Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2012-2013 Hits and Misses

I've really enjoyed reading Jessica, Sarah, and Charlotte's hits and misses posts and I thought it would be fun to write my own.  Not that I'm in the same league or of the same caliber of a blogger as they are, but at least it might be a useful record for me down the road.  I think I'm going to focus more on our curricula in this post, and do a separate post with some of our hits and misses in the books we read.

So, without further ado...


MEP Math - I am so pleased with this excellent math curriculum!  As Gregory (1st grade) has worked through the curriculum he's gotten lots and lots of practice with basic addition, but in a way that doesn't feel as stultifying as the endless pages of addition most math programs offer at this level.  Right now he's working on a set of problems where he is practicing basic addition, but instead of just writing the answer, he's having to color one part of the shape a certain color depending on if the answer is greater than or less than 12.  Then another part of the shape has to be colored depending on if the answer is even and odd.  Now isn't that much more interesting and engaging than a straight page of addition problems with maybe a few word problems thrown in at the end?  And I love how it also involves critical thinking and evaluation as well as addition practice.  And the program is free, which certainly is a plus as well.

The main drawback to this program is the amount of hands-on time it takes.  There is definitely more coaching required to help a child walk through the critical thinking aspects of the program.  And to a certain extent, isn't that what I'm here for?  Yes, handing my son a sheet of basic math problems would be a lot simpler, but in the long term I don't think it is nearly as effective.  However - and this is a big however - if I had a few younger kids who all were in MEP as well as some littles, I just don't think I could pull it off.  There's only so many hours in the day, and there's a lot of other work to be done as well!  When my oldest was this age I used Math-U-See, which isn't much more than a glorified "here's your page of math facts to fill out" program, albeit with a nice DVD and manipulatives.  And really, considering I had a toddler, a baby, and we were building a house, there's no way I could have done  anything more.  Did her development in abstract mathematical thought suffer?  Actually, yes, I think it did, and we're doing what we can to try and mitigate this.  Could I have done anything differently a few years ago?  No, really, I couldn't...  so I refuse to beat myself up about it!

Life of Fred - I started using this with my daughter last year when it was becoming quite apparent that Math-U-See was not helping my daughter develop her critical thinking and analytical abilities in math. The transition to Life of Fred was a little challenging because now she did have to think critically and try to figure out the problems, rather than just solving the problem plunked down in front of her...  but thankfully the story of Fred and his various dilemmas was engaging enough to make the struggle less frustrating.  She started with Fractions mid-way the last school year, completed that and is now about half way through Decimals.  She's still happy with it, I'm pleased at how she's improved in her ability to think through problems and all in all it is a great fit for her.  The main reason I didn't start Gregory in the Life of Fred books is the cost - it is still pretty teacher intensive, but there's a lot of books required and that all adds up pretty quickly.

CHC Little Stories for Little Folks - I have been extremely pleased with this reading program.  We liked the little books, the gentle progression of the stories, and the content of the stories.  My first grader finished the program a couple of weeks ago and is reading quite solidly now.  I'm looking forward to starting Nathan on the program next year.  The little book format is so much more interesting and appealing than the big book style program that I used for my daughter (I used 100 Easy Lessons with her, which I would not recommend for several reasons) and the stories were something you actually wanted to help your child read.


Apologia based science lab class - This one is specific to our area, but since it was a miss, and since I'm my main audience, I'll write about it anyway.  I didn't use the Apologia books for the class because I already had our own science planned by the time I heard about the class.  I initially wasn't going to participate because I don't particularly like the Apologia texts and because the class was aimed at families who have trouble doing hands-on science at home.  But when I was assured that the kids could participate in the labs even if they hadn't done the reading, I thought, well, it might be a good opportunity to give them some classroom-type experience as well as a little more hands-on science.  I was also trying to start a natural foods/gardening discussion group, and it seemed like the class time was a good time to also get some people together for this.  So, in the aim of two birds with one stone, I went for it.  Well, the discussion group was a total flop and the classes, in our opinion, were not that impressive.  I should have remembered two things I already knew - it is extremely difficult to start anything in this area, and I have a very high bar for what outside activities are worthwhile for my family.  Lesson learned...  (again)

My Chemistry Program - Now this one is a little embarrassing to admit, but I'll do so anyway.  Over the summer I put together a program for my 5th grade daughter that was supposed to be an introduction to Chemistry and the Periodic Table.  My hands on books were Messing Around with Baking Chemistry and Fizz, Bubble & Flash.  I also used Mystery of the Periodic Table and a biography of Marie Curie called The Story of Madame Curie, as well as a gorgeous app called The Elements.  I used the experiments in Messing Around with Baking Chemistry as a way to introduce lab reports and the scientific method as well.  We started off well, but making the different cakes became repetitive...  especially when we weren't seeing much of a difference between them.  Then we got to the part where we were supposed to be experimenting with gas collection and the gases collected.  And even though I had ordered what I thought was the right equipment, we just couldn't get it to work correctly!  It was very frustrating, and eventually we gave up.  We were supposed to have started on Fizz, Bubble & Flash in March, but between some extra activities (Journey North Mystery Class, Papal Lapbook) it got pushed aside...  and then April and May have been very low effort months for me because of my horrible fatigue and pregnancy sickness.  And when I can't do much, science experiments is one of those things that doesn't get done.  But really, I don't expect great things from that book, because while the premise is interesting (experimenting your way through the Periodic Table) the implementation is somewhat lackluster.  And really, some parts of the Periodic Table do not lend themselves to easy home experimentation!  But it hasn't been all bad - Mystery of the Periodic Table was well received, and my daughter is really enjoying the biography about Marie Curie.  The Elements app has also gotten a lot of use and exploration, sparking a lot of good discussion and interest.  I think that while the hands-on chemistry part did not go particularly well, she has gotten a good introduction to the Periodic Table as well as how to go about setting up and writing about an experiment.  So perhaps not a complete flop, but not nearly the success I desired!

1 comment:

  1. I love that CHC reading program too! Both my boys learned to read with it. It was easy to teach and they both did well.