Monday, January 9, 2012

Live and learn

A while back I typed up my curriculum post for our new school year. I've always been pretty eclectic and have avoided "boxed" curriculums, like Abeka, Bob Jones, Sonlight, etc. And so every year I try to piece together the "perfect" curriculum package for my kids, based on my wants and their needs. After I typed up my post though, I read over it and I kept thinking how I wished we had something that was more cohesive, that wove the subjects together in a creative and fun way, and was less "choppy", for lack of a better word. The kids are doing fine with their current curriculum, and academically, they are progressing at amazing rates. In fact, I just got Little Bean's testing scores back and he did awesome!

BUT...we get lots of complaints about school around here. I hate that! It's so discouraging to work so hard on something have your work be under-appreciated and even sometimes just plain hated. :( So, since none of my choices were finalized yet (read: I had purchased nothing), I began searching for a curriculum that was both fun and more unit study in style to bring that elusive cohesiveness to our days.

What I landed on was My Father's World. I would consider My Father's World to be a boxed curriculum, as well as an overtly Christian curriculum. We have always incorporated Bible into our day, but with MFW, it's different--Bible is the base from which all the other subjects flow. So it's definitely something that we have never done before in any way.

MFW has packages for K through 12th grade, and built into the program is the ability to teach multiple grade levels from the same texts. They have a K program, a 1st grade program, a transitional program for 2nd and 3rd graders and then they begin a 5 year cycle through history before introducing fully independent work in high school. Being the busy person I am (and knowing I'll get even busier next semester with a new baby coming), I like the sound of putting both kids in the same program.

I chose Adventures, the transition program for 2nd and 3rd graders, though Miss O would only be in 1st because Little Bean will be in 3rd. I put in my order. I ordered my supplementary materials (MFW does not include Language Arts or Math). And then I started thinking more about what would happen if we continued using MFW for several more years. Miss O would, in essence be skipping 1st grade, and I'd be modifying Adventures for her as a almost 6 year old. Then she would head into the history cycle as a 7 year old! In my opinion, that's too young! Even Little Bean would be on the young side for the history cycle since he started K at age 4, and progressed quickly through lower elementary. I knew if the information was over their heads and I had to do a lot of modifying, this curriculum would not work for us. Who wants to hear me summarizing book and after book every day? I'd rather do something more suited to both their levels. The other option was to put Miss O in 1st and Little Bean in Adventures. Then Miss O would skip Adventures entirely and move on to the history cycle next year with Little Bean. But that really only solved my problem for this year. Both kids would be in the right programs for their levels this year. But I'd run into the same issue next year with Miss O being too young. Plus, I'd have to do two programs at once, and I didn't relish that idea!

SO...I've decided to back pedal (and isn't that the beauty of homeschooling? I can back-pedal when I want to, and speed up when I want to, according to the needs of our family!). I want to take this coming school year and make it a time of coming together as a family, learning to love learning, and enjoying school time together. I don't know if that's impossible given the dynamics of our family relationships or not. But I'm going to give it a try. And the way I'm going to attempt that is to keep Miss O in MFW 1st (on grade level), and take Little Bean back and have him to do 1st along with her. I cringe at the thought in some ways, and those that know him, know he is way beyond 1st grade work. But I know this will be good for him emotionally to be able to sit back and enjoy learning without having to think so much!

That being said, the math and Language Arts in first will likely be too easy for either of them. So we are sticking with Right Start for both of them and will continue with our current spelling and Language Arts programs alongside MFW. So from MFW 1st, the both of them would be doing art, music appreciation, science and history/Bible. We will hold off on Latin until we start the history cycle in 2 years.

So to lay it out for you:

Miss O will do MFW 1st, which includes Bible/history, science, art and music, and will review the phonics rules therein. On the side she will do Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Winning With Writing and All About Spelling (as needed). She will continue practicing handwriting, whether in HWT or in MFW, we'll have to wait and see what is needed. I'm hoping she will not need to continue with the Little Books, but she will if needed. We will also continue our current Bible program next year, as that is one thing the kids love doing!

Little Bean will be "held back" in MFW 1st with Miss O, and will do the Bible/history, science, art and music portions with her, with the expectation that he can do more copywork and writing and create higher quality pieces than she due to his ability level. He will do his own Language Arts, continue with cursive, and his own math at grade level. Yes, MFW 1st will be slow for him. But, I think he will love some of the aspects of the program, that really, are great for any age.

MFW is a unit study approach with a focus on "real" books (as opposed to text books). So we'll be doing lots of hands-on experiments, read alouds and craft and art projects throughout the year. Also, in the 1st grade program, each student illustrates and creates their own Bible notebook and does memory work. The days are purposely short, following the Charlotte Mason philosophy of letting little children be little children. I like (and need) that since I will not have much time for school with two babies under 1 in the house.

So I'm hoping this is the change we need to begin enjoying learning together and making the shift from a more eclectic approach to a more integrated approach to learning.

How about you? Any changes in the new year coming your way?

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Annette W. said...

I've heard good things about MFW! We are currently looking into our local "discovery learning" charter school and our public school for K.

Mary Prather said...

Hi Jennifer! Yes, this is the beauty of homeschooling. You know, we used Sonlight when we first started and as I look back (that is three years ago now) it was comprehensive and my kids remember the literature so well.

All this is to say that I think it's great that we can change and adjust as our children do. I have a good friend who uses MFW and just loves it.

We made a little switch in math (to Math U See) midstream and I'm also incorporating more grammar and spelling now, too.

This was a very thoughtful post and I learned a lot. Thank you!

Angela said...

I have heard great things about MFW. Have you seen the Writing pages that go along with MFW over at Mamma Jenn?

Lea said...

I have a good friend who is using MFW with her children and they love it too. We are starting Tapestry Of Grace Year 1. We are finishing up week 1 and going into week 2 and we are really enjoying it so far. The boys made a salt map for their geography activity today and they really enjoyed it. It was a lot easier than I anticipated.

It sounds like you are definitely going to be busy. I hope MFW works out really well for you guys and that you all have a fun year with it.

Jessica said...

That really is the beauty of home schooling isnt it:) We can choose the things that work for our family and if something isnt working we are free to change it to something more suitable.Our family is going from Unschooling to a more formal approach this year.We are eclectially picking the materials that suit us, but I am planning on using a lot of the read alouds that Sonlight suggest. Change can be a great idea:)

Meggen said...

My son is 4 and currently doing MFW K. We love it. He is way beyond the math and reading portions of it though so instead we do our own reading and are finishing up RightStart math level A. I hope that MFW works well for you. I am sure you will be able to advance the concepts for Little Bean and he will get just as much out of it. Definitely check out MammaJenn's site. We use her writing pages that go along with MFW every week.

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