforcement or a break when we hit walls with RS. Perhaps we're hitting a wall now? I have no idea.

I do want to keep moving forward with RightStart for now, and I'll just try to tune in to Johnny some more to see if I can't resolve his issues with it.

One other possibility is I could back off with math for a few weeks. Though I'm intending to keep school time fun and not stressful, maybe the amount of things we're doing is stressing him out somewhat.

OOH. In re-reading this post (I vaguely edit these things) I'm wondering if Johnny's resistance to our math stuff is because he doesn't like his sister joining us? Maybe he feels that if she can do it, it might be babyish? Or too easy to be worth his time? Hmm. I'm pretty sure that it won't take long for the program to be past Viv's capabilities. Maybe a wait n' see could help.

No need to stress out a kindergartner. It is EARLY SEPTEMBER. Don't need a burnout already.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Notes from the last 2 weeks

Rather than create lesson plans for our to-do list, I'm simply recording what we have done. So far, it is working really well.

Highlights from the last 2 weeks:

- Went on a field trip to Eagle Creek Park where we met up with some other homeschoolers and did a guided trip. Learned about amphibians, reptiles and insects. The kids had some opportunities to touch animals; Vivie touched a snake and turtle and J touched the turtle. Lunch and then playground. Fun!

- Dinosaur unit via My Father's World. Read a big stack of books over the last 1.5 weeks, some simple coloring pages, a dino puzzle we had, a dino dig (plastic dinosaur figures we had, and letter "Ds" we had from foam puzzles/fridge magnets, all in a plastic box of dried beans),

- Some phonics lessons from All About Reading -- I appreciate that the author probably realized many children would need some extra practice with double consonant words ("ff'" , "ss", etc.) because we've just been assigned some stories in the reader without new instruction, which is exactly what Johnny needed. He has finished lesson 28/49.

- Moving along with RightStart math. He was starting to get a little frustrated that he wasn't learning new things. So I skipped some things I knew he had down cold, and combined lessons for a few days. I know that soon, he will indeed be learning new things. A k-level math program is just plain going to start at the very beginning, and we need to make adjustments for each kid. Love this flexibility. He has completed lesson 10.

Here's where some moms might feel a little derailed, but I'm choosing to look at it as life-learning and building relationships. And this is also why I'm glad I'm recording our "done" stuff rather than making to-do lists for dates:

This week, we spent the day at the zoo. My husband and his parents were able to join us. Educational! Also, since school is back in session locally and it was during the week, it was LOW crowds. Still plenty of people there, but I had room to breathe. The kids could see the animals without a bunch of folks everywhere. Love it so much.

Then Thursday and Friday, we went to my grandma's for part of the day where we watched construction workers 1. dig up her old driveway 2. pour a new one. Pretty entertaining and it was nice to spend time with her. The second day, I took some educational toys with us to help keep them occupied after they were done watching stuff.

They've had time outside, some free crafting/book making/coloring. Some time with our educational toy stash. Etc.

And, after doing a more "chapter book" read-aloud with limited pictures during our dino study (Finding The First T. Rex) and having attentive children, I decided to try Charlotte's Web. It is going well! There are some illustrations (which I forgot were there) and I think that's great. We're reading a few chapters per night and they beg for more. Yay! It really is a great first chapter book for little kids.

Overall, I'm happy with the way things are going. It's a slow ramp-up to more academics. For pete's sake, it's still only mid-August! And again, the weather here has been unseasonably cool. I'm worried about this winter, that it'll be another bitter cold thing. So we'll just be outside when we can.

There are some things that I sorta intended to be doing now, that we haven't gotten to yet: handwriting and Five in a Row. The FIAR I think I'm going to put on hold right now. For weeks where we are really digging in to the MFWK unit, that is plenty of literature and activities. FIAR on top of that would just be too much at this point. We will run out of MFWK units so having FIAR for later will be helpful, or for weeks where we just don't dig in as much. Plus, I may combine some MFWK coming up (when we are doing farm animals and wild animals, I'm thinking).

Handwriting is still a priority but it just hasn't been happening. Johnny has been writing on his own for when he makes a book or a coloring page, but we haven't done our more structured stuff yet. Soon. And I'm not going to stress.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some highlights from our first week of kindergarten

My son thought August 1st sounded like a good day to start, so I said why not? The area public schools are back in session ranging from July 30 - the first or second week of August.

I am planning a slow build, especially since it is August and the weather so far this summer has been pleasant for the most part. Let's be outside!

We went to area parks 5 days in a row. Love it. We even went to two that we had never visited. We had a last-minute playdate and 3 other homeschool moms joined us.

While at one park, a mom commented aloud that she couldn't wait for her kids to go back to school. Johnny told me later that he thought that was a really sad thing to say.

I mean, I get wanting to be back in a routine and stuff but don't make your kid think you don't like spending time with them. If that's how you feel well, that's your feelings -- just don't tell your kid that, know what I mean?

So while we have been in the van, I've switched us from music CDs to some story CDs to change things up. We borrowed an Adventures in Odyssey pack from a friend and enjoyed it, though some of it was over their heads. Though it was 4 hours, I was surprised how fast we went through it.

Now, we're listening to the Adventures in Odyssey the American history one from the HSLDA. LOVE IT. They were both so into the first (of 8) CDs. I wish they had some history CDs of other eras and places (let me know if I'm just not seeing it).

(Sidenote -- if you have other suggestions for CDs I'm all ears. I'm still downloading Jim Weiss CDs at the rate of 3 tracks per week. I wouldn't mind other history CDs, or perhaps audio book recommendations. I'll see what our library has. If it's a book, perhaps less than 3 hours? I just want to make sure we can finish it within the 3-week borrowing period without needing to renew).
One day, Johnny read aloud to me from a Dick and Jane reader that I had. The illustrations are so precious! The stories are kind of dull but Johnny seemed to enjoy reading it. He is overwhelmed by books with small print and pages full of text. I don't know if it's a visual thing or psychological one.

He is doing really well with reading but he needs lots more practice to become fluent and comfortable, so I'm just going to encourage him to read anything that builds his confidence right now. No need to feel stressed.

He is working on an "all about me" book this week. I think it'll be a fun kindergarten keepsake. I found some free printables for it and created some simple questions for him to answer with my help for spelling.

Things like full name, age, address, height and weight (we measured him and weighed him and wow this guy is growing!), and a family tree. Also, I asked him some open-ended questions, like "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Answer: "a flying-car engineer."

I told him I would buy a flying car if he made one, and he said not to worry, he'd give me one for free.

He's having fun making his book and sharing it with his grandparents. I 3-hole-punched the pages and we are putting them inside a folder with a clasp. We'll print off his "first day of K" photo to include, maybe do a paint handprint for a page and I'll ask what else he would like to add.

We are doing a lazy unit study on China. There's a really fantastic exhibit at the children's museum that opened recently, so I thought it would be fun to expand upon what we saw there. We watched two videos (one was about ancient China and also the terra cotta warriors, which are at the museum now; the other video was a day in the life of two Chinese children).

We read through a few books, I made a Chinese-inspired dinner one night that was well-received, and Johnny made his version of the Great Wall using craft sticks. He is really into craft sticks lately and he did that project on his own.

Oh and of course, we found China on our globe.

I should probably do The Story About Ping with our Five in a Row guide soon.

We started our 100 chart (just add a number to a chart each day we do school), a craft stick counting thing (one stick per day and when we get to 10, we bundle them with a rubber band, up to 100) and filling in the date on a blank calendar. These are all MFWK ideas. When we get to 100 days of school we will have a partyyyyyyy. I like these activities because while they are so quick to do, they reinforce a lot of information.

