Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
One of the biggest regrets I've had in regards to my son's education, especially early on, was that due to a limited income, we always made due with what was the cheapest. However, as we learned quickly, this isn't always the best approach. I regretted not purchasing an "all in one" box style curriculum where everything for an entire school year was in the box, as well as instructions as to how to teach it. Recently, my husband and I had a discussion about the need to stop piecemealing components together to make our own curriculum and instead go ahead and invest in a box style curriculum for our son because we didn't think he was getting the education that he needed the way we were doing it.
As an answer to our prayers, we were offered the opportunity to review the Exploring Countries and Cultures Deluxe Package, a complete box curriculum for grades 3rd-8th from My Father's World. For the past 5 weeks, we have been using this curriculum almost exclusively with not only Garrett but with Ashleigh as well.
My Father's World is Christian based company dedicated to giving homeschool families an excellent choice in curriculum that is comprehensive and easy to use as well as spiritual based. By combining the ideology of the both Classical education and the Charlotte Mason teaching style, as well as unit studies, the curriculum focuses on a biblical worldview and global focus to help parents to educate their children who both recognize the world they live in through God's eyes as well as to learn to learn and live according to that knowledge. Easy to integrate with multiple students at different grade levels, My Father's World works to take the Bible from being "just another subject" to its place as the core of their curriculum, thoroughly integrated throughout every subject by using a literature rich, parent led curriculum.
Offering a wide range of curriculum options for various grade levels, each curriculum package contains all the necessary books and supplemental materials needed to teach a full year of courses that include Language Arts, Mathematics, history, science, art, music, Bible and more. The curriculum schedule is built upon structured mornings with light afternoons and free-and-independent Fridays through junior high/middle school. In high school the program becomes student led/parent directed.
For our review, we have been using the Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum. This package is designed for students grades 3rd -8th grade. While the curriculum is prepared along with a lesson book to help the parent teach it, there are portions of the program that are tailored to the family, depending on the students who will be using the program. This required for me to sit down on the phone with a representative from My Father's World to talk about my children, such as how many students will be using the program and where each one was as far as proficiency in areas such as language arts and mathematics. Since both Garrett and Ashleigh would be using the program together, the representative asked in regards to both children so that material would be included for the both of them. Once this step was completed, the customized material was put together to be included with the base curriculum and everything arrived roughly one week later.
It was like Christmas when the box arrived at our home. All together, the box weighed in at about 50 lbs and was stuffed full with all sorts of materials.
As this is the deluxe package, it included everything needed for the curriculum, including suppimental materials such as a music cd, an inflatable globe, art books, a world map, story books, and more. Since there's so much, I broke down the materials into categories for each photograph to show everything, as I do want you to see exactly what was included in the package.
First is the teachers manual as well as the student sheets and supplemental sheets for the curriculum. The supplemental sheets include all the handouts the student will need for the curriculum while the supplemental packet contains map masters and game components to use with the students.
The Teacher's Manual contains a week by week schedule for the curriculum. Each week contains a grid style schedule for each portion of the day as well a day by day breakdown for notes, instruction and discussion questions to help with the daily lessons.
For both Garrett and Ashleigh, the representative and I decided that we wanted to use Singapore math. After completing a free assessment test found on My Father's World's website, we decided that we would start the kids on level 4A. We were given a textbook and answer key for two semesters of math, as well as student workbooks for both Ashleigh and Garrett for two semesters. Math is completed each day.
Here's a page from inside the workbook.
Another custom option for the program was the language arts selection. Again, this selection is based on the discussion with the company representative. For Garrett and Ashleigh, we opted for the Language Lesson for Today for Grade 6 as well as the Writing Skills for Today Level A. The Language Lessons book is non-consumable as the kids use either looseleaf paper or just answer questions orally, however, the writing workbook is consumable. Both kids were given their own copy of this book. Language Lessons is taught three days a week, while the writing lessons are twice a week.
