Unlike many other "one size fits all" textbook publishers, AOP has several brands of materials, which allows users to customize their homeschooler's education in a way that works best. (Yep, you can see already why I like AOP.) Like A Beka and Bob Jones, they offer an accredited homeschool program. They even offer student IDs and "school" merchandise. How fun! You can get more info on the Academy here. AO Academy info Their brand options include Monarch, which is online, Switched-On Schoolhouse, which is on CD-Rom, Lifepac, mastery based and independent work-styled (I think of it as ACE with instruction!), Weaver, which is unit based so the whole family can study together, and Horizons, which uses a short-spiral method and workbooks. Check them all out at www.aophomeschooling.com.
As you may have gleaned from my blog, my youngest son Will is gifted in mathematics. He is the reason we are homeschooling, because I did not feel the traditional classroom would be a good fit for him. He is also very active and a hands-on learner, so I searched for awhile to find a math curriculum that would be a good fit for him. I chose Horizons and love it so much that his brother will do it next year as well. Some things I love about the Horizons math program:
- The short spiral - I think I actually prefer spiral-based learning over mastery, although I haven't really done as much research on the matter as I'd like (Yes, I love to research.) There is a simple explanation in this article. Choosing a Math Curriculum (be careful of the ads on this page). Spiral learning provides a wide variety of topics, which I think is good for younger children. Plus there is a lot of review. Horizons has a very definite approach to their spiral - you can see it all planned out in the teacher edition.
- The colorful variety of activities on each page - Again, Will is completing several different activities on each page, which helps keep his interest. The pages are very colorful, and they do not include any explanation, just practice. The teacher's edition provides the instruction and review activities, and is quite thorough, even down to goals & objectives for each lesson. You can see a sample of the student book here. Math grade 1 student page sample (Yes, my K4 student is in first grade math. See why we're homeschooling?
- The placement test - AOP offers a variety of placement tests for their curriculum, which really helps parents determine the best grade level for their child. This is great for gifted or slow learners, as well as students transferring from another style curriculum. See the options here. Placement tests
- The emphasis on manipulatives - Will is a hands-on learner and needs to "see" how things work. Once he gets it, he's got it. For example place value - seeing the group of 10 straws helped him visualize what "groups of 10" meant. I had to show him ONE TIME, but he has to physically see or handle it for it to stick. I will add here that I recommend getting manipulatives as you go along, rather than all up front. I used a list of suggested items to purchase a bunch of stuff when I bought the curriculum, but haven't used most of it yet, and some lessons he did not need the manipulative at all. Here is a great place to pick up the manipulatives though. www.rainbowresource.com