A few books from our library basket and that was our week.

It was great and I'm so glad we've been able to be outside and play with others.

Johnny is excited for this year and he said, "I can't believe I'm in kindergarten!"

I can't believe it, either. So glad I get to do it with him!

Not much has actually changed between what we normally do and now, because children really do learn all the time. As we add our more structured subjects perhaps it will take a different feel.

P.S. I am making progress on my history search. I am loving the looks of TruthQuest History, starting in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Haven't decided and I will post more about it soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A chart comparison of how some programs handle history eras

Note: Some updates below.

I'm making a chart comparing how a few non-classical programs approach their history eras by rough grade level. Why non-classical? Well because the classical cycle is a fairly standard 4-year rotation.

I did this to help me visualize other approaches. For instance, Heart of Dakota does two big sweeps of history, and they do American history early on. My Father's World has a year of cultural studies and geography before they get into a history cycle. Each program listed has differences (of course).

I sorta color-coded eras but it's not perfect (but let me know if there's a mistake). The programs break up time periods differently. Within the chart currently are My Father's World, Heart of Dakota, Sonlight, Simply Charlotte Mason, and Ambleside Online.

I did:

  • light red: ancients
  • blue: US history/modern
  • green: more of a cultural/geographical approach vs. strict historical period
  • yellow: middle ages
  • purple: sweep of everything, or a really broad period of history tackled in a year
I linked to the scope & sequence or page that I grabbed the info from, below each column.

(shown as an image but the link to the chart is here)

Important to note: 

With Heart of Dakota, I called their "Little Hearts for His Glory" program their kindergarten program, but you can do that for 1st (they say ages 5-7). 

With Sonlight, the grade levels mentioned are minimums. Many people use P4/5 as their kindergarten, and do Core A with an older kid and so on. Also, they have years where they do a B+C combo, or a C+D combo if you wanted to hit that content in one year instead of two. 

I stopped at roughly 8th grade rather than compare it all the way through 12th. 

I am really not sure how to group some of Ambleside's. May need some revisions. 

P.S. I don't like Ambleside's approach at all, nor SCM's.  OK Actually, after reading more about SCM's approach and actually downloading a sample (instead of just looking at the page where they describe the materials used) I think I do like it a little more. The 6-year cycle is kind of throwing me but I need to look into it more. Some people say the 4-year is too short. My main concern is I don't want to wait thaaat long to get to American lit, but perhaps there is an easy workaround.

P.P.S. I actually have been unaware of the Sonlight drama that went down like a year ago. Maybe it's ongoing. I dunno. Apparently Sonlight has made a bunch of changes to cores and people are mad. For me, Sonlight isn't a good fit (I identify with several of the "reason's not to buy this program" that they have on their site). But I just wanted to include how they do their progression...which apparently has changed and it's not a set in stone thing. So. Ok then.

P.P.P.S: I was woken up a lot last night. And each time I was thinking about some history-related thing. Apparently I'm dreaming about this and a baby is interrupting me.

Are there other programs I should include here? Should I throw in classical programs? Any color-coding errors I should fix?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning some history myself

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea (given my rather pathetic education and understanding of world history) to do some learnin' of my own.

I am definitely a "see the big picture first" kinda gal. I need a broad view so I can have an idea of where the little pieces fit in, vs. a "examine individual plants and trees and THEN see them in the forest." Just like I want to have a general idea of how we'll approach history in my home -- I want to see the big picture before getting down to the details.

So, I grabbed a few sweeping history story books to read through. I hope to gain a better understanding of some key historical moments and people, as well as see how the general progression of history has flowed over the years. Perhaps this knowledge will help me make more informed decisions for choosing what to study with my children.

I have:

  • A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
  • The Story of Mankind by van Loon
  • The Light and the Glory (American history) by Peter Marshall
I also have some Usborne world history books. One is a timeline and another is either an encyclopedia or just short fact book -- I forget what it's called.

I've read about 90 pages in to Story of the World vol. 3 by Bauer. Awhile back, I tried to read her history book written for adults. It was on the ancients. I just could not pay attention. 

I plan to get my hands on a copy of A Child's History of the World

This is only a start, so let me know if you have recommendations.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Plans and curriculum choices for kindergarten for my firstborn

My son is SO excited to go from "pre-kindergartner" to "kindergartner." I don't know what it is. But he just really likes the sound of it.

For a little while, I was a bit flustered at trying to figure out our plans for the year or even trimester. I realized I was trying to fit in too much and make things too complicated for myself. I still might be making things too complicated, and I will soon find out if that's the case.

To recap, my overall goals for his kindergarten year:

  • Keeping learning fun. Not stressful. Kindergarten!
  • Reading instruction/build confidence with reading
  • Build a mathematical-thinking foundation
  • Learn how to properly form lowercase letters
  • Be exposed to a variety of good literature through read-alouds, audio books, and reading to himself

So for this first trimester, here's my plan for Jonathan, age 5.5:

We'll start our first official week by making an "all about me" book. He loves making books and I'm sure he'll enjoy this activity. He's already talking about it and wanting to get started, but sometimes I think a little anticipation is good.

Bible study: At first, I was making things really complicated by trying to match a Bible reading with a memory verse + related song + coloring page + flannelboard. Sure, it's nice if things can be cohesive in theory, but in practice it was just getting complicated, and unnecessarily so. So we will read through some of our Bible storybooks, do scripture memory, read some devotionals that we have, and do songs but they don't have to all work together. It can be "pick it up and do it" and that is a-ok.

Phonics: Moving forward with All About Reading level 1. We are about halfway through this level (plenty of breaks up to this point) and it is going well. Some lessons are quite a bit longer than others. For example, a lesson might have a few new sounds, plus some activity sheets, plus a few pages of fluency reading. I break those into several days. Then the next lesson might be "just" have him read a story from the AAR reader. Much shorter.

If we want to take a break from AAR, we can pop over to some Happy Phonics games or Reading Pathways for some practice. But mostly? He is starting to really feel comfortable with reading children's books. He can read a lot of words and "just" having him read to me is the best thing, imo.

Strengthening his reading skills and confidence is my primary academic goal for him this year.

Math: RightStart math level A, 2nd edition. We have already completed a few lessons in here upon request. It is going well. The first 3 lessons have been a good length for us. He wanted to do more, but nope we will do one lesson per day max. Later on if he wants to keep moving I might entertain more than one lesson, but I think for the sake of avoiding burnout and also letting concepts soak in, one per day is plenty. If we want a break from RightStart, I have Math-U-See Alpha (I now own the DVD and teacher's manual thanks to some freebies from a friend! And some other MUS DVDs, too), Math Mammoth, and the Critical Thinking Co. kindergarten-level book.

We'll also do some calendar work and tally stick counting/bundling up to 100 as described in the MFWK manual.

Handwriting: Johnny is decent with capital letters and it's time to work on lowercase. I guess. His fine motor skills are improving and he enjoys writing. A few weeks ago, he made me a "Happy July 13" card with a silly message inside. Haha! So we'll use Handwriting Without Tears K (since I already have it) and I'll look for other ways for him to do some writing.

Science/crafts/poetry/music/nature/etc.: Even though I'm using different materials for the 3Rs right now, I still like the My Father's World kindergarten units. We have completed 7 of 26. I like the unit study with these, and will use them to help focus our library books for read-alouds. Also, field trips, educational DVDs and such. The Bible lessons are short and sweet, but I think they are age-appropriate and worthwhile.

