I have a brand new curriculum to share with you! Introducing you to new things is one of those privileges I relish in my life as homeschool curriculum reviewer. Especially when the product comes from a trusted company that has already proven it can deliver high-quality homeschooling materials. For the last several weeks my son and I have had the privilege to review a new reading curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries. It is called Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) full set by Debra Bell. You’ll want to keep reading because this program has more to offer than a lot of other programs like it on the market.
What Is It?
Readers in Residence is for children in 4th-6th grade. It can also be a great fit if you have a late middle school or even a high school student who needs extra help in the areas covered in the program. The intent of the program is to help your children learn to appreciate literature. They use a Biblical lens through which to discern what they read. What areas does the program cover? Let me tell you! This program will build your child’s reading comprehension, literature, and vocabulary. It uses excellent children’s literature to help children understand the author’s point of view, recognize literary elements, use context clues to figure the meaning of unfamiliar words, build vocabulary skills, learn things like personification, metaphor, and hyperbole, and of course the proper use of punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. You’ll recognize a lot of the literature selections that in this program. They include titles like Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte’s Web, and Because of Winn-Dixie.
This program fits well with Debra Bell’s Writers In Residence program. Together they provide everything you need for a year’s worth of language arts study.
What Do I Need?
The full set includes both the All-In-One Student Text and Workbook and the Answer Key Book. You’ll also need a copy of each piece of literature studied.
The All-In-One Student Text and Workbook is exactly how it sounds. With this program, you child will ONLY need to dig out this one, very fat, and spiral bound combined text and workbook. It includes 562 pages. No need to keep a separate binder or notebook. You don’t need to make room on the table for the textbook AND the workbook. It is all in one place. Near the beginning of the book, there is a predefined day by day schedule (referred to as modules) for you and your child to follow and check off as you progress. The pages throughout student book are full, and I mean FULL of information. There are many pictures. When designing the book they made great use of color to draw the eye to important topics and ideas. The workbook pages are fully integrated. You’ll get a couple of pages of text and then find you need to fill in a half page sized chart followed by more text. Later on, in a lesson, you’ll have worksheets that take up a couple of pages together.
There are some definite pluses to this setup, and I already highlighted them. Everything is in one place. Less to dig out every day, less to lose. There are some definite cons, however. The book is thick and cumbersome. It isn’t entirely practical for on-the-go schooling. Writing on it, particularly near the bottom, can be uncomfortable on the wrist. The biggest draw for me as a homeschooling mom of 4 is the fact that the whole book is a consumable. That means that if I someday want one of my younger children to use this program, I have to buy the whole All-In-One Student Text and Workbook again. I can save a few dollars and reuse the answer book. But the bulk of the cost is in this big fat text/workbook. I have to be honest and say I rarely buy any curriculum that is completely consumable. Typically I can keep the text and just by a replacement workbook for the next child and get more mileage out of my initial investment. That’s impossible with this curriculum.
The Answer Key Book is a must in my opinion. This book is pretty substantial on its own with 232 pages. It is not a spiral bound book though I wish it were. In an easy to read format, it provides you the answers to every single question asked of your child throughout the entire curriculum. It saves me a lot of brain power. I have a go-to place to look for and understand where the curriculum is guiding my son. If you want a lot of direction for exactly how to teach your child this curriculum, you’ve got it. Or if you’d rather use the information as a reference and a jumping off point that will work great as well.
How We Used It
I have been using Readers in Residence with my 4th grade age son for several weeks now. We worked on the program for 3-4 days per week for an average of a half an hour a day. Usually, I read the sections of the student text aloud to my son. He is more than capable of reading and understanding the text, and in the future, I might just set him off to work alone. But for review purposes, I wanted to ensure I was highly involved. Plus, I never stick to the page. I always add my thoughts and expand on the lesson in my ways. He then read the selections from the literature on his own.
Reader’s in Residence is a very rich curriculum and goes so much further than your standard answering of comprehension questions at the end of a chapter. It is filled with activities that drive them deeper into understanding the text and the perspective of the author. You explore the genre, how to use clues found all over the book to give you meaning, how fiction and nonfiction books differ, what’s narrative and nonnarrative? My son created his book cover, and he wrote an author biography. This curriculum encourages thinking and creativity.
Children do answer comprehension questions. They also do things like fill-in charts that guide their thinking about the character traits of the people in the stories. Then, of course, the children reflect back on themselves and their character.
I think one of the sections I appreciate the most is called Sowing Seeds. It is the place in the curriculum that turns us back to God and reminds this mom always to allow Him to steer us according to His will. In that section, you’ll find a discussion and questions of a passage from your literature. It refers to scriptures and includes some great “jumping off point” questions about how it call relate to our lives (both student and teacher in my opinion).
Overall I appreciate Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) by Debra Bell from Apologia Educational Ministries. It is so rich and well done. It brings about literature study in a fun and easily approachable way. It is something of a goldmine for our family. Our discussions about books, our vocabulary, our understanding of authors are all significantly improved.