Teaching My Baby To Read

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Horizons Math

(Don’t buy this!)

When Bruce turned four and was still going to Montessori, I decided to begin formal math instruction with him at home. He was (and is) so energetic and inquisitive, that I thought his behavior would improve if some of his energy was channeled into academic pursuits.  I looked around blindly for a curriculum to get him started on, and discovered the Horizons math program through Alpha Omega Publications.  There are two workbooks in each curriculum year, for a total of 180 lessons.  There is also a teachers guide to go with it, which I did not purchase, and I suspect a lot of people do not buy either.  (That may have been a big mistake!)  Bruce took the online placement test which scored him as being ready for the first grade.

The first grade curriculum was pretty good, and Bruce sailed through it in about six months.  It is a spiraling curriculum, so there is a lot of coming back at topics previously covered for review and practice.  I also liked that the workbook pages were very colorful, and had pictures.  The workbooks seemed to be very equation heavy, with not a lot of word problems, which is okay for first grade because that way reading skills do not hamper math progression.  ( I have since found out that the Teacher’s Guide includes a lot more word problems.)

The first grade workbook has a lot of drill-and-kill.  Often times Bruce would get tired of actually writing out the numbers (since he was only four), so I’d be the secretary and he would solve problems in his head and then tell me what to write.  Near the end of each book the lessons were getting too easy and repetitive, so we just crossed off big sections of them and skipped to the next page.

When Bruce started Kindergarten I bought him the second grade program thinking we would continue to chug along.  (He was also doing our school district’s second grade curriculum, Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions.)   I purchased the Horizons math, reading and spelling kits.  This was all a big mistake.  By the second grade book it was clear that the Horizons program was designed for back-to-basics home school families, which certainly doesn’t describe my teaching approach!

The second grade math program has a strong focus on traditional algorithms such as borrowing and carrying, to the point that pages are set up with little “carry the one” signs.  They have kids doing 4 digit addition and subtraction by the second or third month of second grade, which is only possible if you are mindlessly solving equations with algorithms but are not doing the deeper work of creating true number sense.  By contrast, Bruce has finished the Hougton Mifflin Math Expressions second grade program, is now half-way through with Right Start Level C, and is only now capable of solving 4 digit equations in his head, meaning he really understands how to do it.  Teaching kids to crank out algorithms is not teaching higher order mathematical thinking.

The Horizons Second Grade reader was truly bizarre.  It was an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe written at a second grade level and broken into 90 chapters, interspersed with excerpts from a second grade reader from the 1800s.  After about ten chapters, Bruce was bored out of his mind and refused to read any further.  It was the exact opposite of the high interest reading material necessary to inspire young children into becoming self motivated readers.

To be fair, I didn’t have the Horizons Math Teachers Addition, which the website clearly states in an integral part of the program.  But based on the workbooks, which have 2nd graders cranking out 4 digit subtraction with regrouping problems using traditional algorithms, Horizons did not seem to be a program I felt comfortable using for Bruce.  We have switched to Right Start, and have been much happier.

The Horizons reading program seemed to be from the standpoint of “If it was good enough for my great-great-great-grandpa, then it’s good enough for my son.”  Um… no in fact, it is not good enough  at all.  I just wish it hadn’t taken me almost $300 to figure that out.


2 Comments

  1. Claire H. says:

    Did you get the teacher’s manual for the 2nd grade math? I know you mentioned not having gotten it for the 1st grade but it was unclear whether you did the same for the 2nd grade books. The reason I’m asking is because I saw the following comment on the “Well-Trained Mind” bulletin board: http://welltrainedmind.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2679603&postcount=18

    • jenbrdsly says:

      I didn’t get the TE, and it’s true that might have improved the program…a little bit. My biggest problem with Horizon was that it seems to rely on teaching young children to borrow and carry from an early age. (I updated my post to include a picture.) In the student book at least, traditional algorithms were the only method shown. It also seems to be really heavy on drill and kill, without enough word problems or problem solving opportunities. There is no place to show your work or explain your thinking with words or pictures either. This is a very “old-school” program.

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