Thursday, May 23, 2013

Which one do you like best?


 Black & White



Hint of Color


Now that we're slacking off for the summer, (ie we're finished homeschooling for the year.) I hope to devote a little time to taking and editing pictures. Here is a photo of Eden that I love! The look in her eyes, and the sweet mischievous smile; You know she was plotting or imagining something amazing! Which one do you like best?

My Father's World Kindergarten Review

I've been asked many times about the curriculum we've used for Kindergarten. So I decided to give an overview. We used a box curriculum called My Father's World  from A to Z  2nd Edition (MFW)  I also supplemented with other material over this past year.  I chose MFW because it  was a good middle ground between  Eden's and Josiah's needs.  Eden is 5 and Josiah is 4. 

One of the best things about MFW is the basic kit contains everything you need for the year. The Teacher's book is spiral bound and laid out in a weekly manner. All of the lessons are organized in sections which include Language Arts, Math, Activities, Read  Aloud, and Supplies.  You can see the whole weeks worth of lessons on two pages, with the directions for the activities on the following pages. There was not a lot of preparation needed for each days activities, and most supplies you have around the house. It was very easy to use. It also has a great book list to coincide with each letter/theme. 

The program starts in creation where you spend two weeks learning about the wonderful world God made. Then you have weekly letter studies that included a theme. The letter are not done in alphabetical order, so you are able to change weeks around to our fit your needs. For instance, we ended our year with B is for Butterfly and F is for Frog. I did that so we could try to watch the actual life cycles of each species during the spring. We hatched 5 butterfly cocoons and the children let them go. I loved that the curriculum was so kid friendly and helps them explore God through nature.

Another bonus for MFW is that it is Christian curriculum. MFW did a good job at using scripture within the lessons. Each theme had a matching biblical concept that was integrated into the lessons. There were weekly badges and memory verses to go along with each lesson as well. The curriculum spends the first two weeks introducing creation through the Biblical narrative.

The hands on activities, learning through play, and outdoor activities were a big bonus to this curriculum. Josiah is an active learner, so this was a good choice for a busy boy. The kids were interested in the topic through engaging experiments and field trips
While the curriculum was fun, I felt like it did not meet my expectations. It wasn't rigorous enough for Eden.  I supplemented with extra material to make up the gaps. There is only one math worksheet each week. I would have preferred math to be done 3 or 4 days a week. I need to put an insert in here. There is a daily activity putting a popsicle stick into a jar to keep up with 100 days, followed by adding a coin to a jar after reaching 100.  They also use a calendar to identify the date. I didn't feel that was enough of a "lesson" to consider that a daily math assignment. Plus, we always forget to keep up with the popsicle stick and it became a forgotten task about halfway through. We didn't even do the coin. I added a math workbook that I got from the public school.  I  also introduced the concept of time and money, neither were covered in the curriculum. We have a neat calendar from Kaplans that the kids keep track of our schedule and holidays. I also used a calendar activity pack from 1+1+1=1. I plan to do Singapore Math 1A and 1B over the summer just to make sure we've hit all of the basics.

While MFW is based in Phonics and has a weekly sounding exercise, I just feel like it didn't do enough to cover blending sounds. It did have exercises in where you blend sounds, but it didn't have enough real word examples. Again I would have like a few more worksheets that covered blending sounds. The weekly worksheets cover each letter sound. MFW doesn't address sight words at all.  In order to address this issue, I added Hooked on Phonics about halfway through the year. I also printed out extra worksheets I found online. I recently started The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. Ordinary Parent's Guide explains the blending sound rules then gives word examples and short stories to go along with it. My hope is that if Eden gets a better understand of phonics and sound blends, she will read better. My plan is to work through reading and math during the summer so that she will be ahead of the game this fall. 

One of the other issues I have with this curriculum is that it is not long enough. There are 166 days of lessons. There is a 10 day study on creation and 26 weeks of a letter/ theme They break down each letter of the week into a 6 day study. The sixth day included outside activities and a classical music section. There are no worksheets for day 6. Typically, I added the outside activities to another day of the week, or I didn't do the activity. While the 6th day provided for increased flexibility, I didn't consider it a teaching day. In actuality, there are only 140 days of curriculum. We added field trips and community service activities to make additional days. However, If your state requires 180 day f school, you'll need to find additional teaching material.