I've decided to skip all phonics and the worksheets within, so that I can have them to use with Vivienne. Unfortunately I don't have the ones from previous lessons, so I'm not sure what I'll do about that. Maybe create my own for those units, maybe skip it. I dunno. I think she could be ready to do the program herself in full next year. It will look different for her when she does it, because I will likely use the introductory phonics with her.

I also plan to use Five in a Row vol 1. and the FIAR character study book. I also have the character study book put out by Beautiful Feet, and perhaps we can do a mish-mash of them. I might wait until we're done with the MFWK units, or I might start doing those alongside our MFWK? I'm going to be flexible here.

Developing the Early Learner: I don't even know what to call this workbook, exactly. We have only used it a few times but I want to be more deliberate with pulling it out this year. It has activities for improving eye tracking, listening skills, memory, thinking skills, etc. Brain exercises.

Field trips: I would ideally like to do at least 2 field trips per month. We can do some with my little local field trip group, or some as a family. I will try to match them up to our MFWK units, or perhaps just something fun of interest. Or the zoo, or children's museum, or some one-time thing going on. For these to happen, I think I'm going to have to be intentional with planning and putting them on the calendar.

We have one coming up in August that is at a park and we'll have a program about insects, reptiles and amphibians. We will likely do a family trip to a local dairy as part of our cow unit.

Other activities: Library storytime, homeschool playtime co-op group, swimming lessons and who knows what else.

As far as scheduling, I think that's what tripped me up the most when I was trying to make spreadsheets and stuff. I am in a busy stage right now with the baby and I do need to work with and around her. I want to do reading instruction in some form 4-5 days per week. Math, I'm thinking 3-5 days per week. Handwriting/fine motor skill work 3-5 days. I think. Read-alouds daily.

But really, this is doable because lessons can be really short. I can do a 15-minute reading lesson with the baby crawling around nearby/put her in her playpen/put her in the highchair with something to nom on.

Vivienne is gobs easier at this age. I will include her with read-alouds, Bible time and of course field trips and activities. If she wants to join us for phonics, I've just been using some of the AAR tiles or flashcards to teach her letter names and sounds. She is also welcome to join us for some math lessons if she wants. I also have a lot of educational toys on her level that we can work with together.

2nd/3rd trimester possibilities:

We may add some additional science experiments using some books I already have.

We may also add some more focused history reading via History for Little Pilgrims and History Stories for Children (which I already own). They are a part of the Heart of Dakota curriculum. I considered using HOD this year but there was plenty I would omit and I thought it would complicate things by trying to integrate it all. Still, I may use it to help guide history readings and discussion later on.

Maybe we'll add on our Beginning Geography workbook.

Once we complete AAR level 1, I will add a spelling program. Most likely, All About Spelling. I'll look into spelling programs later.

Check back with me in a few months to see what we really did :).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More history thoughts, and I'm not on an island

It's so nice that I'm not homeschooling on an island. I mean, I guess I could do it on an island and I'm sure we'd learn a lot. But what I'm saying is, I'm really thankful that I'm not in the pioneering generation of homeschoolers. I have friends who are late 20s/early 30s who were homeschooled themselves, and now they are homeschooling their children.

I have friends who homeschooled their children, who are now graduates or high schoolers.

And I have friends who are right here with me, starting out and with younger kids.

I LOVE that I can obtain so many perspectives from friends! And of course the internet has lots of opinions. What a convenient time I'm in.


So I'm getting some history ideas from friends and soaking it in. I wanted to share just a few things that are standing out to me:

This post at Memoria Press called "History is Not Chronological." I am not familiar with the company or their general education philosophy, but this article really, really resonated with me. See part 2 here, at "How to Teach History Chronologically."

Another influential article, this time from Beautiful Feet: "When Should I Teach Ancient History?"

It's curriculum round-up week at The Curriculum Choice, and here are a ton of reviews for history and geography. Perfect timing, folks!

I own a resource called "All Through the Ages" which is a very well-organized book list for history titles. I may get it spiral-bound or do contact paper on the cover or something, because this is a book I will use for many years to help get ideas for library books and such for specific time periods. Love it.

Linking for future reference: a pro-ancient history in 1st grade thread from Well-Trained Mind forums (with some who are not doing ancients/wouldn't recommend it). And here's "is there a case against teaching history chronologically."

Wanted to link up a book and movie list matchup for historical eras since that post isn't particularly good for Pinterest.

Soo...I'm less anti-ancients in early years than I was a few days ago. I'm still not completely sure of what I want to do, though.

Ooh, and I remember we definitely talked about Mesopotamia and the "fertile crescent" and I'm wanting to say that was 6th grade? Perhaps? It's starting to come back to me in bits.

p.s. Blogger has been eating comments! So if you want to comment here, I would suggest typing it and then copying it to your clipboard just in case.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Which sequence do I want to follow to teach history?! And to combine, or not combine kids?!!

Oh my word, there are as many ways to approach teaching history as there are dandelions in my yard.

My head is spinning. I've tackled the phonics curriculum and math curriculum decisions for right now and I guess I'll move on to thinking about history. I have time to read and think it over.

Some people take a classical 4-year cycle: ancients, medieval, renaissance/early modern, modern-present. You'd do a year for each time period and cycle through it three times over the course of the 1st-12th grade span. You go deeper each time.

Or you could do a six-year cycle.

Then there's the school of thought that the little kids don't need to deal with ancient history from the get-go. Do a sweep of world history perhaps, but focus on the modern-present era, namely American history while they are little.

BUT if I did a bunch of American and more modern history and then jumped back to ancients when Johnny was 4th or 5th grade, then my baby would then be starting out with the ancients.

That brings me to the question of whether to keep all children in your family studying the same time period, or put them on their own cycle?

Because yeah, if you're keeping them all together then what will that look like for child #2 and child #3?!

It's all well and good for the firstborn. I guess the second kid will jump in at the middle ages or something, but in theory hear some of the earlier stuff if they are in the room for read-alouds and discussions.

I made a chart of when my kids will all start their more formal learning. I based it on the local cutoff dates for K (must be age 5 by like August something). I also think I'd like them to be 18 at graduation, rather than 17. I was 17, but turned 18 a few weeks later which was fine. My December X2 and late September babies will have their birthdays mid-year or toward the beginning of the year.

So again, the grade label is pretty much for social purposes. Academics are done on a per-child level.

I color-coded the 4-year spans pretending we'll do a classical history cycle and starting over again with each color, to see how that might look.

So no pretty matchup, here. Johnny is 2 grade levels ahead of Vivie, and Vivie is 3 ahead of Amelia. Johnny is 5 grades ahead of Amelia.

If I wanna combine some kids, it would be easiest to combine either Johnny and Viv, or Viv and Millie, rather than trying to combine all 3.

Or, I could have Amelia join Johnny's cycle in kindergarten, and slide my little color-coded thing back a level. Then change up her focus in high school since she'll be by herself for 3 years (maybe she could do her 4 years of high school credits starting in 8th, and then pick her favorite periods to go in-depth in 12th?).

I think I prefer that vs. sliding Amelia forward one notch.

To me, the 4-year cycle and going chronologically makes sense, except I do wonder about those first 4 years. Does it even matter to a child at that age? One of the drawbacks of this is the availability of literature for the ancients for the 1st grade set. Sure, there are books like Usborne or Eyewitness varieties. But literature? Meh.

Plus, you have to consider the opportunity cost. If I'm doing ancients in 1st and medieval in 2nd, there perhaps won't be enough time to do some of the wonderful, age-appropriate read-alouds from the modern-present era. Or perhaps it will just need to be more limited. Can't do it all. Know what I mean? By following one path, I can't take another at the same time.

I could try to combine until the child hits 8th grade, and then have them do their own thing for high school. Yeah I think that makes sense. High school is a whole 'nother thing.

