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When you fall out of love with your curriculum…

We’re on our last 6 weeks of Timberdoodle Kindergarten. I had very high hopes for this curriculum, but in the end, I honestly didn’t like most of it. At least not the actual “academic” components. Let me explain.

I consider “academic” components as things that are used to teach or enhance the basics. The three R’s. Reading, writing, Arithmetic. In our kit, we received (and how it worked for us):

The not so great stuff, or great stuff, just not great for us at the moment…:

The Reading Lesson

This was a good investment, and Peanut will be using this for the next few years to learn how to read. It’s nicely laid out, and very easy to implement. We do a page or two a day, but lately we’ve found Peanut isn’t progressing, so we’re taking a step back and using another phonics curriculum to reinforce what he already knows. We’ll pick this back up in a few months.

Italic Handwriting Book A Kindergarten

I thought it would teach the absolute basics of handwriting, and it really doesn’t. It assumes your child can draw certain shapes. I would prefer another curriculum like Handwriting Without Tears, and I will be picking up a copy of it when I order our McRuffy Math this year. Not that this program is bad, I will use it once Peanut is able to print.

 

Spelling you See Level A

Now this was definitely a ‘put on the shelf for a year, maybe two’  book. Peanut can’t write. Peanut can’t read. How the heck can he spell? Really??? I had hoped that this would integrate components from The Reading Lesson, thus learning how to spell the words he is learning to read. I even downloaded, printed, laminated, and cut letter tiles so Peanut could use them instead of writing. But no way. When he’s learning to read the word “cat” but having to spell “pot”, it got too confusing.  It will be a good asset in a year or two. Now, it collects dust.

 

Developing the Early LearnerDeveloping the Early Learner

Another four books for the shelf! Again, Peanut needs better fine motor control before he can do pretty much all the pages in these. Color, trace, mazes, etc. are not easy when you can’t handle using a pencil or crayon yet. Still, it will be an asset in a year or two. But collecting dust now…

 

 

Math U See Primer
Oh I had such high hopes for this. I envisioned my Peanut happily counting, adding, subtracting, and using manipulative blocks to reinforce what he was learning. I envisioned smiles at  the mention of math time! Instead, I got met with defiance, and when he finally sat down to do math, he spent more time making battleships and airplanes than actually learning. Why? Because he was very frustrated with it. It moved much too fast for him. I’ve written about this in an earlier post (or two, or three… ) and so for now it sits, like the others above, proudly on the dust shelf. Will we eventually use it again? I don’t know. If we don’t by 2019 I’ll probably sell it. Brand new condition, no writing in any pages, but maybe a few tears of frustration! hahaha!

 Beginning Geography

Yep, you guessed it. Shelf. Dust. Why? Because, again, Peanut can’t read yet. How is he supposed to know Main Street or University Boulevard if he can’t read them? How is he to know the sign for Bank vs the sign for School?  It does say on the cover it’s for K-2 so I will keep it for another couple of years and try it again.

 

Cola Fountains and Spattering Paint (what a huge) Bomb!

Not once single experiment worked for us! We ended up checking YouTube and found some people who had some success with them. Again, dust collector!

 

 

TinkerLab

Very beautiful book, and tons of great experiments and art projects. Why is it on the dust shelf? because a lot of the projects take items that aren’t easy to get here. In time, i’ll start getting them, but for now these great ideas sit waiting for the time I can do them with Peanut.

 

 

 

So what do we actually use from our Timberdoodle kit? All these:Kumon Cutting Skills - Set of 3Djeco Friends Light Clay KitVisible Human Floor PuzzleKumon Mazes - 5 book setBOB Books Set 1: Beginning ReadersUsborne The Big Book of Things to Find and Color miniLUK Set AThree Little Piggies Smart GameOodles of DoodlesDjeco / Discover Color Color-Mixing Workshop, Chirp-Chirp

Pretty much it’s mainly fun stuff. games. activity books, toys, art. So what did I end up using to supplement for the actual “academics”? I pulled from several sources.

