Saturday, January 15, 2011

Audio Books, part 1

Audio books, part 1

Do you use audio books as part of your home school curriculum? We know that audio books are great for children who have reading or visual learning problems. The good news is that audio books are of great for all students. In the past, audio books were not looked on as educational materials as much as they were looked on as entertainment. I’m a firm believer that education should be entertaining. Of course, not all education can be entertaining, but the parts that can be, should be.

There are major benefits to listening to audio books. First there is the practice in listening skills . As your child hits fifth grade many of the benchmarks for that grade are things that cannot be measured. “Improved listening skills” is one of those benchmarks that you will just have to decide for yourself if it is an improvement over previous years. It is not really a fair test to see whether listening skills are improved by asking your child to do something, and that thing not getting done. In the larger picture, this benchmark is meant to show overall improvement in the skill. One way to measure if your child’s listening skills are improving is to have them listen to the audio book, and then tell the story back to you.

Another skill that can be improved by the addition of audio books to your child’s education is comprehension. Reading comprehension is a skill that should be constantly improving. While the audios are not technically reading, the same measurements of success can apply. Comprehension in its most basic form is simply the understanding of language. For some children, listening to the audio will be too fast, but for many children, especially those children who have difficulty reading, the audio book does not present the information too quickly. Audio books can have an added benefit for children whose primary language was not English. Many times those children comprehend spoken speech at a higher level than they can read. It seems a shame not to expose them to age appropriate literature because their reading has not caught up to their verbal skills.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What curriculum to use?

What is your choice of homeschool curriculum for your fifth grader? There are many different choices when it comes to curriculum. One choice is home study programs. These are very much like the traditional education offered by most public schools. Sometimes these are even administered by the school system, and books are rented or borrowed from them. The cost is usually covered by the local school system. As a general rule, these programs are heavily dependent on text books. Because they are administered by the school system, you are not as free to choose the subjects, or the publisher of the text books. Additionally, testing may be a requirement of the school system.

Another choice would a boxed curriculum. With these, all or the vast majority of needed instructional materials, including workbooks, are provided for a fee. Beyond that basic, there is a wide range of choices. There are secular, and religious based programs. Some of these operate much like correspondence courses in that assignments are done by the student, then mailed to the teachers, graded, and returned. Others of this type are the materials only, without any teacher input or guidance.

A third choice would be a curriculum that is a mix of text books and online content. This type of curriculum often uses some correspondence course work with text book work. The good thing about this type of system is that the parents have someone else teach courses they are unfamiliar with. Costs vary depending on the source of the “outside” courses. Text book costs plus correspondence type courses can easily cost as much as a full boxed curriculum. The last we will speak about is a completely online curriculum. There are several types of programs like this. One type is like slides or snap shots, the student must read each slide, there is not interaction with the program. The second is much more interactive. The screens are much more like movies, with the narrator moving and speaking.

To add to the choices available as a home school parent/teacher, you can choose any combination of the above curricula. Additionally, some programs operate as private schools, or umbrella schools. With these record keeping, reporting to state departments of education, transcripts, and diplomas or certificates of completion may be available. Some even offer counseling service and academic career planning.

In the end, the curriculum you choose for your fifth grader will depend on your child’s learning style, your teaching style, financial considerations, and whether you want your curriculum to reflect secular or religious content.