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Alpha Omega Publications: Horizons 2nd Grade Phonics & Reading Set {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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My daughter is entering second grade this Fall and is pretty excited about it. We have been doing a minimal amount school over the Summer and this helped me to see areas that need improvement in her studies. In doing this, I’ve noted that Phonics and Reading is an area that she should spend extra time on this year. She does have fairly good reading comprehension skills already but her confidence in reading aloud hasn’t been very strong. We were using a Phonics program which kept her interest at first but overtime it seemed to move along slowly and her eagerness to continue doing it was lost in the slow pace and over repetitiveness. In other words, she wasn’t being challenged enough and grew bored. We needed a new and better approach in this area.

In being a member of the Schoolhouse Crew Review team, I was given the privilege to review Horizons 2nd Grade Phonics & Reading Set. I previously was looking into buying this exact set for Fall and Winter school season. I have had a good experience with Alpha Omega Publications curriculum for the past few years and feel very much blessed to have been given this opportunity.

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-About the Curriculum-

Horizons 2nd Grade Phonics & Reading Set is made up of two consumable student workbooks, two student readers, and a teacher’s guide. The themes covered throughout this curriculum are are penmanship, vocabulary, spelling, phonics, phonemic awareness, text comprehension and fluency. The curriculum follows a spiral method approach which means what’s being learned will be spread out over time instead of repeating nothing but the same concept over and over again lesson after lesson. This method works well with children that get bored of the repetitiveness often found in mastery approaches to learning. A spiral approach allows some but not all children to concentrate better when what’s being learned is brought up again at a later time.

Between the two student workbooks, the curriculum has 160 lessons which are two pages each in the length. The lessons feature brightly colored illustrations and many different types of fun exercises. Exercises vary from fill-in-the-blanks, word searches, writing, letter/sound recognition, match the picture to the word, and so onto that instill the phonemic rules introduced and reviewed are remembered. Vocabulary, spelling, alphabetizing, rhyming, sentence structure, and so on will be strengthened as the lessons progress forward. The pace is fast but the amount of work for each lesson isn’t overwhelming.

The student reader books are paired together with the lessons. These books feature classic stories and poems to be read aloud. A few of the stories are short and others longer such as the story of Robinson Crusoe and a Little Princess. The stories have good lessons to be learned often pertaining to personal character development. There’s nothing objectionable in the text. At the top of each of the pages, there is a title pointing to what lesson it goes along with. The rules learned in the lessons correspond and tie in with the story or poem to be read. Exercises in the workbooks sometimes correspond with what is read in the readers.

The student reader books are paired together with the lessons. These books feature classic stories and poems to be read aloud. A few of the stories are short and others longer such as the story of Robinson Crusoe and a Little Princess. The stories have good lessons to be learned often pertaining to personal character development. There’s nothing objectionable in the text.  At the top of each of the pages, there is a title pointing to what lesson it goes along with. The rules learned in the lessons correspond  and tie in with the story or poem to be read. Exercises in the workbooks sometimes correspond with what is read in the readers.
The teacher guide breaks down daily lessons in an easy to understand format. There is a time table of how the lessons should proceed each day with rough estimate on time taken for each section. Each daily lesson page has an overview, materials & supplies list, teaching tips, an answer key, and additional activities. The additional activities can be completed to enforce what phonic or spelling rule that is being taught that a student may need more practice in. The section on reading in this guide provides comprehension questions to ensure that what is being read is understood. There are no answers to these questions so teachers will need to be aware of what’s happening in the story themselves. If a student is needing more practice aside from their daily lessons, there are activities which can be done that require some preparation on a teacher’s part. The well constructed teacher guide makes all preparation easy to follow for a teacher and proceed upon for a student.
-Our Experience-
I’ve been using this curriculum with my seven year old daughter that is going into the second grade in September. I had her complete three lessons a week. In starting slower, she didn’t become overwhelmed in doing this along with a few of her other studies. Typically most of our reading and phonics lessons last about 15 minutes, however the Horizons 2nd Grade Phonics & Reading Set lessons have been taking her at least 35-40 minutes to complete for each study session. I feel that as she becomes more accustomed to the curriculum, dedicated lesson time will be a bit shorter. Every child is different but I feel that a 25-30 minute approach is ideal.
In the short amount of time we’ve been using this curriculum, my daughter’s phonic, reading, and writing skills have noticeably improved. She seems to enjoy doing the work and hasn’t hit any walls. She enjoys the stories and comprehension on what she’s read is excellent. The only issue we’ve had with this curriculum is with a specific exercise. Sometimes we aren’t sure what the word for the specific image is. For example there’s a picture of a taxi. The answer could be taxi, car, or cab. My daughter chose taxi but the correct answer was cab. I refrain from grading or marking her work wrong for this. The teacher guide is helpful in finding the correct answer. It’s our only con!

The curriculum keeps my daughter’s interest because the pace isn’t slow. It’s steady and keeps things interesting for her thanks to the number of different learning exercises and approaches. She is eager to see what she’ll be reading especially for the stories that have a number of chapters. I enjoy the one on one time in discussing what’s being read. The stories tie in exceptionally well in enforcing the phonic rules taught. I feel the combination of activities and reading works really well together. Teaching and learning is certainly made easy with this curriculum. I would recommend it!

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