Phonics and reading: Progressive Phonics takes absolutely no assumptions with your child. You start at ground zero. It is in depth, easy to do, and even has lesson plans! You can even incorporate handwriting too, which she provides, if the child is ready. All you need is a printer, some paper, cardstock, a laminator (or clear packing tape – poor man’s lamination for me!) and scissors. Peanut is learning how to read very well with this. It’s interactive, so I read, he reads, and we enjoy silly stories together!

It has Stories, flashcards, worksheets, lesson plans and even words for the wall!

Beginner Book 1 Screenshot 2Screen shot of Book 1 Activty Worksheets, page 1Word Wall Small Size

We also use Hooked on Phonics. It is a fine dance with this one. We tend to take two steps forward then one step back. Still, it’s working, so between that and Alphabetti, then The Reading Lesson for reinforcement, Peanut is getting there!

We also use Explode the Code get ready series, but don’t do any handwriting. Peanut is definitely better at learning his sounds with this series! 

Geography: Daily Geography grade 1. It moves at a gentle pace, and isn’t as intense as Beginning Geography. We actually enjoy this one!

What was my biggest “pro” about Timberdoodle Kindergarten? I’d say all the fun stuff. We were introduced to games, puzzles, and art kits we normally wouldn’t even have heard of! The STEAM (science technology, engineering, art, and math) hands on components are awesome!

Biggest “con” about Timberdoodle Kindergarden? for us, it was boring. same old thing every single day. Unlike programs like Bookshark or Moving Beyond the Page, there is nothing to look forward to. No learning about dinosaurs one week, and learning about airplanes the next. It lacks any kind of “journey through the world” as I call it. It’s endless days of math, geography, a game, writing, reading, a game, cutting, mazes, a game. If you want to learn about octopusses or medieval knights, it won’t happen in this curriculum! I know they keep costs down by not including books to read, but at least a weekly theme, a suggestion for read aloud books to go with them, would be appreciated.  Would I recommend Timberdoodle? Yes and no. Yes for the fun stuff, but use another company such as Bookshark, Sonlight, or Moving Beyond the Page for your main curriculum. Also, as grades in Timberdoodle progress, so do the amount of workbooks. Not great if your child has issues with fine motor skills!

So now my coffee is cold, and Peanut is up and begging for some “Minecraft” time. I guess that’s my cue to say goodbye for now, and I hope your day brings you much laughter and smiles. Till next time!

10 more school weeks to go… and my review of the year so far.

We chose Timberdoodle this year for our 2016-2017 curriculum. We are just finishing week 26, and we have 10 more weeks of school left. So what do I think of this curriculum?

Pros:

There are LOTS of hands on things to do. I don’t mean crafts. What I mean is that it is loaded with learning games. We have 3 Little Piggies, MiniLuk, GeoPuzzles set of 6 puzzles, Visible Human Body floor puzzle, Morphun blocks, Djeco Chirp Chirp art kit, Djeco Friends soft clay kit, and My First Super Science kit. They are fun, and with the exception of the human body floor puzzle (it’s kind of delicate, so we don’t use it often), we are thrilled with the quality and the fun of these items.

There is many fun “activity” books that encourage fine motor skills. We chose Construction Stickers Activity Book, Emergency Stickers Activity Book, Sticker Dressing Heroes and Rescue, BrainFood Vehicles Doodle Mats, Usborne Big Drawing Book, Oodles of Doodles, Big Book of Things to Find and Color, Kumon Amazing Mazes, Kumon I Can Cut, and Kumon Let’s Fold. These are fun, but Peanut has a hard time coloring and writing, so the doodle and coloring books have been set aside for when he’s ready.

The actual “workbooks” and “textbooks” are highly acclaimed and are basically open and go. This is the heart of Timberdoodle’s curricula. We chose Math U See, Spelling You See, Getty Dubay’s Italic Handwriting, Developing the Early Learner, Beginning Geography, and The Reading Lesson. They are all wonderful, but unfortunately Peanut just isn’t ready for them. We have set aside all except The Reading Lesson, and we supplement this with Hooked on Phonics and Alphabetti. We replaced Math U See Primer with Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2.

