I found several gems in our local homeschool curriculum cabinet!
One homes’ junk is another’s treasure!
One of which was Horizons: Learning to Read (1997-2002). Turns out it was a pretty popular reading program before common core started taking precedent in public schools. The publishing company has an “updated” version that really seems to expand the basic set into multiple books per school year. I think it has 6 or 8 (?) reading level books for each grade level. They are easier to get a hold of but far more expensive.
Why didn’t I buy the current updated Common Core based program?
- The updated Common Core based program does appears to have new stories and fresh imagery.
- The new design is relatively 6 books per semester per grade. Which makes them inherently more expensive.
- On one level it appealed to me and I thought about buying it, but on the whole it’s basically a different reading resource.
- The look and design for the new textbooks are bright and colorful. However I didn’t find them engaging… so much as I felt the page layouts were distracting.
- The feedback I received didn’t leave me feeling confident that it would be an efficient use of my time.
- The new reading system does not prove through research that it can improve a child’s reading skills.
- The biggest drawback was that I did not feel it would help my kids learn how to work independently.
Basically the older Horizons reading program is still a much more efficient program!
If you decide this program is for you, here are few things you need to be aware of
First, there are two different series that contain the same material.
One is for the average paced student and was used for regular studies. The other is called Fast Track and was designed for an accelerated reader OR for an older child learning how to read.
In case you want to know where you should start:
- The Fast Track A-B set was reported upon completion to consistently achieve 4th grade reading levels.
- The C-D set was geared to developing 5th-8th grade reading levels.
- Both sets each have 3 books.
You don’t have to use all the materials designed for it
Since I have no problems using materials designed for late/accelerated readers (research shows it’s normal to have late readers due to stages of brain development) I went ahead and hunted down the complete set. Amazon rewarded my little unicorn hunt and I was able to find fair prices for used copies. Sifting through the material it’s obvious the teaching material were geared to the classroom. The Teacher’s Guide was broken down by teaching techniques. Some of which was how to practice pronouncing certain letter combinations. Helpful but since I decided that I didn’t really need this I donated it to the lending library.
The Presentation Book was more expensive but it includes everything in the book. On the back of the flip book it has the lesson portion the teacher needs to read. This includes pronunciation and the stories that go with the pictures on the other side of the flip book/ in the student’s book. Plus it’s large enough for students to see and share. I decided to forgo the all-in-one flip book. Even a used copy was running $50 per book. The quality of the product certainly warranted the price but I wanted a more economical option. (Space for a large flip book being a key part of that!) In my opinion if you go with the presentation book, skip the hard cover books.
The corresponding workbooks are almost hard to find by themselves. The lowest denomination bundle I could find were 5 packs for roughly $75. I could argue that I could use at least 3 of those but then I still have 2 extra workbooks for each book + shipping. I would have preferred a downloadable workbook option. I passed on this when I couldn’t find all of the workbooks in Amazon’s used pile. This option is really feasible for a homeschool co-op group who decide to use the program together.
How I knew this reading curriculum was for us
When I went on this little hunt for the perfect program for us, I wanted something that was a little easier to use than Teach My Kids to Read in 100 Lessons. A way to introduce phonemic practice without them realizing it. Without requiring that I commit the script to memory or become a semi-specialist in the reading arts. Call me crazy but if it’s not fun for me, it’s usually not fun for them.
I wanted them to have a consistent material to use for copywork. The last couple of years I had allowed them to copy out of any book they were reading. My intention was for them to read as far they wanted for the day and then select a portion for copying. This didn’t feel right to them so they always halted their reading and copied almost all of what they read.
I wanted something that picked up or carried past the extent of BOB Books or Now I’m Reading Series. I wanted something a bit more fluid that continued to build on their reading skills.
I wanted something that was research proven. I wanted to have a balanced feedback from both the teachers and the students who felt it made a difference.
I have to consider what the kids wanted… All the kids really wanted was something that entertained them. Despite the older look of some of the graphics, this reading program makes them giggle every time.
How we use this as a part of their daily reading assignment
We start by going over the sounds at the top of the page. Next we read out loud the words in the list. For my youngest I read the words and he repeated. Now I listen to him attempt to sound out the words and help correct as needed.
The second part of their task includes copying the word list and the sentence or story into their journal. I love copywork that either builds or reinforces their reading skills, language arts abilities, and vocabulary. This turned out to be a great way to engage without being overwhelming!
The structure of the first book builds from a sentence and builds up to a paragraph by the end. Missing the stories for the first third of book (because they are in the presentation book) one didn’t set me back for long. Instead the kids were happy to modify it by telling me what they think is going on in the picture. Then they were asked to write a sentence about what they saw. Now that we are further along they draw pictures in their reading journals.
Sometimes they want to do the lesson but not the copywork portion. This is absolutely okay! I try to encourage an alternate activity like drawing a part of the lesson into their journal. Sometimes I generate a word search puzzle. Skipping a day and creating a down-time space doesn’t hurt either. Structure is good but it’s not the only way they learn.
Looking farther ahead there are longer reading selections with questions and activities!
I never would have stumbled on this program if another parent hadn’t donated it to our local homeschool lending library. I don’t know how they came across it, I’m just happy that they decided to pass it on to someone who could benefit from it.