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Everything posted by unity

  1. While I agree that a foreign homestay is a terrific idea if you have the right set-up, I think it may not be wise to dismiss out of hand the idea of the language immersion camp. In college, I had a friend who attended Middlebury's program. She went from speaking absolutely no French at all to about the level that my French students had achieved after a year of French study (at Yale). (Which, in turn, was about equivalent to 3 or 4 years of French in high school.) Her language wasn't perfect, and I'm sure she was sometimes influenced negatively by her fellow students, but there must have been a good deal of instructional interaction with the campers to correct mistakes. She had had to sign a contract to speak only French, and in my opinion, it worked. On the other hand, I did several homestays ranging from a few weeks to a semester, and if I had not made a personal commitment to speak French (or Spanish, which I also studied) it would have been only too easy to get by with communicating primarily in English. I could see sending a kid to a nearby camp if a stay abroad seems a little out of his or her comfort range at the moment.
  2. We have just finished Core 5 and honestly I feel quite let down. So many people claim it's "unmissable" but personally I would not do it again. It felt completely disjointed and we hated the EHE. They did about 1/3 of it before I allowed them to drop it. Our experience was just like swimmermom's, in that it was simply about finding the answers and writing them down, with almost no retention. I decided to start making time in the day to watch movies related to the country at hand, and that improved their cultural understanding more more effectively. I think the EHE, for us, added almost nothing to the core except a big pain in the neck. The exception here would be the "Choose Your Adventure" projects which I thought were pretty neat. Actually this year was so unsatisfying that we are moving away from Sonlight next year and going to try WinterPromise. I have that whole program now and I've got a great feeling about it! p.s. ignore this signature; it's way out of date! Wow!
  3. We really liked the Barbara Johnson volume we have, but the Weiss ones are annoying. I wouldn't have said "creepy" but there's something about the cadence of his voice (very repetitive and seems to stress weird things sometimes) that my kids and I hated. Honestly we are so turned off by his voice I've always been baffled as to why he is such a popular reader. We never listen to the ones with his voice; only the ones with Barbara Johnson. I was very disappointed when the second edition replaced Barbara Johnson with the more well-known, but imho far inferior, Jim Weiss.
  4. I've used about half of Holt Earth Science (California Edition, because that's what I found cheaper) and I think it's very thorough and great for grades 7-9. There are all kinds of different ways to use the material presented, from making what they call "FoldNotes" (I call them lap-book components) to creative writing using the material, to multiple choice and definitions. It is very strong on interpreting graphs, and there is an optional math component that I appreciated. There are also labs right in the book, as well as "quicklabs" which really are very quick and sometimes just right for demonstrating a concept. The one textbook has the labbook and all necessary review questions/activities right in it. I think it's a great secular Earth science curriculum for that grade range. I just saw it on Amazon for $12 (2007) which is an unbelievable price. Hope this helps.
  5. You know, I almost edited my post to explain my situation; I thought I might raise some eyebrows if anyone paid attention. ;-) The boys will be 10 in November. They are very advanced in pretty much everything except for writing. I will choose 5th grade for the writing level; maybe 4th but they can probably do the 5th. They read advanced stuff (and quickly) all the time. I've checked out samples of the UG and D, and it was immediately clear to me that they would much prefer the D selections. Not only would they breeze through the UG, they would probably feel like I was condescending to them or something. They will also be doing 9th grade physics and are already halfway through Algebra 1 right now, so they will finish that plus start whatever comes next, too. Honest, though, I'm not trying to push them, and I do follow their lead. They get bored and fuss at me if I don't give them material that makes them think. FWIW, though, I also plan to buy a bunch of the UG stuff, too, since it just looks so good. My daughter will be reading about at a 3rd grade level next year, so she might enjoy some of it, and I think it will be fun light reading for the boys, too. And from what I understand, if I'm somehow miscalculating, it will be a breeze to switch from one level work to another. I love that!
  6. Thanks to the information I've learned on this board, I've settled on TOG Y1 next year, and I'm very excited. I'll have 2 D and 1 LG. I plan to use everything they offer. I haven't ordered it yet because my life is in total upheaval as we are in the middle of a cross-country move, but as soon as I'm not living in chaos I'm going to order and start planning. I'd love to begin in August but I'm not sure if I'll be ready. Can't wait, though!
