It’s the end of my son’s Kindergarten year so I thought it would be a great time for a year-end review of the curriculum we used this year. We took this past week off from school and this week we have officially transitioned to “summer school.” During summer school, my son will still do dictation/spelling (4 sentences from Spelling Plus dictation), a phonics page from MCP Plaid Phonics, and a math lesson from CLE.
So without further ado, below is a quick review of most of the curriculum we used this year. If you are looking for something specific, here is a quick list of what is covered: Writing With Ease 1, First Language Lessons 1, 6 Trait Writing Level 1, Rod & Staff Math Level 2 (vs. CLE), MCP Plaid Phonics B, All About Spelling 1 & 2, Spelling Plus Critical Thinking Activities by Dale Seymour Publications , Beginning Geography by Evan Moore.
Writing With Ease 1
Writing With Ease is a great writing/reading comprehension curriculum for young children. The writer of Writing With Ease believes that children generally get a bad start to writing because they are asked to combine the physical act of writing with the mental act of forming thoughts before they are ready to do so.
The curriculum is divided into weeks, and each week into 4 days. Generally, the work for the 4 days is about the same novel and consists of two days of copywork and two days of narrations. At the end of the passage, the student is asked “What is one thing you remember about the passage?” On many of the days, the parent writes for the child. On some of the days, the parent writes for the children and then the student has to copy it.
All in all, I really enjoyed this curriculum and think it helped my son with the physical act of writing (copywork), oral reading comprehension (listening to the story and then answering questions) and forming thoughts (the narration.)
The drawback to the program is that, at least for WWE 1, it really lacks variety in the type of assignment. Every week is exactly the same. We really started to get tired of it after a while, but my son was really used to it and still wanted to do it almost everyday, despite being tired of it and not trying his best. It became kind of a love-hate relationship.
We are definitely going to get Writing With Ease 2 (WWE 2), however, I am going to use it more as a supplement than a core curriculum. (And introduce it as such so my son doesn’t get the idea that it should be an everyday thing.) Also, I will probably spread WWE 2, as a supplement over two or even three years. I do highly recommend the program, just know that the lessons can get monotonous.
First Language Lessons 1
This curriculum is an introductory grammar course with lessons mostly done orally. There is some copywork and other written work, but we often skipped it because it was redundant with Writing With Ease. In hindsight, this curriculum did not work for us. I mean, my son understands (with some prompting), the difference between a common noun and proper noun, nouns in general, adjectives, verbs, and even pronouns. However, it was very painful getting there! My son has severe ADHD (didn’t know at the time) and the oral scripted lessons without a worksheet to ground him and give him something to look at were painful. He could have learned the same things through songs or a game, or something like that.
The one thing I loved about the curriculum was the poetry memory work. I had no idea my son could memorize poems, but I discovered he has a great ability to do so. He can read a poem once or twice a day out loud and have it memorized by the end of the week. (I started giving him my own poetry memory work after we finished FLL.)
FLL does have several lessons that I feel don’t belong in the book, such as learning days of the week and months. I would feel most children ready for FLL would already know these things.
In conclusion, I recommend this program if it fits your children’s learning style!
(As a side note, next year we are trying out Classical Writing Primer which seems to be a combination of WWE and FLL plus some other things.)
6 Trait Writing 1
6 Trait Writing is more of a traditional writing curriculum that might be used in public school. Honestly, I was skeptical of the WWE method at one point and wanted to see how my son would do with a regular curriculum. In hindsight, we probably could have skipped it as it was mostly busy work and my son didn’t learn very much from it. The lessons were not geared towards a gifted child who sees things a bit differently and/or complicates things.
6 Trait Writing did not bring out my son’s best writing. I have seen him write much better using WWE or in his free time for fun. I definitely noticed that mixing the physical act of writing made it harder for him to form thoughts, so sometimes I wrote for him.
On a practical note, the workbook was very cumbersome to manage since it was printed on both sides, and I would have to flip back to ripped out/completed pages to find teacher instructions. The layout was not very suited to homeschool use and definitely geared towards public school use (i.e. where the teacher is copying for many students.)
The one thing I liked about the program is that it had a social thinking aspect that I think benefitted my son. For example, thinking about “feeling words” and how people “feel” when certain things happen. We probably could get this through other means though.
