Speaking of tools, I thought I would begin a list of my resources and books. I did lots of research before I committed to any of the materials and so far, I have not been disappointed. I do have many materials and lists of websites, etc. which I haven't had an opportunity to try-out yet, so I won't include them in my list until I can count them as a recommendation.
Here is the rough outline of what I use and how we use it:
RESOURCE: Moving Beyond the Page (core curriculum, Ages 5-7)
OVERVIEW: Incorporating all state and national standards, I liked this unit-based curriculum because it it cross-curricular. Meaning that it doesn't separate out the subjects but covers subjects (Science, English, Social Studies, History, Math) using themes, or in this case, themes within four "big ideas" or concepts: Environment, Similarities and Differences, Patterns, Change. Within each of these concepts are 3 units and 10 lessons within each unit, some lessons take a day, others two days and each unit has a final project. For example, we have nearly completed Unit 1: Habitats and Homes of the first Concept: Environment. Unit 2 is weather. It was difficult to find a curriculum that I though was creative, innovative and thoughtful as I wanted. Prior to finding this curriculum, I had resolved a list of 12 themes I thought would be best for us which I could organize materials into. Thankfully, I didn't have to re-invent the wheel. I did want to keep my list so I merged those topics with the units of Moving Beyond the Page. In making this list, I thought about what places and resources we had handy and, of course, her interests: Animals, Space, Government, Health, Cooking, Travel, Insects, Art, Family, Gardening, Beach and Florida. Most topics I was able to line up with the units rationally, the loosest association I made was my "Space" topic (we are only 45 minutes from the space station!) I could match only with the weather unit... a stretch, but I think it will be alright.
FREQUENCY: We have been doing 4 lessons per week, on average. My goal is to complete 5 each wk.
WEAKNESS: I do LOVE this curriculum but (only a small but) I wish the book list was more extensive. We have been supplementing and borrowing from the library.
RESOURCE: "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Englemann (Reading)
OVERVIEW: This book was recommended to us by other homeschooling parents. The lessons are short, 10-20 minutes each. The style is extremely straightforward and gives you an unmistakable narrative of how to instruct, correct and reward her work. Although it took Alexandra a week or so to get used to the style of the book now she really does well with it. She prefers to mix everything with bits of drama and discussion and this system is no nonsense. Just lovely! Her confidence is amazing and she attempts to sound out all kinds of words. She tells me; "Just give me a minute, I know I can do it". What more can you ask for?
FREQUENCY: We have been getting in approximately 5 lessons per week. She is pushing to do more, which is wonderful but 5 is also a good pace.
WEAKNESS: Because of its intense approach, it really does require complete attention from us both. Thus, when the boys are around, it gets tricky.
RESOURCE: Mathematical Reasoning, Level A (Grade K) by The Critical Thinking Company
OVERVIEW: Each time we work with this book, Alexandra remarks on how much she loves Math. I did not see that one coming as she is very creative. This book has lots of puzzles and a great way of easing into concepts. Alexandra was identifying even and odd numbers with no problem last week after the instructions asked her to identify which groups could be partnered up and which groups had singles.
FREQUENCY: I set a pace of 11 pages per week, based on the length of the book. She completes a weeks worth of math in one sitting and wants to do more because she thinks it is fun. I have found myself using math as a reward for completing her handwriting!
WEAKNESS: It seems to be easy for her but I have little basis for comparison and I am certainly not complaining about this surprising enthusiasm for math!
RESOURCE: "Building Thinking Skills" (Grades PreK-1) by The Critical Thinking Company
OVERVIEW: This book is comprised of Hands-on puzzles, using manipulatives, designed to develop higher order thinking and critical thinking skills for reading, writing, math and science. I consider it logic for kids, an introduction to the art of figuring it out.
FREQUENCY: We use this book together with another child Alexandra's age who spends Mondays with us. I think once a week is good.
WEAKNESS: It is good to have a buddy because the puzzles can be redundant. When they get fidgety, its nice to switch it up and work together. There is a lot of shading a coloring so far and I have let them use crayons, markers, sparkly markers...
RESOURCE: Handwriting Without Tears (1st Grade)
OVERVIEW: I have a teachers guide and a notebook for each Alexandra and her buddy. It gives gimmicky (I don't think that's a word) ideas about how to form letters and breaks them into groups as such.
FREQUENCY: We do handwriting everyday is some form, but we only use this method once per week.
WEAKNESS: It is still handwriting and while Alexandra's handwriting is decent, she is not a fan. She still makes mistakes with letters not used often and is very impatient with mistakes.