Phonics: Explode the Code 1 and 2 (****)
This will be difficult for me to review. My daughter knew her letters and sounds at the beginning of the school year and was just on the cusp of reading. Soon she was reading and she took off like a shot. I still wanted her to have a systematic knowledge of phonics, even though she is now reading quite well. Late in the year, after much groaning from my daughter, I decided to take the curriculum into my hands and cut back on the number of worksheets per lesson. This may seem obvious, but this small change has made a big difference. We'll continue with Explode the Code at an "accelerated" pace as along as it's appropriate.
Printing: Free online printables from Learning Page (*****)
Free. Gotta love it. Did the job. Enough said. The other option I considered was Handwriting Without Tears, but the letters look odd. Is it just me?
Writing: Writing Strands 1(*), Writing Experiences for Young Learners(****).
Writing Strands was not very curriculum-y. It is a very small book with ideas that I would consider to be geared more towards pre-school age. We did not use it very much.
Writing Experiences for Young Learners was a better fit for us, although we didn't use it exclusively or completely. We did a lot of writing inspired by the theme unit we were studying. She wrote a story pretending she was a migrating bird while studying birds, and a color poem inspired by The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush during our Native American unit. Gracie also loved making mini-books like our transportation ABC book.
Math: Saxon Math K (****)
So far so good. At first I wanted there to be more worksheets and paper to make it feel more like math, but in retrospect it was very appropriate for kindergarten. (And there's plenty of worksheets in Saxon Math 1to make up for it!) I really didn't like the scriptedness of it, but I didnt feel obligated to do it. We also didn't do all the meetings as laid out in the teacher's guide. I made the curriculum work for me, rather than being tied down to following the lessons exactly. Some of the lessons seemed a bit easy, and I considered staring with Math 1 in the middle of the school year, but since both the K and 1 curricula are very calendar based, I decided to just take it easy and slow down. We'll start Math 1 in the fall.
Science: Science for Kids Series: Animals and Weather.(****)
I liked these, but I didn't use them a ton. They just never seemed to tie in very well with the unit studies we did. I did like them enough that I plan to order several of the ScienceWorks 1-3 books for our life science studies next year.
Art: Masterpiece of the Month (*****)
I loved this! It actually was my second choice, but I'm glad I used it. The lessons are easy and don't require a lot of specialty supplies or materials beyond paper, paint, and crayons. It's also inclusive from K through 6th grade, so you could potentially buy just one book to get you through all the elementary years. I did supplement with some free online resources and ideas as well.
Unit Studies: Teacher Created Resources Thematic Units (*****)
These are great! I used several of these throughout the year including Native Americans, Food and Nutrition, Gingerbread, My Country, and Tide Pools and Coral Reefs.