As a former math teacher with a passion for making math meaningful and accessible, I usually have no trouble teaching math to my own kids. I don’t struggle to know when to take a step back, how to introduce particular concepts or what methods are most effective.
But spelling is a different story. I have no idea how to teach spelling. I mean, sure, I could come up with a list of words for my kids to memorize each week, but is that really the best and most effective way to teach spelling? Are my kids really going to understand and internalize what they’re learning? And where do I even start?
Then I found All About Spelling. This has been an amazing addition to our homeschool curriculum, because I know that I’m teaching spelling in a way that makes sense to my kids and keeps it fun. And best of all, it requires no prep on my part-each lesson is scripted for me, including reviews, new concepts, word lists and tips throughout.
If you are as overwhelmed at the thought of teaching math as I was at the thought of teaching spelling, you should definitely look into ShillerMath.
*Please Note: This post was sponsored by ShillerMath and I was compensated for my time in testing the product and writing the review. All opinions, however, are completely my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. Read our full disclosure here. *
ShillerMath provides a level of support for you as the parent that I have not seen with any other curriculum. And yet, the teaching and learning is still in the hands of you and your child (as opposed an online curriculum).
In today’s ShillerMath Review, I’m excited to share my opinions of this curriculum, as well as give you an inside look at what’s included in Kit I.
What is ShillerMath?
ShillerMath was created by the owner and founder, Larry Shiller. His aim is to help you provide a solid math foundation for your kids using research based methods.
The curriculum itself is heavily based on Montessori teaching ideas and techniques (from the work of Maria Montessori), and Kit 1 includes manipulatives you would see in a Montessori classroom.
For an inside peek at what you get in Kit 1, watch the “unboxing” video:
The ShillerMath curriculum books are work-texts, meaning you use them to teach the lesson, and your child also writes answers to practice problems in the lesson itself (rather than having a separate teacher book and student book).
The only exception is the answer key. This is a separate book.
Benefits of ShillerMath Homeschool Curriculum:
There are a lot of great advantages to this curriculum.
First of all, there is a tremendous amount of support for you, the parent.
There is a parent handbook included in the kit which walks you through not only how to use the curriculum, but also possible outcomes you may see in a particular lesson, how to handle confusion or struggle, plus possible phrases to use in a variety of situations.
For example, if your child is acting bored or restless you might trying saying, “I see that you are tired or restless. You may put back your activity and stop or you may try to finish this activity. Which would you prefer?”
This handbook also explains the three part lesson (also based on the work of Maria Montessori) so you know what to expect when you see this in the lesson book.
In addition, there is a ton of online support. On their website you will find math art projects, articles to help you teach math, links to other sites and math helps, etc.
Second, the lesson book is open and go, including scripted lessons. Every material you need is included in the kit, and the lesson book walks you through each lesson. So you don’t need to worry about how to explain something; you simply follow the script.
Of course, you don’t have to follow it word for word, but it’s there if you need it (especially as you get familiar with the curriculum).
Third, and most importantly, I appreciate the methods of math instruction that this curriculum uses.
Every concept is taught with concrete, visual models and explored multiple ways over time. The focus is on understanding the concepts and developing number sense, rather than rote memorization of facts.
In addition, they are intentional about engaging multiple senses to enhance learning. As I mentioned, there are lots of hands on manipulatives, visual models such as number lines and hundreds charts, plus a CD of math songs to help kids learn important concepts.
This is another feature that I have not seen included in other math curricula, but one that my kids have thoroughly enjoyed.
Though my oldest is a little beyond the Kit 1 math concepts, she has still learned and benefited from the math songs as we’ve started to include them in our morning time.
What is Different About ShillerMath:
I also appreciate the mix of open ended challenges and puzzles. Most math curricula include the basics and fundamentals, but do not usually include a mix of challenges and brain teaser puzzles, as ShillerMath does.
Here’s an example of a geometry challenge using the shape blocks:
And here’s a fun number puzzle example:
One more thing that is different about ShillerMath is that there are many concepts taught at an earlier age than you will see in most curricula, and topics included that are often not included at all in other curricula.
In my opinion, this is a wonderful advantage.
