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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Great Curriula Purchase Continues- $536 vs. $3500 vs. $7000

When I did my calculations last time, I forgot those extra things that move education out of the books and into the space of everyday time. These items include school supplies (crayons, pencils, pens and all that), "school" clothes (purchased at various uniform supply houses), field trip money (a big chunk of change for the distance learner) and purchased fiction (versus borrowed from the library). That would bring last year's total to a whopping $3500. It's still cheaper than the local private schools average of $7,000. And so far, I have only spent $536.

Interesting items purchased so far:
  • Theras and His Town. A book about an ancient Athenian boy who, due to circumstances beyond his control, is moved to Sparta, and the results thereof. $14, with free delivery. We will all study Ancient History next year, so Theras could get multiple use as a read-aloud, a novel study, and a conversation starter.
  • I found Vocabulary in Action used for one child for $9, with shipping. It is everything I hoped, spelling well beyond memorizing the words and performing busy work.
  • Math Digital Interactive Video Education, or DIVE. How interactive it is I don't know, as it is an instructor teaching mathematics. However, if the Mister's busy schedule does not permit him to fully interact on every single lesson, it'll be nice to have back-up for Algebra for Belle. Belle already looks askance when I do my best but flub a mathematical explanation. These are pricey, $50 beyond the Saxon bundle for each year of classes. They are a good investment, as they are reusable. I picked up one for $30 with the ship, and another for $24.
  • We decided to pick up ALL the Saxon Math bundles from the second edition, from Math 54 to Algebra I. If Belle or Baby need to review some of the particulars which happened to by-pass them in the past, we will be ready. If Belle continues to devour math and requires more in-depth knowledge, we will also be ready. By next year, we hope to find Belle an online credit class for Algebra II. I've spent $86 on Saxon books, and only need a teacher's edition for Math 87 to complete what we need thus far. That same set new would cost over $1,000. As I'm not sure I like the way Houghton Mifflin is taking the Saxon math series, I think we are getting a good set while the gettin' is good.
  • A used copy of Maps, Globes and Graphs for World Geography came in at $12 with shipping. It is not so used, as it does have modern political maps.
  • The Oxford First Ancient History swam the Atlantic from the UK for $25.
  • The Well-Trained Mind, second edition. While I am not as strict as Mother and Daughter Wise (I have no problem integrating heavy use of software and video into our curricula, for example), it serves as a good guide. I paid $15 with shipping.
I am having a rough way to go With Math U See. It is not cheap by any measure, new or used. I only just read their stewardship packet, and that didn't thrill me. I may just end up purchasing manipulatives as we go along.

Rosetta Stone for French, Spanish and possibly German or Irish (Gaelic) is also going to be a slow purchase. It is not cheap to begin, currently $229 new for just Level One. The cheapest I have seen Level One on an auction site is $99. Our local library does offer Mango services for free, but that is more of an enrichment than a complete course. I confess, I translate other languages well, but my accent in any language excepting English and German stinks. I sound just like the American I am in French, and Spanish comes out with a Texas drawl, thanks to my military experience. I haven't tried Gaelic beyond "Slante" and other quaint sayings and short songs.

I am finally debating the value of a Discovery Education subscription. I've seen what Discovery Education can do in a classroom setting. I know one classroom teacher who uses it almost exclusively, using her textbook as a guide rather than the main material. I know the content offered classroom teachers astonished me at the time I recommended it. For $265, individual families can access Discovery Education Homeschool and tap into its rich resources of 50,000 video clips, assessment via state standards for content, and interactive training with master teachers.

On the other hand, our family already pays for a medium premium package for interactive, VoIP TV. The Discovery channels are included in the package. We regularly DVR such shows as MythBusters, Dogs 101, Sci-Fi Science, How It's Made, etc. for use in our lessons as enrichment.

We also get content from stations that are not part of the Discovery channels, and are not offered through Discovery Education. Alton Brown offers kitchen science on a regular basis, particularly in his older shows, and Food Network isn't even a part of the Discovery channels. NASA has some great content. Green Screen Adventures is home-grown in the studios of WCIU. Grammar Girl is online, along with Legal Lad and Math Dude.

I don't need to belong to a user group of classroom teachers, and use their lesson plans. Too often, classroom lesson plans just won't work in a distance learning environment. I don't need to worry about my state's standards, as we surpass them. If I want to see those standards, my state provides a web site. Every time I go to that web site and check out what little is expected of public school children in my children's age group, I shudder.

Discovery also offers content we don't consider educational and wouldn't use because of its political bias. It is fine to want to keep the world clean, but it can be taken to extremes. Somebody needs to tell Bill Nye that global warming is a theory, and not a proven one at that. History Channel needs to remember that Dan Brown's book, the DaVinci Code, is fiction and has no real basis in the history of the Catholic Church, along with Nostradamus' predictions. It seems only the Military Channel gets it right when it comes to history as it happened, without political slant. We saw what happened with H1N1. We won't be needing emergency preparedness offered in Discovery Education content, especially for weapon attacks on schools.

I know. All that content at the touch of my fingers. I can pick and choose, and not have to wait for certain holidays or anniversaries to DVR. We'll see.

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