Monday, February 14, 2011

My Father's World Curriculum: A Review

I am in my second year of My Father's World, so I'm by no means an expert, but I thought I'd share my thoughts and experiences with the curriculum packages I've used so far.  Last year we did "Rome to the Reformation" and we're currently working on "Explorers to 1850" lesson plans. 
My Father's World uses a 5-year cycle for 2nd - 8th graders:
  • Creation to Greeks
  • Rome to the reformation (ancient Rome, middle ages, renaissance & reformation)
  • Explorers to 1850
  • 1850 to modern
  • Countries & Cultures (a geography, cultures, and missions tour around the worldd
General observations and experiences:

My Father's World combines Charlotte Mason and classical education methods using a unit study approach. The lesson plans open-and-go, requiring very little advance preparation.  Everything is scheduled and explained in their teacher manuals. An easy to follow schedule was just what I needed the year I began the "Rome to the Reformation" cycle! My Father's World lesson plans include Bible, history, science, Latin or Greek vocabulary (some years), read-alouds, art, and music appreciation. Missionary books and/or church history is also woven into the plans. You, the teacher, have the flexibility to use your choice of math, spelling, grammar, and writing programs. This means that you need to plan how you would like to integrate your writing assignments into other subjects.
My Father's World book basket approach provides parents with plenty of flexibility on “extra reading”. Each week, there is a list of books in the appendix that relates to other things you’re studying. Sometimes my library doesn’t have some of the books, but it has been easy enough to find alternatives.
My Father's World schedules activities such as maps, timeline, notebooking and hands-on projects.  The activities always relate to what you study.  I appreciate that I don't have to spend time deciding which activity to do--it's already planned. This I like! The frequency of scheduled activities is just right--not too much and not too little.  Another thing I like:  all of the worksheets, maps and timeline figures are in one place which make implementation a snap. Extra student sheet packets are inexpensive add-ons to any of their curriculum packages.  Notebooking is often assigned in the history and science lesson plans.  It is very open-ended, allowing parents and students to use the recommendations and suggestions for  without locking students into restricted worksheet-type assignments. My boys enjoy getting creative and adding things to their history and science binders to make their learning experience memorable.

Teacher Notes:
The teacher notes in each curriculum package usually explain how to implement the assignments, and sometimes include occasional background notes about the topic being studied.  Since these plans are geared for grammar and dialectic level students,  I feel this is sufficient.  I usually get more than enough information from the reading that I do with my children as we read assigned pages aloud.  I am then able to provide them with explanations and connections across other subjects because I'm learning alongside my kids!  Everything that you do in a week ties together beautifully. This, of course, makes it easy to discuss and explain deeper connections with my children. I must say that I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed experiencing the integration of Bible, art, music appreciation, history, read-alouds and sometimes even science in the lesson plans.

Comprehension/Discussion Questions:
The two packages that I have used ("Rome to the Reformation" and "Explorers to 1850") do not have comprehension questions or discussion questions as part of the curriculum. However, some of the main history books, such as Story of the World and Exploring American History have discussion questions at the end of the assigned chapters or in the Activity Guides.  I have frequently used the discussion questions that are included in these books as a spring board for discussion or to check comprehension levels with my kids. 

Read Alouds:
My Father's World schedules historical fiction for their read alouds, which I like very much. Some of the books have been wonderful, and others were not hits with us. I am a box checker, so I have a hard time giving myself the liberty to just switch books, but I’m coming around. Since there are no assignments/discussion questions, etc. that relate to the read aloud books, it is okay to substitute.  I've also discovered that there is room for me to squeeze in two or three read-aloud books of my own choosing. 

My bottom Line:
My Father's World  has the flexibility for customization in the areas of notebooking, book basket, writing, math, spelling, foreign language, and grammar. Their lesson plans also provide the ability for parents to schedule  either 4 or 5 days school days per week.   My Father's World is great for someone who wants to teach their kindergartner through 8th graders together in one group--especially for history, science and Bible. For someone who doesn’t want to plan, MFW is a great choice. They integrate Bible lessons, history, music, art and even some science together nicely.  My Father's World is an excellent program. It is well rounded and provides richly integrated study experiences for the entire family.  
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