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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Curriculum Reviews

I've talked a little bit about our homeschooling endeavors but I have never really gone into depth regarding the curriculum we use. I thought I'd post a little review for those out there who may be curious about homeschooling, or looking for materials. I found that reviews from other parents were so helpful in making our decisions.

A little about our family:
This is my second full year to homeschool. I have a 7 year old girl and two boys ages 4 and 18 months. My daughter is in second grade. I have not officially started schooling the 4 year old, but he learns a lot just by hanging around. He even likes to participate in activities and projects every now and then.

Our homeschooling style:
We dabble in a few areas. My daughter and I like structure a little too much to be unschoolers. Our curriculum follows a Charlotte Mason/ unit studies approach.

Our curriculum:
Our core is My Father's World. This year we are using Adventures in My Father's World which encompasses an overview of the history of North America and the subsequent founding of the United States. It includes an overview of all basic sciences as well as basic geography appropriate for this age.
We use Singapore Math, Primary Language Lessons , and Spelling by Sound and Structure.

The Lowdown:
 I must preface my review by saying my daughter loves, loves, loves this material. She actually asks to do school work on Saturdays sometimes. Now what kids wants to have school on Saturday?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the way My Father's World is laid out. It gives me enough structure to have confidence, but leeway to adapt plans and work around different schedules. This year's curriculum is laid out in 34 weeks with one week being an optional week of lighter activities for Thanksgiving. It is planned around a typical 5 day school week, but can be worked around a variety of schedules. Friday is a lighter day reserved only for math and reading. The rest of the day students are encouraged to get outside and enjoy nature.   The curriculum includes lots of great books and a list of recommended resources. We spend a lot of time at the library. My daughter struggled a bit last year as she learned to read. She would dread anytime she was asked to read aloud, but with much practice, and the wonderful book recommendations she wants to read all of the time now! I also love the hands on activities included in the curriculum. It really makes a lasting impression on my children. They are no longer just memorizing facts, it is coming to life. The science is taught through a series of Usborne science books. They are easy enough for a child to understand, but the experiments are fun and really drive all of the concepts home. I remember a lot of busy work when I was in elementary school. I love that everything we do in our studies has a purpose. Each concept flows together and many key topics are reinforced across each subject. This continuity allows time for learning to sink in, without seeming boring or repetitive.
Singapore math is new to us this year. I have to say math is usually intimidating to me. Obviously I can do second grade math at this time in my life, but I always worry about explaining it in a way my daughter will understand. I have been blessed that math comes fairly naturally to her. All of this to say I have loved Singapore math so far. It has a great way of explaining each concept. I really feel it has instilled confidence in my daughter. It is great at explaining problems in a visual way so she begins to think mathematically.
Primary Language Lessons is a different approach to teaching English. Instead of teaching the traditional nouns, verb, adjectives, etc. it starts by teaching children to hear, recite, and speak correctly. The book contains passages for memorization, copy work, and picture studies. I was unsure about this style in the beginning. So far Kaylie has really enjoyed this. I was worried about the memorization, but she has enjoyed it. It is an amazing thing to listen to my 7 year old recite poetry to me, even my 4 year old son is picking up a lot of what he hears. It is so true that hearing correct speech is the key to learning a language correctly. If one already speaks correctly, all of the learned structure that comes later will make more sense.
I do not have much commentary on our spelling program. My daughter has excelled so far, and I have no complaints in regards to the presentation of material.
Overall we are extremely pleased with the materials. My Father's World does include a Bible curriculum for each year. I often worry that many Biblical materials will come off as a bit cheesy. There are times when recommended wording or discussions don't quite fit my style, but the Biblical truths presented are sound. I take these opportunities to have heartfelt discussions with my daughter about life and questions she may have. The goal is to take our knowledge and be lights in the world, not to hide away in our "safe" environment. I use these times to drive this home, and talk about ways we can serve others with the love Jesus has shared with us.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone looking for more information on educational materials. I am by no means a homeschooling expert. I know many mothers have tried a variety of materials and educational styles. The great thing about homeschooling is that one size does not have to fit all. The best thing is getting to know your child and learning how to create an environment that will allow them to grow and thrive. If you have any further questions about these materials please feel free to include it in a comment below. If you are interested in reading more about these materials you can check them out here