Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: The Madsen Method

This year, the members of the TOS Crew were given the option of reviewing The Madsen Method— “an evidence-based, fully-scripted, field-tested, non-consumable” complete K-12 language arts program that is “based on systematic and explicit phonics taught via full spectrum neurological response instruction.”

madsenbanner4 After looking over their introductory videos and poring over their website, I felt that my family was up to the challenge. Or at the very least, open to learning more about the challenge and going from there.

Joe Madsen (husband of author, Sharon Madsen) personally went over the first few lessons with me over the phone. He answered all my questions and explained the Madsen Method clearly. It sounded like it could potentially be a huge asset to my son, Ethan. However, Joe was quick to point out that my girls (who do not struggle with reading or writing and are probably more “visual” than Ethan is) would also benefit from this method of instruction, as it would help train the other members of their “learning team”. So with that final boost of confidence, I agreed to give this product a solid place in our homeschool day.

The Product

I received Part One for review. It arrived in a hefty box and contained the following spiral bound components:

  • The fully-scripted teaching manuals. The first manual covered sections 1-3, the second covered section 4, and the remaining three manuals covered section 5.
  • Games and coloring pages
  • Standardized Spelling and Reading Tests

We also received a folder containing reproducible templates and templates CD, the 4 part “Listen In Library” CD collection and “Sounds of English Phonograms” DVD. All you have to supply is pencil and paper. That’s it!

Part One of this program is designed to be used over a period of 6-8 months and requires 30 minutes (+/-) of uninterrupted instruction time. If you used the Madsen Method in its entirety (four parts), you’d cover all language arts instruction in 6-8 years.

From the website: “Part One is the first portion of our complete, ungraded language arts curriculum. It introduces the first elements of English what a student must know to be proficient in English, regardless of his age. In a graded classroom setting, Part One can be implemented as the complete English language arts curriculum for K-1, or it is the first part of a remedial program for an older student. Students completing our program are independently proficient in all language arts skills and content at 1915 literacy standards."

With the Home Educator’s Discount, the program costs $219.95 ($299.95 without).

4-NLA1-300x280 How It Works

The Madsen Method is specifically designed to work with all four members of your brain’s learning team or “neurological learning avenues”. This means:

He SPEAKS; He HEARS what he said; He DOES what he heard; He SEES what he did!"

I would say a line (verbatim) from the text. The children repeat what I’ve said (again, verbatim). They write what I’ve said and then see what they wrote. Makes sense, right? By doing this, a child—as well as the teacher—really has to focus and pay attention to what their doing. There is no room for distraction. If they do get distracted or can’t repeat what you’ve said exactly, then you simply smile and go over it again (and again) until they get it right.

The point of all this is not to frustrate the teacher or student (more on that in a bit), but to get the student to use all four learning avenues. For example, Ethan’s not a visual learner. He can write and re-write his spelling words until his fingers fall off, but he won’t remember them once the test is completed. He has to not only “see” the words, but he has to “touch” them, “hear” them being spoken.

My girls on the other hand, can simply “see” the word written in front of them, re-write it themselves and they’re good.

But if you ask them how to spell something randomly—? They have to write the word with their finger or watch you write it out. I’m the exact same way. The girls and I need that visual because we don’t “know” how to spell any other way. We have to see it. Period.

With the Madsen Method, you not only get the visual but also the verbal and action associated with it. Get it? ;)

Additional notes, tutorials, illustrations and key points are sprinkled generously throughout the program along the side margins. If you require additional assistance or have any questions, Joe and Sharon offer continuous support via phone or email.

Our Observations

Right off the bat, the first thing this program teaches you is the “correct learning position”. Joe Madsen actually went over this with me over the phone, and I must admit I thought the guy was nuts. Why does it matter how one is seated? What difference does it make where my hands or feet are? Why does my “seat” have to pressed to the back of my chair? Are you kidding me?

