I was wrong. When I started homeschooling years ago, I decided not to use reading textbooks. I chose a packaged curriculum that used regular full-length books (novels, biographies, historical fiction) to teach Addison all sorts of language arts skills. I loved that we used great books, and I wasn't interested in a textbook approach.
I recently tried Pearson Homeschool's Reading Street program and changed my mind about textbooks. I was wrong. A textbook approach to language arts is exactly what Brennan and I need right now.
The Reading Street Homeschool Package includes the Student Editions (2 gorgeous hardcover books), a Teacher Resource DVD, a Guide on the Side handbook, and an Exam View Assessment CD.
I found so much that I liked about this set that I struggle to limit my review to a reasonable number of awesome features. I'll try to hit the highlights.
Great Story Selection
All of the books were high-interest stories, and most would be especially appealing to boys. The first story in the student book was about a young boy taking part in a search and rescue mission on a river. Brennan was so interested in hearing the ending that he read the whole thing in a single setting. As I glanced through the rest of the units, I found a biography of Satchel Paige, an article about special effects for TV and movies, and a historical account of the Hindenburg disaster.
Even though appealing stories is important to me, I also want quality stories when teach my children. Great classics are introduced -- books like Island of the Blue Dolphins, famous poems like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and traditional tales like King Midas and the Golden Touch. In addition to the many fiction selections, the Reading Street curriculum also includes texts that tie-in with science and social studies materials. Late elementary school is a key time for student to work on applying their reading skills to all subjects, and these selections help strengthen that connection.
Complete Language Arts Curriculum
At first I was overwhelmed with the amount of materials (worksheets, assignments, etc) that was included in this bundle. I then realized that this program is intended to address all language arts skills -- reading comprehension and literary analysis skills, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and composition.
The Student book contains all of the materials that I use to teach my child. Each week long unit begins with a page that focuses on a specific comprehension skill or strategy. For instance, our most recent unit talked about Facts versus Opinions as a comprehension skill and Questioning as a comprehension strategy. These are illustrated by using a short passage. The vocabulary is introduced next, often with a specific strategy that shows a student ways to figure out an unfamiliar word in context. Again, this strategy is reinforced with a short passage. The week's primary reading selection comes next and is roughly 12-16 pages long. The type is large enough to be easily read and the pages are colorfully illustrated. The passage is followed by several critical thinking questions and some information about the author and illustrator. The rest of the unit includes information about a specific type of writing, a writing prompt, and a student model for a completed assignment. Each unit also targets a specific grammar rule -- compound and complex sentences, irregular plural nouns, contractions, adverbs, etc. In addition to the primary reading passage for each unit, there is a shorter reading selection that reinforces the concepts taught earlier.
Plenty of Reinforcement
The Teacher Resource DVD is an awesome treasure trove of reinforcement exercises. There was a time when I didn't want to use worksheets. I was wrong about that, too. Brennan needs to practice reading comprehension skills and strategies. Sometimes he gets practice when he reads a story and then we discuss it together. Other times, he gets the practice he needs by completing a worksheet that focuses on specific skill.
In addition to the reading comprehension practice, the Resource DVD includes vocabulary work, grammar practice, and spelling lessons. There's more work provided for each unit than I'll probably ever assign, but I like having plenty to choose from.
I realize that textbook based language arts programs have often gotten a bad reputation in homeschool circles. For years, I didn't even look at reading textbooks, and I was wrong. The Reading Street curriculum is far more valuable than I would have ever imagined. I was very, very impressed with the materials and how they have helped me teach my student.
Pearson Homeschool sells Reading Street Homeschool Package (Grade 5) for $124.99. The Reading Street line of Language Arts materials is available for grades 1-6. They also offer materials for Science, Social Studies, and Math.