Timberdoodle has AWESOME customer service. I had a problem with “my first scissors” and was given a refund for the item without any hassle. They also took the time to answer my many, many questions and were never annoyed! They are a joy to deal with!

The ease of scheduling! You are given a weekly checklist of how much to do (but not what to do) and it’s up to you to decide when to do it. If you want to do all 8 pages of math in one day, go for it! If you want to do 3 pages of spelling on one day, and two pages the next day, you can! Some people need to have a rigid schedule, so I guess this would be a ‘con’ for them, but for me, having the ability to be flexible with my week worked well.

Cons:

Too many items have been set aside for the future. I know this isn’t the fault of Timberdoodle. Peanut just isn’t ready for 2/3 of this curriculum. We will eventually use it all, but for this year, I consider it a con. I think we should have purchased the Pre-K curriculum instead.

No literature. None. We don’t have easy and regular access to a library, so we need to rely on the internet for downloadable books.

No weekly/monthly topics. There are no “this week we’ll learn about dinosaurs, and next week we’re exploring the weather.” It gets dull and boring. I know it’s just kindergarten, but I would have liked even a suggested list of topics to delve into or read about each week of school. We’re now at the point where school is kind of a drag, and not enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to next schoolyear and our fun curriculum.

We purchased the science book called Soda Fountains and Spattering Paint, and so far not one of the experiments worked! And I’m not alone. Very annoying.

Conclusion:

Timberdoodle has been good this year, but not *great*. I wish I would have seen Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 for our 2016-2017 year, I would have used this instead! I am definitely looking forward to doing this for our 2017-2018 year. And, yes, it says ages 4-5, but I have to plan for the future too. Peanut will be 6, but the next level of Moving Beyond the Page AND our second choice, Bookshark, is for 5-7 year olds, and both recommend that unless your child is advanced, you should stay in the upper age range of the level. A 7 year old would get much more out of them whereas a 5 year old will struggle.

I do like Timberdoodle, but it just doesn’t feel very ‘cohesive’ and doesn’t really explore or expose Peanut to different topics. In later levels, there are books like The Story of the World, World History Detectives, Interactive Science (but note – this has awful reviews!), so it explores some various topics, but in reality this is a STEAM and thinking skills based curriculum. I’ll probably be using their STEAM and thinking skills items, but not their academic curricula. In my opinion, it’s a great curriculum for kids that enjoy workbooks. Unfortunately, Peanut isn’t at the ‘workbook’ stage yet, so they are all waiting for him when he’s ready.

Also, I’ve had to supplement this curriculum, adding phonics, a daily science curriculum, read aloud books, craft projects, and various videos like Magic School Bus, Super Why, LeapFrog, Reading Rainbow, and Blippi.

Next year, with Moving Beyond the Page, I only need to add math and phonics! More details on this in a future post…

2017-2018 curriculum pick, aka the award goes to…

It has begun. The quest for the perfect boxed curriculum, or at least an entire curriculum from one place that comes in one box. I need to think about shipping costs.

First I look at what our needs are. Peanut is very hands-on, and learns best by either doing things hands-on, or watching a video. He’s not able to write yet, so workbooks are pretty useless. He is barely starting to read, about the equivalent of a public school kindergarten child in their 3rd month of school.

I need a curriculum that is fun, but I also don’t want to be scrambling for supplies that I may not find on the island. I also need a curriculum that either has 144 days, or can be adapted to 144 – 150 days. Yes, we could go monday to friday, 180 days, but I know we’d probably burn out very fast.

So in my quest, I eliminated any highly religious curricula (sorry My Father’s World, Sonlight, and Lifepac!). I also eliminated textbook heavy curricula. This left me with Bookshark Pre-k, Moving Beyond The Page 4-6, Build Your Library K, Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized), Five in a Row, and one I create myself from Rainbow Resource.

After going through the samples of each, and actually planning out a typical week from each of them, I think I’ve found my match! But before I say what it is, here’s what I found out about each one of these.

