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Homeschooling Curriculum Reviews

Posted by on Apr. 8, 2009 at 3:24 PM
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Place your homeschooling curriculum reviews here

by on Apr. 8, 2009 at 3:24 PM
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by Group Admin on Apr. 15, 2009 at 4:49 PM

History At our House: HistoryAtOurHouse provides a systematic, full-featured presentation of history to students beginning in 2nd grade and extending all the way into college. The curriculum is designed based on the basic premise that history provides indispensable knowledge about the world, which must be conveyed starting at an early age, and continually pursued – at higher and higher levels of abstraction and intellectual penetration – throughout a child's academic career.

The curriculum fully integrates history so that every level is connected to every other level; what is taught in 2nd grade is connected to what is taught in 3rd grade all the way on up to 12th grade.

All HistoryAtOurHouse lectures are delivered to classes of students, live, through a conference-calling "bridge." This allows students from anywhere in the country, and indeed the world, to attend classes from home. In addition, live classes are digitally recorded and then posted to the Internet in MP3 format so students who cannot attend the live sessions, or who choose not to, may access them at their convenience. MP3 formatting allows parents/students to easily play the lectures on their home computers, or transfer them to a portable player/iPod.

Students can register for Ancient History (for ages 6-8 or for ages 9-13; $20/month for Basic, $35/month for Live, or $75/month for Premium) or for American History ($20 per month for ages 6-8 or for ages 9-13).

by Group Admin on Apr. 15, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Review of History at our House:

My Best Pick for the Year

My children (DS9 and DD8) studied lower elementary American History with History At Our House this past school year 2007-08.
It was amazing to watch their knowledge grow day by day. Our famous Americans, events of the past pop up in our conversations regularly.
I witnessed every time we had a lecture to dial into, who can run faster to the computer to be the first. My children were careful to reread their class notes regularly and were interested in keeping their binders organized. Completing the tests sharpened their research skills and they were oh so proud when got a “virtual tap on the back” from Mr. Powell by answering correctly over the phone.
During the History Through Art course they not only learned some invaluable information about the era through paintings, they also studied how to analyze those pictures. What to look for to try understand the message the artist wanted to tell with his image on the canvas. Finally with the added Geography we had a well rounded Social Science program to follow for the year.

In 30 minutes four times a week and I had a professional, interactive, entertaining and up-to-date history, art and geography in my house. Everything was prepared for the lectures. We just had to set down and travel in time with Mr. Powell. It was my best pick for the year.

Aniko B.

by Group Admin on Apr. 26, 2009 at 8:59 PM

100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum (by Cathy Duffy)


100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style (by Cathy Duffy) not only helps you choose the best curriculum based on your educational philosophy and child’s learning style, but gives you information on how to determine your child’s learning style as well as your own. The author discusses her top choices from every subject area, approaching everything through a Christian perspective.


This book is amazing! I did not know of its existence until just last year. I wish I had found it my first year of home schooling. It could have saved me from some expensive mistakes.

Before you even get into the many choices of curriculum (there are so many more out that, the book only contains her top choices), you discover so much about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling that the first few chapters are worth the cost of the book.

Cathy Duffy does a wonderful job of helping you discover what your teaching philosophy is. You also will be asked a series of questions to help set goals of what you want to achieve by schooling your children at home. The next thing you learn is what your learning style is, and she also helps you pinpoint your child/rens learning styling (believe it or not, they are not always the same). You will have learned so much by this point; you can't imagine that there is anything else to learn. But there is!

She then walks you through her Top 100 choices of curriculum of multiple subjects. The overall reviews are broken down in chart form that help you understand each curriculum in the following categories: if the curriculum of choice will go well with your child's learning style, the amount of parent/teacher instruction, the amount of writing involved, the amount of prep work prior to each lesson, grade level specific or multilevel, what type of philosophy it will support, and if there is a teacher’s key/guide to purchase.

The remaining book, then breaks down the 100 choices and gives you a nice detail of the curriculum that should help you decide if you want to pursue that choice or look into something different. There are also web addresses included for you to investigate the product even more. I found myself making a lot of notes in the margins for myself to help save time in the future when I need to plan for the coming year.

