As we wrap up our "year" I'm taking a moment to give ratings to the curriculum we tried, toiled with, and loved. Every homeschool family is different. Each child requires different learning sets, so while something didn't work for us (or did), I'm hoping that you will put it through the filter of your child and make the best informed decision for your group. I will give each program two ratings.
1) An teacher perspective on ease of use, implementation, and feel of the overall curriculum
2) How it worked for us, specifically to Izzy
B+ I loved the easy to follow teacher manual, minimal student materials, and guided writing portions. The publishing crafts were crazy, but we adapted to them. Great for the creative writer.
C- Izzy did not do well with this program. It was too creative for her 'black and white' personality. She became too dependent on my help with the guided writing so she wouldn't want to write on her own. The writing prompts were not enjoyed by either of us and required too much adaptation.
Christian Light Education Math 200 (CLE)
A- Easy to use. Everything flows very well. Love the tight spiral. Lessons can get a little long with too much review, but we adapted. Some story problems are a little strange due to the farming/mennonite culture. I like the way they teach math in the classic way, include plenty of real life story problems, and focus on basic facts. The workbooks are great to be able to finish and get a fresh new one every 17 lessons!
A We tried another math program for 2 weeks and went running back to CLE. Izzy loves that can now do Math almost 90% on her own and is thriving in the independence of it. She likes that she can skip problems that I cross off. The tight spiral has built her confidence because she doesn't have time to forget anything.
C I could see how this program would work wonderfully if you started with it from the beginning as it builds on previous skills with phonics and language. However, the stories I find are quite boring and there are not enough basic comprehension questions.
D Bored. Bored her to death. We had to skip much of the workbook because of her lack of phonics education at public school. Just wasn't worth the tears.
All About Spelling
B- This program is very teacher friendly and easy to use. I could see its high benefit for kinesthetic and tactile learners with the magnet pieces. It also breaks the rules down very well- even I learned something! It is a little overwhelming with all the pieces and cumbersome to get through, but adaptable to what your child's needs are. I can't imagine trying to do this program with more than 2 or 3 kids- it would take forever!
B Our goal was that this program would help Izzy build her phonics (reads above grade level but no phonics understanding at the start of the year, thus terrible at sounding out words and spelling) to help with spelling and reading. I can say that this program has for sure met that goal and got us back on track for keeping up with new vocabulary and spelling. However, the words I found were not high use enough for what she was using in her writing, therefore we aren't seeing the application or retention as much as we'd like. Sticking with it at least for the remaining of level 2 and through 3 and then will reevaluate.
C Not memorable. Not growth inducing. Way about grade level mentioned. Adaptable and there are some good bones there. PP has a great selections of books to choose from.
D Ineffective at meeting our reading goals. It did not provide enough meat in return for investment of time in our day. Needed something more encompassing of language arts as a whole. Did not fit us well. Did not like the font or layout of the booklet.
Abeka- Social Studies and Science
A- (on both counts). We utilized just the student books as general readers for some of our science and social studies. They were a great asset. It was nice to allow Izzy to practice "reading to learn" with these readers. While we did supplement and these subjects were not as core to our year as the other subjects, these books fit the bill nicely. They give a nice little taste for each subject. They also helped wet the appetite to learn more about different matters.
A- We used lap books to help us study Bangladesh (in preparation for a missions trip), 1904 (as we read through the Samantha series from American Girl), Addy (to add to throughout the book series). We also did mini versions for penguins and rainbows. We enjoyed the hands on and review aspect. They were a lot of fun to put together. Though, some aspects took a long time and my daughter focused more on filling each line or paper in a template rather than just expressing what she was learning.
Self Written Samantha Reading and Language Arts
I just wanted to mention that after trying CLE and Abeka for reading, we ended up tying together language arts, writing, and reading through the Samantha book series by American girl. We focused on dictation, copy work, vocabulary, adjectives, adverbs, similes, comprehension, and forming predictions or opinions. This worked very well for us and I believe helped give a reason for learning and spawned a desire to write which was needed. It was more 'fun'. It became the highlight of our day, but was very teacher intensive, especially since I had to write everything ahead of time. Hoping that next year's choice of Total Language Plus will bring us similar results without so much time on my part.