1) ALL ABOUT SPELLING -- This product, based upon the Orton Gillingham method used in remediating dyslexia, is superb. It's one of my very top favorites! I'll say it's one of my top three! It is easy to use, the lessons are short, and it illuminated some issues that I had not yet recognized in my daughter that would contribute to reading and spelling challenges.
2) APOLOGIA'S textbook, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day -- This book breaks down an in-depth, year long unit study into activities that are fun and meaningful, where we have lots of opportunities to use "academics" as a background for relationship development. I liked this so much that I bought two more textbooks in the series. Another of my top three.
3) ARTISTIC PURSUITS and 4) SPEARS ART STUDIO CD-- My biggest surprises were the two art programs I used and reviewed. I would never have considered an art curriculum. I don't know why, but I just wouldn't have. I was shortsided. I was surprised that they are so good. I was surprised that we would like them so much. Between-you-and-me, relationship development moments happen when we create art, and both of these programs are filled with art history, art how-to, and projects and activities. Now, I think everyone needs an art curriculum or two! The two of them create a three-way tie for one of my three in my top three. *grin*
5) BONNIE TERRY LEARNING, Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills -- gave me the tools to grow reading skills in short lessons that require no research and minimal preparation for me.
6) HEADS UP -- I didn't realize the Borings stock sooooo many products for children with special learning needs. Getting to try those tinted readers was a treat. Getting to hear Melinda and Scott in person in Cincinnati was a bonus. They "get" kids like my homeschooler. I enjoy her blog.
7) HOMESCHOOLING ABC's e-course. This course arrived with perfect timing, at the beginning of the review year, and each weekly lesson taught me and encouraged me. The freebies and samples that came with the course introduced me to even more resources. This course was really valuable to me as a new homeschooler, and I like being able to go back and refer to information in lessons I received months ago.
8) LITTLE MAN IN THE MAP - This book for children is a fun way to learn where the states are on the map.9) MATH MAMMOTH - I had no idea that there was a company that sells math worksheets in packages the way Math Mammoth does. They sell quite a few configurations for any need. They're a download, so you can get 'em right when you need 'em. No waiting for them to arrive in the mail. The worksheets we reviewed gave me great ideas for working on math off the worksheets, too. I adore a product that is an idea generator!
10) MEMORIA PRESS-- I like both the Christian Studies Book I and the three copybooks we were given. They're meaty. Quality. Classical. Adaptable. They'll be great for summer activities.
Why stop at 10? *wink*
11) PETERSON DIRECTED HANDWRITING - Peterson educated me about the way students need to scribble first, how to encourage the kind of scribbling that will help a student in penmanship, and how gross motor movements play an important role in handwriting. I actually bought another program from Peterson after they sent me one to review. We're using their pencil grips and triangular shaped pencils (that I purchased), too.
12) RIME TO READ -- We enjoyed these on-line books for beginning readers. The way the books are developed gave my daughter practice paying attention as the stories grew more complicated.
13) SPELLQUIZZER SOFTWARE-- Our whole family uses this one for vocab and spelling. The kids like to make fun of my southern drawl when they listen to my voice on the playback. It makes spelling fun!
14) TRIGGER MEMORY SYSTEMS flip charts -- Families who have children with autism are very familiar with visual charts, icons, picture communication, etc. WHO KNEW that there is a company making visual flip charts and marketing them to homeschoolers?
and last alphabetically, but one of my top three:
15) WRITE SHOP STORY BUILDERS -- These little cards with story parts printed on them have been a lot of fun, and are a perfect "academic" background activity with a relationship development focus in the foreground. Definitely another top three. I'm watching for more of them to show up for purchase.
When I saw the TOS ad to recruit focus group members to use and review homeschool materials, I was reeeeeeeeally new to homeschooling one child who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Joining some yahoo groups focused on homeschooling made me feel inadequate. There were so many acronyms used, I often thought that I needed an interpreter to help me figure out what they were talking about! (That's so ironic, because we use a *lot* of acronyms when we talk about children in specialized education in the public school system, and lots more that pertain to autism.) Ultimately, I completed the application process and was absolutely delighted to have been chosen to serve as an alternate on the first ever TOS Homeschool Crew.
(An aside: the Schoolhouse Planner I was given to review as part of the application process has been a resource I've used several times thoughout this school year -- it has so much stuff in one place, it's the first place I look when I need a template or form of any sort.)
I wasn't sure I'd be able to USE anything that would be sent to me. My daughter's skills and abilities are all over the place, and her work in the old public school setting had been heavily adapted. I figured all homeschool products were developed for typically developing children. (I was wrong.)
The list of participating vendors emerged, and I began to look at those web sites. The world of homeschooling resources began to unfold before my eyes!!! I still had no idea if I'd be chosen to use and review any of the items, as an alternate.
(For every Crew product review, go here: http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HomeschoolCrew/)
I could have been overwhelmed with products to use and review. But I was not. I received just enough to keep me busy but not enough to feel overwhelmed. I was suprised again and again by products that met our needs, products that taught me that we can indeed work on relationship development in the foreground and academics in the background, and build both. (Thank you, Lord for your plan for me in this year of reviews!)
FYI: Links to all of the companies who sent me products are in the side bar of my blog. Some of those companies have blogs, and those links are also in the sidebar of my blog.
HINT: Watch company blogs and sign up for their e-newsletters for discounts, sales, and freebies.
Stay tuned -- I am staying on the Crew for one more year, this time as a "First Mate". You can follow all 25 First Mates from the sidebar of my blog through the summer and as a new review year begins in the fall. I've enjoyed this review year and I hope that I've been an encouragement to you.
If you are considering the role of "accidental homeschooler" like I did, bringing a child home from public school because public school wasn't workin' for ya, I want to encourage you to give it a try. I am convinced that there is at least one resource for any need, and often, there are several resources for a need. So many of them are reasonably priced. There are resources that will work for you and your child, resources that public school staff never had access to. There are resources that will allow you and your child to be successful in many ways.