This book is not a one time read. I have pulled it off the shelf multiple times when I am ready for a change in the current curriculum or if I would like to add a new subject to our schedule. If there is one book that I recommend to all new home schooling families, it is this book!

by Group Admin on May. 5, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Review of BJU Press Heritage Studies (Bob Jones)

We have used two different grade levels of BJU Heritage Studies and we have really enjoyed them both. We just finished the 1st grade Heritage Studies book and it really hooked our first grader she wanted more. We would read a few pages in our textbook and then find a book on our own bookshelves that went along with the topic. The textbook peaked her interest and then she wanted to study more on that topic. I did not use the teacher’s manual along with this book but used it more like a history spine. The first grade book has some very neat and homeschool friendly projects through out. Our 1st grader and her littler brother (3½) enjoyed making paper weaved mats when we were reading about different Indian tribes. The 1st grade curriculum also gives a great introduction to geography. Our two using this book enjoyed drawing maps of the inside of our house and displaying them on the refrigerator.

We have also used the 4th grade Heritage Studies. We used this with our oldest son and I did use the teacher manual with it. He too enjoyed the curriculum. I read it aloud to him each day so that we could discuss what we had just read. I am a history buff so this worked well for me! I really appreciated all the extra learning suggestions, timeline suggestions, and discussion questions that were in the teacher manual. We did not use the student activity book for this level either.

If you have more than one child you can easily pick a level that is between the two grades and use it for both. You can buy two student activity books and supplement the older child's lesson with extra reading books. If you have more than one child and you are keeping all of their lessons/subjects separate it could become very time consuming trying to coordinate it all. The teacher manual would be very helpful and a time saver for you.

I keep all of our Heritage Studies textbooks on the shelf as they make great reference books and the kids really enjoy looking/reading through them for fun. I even have a couple of levels that we haven't used because they are great reference books that the kids enjoy.

Bob Jones does a great job of presenting history in the elementary years in a story-like fashion that is very interesting and very appealing to kids and adults. I enjoyed reading their textbooks as much as they did! It incorporates geography, hands-on projects, timeline work, and much more. Very solid curriculum that is very God centered and easy to use.

by Group Admin on May. 12, 2009 at 3:17 PM

ClickN' READ Phonics is the perfect program for my son. He is six years old and is very gifted in reading, but I realized that most of the words he knows are because he memorized them. He was unable to sound out words because he did not have a thorough phonics program.

ClickN' READ is completely customizable (by the parent). I am able to choose the playback speed, choose the length of time that he spends on each activity, choose the level of lesson that he starts with, and even determine whether he repeats a particular lesson. This is an excellent feature because he LOVES repetition and usually asks me if he can do a lesson again as soon as he finishes.

We tried Time4Learning first and he didn't respond to it well. He uses the computer a lot with his older brothers and is used to instant responses and fast paced programs. He became frustrated with Time4Learning because the characters talked too slowly, the instructions were repetitive, and the response time was sluggish.

I like the fact that the ClickN' Read program teaches the same letter sound in a number of different formats - the character says a letter sound and my son clicks on the corresponding letter on the screen, the character says a letter sound and my son clicks on the corresponding letter on the keyboard, and there is also a "speed round" where the character says a letter sound and my son is instructed to respond as fast as possible. The response times are all included in the (printable) parent reports so I am able to tell which letter sounds he still needs to work with. This variety in teaching the same concept is great for kids that have a shorter attention span. My son is always eager to do the lessons and it is very obvious that he is retaining what he has learned.

ClickN' READ's price is phenomenal! I chose the three payment option ($19.95 each payment) and we now own the product for a lifetime AND we can transfer our account to someone else when we are finished! This would be great for parents who have younger children who will need a phonics program. They also offer a referral program that gives you credit for each person you refer (they must sign up for the program). You can earn unlimited referrals, earning more money than you originally paid!

ClickN' READ customer service is great too - very prompt and polite responses to my questions!

by Group Admin on May. 14, 2009 at 9:31 PM

Review of Zoombinis

Zoombinis is a series of three educational software programs (Logical Journey, Mountain Rescue, and Island Odyssey) designed for children 8 and up

One of our major goals as a homeschooling family is to expose our daughter to many opportunities that develop her thinking skills. Zoombinis introduces kids to logic and problem solving in a fun way. Each challenge in the Zoombini adventures calls for attention to detail as the player figures out what is happening in each scenario and what they need to do in order to reach their goal.

Our daughter started playing Zoombini games when she was about 6 and it was fun to hear her say in a most important way, “I’m really good at logic.” I was concerned about the frustration level at first. She is very determined to “get” things and often insists on doing so whether she is ready to learn something easily or not. I talked her through the process in the beginning and played the game a little bit myself, taking steps out loud so she could see what I was doing. When she had the idea of the process she needed to go through to figure things out, her frustration level went down. That’s when she wanted me to leave her alone so she could figure the rest out herself. It takes practice to look at things in the Zoombini way, but it gets easier.

