Bonnie Landry's Homeschooling, simplified series includes four small books, three of which I received for review. The series of books addresses both language arts and math with very practical teaching suggestions that are intended to simplify the homeschooling process. The four book titles are:
Homeschooling, simplified: Dictation
Homeschooling, simplified: writing with children
Homeschooling, simplified: chocolate chip math
Homeschooling, simplified: how to read a book so it becomes the curriculum (not reviewed)
I began with the Dictation book and immediately felt like I'd met a kindred spirit when it comes to homeschooling since Landry wants to keep things simple and she wants her children to enjoy learning, just as I do. The Homeschooling, simplified books don't try to address all math and language skills. Instead, they focus on a few important strategies. These are especially valuable if you are just starting to teach a kindergartner or a first grader. Homeschooling, simplified: Dictation is subtitled “how to teach grammar, spelling, reading and almost all language arts in an easy alternative to the homeschool curriculum.” Landry explains how she uses dictation in periods of five to fifteen minutes a day, individualizing her presentations to incorporate various language arts skills as needed. She really does make it simple! She shows samples of student dictation (often illustrated by the child) at various levels of skill. One child might write one word while others write paragraphs. One child will be learning about the various ways to spell the /er/ sound at the end of words while another learns how to punctuate quotations. Towards the end of the book, Landry explains how the dictation method flows very naturally into the approach used in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style program (from the Institute for Excellence in Writing). Landry also includes suggestions for sources of dictation material that you might use. This is the lengthiest of the series of books at 48 pages, but you can read it one sitting.
Homeschooling, simplified: writing with children follows after Dictation, addressing the transition from dictation to original writing. Landry stresses the importance that reading good literature plays in developing writing skills. She discusses modeling reading, thinking, and writing by which she means demonstrating by our own actions how each is accomplished. For example, we model thinking when we wonder aloud why something is the way it is. Then, our job is to encourage and discuss the “why” questions that our children come up with. Modeling writing means working closely, discussing and considering possible strategies. For Landry it also means incorporating ideas such as key word paragraphs from Teaching Writing: Structure and Style.
Homeschooling, simplified: chocolate chip math takes the very simple idea of using chocolate chips as manipulatives and shows how to use them for teaching key arithmetic concepts to children from kindergarten through third grade. Landry says chocolate chips can be used for teaching counting, adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, place value, ordinal numbers, fractions, comparison, patterns, and much more in lessons that take no more than five minutes a day. She does add a few ideas for expanding beyond chocolate chips, but the book is essentially about using this simple manipulative to present concepts, gradually moving into text or workbook exercises.
Dictation and Chocolate Chip Math are my favorites in this series, but the books are so inexpensive, I would urge you to read all of them—Kindle editions are less $4 each! All of the books can be read quickly, and the ideas can be put into practice almost immediately. Landry's ideas are great for simplifying the work of homeschooling. Landry references Ruth Beechick's book, The Three Rs, which is very similar in outlook. However, while Landry makes some broad philosophical statements about teaching, her books generally focus more narrowly on particular strategies that are likely to be very helpful (i.e., dictation, chocolate chip math) while Beechick takes a broader brush to each subject area.