Thursday, August 20, 2015

Horizons Kindergarten Math Set Review

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We received the Horizons Kindergarten Math Set from Alpha Omega Publications to review. This is a full curriculum for homeschooled Kindergarten children. The set comes with two student workbooks and a teacher's guide. You'll also want to have basic math tools and materials on hand for many of the lessons.

The scope and sequence of this curriculum is: counting 1-100, number recognition, number writing, number value, number after, number between, place value, addition, subtraction, money, time, calendar, number theory, colors, shapes, size, comparison, direction and position, and coordination.

The lessons are teacher-led. The teacher's guide is straight-forward and allows for you to add your own teaching style to fit the learning needs of your child. Inside the teacher's guide you'll find daily lesson plans and answer keys, along with teaching tips and activities. There will also be a materials and supplies list which make it easy to gather materials to use for the lesson. I find the lessons to be multi-sensory friendly, which is helpful when teaching children with different learning styles. I typically lead math lessons by setting up the worksheets with any physical materials needed and verbally go over the lesson and the solution. Then you can either work with the student or let them work independently. We're very hands-on, so problem solving is a group effort and I love watching my kids work together.

One feature that we love about this curriculum is that the workbooks are full of color! You rarely see colored illustrations in a math workbook (or perhaps we have just been buying all the wrong ones). It's the small things that count and since my children have always reacted better to work pages that are colorful, it made a huge difference. Both of my children enjoy math, so while my daughter worked on the problems, I set up similar activities for my son to work on. 

Here are a few examples of the worksheets from the first few lessons. Some pages simply ask you to count the objects, not to write them, but Bean decided to write them anyway.

There are plenty of opportunities to practice verbally counting and practice writing numbers.

Counting specific objects instead of dots on a chart makes it so much easier for the kids to keep track of where they are while counting. They remember where they left off if they pause while counting, and are more confident while counting out loud. They love declaring that there are "five ducks!" or "eight fish!"

Here's a comparison of the student workbook to the teacher's guide. What isn't covered in the student's workbook are the hands-on lessons, which are thoroughly explained in the teacher's guide. The student workbook only covers the written portions of the lessons.

One unexpected resource that we didn't originally intend to use is the box that the curriculum comes in. The box is large enough to fit another set of the books inside and seemed like a bit of a waste of space. So when we opened it up, the books were moved to our math shelf and the box sat next to the indoor recycle bin for a couple days. After using the books for a few days, we realized there were a handful of materials that we always reached for when we started up the math lessons each morning. So I filled up the box and all of our extra materials fit inside! Inside the box is: dry-erase boards and markers, laminated number boards (1-10, 1-20, 1-100, and skip-counting 2, 5, 10, etc.), shape blocks, pattern cards, plastic counters, play money, ruler and measuring tape, clock, math magnets and small magnet board, calendar, compass, and flash cards. We also have a set of dominoes that doesn't fit in the box, but that we use often.

You could absolutely use this curriculum without physical materials, but we really like to follow up worksheets with hands-on activities. Plus, this curriculum is primarily used by my daughter (she does all the written parts), but my son still sits with us and follows along with the lesson. He is technically a year behind, so he doesn't usually use worksheets. But he loves hands-on math. So we set up the same sort of problem for him, but instead of using the worksheet, he uses the physical materials. As a kinesthetic learner, this is how he learns best. My daughter on the other hand favors visual and auditory learning, so she prefers worksheets and spoken lessons.

We loved using Horizons curriculum for math. I look forward to continuing to use their curriculum for this upcoming year! Both of my kids enjoyed using this curriculum. Bean was overjoyed to have a "huge math book!" to use for lessons and is always excited to sit down and start on the next lesson. We would highly recommend Horizons math curriculum to other homeschooling families. We all find the lessons to be engaging and fun!

The Horizons Kindergarten Math Set is available for $71.95.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
We received Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies to review. This curriculum was designed by Susan Kilbride, a homeschooler, with other homeschoolers in mind, but can still be used in a classroom or even as after-school activities for public school children. While it's not a full science curriculum, it can absolutely be used for stand-alone unit studies or used by teachers for learning activities to supplement their own curriculum. 
An awesome benefit of this science curriculum is that it utilizes multi-sensory styles of learning and mixes hands-on lessons with vocal or written lessons. The units build on each other, so we started at the beginning. We have been 
There are 20 chapters in this book, covering material from the five senses and dinosaurs, to microscopes and simple machines. They are grouped into two categories, which is based on an age group, either 4-7 or 8-13. My children fall in the first category, so we primarily focused on those activities. The idea is to start at the beginning of the book and work your way through the activities. However, considering our children won't be ready for chapters 11-20 for some time, we have only looked through them to see what we have to look forward to. Homeschooling families with a broader age range of children (ex: 4, 6, 8 and 10) will likely not run into the same problem. I expect that they would either figure out a way to make each chapter useful to all their children, or simply run two science units.