Even though we benefitted little from the curriculum, my son really enjoyed doing the pages and I would have to pull the book away from him sometimes so we could move onto other projects. I think he just enjoyed how easy the worksheets were (they did get harder towards the end.)
Overall, I would not recommend this program.
Rod & Staff Math 2 (vs. CLE 2)
I have talked about Rod & Staff math a lot on this blog and I still really like it, but things started to break down for us a bit in Level 2. There were way too many two and three digit column addition and subtraction problems in the lessons and in general, the lessons did not have enough variety and my son started really dreading math. Switching math programs immediately was one of the first things I did when we got his ADHD diagnosis. The program just wasn’t working for him. We have since switched to CLE 2, book 4 and things are going great so far! He loves the checklist at the beginning that tells us what we need to do. He used to really not like flash card time (and we didn’t do it often) but now he loves it because the checklist says to do it! And he is really proud of himself when he finishes all of the flash cards in under 5 minutes. He is even taking to the speed drills and really improving in his math facts. CLE does seem like a bit more work to be honest, but he likes it better and doesn’t get too bored at any one question type. Despite the belief that Rod & Staff is behind and CLE is ahead, my son easily transitioned to Book 4 of CLE from being halfway through with Rod & Staff Level 2. (However, I did supplement Rod & Staff quite a bit. I will not need any more supplements with CLE!)
MCP Plaid Phonics B
MCP Plaid Phonics is a traditional workbook and gets the job done. I think doing the phonics worksheets regularly has helped my son to be a natural speller. When we took a couple months off of the book, his spelling started to slip. He seems to learn spelling more from memory of the words and extrapolating his own rules through analyzing words/following patterns. A phonics workbook definitely supports this. We are using Book C now, and then we will probably stop with the phonics worksheets unless my son could benefit from the review.
All About Spelling 1 & 2
We did Levels 1 and 2 this year. The hardest part about this program, for my son at least, was memorizing the rules – the spelling words were the easy part. I stuck with the program thinking that someday knowing these rules would help him spell harder words, but I think the rules just confused him and then left his memory. When he did memorize the rules, he wouldn’t stop to think about how to apply them before spelling a word. Its just not how his brain works.
About halfway through Level 2, I stopped teaching the rules entirely and just did the spelling lists. He knew almost all of the words anyway.
Also, we never used the tiles – I just wrote on paper. We stopped segmenting words from the very beginning. We never really used the AAS spelling system the way it was supposed to be used. I have heard it said that AAS is mostly for the struggling speller and overkill for the intuitive speller. I would have to agree. We are now using Spelling Plus!
To use Spelling Plus as a homeschooler, you really only need the Dictation book. The main spelling book isn’t really needed, though its does have some interesting information in it. The Homonym book is also optional, however, I am finding it useful when my son misspells a specific homonym in the dictations. When that happens, I give him the homonym worksheet the next day in place of his usual phonics worksheets.
With that said, Spelling Plus is really just a spelling list with a sort of “spiral” set of dictation sentences for each list. Since we are in summer school, I am giving my son dictation sentences where he knows most of the words, and since we are also focusing on proper capitalization, etc. If and when we do hit a spot where there are words he needs to study (we are at the beginning of the second grade list now.) we probably won’t do spelling practice and dictation on the same day since that would be too much for 1st grade!
We will keep doing this program for a while, but at some point, I want to switch to Spelling Power. One thing I don’t like about Spelling Plus is that it only teaches the most commonly used words in English writing, which means more challenging vocabulary is left out. As my son gets older we will probably do spelling/vocabulary and dictation separately so he can also learn more challenging words.
Critical Thinking Activities by Dale Seymour Publications
This is a very expensive workbook at around $22, but its worth every penny. It is filled with so many fun and challenging critical thinking activities for children. The book is 1/3 pattern challenges, 1/3 visual challenges, and 1/3 logical challenges. There is just so much in this book that we have worked on it for a while, set it aside, worked on it for a while, set it aside and we are still not done. There are a few activities that my son is a bit young for, but for the most part it is just such a wonderful book, and considering the quality content, a great deal!
Beginning Geography by Evan Moore
We loved the first 1/3 of this book, which was just focused on map skills, but the rest of the workbook seemed more suited to classroom use. Instead of purchasing Beginning Geography, I would recommend Map Skills by Teacher Created Resources. I just purchased Level 2 and it looks like everything we liked about Beginning Geography without the stuff we didn’t. It was also much cheaper!