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2017-2018 curriculum pick, aka the award goes to…

It has begun. The quest for the perfect boxed curriculum, or at least an entire curriculum from one place that comes in one box. I need to think about shipping costs.

First I look at what our needs are. Peanut is very hands-on, and learns best by either doing things hands-on, or watching a video. He’s not able to write yet, so workbooks are pretty useless. He is barely starting to read, about the equivalent of a public school kindergarten child in their 3rd month of school.

I need a curriculum that is fun, but I also don’t want to be scrambling for supplies that I may not find on the island. I also need a curriculum that either has 144 days, or can be adapted to 144 – 150 days. Yes, we could go monday to friday, 180 days, but I know we’d probably burn out very fast.

So in my quest, I eliminated any highly religious curricula (sorry My Father’s World, Sonlight, and Lifepac!). I also eliminated textbook heavy curricula. This left me with Bookshark Pre-k, Moving Beyond The Page 4-6, Build Your Library K, Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized), Five in a Row, and one I create myself from Rainbow Resource.

After going through the samples of each, and actually planning out a typical week from each of them, I think I’ve found my match! But before I say what it is, here’s what I found out about each one of these.

Bookshark Pre-K:

Pros:

  • This is a literary rich curriculum! From Winnie the Pooh to Richard Scarry, the book selections are fantastic. I love every one of them.
  • The daily routine is easy. You read your child 2 to 3 short stories from beautiful picture books. You also read a couple of pages of a child’s atlas.
  • For Science you read from The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature.
  • Bookwork consists of the optional “Developing the Early Learner” 4 volume set.
  • It’s open and go! My week is all planned for me!

Cons:

  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.
  • Math, science, and language arts are weak. I would have to order the Science K and also the K Language arts and readers. I would use Mathematical Reasoning Kindergarten or try Math U See Primer again.

Moving Beyond the Page 4-6: Wow! What an amazing curriculum!Age 4-5

Pros:

  • It has 30 units, so this means I can spread them out over 150 days without any effort!
  • The literature is amazing! From old favorites like Blueberries for Sal, to modern ones like A is for Musk Ox, the book selection is fantastic (except one book, see cons for that)
  • Crafts! It is heavy on crafts, and the best part is that they supply almost everything I would need from yarn to craft paper! This means Peanut’s fine motor skills will get a great workout.
  • Two versions of activities – one for children that can write, and one for those who can’t. If your child cannot print a letter, they suggest things like trace the letter in a cookie sheet filled with shaving cream, rice, or salt. They have so many great ideas on how to encourage handwriting without even using a pencil!
  • It is unit based, so one week we learn about Musk Oxen and their habitat, and next week we learn about trees and their life cycles. It’s a great mix of learning and exploring our world and everything in it!
  • It’s almost open and go! I would have to tweak it a bit to turn it into our 4 day week, but it would be very easy to do!

Cons:

  • I would have to find a suitable replacement for one book, “Millions of Cats”. It is one of those morbid books that I can’t bring myself to read to Peanut. It is about a greedy couple who want a cat, so they adopt millions of cats. They only want one, so the cats begin eating each other until one remains. Ewww. Just NO!!! I’m sure I can find a sweet story about cats that doesn’t involve cat cannibalism!
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement it with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

Build Your Library K: This curriculum is excellent and very literature rich!https://i1.wp.com/buildyourlibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/83532.jpg

Pros:

  • The book selection is awesome! Over 30 classics and modern well loved books.
  • a 30 week schedule, which means I can easily adapt it for 36 weeks (144-150 days).
  • It touches on all the continents and explores what life is like for different children of the world.
  • The manual is a PDF and costs under $25!
  • It has some arts and crafts to keep Peanut’s hands busy and help strengthen those muscles.
  • It incorporates other ideas like cooking to round out a fun week of learning.

Cons:

  • The books need to be ordered from Amazon, and some are out of print. This makes it a bit more expensive if you want the out of print copies since they sell for a ridiculous price.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.
  • Not very many hands on activities. This means I’ll have to turn to Pinterest and other sources to add some art and craft activities to reinforce what Peanut is learning. This will definitely be time consuming to find and organize the crafts, but I do love the literature so it may be a small price to pay.

Timberdoodle grade 1 (customized): I’m currently using Timberdoodle Kindergarten Secular customized curriculum and love it for the most part.

