Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Madsen Method (TOS Crew Review)

We had the opportunity to review English For Life: The Madsen Method with the TOS Crew.  We were not sent this package and forced into it.  I spoke with Joe Madsen by telephone.  The product is expensive and somewhat different from the average Language Arts curriculum, so he wanted to be sure we would want to try it.  Perfectly understandable.

Let me tell you about my initial reactions. I love the idea of The Madsen Method (TMM).  I love what it's setting out to do.  Speaking with Joe Madsen cemented that for me.  I believe in their goals, their passion, and their dedication.  I understand from a child-development stand-point just what it is they are trying to accomplish.  It makes sense.  I agree.  100%.

TMM believes in teaching the whole brain, and I whole-heartedly agree!  You teach the kids to say to hear and write to see, and you demonstrate the 4 ways that doing so puts information into their brains.  This concept is taught as Say and Do in TMM.  "When I say, I automatically hear; when I do, I automatically see."  The kids got it!  They understood it so much that we were using these techniques in other areas of our home within a few days.  Even the 3-year-old (who was not part of the L/A program) would Say and Do: "I put my cup in front of my plate" and "I put my shoes in the closet."

The idea of TMM goes beyond the HOW, too, and sets the bar pretty high: they believe that students can accomplish all 4 levels of TMM in 6-8 years and be done with all Language Arts.  They believe TMM is the way our forefathers in America were taught to read and write.  While all that sounds good, and I certainly like the idea of completing the coursework in less time, as a student of child development, I hesitate to fully embrace a system that is wholly based on a time when children were expected to be little adults.  So, it is possible that some of what we experienced might've been my own bias against the "mass education of large groups of children" that we see in the public school system.

In practice, however, it wasn't a great fit for our family as it was written.  With a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old, we might've been too far beyond the basics to appreciate the backpeddling the program asked us to do.  But it is my opinion that the biggest downside of this L/A program is the strict speech - both for the teacher and the student.  My son, who is very frustrated by not getting something right the first time, was discouraged by not being able to memorize all the words exactly as I said them after 2 or 3 tries.  My eldest could do it fine, so she got to move on more quickly.  That added to the poor boy's frustrations, I am sure!  (It didn't help matters that really early on we discovered we cannot physically "Go to the learning position" in any of the furniture in our home.)

I altered somewhat, as Joe Madsen allows, in order to "fit" our family but without compromising the "message."  It helped, but it was still pretty painfully slow.  I realize that the groundwork has to be laid, and that is a lot of what we were doing, but it made it really difficult to even pull the thing off the shelves after a few weeks... especially when the kids resisted it so much.

I wanted to love it.  I really did.  The people are so wonderful to work with ("my success is their success" seems to be their motto!), and their passion for this product is so obvious and contagious!  But I guess I didn't expect it to be so rigid, which is just not a good fit for me.  And I still think if I could speed it up, skip a few lessons, and use the basic techniques to teach the "meat" of the program that it would work beautifully in our home.  And I may still do just that.  But for now, my kids would rather I not even get the books out of the cabinet.  So, we'll take a break, catch up on our grade-level L/A skills, and then... who knows?  Maybe with a summer of planning, I can modify TMM just enough to fit what I believe is a good theory into a homeschool environment that is just not that strict.

Side note: my youngest child might be the poster child for this program, so time will tell as the next year passes if we have more luck with her!

English For Life: The Madsen Method is available in four levels, and the level I received was Level One, which is available to homeschoolers for a discounted rate of $219.95.  To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about TMM, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received Part One of The Madsen Method for free to use and review, and this review is my own personal experience with the product.  No compensation for this review has been provided.


  1. Oh, Angie...

    Can I just copy your post onto my blog?

    No? I actually do need to write it up myself?

  2. :^)
    I understand, Debra....
    I read the oh, 3 or 4, that were posted prior to mine being sent into the blogosphere, too.

    It really is a tough one to write because there is so much to say about it! So much that is good, but some real issues for me, too. I just hope I did it justice.

  3. Great job! I love how you shared positive aspects of it and are willing to alter the harder parts to work better with your family.

    If you plan to continue with the program, even in a less formal way, I hope you will post about your experience!
    Mrs. White