When I think back to my own education, I know we did state history in 4th grade. I cannot remember anything else from elementary "social studies." Probably American history, and I have no idea if world history was involved in any way. (Maybe it doesn't actually matter that much? The eras studied in elementary?) In middle school, it was "social studies" for 6th and 7th, and then 8th grade was "U.S. History."

In high school, I did world geography, a year of U.S. history, and a semester focusing on WW2 because I liked the teacher so much. I wanted to take world history, but the teacher who taught that class was pretty bad (I had him for something else) so I opted out.

(I took a break here and pulled up some pages from my old middle and high school, as well as Indiana state standards to see what I might have been taught).

....ok. So, I think no matter what I put together, it's going to be ok.

Anyway. There are a lot of ways to approach the sequence, and there are a lot of ways to approach how you even teach it in the first place.

Rather than try to answer the question, "what is the best way to teach history?" I'm going to look at "what is the best way for ME to teach history to MY kids."

I'm going to explore some ways to handle this with my 3 kids and I will report back.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on any of this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Geopuzzles are awesome for geography and puzzles and yaaaaaay!

Ever since I saw a picture of Geopuzzles in a homeschool stuff catalog a few years ago, I knew that eventually we would own them. What's not to love? Puzzles for geography!

These puzzles have a few typical jigsaw-style pieces on sections like oceans, but for countries, states, etc., they are shaped like that state. Of course, teeny-tiny New England states are lumped together and there are indeed a few smaller countries that are a part of another piece, but for the most part they are their own little shape.

These are like cardboard with a special coating on them. Matte. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems reasonably durable for children who can handle things with care. The box says ages 4+. For Johnny, I think he would have been overwhelmed at that age.

He did the United States and Canada puzzle first. He just did his thing, and then I added a piece. He asked if I would just let him do it. Well, ok then.

Then, he asked if he could do Africa. Sure, why not?

He was so proud! I asked him to find a few states and we left it at that. I showed him where Egypt was on the Africa map. The end. Plenty of time to learn more place names and such.

It looks like Geopuzzles has repackaged their offerings to a new bundle. You can buy all 6 puzzles from Rainbow Resource for $46.25. That is a STEAL. But. I was able to snag a bargain (damaged) version for $33. Ha! I knew that meant the box would be damaged but Idoncare.

Sure enough, the box was torn and squashed on the end but it mattered not. All of the puzzles came in their own bag, and it included a zip-top bag to store them. It also had 3 double-sided pictures of what the maps are supposed to look like when completed.

I cut out the picture on the damaged box to also include in each storage bag. I am storing all the bags in a canvas cube that we had.

I do think the 6 puzzle set is worth it, because it's definitely cheaper and less to store. If you buy each puzzle separately, they are $12.95 ($77 for all 6/nope!).

I plan to put these puzzles in our educational toy loop (more on that topic to come). Or if we don't have much going on and he wants to do a puzzle, then yep, that's ok.

We've had these for a few weeks now and he pulls them out of the closet fairly frequently. I have noticed some pieces have slight "stress factures" especially where there is a narrow part. We will have to be careful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts and goals for my son's kindergarten year

Note: This post got stuck as a draft. I wrote this at the beginning of June. Wanted to publish.

I'm going to follow the public school cutoff and general calendar for assigning grade levels for my children. It has nothing to do with the level of curriculum they are using; it's just to keep things easier for when folks ask, "What grade are you in?" or for outside activities and such.

Anyway, kindergarten. Let's talk about it.

Philosophically, I am leaning Charlotte Mason. I appreciate her gentle approach, short lessons, encouraging exploration in the outdoors, fine arts appreciation, narration and dictation and so on. She would have formal schooling begin at 1st grade or age 6, and I've jumped ahead since I am overeager with my firstborn.

I've been devouring pages and posts at and I think I may try to piece together our full program using their model.

Here's some big-picture goals that I'd like to accomplish for my son's kindergarten experience:
  • Fun. If no fun, no doing. It's kindergarten. The unfun schooling can come later. :)
  • Field trips! Museums, historical sites, whatever. I feel like this is a wonderful age to get out and explore as a family. 
  • Phonics: Phonics instruction will continue to be my primary focus. 
  • Writing: I will increase the frequency in handwriting instruction and practice to emphasize proper letter formation, spacing and scale. 
  • Math: We will also begin a math program to start laying a solid mathy foundation.
  • Read-alouds. There are so many wonderful books and such limited time! I'm happy my kids enjoy listening to books. We still do plenty of picture books and are adding longer stories with fewer pictures, too. Also, some audio books.
  • Bible: hymns, memory verses, stories, catechism 

Just submitted my application to join HSLDA (and a free gift with membership!)

Even though Indiana is a homeschool-friendly state, and even though my son is only 5 and the law doesn't require me to start his official schooling yet, I wanted to join HSLDA this year.

Why? Well the Home School Legal Defense Association has done a LOT to advocate for homeschoolers. Legally, legislatively, all about it here.

If a member family were to run into legal trouble regarding homeschooling, the HSLDA would be there to represent them for no charge beyond the membership dues.

Friendly as Indiana may be, I have seen Hoosier parents run into trouble from overreaching public school administrators. It's a bit concerning.

So I'm happy to put part of my homeschool budget toward a HSLDA membership. The money helps support a cause I believe in.

The bargain-lover in me wants to share this:

As a (free!) member of my state's homeschooling association, I was able to get a discount pricing for HSLDA membership. You can, too.

ALSO, if you join for a 2-year or 5-year membership, you can get a free gift. There are a few options from which to choose.

I chose the "Adventures in American History" from Adventures in Odyssey. It's 8 hours of CD stories. Woo! Retail value of $49 for non-members. This appears to be an exclusive HSLDA compilation, but I could be wrong on that.

Either way, I have been looking for more audio stories to enjoy in the van and I'm excited! I think I vaguely remember some Adventures in Odyssey programs from the radio from when I was little, but I could be mis-remembering.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

One of the problems with being a curriculum junkie

There are actually many. One problem I'm discovering as I'm trying to piece together our plan for kindergarten is I have so many materials I want to use, but a finite amount of time. We can't do it all!

I'm also seeing that while all-in-one programs are convenient in theory, I don't like everything in the all-in-ones I've seen. So. Harumph. Benefit gone.

I am mapping out kindergarten with the aid of Simply Charlotte Mason ebook "Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education." I appreciate how it takes you from a big-picture view, then year, term, week and day. The SCM blog talks about this, but the ebook has more detail and planning worksheets. I didn't get the DVD so no comment there.

I am also repeating, "This is kindergarten," to myself pretty much every third thought.

So. I'm piecing together kindergarten with way too many resources. A little bit overwhelming and a problem I gave myself.

I'm figuring out what I would like J to learn, how frequent and a general flow to our day. Subject to change, of course. Also, thinking about outside-the-house activities and field trips and how to make it all work.

I do like the idea of planning terms vs. an entire year.

Also on my mind are my other two children. Viv is 3.5 and we're going to call her a preschooler. Millie is 9 months old and she's a babyschooler. Johnny was actually talking about his idea of her curriculum. He said she needed to learn letters, shapes, numbers, and how to not eat things that are not food. Also, how to walk. Haha! Get with it, baby.

Our RightStart math box came a few days ago and swoon! I am loving it. I let the kids look over some of the materials and they are happy. Johnny asked me a few times today about doing the first lesson so I caved and J and V and I did lesson 1, plus some open-ended exploring on the fly.

I was impressed when I asked them to show me 3 on the abacus. Vivie slid 3 beads over. I said ok now make it 6 (her favorite number). She didn't count She just grabbed 3 more and slid them over and said "6." HECK YES, BABY GIRL! High-fives all around.

