K12, the new online homeschool curriculum created by William J. Bennett, former Secretary of Education and author of The Book of Virtues, is generating a lot of discussion among homeschoolers these days. Many people seem confused as to what exactly K12 is and how it works. Some people mistakenly believe K12 is a charter school. I was confused myself until I reviewed their Kindergarten program. Basically, K12 is an online, for-profit curriculum supply company for homeschoolers selling complete grade level packages for Kindergarten through Second Grade, with grades three through five coming out in the fall, and the remainder of the grades to follow.
I opened the huge box of supplies and found videos, CDs, beautiful books, math and science manipulatives, art prints, a tambourine, a slide-whistle, phonics tiles, workbooks, and more. I was quite impressed with the quality of the books and materials. No twaddle here! About the only thing missing, other than things commonly found about the house, was the teacher's manual. And that is precisely where the Internet becomes key to the program.
The entire lesson plan for using all those beautiful books and supplies is found online at http://www.k12.com. When you logon, you are taken directly to your Planning and Progress page. This is basically your lesson plan, and it can be adapted to your specifications, such as when you want to take holidays and how many days per week you want to teach a subject. I played around with it, and found the Progress and Planning to be a great tool. If you want to complete the program in one school year, you will have to complete five math, phonics, and language arts lessons each week and two lessons each of history, science, art, and music. Keep in mind that when you enroll you have 18 months to complete a program. You are free to skip lessons completely if you choose. At the end of each lesson, just mark the lesson as complete, and your Planning and Progress page will automatically advance you to the next lesson on the following day. Or, if you don't complete a lesson one day, it will automatically move it to the following day until you complete it or choose the Skip This Lesson option.
The computer is an essential element in the K12 curriculum. K12 says that children will use the computer for about 25 percent of their school day. In Kindergarten, most of what is online is the teacher's guide. It appeared to be most frequently used for instruction in History and Art, with lots of stories and pictures. You must have a reliable Internet connection and a very central, convenient place near to the computer to work. K12 is working on providing the tools to make the program more portable, in response to parents' requests. They seem very eager to adapt to homeschoolers' needs based on parent feedback. They are also planning to supply the worksheets rather than requiring parents to print them out themselves. This would be a great improvement, as there are many necessary worksheets online, and I found it time consuming to download them and print them each day. However, as necessary as the computer is, it is really only a part of K12's truly multimedia approach. There is plenty of reading, writing, hands-on activities, art projects, listening exercises, and some video lessons.
The content of the program is excellent, reminding me of The Core Knowledge Series by E.D. Hirsch. The math looked good; it appeared quite similar to Horizons with colorful pages and solid math concepts. The language arts program looks excellent, relying heavily on great classic literature for children. Phonics instruction is very good, using letter tiles extensively along with worksheets and fun little readers. History is broad and interesting, with a global focus and a classical approach. Science focuses on the scientific process with lots of hands-on activities as children explore earth, life, and physical science. K12's art instruction is much more thorough than many elementary programs I've seen, although art supplies are not included in the kit. This is real art appreciation and application in creative ways, not just arts and crafts. Likewise, the music instruction is thorough, including lots of listening to good music and learning about composers in addition to fundamentals of music theory.
One of the things I appreciate about K12 is that subjects can be purchased separately. This should appeal to many parents who feel weak in certain areas or just lack the time or energy to pull it all together themselves. Families with more than one child to teach might consider using only one course for a single subject, such as History or Music. K12 is a multi-faceted, interesting curriculum and we recommend taking a walk through their website at www.k12.com to really see what they have to offer.
From The Old Schoolhouse Magazine:
As the publishers of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, we see many new products cross our desk. One particular component to a full program that really struck me were the workbooks from popular education company K12. I had the opportunity to try out some of the K12 math workbooks. I tell you the truth: I have never seen a larger workbook! They are heavy, thick, and complete. Normally, when it comes to workbooks, I only use them as supplementation to a given course of study. However, the ones I saw from K12 could be used solely for a particular subject (the ones we looked at were 1st grade math). Impressive, to say the least! Full color, large (oversized compared to regular workbooks), and fun, these draw your child right in. We love K12!
-- Product Review by: Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine