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I am down to homeschooling my last child — my youngest son. We just started fifth grade. Teaching reading to my sons has been a completely different experience than when I taught my daughters. I am not fortunate to have boys that love to read. This has made finding a reading program that does not result in arguments quite a challenge. Until now. Apologia has recently released Readers in Residence and let me tell you, it has been a game changer!
About Readers in Residence
This reading program is ideal for grades 4 through 8, but can be used for older students that might also struggle with the concepts that are taught. It is written in a conversational tone by Debra Bell. Unfamiliar with Debra Bell? Let’s just say she is more than qualified to write a language arts curriculum and has also authored one of my favorite organizers. (You can find out all about her on Apologia’s website.) Not only is it written to the student, but there’s a daily schedule (a four-day schedule YEA!!!!) at the front so my son can check off or write in the date when the assignment is completed. No more can he use the excuse of not knowing what to do next! While this is Christian based, I did not feel that it was overwhelming. Even if I were a secular homeschooler, I would have to weigh the value of the text to the few Christian references and believe that this is still the best choice. (Any references you can use a discussion tool.)
The full set comes with a spiral bound (don’t you just love being able to fold the book back and not worry about the pages flipping back over?) student text/workbook and an answer key. The answer key also has a section in the front about how the program is organized and how to evaluate your student’s work, which is always my biggest obstacle.
This Volume 1 introduces the following narrative fiction: historical fiction, animal fantasy, and contemporary realistic fiction. There will be more volumes released that will eventually cover more genres, including reports and essays, resulting in a college prep high school course of study.
Using Readers in Residence
I’m going to be brutally honest here. I have homeschooled for over twenty years. I’m tired. That means I sometimes use curriculum that I’m not 100% happy with only because I’m tired of reading yet another manual to implement yet another curriculum. Sometimes, it’s just easier to use what you know. Gather the three books for this and you are ready to go. Seriously. It’s that easy. The section in the answer key that I mentioned earlier? You can easily start the program before you even read it if you need to. (It’s a short read anyway.) I just sat down with my son and we opened the student book.
There’s a suggested Daily Schedule that we are following (because it works well for our life but you can easily adapt a schedule to fit your needs), so he just looks to see how far he needs to go and then turns the page to where he needs to stop and writes “STOP” at the bottom of that section. We started doing this when he accidentally did a few extra assignments. (Yes, you read that right. He was enjoying it and got lost in the moment and did extra!!) The actual lessons are short and concise. By the first week, my son had already learned all about different types of genres, the main elements of a story, the difference between narrative and non-narrative, and tips on how to become an expert reader. He deciphered clues from the cover of a book to determine what might happen in the story. And maybe the most important thing, he discovered that he was learning. You see, there’s a rubric for each module that tells the student what is being expected and then they grade themselves on how well they did the assignment. The parent/teacher also completes it. At first, he marked himself as doing everything the very best. However, as he completed more assignments and learned more about what it actually meant to be an expert reader, he realized that perhaps he didn’t do the best work initially. Now he is much more critical of his work and takes more time so that we agree on his scores.
Pros and Cons of Readers in Residence
- I love, love, love that it is independent work. (Well, other than the discussions that I prefer to do orally instead of journal writing and the optional book club.) Did I mention it’s written conversationally? And my son can readily see exactly what he needs to do each day.
- The lessons are short so if the day is interrupted, it’s easy to break up the assignments.
- There are only three assigned books and then the student gets to choose three. It’s like being rewarded after reading each assigned selection.
- The assignments really teach the student how to read. Really read. I read all of the time. I read many books provided by publishers for the sole purpose of reviews. Therefore, I know how to speed read. This curriculum teaches how to really focus in and study the characters. I’ve been drawn into this course along with my son and I might never be able to just speed read a book again.
- Honestly, the only disadvantage of this program is that you really do need to use the edition that they list for each required reading book. The books that you read (other than the student choices) are:
While I already owned these books in our personal library, I did not own the current edition for two of these so I had to order them, but they were less than $10 for the entire purchase so not a big deal.
Final Thoughts on Reading Curriculums
You might be thinking that you do not really need a reading curriculum. I used to think that too. My daughters would read on their own. We always discussed our favorite books. We would read together for enjoyment. I knew they had high levels of reading comprehension because they discussed the books in depth. Elements like genres were organically taught as we browsed library bookshelves. And then came my boys. Getting them to discuss a book was like pulling teeth. I soon found out that while they would read for an assignment, there was no long term retention. They read, or skimmed, to get answers. If I asked any questions that took any thought in answering, they were stumped. I am assured with just the short time we have used this program, that I know my last son will know how to be an expert reader. I’m glad to have finally found a kid approved homeschool reading program.
Be sure to check out my upcoming review of Writers in Residence. Using both of these programs will give you a complete year of language arts.
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