  7. Worth thinking about. Actually we are moving across the country in about two weeks, so I have no idea what kind of Spanish speakers we may meet. I think Concord, NH may not be the best place to find them, but I know there are homeschoolers. Thanks for the idea!
  8. Heather and Merry explained a lot about it, but I'll just add that I really enjoyed the redesigned SL LA. We are moving to TOG from SL, but I have to say that leaving behind the LA was one of the things I was sad about. We just did LA 4, and before that we'd done the old LA 3. I think my kids have learned a LOT from their one dictation a week. I make them find their own mistakes by giving them the rule for each mistake they make. Then they have to find and correct it. Over the course of the year, they were making fewer mistakes and I am generally pleased with their LA skills right now. The emphasis on writing this year was so needed for us, and the pacing was pretty good. There was one point in the middle when they wanted us to do a report over the course of three weeks, plus some other long project was assigned in the Core assignment sheet. I skipped both and had them do a lapbook, but other than that we followed it pretty closely. I also bought LA 2 but the writing assignments were way out of the league of my daughter, who could handle the reading easily. I could have made it work, but decided she was doing enough just to focus on basics at her age.
  9. It's so not a big deal. You and your kids aren't loving it, and it's not the 3 Rs, so it's basically just gravy at this age. You could either sell the books and get something you like better, or hang on to them and your kids may be more interested when they are a little older. A lot of the Core C books are better for older kids anyway, in my opinion. My boys did Core C -- oh, 5 years ago? 4? Anyway, they remember NOTHING. But yet they are great readers, history buffs, etc. So it's not like this is a crucial thing to do.
  10. I got this one because I could download it and not have to wait, plus it works great on my Mac. You can try it for free, too. It's at http://www.tenthumbstypingtutor.com . I have started the kids at about age 6. One of my 9 yo boys, who also frequents the Sonlight student forums (and practices typing a LOT there), is a wicked fast typist now, at least for his age. I'll bet he's 40-50 wpm.
  11. Patricia, that was helpful. Yes, I am comfortable with my speaking ability in Spanish, although I am mindful of the need for them to hear other speakers as well. My accent is good, but not native, and I want my kids to be able to understand speakers with a variety of voices. Still, to save money I will probably get the teacher's guide and not the CD. I'll have to think about that. However, I was actually referring to the very expensive "assessment pack" on cd-rom. It is chock full of exercises. But given that you have obviously used the program successfully without it (I read your blog at some point during my research into the program), I am reassured that it is not necessary. That's great b/c it makes the program sooo much more affordable. Thank you!
  12. I have studied a number of languages, and I think they all help you learn each other. I started with French waaaay back when, which helped me learn Spanish. Then, in grad school, I had a need to learn Latin, so I studied that for a couple of years. My background in Romance languages helped me learn Latin. I see no reason why you need to start with the harder language (Latin) to help you learn the easier. If and when Latin ever becomes relevant to your kids, it will be easier for them to learn if they already know Spanish. I have a Ph.D. in French, but I teach my kids Spanish. It's hard for me to justify teaching them French when Spanish is about a million times more useful. If they are ever dying to read Proust in the original, I'll teach them French. :-) I'd vote for Spanish. Polish would be cool too, but I'll bet your curriculum choices are limited.
  13. I've been looking at the Spanish Prep 1 as a way to review and solidify what they've been doing in McDougal-Littel's En Espanol 1a. They are not psyched about moving on and say they don't feel confident with what they've been doing. So I'm thinking Spanish Prep 1 will start at the beginning but not be so slow as to totally bore some kids who already have a good start in Spanish. But I'm so used to having all the extra workbooks for En Espanol, I'm wondering if there are enough exercises in the Prep textbook. Did any of you feel it necessary to spend the big bucks on the CD, or did you just use the book and find that sufficient? Thanks!
