A Few of My Favorite Things: Old Faithfuls

Until now, most of these editions have focused on a particular skill or subject. In this edition I want to share a couple of my "old faithful" resources in two subjects: math and grammar. In my opinion, these two subjects rank at or near the top in regards to importance. I started off my journey using other materials in both subjects, but along the way I stumbled upon a resource for each that has become my constant. I know that children are so very different, and I'm prepared for the fact that what works splendidly for one may not work at all for the other. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is being able to analyze your children's strengths and weaknesses and tailor a curriculum that meets their needs. However, I have loved these products enough to trust them for a second time through.

We'll start with math. When Riley started kindergarten, I chose a math that was colorful, easy to implement, and solid: BJU Math. It fit our needs for three and a half years. When Riley was in the middle of level four, I began to see the setup of the program was not working for her anymore. BJU is a wonderful mastery program, but the mastery method (introducing one concept at a time, focusing on that concept, little review of past concepts) did not provide enough practice, in my opinion, of all the new concepts that were being introduced. My daughter is very conceptual when it comes to math. She mentally grasps concepts quickly. What she needed what enough practice to build up speed in her execution of those concepts.

At that point I knew I needed to find a new program. Because math is a subject that builds incrementally, it is important not to switch around unless absolutely necessary. Although most math materials lead to the same point by sixth or seventh grade, they often get to that point in different ways. Interrupting the flow of that path can leave gaps since this subject needs to be built upon, block by block. Consequently, I wanted to find something that I would want to stick with for the remainder of elementary. I panicked a bit, but eventually I happened upon Christian Light Education (CLE). Their math looked like a solid, thorough program using the spiral method (introducing new concepts while constantly practicing all concepts learned) instead of mastery, and so I gave it a try. I am so happy that I did.

What I love about CLE Math:

  • There is a lot of review. For some people, this is a negative; however, I have found it to be a positive even with a child that is mathematically inclined. My husband and I view math similarly to learning a musical instrument: practice, practice, practice. 
  • This material is very child-directed. I sit with her and teach each new concept introduced, but the material is written to her and encourages independent learning. 
  • There are speed drills in the back of each unit to be done daily. Math requires significant memory work--unit conversions, math facts--and these drills are an excellent way to help children memorize. However, the drills are separate from the actual lesson and could be skipped if the child is sensitive to timed drills or if you find them unnecessary.
I have already introduced my son to this program, and he loves it...the speed drills especially which his sister loathed. I hope it will continue to be a good fit for him as well. My daughter is finishing up level six, and then we will move into pre-algebra with an online program. I feel she will be comfortably prepared for pre-algebra after this level of CLE.

Grammar is another subject I have used multiple materials for. I liked several things, but I always had issues with the materials as well. Rod & Staff English came highly recommended, but I could never get past how textbookish and boring it seemed. Finally, I decided to give it a try in fourth grade. My daughter LOVED it. I had initially only purchased a teacher guide. Once I felt confident the program was for us, I bought my daughter a student book. It was like Christmas when I gave it to her! She hugged it to her chest and jumped up and down. Again, this will not be every child's reaction to this material, but it was a hit here.

What I love about Rod & Staff English:

  • Every item I have used from Rod & Staff has been simple yet thorough. Their books aren't fancy or colorful, but they will cover everything needed...and then some.
  • I love the setup of the teacher guide. An oral review is included each day as well as information for covering the current lesson.
  • Rod & Staff materials are very affordable.
  • We can do much of the lesson orally or on the white board. There are workbooks and test booklets for each level that can be purchased very inexpensively. The student book provides ample practice for each lesson, but I like to purchase these as well. 
  • This material has helped me to understand grammar better than ever despite having been an English major.
Both of these companies are Mennonite companies, so their materials do include Christian references and scriptures. There is more in Rod & Staff English than in CLE Math, of course, but occasional references occur there as well. Rod & Staff does not have a website, but you can purchase from them directly by calling (606) 522-4348. The site I linked above is another way to purchase the books and provides samples of each material. Recently, Rod & Staff have allowed more of their products to be carried by Rainbow Resource; however, you will only be able to see many of these products in the catalog and not online. (If you don't already have the infamous Rainbow Resource catalog, you need to get one. Trust me.) Christian Light has a website, linked above, and you can see samples of most of their products there, except on Sundays when they close that feature down on the website. 


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