Curricula

Rather than a laundry list of curricula, we would direct you to this site:
Homeschool Reviews it contains information about literally hundreds of curriculum options for home-schooling families.

Curriculum reviews provided by our members:

STARFALL

Reviewed by – Z. Musa

Starfall is an interactive phonics and reading curriculum which offers a great programme that teaches young children how to read. It has a lot of animation aimed at teaching beginners how to go from the alphabets to the word formations. It is filled with songs and short phonic based stories that children just love to keep going back to over and over again. The classic phonics site is rich and free with an optional new Starfall.more site which you have to pay for to access. There are comics, magic games, Greek fables, stories about famous artists, songs, riddles and so many other fun things that I doubt I would consider the fee paying option any time soon. There are lessons where kids can learn about famous music composers like Beethoven, Joplin, Mozart etc. and even listen to their symphonies. There are even lessons to teach kids how to compose simple letters to family members. The more site has a lot more stuff from the look of things (I only use the free site) with a numeracy and kindergarten curriculum. I think the More Starfall site is aimed at beginners to much older children. My toddler is in love with Starfall and can be on it for more than an hour at a stretch. I recently made the decision to remove him from the nursery school he was attending because as the only one in the house attending school, he always made such a BIG fuss everyday before he left for school + I really didn’t see anything he was gaining from the school ( not even a single new word has he learnt in two months) that equalled all the trouble we went through everyday over school. Having him learn at home on Starfall is much more rewarding. It is a site that even older kids can really gain a lot from. My six and seven year old daughters also do lessons on Starfall. All 3 kids love the songs. CONCLUSION: Starfall is a star site for little kids.

TIME4LEARNING CURRICULUM

Reviewed by-  Z. Musa

The Time 4 Learning programme is an affordable online interactive programme that was specialy created to let kids learn at their own pace without the usual pressure to ‘do and finish’ that regular school puts them thru. I came across it in my extensive search for a homeschooling programme that would demand less of my time than other conventional HS programmes. I knew I was coming to dubai as an Msc student and didnt know what my program was going to be like or how much time I woud have on my hands. My eldest son has been struggling in school for the last 3yrs (despite attending a regular school and STILL paying for daily extra private tuition). When I read that many parents with slow learners had found great satisfaction with time4learning, I decided to look it up. They have a lesson demo for each grade and I made him take the lesson demo for his class (grade 5). The first demo he did he got 40marks (or was it 30, cant remember now) and then we went to another and I asked him to just take things easy and not to worry about what I would think if he didnt get good marks. I also told him to run the demos as many times as he wanted before doing the quiz just to really get their drift. I left him to it and when I came to check on him later, he had the widest smile on his face, He had scored 80!

He was so impressed with himself that he asked to be enrolled immediately. I got my 2 daughters (then 7&5yrs) to take their own demo lessons too and the animated teachers proved an instant hit with them both but the 5 yr old especially.

They have five core subjects for grades 2 and up, consisting of Language Arts, Language Arts Extention, Science and social studies and three core subjects for the lower classes which excludes Social studies and L.A.E. They rcently added a free Arts module for the upper classes which students start enjoying as soon as they stay on the programme for one full month. The programme allows kids to have access to one class above and one class below their main class to enable the parent decide if their kid ought to be below or above his class based on how well or not so well he is doing.

My kids are simply in love with the animated teachers who range from an ego inflamed game show host named Jack to a simpleton ape called Mango to a know it all mother goose. From the very argumentative English terrier named Nigel to a talkative snake named Sammy to the old Mr Nasterton who can fall asleep in the middle of a lesson and a self possessed Southern belle named Miss Edna Clapperty etc. The animated teachers are as diverse as they are many and the way they go about their business usually have the kids (and me) in stitches. It is so much fun to do the lessons that my slow son has now been consistently getting high marks and his confidence has soared. Just today, he rushed into my room to announce a score of 93% in L.A.E

The lessons are usually all inclusive with science projects that require kids doing hands on experiments and English lessons that require them typing out answers within a time span to determine their speed and timed reading exercises to determine reading speed. The only subject my kids don’t really like so much is the social studies because it is based on the American state which they are not at all familiar with so I got them some SS books from Nigeria which we do instead. We now go through the Time 4 Learning SS and look for universally applicable lessons and we do those.

