Review of McRuffy Press- Language Arts Kindergarten Transition Package

img_1955After my son and I got tired of using a retired version of Steck-Vaughn Phonics Level A that I found for free at a bookstore, I decided to look for the next phonics program for us.  After learning about McRuffy Press from the Cathy Duffy Reviews site, I decided to give it a try.

The McRuffy Press Kindergarten Transition package comes with a Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook, 10 Color Readers, Resource Package and a Handwriting Book for an additional cost.  Overall, I am very pleased with the program and I am glad that I purchased it.  I think it is a perfect supplement to our current homeschool routine for now. It is certainly helping my to son to gain confidence with long vowels.  (We started on lesson 111..for fun we read the first 4 readers and went through the questions.)   While I like the program, I do not think that we will continue with the complete 1st grade program.

It is important to know that to get the most from the program, you should follow the daily lesson schedule which is somewhat scripted. For each week, there is one reader, one or two new phonics rules learned, and everything else pertains to this reader.  The handwriting sentence is related, the spelling words are related, the workbook pages are related.  This is something that, in theory I really like.  The problem is that my son is only 4.5 years old and while he is advancing in other areas, I do not want to start him in spelling so that removes a big portion of what makes the lesson plans hold together and makes the curriculum worth the money.   The McRuffy Press curriculum also move a little slow for where my son is currently at with reading since we are also using Alphaphonics.   My son is naturally good at blending consonants even though he is still getting fluent with long vowels.  So while the lesson plans say to split the book reading in two days, my son reads the book and answers the questions on the first day and one the second day he completes all of the workbook pages.   (He also does a corresponding handwriting page each day).  So its easy for us to turn the 5 day weekly unit curriculum to a 2 or 3 day curriculum…Which makes the program seem more costly.

Also, while I thought I liked the idea of my son practicing handwriting on something that wasn’t too important (since I have baggage with having to copy My Utmost for His Highest to improve my terrible handwriting as a child!), I have realized I may be wrong here.  My son seems to know he is writing something trivial and does not seem to enjoy it as much as he usually enjoys writing.  My son likes to write. He will write throughout the day on his own and ask how to write words.  So I am thinking if I find something he considers special to write and gently correct it, that will work better for him.  I know my son wants to write well, but has good days and bad days, so I only correct his copy-work if a letter is completely illegible, backwards, missing words, missing capitals etc.  I certainly don’t correct for perfection of letter formation at this age!  (And how can I when I still have pretty poor handwriting myself?!)

Below you will find a “pros” and “cons” list which I hope will help inform your own purchasing decision:

Pros

  • The readers are awesome!  The stories are cute, clever and my son really enjoys them.  Simple pictures that inspire some critical thinking.  (i.e.  Did the cake fly into the cage when the ape fell or did the ape bring the cake to the lion?)  There are times when we have to infer what happens “between scenes.” especially to act the story out.  I also love the simple reading comprehension questions in the teacher’s manual, but I think I may have learned how to write my own now.  I would love to buy just the 1st grade readers, but pricing on the McRuffy website really makes it cost effective to buy the whole curriculum rather than to piece meal it.
  • The resource packet includes some games (however, we never used them as the directions were too complicated for where my son is at right now).  It also includes coloring pages and character cut outs for each weekly reader.  When we have finished with the lessons for the week, I give my son the reader to put in his “learning to read” basket, along with the two activity pages and he really enjoys this.  (This and the cute readers are why I am tempted to by the first grade curriculum!)

Cons

  • The rhythm of the program revolves around spelling tests, even in the second half of kindergarten, so if you have an early learner like mine and are not ready to add spelling, the rhythm may not work for you.
  • Having all components tied to together can be very helpful or it can slow down learning in certain areas
  • The cost is great if the all of the components work for you, but may be pricey if it does not.

With all that said, I still think it is a very good curriculum and I would recommend it to anyone that wants short, well-planned lessons, to move at an easy-going pace throughout the school year, with cute readers and fun activities included.

Hope this review helps someone!

My review of Math-U-See Primer

mathusee

I think the main reason I chose to start with Math-U-See for my son’s math curriculum is because I loved the name.  Calling a textbook “primer” makes me think of a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800s.  The second reason is because it has a great reputation online – people seem to really like it or they don’t.  I think I may fall into the “don’t” category.  Before continuing with my review, I wanted to note that I did not buy anything else other than the Primer student workbook.  When we needed manipulatives, I just used things around the house.

Primer is the first workbook available from Math-U-See and is often referred to as the “pre-school,” and sometimes “kindergarten,” workbook by people online.  One issue with that is that it does start out that way but the early lessons go very fast if a child has already mastered counting that they will soon be doing math that is a stretch for a pre-schooler.  My son is four and four months and definitely math inclined.  The book moves so quickly that my son is already working on math problems like 100 + 300 and most recently solving for the unknown!  (As in blank  + 3 = 7) Am I wrong or is this stretching pre-school/kindergarten math?  I would at least think this would be towards the second half of kindergarten so the first half of the book should take more than 6 weeks to get though, right!

They do say on the website that Primer is supposed to be a ‘gentle introduction to math” so mastery is not necessarily the goal.  Perhaps it could have been easier if I had watched some of the videos, but I just did my best to explain things to him.

Here are a few other things I didn’t care for in Math-U-See:

  • It is not a complete curriculum for the year.  There are 30 lessons which at most take a week to get through.  (However, the rest of the year could be spent in review or moving to a new level.)
  • I’d rather have the lessons just be the suggested work for one day, rather than a whole section. It’s motivating to complete one lesson a day, or to be getting through a chapter, and demotivating to spend a week on one lesson.  So I’d rather the lessons be called “Chapters.”
  • I have not seen the other levels, but Primer did not include enough worksheets  for mastery, or near mastery, for some of the harder concepts.  I feel a curriculum should provide enough work for an average student to gain mastery.  Skipping extra problems because you don’t need them is motivating (we did this earlier on in the lessons) but having to get extra problems because the curriculum does not provide enough is demotivating.
  • My son is motivated by math problems written traditionally, which he somehow sees as real math, and is less motivated by how Math-U-See writes some of their problems.
  • The Primer level is marketed for pre-school/kindergarten age but requires A LOT of handwriting in the skip counting sections, so math has become for us number writing practice and math practice.  On one hand this is a good thing, but it has caused some frustration to my son.  Two lessons from now, he will be skip counting 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s at random and having to write out all of the numbers himself.  He is mentally there but I am dreading keeping him motivated to write it all out!  I try to only correct him if he writes a number backwards, completely illegible, or reverses the numbers in a two-digit number, otherwise we wouldn’t get anywhere!
  • I’m not interested in a program that requires watching a DVD for it to work well…on top of that, I don’t own a DVD player.

Good things about Primer:

  • The workbook is already 3 whole punched and the pages are easily taken out.
  • It is a good “introductory” math worbook as far as conceptually understanding addition, skip counting, etc.
  • It has been useful in teaching the one’s place, ten’s place, hundred’s place etc.. My son can read any number up to 999 after using this book (with errors at times of course, but he understands it.)
  • Each lessons ends with one or two fun pages that motivate my son to continue with the standard practice and review pages.

So, with all that said, in nine more lessons of Math-U-See Primer, we will take a week off of math (if my son wants to) and then start with Rod & Staff Level 1.  (We will probably skip the first 10 lessons or so…).  I am also planning to order the first CLE Sunrise and Sonlight Horizons workbooks for supplementation.  We’ll see how this new plan goes!

Hope this review of Math-U-See Primer helps someone!