I have been looking at Preparing for ds 9 yo. Questions re: him...1. Do you think he could make the switch to SM at this late stage, or should I continue with what we used last year? 2. Should I get self-study deluxe history in addition to basic package? and 3. Should we do extensions with him as he is a very good reader (just doesn't enjoy it)?
Next, looking at Beyond for ds 7. Questions: 1. Am I right in placing him in Beyond? 2. How do I decide between Emerging reader and DITHOR? 3. What does the Deluxe Package do? 4. I am thinking he would do very well transitioning to SM as it is his favorite subject, and I am actually looking for something a little more challenging!
Dd 5 I am looking at Little Hearts with K package. My only real question here is what the differences are between the phonics currics are?
I think that your 9 yr. old would do best with Preparing. Since you will be new to the CM approach it will be a good beginning, teaching some of the basic skills needed for later guides. Preparing is really a great, full program. The extensions were intended for 11 yr. and older, so especially if your son doesn't enjoy reading independently right now - it could be too much for him. You can just place him in whatever level he would fit into Rod & Staff English. You could use DITHOR level 4/5. I can't give much input into whether or not you should change your math program (we haven't been through that kind of a change)- maybe some others who have done it successfully will give their input. My kids have enjoyed the independent self-study history part of the program. It has given them some confidence in doing more school independently but they have also really enjoyed the content of books they've read and the projects they've done.
I also think that Beyond would be a good fit for your 7 yr. old. It, too, has a great intro of skills needed for the next guide/s. Students are meant to start DITHOR when they can read independently, understand what they are reading, and have a short discussion about what they read. If you don't think your child is at the level yet, just figure out where they do fit in the Emerging Readers and start at that point. The Deluxe package is used for the storytime read alouds, which was a favorite part of our day during the Beyond guide. I wouldn't skip it, but if you needed to economize, you could borrow books from the library for each genre studied.
Your 5 yr. old would easily fit in Little Hearts. I haven't used either of the phonics programs suggested as we found HOD after doing phonics with my kids. But I have heard good things about The Reading Lesson. I know that there are other threads on the board where the two programs are compared.
One other thing, I know that running 3 programs at once could be overwhelming but I know other moms have successfully done it when their children are correctly placed. You can go to the top of the message board and find the thread where people share their schedules - that could give you some great ideas on how to make it work for your family. There would also be the possibility of combining your 5 and 7 yr. olds in Little Hearts (upping the skills for math and LA for ds 7)...so you wouldn't have to do back to back guides in the future.
I hope all this is helpful and that you find HOD a good fit for you. Our homeschooling years with HOD have been our best - it is a great fit for our family!