As far as math programs go you could not get two on such different ends of the spectrum. Singapore is recommended by Heart of Dakota Publishing (Our homeschool curriculum) but this program was a real struggle for us. I used the now retired Earlybird Kindergarten books which we enjoyed immensely. I was very surprised that we struggled. I’m not certain if our struggle came from my difficulty teaching the concepts or the abstract thinking processes or a little bit of both, but for us Singapore just didn't work. I read both rave reviews and incredibly negative reviews. I tried all of the suggestions. I followed the prescribed manipulatives in our guides, but it just didn't click with me or my daughter.
After several weeks of frustration I sent her to my husband with her workbook and asked that he give it a try. He willingly set to work, but within minutes came to me asking what in the world he was supposed to be teaching her. My husband is really good at math…I mean really good. When he took the AP test for calculus in high school he received a 5, the highest score possible. He placed into college calculus his freshman year as his original course was to become a math teacher. God called him into the ministry instead…but I digress.
I had to spend about 20 minutes teaching my very skeptical, and very mathematically oriented, man the concepts behind Singapore’s method. After some incredulous looks he finally went back to try and teach it to my daughter. Needless to say, this did not go very well. After that didn’t work he approached me with looking for another curriculum. I told him my biggest concern was that I didn’t even know what to look for! He said to just look around to see what I could find and that he would take a look at it with me.
The next day I wandered over to homeschool reviews and started browsing various curriculum choices for math. The reviews were all over the place some saying one curriculum was amazing while another said the same curriculum just didn’t work for their family. Another raved about the manipulatives in one curriculum while another person felt they got in the way. One curriculum was too hands on while another reviewer said the same curriculum wasn’t hands on enough. It didn’t take long for me to become very frustrated.
Then I found reviews for Rod and Staff math. I was already familiar with their company because I use their preschool books grammar series. Every…every…reviewer said the same thing. It was simple. It was direct. It taught concepts logically and in small steps. The only downsides listed were the number of problems practicing a concept (More practice? I’m okay with that!) and that all of the illustrations were in black and white. (No colors? We’ll get over it.) I reviewed samples for several grade levels and became very excited about what I was seeing. Not only that, the price was about half that of any other I had seen.
I approached my husband with the curriculum and he said, “I knew you could find one that would work!” So we ordered. I anxiously awaited the box eager to see what it was like. The reviewers were right…no frills, no color, no gimmicks…and I loved it! We all did actually. My husband was very impressed with the progression and my daughter begged to start using it that night.
The workbooks which were reviewed basic math facts (addition then subtraction) for the first month or so, which I thought may be too easy for my daughter even though she was struggling with this very thing earlier in the year. I approached my daughter a couple of weeks in and asked her what she thought. She said, “It’s a lot of writing, but I like it. I’m just glad I understand it.” I was sold. My girl feels confident again in an area where she struggled and is still working on grade level.
We intend to stick with Rod and Staff and progress at our daughters’ pace. One of the things I love about homeschooling is I’m not restricted to force them into a specific grade level. I can give them higher level or lower level as their individual learning needs dictate. Of course our goal is to get them to their grade levels or above, but if they are struggling I can back up or slow down or re-teach or whatever to help them succeed. So far, I was frequently re-teaching Singapore…Rod and Staff, no re-teaching necessary.