Bookshark Pre-K:

Pros:

  • This is a literary rich curriculum! From Winnie the Pooh to Richard Scarry, the book selections are fantastic. I love every one of them.
  • The daily routine is easy. You read your child 2 to 3 short stories from beautiful picture books. You also read a couple of pages of a child’s atlas.
  • For Science you read from The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature.
  • Bookwork consists of the optional “Developing the Early Learner” 4 volume set.
  • It’s open and go! My week is all planned for me!

Cons:

  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.
  • Math, science, and language arts are weak. I would have to order the Science K and also the K Language arts and readers. I would use Mathematical Reasoning Kindergarten or try Math U See Primer again.

Moving Beyond the Page 4-6: Wow! What an amazing curriculum!Age 4-5

Pros:

  • It has 30 units, so this means I can spread them out over 150 days without any effort!
  • The literature is amazing! From old favorites like Blueberries for Sal, to modern ones like A is for Musk Ox, the book selection is fantastic (except one book, see cons for that)
  • Crafts! It is heavy on crafts, and the best part is that they supply almost everything I would need from yarn to craft paper! This means Peanut’s fine motor skills will get a great workout.
  • Two versions of activities – one for children that can write, and one for those who can’t. If your child cannot print a letter, they suggest things like trace the letter in a cookie sheet filled with shaving cream, rice, or salt. They have so many great ideas on how to encourage handwriting without even using a pencil!
  • It is unit based, so one week we learn about Musk Oxen and their habitat, and next week we learn about trees and their life cycles. It’s a great mix of learning and exploring our world and everything in it!
  • It’s almost open and go! I would have to tweak it a bit to turn it into our 4 day week, but it would be very easy to do!

Cons:

  • I would have to find a suitable replacement for one book, “Millions of Cats”. It is one of those morbid books that I can’t bring myself to read to Peanut. It is about a greedy couple who want a cat, so they adopt millions of cats. They only want one, so the cats begin eating each other until one remains. Ewww. Just NO!!! I’m sure I can find a sweet story about cats that doesn’t involve cat cannibalism!
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement it with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

Build Your Library K: This curriculum is excellent and very literature rich!https://i1.wp.com/buildyourlibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/83532.jpg

Pros:

  • The book selection is awesome! Over 30 classics and modern well loved books.
  • a 30 week schedule, which means I can easily adapt it for 36 weeks (144-150 days).
  • It touches on all the continents and explores what life is like for different children of the world.
  • The manual is a PDF and costs under $25!
  • It has some arts and crafts to keep Peanut’s hands busy and help strengthen those muscles.
  • It incorporates other ideas like cooking to round out a fun week of learning.

Cons:

  • The books need to be ordered from Amazon, and some are out of print. This makes it a bit more expensive if you want the out of print copies since they sell for a ridiculous price.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.
  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.

Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized): I’m currently using Timberdoodle Kindergarten Secular customized curriculum and love it for the most part.

Pros:

  • All in one curriculum that covers all the required subjects
  • lots of hands on games, science experiments, art, and STEM

Cons:

  • Very workbook intense. There are 8 workbooks in their standard grade 1 secular curriculum. Peanut cannot write yet, so they would either be omitted from the kit, or would sit on the shelf until he can do them.
  • For the amount of money we’d spend, we would basically be buying a year of toys and games, and no real learning opportunities.
  • No literature is included, so we’d have to either rely on the library or purchase books to read.

Five in a Row: Although this is a religious curriculum, it is very easy to remove the bible and religious content.Five in a Row Book Set

Pros:

  • Unit based, and excellent book choices from Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel to How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, it would make a fun year of great books
  • It covers Social Studies, Math, Literature, Art, Science, Human Relationships
  • It is easy to implement since you choose one social studies, language arts, art, math, and science a day.
  • It has many hands-on arts and crafts

Cons:

  • There are a few religious books (ie. Clown of God) that I would have to skip
  • I’d have to order the literature from Rainbow Resource, but they would be one shipment.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

So what did I choose? The great debate is truly between Moving Beyond the Page, Five in a Row, and Bookshark.

Timberdoodle lost because of the heavy writing component, making this curriculum almost useless for a few more years.

