Our oldest daughter has an early September birthday. I remember thinking what an absolutely perfect month it was to have a baby. Although I had to endure the final trimester in the scorching summer heat, I appreciated that having an early autumn baby meant that we could spend hours on the back porch swing and walking the neighborhood. It was a lovely season of life - watching the leaves swirl and watching my firstborn baby blossom.
Now that she is six and a half, I realize that her birthday falls at a rather unfortunate time when it comes to the school system. As it is, she'll always be either the oldest or the youngest in her class. Although there are some homeschoolers who reject the grade system altogether, we choose to still use grades - as a marker for ourselves and to avoid confusion to the most frequently asked of questions ("What grade are you in?").
Technically, she should be in Kindergarten this year. That is where we started her, but we soon saw that she was far beyond the basics of the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and addition sums. Quite without knowing it, we had taught the principles of Kinder without a formal curriculum.
In late fall, after careful consideration, we purchased and began using the My Father's World, First Grade curriculum - a much better fit for her academic level. We're halfway through now and these are our general thoughts.
Here are a few sample pages from the Student Workbook. Note that I have a doodler on my hands, which is a good thing since studies have shown that doodling improves memory and cognitive function (goodness, it can drive the teacher crazy though!). ;)
- Charlotte Mason. MFW clearly bills itself as being based on Charlotte Mason principles, which I generally agree with. I like the emphasis on living books, short lessons, time in the outdoors, and the importance of the arts.
- Phonics-based reading. Though we don't follow the curriculum to a T, we do make an effort to do the reading lessons most every day. The approach is straight-forward and easy to teach. It's neither too fast nor too slow for our daughter.
- International focus. The curriculum claims this as one of its distinctives and I appreciate that it's written from a global perspective (not revolving solely or primarily around the US of A). That said, in my "dream curriculum," the curriculum would also include a second language component.
- Affordability. The books may not be hardbound beauties with glossy colorful pictures, but the price is certainly appealing. $200-$300 per year is a steal compared to many other options on the market.
- Non-integrated Math. Mathematics isn't included in the daily lesson plans. Instead, the curriculum provides a number of suggested activities that you can choose from and implement. In theory, that sounds wonderful. In reality, for this exhausted mother of three (including a baby!), it's just hard.
- Bible information overload. We have been reading the Bible to the girls since they were babes. The two children's versions on our shelves are The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Storybook Bible. Our daughters are keenly aware of God's presence and their childlike faith and love for Him is refreshing. All that being said, I've not been particularly impressed by the way MFW introduces and teaches the Bible. All parents will feel differently about this, but I don't think it is necessary for our 1st grader to draw a Bible times map, to be able to identify and label the major rivers of the Biblical texts, to illustrate the story of Cain & Abel, or even to memorize a verse a week. That will come in due time. I'm most interested in laying a strong foundation in reading and math - and nurturing a love of learning. The other information seems almost superfluous so we've been skipping it.
- Sometimes overly simplistic/babyish. As part of one lesson, we were advised to fill one spoon with honey and one spoon with garbage. The parent is supposed to ask the child which he would rather eat and then discuss the importance of using kind words. In another lesson, the child is instructed to take a bandaid and put it on someone who needs healing words (Tim & I had a bit of a laugh about that one - socially awkward, no?). I get it; I do. But the overly contrived morals can be a bit too sickeningly sweet. Pun intended.
We remain undecided about second grade, although it is unlikely that we will purchase a complete package from any one curriculum distributor. My guess is that we will piece together a curriculum of our own (possibly including some MFW books?) instead of buying a "set." I'd like to purchase a strong reading and mathematics curriculum (more on that in an upcoming post) - and then create our own hands-on fun for science, history, writing, and the arts.
One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the ability to constantly reassess and make changes based on a child's interests, aptitudes, struggles, and strengths. Like my mom before me, I'm beginning to think that I'm more of a "little bit of this, little bit of that" homeschooler as opposed to a "curriculum loyalist." ;)
* Note that My Father's World has made "major revisions" to the First Grade curriculum for the 2013-14 school year.
If you homeschool, what curriculum(s) do you use? Leave a short review in the comments or link to one of your previous posts.
This is so helpful. We are doing MFWK right now (started in March and should have started even sooner, but I had a baby in September so....anyway).
We are skipping MFWK phonics and we're using All About Reading, which is going well.
But the pacing of our progress has me wondering what we'll do next year. MFWK will be done by December at latest. I don't know that I want to do MFW1st though, because again we're using our own phonics and perhaps I'd rather just do our own thing. (btw, this fall marks his true Kindy year).
Part of me thought the Bible component sounded good, but hearing your description is so helpful. Perhaps our own Bible studies would be a better fit for us, especially since we're doing so many other things ourselves.
I've heard fantastic things about All About Reading! We also really like Phonics Museum for K-1.
Best wishes as you plan for the upcoming school year.
I have noticed the simplicity of mfw in some aspects..a strong reading and math is what I'm interested in also...and am undecided about second grade also...I love the lesson plans.
This was most helpful. I'm trying to decide what to do with my new 5 year old this fall for Kinder. It's good to see the negatives . .. as those things would bother me too. :(
Thank you so much for your review. :)
Thanks so much for your comment. Just wanted to let you know that I've heard WONDERFUL things about the My Father's World Kindergarten curriculum specifically: http://www.mfwbooks.com/products/M50/20/0/0/1. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I'm going to order it to use with my 4-year-old this fall. :)
Best wishes with your decision.
