May 12, 2010

a - z: what worked for us


After 19 years of homeschooling, 24 if you count the "overlapping" years with both kids, my tenure as a homeschool parent/teacher is over. What do I regret? Hmmm . . . not making Kacey take piano lessons longer, and not making Kevin do LOTS more handwriting practice. :o) If I had to start over, would I do it again? IN A HEARTBEAT. No question. And, really, it didn't have so much to do with the quality of their education as it did the time spent together. I like my kids. I'm weird that way.

Inspired today by the blog of my little green friend, Sara, I put together my "A to Z" list of what I consider the best of the best. Some of these items worked for daughter-face, some worked for the boy, some worked for both, and a couple just worked for me!

So here goes:

A - Authors. It's a rummy-style card game that we played nearly every day from the time Kacey was old enough to read until fairly recently. Not only does it familiarize you with 13 authors and 52 great pieces of literature, it's just fun to play.

B - Bible Story Books - specifically The Beginner's Bible for preschoolers and Egermeier's for elementary students. We read out of these almost every night. And Bible Bowl worked for us - not so much the competition or the rote memorization - but the reading of the text together over and over and over again which led to familiarization, discussion and more understanding.

C - Critical Thinking Company workbooks. Mindbenders, Editor-in-Chief, Reading Detective, etc. Everything from this company is quality, though you definitely pay for it.

D - The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Just a good ol' reference tool for mom.

E - Explode the Code. Our favorite phonics curriculum, outside of the plastic magnetic letters on the refrigerator!
F - The Fallacy Detective helped Kevin brush up on his logic skills, though in all fairness, he says they didn't take the process far enough.
G - GeoSafari. Hands down the best educational tool we ever bought. I don't even know if they still make this puppy or not, as we bought ours in 1992 just before most people had home computers. With the help of this electronic gadget, at the ages of 6 and 29, Kacey and I spent hours and hours learning world geography and having fun!
H - Hirsch, E.D. and his whole "What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know" series. I checked these out of the library faithfully, and we went through the appropriate one cover-to-cover every school year. GREAT supplemental books.
I - Ingalls, Laura and The Little House on the Prairie Series. If you know me, you know these are like the bread of my reading diet. I have read the entire series (always aloud) at least 7 times. We LOVE them and everything about them.
J - Jump Start! The Jump Start cds/dvds were Kevin's NUMBER ONE favorite thing. They were great fun to play on the computer and he didn't even seem to care that he was learning!

K - Keyboarding. We used Mavis Beacon's Typing, but I don't think it matters WHAT you use, just so your kids learn to type as soon as their motor skills are ready. We did this in middle school with Kacey, but with advancing technology, Kevin mastered it in the 5th grade.
L - Language from A Beka. I liked some of A Beka's curriculum, but I really LOVED their language curriculum. It pulls "double duty" by practicing grammar and punctuation skills with famous quotes, historical documents, and literary passages.
M - Market House Theater! (Our local community theater) Memorization, socialization, public speaking, etc. What's not to love? Between the two kids, I think we did at least 12 productions, 15 if you count backstage work running lights and sound. Along with MHT, I would have to say that we enjoyed aspects of all our extra-curriculars: softball, scouts, gymnastics, music lessons, baseball, etc. Made for well-rounded kids.
N - Bill Nye the Science Guy. LOVED his books, which may freak out some of my fundamentalist friends because of his evolutionary stance, but COME ON, this guy explains Bernoulli's Principle and The Four Fundamental Forces in a way even I could understand! Plus he gives experiments to do throughout his books (experiments that ACTUALLY work). As a side note, I NEVER found a science curriculum I liked. Science is meant to be experienced, not read.
O - Our American Heritage. The only A Beka history book I liked, and this one I loved. It is a 3rd grade level book of biographies. Well worth reading.
P - Princeton Review's Everything: Standard Deviants, S.A.T. prep courses, etc. Mostly Kacey loved the "Smart" series - Math Smart, Word Smart, Writing Smart. The math book teaches concepts in creative story form. A MAJOR plus for those of us who proudly say, "I'm an English major - you do the math!"
Q - Brain Quest. Just basic "trivia" cards for all age groups. Fun to play in the car, or anytime you need a "fill in" activity.
R - Rummy Roots. Another card game that teaches Latin and Greek roots by matching them up with their English counterparts. A great foundation before foreign language, which leads me to . . .
S - Spanish via Rosetta Stone. The priciest of all our curriculum purchases, but the best foreign-language program on the market, and well worth the money.
T - Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. One of my best and most-used "mommy books". I HIGHLY recommend every parent have one, or at least check it out at the library to make your own reading lists.
U - US, A History of. THE BEST U.S. History books on the market, bar none. Love them. Read these aloud to the kids when they were 5th graders, then they read them again to themselves as 9th/10th graders. These are not Christian-based because I don't like the extreme-right-bias in Christian history books, but they are one of my favorite homeschool items. Another sidebar: The book by E. H. Gombrich called "A Little History of the World" is one I purchased a couple of years ago. Kevin refers to this enthusiastically as "a GREAT history book!" That doesn't happen often.
V - Volunteering. It's been a big part of our homeschooling, from working Afterschool Programs to Community Theater to Camps for Special Needs Kids, part of the blessing in a homeschool schedule is having the time to give something back.
W - Wordly Wise. Vocabulary and spelling. Simple, effective, and more fun than the average workbook.
X - saXon math. From 2nd through 6th grade, we LOVED Saxon math. Not so much the pre-algebra, geometry, trig stuff, but the elementary books are outstanding even if they are a bit on the pricey side.
Y - Yukon Trail (Amazon Trail, Oregon Trail, Africa Trail). CD games for the computers that are fun as well as semi-educational.
Z - Zoo. . . and any other field trip. We loved field trips. The cracker/cookie factory, the TV station, HerpFest, the dairy farm, Dippin' Dots, the zoo, Science Days, Museums, you name it, we loved it, and tried to do as much of it as possible. Hands-on beats a classroom any day of the week.

There you go. 20 years' worth of what worked for us.

However you choose to educate, may God bless you

as you grow your children into responsible, compassionate, intelligent adults.



E.T.'s Mom said...

Wow, this is amazing. Thank you.

Sara said...

I need letter D. I was always labeled as Culturally Illiterate in college.

Kacey Leigh said...

I can vouch for the fact that I loved all of these items/books/events except for Saxon Math. Torture. Pure torture.

But that's coming from somebody who asks my husband to tell me what time it is just because I don't like to look at the numbers. They make my head hurt.

Also, can I borrow the Rosetta Stone Spanish program???? You didn't have that when I was still at home!!!

~Stephanie said...

Everybody wants to borrow the Rosetta Spanish, and for the LIFE of me, I don't know where it is! I'm sure I did not sell it, but I feel like I may have loaned it to someone. . . who? Anyone? Anyone?

janjanmom said...

I would LOVE to borrow that Authors game if you still have it. What a painless way to learn such a boring topic.

mnpolutta said...

Congratulations! I'm not finished homeschooling yet, but I would do it again in a heartbeat, too. I love being with my kids. I'm sure it is a bittersweet time for you, Stephanie. It is great that you have developed such a good relationship with your kids. I see that as being one of the biggest blessings of this journey.

Kacey Leigh said...

I have a problem...did Janice really just say that authors and literature are boring???

Yikes. That makes my heart sad.