I sat down and started this blog with the simple intention of just sharing with you the curriculum we’re using this year. But you know me. Once I get going, I just can’t stop. I have to share every little detail! So, I’m splitting this up into 4 parts: Language Arts and Social Studies; Math and Science; Religion and Fine Arts; Our Schedule and Organization. So here’s Part 1. Check back later for the other parts!
We decided to use Sonlight’s Pre-K 4/5 program for our foundation this year. We used Sonlight’s Pre-K 3/4 program over the summer and absolutely loved it (a little side note in case you’re wondering why I chose Sonlight’s program in the first place…it’s really quite simple…I fell in love with their book selections…yep, it was that simple. I read tons of catalogs and in the end, I decided that the best use of our money for preschool was to fill our home with good, quality literature and with Sonlight’s program, that’s where the majority of the money is going…toward books)! Sonlight’s 3/4 program was filled with delightful and beautiful stories. Everyday we anxiously opened our curriculum guide to see what was in store for us. With such a raving success, I figured their Pre-K 4/5 program was the way to go.
I like the way Sonlight has set up their curriculum guides with a checklist for each day of the week (the 3/4 program is not set up in the same way…rather that curriculum guide is set up by trimester with a list of stories to read and activities to do each trimester). I like having a “basics” checklist…something that I can rely on in case I have no energy to plan or no time to supplement.
I’m glad I chose Sonlight, but I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in a few aspects of this year’s program. Little aspects. Nothing big. Nothing to make me change my mind. Just a few little aspects that I feel call for supplementing. First of all, the majority of the books in 4/5 are “storybooks.” Each book is filled with lots of stories; each story is a few pages long with very few illustrations. I think preschoolers thrive on picture books…it fuels their imaginations. I agree with the idea that a good book should be able to stand alone by its words, but at this early of an age, a picture is worth so many words and especially for the little ones who are not reading yet, pictures make it possible for them to “read” the story. Also, Joseph doesn’t seem too fond of the Uncle Wiggly Storybook. He listens politely, but he just isn’t very excited when I pull Uncle Wiggly out. We’ll try again in the Spring (and maybe later this fall we’ll use Jim Weiss’ audio version to spark some interest), but for now I simply added a little something to tweak the program to our interests. My tweaking choices, you ask? In addition to Sonlight’s Pre-K 4/5 program, we’re also using (again) Before Five in a Row and Peak with Books (we alternate those two programs depending on what we’re doing with Sonlight and what makes the best fit for our week…I’m trying to keep with Sonlight’s theme for the year of Exploring God’s World which is pretty easy to do considering how many different book options are covered between my two alternate programs). In a few months I’ll probably add Five in a Row: Volume 1 (mainly because I like the geography tie-in and we’ve just about exhausted our Before Five in a Row booklist!) or I may add some books from Janet’s Sonlight Pre-K schedule, found on her Yahoo! Group SLPreschool (she’s done an awesome job and I highly recommend you join the group for access to her amazing schedule and recommendations). That’s our foundation…basically, lots and lots of reading.
For language arts, I started the year with Sonlight’s K Language Arts, but quickly realized the downfall of an organized, packaged language arts kit. They assume that a child’s motor skills are on par with their reading skills. I find this a bit curious, considering the fact that most kids don’t develop those two skills at the same rate. The Kindergarten program is a well-put together program and I really like it…just not for Joseph. He’s already reading, so it seems silly to spend an entire week just on the letter “f”. We quickly abandoned it (although there are a few little gems we’re still using from it like Ruth Beechick’s Language and Thinking for Young Children, some of the copywork and some of the extension activities included in the curriculum guide). Now we’re back to The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (yes, I know he can read, but to ensure there are no gaps, I think a phonics program is well worth the time…plus he enjoys it!). We’re also using Handwriting without Tears, the Kindergarten edition. We used their preschool program over the summer and he loved it. Everything about it. The singing, the movement, the wooden planks, the coloring, the writing. For extra practice, we’re using Explode the Code’s workbooks. We did start out with Explore the Code while we were using Sonlight LA K (and sometimes we still do a page or two just for fine motor skill practice) but now we’re in Book 1, which is a lovely place to be. (Just a little note: I was torn between Explode the Code and MCP Phonics…in the end, I very scientifically made my choice by just closing my eyes and choosing, but honestly, I think both are excellent choices.)
Sonlight’s Pre-K 4/5 program does lightly cover Social Studies, but it’s very short and sweet. I wanted something a little more so I’m supplementing with a wonderful little gem called Children Just Like Me. We do a “child” a week which gives us a peek into other parts of the world (a perfect opportunity for some geography) and other cultures. It fits in very well with Sonlight’s Pre-K 4/5 program, whose theme is “Exploring God’s World.”
I probably should have said this at the beginning: this list isn’t exhaustive but these are our main pieces…the curriculum pieces that are the core of our learning. And these main pieces really do serve us well…the curriculum guides offer lots of beautiful suggestions and easy extensions (as well as recommended poetry, fingerplays, songs, etc). In the end, after reading countless catalogs, we simply chose a curriculum and then tweaked it to fit our children’s needs. That’s the true beauty of homeschooling…you can totally adapt things to fit just right. So while it’s nice to read about what others are doing, don’t forget to listen to your own intuition in the end and choose what will work best for you and your little learners.