To play Zoombinis, kids have to look at the details of a scenario to figure out why things are happening the way they are. They have to think of different possibilities and eliminate possibilities based on what happens when they test their theories. Our daughter goes through “if...then...” scenarios out loud sometimes as she plays. “If the Zoombini with roller skates and a blue nose goes over there, then the bridge falls down. If the Zoombini with roller skates and an orange nose goes over there, the bridge stays up. Therefore, a blue nose makes the bridge fall down.” Watching her go through this process of elimination and listening to her explanations, is really fun. Zoombinis has introduced her to the power of problem solving through logic.

We have Zoombini Logical Journey and Zoombini Island Odyssey. Each has a storyline that ties all of the scenes together. Zoombini Island Odyssey is the more difficult of the two and incorporates concepts such as food chain, ecology, and genetics into the scenarios. Our daughter recommends starting with Logical Journey because it is easier. Both of these games start by having the player build Zoombinis out of different combinations of “feet,” hair, and facial features. These characteristics play a part in some of the problem solving. Some of the situations use additional variables for even more of a challenge. Each part of the game has a question mark icon you can click for spoken instructions. This helped out a lot when we forgot what we needed to do or had no idea in the first place. Clicking the question mark icon also brings the instructions up as text on the screen. These games are very well thought out and worth the price of about $10.

The ability to think through a problem logically is priceless. What a great thing to have an enjoyable game that fosters that ability!

Submitted by: KristenS

by Group Admin on May. 21, 2009 at 8:47 PM
Review of A History of US(by Joy Hakim)

A friend recommended A History of US to me during one of my near tirades about boring history texts. I was at my wit’s end with trying to find something to capture my daughters’ imagination AND teach them the facts at the same time. I seemed to find books that fell into one of two categories: fact-filled and mind-numbingly boring or error-ridden yet full of creativity. I really wanted something that was both creative and reliably informative. I finally found these things in A History of US.

So far, I’ve used volumes one and two, and one of the best things about these books is Hakim’s conversational tone. Nothing makes a book livelier than feeling as if the author is actually talking to you. I like to read these books to my children instead of having them go over them alone. I really feel that my readings are enhanced by the author’s creative way with words. My children were actually able to stay awake while I read this.

Before we tried these books out, my children thought history was a real chore. I’m sure they were tired of listening to me lecture on and on about the inaccuracies in this book or that book. I know they’d had enough of the stodgy volumes we pored over and the endless questions that followed some of our more traditional textbook experiments. When we finally found these books, my children sat up and took notice. They started asking questions about the things we read and wanting to learn more. Sometimes, they even asked to read these books instead of working on other activities.

A huge plus with this series is Hakim’s tell-it-like-it-is style. This author doesn’t gloss over dark moments in United States history and make them seem heroic or romantic. If something in our history is terrible or shameful, Hakim can be counted on to call it that. However, this author is also good at giving both sides of a story. Instead of merely commenting on a misdeed, Hakim often discusses what may have led to problems. Furthermore, if historians aren’t sure about the facts surrounding a moment in history, Hakim is quick to say so.

These books don’t require any preparation. You and your children can just sit down and get started reading right away. I don’t think any supplemental resources are necessary either. However, if you like end–of-the-chapter questions, exercises, tests, and quizzes, you’ll need to create your own, as these books don’t include such things.

More Reviews of A History of US

by Group Admin on Jun. 4, 2009 at 10:59 AM

Review of Spell to Write and Read

A reading program that works!

Reviewed by codapop All reviews by this user | Message this Reviewer
Created at 5:28 PM EDT on March 19, 2008

Category Score
Effectiveness 5
Usability 4
Price/Value 5
Overall Average 4.67
I have used this reading/spelling curriculum for several years. I now have two children reading as a result of using this program.

Pros of the program: I like that it teaches by phonics and not sight reading. Once the child has learned all 70 phonograms they are usually reading just about anything. They can actually read before learning all 70, though. I never had to do the Dick and Jane books with my kids. Once it "clicked" for my son he could read just about anything. The focus is on spelling first which leads them to "suddenly" be able to read. It is an exciting process. I have been extremely impressed with my son's spelling ability due to this program. Excellent program for children with learning disabilities or dyslexia. The cost is a definite positive part of the program. This is a one time purchase that can be used with all your kids up through High School.

Cons: The initial figuring out the program. Beginning to use the program required much reading on my part. I began with a four year old child therefore had to figure out just how to use this program from the very beginning.

