Monday, April 7, 2014

2013-2014 What worked and what didn't

What worked:

Writing With Skill Level 1 by Susan Wise Bauer:  Excellent curriculum for Grade 10 English.  It teaches the student to research topics and outline papers in a step by step process which is painless for the parent and the student.  Be sure to buy both the instructor's manual and the student book.  You'll need both these fat fabulous books. The instructor's manual includes information on how to mark the papers, and how to help the student along the way.

Mad Minute I first encountered Mad Minutes in a public school classroom nearly 30 years ago.  These 30 or 40 question drill pages really forced my students to learn and remember their math facts.  I made all of them do them and they all improved speed and and accuracy in all four operations.

What didn't work:

Saxon Math  Both my high school students are using Saxon, unfortunately what makes Saxon an easy text for parents also makes it easy for students to get the right answer without understanding the concepts. (Each question has a lesson number.) If you can decipher the curriculum, you don't have to understand the concepts just follow the examples in every single problem. Coming from Math U See, I also don't particularly like the seeming random order of the chapters. Not sure about alternatives for my high schoolers, but my 12 yo might just continue with Math U See.

Monarch Online Science  This year two of my students tried Monarch's science courses on line.  One of my high schoolers did Chemistry and my 12 yo did Science 600.  These are dense full year courses.  I bought them because I thought they would provide a change from textbook science.  Last year I spent a lot of my time trying to find YouTube videos for my son to illustrate scientific ideas.  I had the impression that Monarch's lessons, especially Science 600 would include lots of audio and video presentations. I was disappointed. The videos were generally poor quality and done by a man dressed as an eccentric scientist; not really the picture of science I wanted for my son. If you have a student who learns by reading, has taken algebra and is interested in Chemistry, then this is a great course for them. Lots of detail here, but read carefully or you'll miss the clues which will help you answer the questions.  I thought this would be user friendly and plug and play, but I spent hours and hours helping both students understand the material and answer the questions.  There is no teacher's manual for the parent, so ideally you should pre-read and understand the material before your student does. On the upside, you can change the order of the units; allow your student to skip questions and choose which days are school days. The online part of this course worked flawlessly.  You can print informative grade reports for each course and student.

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