But once I did it, I realized I instantly felt “ready” to learn. My son on the other hand…well…we’ll get to that in a moment.

As stated above, the program is “fully-scripted”, which I thought would make life easier. After all, this translated to zero prep-time and all I’d have to do was “follow the bouncing ball”.  How hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out…very.

The Cons

At first it was kind of fun. Almost a game, really. But having to repeat everything dear mom said every single time, every single day, for 30 minutes or more, quickly got old.

In fact, during one particularly rough day, Ethan announced, “This is MY learning position…!” He got down from the table and sat next to his chair on his knees, his paper and pencil on the chair seat. (Ahem) On another day, Sierra (14) announced that she was “sick of this baby work”.

I also grew tired of having to say everything as prescribed. While you are allowed to modify things to a point, you should still strive to maintain the integrity of the program by following the four “pathways”.

As we went further along, I found the Madsen’s methods to be time consuming and tedious. I re-discovered that I really don’t like being told what to do—not by a person and especially not by a manual.

I personally enjoy tweaking curriculum to suit us individually. There’s not a whole lot of “tweaking” allowed with MM.

I also (as another reviewer noted) do not like—nor am I used to—sitting or standing nearby when my children do their school work. For the most part, I hand them the bulk of their lessons and occupy myself with housework or writing projects (either reviews or for work). I couldn’t do that with MM. Our “Madsen Time” was strictly “Madsen Time”. Period. Not that this is entirely a bad thing; just that it proved to be a real adjustment for me. (Goes back to being told what to do. –Grins)

The Pros: Everyday Observations

I could see a marked improvement in Ethan’s overall performance and understanding. Even outside of “school” time, I’d find myself employing the Madsen Method:

“Ethan? Why is your coat on the couch?”

“I don’t know. I just left it there, I guess.” (As he walks away…)

“Ethan? Repeat after me: I am walking to the couch…”

{Sigh} “I am walking to the couch.” (Walks over to the couch)

“I am picking up my coat.”

{Scowling} “I am picking up my coat…” (Yanks his coat up off the arm rest)

“I am walking to the closet…”

You get the idea.

More Pros: Learning Discoveries

I discovered that there really is a trick to holding a pencil and proper letter formation. (Who knew?) And once you know this, the handwriting pretty much takes care of itself.

Additionally, the Madsen’s book of spelling tests is really, really cool. We all loved the fact that the tests included grade equivalencies (perfect for those competitive types!) and the children actually begged—and I mean begged—to do a spelling test more than once a week. (Hello!)

Yet the truly greatest observation—and I have to be fair and mention this—is the fact that by employing these methods, my children are retaining a lot more information than before. Granted, they still hate the journey and scowl every time I pull out the manuals. But they’re learning. Really, truly learning.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I have to say that while I’ve discovered that the use and training of the four “learning pathways” works—and works very well—the Madsen Method isn’t for me.  At least, not without some serious “tweaking” involved. I’d rather use the program as an outline than follow it as prescribed.

However, if I’d come across this product when my children were younger, I know my feelings and opinion would be different. It would’ve laid a solid foundation that would’ve proven easy to build on later in life. But starting at this stage of the game made it harder for the children and I to accept the changes the program required of us. It was just so different….

That said, I do believe this would be a great program for those families that thrive on structure or those that are just beginning their homeschool journey.

I sincerely value both the time and effort Joe and Sharon put into this program. I am truly grateful to them for opening my eyes to a new way of thinking (or really and “old” way of thinking re-discovered). They’re extremely kind, helpful, and courteous. In fact, their customer service and support cannot be beat!

To learn more about The Madsen Method please visit their website.

To read what my fellow Crew members had to say about this product, please click here.

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received the above product for free in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was provided and my thoughts/opinions are my own.*

1 comment:

Annie Kate said...

Oh. My. I'm still wondering if I should have accepted the challenge. LOL

It sounds both good and bad...especially the 'being told what to do' part. But I can see it helping my littlest two.

Annie Kate

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