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Curricula Reviews - Literacy

Writing    Reading/Balanced Literacy    Spelling/Word Work     ESL/At-risk

Choosing a Reading and Writing Curriculum for Homeschooling

Which reading and writing curriculum is best for your child?  It depends on your child's strengths, learning style, and motivation... and on your own.  You'll find some reviews on this page, more suggestions, as well as some multimedia resources at Choosing a Homeschool Language Arts CurriculumAlso look for details on an upcoming free workshop in curriculum selection (eduFire platform).

Lucy Calkins Writing
   Units of Study: Grades K-2     Unites of Study: Grades 3-5

Lucy Calkins' curriculum helps elementary students see writing as a means of expression. Children are encouraged to write freely and fluently about topics that motivate them.  Teachers and parents use targeted mini-lessons to help children refine their skills and write effectively across multiple genres.
Around the Web: A Review of Lucy Calkins' curriculum, written for homeschooling families 

                             Positives and Negatives: Teachers Speak

Lucy Calkins' curriculum is excellent for elementary students who are passionate about writing... as well as for reluctant writers who have parents or teachers who are enthusiastic about writing. 

Of course, there is no single curriculum that works best for everyone.  Some students will benefit from a more directed approach to the writing process. Some other perspective...

A More Directed Approach to the Writing Process  
from The Write Connection

Another Writing Workshop Program from 4-Blocks

Reading/ Balanced Literacy

The Comprehension Toolkit      Toolkit: Grades K-2           Toolkit: Grades 3-6

The Comprehension Toolkit is based on the 'proficient reader research' conducted in Denver, Colorado.  The premise: good readers are adept at certain comprehension strategies, including making inferences and monitoring their own learning.

This wonderful program uses real literature and focused mini-lessons to teach comprehension strategies to elementary students.  Teachers/parents 'think aloud' to give children a chance to see comprehension in action; the children are them given opportunities to practice their strategies in a variety of engaging texts.

Around the web: Teacher review of Comprehension Toolkit

Brand New Readers          Brand New Readers 

This is my favorite series of very beginning readers -- at least among those that are readily available at bookstores and libraries.  I like the series because it teaches children to use multiple cueing systems: contextual as well as visual.  Phonics is such an important tool for beginning readers, but if children are struggling to read even 10% of the words in a story, their comprehension can go down (along with their interest in reading)!  The manufactures say Brand New Readers build confidence, and that's true, but, skillfully used, they build a number of reading skills.

The boxed sets include some bonus materials, like blank books so children can write their own readers.  I'm amazed at how even preschoolers will sometimes spontaneously incorporate the language of the patterned storybooks that they read.  This helps build the foundation for writing/composition skills, too.

More about using Brand New Readers

Around the Web: Amazon Reviews

Four-Blocks Literacy     Four-Blocks Site       Four-Blocks for Homeschoolers

Four-blocks is a blanced literacy program, which emphasizes the importance of setting aside time for four different literacy strands (guided reading, self-selected reading, writing, and working with words).  These particular curricula writers are masters at making that last block, word work (which includes phonics) multi-level, relevant, and fun.

Spelling/Working With Words

Spelling Power                           Spelling Power Book and Digital Tutor

Not all students need a separate spelling curriculum -- many are natural pattern-finders who pick up spelling skills in the context of daily writing.  However, some intermediate and middle grade students do benefit from direct spelling instruction; for those, there's Spelling Power. 

Spelling Power is an excellent self-paced program that works well in a home setting.  Instruction is based on the 5,000 most common words in the English language; students are assessed and placed at the appropriate level.  Students use multisensory activities to practice their spelling words, and move on to the next list only when they have demonstrated mastery.

Don't let the cost of the Spelling Power book deter you -- the same book can be used for several years, indeed, for as long as your children need a spelling curriculum!

Positives and Negatives: Homeschooling Families Speak 

For younger elementary students, the Four Blocks Model offers materials for 'working with words', i.e. spelling and phonics.

ESL/ At-risk

Project GLAD

Project GLAD requires teachers to attend in-service training before accessing their wealth of unit studies; unfortunately, it may not be an option for most homeschooling families, particularly those educating a single child.  However, it could be an attractive option for a homeschool cooperative in which parents/teachers share instructional responsibilities. 

Project GLAD is best known as a program for second language learners, but also has much to offer at-risk students and many beginning literacy learners.  Curriculum development is truly a collaborative effort between teacher and children.  The program is based on teacher created units, infused with a rich collection of visuals and multi-sensory activities that make content-area vocabulary comprehensible and accessible.  The writing process is taught through step-by-step concrete lessons.

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