I will invite Vivie to join us for math lessons as a means of crowd control and inclusion, and if she gets something more out if it then yay.

I'm going to have some activities and one-on-one time for her. Hopefully that will help our days go more smoothly, and maybe help her learn some stuff.

As far as baybay...oh man. Amelia is entering the crazy stage, which Shane and I have observed with our other children that it lasts until oh, 18m? And then they plateau for a few months and then turn 2 and become a different sort of crazy. With this crazy stage, they are becoming increasingly mobile and their hand-mouth coordination is improving...and they are a total hazard to themselves.

So the trick will be to include Amelia in whatever possible (mostly by being in my baby carrier, or perhaps in her high chair with some interesting toys/baby-safe items) and swap out big kids playing with her where I can see them, but have one-on-one time with the other kid. I am nervous about all of that.

Anyways. The good news? It's kindergarten! And I will learn lots. By the time Amelia finishes kindergarten, maybe I will have the whole kindergarten thing figured out.

Where is my coffee.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Adding free audiobooks to my collection

I love books. I love free. So of course, the library ranks high on the list of things I also love.

My library participates in the "Freegal Music" program. I am allowed to download 3 titles per week of mp3 files that I get to keep. Forever! WHAT!

Some libraries also have an additional free streaming option.

My kids enjoy listening to audio stories in the van or in the living room. We've borrowed some from the library, but I want to build our collection.

I see there are a lot of Jim Weiss albums available for download, so I'm going to pick some that I think my kids would enjoy. Right now, I'm getting his American Tall Tales.

Even though I "only" get 3 mp3 files per week, that still can exceed 30 minutes of stories, depending on length.

Wanted to mention this in case you weren't aware of Freegal. YAY!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kindergarten math: Several possibilities, narrowed down to 1

I've been researching math programs for the elementary level, and I've been fortunate to get my hands on teacher's manuals and workbooks for several programs, thanks to my local mathy friend (hi, you-know-who-you-are! :D).

I evaluated:
  • Math-U-See Alpha
  • RightStart Mathematics level A, both 1st ed. and 2nd ed.
  • Life of Fred Apples
  • Miquon red and green, plus teacher's notebook
  • Math Mammoth (I own the digital files for levels 1-6)
  • Singapore workbook levels 1A and 1B

Long story short, I'm planning to purchase RightStart math 2nd edition to use as Johnny's kindergarten program.

If we need to switch things up midyear, I'll pull from Math Mammoth. I also like Life of Fred as a break or supplement. 

If that's all you care to know, then ok! If you're wanting more of my thoughts, here we go:

Before looking at math programs, I wanted to step back and think about what my overall goals were for my children. Educational philosophy, teaching and learning methods, etc. I lean Charlotte Mason, and I have tremendous respect for Ruth Beechick's ideas. 

I want my children to have a solid understanding of math concepts, rather than simply memorizing things without knowing how to apply what they've learned.

I want it to be enjoyable for my children if at all possible, and if not possible, then at least not something tear-inducing.

As far as time commitment, I am willing to put in the one-on-one time with each child at the elementary level for sure. I view this foundational time kind of like the effort and instruction it's taking to teach Johnny to read. Sure, he can do Starfall on his own, or maybe I could hand him a workbook and tell him to have at it.

But him reading aloud to me (and me paying attention to the words, too) and teaching him various phonetic nuances is important. Same with math. This is worth the effort.

As far as cost, I'm willing to pay for a solid program. Bonus points if it can be used with my girls with minimal additional purchases such as workbooks. Bonus points if I can sell it all later for a decent price.

Ideally, I will use one program throughout the elementary years. Of course, if we've given reasonable time to a program and it's just plain not working, we will switch. But I hope we can stick with the program, since each curriculum has its own scope and sequence. 

I'm really, really impressed with what I see from RightStart. It's recommended on (as is Math-U-See). The 2nd edition especially seems teacher-friendly in its layout.

RS has an extensive kit of manipulatives and it mainly uses a special abacus. Their abacus has a group of 5 yellow beads and a group of 5 blue beads to help the child quickly see quantities of 5 (and 10). The author wants children to group and instantly see quantities, rather than counting.

Rather than the maniuplatives being "extra," to me they seem quite instructive and useful. Not fluff. 

Also, RS uses a lot of games for reinforcement. It likens games to worksheet drills. Rather than doing a worksheet, your child can do a game for 15 minutes and have more understanding and more fun. The program does use worksheets, but not a lot. 

Some folks use the RS games only, rather than the full RS program. You can do that; in fact the RS site says you can purchase the game instruction book and various cards and use it as a supplement to any math program.

Overall, to me it seems very thorough and fitting what I'm seeking.


I was glad to view several segments on the Alpha DVD and look through the teacher's manual. My kids watched the video along with me and got some things out of it. The parent may view the DVD alone as a tool to help them teach their child, or the child may view the DVD along with the parent. Before viewing, I didn't realize that you didn't *have* to let your child watch the DVD.

I wish Steve the teacher paused for a little longer when he asked questions. There was a child audience (not pictured) that would say answers right away, which is nice...but I would need to be really fast with the pause button to give my kids a chance to think.

The teacher's manual just didn't excite me. Though the MUS rods are a helpful tool, they are the only manipulative used in this program as far as I know. Personally, I like the abacus more. My math-enabling friend found a rock-bottom deal on MUS rods at a used curriculum sale so I'm glad to own a set in case we'd like to use them.

It also seemed that with Alpha, there wasn't as much variety in the lessons as with RightStart. 

Life of Fred

I personally love this concept. It's an entertaining story based around a 5-year-old math professor (!) who uses math concepts in his everyday life. Short chapters, then a few problems to solve. The author insists it's a complete program but many on the internet disagree, since there are so few practice opportunities.

It isn't clear to me if you are to go through the first 4 elementary level books at a certain pace and then repeat, or go more slowly. I think you could do either.

I read the first 2 chapters to Johnny and the rest of the Apples book to myself. The next day, I asked if he wanted to do more, and he didn't. He said it was hard for him to see the math in the stories. Interesting.

I can see how many details could be a little distracting to a child. Perhaps they are so into the storyline that they are missing the math concepts?

It might work better in a few months for him. I can see using it as our summer math in the future. More low-key, but still learning/reinforcing concepts.

My library doesn't have the series, so I submitted it as a suggestion for the shelves. They apparently thought I wanted the title via interlibrary loan. Nope, not quite. It's nice to know I can get it that way in the future (or my friend -- hi, friend! :D ).

I'll file this away for later and if it seems like it's worth a try, I'll borrow it again and buy the series if it seems like it will be a good fit.


I borrowed the annotations book and two of the workbooks to look over. I was a bit confused and slightly overwhelmed. Some people on the internet feel the same, but supposedly if you stick with it it can be a good program.

That may be the case, but I decided that since I like RightStart so much (and it goes a few levels past Miquon) that I didn't need to look into it further. Johnny really, really likes the idea of RightStart so I think we'll just go that route. Miquon is super-inexpensive on Rainbow Resource.

The "discovery" method is intriguing, but I perceived it to be even more teacher-intensive than RightStart. I would need to buy a workbook for my own to create an answer key. In doing so, it would help me learn the Miquon approach. It also seemed like I would need to do some prepwork ahead of time for lessons.

If I'm devoting a 30-minute time block to math, I'd rather just DO MATH than prepwork. It looks like with RS, I can gather the materials and just follow along the teacher's manual. Also, some people consider Miquon to be a supplement to another program. Other people use it as their main thing.