This is one of the completed pages from the writing book.
As part of the language arts portion of the curriculum, students also work on spelling five days a week using the book Spelling Power. Spelling started at week 4, however, prior to that, the parent must place each student in their proper spelling list/category. The book as well as the teachers manual explains the steps to do this pretty clearly. This book can be used for many years. For spelling, each student uses a spiral notebook for their spelling work.
Since the central focus of this curriculum is learning about the various countries and cultures of the world, there's a large amount of geography related materials. These first two books, A Trip Around the World and Another Trip Around the World include fun activities such as crossword puzzles, coloring activities, and even cooking activities broken down by country.
These books are the main workbooks the students use for geography. These are consumable workbooks with various activities the students complete.
Here's a few sample pages of the type of assignments the students have done out of the geography workbook.
These are a few of the suppliments included to help with the Geography portion of the curriclum. Art lessons that reflect the country the kids are learning about are included each week and are pulled directly from the Global Art Book. The Currency Kit is really neat as it's colored copies of money from various countries. As the student learns about each country, they are given an amount US currency, which they have to exchange for the currency from the country they are learning about. They can then use that currency to buy stuff like snacks from the parent. While we haven't used the Origami book yet, I suspect it is used when the students learn about China/Asia.
These books for for different subjects. The Maps and Globes book was during the introduction week of the curriculum, while the kids were learning about different types of maps and how to read them. The Window to the World book is used during Bible time - each week the students learn about a different population of the world and what it's like for them. They are then given a list of things about what the student can pray about for that country. This has been a really nice addition to our mornings . The Living World Encyclopedia is read as part of the science portion of the curriculum.
This book is the main science text for the curriculum. It includes the reading as well as science experiments and questions for the student to answer.
These books are used for reading. The Hero Tales gives short stories about important people of Christ, such as Harriet Tubman, and focuses on character traits that helped make these people who they were. The Kingdom Tales book is a series of allegorical stories that are told much like a fairy tale and teach different lessons and how it relates to our lives as Christians.
Also included for reading selections are six selections from YWAM publishing. These selection biographies are about Christian heroes and the amazing work that they did and the impact they had upon the lives of those they ministered to.
A few other books included. The Great Animal Search is just a fun book that each week I mark a page and the kids have to find the animals hidden in the picture on the page. The pages selected each week relate to what we are learning about, usually our science lesson. God Speaks Numanggang was read in the first week of the curriculum and introduced the kids to the important work missionaries do each day to bring the Word to others with the main focus being how God used missionaries to translate the Bible to the Numanggang language for the people to read. The Geography from A to Z is used to teach new terms to the kids while Flags Around the World lets the kids get "hangs on" as they learn about the flag of each country they are learning about.
Finally, these are a few of the suppliments included with the Deluxe package. Wee Sing is a CD collection of music from different countries around the world. Each week, the kids listen to a song from the country they are learning about. A song booklet included with the CD includes the words of the song as well as where the song is from and a bit of information about the song. For example, when learning about North America, the song for the week was Uhé Bashoⁿ Shoⁿ (The Crooked Path) performed by a young boy from the Omaha Indian tribe. The booklet explained who the kids sing this while playing a game much like follow the leader.
The Fast Facts cards are math drill cards that cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The students complete these drills, one a day, for three minutes each day to help work on proficiency skills.
Also included are passports (one for each kid), a world map and an inflatable globe.
One final item that was included with our curriculum was a subscription to WorldKids, a magazine that follows a Christian world view. This magazine is published every other month and helps children learn to read news accounts and other information critically, to sift for the truth, and to relate knowledge and biblical wisdom to daily life.
How We Used It
The curriculum was very straight forward and easy to follow. Straight out of the box, everything needed with the exception of a few materials needed for a few projects (for example, a cake mix for one lesson) is included, so you can begin the program immediately with little preparation.