Build your Library would win out for literature alone, but it falls down on hands-on activities. I would be willing to make it work though, but I don’t like the amount of out-of-print books.

Bookshark falls down on the lack of hands-on activities too, but I will probably use the level 5-7 after this next year is done, since the 5-7 level has lots of arts, crafts etc. Peanut just isn’t ready for the level 5-7 literature yet, or I’d definitely use this one for our 2017-2018 year. I’m actually still considering the pre-k level if Peanut is able to write by June or July.

Memoria press was another that was in the running, very much a fantastic literature based curriculum, I’d just remove the bible and religious content of it. In order to have it work well, it requires the basic curriculum, the suppliementary read aloud books, and the supplementary science books.This brings the curriculum to a very expensive price that I can’t justify!

So the winner for 2017-2018 is Moving Beyond the Page!!!! (insert fanfare and flying confetti here!). The runner up is Bookshark (going to first place if Peanut can write by June), and third place is Build Your Library tied with Five in a Row.

Now where’s my wine, strawberries, and chocolate? After all this work I deserve it! hahaha!!!!  Seriously, this is going to be an awesome year, I want to start it now!!!!

Beginning Geography, a lesson in waiting until we are ready.

Kindergarten is a fickle year. You don’t want to overwhelm your child, but you also want to push them along, delicately showing them new doors to open and new ways of thinking. Sometimes, as a homeschooling parent, we see that not all doors are ready to be open wide. We turn the handle, peek inside, and realize that we need to wait a bit before stepping through. Sometimes we try another door, sometimes we just wait.

I love maps. I have been fascinated with them since I was a young child, as young as Peanut. I can remember pouring over all those map inserts that came with the National Geographic magazines my parents subscribed to. Dreams of faraway places, exotic people, new foods and cultures… As I got older, those same maps hung on my walls, reminding me of how big and wonderous this world really is. Maps brought the world to my doorstep.

I wanted this same sense of wonder to be a big part of Peanut’s world too. Timberdoodle uses Evan Moor Beginning Geography as its Kindergarten Geography option. It’s also available as an E-text you can purchase for download from Evan Moor.

Image result for beginning geography

I have heard great things about it, read the review of kids as young as 4 breezing through this book in under 6 months. Not Peanut. But first let me get into the things I really like before I get much further.

If you want to get through this in a typical 36 week school year, you need to do 3 pages a week. This is a nice and easy pace for any child that is capable of reading and writing.

The maps are cute, and remind me of a coloring book. It’s pages are all fun, and ready for a crayon or colored pencil to bring it to life.

Beginning Geography is a gentle introduction to map skills. It has 4 sections:

  1. Map Skills
  2. Landforms and Bodies of Water
  3. Continents and Oceans
  4. Around the World with Animals

There is no teacher prep, except certain pages may need to be copied if you are not using the e-text, since there are some pages that are meant to be cut and pasted. If you use the page in the book you will destroy the next page, so either copy the pages you need to cut, or do the next page first, then cut… Evan Moor also allows you to reproduce their pages, a big plus!

Image result for beginning geography

It begins with “What is a Map?” and the child colors in various objects by color. Easy and fun.

Now the problem we had…Page 6 gave us a reason to pause…Related image

Three pages in, and we hit a problem. Peanut can’t read yet! How am I going to deal with street names? I can tell him what the names are, who lives in the houses, what the other buildings are, but how can I expect a 5 year old to remember 5 street names and 8 building identities? We colored green street green, brown street brown, put the number 1 on first ave, 2 on second ave. Still, this was going to be a challenge.

By page 11, I was starting to consider putting it away for a while till Peanut was older and more advanced in his reading, writing, and drawing skills. By Page 16, that’s what we did.

Here is a link to the first 20 pages so you can see if your little one would be ready for this or not: Beginning Geography Sample

Some Kindergartners will be ready and able to use this book, but it depends on how well they can read and write. Peanut isn’t ready. Not yet. But he will be in a year, maybe two.

One thing we can do, since we have the E-text, is to only use the maps and I have Peanut color them as I tell him what to color, for example “color the tree green, the swings yellow, and the bike red”. Fine motor skill practice!

