Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Eclectic Foundations {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Over the past couple of decades of homeschooling, I have used numerous phonics programs, especially since I am dealing with dyslexia and other reading struggles.  Some programs have been really effective, some were not.  Most of the programs have required fairly lengthy lessons, or a lot of prep time from me.  What I have wanted to find is a program that teaches reading in an organized manner using short lessons that don't require a lot of time from me.  No nonsense.  No frills.

Eclectic Foundations might just be the answer I had wanted all along.  I have had the opportunity to try out Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B and Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C.  Level B is intended for grades 1-2, and Level C is intended for grades 3-4.  My children are all beyond that -- most are way beyond that -- so my experience is not typical.

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

Eclectic Foundations is designed to be a complete Language Arts program, not just phonics and spelling.  This also includes reading comprehension, grammar, poetry, handwriting, and composition.  With all of that, I would expect the program to eat up a lot of time.  But it doesn't, and that is the beauty of the program.

The idea is to do short lessons consistently.  Using tried and true methods (such as the McGuffey Eclectic Readers) is one of the biggest benefits of the program.  Once upon a time, these seven books (the Primer, plus the 1st through 6th Readers) took students from learning their letters all the up through what is now considered college-level reading.

Eclectic Foundations is intended to be a nine book series, with each book covering 36 weeks of lessons.  At this time, only the first three levels are available, with Level D coming out this month.  That is my biggest criticism of this program, to be honest.  If more levels were out, I would be thrilled.

Reading through the "What level should I start with?" I read the following:
I also recommend starting with level B if your student is weak in spelling.  Many students that are not strong spellers have not been taught to decode phonetically.  Levels B and C have a strong emphasis on phonics.  Formal spelling lessons are not taught until Level D, but having a strong foundation in phonics will give your student a huge advantage.

Based on that paragraph, I decided that I needed to start my kids with Level B.
Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

So how does it work?  Well, you do one short lesson per day, four days a week.  At the beginning of Level B, over the course of a week, you will:
  1. Read through a word list each day, with basic silent-e words in the first week, and practice writing them.
  2. Practice/learn one cursive letter per day, doing both uppercase and lower case. (All other work can be done by printing.)
  3. Two lessons from McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader, each completed over two days.
  4. Read a discuss a poem.
  5. Cover some basic grammar.
  6. Using word cards, color them by part of speech and add them to a word box.
By the end of Level B, you are doing the same stuff, except for handwriting.  As soon as you work through all of the letters of the alphabet, you start practicing some short sentences.

It is short and sweet and requires almost no prep time from Mom.  It is short and sweet, and my kids don't complain about doing it.

In Level B, you are covering a lot of material.  For instance:
  • The daily phonics word lists go from basic silent e words, to words such as know, guide, wrong and gnash. 
  • Handwriting practice moves from learning Aa to writing a sentence like "Begin at once and do it."
  • The first story in the reader is five words long.  "The dog.  The dog ran."  The last story is seven paragraphs, including words such as school, ready, write, and should.
  • Grammar instruction moves from learning things like alphabetical order, to writing a composition about keeping bad company.
All of this in short, incremental lessons.

What did we think?

I totally did not expect to actually use this product when I first looked it over for a Crew run.  I thought I might take a look and wish it had been available when my kids were younger.  Instead, I have found a program I will actually use with all of my homeschoolers.  The material doesn't talk down to the student, so it can be used with older students.  It isn't too juvenile (though the teens rolled their eyes at that first five word "story," I have to confess) or babyish.

My plan is to work through these books with all of my at-home children.  The oldest two are doing two lessons a day (which is one McGuffey's lesson) every day of the week, so that we can hopefully get through Level F before the oldest of these students graduates.  Son Three should then be able to slow down to a more normal pace, and finish the entire series before he graduates, assuming the levels are out in time for that.

My younger kids (grades 5 and 7) are going a little faster right now also.  We're doubling up lessons, so we get through two weeks' worth each week.  Once they get into Level D, we are likely to slow down and work closer to the suggested pace, but we will only take a couple of weeks off between levels, along with breaks at Christmas and the like.  My hope is to finish the entire series by the time the 7th grader graduates.

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

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