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Those familiar with Alpha Omega's LIFEPAC curriculum are often surprised when they check out Alpha Omega's Horizons Math for kindergarten through sixth grade because they are so different in both format and methodology. Whereas LIFEPAC courses are comprised of ten (for most courses) individual worktexts through which students work independently, Horizons Math follows a more traditional format. In Horizons Math, the teacher handbook is the main part of the program although each level does have two full-color student workbooks.
The teacher handbook outlines every step of each lesson, listing objectives, materials needed, stories, poems, and games. Some preparation time is needed, and lessons must be taught. However, lessons are purposeful; they don't waste time on peripheral topics as occurs in some other math programs like the Saxon K-3 program.
Horizons uses a variety of manipulatives throughout all levels, although far more in the early grades than fifth and sixth grades. Among manipulatives used are dominoes, counters, play money, place value materials (might be as simple as popsicle sticks or something similar), flannel board and numbers, abacus, beads, and flash cards, along with household items such a calendar, an egg carton, a ruler, and straws....
Each lesson has instruction on a new concept and practice or review of previously learned concepts. This continual practice and review marks this as a “spiral” curriculum.
Each lesson includes a number of activities that require interaction between teacher and student, often with hands-on materials.....
Alpha Omega explains their scope and sequence and course layout in great detail at the beginning of each teacher handbook. A readiness evaluation is also found there, so you can make sure that each child is ready for the selected level and also spot weaknesses. Readiness evaluations are also available for free on the publisher's website.
The teacher handbook is very well designed with each part of the lesson clearly labeled. Activity instructions are numbered and spaced so they are easy to locate and read quickly. All instruction is provided through one-on-one teacher instruction, demonstrations, and hands-on activity.
Students have two separate workbooks (each about one-half inch thick) to cover each level. This is a lot of workbook pages—two to four per lesson depending upon grade level—especially for kindergarten, but they are appealingly designed with full color, large print, and variety in the layout. Illustrations, puzzles, and lesson explanations take up some space. Simple instructions are included with each activity in the workbooks.
I suspect that many parents will be tempted to hand their children the workbooks and ignore the teacher handbooks, but there are important teaching instructions in the handbooks you should not skip. You should review the lesson plans and determine how much of each presentation is useful for each student.
Supplemental, reproducible worksheets are also included in the teacher handbook with clear indication of lessons to which they correlate. You can purchase the worksheets as a separate packet if you prefer not to photocopy pages from the teacher handbook. Periodic tests are in student workbooks. Answer keys to workbook pages, including tests, are in the teacher handbook.
Each level goes beyond most other programs by spending more time on development and practice of concepts and skills. The scope and sequence is purposely advanced....
Quarterly tests and a final in grades four through six, plus answer keys for workbooks, worksheets, and tests are all in the teacher handbook. Except for level K, there is also a test after every ten lessons in the student workbooks.
This program was designed very much with home educators in mind, so there are very few classroom-only type activities that must be adapted or skipped.
This is a very academic program and might be too much for some kindergartners and first graders. Those ready for the academics and up to the challenge should love it.