Friday, August 6, 2010

Back to (home)School: Curriculum

We did My Father's World's Kindergarten curriculum last year and it was wonderful.  The phonics-based reading program is really strong.  So why switch now?!  So far, I haven't found another complete curriculum that I like as much as My Father's World.  Another reason to love it is that it's AFFORDABLE!!!  For those of us who live on a budget, that's a huge plus.  

Check out what's in store for 1st Grade:
(from the MFW website)
"My Father's World First Grade is a complete first grade curriculum with a phonics-based reading program that focuses on the Bible. The integrated lessons also include language arts, social studies, science, math, art, and Bible. Easy-to-teach lesson plans guide you through a complete school year.

Using a thematic approach, Bible history from Genesis to Revelation
is the focus of this learning adventure. Phonics lessons develop the needed skills to read Bible stories from our Bible Reader. Students retell (narrate) the Bible story and create a lovely keepsake Bible Notebook in which they summarize and illustrate Bible stories. Weekly memory verses selected from Proverbs help strengthen handwriting skills as well as biblical character.

Hands-on projects
help the student understand and experience the world of the Bible. Creating a timeline helps to visualize Bible stories as actual events that fit into history. Making a Bible times costume and celebrating a Sabbath meal help students understand the culture of the Bible.

is taught with step-by-step instruction in phonics. My Father's World First Gradeall necessary phonics to produce an independent reader. The Teacher's Manual provides easy-to-follow daily lesson plans that teach new skills and allow for continuous review. Student worksheets reinforce phonics, spelling, and handwriting skills. By Day 38, students are able to read Bible stories in a special beginning level Bible Reader, which is included with the curriculum. begins with a quick review of letter names and sounds, followed by in-depth teaching of

For science, the focus is nature, using three excellent Usborne science books included with the curriculum. The Teacher's Manual also lists goals for first grade math, and suggestions for an informal hands-on approach. The Deluxe Package adds more hands-on manipulatives and a colorful math workbook to reinforce skills."

I purchased my Basic 1st Grade package at the homeschool conference a couple weeks ago.  I've looked over it and I'm really impressed - this is going to be a big year for Ella!  Plus, I think she's going to enjoy it (that's definitely a plus, right?!).

So if this curriculum is so complete, then why am I supplementing Math and Science?
I wasn't planning on supplementing until I heard about RightStart Mathematics and Real Science-4-Kids from a friend.  Those two programs are so stinkin' awesome that I thought, "We have to do this!"  And I'll tell you why.

RightStart Math - Oh, why couldn't you have been around when I was a kid?  I struggled and struggled with math since 3rd grade.  I remember feeling stupid when told by my third grade math teacher to "sit down and shut up!" when I asked her to help me understand multiplication.  That set the tone for the remainder of my math experience in school.  In college, I was happy algebra with a D just so I wouldn't have to take it again (funny thing is I made A's in all my other classes that semester).  I do NOT want my children to hate math like I did.  In fact, I want my children to actually LIKE math and have confidence that they can do well in it. 

(from the RighStart website)
"RightStart Mathematics uses the AL Abacus to provide a visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experience. The elementary and intermediate program lessons guide the teacher day-by-day and year-by-year, helping children understand, apply, and enjoy mathematics while surpassing state standards.

The AL Abacus is grouped in fives and tens for quick recognition of quantities. Children develop visual strategies as they use this manipulative. The back side of the AL Abacus teaches place value to the thousands. Click on the abacus to the right for more information.

Practice is provided with math card games, minimizing review worksheets and stressful flash cards, presenting a variety of repetition, and creating hours of fun learning math facts and concepts. Understanding and problem solving are emphasized throughout the curriculum."

We'll be doing Level B:
"In this level, the child learns the addition facts with mental strategies. He also learns to add 4-digit numbers. Subtraction is delayed until addition is thoroughly understood. Place value is emphasized throughout. Other topics, such as geometry, money, clocks, and unit fractions, are also taught."

RightStart had a booth at the homeschool conference so I was able to see the curriculum up close and personal.  Later that day, Ella noticed their booth while we were walking around the exhibit hall.  I hadn't told her about it yet so she didn't know what it was.  However, she was so interested in the abacus and the math manipulatives that she walked over to the booth and said, "Wow!  What are all these toys?!"  Ding, ding, ding, ding!!!  I think I picked the right program for her :o)

"Traditional elementary science education introduces students to science mainly through the subjects of biology and earth/space. However, both biology and earth/space require chemistry and physics to be understood. How can a child to understand plant growth and photosynthesis without some basic introduction to atoms, molecules and light energy? How can a child to understand the earth, sun, and solar system without some basic introduction to gravity, mass, and nuclear energy? Without the foundational subjects of chemistry and physics, elementary science education leaves a "gap" in a students ability to learn, understand, and retain the science they are being taught."

This is going to sound strange but my first grader will be studying chemistry this year.  Yeah, you heard me right - chemistry!  Isn't that usually introduced only in high school?

"The Pre-Level 1 Chemistry Student Text introduces K-3 students to college-level chemistry concepts such as atoms, molecules, acids, bases, mixtures, polymers, proteins, and DNA."

What the hay?! But Dr. Keller, the author of Real Science-4-Kids, thinks children should study the basics of chemistry in order to understand other branches of science.

"RS4K introduces students to chemistry and physics beginning in first grade and continues to build this foundational knowledge as the student progresses through the curriculum. RS4K integrates chemistry and physics in the biology and earth/space books showing kids how these disciplines differ and how they overlap. In this way, students receive a solid science educational foundation."

Here's her story:
"Dr. Rebecca W. Keller was working as research assistant professor after receiving her Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry from the University of New Mexico. For years, she worked in the areas of biophysics, molecular biology and neuroscience. She also home schooled for her three children for 14 years in her Albuquerque, New Mexico, home. When she could not find textbooks that excited her kids about science, she began to create her own. Eventually she founded Gravitas and wrote the hugely popular Real Science-4-Kids science books and the Kogs-4-Kids workbook series. Gravitas believes in teaching for understanding – and for fun!"

I'm sold.  Our chemistry bundle should arrive in the mail in the next week or two.  Atoms, molecules, DNA, science experiments in the kitchen...bring it on.

I'm still planning to do some of the Earth/nature science that is included in My Father's World.  But I think Real Science-4-Kids is going to give the kids a strong foundation in science that they'll need as they get into middle and high school. 

When do we start?
August 16th is our official first day of school.  As of now, I'm busy filling out my homeschool planner and reading through the teacher guides of the curriculum while my children play without a care and enjoy the rest of their summer.

In my next Back to (home)School post, I'll discuss my preschool plans for my 3-1/2 year old.  

Homeschooling rocks.  Motherhood rocks.  It's exhausting work, but this is the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life!

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