Math Mammoth

I bought the entire light blue digital series when it was on super sale. It's 1st-6th grade math, all worktexts. You may print the pages, or have your child do it on the computer or tablet.

This is a worktext (worksheets with instruction on the page/within so no separate teacher's manual). There are instructions for making your own games to reinforce concepts. I like what I see with the approach and I'm not sure how I'll implement it just yet. Perhaps a summer math, or subbing it in when we want a break from RightStart, such as if we hit a wall.

I could print the entire thing in black & white for around $10-13 per worktext (and there are 2 for the 1st grade level). But some pages do need to be in color for things such as patterns, so I could selectively print those pages at home, I guess. Or again, have Johnny do it on the computer. At this point, I'm not sure how I feel about computer math at this age.

So. I've been watching message boards and eBay for a deal on the 2nd edition manual and I'm coming up short. Also watching promos from Mardel, but their high-value coupons restrict RightStart. Aw, man.

I wanted to mention, while I'm planning on using RightStart as our main program, and adding in Math Mammoth and Life of Fred -- RightStart doesn't need a supplement. Math Mammoth doesn't need a supplement, either. They are both complete and thorough and can stand alone.

I just like the idea of using both and making adjustments for each child depending on where he or she is at with math. I don't need to follow either curriculum to the letter;  they are my tools and we will use them to help us. 

Also, I cannot overstate the value of seeing a curriculum in person. Samples are helpful, but they only go so far. Because my friend was willing to lend me some materials to look through, I saved money and time.

Let's see where we are a year from now!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More Lego fun

Over the weekend, Vivie, Amelia and I went to the mall and visited both the Disney Store and the Lego store. FUN. I haven't been to a mall for...1.5 years? 2 years? I don't know.

At the Lego store, we made 6 minifigures and filled a small bucket from the pick-a-brick wall. There's an art to filling the bucket to get as many pieces as you possibly can.

For instance, I knew Johnny wanted to make more cars. So I got him some wheels. Rather than toss the wheels in the bucket, I put the inner piece inside each wheel. No empty space! And I arranged them carefully.

I got an assortment of interesting pieces and ended up with 133 pieces for the $8 or $9 that the bucket cost. If I didn't have two little girls with me and thought it through a little more, I think I could have fit even more.

For instance, there's a space in the lid that I could have jammed a few pieces in.

So anyway. So fun! He's totally loving his eBay sets and now the extra pieces we have. A good investment. And, they've both been really good about keeping pieces on the lid or tray and putting them away when they're finished.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The beginning of the Lego era in our home

When Johnny turned 1, he got Mega Bloks. When he was 3ish (I can't remember if it was 2.5ish or 3ish), he got Duplo. Both were big hits.

Now, he's around 5.5. I got him his first Lego sets and he is totally in love.

I bought two $5 kits over the weekend -- a 3-in-1 bulldozer sorta thing, and a 3-in-1 helicopter set. He has assembled and disassembled the combinations many times already, proudly and happily and wanting to send pictures of his creations to my sister, who he admires for her Lego prowess.

So, a few days ago I ordered some Lego Freestyle on eBay. I ordered the same kit that my sister left behind at my parent's house, the one that we play with when we visit (set #1796 if you are curious). I like the open-ended pieces and also the trees, wheels, windows and miscellany that make Lego even more fun. They don't seem to make sets like that anymore. Seems like now, it's either a plain box of bricks with no fun add-ons, or a set that makes a specific thing. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I am new to this.

Though he seems to enjoy following the instructions to make a specific thing, I think making your own creations is important and fun. Hopefully he will enjoy the open-ended bricks, too.

As my Lego-enthusiast friend Beth advised me back in October when I was first contemplating adding Lego to our home, she said to lay down the law when it comes to keeping pieces in one place. NOT all over the house.

For one thing, who wants itty bitty bricks all over the place to step on? And two, I have a baybay. She is in the "eat all the things!" stage. Ugh.

I bought an under-the-bed container to store the freestyle bricks, and I'm using a repurposed scrapbooking storage container thing (no separate compartments) for his specific sets. I put each set in a ziplock, along with the instructions. He uses the lid as a playing surface to hold the set pieces. So far, so good.

I think if those pieces ever enter the fray, they will never escape. I've stressed the importance to him, that if he wants to make his helicopter according to the instructions, he must keep those pieces separate. But hey, if he wants to mix it up, that's his choice.

I'm excited to see where the Lego era takes us.

Gosh, kids are fun. And this is such a fun age!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer break and inital thoughts on this fall

As I mentioned last post, we're going to pause My Father's World kindergarten for two months this summer and take a little break.

Part of it has to do with where I see Johnny's kindergarten year this fall going. Come August when the public school kids are back in the classrooms, I'll call Johnny a kindergartner.

In my state, he's still young enough that he doesn't legally need to do formal schooling (that will come next year at 1st grade, when he's 6 turning 7).

We will still do some structured learning, and I'm working on a plan of what that might look like.

With regard to MFWK, I considered continuing this summer and then starting Heart of Dakota's kindergarten level in the fall. I have a used copy of the teacher's manual and many materials. Recently, I took a closer look at what we'd actually do and I just don't think it's a good fit for J.

Heart of Dakota -- Little Hearts for His Glory (kindergarten) thoughts

HOD initially appealed to me because it's Charlotte Mason-y, and you can also choose your own math, phonics and handwriting programs. I like the freedom of moving forward at my own pace per subject.

But there are some things within that I don't think will be a good fit.

I don't think he'll like the rhymes in motion activities. Any time we do a cutesy song with hand motions, he doesn't really want to participate. Vivienne likes it, but she's 3. Maybe he feels it's too babyish. Bummer.

I'm not excited about what I'm seeing with the science text or activities.

We aren't doing Singapore Math (as far as I know...but probably not) and so we can skip the activities in the teacher's manual.

A lot of the hands-on craft activities, I just felt...meh.

I'm not too sure about the history within. Part of it uses the Bible (which I like) and then it also uses History for Little Pilgrims and another book later on. I need to give these a closer look. It might indeed be a good intro to history at an age-appropriate level.

So, what *would* I use HOD for, if I moved ahead with it? Well maybe the Bible memory verses and associated activities, maybe the history, maybe the Thomas Burgess read-alouds. I've heard mixed reactions on the Burgess stories, so we'll just have to give it a shot to see how we like it.

I'm not sure if those minimal things would be worth using the guide at all. Again, I just need to take a closer look at the materials. Perhaps I'll use part of the guide, or perhaps doing our own thing will give us some more freedom.

Back to MFWK...

So since I'm underwhelmed with HOD for kindergarten, now I need to step back and figure out how we can use MFWK.

Waaay back, I considered using MFWK for his entire K year, rather than starting ahead of it like we did. I'm glad we did start it because I can see more clearly how the program works and what I like and don't like.

I like:

- The unit themes. Just right for this age. Fun to explore different aspects of God's creation through books, crafts, activities, etc.
- The Bible lessons are kind of different. They're linked to the week's unit theme, so rather than reading through the Bible, it is kind of a topical lesson instead. This is a pro and a con. I do think the lessons are very well suited for this age.

We aren't using:

- The phonics. I should have just started this program back when Johnny was showing an interest in learning initial blends. But since I waited, he is way past all of the phonics in this level. The creators of the program say you can indeed use it for readers, but it would have been a better bang for our buck if we used those phonics activities and lessons, I think. Oh well. Now I know for my daughters.

- Up until this unit, We did the math and handwriting worksheets. They are fine. But perhaps I want to just save them for Vivienne.

- We aren't using several worksheets each unit, involving picture cards, a drawing activity and I think one other thing.