There is an option for generating attendance and report cards at the end of a week, month or a term for record purpose.  CONCLUSION: All in all, Time 4 Learning has been a fantastic curriculum for us with fun animated lessons, minimal parent supervision required and individual based progression that fits every learning speed. I am glad I found it. Check their website

Calvert Curriculum & Cognitive Learning Approach to Homeschooling:

Reviewed by-  G. Herrera

Both of my kids (A.13 & I.7) have been using Calvert Curriculum for the past 4 years. If you are unsure if your child is ready to begin using their program, Calvert will send you an assessment of skills test prior to beginning. This test serves as a placement guide. Because of this, A. is 2 years ahead in math (currently taking high school geometry), and I. is a full-year ahead (currently in 3rd grade). During I’s first year, I used Calvert and I also supplemented with additional phonics-based workbooks (Explode the Code) and Math Spectrum–all of these workbooks are available on amazon.com. Both of my children became fluent readers at 4.5 years of age, thanks to these books.

Cognitive Approach: Being aware of how you learn is one of the most important factors to school success. All kids learn differently, from visual to auditory, etc. Once you understand how your child learns best, this will facilitate your lesson plans and activities. For instance, I is a visual-kinesthetic learner; therefore, he does best on hands-on science experiments. Having manipulatives for math activities also proved successful!

Prior to becoming my children’s Learning Guide, I was an Education Director specializing in Learning Differences and Cognitive Methods of Learning.

BRITE SCHOOL (UK CURRICULUM)

Reviewed by-  M.

This is a British online Upper Primary School which conducts lessons in Maths, English, Science, Humanities and Languages. Occasionally other subjects are taught. They offer 6 interactive lessons a week around 4.30-7pm (Dubai time). Although they teach Year 5 and Year 6, they also teach secondary and adults too upon request.

I was not impressed by the website but asked for a lesson demo after a homeschooling friend in Sharjah had a lesson demo with Dominic Knowles (the Headteacher). Her feedback was very encouraging so I requested a lesson demo too.

Dom Knowles was very prompt in setting up a lesson demo. We had a technical issue as our microphone did not work but we were able to hear him perfectly well and respond to his questions during the demo by texting. The demo was meant to be an hour but he actually taught my son for an hour and a half! His lesson was a mix of Maths, English, Science, IT and History. He had a very holistic and humorous approach and he had interesting ways of blending the subjects together. There was a lot of interaction between him and my son and my son was very excited by the of the lesson.

However Dom is a Secondary teacher, and they were still looking for an online Primary teacher to teach this September so I am not sure what would happen there. As this was fundamental to me, and the fact that I felt my son needed to brush up alot more on his keyboarding, compositional and maths skills I didn’t feel that BRITE SCHOOL was right for my son this year. Moreover I knew that 6 hours a week was certainly not enough teaching for my son, who has been receiving at least double that amount with me. The cost is 999 BRITISH POUNDS for one academic year but it is possible to pay per term.

Conclusion: Check it out. It may be a good supplement to those home-schooling brighter children.

WOLSEY HALL OXFORD (UK CURRICULUM)

Reviewed by-  M.

They offer distance learning IGCSES and A-Levels worldwide.

My older two children joined their 2 year IGCSE English and IGCSE Maths courses in September 2010. D was 13 and S was 12 at the time. They were very prompt in calling me directly from Oxford (within 24 hours of my email enquiry!). They were very efficient in arranging invoices and I had a follow up email part way through the course to check if I was happy.

However the set up of this course is Distance Learning. This meant that I was the sole teacher of my children and they completed 8 assignments with me which were sent in to Wolsey Hall to be marked by the tutors. One tutor was very approachable, the other was not. It was not easy to do the Maths assignments (for technical reasons) and the tutors were invisible unless my children emailed them for help. To date, they have not sent in a Maths assignment (which is 2 months late) and we have heard nothing from Wolsey Hall administration, nor the Maths tutor!

I found it very difficult teaching 5 children including my 2 older children using the Wolsey Hall course. I did not receive any support teaching whatsoever and I was basically left to teach my children Maths and English IGCSE myself whilst teaching three younger Year Groups! Please also do not forget I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old too and no maid!

My daughter was capable of completing the IGCSE English course and my son was capable of completing the IGCSE Maths course but as I found it too overwhelming I have had to stop these courses and opt for INTERHIGH SCHOOL which I hope will provide the necessary daily online teaching to fill in the gaps I have missed so far. They will therefore not continue with WOLSEY HALL for the second year of the course.

Conclusion: Appropriate for highly motivated independent and mature students who have a very solid foundation in the subjects they are planning to study.

CALVERT SCHOOL (US CURRICULUM)

Calvert is a Private Day School in Baltimore, Maryland which teaches children from Pre-K to Grade 8. Their homeschool program is highly comprehensive and they follow the Classical approach to homeschooling. Highly reputable, they have been offering a homechooling curriculum for over 60 years and a detailed paper trail for those who need certification that their children have completed a particular Grade level.