Because this curriculum is based on Montessori principles, using Montessori methods, kids are introduced to concepts in a way that is developmentally appropriate, and they are able to be successful.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently learning from a friend and certified Montessori instructor, and she has shared her classroom experiences with me (as well as the members inside our Math Geek Mama community).
The thing she has shared time and time again is that her kids (in 1-3 grade) were doing math far beyond their peers at more traditional schools because of the way it was introduced.
What I Don’t Like About ShillerMath:
One thing that I, personally, don’t love about this curriculum is the spiral nature of the lessons.
This means that each lesson introduces a new concept, and throughout the course you spiral back to each concept multiple times, in multiple ways.
Occasionally, there will be 2 or 3 lessons in a row on the same topic, but more often than not, each new lesson jumps to something new.
I understand their reasoning for this teaching methodology; I just personally don’t like it. It feels disjointed, and I have a hard time following the flow of the lessons.
But for many people, the spiral approach works, and does not cause confusion or frustration. And because the objective of each lesson is clearly stated at the top, as long as you feel like your child has mastered that objective, there’s no reason to continue on the same topic the next day.
Obviously, there are some lessons that you will want to circle and come back to multiple times to give your child plenty of practice with a particular idea or skill. (They state this in their parent guide as well).
There’s also nothing keeping you from teaching the lessons out of order if you don’t like the spiral approach. It would take some time to go through and re-organize the lessons, but you certainly could if you wanted.
The Cost of ShillerMath:
Another (potential) downside to ShillerMath is the cost. Kit 1 costs $349.95, which is a pretty hefty price tag for a homeschool mom on a budget.
You have to consider, however, what is included in this kit and how it will serve you over time. If you are starting with your child in Preschool or Kindergarten, this covers 3-4 years of their math curriculum. So when you divide the cost over 3 or 4 years, it’s not so steep.
On top of that, you can use this kit with your entire family, so if you have multiple kids, you’re still only making this purchase one time.
If, however, your child is older and you’re not sure where they would need to start, or you know you will only be using Kit 1 for one year (3rd grade), it’s a pretty big investment.
There is a downloadable option, however, which includes all the lesson books, tests, answer keys, songs, reviews, and some downloadable manipulatives for only $99.95. This might be a good option if you are switching an older child and just need to fill in some gaps before moving to Kit 2.
You can also purchase resources individually if you know you don’t need everything included in Kit 1.
How to Get Started with ShillerMath:
As I’ve mentioned, ShillerMath includes unparalleled parent support. So if you’re unsure of which lesson your child needs to start with, you can test them using the tests in the lesson books and then build a customized lesson plan based on what questions your child missed.
The answer key to the test tells you exactly which lesson corresponds to each problem, so you can easily start there, review that concept or fill in holes.
See a complete explanation of their diagnostic testing here.
Once you’ve tested your child and know where they need to start (or what holes you need to fill) you can determine which Kit or books and materials you need to purchase.
You can also download sample lessons on their site if you want a look at the lesson books before purchasing.
What are your thoughts?
I hope you found my complete ShillerMath review helpful. You can also watch the quick, summary review video below if this was too much to read or you prefer video. 🙂
And be sure to share your thoughts or opinions with other parents in the comments! Have you tried or considered ShillerMath? How did your child respond to it?
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Juana Newberry says
I have ShillerMath and the family loves it! It’s worth the price to me. Amazing customer service! They are always there to help!! I know some may not prefer this option, but you can use PayPal and have 6 months to pay it off with no interest. It works for some, I know it’s not for all. Give it try!
I must add that help with my anxiety to teach it correctly.. I’m not great with math, the guide helps immensely!!
Juana Newberry says
Please excuse my typos….:-/
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed it and that it gives you the confidence to teach this difficult subject. Thank you also for sharing the payment plan option-I didn’t realize that was available, but that’s really helpful!
Larry Shiller says
Thank you for this review. You did a great job explaining the features and benefits of ShillerMath Kit I. And people are reading/watching it: I just got a call from a new customer who decided to buy after going to your site.
Re spiral approach, we are aware that some parents prefer unit study. Because each book includes a concept index, parents may implement the unit study approach if they prefer: As long as children gain the 2Cs – competency and closure – when they do a lesson, ShillerMath supports both spiral and unit study.
We look forward to sending lots of folks to your site to see the review.