While I’m At It

As long as I’ve been pondering curriculum, I’ve been looking at another set of lessons, (this time unit studies), from another new company, one that I’ve heard of but never actually looked at before–Beautiful Feet (BF).

In the interest of full disclosure, because of their particular viewpoints in regards to history, (especially American history), I wouldn’t use them for our history core for a full year. They appear to teach history from a Providential viewpoint (which is something I had never even heard of before this month), and I definitely don’t want to teach that.

That being said, when researching classical music studies, their name kept coming up, and so I checked out their “History of Music” pack. It looks awesome! We’ll be getting almost all of the CDs it uses from MFW over the course of a few years, anyway, and I already have one of the books, so it won’t even be that big of an investment to pick up the study guide and additional books. My children have a natural love of classical music (which I definitely did *not* have at their age), and an ear for composers, and I really want to encourage that. This program looks like it will be great for us in a few years, to really delve into classical music, composers, and musical instruments.

While browsing the BF website, I also found a unit study on the “History of the Horse.” I know it sounds really random, and it definitely wasn’t something I was looking for, but I also think this would be another really cool elective. There are many classic books included in the pack that I’ve either read or heard of (most of them written by Marguerite Henry, of course!), and a few of them are books I was hoping to read with the children soon. There is also a great deal of science in this program (learning the biology of the horse, for example), as well as art, (learning to draw horses).  If we use it as an electives program on Fridays, it will last us a good three years, which is a great return on a rather small investment.

Both of these programs are heavy on notebooking, which I think will be great practice for Turkey and Bunny, and also makes for a nice portfolio at the end of the year, or years, as the case may be. I was hoping to find something more structured than even MFW for classical music, and BF definitely fits the bill, and has gotten great reviews on top of it. I never would have gone looking for a study on horses, but I do love finding unique things to study, and Bunny is always asking to learn about animals, anyway (too bad there’s no bunny unit!), so I think this will be a great addition to our school!

My Father’s World

So, I’ve been pondering the possibility of changing curriculum for third grade, from Sonlight to My Father’s World (MFW). I think my decision is pretty much made, and in making it, I’ve discovered specific reasons I’m leaning toward MFW.

  • MFW is Charlotte Mason meets unit studies meets classical education. Now, the Charlotte Mason philosophy itself is not that important to me, but the unit studies and classical style are. I’ve discovered through the special units I’ve put together on my own, that the unit studies are our favorite part of the school year. The children and I both enjoy that approach so much, and it didn’t occur to me until recently that I could look for something that would let us have that kind of experience all year-long. I’m also happy that it will be closer to traditional classical education (although still not all the way there), because that was one of the reasons we wanted to start homeschooling in the first place.
  • MFW has a lot of hands-on activities. This is kind of related to the post above, because one of the things that makes the unit studies I’ve put together so great is that I’ve found lots of hands-on activities and craft projects to go with whatever we’re studying. I will confess, however, that it’s a struggle for me to put that together on my own, so I don’t think I could add hands-on to a different curriculum successfully long-term. MFW has taken care of all that for me, and I’m really excited about being able to add that to our regular school routine.
  • I love that MFW implements a book basket. We certainly have no shortage of books to read around here, between the books I would have bought anyway, and our curriculum, but with MFW, there’s a list for each level of the curriculum of books that go along with what is being learned. Now, these aren’t mandatory reading, but suggestions for independent reading time. This will give us a lot more ideas of books we can get from the library, give the children some choices in which ones they choose to read, and free up my time a little more (and save my voice some!).
  • I’m also impressed with MFW language arts. Now, it’s not their own program–they’ve simply compiled resources that they recommend. But they’re resources I probably wouldn’t have looked at on my own, which is a shame, because having looked at them, I think they’re just what I’m looking for. This is the one area where I feel we’re struggling–not the spelling or vocabulary so much, but grammar itself, and I think the spine used by MFW will really be helpful to Turkey and Bunny in building their skills in that area.
  • MFW is also designed for ease of use with multiple grade levels. This has been on my mind lately, as Ladybug will be joining us in the schoolroom either this fall or next. I’ve been worrying over how I could teach two grade levels, and frankly, couldn’t really see how it would work. But MFW is designed to be used by a span of grade levels (eventually), which will really work for our family. The previously mentioned book basket will also help with that, as I will have time to focus on Ladybug while the other two work on some extra independent reading.
  • I also feel like MFW is more individualized. Again, this really goes back to the book basket. From what I understand, the teacher’s manual has a list of somewhere around 300 books for every year. Of course we won’t read them all, but I like that I’ll be in control of what to choose, and that from what I choose, Turkey and Bunny will have some choice of which of those books they each want to read. I know, I could do something similar with our current curriculum, but I’m something of a box-checker, so if I don’t do everything the way it’s laid I out, I start to feel guilty.
  • I also like the MFW Bible curriculum better. There are still things I’ll have to tweak to fit our Lutheran perspective, but not nearly as much–I was planning on just coming up with *all* our Bible lessons from here on out. It’s nice to have one less thing on my plate, though.
  • I’m also very impressed with the electives MFW offers. Next year, we’ll have a whole art curriculum. Not just art appreciation (which they also cover), but actual practice at drawing and painting. Like the rest of the curriculum, the electives just seem so much more hands-on (for example, in a lower grade, a color book of the different musical instruments to accompany learning what they each sound like), and I think that the children, as well as myself, will benefit from that approach.
  • The timing for a change is good for us right now, too. If we like MFW, we’ll be on the perfect schedule to go through their whole cycle by eighth grade (and we’ll go through the standard four-year history cycle completely). If it doesn’t work for us, we can go back to Sonlight with little problem–we’ll probably have to skip Core 5 in the future, but we’ll still finish the history cycle there, too. Either way, this is a great time for us to take a chance on something new, before we’re really immersed in the upper elementary level and the four-year history cycle.

That all being said, of course there are some things I’m going to have to change a bit to make MFW work for our family. I’ve come to realize, however that that’s going to be true of any curriculum I use. And now that I’ve been homeschooling a while (has it really been three years?!?), I’m much more confident in my ability to tweak as necessary, and to make the decision to change what we’re doing to fit our needs better!

Taking a Break?

I’m considering stepping away from Sonlight next year.

I know, I know…I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Sonlight. And that really hasn’t changed. But we’ve been doing this for three years, now, and I’m feeling like we need something different. Maybe for just one year, to try it out, see how we like it, and how we feel about being away from Sonlight. I’m not looking at long-term changes at this point. But I’m really afraid we’re going to burn out if we keep up with Sonlight, and I’d also like to look at some different options for L.A.

Right now, I’m thinking we might try out My Father’s World. It has some things in common with Sonlight, so it won’t feel totally strange, but it has a more classical bent, which is what I’m really looking for. I also like that it has more hands-on activities–I have a hard enough time coming up with those for our special units; trying to do it for our regular school year would be a nightmare for me!

There aren’t as many books scheduled, which isn’t great, but from what I understand there is a list of supplementary books included, so we can add as much literature as we want. Plus, I do have Sonlight’s book list, and the history we’ll be studying will cover roughly the same years, so those books would still apply. My Father’s World is also considerably cheaper than Sonlight, which is especially helpful because I don’t know if I want this to be a permanent change. I think I’d have a hard time “upgrading” to something more expensive, but going down in price is easier to handle, plus will leave me with some of the budget for buying those previously mentioned extra books.

I haven’t made any decisions for sure–I’m still at the research stage right now. But I’m kind of excited with the idea of trying something new. It’s just a reminder that every school year is a chance for a fresh start!