Not to give up on Geography, I decided to try another of Evan Moor’s books – Daily Geography grade 1. Timberdoodle uses this in their grade 1 curriculum kit, and you can see the first 20 pages hereImage result for daily geography practice grade 1

I know we won’t be doing everything in this book this year, but I want to keep Geography in Peanut’s school week. Like Beginning Geography, Daily Geography Grade 1 is open and go, it’s done with that same coloring book style and encourages coloring. Again, more fine motor practice for Peanut!

Image result for daily geography practice grade 1

Since we have the E-text of this, just like Beginning Geography, I can easily print out what we can use now, and the rest will be waiting for us when Peanut is ready for it.

I really like many of the products put out by Evan Moor. Their spelling, daily writing, etc, will also be on my list of things to use with Peanut in the future.

 

 

 

Science and the Kindergartener

My little Peanut loves science. He loves seeing things change, expand, explode, and really loves the hands-on aspect of science. Remember, this kit is for ages 4 and up, but a 4 or 5 year old won’t grasp the concepts behind the experiments, they are just for fun at this age

.Image result for my first super science kit

We began the year with Timberdoodle’s Science With Tots Deluxe Kit which includes My First Super Science Kit from Be Amazing, plus Timberdoodle adds an oversized pair of tweezers, a second magnifying glass since the one in the kit is kind of inadequate, and a horseshoe magnet. Also included is Timberdoodle’s 36 week schedule of experiments.

Going through Timberdoodle’s guide, I soon realized that the 75 experiments touted by Be Amazing, or even the 36 experiments from Timberdoodle, was definitely stretching it.

For example, Week 1 – 5 is all about the magnifying glass. And week 1-5 should really be condensed into 1 week. Here’s what was in the guide:

week:

  1. examine your magnifying glass and notice if the lens is convex or concave
  2. figure out if you like to use it close to the object or close to your eye
  3. look at a few objects with the magnifier and write down what you observe
  4. find the focal point
  5. use the magnifier to sort tiny photos

There are other weeks like this, ones where 2 or more weeks should really be just 1 week. I can expect us to do 21 weeks of experiments from this kit.

At first I thought this was not good, I need 36 weeks! but I soon realized that we do 1 science experiment on the last day of each week, BUT on the very last day of the month we do a project from one of our art kits. So this means I actually only need 24 experiments since 12 days are going to be for art instead! This means I only need to come up with 3 new experiments, or revisit 3 old ones and do them again.

After a couple of weeks, Peanut was begging for more science. I was searching online for a daily kindergarten science program I could download and print out, and I stumbled across Complete Curriculum Kindergarten and thought “hmmm, a full science curriculum for kindergarten 130 daily lessons, complete with teacher and student texts, it’s secular, even a top pick from Cathy Duffy, all for $11 or less! How can I go wrong?

Image result for complete curriculum kindergarten educents

Believe it or not, it actually is a great curriculum! Peanut and I are enjoying it. We’ve skipped maybe 5 lessons, but that’s it. The lessons are usually short, but fun. For example, the past 4 lessons have been about gravity, and today we are making parachutes to test out how gravity affects them.

Complete Curriculum K Science has 7 units:

  1. Science is Everywhere
  2. Senses
  3. Shapes, Pushes and Pulls
  4. Life Science
  5. My Earth
  6. I Dig Dinosaurs
  7. Energy

The units covers topics like different scientists, the 5 senses, shapes and postitions (including left and right, up, down, etc), force and motion, gravity, magnets, living things (animals, plants), food chain, rocks and minerals, environment, soil, and dinosaurs.

Complete Curriculum also offers Math, Social Studies, Science, and Language arts all bundled together for under $30. I’m seriously thinking of getting the grade 1 bundle next year, and possibly the Language Arts K after Christmas.

Math U See, my love/hate relationship

Where to begin with this math curriculum. The good, bad or ugly? First let me start by saying I actually do like this math curriculum, at least for the most part. But we’ve put it on the shelf for a while, maybe even till next year.

