There are a lot of excellent resources out there for homeschoolers. It would be impossible to list them all and foolish to try. After all, what works best for one child may not work for another. But that’s generally the point of homeschooling, there’s no one answer to every child’s learning needs.
But boy, there are some answers I wish I had found out about sooner rather than later. I’ve used a lot of different resources homeschooling but there are three that stand out because they solved major problems for us. Of course, if you don’t have these problems you’ll have to look for different answers.
The first book I wish I knew about sooner was Reading Rescue 1 2 3 by Peggy M Wilbur. I had pulled my son out of school after first grade so he had some basic reading skills. But there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to get him to read. (This is the kid who I couldn’t even pay to memorize the times tables.) I could read him adult level books and he would remember just about everything but trying to to get him to read was a nightmare. It became a battle everyday that made me cringe at the thought of even bringing up reading. We were not happy campers.
Reading Rescue was exactly that for us. It has a very defined set of activities to do, each only five or ten minutes long. If he didn’t really like an activity, it wasn’t long enough to really start complaining. But most of the activities he liked and couldn’t wait to continue them the next day.
One of the things you do is have your child tell you a story that you make into a simple book. I recently came across a stash of these masterpieces, The Dog and Cat Wars Parts 1 to 5. Reading “time” had become fun.
Now I have to admit, this didn’t cause my son to rush out and start reading books on his own. There was a sort of disconnect. He was listening to books at a much higher level than the level he should have been reading at, much less where he was. So he continued to listen to books rather than read them. It wasn’t until he started playing computer games and got tired of asking me to read things for him that he really started reading on his own at around age eleven. But Wilbur’s book kept me sane while waiting for the reading to kick in.
Another book I wish I had found during that time instead of high school was Sequential Spelling AVKO. I had tried a dozen different spelling programs and never really had any success until Sequential Spelling. For the longest time, my son just didn’t believe in vowels.
Given how long it took him to read, I probably wasn’t pushing spelling as hard as I could have. And then there’s the fact that I’m a pretty terrible speller myself.
Sequential Spelling, like Reading Rescue, keeps the process simple. Spell the word, correct the word, and you’re done for the day. There were no rules to memorize, just groups of similarly spelled words to go through each day. Given how traumatized I had been by spelling in school, this didn’t “feel” like spelling-way too simple.
But effective. My son started using vowels when writing. He was able to get close enough that the spell checker became useful. It didn’t make him into a great speller but he’s not much worst than me now.
The final resource I wish I had earlier was Teaching Textbooks. My mother was a high school math teacher so I had a variety of textbooks to choose from starting with Algebra 1. The problem was that the answer keys didn’t show how to solve the problem, just the answer.
Now I’m not a math phobe by any means. I’m actually pretty good in math but some of the answers just didn’t make sense. Even my mother admitted that things weren’t always clear.
We tried some textbooks that were aimed at homeschoolers but we tended to find a lot of errors in the answers. And given that there was still the explanation problem, this really didn’t help at all.
By the time we hit Algebra 2, we decided to try Teaching Textbooks because every single problem was worked out step-by-step. The chapters are short along with only 20 or so problems at the end–no assigning the odd problems or just the last 20 or whatever.
We never came across problems with wrong answers or incomplete steps. I shouldn’t say we because I basically had nothing to do with my son learning math at this point. He didn’t have to ask for help and since I didn’t “proctor” tests, he was on his own.
Now there are people believe that the Teaching Textbook material isn’t “rigorous” enough for college-bound students, especially those interested in the sciences or engineering. Maybe for some. But in my son’s case, it got him through the SAT fine and unless he switches majors, he’s taken his last math class.
The one problem we had with Teaching Textbooks is that it doesn’t offer calculus or statistics. We thought statistics was a better subject for him given his interests so he switched to Life of Fred after pre-calculus.