When homeschooling multiple kids who are considered the same grade, it's not unusual to see one excel in a subject while the other lags behind. Such is the case with my two - Ashleigh reads and writes at a much more advanced level then her brother who struggles with language arts and needed a remedial program to help him work through some of the issues he's having. For the last few weeks, I've been using Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B from Eclectic Foundations with Garrett to help improve his reading.
What is Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B?
Level B is divided into 144 individual lessons to be used four times a week, for a full 36 week program. Each week's lesson includes reading twice from the McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader (Revised Edition), a phonics lesson that focuses on fluency on a particular word "family", as well as listening to and identifying rhyming patterns in poetry and answering comprehension questions about the poetry selection. Each week also includes lessons in grammar and sentence structure as well as a handwriting component that teaches cursive writing through copywork. Two final components to the curriculum include word cards to help teach students define parts of speech as well as laminated Student Practice Sheets for students to practice spelling with a dry eraser marker.
For this review, we were given the student workbook, the teacher's guide, a package of word cards, and the Student Practice Sheets. Eclectic Foundations was also generous and sent a spiral bound copy of the McGuffy's First Eclectic Reader for our use but this resource is downloadable free on the internet or can be purchased and is not included with the purchase of the curriculum.
There are currently three levels available for students. Again, we used Level B, however, there's Level A and Level C currently available for purchase, with Level D soon to be released next month. The grade level for each Level is as followed: Eclectic Foundations Level A: 1st grade, Eclectic Foundations Level B: 1st–2nd grades, Eclectic Foundations Level C: 3rd–4th grades, and the new Eclectic Foundations Level D is for 5th–6th grades. Each of these Levels is available for purchase as either a PDF download or as a physical product.
How We Used It and What We Thought:
As was recommended, we began using this curriculum four times a week. While Garrett was my main focus for using this curriculum, I did opt to include Ashleigh in many of the lessons because there is so much more to this program than just learning to read. Yes, the reading component itself is way below her level (even towards the end of the book), there were definite benefits to including her in these lessons. For example, the grammar lessons, while short and easy, teaches above grade level and helped to reinforce the work we were doing in our other grammar program.
The teachers guide makes it very easy to teach this curriculum: Each lesson is numbered and the guide points out each component and how to teach it.
Each component to the curriculum is clearly marked, from what to read out of the McGuffey's reader, which stanzas of the week's poetry selection to read that day and which word cards to utilize for the lesson.
Also included in the teachers guides are questions to ask in regards to both the reading from McGuffey's as well as about the poetry selection. I found this extremely helpful as many of these questions, I personally would not think to ask. These questions might as something directly about the reading, such as who did what, or they might be deduction and reasoning questions (Why do you think this happened?)
We made sure to utilize the curriculum fully, using the word cards as well as the practice sheets, to really reinforce the lessons with Garrett. And I will say, I have seen a marked improvement in Garrett's reading skills since we began using the curriculum. Prior to starting this program, Garrett lacked confidence in reading even CVC words such as cat, rat and ham and often tried to guess a current word based on the previous word (example: if he just read cat and the next word was ham, he would say hat or cam). He would also whine and cry at the thought of having to read anything more than a few words long. Through the lessons, he's gained a confidence in his reading and as he progresses through the lessons, I notice that his "guessing" has decreased and he actually focuses on the word.
Another component to this curriculum that we have all seemed to enjoy is the handwriting/copywork aspect. Writing is another aspect that Garrett has improved greatly from when we started at lesson 1 to where we are now. Much like reading, any hint of having to write tends to get him agitated and stressed out.
This curriculum focuses on cursive writing, starting with learning and practicing each individual letter
We have tried other handwriting curriculum with Garrett in the past and he hated it. And in honesty, with five lines of practice, this actually includes more writing than the other curriculum that we have tried. Maybe the others were just too technical for him, I can't really be sure, but what I can tell you is that my reluctant writer has begun begging for us to do this program each day if for nothing more than to practice his handwriting. Not only that, but I find him throughout the day at the white board, picking up a dry eraser marker and practicing writing words he knows in cursive. (I actually caught him writing Mississippi the other day - lol). I also have found that his writing in cursive is much more legible then his manuscript printing. Ashleigh, who has already learned to write in cursive, used this time to practice and I have seen great improvements in her writing as well. We've half joked saying that the kids cursive looks better than their older sister's - I say half joked because it's pretty true.
Garrett still has a long way to go before he's at the same level at reading with his sister - he may never be at that same level (he's a genius when it comes to math, however) but this program is showing real promise in helping him get there. I personally love that there are so many components to this very simple but effective curriculum, meaning that if I didn't want to do any other grammar, poetry or phonics program, I wouldn't have to as they are all included. And while I was given this product for reviewing purposes, at a combined price tag of $30 dollars for a print yourself PDF or $56 for a physical product ($12/teaching guide, $24/Student Workbook, $20/Word Cards), you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.
This is a product I would highly recommend.
For more information about Eclectic Foundations, be sure to visit their website or their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/eclecticstudent