Friday, August 31, 2012

Math U See

The past two years have been a whirlwind of math programs. Number 1 (oldest daughter) started out with Abeka in 3rd grade. Since then we've dabbled with Time4Learning, Mcruffy, Shiller, and Bob Jones math programs. That's FIVE different programs in two years.
Abeka gave us a headache.
Time4Learning seemed to have too many holes and Number 1 didn't always understand what they were saying.
Mcruffy was just.....ok. We quickly worked through it but couldn't find anything to love.
Shiller was a neat concept but it just never fully caught on with Number 1. And I had a hard time placing her within the program since we didn't start at the beginning.
Bob Jones is what we used the most of last year. It was close to perfect. We really enjoyed how it focused on one math concept per chapter. I'm not sure if BJ is considered mastery or a loose spiral method. But it's definately closer to mastery than anything else we've used. The one problem I had was not so much with the program but with me. Number 1 was using the 4th grade level. I was able to teach her but I found teaching some of the concepts starting to get difficult even though I knew how to work the problem myself. So I got to thinking. It's only going to get harder. I don't want to let her down and be the reason she fails at math. So I knew it was time to get help. If I stuck with BJU, I would have to get the videos to go with the program. Which majorly ups the price ($350 for DVD's and textbooks or $300 for online and textbooks). Or I had to go with a different program. Either way, I needed something with more parental support.

It came down to two considerations. Teaching Textbooks (computer based) and Math U See (video based). Both are highly praised in the homeschool world. They both had pros and cons for us. In the end, I went with Math U See because of it's mastery approach. TT is spiral. We have been using Math U see all summer long for both girls (10 yr old and 5 yr old).

So what do we think? So far so good. Usually by now we might be getting discontent and running into problems.
I started both girls in Alpha. I know Number 1 would have placed in a higher level had I tested her but I decided to start her at the very beginning. This program is set up very different than others and I didn't want her to miss out on anything. Mr. Demme is a wonderful teacher (according to Number 1, he's the best she's ever had!) and he has so many neat ways of teaching and helping you to remember concepts. I didn't want Number 1 to miss any of that. One way in particular that Math U See has helped her is to quit adding with her fingers. She's really nailed down addition and subtraction facts. We've quickly worked through Alpha in just a couple of months and recently started Beta.
And since I'd really like to have all my kids using the same program, I skipped the Primer book and went straight to Alpha with Number 2 as well. She loves working with the blocks. It's been really good for her too. There's no colors or lively characters on any of the pages. I suspect a very slight attention disorder with Number 2 so it helps to have no fuss straight black and white pages. She can already order place value through hundreds, say and write 1-20, and knows her +0 and +1 addition facts. We are now working on saying and writing 1-100.

I hope we have finally found the math program we will be sticking with all the way through.

A RARE update! A couple of changes. 2012

It sure has been a while since I updated this puppy! I'm looking the new school year in the face and, once again, I'm going to be trying things a little different. Every year seems to need a little fine tuning. Maybe one day we'll have it down pat. But then I wonder if, as the needs of the growing children change, so will the need of the home school?

So what is NOT going to change? We are not going to change our relaxed ways. We are not going to change our eclectic curriculum style (I use a mix of traditional, unit studies, and anything else that floats my boat). We are not going to change schooling year round.

What are we going to change?
1- Introduction of workboxes. I've seen where several other families use this format for organization. The subject bracelets we started off with last year worked great for a few weeks. Then the newness wore off and bracelets started getting lost. It was one of those good ideas in theory. Not so much practically.

I have this in mind:
20 Drawer Mobile Organizer
Each box will contain one subject per child and all the supplies they need. I will probably use color coded stickers so that each child will know which box is their boxes. Or I could just get this version and the boxes are color coded for me. Haven't made up my mind yet. Each school day they can just start at the top and work their way down until all subjects are completed for the day. And I'll store all the teacher's manuals in magazine holders on the bookshelf.

I'm always on a quest for better organization, it seems.

2- Our school year start date. By this, I mean when we will start the next year's curriculum. Yes, we school year around but only with certain subjects (particularly Math). But some subjects, once finished for the year, will wait until the next school year before we start back. We previously started new curriclum on the first Monday of August. We tried to sort of loosely follow the public school schedule. But I find that we do our own anything anyway and breaking at different times than the PS does not seem to affect us negatively.

So we are going to start the new school year in January this year. I love the idea of being able to come back strong after a holiday break. The end of the year is always a little more active for us with field trips and holiday activties. It makes more sense to make the end of the actual year the end of our school year. We would be finishing up curriculum and having a little more spare time for breaks.

So that's the main changes we'll be trying as we enter year number THREE! I can't believe two years of homeschool are behind us. Looking forward to many more years!