Pros:

  • All in one curriculum that covers all the required subjects
  • lots of hands on games, science experiments, art, and STEM

Cons:

  • Very workbook intense. There are 8 workbooks in their standard grade 1 secular curriculum. Peanut cannot write yet, so they would either be omitted from the kit, or would sit on the shelf until he can do them.
  • For the amount of money we’d spend, we would basically be buying a year of toys and games, and no real learning opportunities.
  • No literature is included, so we’d have to either rely on the library or purchase books to read.

Five in a Row: Although this is a religious curriculum, it is very easy to remove the bible and religious content.Five in a Row Book Set

Pros:

  • Unit based, and excellent book choices from Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel to How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, it would make a fun year of great books
  • It covers Social Studies, Math, Literature, Art, Science, Human Relationships
  • It is easy to implement since you choose one social studies, language arts, art, math, and science a day.
  • It has many hands-on arts and crafts

Cons:

  • There are a few religious books (ie. Clown of God) that I would have to skip
  • I’d have to order the literature from Rainbow Resource, but they would be one shipment.
  • Math is weak. I’d have to supplement with Mathematical Reasoning, Math Mammoth, or even Math U See Primer.
  • Phonics is weak, so I’d continue with The Reading Lesson and Hooked on Phonics.

So what did I choose? The great debate is truly between Moving Beyond the Page, Five in a Row, and Bookshark.

Timberdoodle lost because of the heavy writing component, making this curriculum almost useless for a few more years.

Build your Library would win out for literature alone, but it falls down on hands-on activities. I would be willing to make it work though, but I don’t like the amount of out-of-print books.

Bookshark falls down on the lack of hands-on activities too, but I will probably use the level 5-7 after this next year is done, since the 5-7 level has lots of arts, crafts etc. Peanut just isn’t ready for the level 5-7 literature yet, or I’d definitely use this one for our 2017-2018 year. I’m actually still considering the pre-k level if Peanut is able to write by June or July.

Memoria press was another that was in the running, very much a fantastic literature based curriculum, I’d just remove the bible and religious content of it. In order to have it work well, it requires the basic curriculum, the suppliementary read aloud books, and the supplementary science books.This brings the curriculum to a very expensive price that I can’t justify!

So the winner for 2017-2018 is Moving Beyond the Page!!!! (insert fanfare and flying confetti here!). The runner up is Bookshark (going to first place if Peanut can write by June), and third place is Build Your Library tied with Five in a Row.

Now where’s my wine, strawberries, and chocolate? After all this work I deserve it! hahaha!!!!  Seriously, this is going to be an awesome year, I want to start it now!!!!

Going around in circles…

I have been going around in circles, the debate in my head between two great curricula. Oh how I love BookShark for so many reasons. I love the books. I love the 4 day schedule that is all laid out for me. I love the “open and go” factor. I love the choice of Handwriting Without Tears and Math U See, and it even offers Life of Fred! To round it out, add an art program from them like Artistic Pursuits with optional supply kit, and voila, an entire year of education for about $775! What’s holding me back? Well, my little peanut appears to be a kinesthetic learner. He has mild autism. He very rarely wants to sit and listen to a story, do a worksheet, or color a picture. He wants hands on stuff. He needs to touch, to play, to build, to do things. Yes, he has some moments in the day where he loves to just cuddle up, listen to me read, but to be honest, I don’t see this program working for us till he’s older.

So what to do? Well, there is a great option for Kinesthetic learners. A company called Timberdoodle has pulled together some amazing curricula from all over, and combined it into grade packages. They have both christian and secular options, and you can customize the packages to suit your needs. The only thing I worry about is the amount of workbooks in this curriculum. For the package I am choosing, there is 2 for Language Arts, one for math, one for geography, plus the Developing the Early Learner set. He also may view the doodle and drawing books as workbooks since he is not a fan of coloring! So why choose this curriculum? Oh for the ‘goodies’! It also uses Math U See, and Spelling You See too. It emphasizes thinking skills with things like Little Piggies Smart Game and Pajaggle. It incorporates STEM with things like Morphun Blocks. It’s science is hands on. It has art. It has puzzles. It even has Thinking Putty! So why am I hesitant? It has no literature. None. No read alouds. This means a weekly or bi-weekly trip to the library, hoping they have a decent selection. I would prefer a home library. But for under $720, this is a great deal and I know Peanut would do well with it.

I did stumble upon Rainbow Resource and they offer some awesome literature packages. Read Aloud Kindergarten books, Read Aloud Science books, and the enrichment guide for it. I can see myself saving up for the science book set. It’s also available for Grade 1 too!