I know that over the last few years I have wanted to know what others use for homeschooling and I have been through the long process of finding what works for us, so here is my list of what we used for 4th grade. It was very successful for us.
We have used Math U See all the way. I love the DVDs and I love the fact that they work on one skill, taught to mastery, not a little of this and a little of that. I also like that in the DVDs he explains why things work in math much better than I ever could. I do actually enjoy math, but I am not great at explaining it, so this is a perfect fit for us.
We use the Spectrum workbooks to review grammar and punctuation rules and we do Daily Paragraph Editing to apply it. In the paragraph editing I can see what we really need to work on.
We use Spectrum Reading for daily short stories with comprehension questions and we read about ten longer books a year. I use my “What Your Child Should Learn in ..” book, the Sonlight book list and other lists from the internet to find about ten books that I think D will enjoy and I try to include at least a few historical fiction books or biographies that overlap with what we are learning in history.
I usually start out reading the first chapter or so out loud and I check for comprehension along the way. If he seems to have a good grasp, I let him read a certain amount each day on his own and later discuss it with me and answer comprehension and vocabulary questions.
Some of the books that we read were:
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lunch Money, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, Across Five Aprils, and others.
Visualizing and Verbalizing has been a great program for reading comprehension. It asks the student to constantly visualize what he or she is reading in a very deliberate way and it is so effective! It is so much better than anything else we have tried and I cannot recommend it enough for anyone that struggles with comprehension. You can go to the Lindamood-Bell Centers and pay over $100 per hour to have a tutor teach this to your child or you can order the materials yourself from Gander Publishing (the manual and the workbooks) and you will see that it is a very scripted program and you can really do it on your own. It is still not cheap, but no where near the price in the centers.
Spectrum Workbooks: http://www.amazon.com/Spectrum/e/B007E5BVRA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
We quickly went through a Spectrum Phonics workbook this year for review, but most of the time we did the Seeing Stars workbooks from Gander Publishing. This is another a program offered by Lindamood-Bell and it is also very scripted. It has really improved D’s spelling, even though he was not especially struggling in that area.
We also have a “Spelling Box” that we use for any word that he has spelled wrong. It helps him at least try to spell things correctly and helps us not waste time on words he knows. We go through it at least once a day and once he get the word correct five times it gets removed from the box.
This is an area where we have had real problems in the past. We used “Vocabulary Packets: Greek and Latin Roots” and “Vocabulary Packets: Greek and Latin Prefixes and Suffixes” this year. They were both good and helped him understand the idea of using parts of the word to understand its meaning. We are going to try Red Hot Root Words for next year and we have used Wordly Wise in the past, but it is hard to figure out what level to order because they changed their system a few years ago.
We have tried many writing programs and have not had real success with them. D can complete the assignment, but I feel that his writing is lacking maturity. We have just started the Student Writing Intensive, Level A from IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing), and so far, so good. They are very expensive, but the resale value is very high, so you could buy it used and sell it for almost the same price next year. We are working on it over the summer.
We have always used Handwriting Without Tears, but I have to say I am not that strict about it. As long as he knows how to write, that is fine. Next year I want to focus on typing.
Next year D will be going to public school for the afternoons only. There he will have Social Studies, Science and specials (Art, Music, Library, PE)
I feel a little conflicted about this decision, but we are going to try it and see how it goes. He really loved the co-op that he went to this year and he did not want to go back to school full time, so we are trying this so that if he does want to take a class or two in middle school he will know some of the kids.
We have used different resources for History/Social Studies this year and I have to say that D’s grasp of history is much better than mine was at his age!
Basically, I look at the Illinois Standards for Social Studies for his grade and make a list of what I want to teach him and I use the following resources to teach those concepts:
– Story of the World Vol. 3 (Bauer) and we used the pdf workbook (http://www.susanwisebauer.com/books/the-story-of-the-world/)
– See Time Fly. Vol. 1-3. This is an EXCELLENT (although expensive) set of books put out by Gander Publishing. They are especially good for those using Visualizing and Verbalizing. The stories are interesting and well written and they do not allow the reader to disengage from the text. The reading level is probably more middle school level, but we were still able to use it successfully. http://www.ganderpublishing.com/Visualizing-and-Verbalizing/See-Time-Fly-History-Series.html
– BrainPop – Oh, how I love thee, BrainPop! We use BrainPop to supplement everything – grammar, writing, social studies, science, even math occasionally. The videos are great. They are not dumbed-down and D loves them. He even watches them for fun on his own. There is a vocabulary list for the student to fill out on just about every video and there are creative assignments for them also. The vocabulary lists have helped D to learn to understand the meaning of words by the context – such an important skill!
– Videos and books from our local library.
– We also used a Spectrum Geography book for the first few months of school to learn about each region in the US and memorize the states and their capitals. We used some library videos, puzzles, etc. too for this. http://www.amazon.com/Spectrum/e/B007E5BVRA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
I have really enjoyed teaching Social Studies, but this will be one of the classes he will be taking in public school next year. I hope he doesn’t forget all he learned!
This year we started using “Real Science 4 Kids” (Level 1) and I am pretty satisfied. It is supposed to be a middle school curriculum, but I think maybe 3rd to 5th grade would be more appropriate. They used to call the levels Pre-Level 1 (for K-4), Level 1 (for middle school) and Level 2 (for high school), but now they have new labels that are clearer (Focus on Elementary, Focus on Middle and Focus on High School). We did the entire Level 1 Chemistry book and half of the Biology book.
We generally have science two days a week and it takes us three sessions to get through a chapter.
1. For the first session we read the first half of the chapter together and D helps me find the most important points to write down or the main idea of each paragraph.
2. In the second session we review our notes about the first half and then read and take notes on the second half of the chapter.
3. In the third session we review our notes (which I have typed up) and we do the experiment and review activity.
For the most part the materials for the experiments were common items that were easy to get and not expensive. I had planned to finish Biology and to do Physics next year, but we will be sending him to school for science next year.
We use BrainPop and Bill Nye the Science Guy videos for reinforcement.
Well, I did originally have an art plan, but then a mom in the area offered to do art classes, so I just let him do that, which he really loved.
D was in a choir at co-op, which is what we did for music this year. Last year we worked on reading music and a few other things. Next year he’ll have Music at school.
I do have curriculum (Family Time Fitness) which looks great that I got when there was a really great sale, but I have never actually used it because D had PE at our co-op this year.
We have gone through a middle school workbook and try to make D speak the Spanish that he knows, but I have to admit that this has been one of our less successful areas, so I will refrain from making any recommendations here.
We used Enchanted Learning quite a bit to supplement in many areas for all ages http://www.enchantedlearning.com
YouTube, of course has videos on anything and everything (www.youtube.com)
Khan Academy can be useful (www.khanacademy.org)
If you have an iPad there are also (usually some free) apps for learning most skills
Here are some places that I buy used curriculum:
Yahoo Groups for used curriculum
If you are on the IEW families yahoo group, you can join their resale group also.
I haven’t used this one yet, but just discovered: MUSSwap Yahoo Group for used Math U See Curriculum