By infusing Language Arts with Montessori techniques for homeschoolers, ShillerMath repeats its unique formula that has worked so well for homeschoolers in math. They have introduced the first level of their ShillerMath Language Arts program, Language Arts Foundations for ages three to five. The program will be expanding in 2017 to cover students through third grade.
ShillerMath Language Arts covers reading, writing, spelling, phonics, grammar, and typing. The emphasis will change from at each level as you would expect.
The Language Arts Foundations Kit includes four books that are also available individually. providing a two-year program. All ShillerMath curriculum is multi-sensory, covering the visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory learning modalities, which is why the songs, manipulatives, and ancillary reading material form such an integral part of each kit. For this reason, and because you’ll save money, I recommend the purchase of the kit instead of just the books.
Books have a few pages of introductory explanation at the front, and at the back are a Concept Index and a Materials Index. The bulk of each book consists of your lesson plans. The introductory explanation provides Montessori-based tips and suggestions that helps parents encourage and guide rather than demand and command.
Each lesson is clearly laid out step by step,and each lesson teaches one topic. Completed Work Sheet” charts are in the front and back of each book. Parents should use these to keep track of lessons completed and lessons that need to be revisited. There’s also space to log time if you need to do that.
Following Montessori principles, lessons are intended to be flexible so that children spend as long as (or as little as) they need on a particular topic or skill to gain competence and closure. This “2Cs” concept, a key element of ShillerMath programs,helps students become self-aware of their learning pace. Children may do a few lessons in one session if they quickly achieve the 2Cs.
While review and repetition are built in, children are also encouraged to go back and review whenever they like or as seems needful before they move on. So while a kit might be intended for a two-year period, a child might complete lessons in more or less time.
Each book concludes with a thorough Review Test for you to easily identify areas that need more work. The prescriptive Review Tests identify the lesson (or lessons) in which each concept was taught so that it is easy to know which lessons to revisit before moving on.
Consistent with ShillerMath’s desire to build a solid brain foundation, hands-on resources play important roles in the lessons. Lessons use the Montessori teaching strategy of the “three period lesson” for new concepts: 1.) This is: Introducing the new concept to the student, 2.) Show me: Asking the child to identify the new concept, and 3.) Tell me: Asking the child to name and utilize the new concept.
ShillerMath Language Arts should be very easy to use. It should take just a few minutes to read the instructions to parents and get started. As long as you keep your materials handy, there is no real prep work to be done for lessons. However, lessons do require parental direction and interaction.
ShillerMath had done a nice job adapting the Montessori approach for homeschoolers and keeping it affordable. I can’t wait to see the next levels!
Following are some details on the first kit. I’ll add notes on other kits as they become available.
Language Arts Foundations Kit
The first four books, all included in the Kit 1, lay a solid foundation in phonics. Children first learn to recognize letters and their sounds. They learn the primary sounds for consonants and short-vowel sounds for vowels, and two sounds of g and the digraph ch are introduced toward the end of the fourth book.
Working with a movable alphabet, a bowl of grain, and Play Doh, children learn to identify and form letters. Children learn to recognize the sounds within word orally and visually. Professionally-recorded songs (available as MP3 downloads) reinforce lessons on the alphabet. (Note that an audio CD with the songs will be added to the kit very soon.)
Lessons instruct parents to say the sounds of the letters in a manner with which some educators would disagree. For example, “The letter b makes a buh sound.” Some educators would say that it confuses the child if you tack on an obvious uh sound after pronouncing the letter b. However it can be challenging to pronounce the sounds in isolation. Just be aware of this issue and watch your pronunciation if it is confusing your child.
Children learn to form words with the movable alphabet starting at the end of the first book.
In the books, the same pattern is used to teach each of the letters of the alphabet, so parents will probably find that they can refer to the lesson plans for teaching the letters sparingly once they are familiar with the pattern. Lessons teaching letters of the alphabet are interspersed with lessons teaching other topics and skills, so parents will still be using the lesson plans most of the time.
While a large proportion of the lessons are devoted to phonics, the books also cover many other useful skills some of which are not typically found in a Language Arts curriculum. Children learn to identify and form lower-case letters although not with pencil and paper. They work with a Montessori Shapes Set to learn ten basic shapes. They listen to and tell very short stories. They learn vocabulary, Mother Goose Rhymes, and about nouns and verbs. Basic learning readiness concepts are taught such as left and right, days of the week, and colors. Children practice basic introductions for personal communication and learn about their senses. Interestingly, children are also taught the keyboard at this early level which serves to reinforce familiarity with letters of the alphabet. There’s even a lesson introducing Shakespeare and his sonnets (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”).
The Language Arts Foundations Kit includes the four lesson books, a book of Mother Goose Rhymes, 28 downloadable songs, a Vellux work mat (22” x 34”), the set of Montessori Shapes, four small tubs of Play Doh, a box of eight large crayons, magnetic letters of the alphabet (lower and upper case), and a bag of grain. Your purchase entitles you to free downloads of the lessons and songs for five years.