About Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth)
After a child learns the basics of how to read, they have only just begun the process of becoming an "expert reader" (as this program refers to them). There are many more skills to learn! Strengthening reading comprehension skills such as deduction, inference, understanding context clues, and identifying parts of speech, expanding vocabulary, and exploring the finer points of literature are all a part of Readers in Residence Volume 1. The other volumes have not yet been published since this is a new product, but plans for a few more volumes appear to be in the works. While the student is asked to formulate and write responses to questions in this program, reading skills are the focus here.
There are two books included in this program: A spiral bound "All-in-One" Student Text and Workbook and an Answer Key booklet. The all-in-one book includes a section at the beginning for parents and then continues on directed to the student with lessons, questions, discussion points, written response areas, and activities, along with self-grading rubrics and additional rubrics for a parent, teacher, or coach to use. It also offers a suggested daily schedule. The answer key has sample responses and helpful answers for the parent/teacher.
The literature books that are used for this course are not included in the package, so you will either need to purchase or make plans to borrow them. Luckily, these books are not hard to find (at least, they weren't for us - but you might want to plan ahead and check in your area/situation, just to be sure).
Throughout the course, students read and examine six books. Three of them are predetermined: Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte's Web, and Because of Winn-Dixie. The other three are selected by the student and/or parent/teacher within the parameters of certain categories (historical fiction, animal fantasy, and even more student choice in any genre of fiction).
When we received Readers in Residence, we almost jumped right into it. Then we realized that the "all-in-one" book is really thick (seriously thick), making it - in our opinion - cumbersome and difficult to manage. The binding was slipping out and I couldn't see the book staying in good shape over the long term use throughout a school year. Plus, Big Sis didn't like the way it felt to try to write with her arm up a couple of inches. Despite it being a huge book, it never felt like it was an overwhelming amount of work... it just seemed awkward to use at that size. So my solution was to take it to my local office store and have them cut the binding edge off, separate it into four smaller books, and rebind it that way (adding a clear hard plastic cover the the front and thick black plastic back.
So the binding you see in the pictures of my daughter using the All-in-One Readers in Residence is NOT the same binding the book came with! But it worked really well and solved any issue we had with the book at a pretty low cost (we did use a discount we get at the office store). I would like to see future volumes and editions already set up this way... maybe broken into a book for each quarter of the school year or even just two smaller books.
Once we got the book sorted out, we began using it an average of four days a week and following the suggested schedule loosely. Sometimes I can't hold back a kid who is excited to move forward in reading! Other times, "life happens" and we have to make adjustments. Luckily, it all works out in the end and we get it done.
For the most part, Big Sis doesn't need me to sit and work through the program with her because it is designed for a lot of student self-direction, but she really likes to share things she enjoys with me, so I joined her for most of the first unit, reading aloud and chatting as we went. I think doing this encourages her and sets a good example that this is something to value and is worthwhile.
Throughout the course, the child is encouraged to start a book club and talk about the books with others. This seemed a bit daunting when I first read about this, especially for a mostly "open and go" type program that otherwise would require very little prep. However, it is clarified that the book club can be as simple and small scale as talking with parents and siblings, or as elaborate as a child (and their parent/teacher) would like it to be. We plan to do a more involved book club in the future, but our book club this time around was more simple. We decided to use technology and call and video chat with some long distance family (aunt/cousin) so that we could put a little more thought and prep into the book club Big Sis wants to do with her friends, as well as give them more advanced notice.
The lessons often involve teaching about a few key points, perhaps alongside some key terms and main ideas that the child should be focusing on, then examining the book or reading a portion of it, followed by questions and written responses, activities, etc. The written answer portions were not too extensive, long, or overwhelming, but since talking about the books with others was emphasized in Readers in Residence, I decided to allow Big Sis to answer some questions in written form and others verbally.
Big Sis particularly enjoys the projects and activities, such as making a book cover, which I've included a picture of the front of below. I think this sort of thing really does help solidify the important points of what she is learning in her memory, far better than simply reading about it and then moving on.
As mentioned earlier, I did a lot of the first unit alongside my daughter. This meant that I didn't need to utilize the Answer Key book frequently at first. However, once Big Sis was continuing on through the material on her own, I certainly appreciated having the Answer Key as a reference to keep informed about what type of responses to expect and help me to better discuss the book with her.
We already can't wait for the next volume of this program and definitely look forward to using it when it becomes available! I will definitely recommend Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) to my homeschooling friends... and just about anyone with kids! I love the style of writing in the workbook that speaks to the student, the layout and appearance is pleasing and engaging, and the questions, discussion, and activities have all greatly benefited my daughter and enhanced her reading skills while expanding her vocabulary knowledge. Big Sis enjoys the literature and sees it as a fun project or adventure in reading rather than "work", which means she is far more likely to retain what she learns and apply it in other circumstances as well. This program has fostered a love of learning and encouraged my student in her reading skills, and I love that about it! Like another product from Debra Bell and Apologia, this has been one of our favorite review opportunities and one of our favorite curriculum products that we have used.
As I often say, what works for my family may not work for yours. Homeschooling is all about finding what works for your child and that could be something entirely different from another child. I often hesitate to make recommendations simply because of the variety or student needs, wants, and circumstance, but I really think this product at least warrants consideration to see if it could be a good fit. If you are looking for hardcore test prep style reading comprehension drills, a database of hundreds of unrelated short paragraphs and essays for practice, or a conventional school style approach, then this might not be what you're looking for (but I still think it's worth a look just to see what it has to offer). But if you are seeking a reading program with an emphasis on personal critique and both teacher and student-guided improvement, then you might find this to be a great tool, just as we did!
If you'd like to see what other families think about the Apologia Educational Ministries Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) program, click on the banner below to find more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew! Or you can visit the following social media links for Apologia to find out more about the company and what they have to offer: Facebook, Twitter (@apologiaworld), Pinterest, and Instagram.
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.