I have taught my children Grades 1, 3, 5 and 6 so far and will be teaching Grades 2 and 4 next September.I basically love Calvert due to its intense structure. There are detailed lesson manuals so I don’t need to plan anything other than getting some science resources together. It is very comprehensive and my son who has spent one year with Calvert this year has become a better reader, compositional writer, speller and scientist with Calvert which is a whole lot more than he achieved in 5 years at an International School in Sharjah!

My children have however had issues with the fundamentally American foundation of the course (obviously it is designed for American children living in the US). We are British living over here, so my children can’t always relate to it. There are many stories on pigs throughout Grade 1 (which I hate!) and many stories have naughty (children) themes. There are lost opportunities to teach manners in the course! Also it is not easy teaching three different Grade levels so I will only be teaching two different grades in September.

However despite these few gripes, I am very happy with the Calvert course, their service and very detailed and personalised reports every time the tests are submitted (8 times a year).

Conclusion: Many say it is an expensive course, but it is cheaper than sending your children to a “good school” over here! A very comprehensive and structured course with official certification. Excellent for a mother/ home teacher of 7 children.

Supercharged Science

Reviewed by- S. Mitchell

This is an online curriculum for all grades. We love using it as the topics (from mechanics to lasers and robotics) come with short explanatory videos, with lots of experiments for all levels plus lots of background reading for answering the how and why questions. It keeps the fun factor to the fore – though the hard science is all there too – the Aurora is a Rocket Scientist herself, my boys are very visual and kinesthetic learners so the methodology works well for us. She sent the hard to get parts out here with a small extra charge ($15) for the postage

She has a free newsletter (if you just want some ideas) and trial versions of the e-science programme as well as a summer camp so you can see if it suits your family.

K12 International Academy

Reviewed by- S. Aldredge

The K12 International Academy is the only Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority- approved home-schooling curriculum for students in the UAE (Update 9/17/16- this information is no longer correct.) It is not clear if this approval is also extended by the UAE Ministry of Education for students in Emirates other than Dubai.

K12 offers an accredited American curriculum based on a ‘core’ of Math and English with additional, optional elective offerings in History, Science, Art, Music, and Foreign Languages. For students who are officially enrolled in K12 with the KHDA, the ‘core’ also includes Arabic language instruction and a course in UAE Social Studies.

Each K12 course is made up of online and book work components. This works better in some courses than in others, but on balance, it seems to be a good approach to learning. Some parents who have done the K12 curriculum complain that there is simply too much to get through in a day. I would generally agree with this complaint as after 2nd grade, my children began to need to do as much as 7 or 8 hours of school-work each day. We continued with K12 for 3rd and 4th grade, but after 4th grade, I came to the conclusion that K12 is a program which essentially opts for quantity over quality. I found my children were cramming to complete online quizzes or multipe-choice tests, and immediately forgetting most of what they were supposed to have learned. In my experience, this was due to the enormous volume of information contained in the lessons and a lack of contextualization. We found this to be particularly problematic in Science, History and Art.

After several years of K12 using Sadlier-Oxford Mathematics, the company switched to their own proprietary ‘Color Math’. I believe that this Math program relied too heavily on internet-based graphics and games, rather than on working our problems on paper. For concepts such as the distributive property, my children needed many more than 6 written problems to really ‘get’ how to work them out.

The K12 Literature and Language program is broken into several components, Literature, Spelling, Grammar, Composition, Handwriting, Test Readiness, and Analogies. Literature was based on reading books and answering questions, in general, my children found the selections to be interesting. I do think they are very girl-oriented in the lower grades. The test readiness and analogies components are very much oriented toward American SAT and ACT test-takers and seem premature for elementary school. With several of these areas involving one lesson per day, it can be quite easy to spend several hours on this ‘core’.

Lastly, K12 requires Arabic language and UAE Social Studies online for those students who are registered with the KHDA. These classes were required approximately 6 hours per week. However, K12 had a fair amount of trouble getting teachers to provide the UAE Social Studies class. Arabic was often cancelled, and at least for my children, the methods and materials provided by K12 offered little or no hope of them actually learning any Arabic.

When K12 began in the UAE, around 2007, part of their selling point and justification for their high fees, was that children would be provided with ‘classroom-days’ at their offices, social meet ups, regular field trips, and opportunities for sports and other extra-curricular activities. The idea was that these events would help K12-ers to feel they were part of a real school and would help alleviate any social isolation for kids and families. Over the last few years, these parts of the school have been slowly removed from the program. In 2012, K12 provided no classroom day activities, no social meets and approximately 2 field-trips.

Conclusion: K12 is more of a place holder program for families who cannot currently get their children into school. Its primary draw is that it can provide students with KHDA transfer certificates. As a curriculum, it is more of an attempt to replicate school-at-home. Many of the benefits of home-schooling (individual pacing, intensive study of topics, and fun) are removed from this curriculum.

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