At the start of each unit you'll find a materials list which is based off of the needs of an individual student. So if you are teaching more, you'll need to multiply the list appropriately. Most of the items are common and can be found around the house, bought at a local store (grocery, hardware, etc.) or at a library. Each chapter has roughly 4-7 parts, Some parts feature multiple activities, while others consist of single comprehensive activities, tests, and crafts. The tests can be found at the end of the 8-13 units to check if the student understands the unit and is ready to move on. Each of the units are designed to build on the unit that came before it.

Typically, a unit of this size can be completed in a week or two, depending on the pace of your child. You may even want to create a month long unit for younger children and supplement the unit with your own activities. Or you could simply work on one part per week, depending on how often you teach science in your homeschool. We typically work on science Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with breaks in-between to read books on the subject. Monday is the introductory day, Wednesday is the hands-on learning and exploration activities day, and Friday is the "experiment" day. We visit the library on Saturdays to pick out books for the next week.

Both kids loved the first unit on the Five Senses. We followed the activities in the book and ditched our regular science routine to feature one of the five senses each day. In addition to the activities in the book, we created a few of our own, for the kids to work on while I set up the activities for the day. Like coloring with scented markers, reading books on the five senses or books that feature one of the five senses (touchy-feely books, scratch and sniff books, etc.), and listening to music.

We also set up exploration tables that we left up all week that focused on the current theme. So for example, we started at the beginning of the book with the five senses. We used a couple small bowls we had and filled them with items that represented the five senses. For scent, we used our homemade scent bottles, which are old spice containers, cleaned out and painted, and filled with different herbs and flowers and oils, so that they can test them out and guess what the scent it. For the touch basket we used fabrics with different textures, wood toys that are smooth and bumpy, shells of various shapes, and texture blocks that have different patterns on each side. For taste we used dried fruits, nuts, and small snacks, like veggie sticks. The five types of tastes are: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory. We added something for each of these tastes. We kept them in baggies, but they were allowed to snack on them and match them to the five taste words of what they think they are. For sight we added small binoculars, a magnifying glass, a hand mirror and a kaleidoscope. For sound we created sound eggs, using old Easter eggs and filled them with different objects, like a bouncy ball, dried beans, bells, beads, sand, sticks, etc. There are a dozen of them and they try to line them up from the quietest egg to the loudest egg, or vice versa.

The Human Body unit (the second unit) was Bean's favorite unit so far. She especially enjoyed creating a human body out of construction paper over the course of  the week. Typically unit studies would last two weeks, but because it's the summer time and we have multiple mini-vacations, we try to keep our schedule open. For this lesson, we took some of the activities outside. We used our local basketball court to trace our bodies and draw features and different parts of the body. Munchkin used printables of the human body that he colored in. Our exploration table featured a human body model, skeleton toys, books, and paper and pencils to draw parts of the human body.

Now we are on the prehistoric unit which focuses on dinosaurs and has so far been a huge hit with Munchkin. He loved making the bagel Stegosaurus (although he munched on it the whole way through). We used our dinosaur toys to sort herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. Our exploration table had multiple sets of dinosaur flash cards, books, a small sand garden with dinosaur skulls and bones ("fossils") to excavate, and a sensory bin small world with grass, rocks and dinosaur figures to play with. We also used the Magic School Bus In the Time of the Dinosaurs book with a timeline to explore the different time periods. We watched the Disney movie Dinosaur and some Land Before Time movies to show what life was like for dinosaurs. They already watch the Dinosaur Train show, so they knew a lot about dinosaurs. We're currently exploring their extinction and it's pretty sad for Munchkin, so we picked up the book Dinosaur Cousins? at the library to cheer him up. He now sees dinosaurs everywhere.

Personally, we loved this book! It was easy to understand, the activities took little to no time to set up (though some did require trips to the store for supplies at the beginning of the week), and both kids enjoyed them. We actually took a step back from full lessons for a couple weeks over the summer, but these helped up get back into the swing of homeschooling through the rest of the year.

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is available for $24.95 (old edition) or $16.95 (new edition). There are two free PDF units that you can download to determine if this book is right for your homeschool or classroom. You can also find other freebies, lessons and activities on Susan's website.

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