Okay, I love math. I love solving puzzles, and math classes were kind of like my personal “lets do some mental puzzles” time. Yep, I was weird even in grade school! So now that I’m teaching Peanut the basics of numbers, I thought Math U See Primer in the Timberdoodle Custom Kindergarten Kit would be a perfect fit for my hands-on, kinesthetic learner. It is, and it isn’t. Here’s my review and our experience so far with it. Grab a coffee, this may be a long one…

We bought Math U See Primer Universal Set in our custom Timberdoodle Kindergarten curriculum kit. This came with the manipulative blocks, a teacher’s guide, a student workbook, a DVD, and a code to access an online version of the DVD for 12 months. img_20161106_095449

I knew the student book was going to be trouble if I left it bound the way it came, so I carefully removed each page. Thankfully they’re perforated, so this made the job a bit easier, but still took me about 15 minutes to do. Then I cut the front and back cover and the spine and made a binder. It’s so much easier to use this way!

Each lesson in primer has 7 parts, each part is 2 pages (one page front and back). A,B,and C are all practice pages, D,E,and F are all review, and G is application and enrichment.

First thing I do is read the lesson instructions in the teacher’s guide. Most of the time the teacher’s guide isn’t needed, but sometimes it has great tips. One thing to remember about Primer is it is the ONLY book in the series that doesn’t require mastery before moving on to the next lesson. This is supposed to be a gentle introduction into the language of math, getting the child familiar with the ideas of plus, minus, equals, etc.

Next we watch the lesson. There is a video on the DVD (or online) that explains how to teach each lesson. Really it’s meant for the parent, but most homeschoolers watch it with their kids, or even just have their kids watch it on their own (not really recommended, parent’s miss so much if they don’t watch them). Some people love Steve Demme (the creator of this curriculum) but so far he seems a bit dry in front of the camera, Peanut only seems interested in the videos when other kids are involved for his demonstrations. He does get the message across easily though, and I’ve even had a few “Aha, so that’s why this is” moments. Yep, even Mama can learn stuff from a Kindergarten curriculum!

The Manipulative blocks. Oh those blocks. This is one of those love/hate things. They are such a great tool to teach the math concepts. Peanut can easily figure out how to add numbers up to 10 by taking the two different blocks (ie a 3 block and a 1 block), adding them together (4) and taking a 4 block and putting the 3 and 1 on top to check if he was right. Talk about fun and positive reinforcement! Now the hate part. Those blocks make excellent distractions from the actual work. Peanut will build tanks, rocket ships, boats, anything except do his math work. It’s always a battle. I honestly don’t know if it’s worth it. Yes, he is learning, and learning it well, but the ongoing battle of “okay, leave the rocket alone now and do the next problem” has given me a few more grey hairs.

His battle ship complete with a ‘walk the plank’ in brown under the green loop…img_20161103_121839

Now to the meat and potatoes of the Primer Curriculum. At first it is very easy, so much so that Peanut flew through 8 lessons in 3 weeks. We did slow down when we hit lesson 9. It was a huge shock going from counting to 10 to all the sudden being expected to know the numbers 0 – 99! Then lesson 10 introduced the concept of hundreds! ACK! Too much too soon!!! Peanut and I began to get frustrated.

Lesson 11 introduced all the different colored blocks, and soon we were associating the color with a number, for example 2 is orange, so two little pumpkins. 3 is pink, the three little piggies. 8 is brown, so chocoleight. 7 is cream, so sevenilla, etc.

So it seemed that even with the bump in the road we had from lesson 9 and 10, we were back on track again. The next few lessons were learning how to add to 10, and count to 20. Peanut can count from 0-12, but skips 13-17 consistently, going straight to 18-20. Lessons 11-16 were wonderful in teaching Peanut how to add by 1, 2 and he even figured out 5+5=10 all on his own! He is so proud of his achievement!

I was sure with the repetition and learning to add to 10, the next step would be going to 20. I was wrong!

