Long Time User of Calvert Homeschool Curriculum (Pre-k to 7th)
(Jerzy Shore, NJ USA)
Homeschooling multiple grades and running short on time? Calvert homeschool curriculum was the answer for this mom of four; find out why...
Wow, what a ride. I started with the Calvert homeschool 3rd grade curriculum after successfully using TWTM (The Well-Trained Mind) for the first few years. Why the switch? After child #4 was born, I simply did not have the time it required to put together my own curriculum, find the books, and then make lesson plans. With Calvert, everything you need is in the box, from crafting materials in the youngest grades, to easy readers, to challenging textbooks. Grade by grade, Calvert curriculum has been by far the best investment of my money.
Calvert is easily ahead of the competition when it comes to providing a good education. Wondering why I couldn't include 8th grade in my review? I've never done it. My oldest went right from 7th grade Calvert into public high school, taking AP classes, and pulling straight A's. The only difficulty was that first semester of math. Since she didn't have any pre-Algebra, (that would have been covered in Calvert's 8th grade) her first semester of Algebra was more difficult but she still managed to pull a great grade. Other than that, she was well equipped to accomplish any task set before her and was usually ahead of her peers. Just this year I've had another child ask to attend public school (I'm all for letting them try it - sometimes public school is just what they need). She went from Calvert’s 4th grade to 5th grade public school. So far for her school has been boring. She is covering stuff we've already done in 4th grade - and we're now in January.
What do I like most about the Calvert curriculum is the lesson manuals. EVERYTHING, and I do mean everything, is included in those manuals. In the older grades (6th - 8th), the lesson manual is directed at the child. If you have a self-motivated learner, there is very little you need to do other than be there to help explain a more difficult concept or check to make sure the work is being done. In the younger grades, the lesson manual does suggest a daily schedule; allotting time for each subject depending on the day. However, most Calvert users I know simply find a way that works for them. Some do use the suggested schedule, while others like myself do more of a block schedule. Yesterday, we had a great day of math by completing 7 lessons and taking "the test" with still plenty of time left in the day. This is not a problem because of the way the lesson manuals are laid out (there are two: one for Math only, and one for the rest of the subjects). You can easily check off which lessons you've done for which days and then go back and catch up on the subjects you've missed.
What's really great is the composition work, the grammar lessons, and the literature picks. The difference between Calvert and other curriculum lies within the pages of the lesson manual. You don't have to hunt and pick to see which chapter goes with what you are learning, it's all done for you. Calvert also includes a box of Science supplies. I think that most of the suggested experiments are cheesy; any creative mom can certainly come up with better ones. If you're not scientifically inclined but your child is, there are plenty of online science courses, that add to Calvert's textbook backbone.
What didn't work for us was Calvert's language program. I'm not sure they even offer them anymore, but we tried Calvert's Spanish and it reminded me directly of my high school Spanish classes. The only difference is that I am not a native Spanish speaker and I
think that is what's required when learning a language. There are some great programs out there for learning languages, and you can spend your money far better elsewhere.
Money saving suggestions: If you live in a state where Calvert is offered through a virtual school, look into it. Some allow you to use Calvert's own ATS(advisory teacher services). I've used ATS from 3rd grade on with all my kids. It's nice to get feedback from someone other than "mom", and it also helps keep us all on track. You get 1 year from the day you send in the first test(there are tests every 20 lessons, up to test #160) so there is a time limit of sorts. The few times that travels and vacations have prevented us from sending in our tests on time, I have not had a problem asking for an extension. ATS is additional, and it's not cheap, but to me it is definitely worth the money. If I were on a tight budget, I'd skip Calvert's PreK to 2nd grade. Buy some workbooks from Sam's or BJ's, some learning CD's for the computer, and read, read, read to your child. That's enough when they are younger. I've done these grades simply because when the older kids got their boxes delivered, the younger ones insisted on doing school too.
I'm not sure if they still offer it, but "Come Read With Me" was a learn-to-read series offered additionally for Calvert and we loved it! I still have it, but I’m not really sure how I'll use it in the future(it's on VHS!). Calvert also offers extra reading programs for each grade. This is great if you have extra money, but if not skip it. Instead, look at the titles included and then pick up what you can from your local library.
Calvert now offers a video online to help you be successful in your homeschooling journey. If you watch it you will receive 5% off. They usually offer a discount to military families as well. Once or twice a year they offer an additional 5 - 10%, but it never seems to be at a time when I need to purchase new curriculum. You can buy the textbooks used, however, Calvert does not allow resale of its lesson manuals(and they are the heart of Calvert's homeschool program). If you don't purchase your curriculum from Calvert you cannot use their ATS service. You can always reuse your textbooks and buy just the lesson manuals and consumables from Calvert. It's a money-saver if you have kids of multiple grades, but you don't save much if you have to go out and buy used books, might as well buy new ones.
All in all, I love Calvert. Now that I'm back to one child, I've thought of going back to TWTM, but I love the accountability I have with Calvert, I love knowing that I am not leaving any gaps or holes in her education, because Calvert builds upon itself year by year. I love knowing that if she does choose to attend public school for high school, (big possibility, because she really wants to participate in high school sports) she'll be very well-prepared. Maybe by the time she's ready for high school, Calvert will have come out with the much talked about high school levels, and she can stay home... we'll see! Thank you so much for your review; I loved how informative and detailed it was. I've tutored kids using Calvert before and I can attest to its thoroughness in lesson-planning and teaching. Blessings, Michaela
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