Thanks for posting! I love reading others' curriculum reviews. We thought about using MFW first grade, but decided not to. For kindergarten (I started my oldest, Diana, in kindergarten last July, 4 days after she turned 5 years old, and just finished kindergarten a couple weeks ago..... we'll be starting her in first grade soon, and her little sister Tori, who is 3 1/2, is already reading and wanting to do school with Diana, so we will be starting a laid-back kindergarten with her when Diana is in first grade), we pieced together a curriculum. I have a friend who has used MFW for years, but she does not use it for first grade. I plan on starting the MFW cycle when Diana is in third grade. For now we are piecing together a curriculum!
Thanks for chiming in! We're planning to purchase the MFW Kindergarten curriculum for our 4-year-old. Some of our friends have used it and they love the hands-on activities and easy-to-follow weekly schedule.
As for our 6 1/2 year old, we're hoping to enroll her in a small private school that meets 2 days a week (the other 3 days are reserved for homeschooling). So excited.
We homeschool and are using Abeka Academy - because that's what works best for this exhausted work-at-home mom who needs to know that her kids are getting a good academic foundation without having to spend the entire school day teaching, also my husband prefers a completely assembled and ready-to-go plan for the whole year. That said... we are going to be doing some fun homeschool stuff this summer to integrate the things that are important to me that I don't see as much as I would like in the curriculum.
My daughter is 5 1/2 so we are wrapping up the Kindergarten curriculum. However both of my sister-in-law's used Abeka Academy so I'm very familiar with the curriculum over the whole course of the schooling K-12
Abeka Pro's - strong reading and math. In kindergarten the social studies and science are ok too.
Abeka Con's - Bible overload. I have no problem with the memorization and actually like that. (and so does my daughter!) But when my kindergartener will tell you that Bible is her least favorite class - we have a problem.
I'm looking forward to this summer though - we will continue doing some basic math, some handwriting once or twice a week but will start reading the Story of the World again and will be visiting several historic places around our area for some local and US history and will be having fun with science at home and by visiting local wildlife areas and farms. It's going to be great summer!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Jenn.
We're going to try Story of the World for history next year as well.
I love that you'll be visiting local historic spots as part of your "curriculum." So much better than reading out of a textbook!
I homeschool (1st, 3rd & 5th-6th) next year for my will be 2nd grader I will move her onto this curriculum: Saxon Math 3, God's Great Covenant OT 1, Shurley Grammer level 2, Apologia Zoology for Science and Mystery of History Vol I OR SOTW vol 3 (depends where we end this year). My older daughter will be using different levels of the same curriculum and my son will bump up to 7th grade and move on to HS curriculum.
We did MFW's Adventures in US History this year with my two (1st grade and 2nd grade) and we LOVED IT. It's way better than the MFW 1st Grade curriculum pack. We have learned so much -- me included -- and the read-aloud chapter books have all been favorites of my kids. The messages they carry has been touching our hearts -- didn't expect that! This curriculum also gave the kids a solid base of knowledge about the formation of our country and our 50 states, something I didn't learn well until I was in 4th grade or so. I was a little skeptical before the school year began as to whether or not we'd do MFW year after year, but this year made me see what a strong curriculum MFW can be. We are sticking with MFW next year, getting onto their ECC track as they recommend.
Good to know! I've heard many people remark that MFW vastly improves for second grade and beyond.
We have used MFW exclusively since my oldest started Kindergarten 5 years ago. Of all of the MFW curriculum, 1st grade is my least favorite; WAY too much writing and monotony in my opinion. My 3rd child will be starting 1st grade next year and I was dreading having to do the 1st grade curriculum again. I'm anxious to check out the new 1st grade curriculum they have and see if I will like it any better.
Forgot to mention how much I LOVE the curriculum for their other grades though. I also love that once the kids reach 2nd grade, they can join the older children. It makes me far less stressed being able to teach them together. :)
We homeschool. My kids are older, 9, 11 and 13. We do various things like what you were talking about. We do Life of Fred and Christian Light education workbooks for math, also use CLE workbooks for Language Arts. We do Story of the World for History. We did Apologia for Anatomy this year. Some other things thrown in there too. My kids all learn by doing, so I try to do that for them as much as I can. :)
We just started using the first Life of Fred math book yesterday! It doesn't strike me as being a "comprehensive" solution, but it's a unique/fun supplementary text.
I've heard great things about Story of the World. Definitely plan to look into it. Thanks for the recommendations.
Glad to see you talking about this. We are going to be homeschooling our 6 1/2 yo next year and I am starting to really dig deep into different curriculums. I have been pointed to joining a classical conversations group. Are you a part of any homeschool social groups or playdates? We also have three girls like you, (2, 4, 6)- curious how you balance it all!
Our family recently joined a local homeschool group, but - aside from attending a Valentine's Day Party - we haven't been actively involved. At the elementary level, the group offers weekly P.E. classes and occasional field trips. I wish there were academic "classes"/electives available - 2nd language, music appreciation, science units, etc.
What city/state do you live in?
We are in Austin, Texas but are moving to Palo Alto, Ca this summer.
I hear Palo Alto is a pretty innovative place. ;) What is the impetus for your move?
My husband is the founder of Outbox Mail. I sent you the link about a year and half ago wondering your thoughts. They have expanded to San Fran and will expand to 5-10 more cities across the country this year. Check it out again:) http://www.outboxmail.com
Of course! I remember! Sounds like Outbox Mail is doing well. Very exciting.
Also: What have you been up to? Do you have kids? Bring me up to date. :)
Hi Stephanie! I sent you a personal email about a week ago so I would not be blowing up your comment section!:)