It was worth the effort and is a much simpler now. I switched to something else briefly with my second child and then switched back and made a better effort to follow the lesson plans that are given as a guide in SWR. She is now reading and her spelling is improving as well. I would say the delay was my not following the plan laid out and being consistent.

I highly recommend this reading program and believe it is the best out there. I will not try another for my other kids because I have learned that as long as I am diligent the program proves a success (and not a stressful one!). It has been an excellent investment. A one time purchase that I can continue to use for all my kids.

The program consists of two books (The Wise Guide and Spell to Write and Read), phonogram cards (we laminated ours and put on a key ring), spelling rule cards (laminated and put on key ring), and a CD or tape of the 70 phonograms (I never used this).

The Spell to Write and Read book is used to teach you about the program. It is like an instruction guide that teaches you step by step. It also contains the lesson plan ideas and diagnostic tests and MUCH more.

The Wise Guide is the book we use daily. It has the word lists for the week. We are given 20 words in each list with sentences on one page. The other page has the words shown with the correct "markings" and an explanation or corresponding spelling rule if needed. Each page has ideas for further spelling enrichment. We are also told which phonograms and/or spelling rules to introduce that week in preparation for the coming week. This is very easy to follow.

With my 7 year old daughter I introduce 10 words Monday and we discuss how to mark them (according to phonogram and spelling rules) and whether they are one syllable words or more, then quiz. I introduce the next 10 words Tuesday (same format) and quiz. We do spelling enrichment activities on Wednesday and Thursday. We test on Friday.

If you are looking for a cost effective program that will give results with a consistent effort on your part for children with or without learning disabilities then this is certainly worth your time. (There is a yahoo group for support with the author and other trained instructors available to answer questions.)
by Group Admin on Jul. 6, 2009 at 9:33 AM

Review of

Perfect for emerging readers

 tried at the recommendation of a teacher friend who uses it in her classroom. It has now become a staple in our homeschool for teaching letter recognition, sounds and beginning phonics. In fact, it's what I use to create a kindergarten phonics curriculum since we don't buy prepackaged curriculums for kindergarten.

I start using Starfall ABC's with my kids when they turn three. Starfall ABC's is everything a preschooler loves including colorful pictures, fun stories, songs and educational games. Starfall's set up lets kids navigate the site with little to no help. Once I explained to my children that they click on the large arrow to turn the pages, the red X to close out the page, and click on items or letters with sparkly stars around them, they were able to navigate the site independently at a young age.

While I use Starfall mainly for letter recognition in preschool, Starfall's constant letter sound repetition on the website lets kids pick up more than one skill at a time. Starfall also helps teach preschoolers that letters make sounds and sounds make up words. An object that starts with that letter introduces every letter. For example, the letter V is dropped off by a vacuum, and the letter W is caught in a web. Both of my kids started their Starfall addiction in preschool.

For kindergarten, I use the Starfall website almost exclusively to create a phonics curriculum. Starfall provides homeschoolers with games and lessons that cover short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, digraphs, word families, silent e and more. They also provide online stories that stress the word family or vowel sound I'm teaching my child. The best part of Starfall for a kindergarten curriculum is their free download center. Starfall lets parents download and print the Starfall reading and writing journals, letter printing sheets, word searches, short fill-in-the-blank stories and books. These materials are plenty for a kindergarten phonics curriculum, and are a great supplement to a reading curriculum.

I would recommend Starfall to any homeschooler who has a child who struggles with reading, or who is just learning to read. In the three years we've used Starfall, I have yet to find something I don't like or don't agree with. Even now, at seven years old, my son still likes to get on Starfall and independently read the more advanced stories. In addition, his sister runs to the computer when she hears me call out, "It's Starfall time!" As a homeschooling parent, I believe is one of the best free educational programs on the internet.

by Group Admin on Jul. 26, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Review for hooked on Phonics:


A suitable supplement

Reviewed by wendysue All reviews by this user | Message this Reviewer
Created at 1:14 AM EST on March 4, 2008

Category Score
Effectiveness 3
Usability 5
Price/Value 5
Overall Average 4.33

We purchased a number of the Hooked on Phonics workbooks including Spelling (kindergarten), Beginning Words (first grade), Addition (first grade), and Math Activities (kindergarten), but haven’t tried a complete Hooked on Phonics system. 

The Hooked on Phonics books we've purchased serve our homeschool merely as supplements. We practice an eclectic sort of teaching style that includes a packaged curriculum and countless workbooks and worksheets from other sources, just to add a bit of variety to our lessons and to keep things interesting. 

Full Review and Additional Review for hooked on phonics

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