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!

When a schedule isn’t working…

calendar-151591_960_720So my son and I have been doing the same homeschool schedule since around September.  It seemed to be really working for us and I LOVE routine!  I could have kept this routine for a really long time!  But it occurred to me today…perhaps his reluctance and “bad attitude” at the beginning of school this week isn’t just him being “lazy” and “difficult.” Perhaps the schedule is just no longer working for him for valid reasons!

Here is what we were doing:

Breakfast, Brush Teeth, Morning Prayers, Short Play Time, School Routine

School consisted of:  short prayer, My son writing date on white board, Reading at least one Saint life from Prologue of Ohrid, Bible memory verse, Reading, Phonics, Break, Math.

I really liked the idea of putting our spiritual life first and I think we still should!  With my son’s particular personality, however, I have noticed that by the time we get to reading, phonics, and math he is already tired from the first activities because they seem to require a different kind of focus that is harder for him.

I really liked the idea of teaching my son discipline (doing something daily even though it isn’t “fun”) and writing the date on the board seemed like a great idea!  And I still think it is….But, and this is another blog post altogether, my son may have different needs than I expected and I may have to change my expectations and our schedule.  When we first started the date thing, he was fascinated by the calendar, learning how the date was configured, learning to write numbers, copying words, there was so much new!  Now he gets it.  Writing the date in Semester 1 paid off and now he seems really unmotivated to continue.  One of the many reasons we are homeschooling is because I do not think my son would do well in a traditional classroom setting, at least not at this age.  So I might as well take advantage of homeschooling and be more accommodating!  So while I really hope I am not surrendering, I decided to replace date writing with handwriting practice in our new McRuffy Press Curriculum.  And I will probably make handwriting last so I can go play piano if he feels like taking a really long time on this though distraction!  We will still learn about the “calendar” but it will be sprinkled in occasionally rather than every day.

So after deciding this, it got me thinking even more.  What could I do so that when our “homeschool” starts my son can be immediately engaged in work, which is actually less tiring for him that trying to be still and listen.  So I brainstormed some ideas, talked them over with my son, and he seems to really like the changes.  We will see how it goes on Monday!

We will now try to do our school prayer right after his morning prayer rule.  We are Orthodox Christians so he now says with me, (or stands with me while I say) the Trisagion Prayer, Our Father, Creed, and Patron Saint Prayer daily.  We will now say the school blessing prayer as part of his morning prayer rule, before I finish the other Morning Prayers.

I also asked my son if I could start reading the Saints Lives during breakfast instead of during school and he really liked this idea!  I also like that we are incorporating this into our daily life now regardless of if we are doing school.

Lastly, I told my son, “We have removed the date portion of school, moved the morning prayer and Saints Live, what do you think we should do about the Bible Verse?”  I honestly wanted an idea!

It was my son’s idea do this during lunch.  I am a little skeptical but we will see how it goes. Instead of doing this in our “classroom,” I am going to print our memory verse large on regular paper and tape it to a cabinet while we read it together.  We usually do two days of repeating the verse three times, while discussing any context, and then a third day of playing a memory game with the verse. ( Like erasing words continually until the verse is memorized.)  Now that I will be typing and printing out the verse, I can cut out the words and have my son arrange and paste them onto construction paper.  He loves to paste!

I hope our new routine works out!  Change is hard!  Not to mention our new math curriculum isn’t working out and I am waiting on the new one to get here, and we are starting a new language arts curriculum from McRuffy Press also on Monday!

Thanks for reading!