Friday, September 9, 2011

Review of SAT Prep Course by James Stobaugh

One of the lovely privileges afforded to me as a writer for Homeschool Village is that of occasionally reviewing educational curriculum for the homeschool market. Having two high schoolers currently in the house and another two rising students on their tails, the opportunity to review the following SAT Prep Course was very appealing to me.
SAT Prep course
SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student
by Dr. James Stobaugh Published by the great folks at New Leaf Publishing under their Master Books division. Interested in getting your own copy? Visit their website by clicking here.
What this course is:
This is a SAT preparatory course intended to be used over the course of several years. There is some flexibility in that plan, however the author feels very strongly that vocabulary knowledge (i.e. a very strong vocabulary) has the potential to make or break your SAT score. He asserts, and I agree, that an individual cannot ‘cram’ for vocabulary development and expansion, you must gradually build it.
It is recommended for High School students and if you choose to use the three year plan, you would start your student in 9th grade. There is also a two year plan and an accelerated one year plan. Having both a Junior and a Freshman in my family, we are planning on using both the accelerated and more relaxed recommended schedule.
How this course is laid out:
The book consists of 150 lessons. How quickly your student would cycle through them depends on which schedule your family would choose. Every lesson consists of an opening scripture and devotional followed by an application question or action point. Next, the students are instructed to keep a devotional journal. Instructions for journaling and a list of possible target scriptures are included in an appendix in the back of the book. Next, students are instructed to read 30-50 pages from a recommended book in the reading list. As they read, they should be keeping track of any vocabulary words they do not know for further study and review.
At this point the lesson changes from day to day. It may contain a critical thinking question, with the emphasis varying between comparison, analysis, essay, classification, facts/inferences/opinion and many more.  It may contain a critical reading question (a practice reading comprehension question containing a passage to read and a multiple choice question). Some also feature grammar, sentence completion, vocabulary matching, or math questions to solve.
Huge parent help: answers and solutions to the questions are found in the back of the book. 
The sidebar is rich with hints and tips for test-taking, improving study skills and habits, good books to read, author insights into the SAT, and inspirational quotes.
The back of the book is full of additional resources. There is a recommended book list as well as a sample reading journal page. (The students should be reading challenging literature and keeping a reading journal as they finish each book.) A list of test-taking strategies, as well as an entire section devoted to “the maze of college admission” complete with fifty different examples of college admission essays. 
What I thought:
Personally, I was very impressed with this course. As a Christian homeschool mom, I loved the emphasis on keeping a devotional journal and the assertion that having such Spiritual discipline will serve you will in all the areas of your life. It’s so true and very nice to have someone other than “mom” impress that upon the kids.
The questions and exercises were meaty and challenging, but the author emphasizes (in more than one place) that while these questions are hard and the test important, your value is not determined by your score. How very refreshing and wise to remind students who are studying for such a difficult exam that their worth isn’t tied to their performance. Loved that!
I will say that the questions seemed so challenging that I could easily see how the one year accelerated course will be very weighty for my older student. I would strongly encourage using the longer suggested (and author recommended) schedule as that is a pace that I believe would be just challenging enough, but not overwhelming.
The book list was a great resource for helping parents find a great cross-section of challenging and appropriate literature for their students to read. Some titles I was familiar with, some I had never read. The author assembled this list to offer a list that would help build students vocabulary as well as be interesting to read. I am looking forward to expanding my boys reading lists past the sci-fi genre. =)
I would heartily recommend this course to any Christian family looking for a unique way to prepare for the SAT. Instead of practice tests and a “500 best words” list, the author used his 30+ years of coaching students for this test and has prepared a very sound, day to day study guide approach to preparing for the test. If you have high schoolers in your home, you won’t be disappointed in this course.