One of the most common questions homeschoolers ask is, “How do I know if I am covering it ALL?” or “How can I be sure that I am doing enough?” Homeschoolers can easily get overwhelmed by trying to “teach it all,” but Evan-Moor has great systems in place to make sure that homeschoolers are covered.
When Evan-Moor generously asked me to choose one of their products to review, I jumped at the chance to try Skill Sharpeners. Why? As a homeschooler, I wanted to see how my children would do with using the basic skills for their grade level. These eye-catching books were just the right option.
There are five Skill Sharpeners series to choose from for grades PreK–6. Or you can purchase the Skill Sharpeners Trio, which includes three full-color, highly engaging student books covering reading, math, and science. Each book is divided into themes or units that allow the student to focus on each section of the book. There is an answer key in the back, so the kids can easily check their own work, too!
Keep in mind that these look like a workbook, but Evan-Moor does a wonderful job of mixing basic skill practice with applying the skills in useful, realistic ways. Kids can easily see how these skills can be put to use in everyday situations. The colorful illustrations and pages really appeal to kids, too!
Skill Sharpeners features
The Skill Sharpeners activity books help homeschoolers make sure the foundational subjects are not only taught, but practiced in meaningful ways. These books can be a great starting place if you are building your own curriculum (more on that in future posts in this blog series). Here are some features of each of the three books in the Skill Sharpeners Trio:
Reading – Each reading unit has an original color-illustrated story that is the basis for that unit. The kids read the story and then do a mix of comprehension skills and word study skills based on the story. My kids enjoy the stories and typically grab this book first. Personally, I like the variety of skills covered in this book. I also appreciate that there are both fiction and nonfiction selections.
Math – Each math unit is based on a theme (Farm, Robots, etc.), so the illustrations, story problems, graphs, etc., all relate back to the theme. There is a “test your skills” page at the end of each unit, which my kids seem to enjoy.
Science – Each science unit is on a specific topic (Magnets, Animal Groups, etc.) where the kids learn about the topic and use the skills to complete the pages. There is also at least one (sometimes two) hands-on activity that can be done to extend the science skills.
Note: Skill Sharpeners: Spell & Write and Skill Sharpeners: Critical Thinking were not reviewed here, but are available at www.evan-moor.com.
How I use the Skill Sharpeners books in our curriculum
Before I tell you how I use these books, I want you to know that there are several “right” ways to use Skill Sharpeners. You can adapt them for what is right for your family. Some ideas are:
- Use the books as ideas for what skills to teach in a lesson, and then use the books for practice.
- Use the books in workboxes or centers as review activities.
- Use these books as an informal assessment to see what skills are easy for your child and which your child needs more practice in.
- Use these books as practice during winter or summer breaks to keep those skills sharp while you take time off of your regular homeschooling schedule.
Since we already had a curriculum in place and started the Skill Sharpeners Trio in February, I used these books as an informal assessment to help me understand which skills my kids had mastered, as well as what skills needed more teaching and practice.
When my kids started working through these books, they quickly completed the first unit in each book with ease. Making certain that kids feel successful right away is an intentional and common characteristic of Evan-Moor publications. By the third unit in each book, the level of thinking required to complete each unit was a little more involved than Unit 1, but still very manageable.
By the sixth unit in each book, my kids were still able to do their assignments, but it did take them more time. We started slowing down a little at this point because I wanted to make sure they were still engaged.
We are about to start Unit 8 in all three books, and my kids are still happy and excited to sharpen their skills. They like that they are learning a few new skills, and I appreciate knowing what skills we need to keep practicing on our own.
How I use the Skill Sharpeners books to guide my instruction
Since the skills covered in each book are aligned with state standards for that particular grade level, I use these books as an informal assessment of how my kids are doing. And while I think it is very rare for students to be performing on their exact grade level in all subjects, using the Skill Sharpeners books allows me to see if they are on track for their grade level.
For example, if my child finds the grade 3 fractions practice to be super easy, that tells me I need to start working on fraction skills for grade 4 for that child. (By the way, I use Evan-Moor’s TeacherFileBox to find grade-level-specific activities for each skill, but more on that next month.)
Or if my child starts to struggle with triple-digit subtraction, then I know we need to spend more time practicing those skills in the future. Again, I do a quick search on TeacherFileBox to find exactly what I need.
I did easily kept track by making a quick note of which skills were easy and which they needed extra support or time to complete. This allows me to customize each child’s lessons for his or her individual needs.
I will be back next month with part 2 of my series to talk about using TeacherFileBox with workboxes.
Until then, go grab your Skill Sharpeners books! ☺
See you next time,
*Disclaimer – while I did receive the Skill Sharpeners Trio books to review, all of these opinions are my own and reflect my honest thoughts and experiences of using this product.
Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website www.thrivehomeschooling.com.