- We aren't using the Cuisinaire rods activities, though I should pull them out again to see if Johnny has an interest.

How we can use MFWK this fall:

I still really enjoy the unit themes, though I wonder if we'll get tired of it mid-program. There are a few weeks of farm animals and a few weeks of wild animals. I might smush those together.

I enjoy the Bible lessons and discussions that come with.

Some of the hands-on science and craft activities are fun and engaging.

We have 19 units of MFWK left, and less if I combine.

I can perhaps follow the pace of roughly one per week starting this fall, and we'll wrap up in winter/early spring. Or I can stretch it to roughly 1.5-2 weeks per unit to cover August - May or June. I think I'll just have to decide later on.

Right now, I'm thinking through my goals for Johnny's kindergarten year. That's a separate post. Once I really nail that down, I think it would be more appropriate to then figure out how curriculum can fit those needs, rather than the other way 'round.

This summer ...

I hope to make regular trips to the library and participate in the summer reading program. There's a class or activity roughly each week or more frequently and I'd like to attend plenty of those.

I hope to make several visits to the Children's Museum and Zoo, both of which we have memberships. Also, other museums, parks, berry farms, etc.

Playing outdoors as much as possible, especially in the mornings before the heat of the day. Johnny needs kicked outside sometimes, and will complain that it's too hot, too windy, too cold, too whatever. No. You are a kid. You need to play outside!

I plan to continue having Johnny read aloud, again as part of the summer reading program and also just for fun. He's been asking for more Bob Books and we'll use those, and regular books, too. I do think I'll continue moving through All About Reading level 1. Just as it feels right; no schedule.

I'm looking forward to these summer days! I know that we could just keep on going, or perhaps with just a short break. But I feel like you're only 5 during the summer oh I dunno. ONCE. Time to enjoy. It's not like you can stop a kid from learning :).

MFWK unit 7 - Us

We started Unit 7 of My Father's World kindergarten on May 29.

This unit, we are learning about "us" and more specifically, our five senses.

Day 1 - Touch

We did a quick activity where I grabbed two cloth bags (any opaque container would work), two bandanas and quickly put an assortment of objects inside each bag. I blindfolded J & V and gave them a bag. They reached in and took out a thing at a time and tried to describe the texture and name the object.


We read a few library books on senses and specifically touch. While J and I were reading on the couch, Vivie was set up at the table playing with a container of beans and some counting bears.

Amelia was having a tough morning. Maybe more teeth coming? Dunno. She played on the floor for a little while, but it was clear she needed a nap. So I wrapped her in my Storch and let J and V watch the Magic School Bus "smell" episode.

We rounded out the rest of the days, devoting one day per sense. Both Johnny and Vivie enjoyed being blindfolded to guess sounds, scents, things they were touching. Later today, we'll do some taste-testing.

For this unit, we read a lot of library books as usual. Some people struggle with making it to the library often enough to grab enough books on each unit. So far, it has been going well for us. I typically reserve some titles ahead of time and they're all ready for me on the hold shelf. If I have time, I browse for more. My library has a 3-week lending period, so I could get books for up to 3 units at a time if I was really pressed, and renew whatever I could as needed.

We also watched a few relevant episodes on the Magic School Bus. My kids love that series. It's available on Netflix streaming right now.

I skipped the worksheets this week. Lately, I've only been having Johnny do the math and handwriting sheet. I'm going to have to evaluate whether I want him to keep on doing the MFWK sheets or something else.

We've been doing MFWK ever since the beginning of March, minus a week when we were on vacation in April and a few days here and there. It has been going well, but I'm ready for a break.

More on that to come.

Rolling cart for the library!

What in the world? Why are my photos not rotating properly? This was fine in the photo program I used to resize. Sorry. Just turn your head.

EEE! I have been wanting a crate-on-wheels for awhile, and finally got one. I bought it online at Rainbow Resource, but after my purchase I have also spotted them at office supply stores and craft stores.

I hope it lasts a long time. And I hope it hauls a metric ton of books before it conks out on me.

Children's books can be large and heavy. I used to take a few tote bags, but come on. I GOT THREE KIDZ.

Last week during the preschool story hour, I got to test out my new crate.

It folds up compactly, and has a long, telescoping handle. Comes with some stabilizer bar things for the sides.

It worked well, and we've used it for a second trip already.

And bonus? It fits in a nook in my laundry room. So now, all of our library books can live in that crate instead of in tote bags.

<3 libraries.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I just bought All About Reading level 3 for 40% off

Evaluating my current phonics supplements and curriculum in the last post helped me to see that we really like All About Reading. A lot. My biggest hangup with the program is the price, and even then if I spread it out for 3 children and sell the materials after we're's not a big investment at all.

Because come on. Learning how to read is kind of important. Just a little. Sorta.

So when I saw that Mardel is offering a 40% off coupon good for one regular-priced item (**TODAY ONLY!**), I had hoped I could snatch up AAR level 2. Nope, it's sold out.

But they had level 3! Regularly $119, I got it with free shipping for $71ish.

What a deal.

So ah...I think that means we will be sticking with AAR throughout. Heh.

I'll need to watch for a sale from this site or others for level 2, though we still have plenty of time. I don't expect Johnny to get to level 3 for awhile yet. A few years, even. But still, 40% off is worth it, to me.

Go to Mardel to see if there's anything you could use for your kids. Wheee!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How 6 phonics programs present first lessons (Bob Books, 100EZ, All About Reading, Happy Phonics, Phonics Pathways, Reading Pathways)

August 2016 Edit: When I have time, I need to add Logic of English Foundations to the mix. I am using it with my middle kid and so far I love it! I tried AAR Pre-Reading with my middle kid, and it was a no-go. She thought it was too babyish, and I thought it was a waste of time and money. My firstborn used All About Reading levels 1-3, though we modified it somewhat. He is now on level 2 of All About Spelling and a fluent reader.

When comparing phonics programs, I think it's sometimes helpful to see how different programs start out. I want to be respectful of copyright laws, of course, so I'm mostly pulling these images from samples the publisher has made freely available online. That's ok, yah? I hope.

I chose titles that I own. I bought all of them second-hand except for AAR. Links to Amazon are affiliate. 

We are midway through All About Reading level 1 and that's the program we've used the most. Johnny read Set 1 of Bob Books. We've done a few games from Happy Phonics and plan to do more. Everything else, I've only looked over or done on a limited basis.

Here's samples from Bob Books, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, All About Reading level 1, Phonics Pathways, Reading Pathways, and Happy Phonics.

If any of these grab your interest, see if you can find them at your library, borrow on inter-library loan, or from a friend before purchasing. Preview more pages on Amazon or on the book's websites for more samples.

Bob Books set 1: $9 - 10 per set typically. I bought mine for $0.99/set on Kindle.

The Bob Books start out quite basic, as you'd imagine, and teach the sounds for /m/, /a/ (short), /t/, and /s/ in the first book.

As you can see from the preview on Amazon, (spoiler alert!) the first title in the book has Mat and Sam sitting. A lot. Ha!

Here's how one mom used the book to create six lessons for her child at Teaching Reading with Bob Books
Johnny has asked to read some more, so that's positive. I'm treating them as reinforcement of what he's learned.

He read the 12 books in Set 1 over the course of three days, since it was reviewing words he already knew. I'm not sure how a new reader would perceive the books. Perhaps they'd be excited they read a book. Ask me again in a few years when it's Vivie's turn.

Because really, with that first book and the intro of 4 sounds, they are reading words right away. That is cool!

