Thursday, January 8, 2015

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Horizon Math Grade 1

 I love this math curriculum, and more importantly, my 6 year old loves it.  This being her first year of school where she's really been expected to sit still and write a lot of things down, we've had our struggles when it's come to certain subjects, but luckily math has not been one of them.  When I sat down and made a plan for what our year was going to look like in first grade, I had initially planned on buying Math U See Alpha, but was swayed last minute instead by over a dozen homeschooling parents in our area who use Horizon Math.  Math U See may be a fine program, I don't know because we haven't used it, but I can say for certain that I am glad we are using Horizon for our homeschool math curriculum.  We'll continue to use Horizon until it no longer suits my daughter's math needs.

So why did I switch to Horizon instead of buying Math U See?  Everyone I talked to told me how much their kids liked Horizon math and how it held their interest because the workbooks are in full color and are illustrated.

What I Really Like About Horizon Math

1) As stated above, the workbooks keep my daughter's attention because they're colorful and illustrated.  She has fun with the Horizon Math and that makes life a lot easier for both of us if I don't have to fight with her to sit and do her schoolwork.

2) Something nobody mentioned to me but that I love about this curriculum is that it's circular.  When I was going to school as a child, we would learn a concept and then never come back to it.  That meant that if I was struggling (which I often was in math) that I couldn't keep up.  Horizon Math keeps circling back to topics that have already been covered, giving opportunities for more practice and if necessary more instruction.  Each lesson in the workbook covers not only the current topic the student is learning about, but also previous topics.  For instance, a lesson (the front and back of a workbook page) might have 10 problems about clocks, 5 addition problems, 3 problems where you measure with a ruler, a word problem, and a grouping/regrouping problem.  This can get a little tedious, doing addition all the way through the school year, but if need be you can cross out the types of math problems that you know that your child has mastered.  By the end of work book 1 we were crossing out most of the addition problems, which delighted my daughter because this meant that several minutes was being knocked off of each lesson.

3) There are extra practice sheets in the back of the teachers manual.  If there's a subject your student is really struggling with, you can run off extra pages from the teachers manual for extra practice.  While this may become necessary in later grades as the math becomes more difficult, we haven't had occasion to copy extra worksheets off yet.  It's good to know that they're there if we need them though.

4) If you're not sure how to teach a math concept, the teachers manual goes into depth about the goal of each lesson, how to teach it, how to explain it, how to practice it, and what materials you need for the lesson.  It goes step by step and can be helpful.  I used the first grade Teacher's manual for the first month of school and after that found that I didn't need it because the math is very simple and I don't have trouble explaining it to her at this stage.  The manual structures your math time like a normal public or private school classroom would, and will have the kids practicing with flash cards, singing math songs, and doing a number of other things before they get to the student workbook.  The manual is very easy to use, even for a first time homeschool parent.  Here's an example lesson plan from the 1st grade teacher's manual (click image to make larger and then right click then view image and click again to make large enough to read).

5) The student workbooks don't cost that much money.  They cost about $18 each on Rainbow Resource (and there are 2 student workbooks per grade level).  It's the teacher's manual that costs a lot brand new, but I was pleased when a neighbor gave me the Horizon Math Grade 2 teacher's manual for free, meaning our cost for next year's curriculum is drastically reduced.  I noticed a garage sale sticker on the cover of the manual indicating that my neighbor had bought it for $2, so I know you can probably find the teacher's manual used online for very cheap.  I have also seen them at our local used bookstore for less than $5.

6) There's a manipulative kit that you can buy that is very helpful.  I noticed that on Rainbow Resource they had a manipulative kit for each year of Horizon Math and that each year was almost the same as the previous year with a few new things added so you may want to compare and see what comes in each kit before you buy one.  It's nice to have the kit, but not necessary if you're on a tight budget.  We got the first grade Horizon Math Manipulative Kit and it came with some things that we didn't use, like flash cards, but also with things we've used over and over like play money, a yard stick, a scale, clocks, a number chart, and more which you can see in the picture below.  The price is hefty at $68 but my first grader enjoys using these things and they have helped her to learn the concepts.  I'm certain that you could assemble these things on your own if you buy some of them from your local dollar store and others online or used from other Homeschoolers.

Something else that I want to mention but is not necessarily something I like or dislike about the curriculum is that the pages tear out of the student workbooks easily.  I know that some families like to tear the sheets out of their consumables and put them in folders by day, week, etc, and it's easy to do so with the student workbooks.  We always leave the pages in and just use the workbooks as is because it's easier for us that way.

What I Don't Like About Horizon Math

I really haven't come across anything that I dislike about this math curriculum.  The only issue I've come across is that it's made by Alpha Omega, which is a Christian company.  While this isn't personally a problem for us, it seems to be for our county school system, which is who we get the money from to buy our homeschool curriculum.  While I have yet to see anything 'Christian' or Bible based in the math curriculum, there have been talks about not allowing us to order it in the future with county money just because of who the publisher is.

Have you used Horizon Math before?  What did you like/dislike about it?  Let us know in a comment.

Notice: I haven't been paid to write this review and have not received a free copy of this curriculum.  This is an honest review.

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