Monday, May 10, 2010

Madsen Method: An Overview

Madsen Method.  I had never heard of it prior to seeing it on the vendor list for the TOS Review Crew last summer sometime.  So what is it?  English for Life is its "other" name... and that sums it up... basically, it is intended to be an entire K-12 language arts program.  Coming in four parts, it is everything you need except paper and pencil, and you can work through all of "language arts" in 6-8 years.

I was both excited and apprehensive when I found out that Part 1 of Madsen Method would be coming my way.  Part 1 introduces the methodology, handwriting, and beginning reading.  Specifically, it is split into sections that cover the following (this is a very basic overview):
  • Section 1: methodology and how to hold pencil and paper
  • Section 2: pre-writing activities (writing various shapes)
  • Section 3: writing numerals
  • Section 4: learning sounds and writing for the circle letter phonograms, along with reading, vocabulary, writing, etc.
  • Section 5: learning sounds and writing for the remainder of the alphabet, including reading, writing, vocabulary, etc.
{Note:  This is just an overview post, and I wrote this three months ago.  I am going to post a couple more times this week with more specifics as to how the program has worked.}

What we received:  A pretty good sized box with loads of materials.  Overwhelming amounts of materials, actually.  The box contains:
  • A couple dozen pages explaining how to use the program
  • The teaching books.  Five of them.  The first book is for sections 1-3.  The second book is section 4.  Section 5 is split into three books.
  • A games and coloring pages book
  • A skinny book of spelling and reading tests
  • A templates folder with both paper copies of the various forms, and a CD with the forms and coloring pages
Part One builds the foundation for what is to come.  Part Two continues to build that foundation, introducing the rest of the English phonograms.  The child is learning rules for which phonogram to choose when there are multiple ways of spelling a sound. (Like long a -- how many ways can  you come up with to spell that sound?  There are lots.)  The child is learning lots of writing skills as well, both from dictation and then independently.

Part Three teaches cursive writing, more advanced grammar, Greek and Latin roots, and lots and lots of writing -- letters, poems, short stories, etc.  Part Four will teach intensive grammar, more writing practice, report writing, and lots more.

I look at Parts Three and Four, and I want to get there.  I understand that I need to build the foundation first, which is why I am using Part One (which is intended to be a complete K-1 Language Arts program, or a remedial program for older children) with even my 7th grader.

Why did I want to use this program?  A big part of it is that William struggles so much with language arts, and this really seemed like something that would walk him through things in a step-by-step way, truly building a base of knowledge.  A big emphasis of the Madsen Method is that the learner is to SAY and do, so they are HEARing their voice explaining the concept, and they will finally SEE their own work.  The emphasis is not on seeing the material and copying it.  It is on learning to tell yourself what to do.  I think this is going to make a huge difference for William especially, but for the rest of my kids too.

Connor, too, needs help in language arts.  None of my children write terribly well (I'm talking the physical act of writing out the letters AND the ability to create a coherent sentence, paragraph, or report on paper).  My children all struggle with spelling.  For everyone, I think going through something systematic will be a very good thing.

What concerns me?  Well, I am always leery of any program that claims to be THEE way of doing/learning/teaching pretty much anything, or that claims to work for everyone.  Honestly, that is my biggest concern.  

Another thing is that at the end of each section, you are supposed to send a "teacher report card" in to the Madsen's.  I printed off the first one, but have not been able to bring myself to fill it out just yet.  I know that the Madsen's are asking for this because they want to be able to help me and my kids, but I don't like the idea of it at all.  I can't explain it, but it rubs me the wrong way.

Cost is a big concern too.  At about $220 per level (for homeschoolers), when I look at it as non-consumable language arts for all five of my kids, it is a bargain.  $880 for all the levels is only about $175 per child, for all of K-12 language arts.  But to be totally honest, virtually every time I sit down to work with Madsen, I think about how difficult it is going to be to come up with the money for the next level, and that keeps me from splitting Connor off to move at his own pace, which brings me to...

...the idea of spending this much time on information that my kids already basically know.  I'm thinking of Connor specifically here.  Working with him on how to hold a pencil, or what the 'reading direction' is doesn't exactly seem like a good use of his time -- time he could be spending on his Latin or Biology homework.  

So I'm trying to figure out how to make this work in my home.  Do I do Madsen multiple times a day, working with different groups of kids?  I could work with just Connor, and move pretty quickly.  William and Thomas could move at a decent clip, but slower than Connor.  And I could either move at a fairly slow pace with Richard, or wait a while and work with both Richard and Trina in the fall.  

Or do I continue to move at a pace where I wait for everyone to master the material before moving on?  

I don't know...  I know that if I could get Connor working at his own pace, I'd be more comfortable with what he is getting out of his time investment.  But I know I won't be able to purchase Level 2 anytime soon.  What a dilemma!  

Any questions? I'd love input as I try to write more about this program this week (see here).  And you can read what other crew members thought at the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive Part One of the Madsen Method for free from the publisher.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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