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons $12

This book starts with: /m/, /s/

The first lesson includes some writing, which you could probably skip if you wanted. Here's the first lesson:

In the intro, the author explains why it uses "funny letters" and to some I guess it makes sense, given how irregular English can be.

It makes me twitchy. I can't do it. Here's a screen shot of a later lesson. I think 40? Behold:

Some people love this program and see great results, but I just couldn't stand the look of it to get past that first lesson. It seems like you have to teach your child using their specific method, but it doesn't translate right away to real books. I'm not sure how well the method works to teach spelling.

There's a ton of text on each page, even if the child isn't supposed to be reading it. I can see how that could be overwhelming for a kid. Perhaps the parent could use the book as a guide, along with a whiteboard or letter magnets or something for the child to manipulate, rather than looking directly at the book and its funky letters.

Today, I opened to a random page maybe 1/4th of the way through and asked Johnny to read it. He could read two selections and didn't seem to be too thrown by the style. I asked if he wanted to use this book for his reading lessons.

"No, thank you."

It's inexpensive, I'll give it that.

Phonics Pathways 9th edition $19 for 9th or 10th edition

I don't have the latest edition, but perhaps the 9th isn't too far off? View excerpts of the 10th edition here.

Phonics Pathways begins with the five short vowel sounds. I appreciate that it depicts the letter "a" in two fonts: the way often seen in typography and the way it is typically written.

There are simple games sprinkled throughout for variety and reinforcement of concepts. You just photocopy and cut as necessary.

Next up, the /s/ sound followed by the /m/ sound, and then blending /ma/ /me/ /mi/ /mo/ /mu/:

Visually to me, that page is a lot easier to handle. Not a ton of text, and a large font. I could do without the "inspirational" quotes on nearly every page.

The child wouldn't be able to read it in early lessons and it's just visual clutter. Plus, come on: "Shoot for the moon, if you miss, you'll eventually land among the stars!"?! Gag.

A teaching tip on page 37 asks that the child finish lessons through page 49 before trying to read real books. This takes us through most, if not all, consonant sounds with short vowels following. A child would be reading CVC words at this point. The first CVC word is introduced just a few lessons in. Adding Bob Books would work ahead of page 49.

Reading Pathways $19

Reading Pathways is a book written by the author of Phonics Pathways. It can be used with any phonics program. The intro states that it is written in the same sequence as Phonics Pathways and can be used in accompaniment. It's designed for extra practice and reinforcement; not for new instruction.

The book uses "reading pyramids" like so:

Note the sample page is page 3. A child will need to have some experience with blending and CVC reading before jumping into this book. Johnny saw this book and wondered if we were going to use it for the reading lesson. I sorta teased him and said I thought this book was a little too hard for him, and he was all, "I'll show you, Mama!" and read through this pyramid and the next page. Hehe.

I've seen the pyramid approach in the All About Reading fluency pages, but they aren't shaped like pyramids. More like a right triangle.

These pyramids are helpful for left-right tracking, eyeball-strengthening and fluency-building. I like it.
If you are intrigued by Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways, I'd recommend this pdf by the author called Guide to Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways. In it, the author explains more of the methodology with each book, and matches up page numbers if you were to use both in conjunction. 

Happy Phonics $39-55

The gist of Happy Phonics is to use simple games to instruct or reinforce reading. Though not required, you can use it alongside Explode the Code workbooks. The author revised her program to go in ETC order.

I bought Happy Phonics at a used curriculum sale for $20. Regularly $55 new (or $39 for an e-version, but you'd need to print on card stock for many games), it was a deal especially since the components were already cut out and organized for me, and in some cases laminated. I'm sure it took a long time for that mama! There are a lot of games and activities.

To the left is the Flippin' Fun activity. Consonants, vowels, and more consonants you can flip to make words and non-words for practice. To the right is the Reading House activity. There's a brad holding a circle of endings (pictured is -at). You slide a letter strip up the chimney through the house and your child reads the words. Mat, cat, fat, hat, etc. Some endings get quite complex as you progress through the program.

Here, Johnny is playing the Castle Game. The game board consists of vowels. The cards are all pictures. He is to say the picture and determine the vowel used in the word. He moves his dime along the board to the next correct vowel. So if he sees a card with a pig on it, he'd move his token to the "i." It's actually a two-person game but he played it by himself at that moment.

In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with all the Happy Phonics materials. There are so many games! I have them stored in individual zip bags, sorted by game and labeled with a sharpie. The previous owner stored everything in a flat plastic scrapbooking file thing. I moved it to a Sterilite file storage box with a top lid and so far, so good.

If I was starting with a new set, I might just cut and organize games by each section rather than do the entire set at once.

I'm using some of the intro-level games with Vivienne (age 3 years, 5 months). She's learning capital and lowercase letters by name and in some cases sound.

All About Reading level 1 $99 plus manipulative components

This curriculum includes a teacher's guide, student workbook, three readers, flashcards and letter tiles. The links go to the pdf samples.

There's a pre-reading level, which we skipped for Johnny.

Lesson 1 starts with /m/, /s/, /p/, /a/ sounds.

Please view the teacher's manual sample for the entire first lesson. I'll share part of it here:

We start with the sounds of the four letters above (short /a/ only). The lessons are scripted for the teacher's ease.

We're blending right away to read a word: map. Use the letter tiles or flash cards to form the word.

Next, we change the word a letter at a time and the child reads those words. A quick intro of consonants and vowels. Time for a worksheet:

We ask/show the child which words are names and which words rhyme. They cut and paste the words to the matching picture.

Some practice reading three words on flashcards, and the lesson concludes with you reading aloud to your child from a storybook. 

The worksheets are fun. I give J the option to cut and tape/paste words like that, or just write them below, if it's a matching sort of activity. 

As you can see in another sample from lesson 2, one of the sheets involves making ice cream cones and scoops out of rhyming words:

You get some fine motor skills practice with cutting and coloring, if you choose.

Here's the first fluency practice page from lesson 3:

Visually, I think this page is a bit overwhelming at first. There's more text on the page than a child at this stage of reading would typically see on a page in a book. So, we cover the page with a blank sheet and only read what's exposed, if Johnny seems flustered. 

The fluency pages are important. Don't skip.

Be sure to check out the sample stories in the reader (there are 3 readers in level 1). They're black and white illustrations and though they aren't actual literature, they're reasonably entertaining without seeming too forced to fit the words in the story.

AAR1 has some word flipper pages similar to the one pictured above with Happy Phonics.

Though expensive, this program gets the child reading right away and engages several learning styles. The readers are a wonderful part of the program.

In sum:

I'm a curriculum sampler. I can't help it. You do not need all of these programs! I do like having a few ways to teach/reinforce concepts, so I'm going to hang onto all but Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Probably going to donate it to my library, since it doesn't have a copy.

If the price doesn't scare you, I'd say just go for AAR. 

My Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways books were purchased for $14 shipped on eBay. I received them last week so I haven't had much opportunity to use them. So far, I like what I see from both. Start with PP and add RP if needed. But, if they're sold as a bundle for a deal, get 'em. Some negative reviews I've seen complain about the dry, boring aspect of it. If you keep lessons short and maybe move to letter titles or a whiteboard on occasion, that could help.

I want to do more with Happy Phonics. Johnny really enjoys these games. If your style is more "who needs a curriculum, anyway?" you may like HP. Or, if your child is reluctant to read with other methods, you may engage him with this.

Oh, and Bob Books. See if your library has some to borrow. Your child may love or loathe them. If you're buying full price, I'd say just do a set or two at a time. Consult the Bob Books website for recommended order.

There are a lot of other programs out there that may be a better fit for you. I hope this post was more helpful than overwhelming. Let me know what questions you have. Just remember, I'm no expert.