  14. I use Muzzy with my 6 year old and the pace is just right for her. It's very slow--too slow to use with my 9 year olds. I agree that it's nearly worthless unless you buy the lesson plans (and the worksheets are helpful, too). I use the lesson plans and feel like it's a decent program for young kids. Maybe not the best, but it's the one I have. I don't like the sound quality, and the video is sometimes bizarre. The love triangle is weird, but my daughter doesn't mind the soap opera-esque feel of it. I've used Pimsleur too and I think there is really no comparison between the two products. Pimsleur is far superior at teaching you to speak a language--BUT it is not at all for the same age range as Muzzy. I think Pimsleur would have to be for teen or maybe pre-teen at a minimum. I will continue to use Muzzy through level two with this child and my youngest when he is of the right age, but I am not sure I wholeheartedly recommend it. "Pretty much OK" is about the strongest I could go with.
  15. There are a few titles in the Horrible History series that match what you're looking for. I think there are "Suffering Scientists" and "Evil Inventions"; I'm sure others would be appropriate, too. My boys devour Horrible Histories. They have so much fun reading them that I feel skeptical that they are actually getting "work" done, but they do seem to be learning something.
  16. We used Interactive science 1. It was very solid--lots of conceptual and mathematical challenges. In theory a student could do it on his/her own, but our experience was that my students benefited from discussion together with me, and direct instruction wherever the math came into play. Also, I felt it was necessary for me to be actively involved in the labs, particularly since they so often involved fire or serious chemicals. After we did Interactive Science 1, though, I have to admit I was not really excited about Interactive Science 2. Instead I took some time to do Holt Earth Science, which includes Earth and space science, which is not at all covered in the Singapore curriculum. Next year, though, we'll be back to Singapore for Physics Matters (and My Pals Are Here for my younger).
  17. I am so unlike my mother that my husband has asked me if I am adopted. Other than some physical similarities, we have very little in common, and very few mannerisms or personality aspects in common. Funny enough, I was not actually raised by her. My grandmother raised me from age 5 up, so in a sense you could say I was "adopted." Grandma has some real issues (personality-wise and worldview-wise) so I made a real effort starting around age 11 *not* to emulate her. By now it's second-nature and I'm not much like her, either. However I have a LOT of behaviors in common with my husband, who has been the major influence on my life since I was 14. Fortunately, that is usually a good thing. :-)
  18. My 6 year old daughter just finished C and it was fine for her. I don't think there's a lot of benefit to starting "back" a level. The earlier levels use giant line spacing which would feel silly to an older child, I'm sure. I'd start close to the "grade level" recommendations for your children.
  19. I've done Core PreK, K, 3, and 4. For one and two I sorta did my own thing, and next year I'm just totally not psyched about what SL does after 4, so we're going with TOG next year. It will be easier to combine my kiddos, too. But I have to say that I thought Cores 3 and 4 were wonderful. So many of the books were fabulous. My boys (8 yo) were strong readers, so even the "advanced readers" did not add unduly to their daily schedule. A few of the books were indeed difficult age-wise. I'm thinking of Swift Rivers (ugh! that was a bear to get through) and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, for example. However, they were great books, but it was sometimes hard to keep their attention and it did take us a long time to get through them. Regarding Landmark, we all really enjoyed it. The first few chapters were hard to deal with, but having read the whole book to the boys, I think it has a lot of value and we learned a lot. When we are back to that time period, I plan to have my boys reread Landmark. I think it's worth it. A very interesting history book--and history is NOT my "thing." It's true there are no hands-on suggestions. That was a drawback. I also didn't really ever use the questions to go along with the books. I'm not sure if it's just because I like to do my own thing, or if they were just not useful. They are not really organized very well, in my opinion. I am totally praying that TOG is organized better. We also did Sonlight LA to go along with the program. It was fun and effective. I think their writing has come a long way. There were times when the assignments did not match the reading, and that was annoying, but not a crisis and they may have finished the problem. About romanticizing the "noble savage," I'm not so sure. I especially think of "Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans" which was very critical especially of Aztec culture. I found that to be a fascinating read as well (although a sensitive 3rd grader would really have trouble with it), and my boys still remember much of it even through we read it about a year and a half ago. The missionary books might be more romantic; I'm not sure since we usually skip all of those. Really, I think Cores 3 and 4 make a great program for a two-year survey of American history. Although I'm jumping ship, I expect to be re-assigning many of the books in future years, either to my younger children or as re-reads to the ones who finished the program. There are so many great programs out there; I'm sure you won't go wrong if you go with something that looks great!
