Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Snow Play!

Aww . . . !  They still like playing with thier dump trucks!

Brandon, next to the start of his igloo.

Nathan gives me a quick smile as he builds the igloo wall.

Happy day!

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.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Homeschool Week in Review: Monday, January 17th - January 21st

My Father's World Exp. to 1850:  Week 2

Again, we had another productive week!  I'm so happy to have had 2 strong weeks since we took such a long Christmas break.  Here are highlights of our accomplishments:

We continue the study of Joseph using Bible Study Guide for All Ages.  This week we focused on Genesis 42 and 43.  We read the passages aloud and then the boys like to do their worksheet/activity sheets on their own.  When they finish, we go over the material together.  I like this method, because they really cover the passage three times in one sitting:  by reading aloud, by completing their activity sheet, by going over the sheet together as a family and discussing it.
Classical Conversations:
We focused on timeline card memorization this week.  After reciting the timeline cards for  weeks 1-14, Nathan only had two errors.  Yeah!  Brandon and I spent time practicing them together and he's doing a fine job.  He'll be ready to quiz through them soon.  Since Nathan has to truly know all of his math facts from 1x1 through 15x15, he's also been practicing those.  He knows his math facts pretty well, but not perfectly . . . yet.  Brandon does an excellent job skip counting, but he still has a few weak areas, too.  The boys also spent some time reviewing memory work using the online tutorial. 
Their presentations were about a favorite memory.  The thing that came to their mind was last year's HUGE winter snowstorm and all of the winter snow fun they had.  I wish I would have been able to hear their little speeches as they reveled in sweet memories gone by.
Nathan's assignments have centered largely on fractions, averaging, and decimals.  One afternoon he asked if he could get the scores from all of his past tests and average them together.  What a terrific exercise--applying his math lessons to real life.  After he averaged his test scores, he discovered he is getting an 89% in math.  Although I'd like to see his score come up a bit higher, I'm fairly pleased with this knowing that he had a difficult time grasping division. 
Brandon, of course, wanted to know his math score as well!  I quickly averaged his test to reveal a 93% for him!  He was quite pleased with himself.
Usually the boys shine in spelling, however they encountered some tricky words this week.  Nathan had some confusion with a couple of homonyms.  (Words that sound alike but have different meanings.)  He missed threw and through, as well as believe and chief.  Those words will be added to next week's list for continued practice.
Brandon's spelling list was comprised mainly of contractions.  Although he did get most words correct, he missed more than usual.  He will continue studying his missed words as well.
I've always wanted to try "Fix-it! Grammar", published by Institute for Excellence in Writing.  We began lesson 1 this week and I think this is gong to be delightful!  There are 30 lessons, each retelling a bit of a classic novel.  I chose Tom Sawyer for our first go-round. Weekly lessons are broken into daily tasks/assignments.  On Mondays, Nathan will look up bold-type words, usually quite descriptive in nature, and write down the definition as it is used in the text.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Nathan will read the passage, looking for errors.  The teacher's guide directs me on the grammar/language mechanics lesson to focus on.  I like that the editing is not just looking for random errors.  There is a lesson and a focus each week!  Finally, Nathan will rewrite the passage in a spiral notebook on Thursdays.  By the end of the 30 lessons, Nathan will have edited and copied a retelling of Tom Sawyer AND practiced/studied many language mechanics concepts. 
Brandon has been doing an excellent job diagramming sentences and learning about direct objects in his grammar lessons from First Language Lessons 3.  One of my favorite things about FLL is the short, yet focused lessons--gentle, with good coverage of basic grammar that includes sentence diagramming.
We opened our week with readings from Answer in Genesis' elementary science series entitled God's Design for Life:  The World of Animals.  Let me just say, "I think it's perfect for us!  This book contains some very good information, while not overwhelming the younger child.  It is also easy enough to look into topics further by filling a book basket with library books about the topic of study.  I appreciate the books suggestions that the MFW Lesson Plans offer for this!

This week our focus was on the classification of living things.  We made a binder and divided into the sections so we can classify the living things we study all semester.  First we'll study mammals, so we discussed the fact that animals are classified as either vertebrates or invertebrates.  We made a notebook page about mammals and a model backbone, too!  Take a look:
A backbone, of course!  The straw represent the spinal cord.  The spools represent vertebrae. 
The clay represent the discs between the backbone.
We spent a fair amount of time reading Story of the World, Vol. 2. The boys narrated each section of the book after I read it aloud and they made a couple of notebook pages, too.  I'm looking forward to "Coming to America" next week!  We'll begin our study about Jamestown!  Whoo!  Hoo!  We'll be in the New World!  We're all excited about this!

We're nearly finished listening to Crispin:  To the the Edge of the World, an audio book that we each savor each time we listen to it.  Avi's books are filled with feeling, excitement, and rich historical content.  The Crispin books are certainly among our favorite read alouds.

Nathan continued reading The Silver Chair and Brandon began reading Baby Island this week.

Chapter 2 of Latin for Children proved to be just as good as the last.  The boys are happy to be studying together and enjoy the Activity book especially.  I wasn't sure how our schedule would feel with the addition of this new-found focus on Latin, but it was just fine.  Bart encouraged me to make it a priority, so we did!

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