Wednesday, April 6, 2011

curriculum review: math

When you enter the homeschooling arena, you quickly realize the overwhelming amount of material available to you. This is the first in a series of reviews for curriculum I've used for the first two years of my homeschooling experience. I have a daughter in second grade and son in kindergarten. I hope these notes will help you as you plan for your school year.

I've researched and readjusted our math curriculum many times this year in the quest to find a good fit for my children). I'm quickly learning that there is probably not a perfect fit and that any math curriculum will need to be supplemented in some way to suit the needs of your child. Here's an overview of what we used with details of my findings listed in the same order below:
  • Shiller Math Kit 1
  • Singapore Math
  • Dorling Kindersley 

Shiller Math
Consider using if: you know your children likes manipulating items to understand a concept, budget is not an issue, you have the time and desire to do an entire math lesson daily with your child side-by-side

Last year, which was our first foray into homeschooling, I purchased the Shiller Math Kit for ages 4-8. Though it was expensive, when I priced it out over the 3-4 years I expected to use it, it came out comparable to other strong math programs. (In reality, I believe this is closer to a 2-year program if you spend 20-30 minutes, 5 days per week on math). I also anticipated being able to use it for all four of our children since it is Montessori-based and takes in different learning styles. And I liked the idea of using manipulatives to bring the theory of math into the real world.

It worked well enough for us last year, but I found myself repeatedly frustrated with it this year. Perhaps because it seemed to have a wide spiral (it took awhile to reintroduce previously taught concepts), did not have enough practice to reinforce learned concepts and because this program is heavily teacher dependent - a challenge when you are trying to teach more than one child. The other son did not like the program - he seemed frustrated by the use of the manipulatives and preferred using pencil on paper. Go figure!

I abandoned this program half way through this year - we were almost finished with it and I wanted to find a program for my daughter to work on more independently from me. However, I will try this again with our other two boys as it does have valuable ways to introduce pie-in-the-sky math concepts to little ones.

Singapore Math
Consider using if: your child quickly grasps math concepts, prefers learning pencil-to-paper style, you want an accelerated math program

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