  20. I did it several years ago with my boys. A few of the read alouds were big hits (My Father's Dragon, Boxcar Children, Wizard of Oz, both Dolphin books, Grain of Rice...maybe a few others) but a lot of them were a real struggle to get through. I really didn't like any of the choices in the "History" section, and I felt the Christian ones in particular were of lower quality than the rest of the selections. Some of the books were just plain disturbing...the dog who gets killed while saving someone, the child who is taunted mercilessly at school, the children who are in mortal danger from the Nazis throughout 20 and 10. Some of the books were (yawn!) really dull--Hero Tales, Apple and the Arrow, Light at Tern Rock, and Children's Encyclopedia spring to mind. I liked Living Long Ago but my boys HATED it, especially the section/chapter on what people wore. I did not do it again with my daughter when she reached 5. I planned to put it off until she was 7, hoping it would go better for her at that age. She is very sensitive and would have flipped out at many of the "scary" and uncomfortable situations in the books. However, now that it's actually upon me, I've decided not to use SL K again, but instead I think I'm going the way of TOG, so that I can combine them. Even if I weren't settling on TOG, though, I must admit that the thought of doing SL K again is just not that exciting to me. I'd be very likely to try something else first rather than do it again as written. For the record, I am not just in the "anti-SL" camp. I used and really enjoyed SL PreK 4/5 (twice) and also Cores 3 and 4. It's just Core K that doesn't inspire me. Notice I didn't do 1 or 2. After our uninspired year with SL K, I thought I was leaving SL for good. Just came back after an unsuccessful time trying to find something else. If I'd had these forums, though, I might have had an easier time finding alternatives! Anyway, I do think I'll be using SL K Science with my daughter this coming fall. It's pretty lightweight, and she's not really into science, so I'm hoping it will be fun and easy enough to keep her interest. Plus it has the big advantage that I have it! ;-) I hope this helps!
  21. No one has mentioned them so I thought I'd jump in. If you go to the Early Advantage website you can buy lesson plans, workbooks, reproducible activity sheets, etc. I am on my second time around using Muzzy with all the extras and I find it to be a decent early language-learning course. So far I haven't seen anything that works better, at least. (Although the picture quality and especially the sound drives me crazy). I don't think any child will pick up significant language ability simply from watching videos without any direct instruction. I dunno, maybe if they watched for 8 hours a day...but the tradeoff there would be too great, imo. My daughter really loves it, too. She watches the videos by herself, but I go over the lesson plans, reinforce the vocabulary, play the suggested language games, etc, with her. She doesn't love doing the worksheets, but I think they help reinforce the lessons.
  22. After he had completed Suzuki book 3 of the cello, I allowed him to begin piano. (He was 7, I think). He made very fast progress on the piano and really enjoyed it more than the cello. Gradually it became more challenging for me to get him to practice both every day, and about after 2 years of doing both instruments, he decided to quit the cello in favor of the piano. It was very sad for me when he quit the cello, since he was quite advanced (at least for a 9 year old). He was somewhere in book 6. Now he just does the piano, and the upside is that he really enjoys it. The downside is that cello music tends to make me sad since I regret that he gave it up. Maybe if I hadn't let him take both instruments he never would have given it up. But then again, maybe he would have decided to quit anyway and then would have nothing. Not sure if this helps you, but it's what happened in our house! Unity mom to ds 9, ds9, dd 6, ds 1
  23. We tried to do both Spanish and Chinese. Enrolled the kids in weekly Chinese school from ages 3-7, I think, before we finally gave up. We tried to reinforce their Chinese lessons with Rosetta Stone and Chinese video tapes and just doing the homework. They did achieve some progress but it was soooo draining, and at some point the class just got a little too hard for them, and we lost the will to keep devoting an entire half-day to Chinese every week. At the same time we were teaching them Spanish at home. We are not native speakers, but I had a lot of Spanish in school, so it's much easier for me to teach. Now their Spanish is ok, not great, but I'm satisfied that they are making progress and by the time they are in hs they will be moderately fluent (like, they could pass the AP). They are 9 right now. I really wish I'd had it in me to continue the Chinese. It was really special and cool--it was just so difficult that it was impacting the entire rest of the week, too. While I don't regret giving it up, I wish it had not been necessary to do so. Good luck! Unity, mom to ds 9, ds 9, dd 6, ds 1
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