I have divided this review into 2 posts so that neither is too lengthy. A detailed look at how the lessons are constructed and how concepts are taught will follow soon.
I have come to really appreciate Rod and Staff publishing over the last few years.
Their curriculum is excellent and thorough. We have used many subjects from them but right now are just doing their math (2nd and 4th grades) and spelling (fifth grade). My daughter started with Saxon K in preschool, and we continued with it through second grade, always supplementing with other programs such as free worksheets from MEP and Math Mammoth. Since we were working about a year ahead of grade level anyway, I had her do R&S second grade math even though she had already done Saxon 2. I felt like we could benefit from the different approach and more time spent mastering addition and subtraction facts. She went through it at a double pace, doing two lessons a day, and was ready to move into third after about 4 or 5 months with it. Whereas math had been a constant source of frustration before, now she’s sailing through it with confidence. Gotta love the flexibility of homeschooling!
While there are a lot of good things about Saxon, I decided to switch curriculum for many reasons. Math with Saxon had caused stress, and I felt like we weren’t really mastering the concepts or facts. It is a spiral curriculum, meaning you touch on a topic one day and may not see it again for another week or so.
Rod and Staff uses a mastery approach: you stay on one topic for a significant period of time, mastering that skill before moving on.
Different approaches work best for different students, but we have had a lot more success with mastery curricula here.
Here are the basics you need to know about Rod and Staff.
- Rod and Staff is a conservative Mennonite publishing company. They do not have their own website, but you can purchase any of their products at www.milestonebooks.com.
- R&S products are thorough, no-frills, and easy on the budget. The workbook pages are almost always black and white (I can’t think of any exceptions off hand).
- There are Bible verses and/or references to God throughout all of their programs. If you prefer secular materials, R&S is not going to fit the bill.
- While their teaching methods would be considered “old-fashioned” by many, the emphasis on drill and memorization is right up the alley of many classical educators.
- Their math program begins with first grade and progresses through eighth grade. Noah used their first grade curriculum for both K and 1st grade, which is easy to do by using the extra practice sheets that are available.
Second grade comes with 2 hardcover teacher books and 5 paperback consumable workbooks. While the other grade levels have only 2 workbook pages per lesson, second grade actually has 4! That can look like a lot at first glance, but it’s really not that bad when you consider that the first page is just copying some math facts, and the fourth is either a speed drill or copying the facts again in a different way. Eliana was very excited to move from second to third grade and find that she had fewer problems to do each day (although this isn’t really the case, it just appears that way).
Also available for purchase are the Grade 2 Math Blacklines (above), which are really just reproducible extra practice sheets. These are actually pretty cool to have. It includes 182 pages of math fact practice, missing numbers, counting money, skip counting, word problems, reproducible posters and reproducible flash cards. I began by making copies of the pages I wanted to use, but by now am just handing Noah the originals. The set is inexpensive and since I have almost 6 years to go before his brother will need them, I won’t worry about keeping them intact right now. They come in a neat box along with a teacher answer key. I placed mine in a binder and can easily flip through and find pages that correspond to the lesson we are on, since the pages are labeled by skill and by lesson number.
With all the constant review and practice already contained within the lessons, you may find that extra practice sheets are unnecessary. I like to use them on days we take off from school just for a little extra review.
There are 2 of these “My 1,000 Books,” one that has all the numbers from 1-1,000 already filled in (100 on each page) and another that is blank for you to copy and let your student write the numbers himself. Noah made a 1,000 book in his break before starting second grade using the blank set. It is good practice using those larger numbers that kids this age don’t see a lot of.