The Reading Lesson
The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons is a phonics and reading curriculum containing 20 lessons that you can cover with your child over the course of several months. Each of the 20 lessons is approximately 20 pages in length, and the authors recommend covering anywhere from 1 to 3 or more pages a day with your child. They emphasize that your child only needs to spend about 10 minutes a day with the curriculum to use it successfully. The curriculum is designed for children ages 4 through 8.
The Reading Lesson is very phonics-based, focusing almost exclusively on breaking each word apart into its component sounds. Letter sounds aren't presented in alphabetical order; instead, the authors introduce the most common letters in the English language first. For instance, instead of beginning with the first letters of the alphabet or all the vowels like many other programs do, the first lesson covers the letters c, o, s, a, and t.
Parents are given clear instructions for how to introduce each letter sound; the parent usually points to the letters and has the child repeat the sounds.
What I like about the curriculum.
For the inexperienced teacher, this curriculum holds your hand. It gives you a solid, sequential roadmap to follow while you're teaching your child to read. While I've not used this curriculum to teach my own children how to read since they are already readers, I think this would be an effective curriculum for many children.
What I don't like about the curriculum.
Special letter forms: Often throughout the curriculum the authors add symbols to the letters to help the child remember which way to pronounce it (for example an empty circle above the a or the i, a 'hat' over the e, or a dot inside a b.) I freely admit I don't hold a masters degree in phonics education and I might be completely wrong about this, but I question the benefit of changing the look of a letter from its original form to help the child pronounce it correctly. To me this seems like it lets children "read" the words correctly without their really learning how to read them properly if the words were written normally.
Supplementary materials: The full Reading Lesson curriculum comes with a collection of supplemental CDs and DVDs. However, I was unable to successfully review any of the CDs since they do not work on newer Macs (the system requirements were not listed anywhere on the CDs so I had to try to install the software to finally discover that it requires an older PowerPC Mac). This means that most Mac users won't be able to use them. Their CDs have apparently not been updated for quite a long time.
I was able to play the Sounds of Letters DVD, and after watching a few minutes of it, I can say I would not recommend the DVD at all. The authors recommend the DVD for 2-year-olds and up, but the animation is so poorly done, and the script so slow and poorly written, I doubt it would hold the attention of any child for very long. Videos like The Letter Factory are, in my opinion, a much better way to teach the letter sounds through video.
The Verbal Math Lesson
The Verbal Math Lesson: Step-by-Step Math without Pencil or Paper comes in two levels. Level 1 is for children ages 4-7 and covers basic addition and subtraction. Level 2 is for children ages 7 to 8 and covers more addition and subtraction, but then moves on to basic multiplication and division.
Each book has about 30 lessons, and each lesson begins with some exercises, such as counting, skip counting, fact families, etc. Then it moves on to verbal word problems. These word problems are like what you'd see in a regular curriculum, only the teacher is reading it aloud to the student does the work in his head and answers orally.
The Verbal Math Lesson might be a great way to introduce and reinforce math concepts for children who are auditory learners and/or who struggle with writing.
According to the author, your child is ready for Level 1 if he has the following skills:
- Is able to count to 100 (occasional errors are acceptable).
- Can identify written numbers (single and double digit).
- Understands the concept of "same as", "more than" and "less than" when referring to numbers & quantities.
- Knows the difference between right & left.
- Recognizes basic shapes.
- Has a basic, conceptual understanding of measurements of length (inches, feet) and weight (ounces, pounds, tons).
This curriculum is not a complete math curriculum, so you'd want to use a regular math curriculum along with The Verbal Math Lesson to make sure you cover all the necessary concepts.
Big Words for Little Kids
Big Words for Little Kids: Advanced Vocabulary for Elementary School Children is a curriculum which teaches vocabulary through the study of prefixes, suffixes, and roots.
Each two-page lesson presents anywhere from 1 to 3 roots, suffixes, or prefixes. Then the child is guided through short examples and exercises (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, sentence building) to learn vocabulary words, all of which are formed by that lesson's word part. There are approximately 74 lessons.
What I like about this curriculum.
I'm an advocate of learning Latin and Greek roots as a means to understanding English vocabulary, so this curriculum is a good introduction to some of the most common words we use every day. Also, this is a self-guided curriculum, so it doesn't require any preparation or instruction on the part of the parent, which is something I tend to look for in a curriculum.
What I don't like about this curriculum.
The amount of study for each lesson is fairly limited, and there are not cumulative reviews of what has been previously studied. Consequently, each lesson's concept is presented only once and not reinforced later, so long-term retention might be limited without supplementary study. Additionally, answers to the exercises are not included in the curriculum which makes correcting the exercises time-consuming for the parent.
Disclosure: I received this curriculum free for review, but my opinions are (obviously) completely my own.