Along comes lesson 17. Skip counting by 2. Okay, our comfortable drive just hit a huge roadblock. That smooth road suddenly had a huge landslide covered with trees and boulders. How could I move on to teaching Peanut to count by 2’s to 20 when he hasn’t even mastered counting to 20 by 1’s yet! I looked at this landslide, these boulders, and thought “no way, absolutely not! We are not going to even try to pick our way through this disaster. We need to go back and regroup.”

This was last week. Week 11 in our kindergarten year. Here we were, 7 weeks ahead in math, and now we have a full stop. Rather than getting Peanut all confused and me all frustrated, it was time to put Math U See Primer on the shelf for a while, maybe even starting it fresh again next year for grade 1.

So what did I decide to use now? That post is for next time!

Our First Week of Homeschooling our Kindergartener with Timberdoodle

We did it. We managed to make it through the first week of Kindergarten. The first day was awesome! Little Peanut loved it. We used a workbox system for our Timberdoodle curriculum, and that just added to the fun.

We use a customized Kindergarten kit from Timberdoodle and I can’t say enough great things about this company. The customer service is amazing. The products are the very best. I love this curriculum!

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We use a 36 week, 4 days a week schedule. We go all year round, but we take the last week of every month off. We take our birthdays off too. And Easter. We don’t need to take Christmas off since it’s always on the last week of the month. This still gives us 4 weeks 17 days) wiggle room, so if anyone gets sick or we decide to take a vacation, no problem!

Our days consist of:

Box 1: Spelling You See A(modified so Peanut is using letter tiles instead of writing. We’ll write in the book as it was intended maybe in a year or so. For now, let him learn the letter sounds and how the words fit together.)

Box 2: Next we moved on to either a jigsaw puzzle (a 4′ visible human body – skeleton on one side, nerves and blood vessels on the other) or MiniLuk (a wonderful game that uses tiles to cover pictures).

Box 3: Now came reading with The Reading Lesson. He does very well with this so far. It’s a gentle and fun approach to learning how to read.

Box 4: As a reward for his reading, next is a sticker activity book. He loves all things truck and emergency service like, so he has a good selection of those to choose from. He deserves it, reading can be hard!

Box 5: Back to work. This time it’s either Getty Dubay’s Italic handwriting (once a week) or Evan Moor’s Beginning Geography (three times a week). Both are a bit difficult for him, but the fine motor control is starting to come along. It looks like Peanut is going to be a lefty like his mom!

Box 6: Now comes more fine motor control practice with Kumon Amazing Mazes and Kumon cutting books. We also bought Faber Castell’s My First Scissors. They are wonderful. They can be used easily, and by both right and left handers. I want a pair for me!

Box 7: Okay, so now it’s time for Math. Math U See Primer. We did two full units these past four days. We are now a week ahead! Peanut loves the blocks, and loves to make things with them after the math work is done. His favorite seems to be making tanks.

Box 8: After math comes a fun doodle book. Either Oodles of Doodles, Big Drawing Book, or Things to Find and Color. Peanut isn’t really fond of coloring yet, but he’s enjoying the different things to do in each book.

Box 9: Almost done workboxes now, just Developing the Early Learner, a critical thinking set of books that are a bit tricky but fun.

Box 10: Last workbox is another doodle book. We pick another one from the above list. On the last day of each month we do a bigger art project, something messy with a lot of paint or clay or glue, or all three!

And the best is coming….

Science is next. We use Cola Fountains and Spattering Paint Bombs (very messy, we do a lot outside), Tinkerlab, Usborne Illustrated Science Dictionary, and My First Science Kit. All messy but very fun.

When the messes are all cleaned up, time for STEM with Morphun blocks. Peanut absolutely LOVES these. They are sort of like Duplo blocks, but you can build sideways and diagonally. We’ve made a motorcycle, duck, fish and backhoe with them so far.

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And that is the end of our busy day. Not including Science and Stem, it takes us about 60 to 90 minutes to do. And what about Fridays? This is the day we relax, take it easy, and Peanut and I read a few stories from What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know. I plan to start using the local library too, so Fridays will be about 60 to 90 minutes of read-alouds, broken up over 3 or 4 sessions.