MFW felt more like pre-school than what I anticipated for Kindergarten. I worked at a Preschool while I was in Seminary. Much of the material reminded me of the concepts we introduced to the three and four year-olds; Knowing letters' sounds and themes studies. MFW was more in-depth because of the worksheets, but not enough for my personal desire. My assumption is that the purpose of Kindergarten is to have all children on the same level. The problem is if child has already been introduced to these concepts, then they can be bored by this curriculum. That's what happened with my daughter. She was ready to move forward faster, so I had to supplement the material. 

It appears the creators of MFW have taken parents input and have revamped the whole curriculum. I am interested in looking it over at our Home School convention. They have a trade in program for the material I just completed. I would to use the material in the future with Titus, but I will use it for Pre-K, not Kindergarten. 

****** Update******

I attended the NCHE conference in Winston Salem this past week. I took my teacher's manual to compare it to the new material. They have a trade in program for old material. You can turn in your book in and pay an additional $49.00 for a new manual. What a waste! The material has not changed! The have change the title of the program from My Father's World From A to Z to  God's World from A to Z. So the cover has changed, but the material is all the same. I compared the intro and multiple weeks lesson they are word for word the same. I was not able to look at the worksheets, but was told it was all the same as the old version. Save your money, don't do the trade in.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

1st year down, 16 years to go!

We finished Kindergarten! It's been an interesting year with lots of ups and downs, mostly ups :) I've learned a lot, not only in the subject matter I've taught the kids, but I've learned a lot about HOW to teach my children. It's been a lesson in parenting, organizing, patience and perseverance. This year has given me great insight into each of my children's strengths and weaknesses, learning styles and personalities. I've learned a lot about who I am and who I would like to be in this past year.  There have been lots of days where we had light bulb moments and  laughter. Learning has been a fun endeavor for which I hope a life long passion will emerge for each of our children. For these and so many other reasons, I'm glad we decided to pursue homeschooling.
Please don't hear me saying everyday was orderly, scholarly and done in a clean house by and with perfectly obedient children, that doesn't happen in our house! Far from it! There were days of tears, mine and the kids. There was lots of training dealing with bad attitudes and wrong heart motives, mine and the kids. Some days were just hard. Thankfully, those days  were a rare occurrence. 
One of the hardships with home schooling is that we are all constantly together. There are only about 4 hours a week that I am scheduled to be without the kids ( that's at church, where I teaching other people's children) Unless Larry and I make other plans I bear the majority responsibility of caring for them. I have chosen to do this. This is not a complaint :)  So that means I am constantly with my children and they are constantly with each other all day, everyday. Many days we all needed time outs from one another. I have just re-instituted a quite time for all of us during the afternoon. It's helped! I've learned that getting outside to play or leaving the house to go to run errands or grocery shop is a helpful diversion for the kids. Having things planned for them to do or giving them a choice between two activities helps too. It gives us something to look forward to so that we can complete our work. We've also developed some great friendships with other homeschooling families that helps tremendously!

Thinking over the past year, we've had so many neat experiences. We've made volcanoes, cheese, yogurt, slime, and done lots of art projects.  I feel like we could hands down win a cut and paste contest as long as cutting on the lines was not a major requirement.  Eden wrote her first book on creation. I was able to bind it at ChildLinks. We've gone on lots of field trips while we studied animals and gardening. We hatched butterflies and caught a turtle and kept a Ladybug Lore. We've visited the local nursing home multiple times so that we could love and serve their seniors.  We've gone to a bird park, pear picking, nature walks, scavenger hunts, and visited neighbors who have cool farm animals. We made trips to the grocery store, bank, Wal-mart and farmers market, not just as errands, but educational destinations. There are lots of other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting to mention. But you get the point :)

Looking back on this school year, I am proud of our accomplishments. I was able to teach Eden to read, which has opened up a wonderful world of literature for her. I've watched my kids encourage one another and grow in their friendship. I wouldn't have traded this year for anything. One of the motto we use is,  "We are Team Gilbreath!" This helps me and the kids understand we are doing this together. So if one child is sick or if something comes up with family or church, then we work around it. We attempt to keep a schedule, while keeping in mind we need to practice flexibility. We encouraged one another to accomplish our tasks and we had FUN learning.