The teacher's manual lays each day's lessons out in an easy to follow grid layout. The manual also informs the parent what materials will be needed ahead of time, as well as what pages out of the Trip Around The World books will need to be copied for the upcoming weeks. At the beginning of the week, I grab the student sheets necessary for the week and make any copies needed and place them in the kids notebooks. Then, each morning before our day starts, I grab all necessary books that are listed for the day and gather then together. This takes me about three minutes each morning, making it really easy to prepare for the day.
Each subject builds upon each other. For example, the first subject we do each day is our Bible lesson. This begins with reading a portion of the Bible together and having a discussion about what we have read. On Monday, the kids are also introduced to their weekly Bible verse that they have to memorize. This verse is then continued on with part of the Language Arts lesson, as the kids will practice their cursive handwriting skills to write the verse. Later, when doing geography, the kids often have to locate cities and countries that were discussed in the Bible reading on the map. When we were discussing the birth of Jesus, the kids had to locate Bethlehem, when we talked about the wise men meeting with King Herod, they had to find Jerusalem, and when we talked about Joseph's dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, they had to find Egypt on the map. This is how the daily Bible lesson is integrated throughout the day into various subjects.
|Daily Mapwork from their Geography Book|
However, the integration also continues on between the geography aspect and the science aspect of the courses. For the science lessons, the kids have been learning about the various ecosystems in the world. For example, they learned about the temperate forests of the world and where they are located (between the tropics and the arctic circles). At the same time, they learned in geography about how to locate both the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, as well as the arctic circles on the map. Putting these two pieces of information together, they were then asked to label on a map page where the temperate forests are located and begin learning to identify the type of flora and fauna found in that type of forest ecosystem.
On Wednesday, they put what they have learned into a more hands on type of learning by doing nature walks. While we live in a desert ecosystem, they are still able to get out of the house and begin identifying deciduous and evergreen trees, which we have been learning about, as well as begin paying attention to the various plants and creatures we find and begin the process of drawing them in their field book to identify them once at home.
|A closer look at a leaf from the tree |
The Geography portion of the curriculum focuses on 15 countries and their cultures located on all 7 continents. Starting with North America and learning about the United States, Mexico and Canada, the kids will eventually study Brazil, Norway, France, Germany, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Japan, Russia, Australia and Antarctica. As they learn about each of these countries, they will also learn about the ecosystems found in those areas, such as the grasslands, coral reefs, arctic tundras, and rain forests, as well as learn about important people who completed God's work in that area. For example, when learning about India, they will learn about mountains as well as Adoniram and Ann Judson and Amy Carmichael and while learning about Kenya they will also learn about the grassland ecosystem and Mary Slessor, Samuel Morris and David Livingston.
|Garrett and Ashleigh working on learning the 50 States and their locations|
Another fun activity that's part of the curriculum is the currency packet and the passport. At the start of each unit about a foreign country, they receive a stamp in their passport. Then, using the provided currency packet, they are given play money that the kids must convert from US dollars to the currency used by the country that they are currently studying. Then, while they are studying that county, the use that countries currency to buy snacks. This helps to incorporate math skills along with the geography lesson.
One aspect I have really liked in regards to the curriculum is the inclusion of math drills. The kids complete math drills four days a week. Each day, they work on either addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts. For three minutes, they try to complete (correctly) as many of the problems that they can. My Father's World included these nifty cards that we attach to the kids paper with a paperclip. One the front of the card is the problems they need to work, with a small window for them to write their answer on their paper. After three minutes is complete, the kids flip the card over and the answers are provided, so they can check their work. I've seem marked improvement in their math proficiency with them working these drills each week.
I found the Singapore math to be challenging for them (in a good way). Singapore is new for us, having in the past used a program that I found to be both slower paced and confusing. Out of everything, math takes the most amount of time for us each day, taking about an hour to complete each day. But the textbook does a wonderful job of explaining each concept with both graphics and examples that are esy for them to understand. It moves at a faster pace, which I like because I feel like just in the last few weeks, they are catching up to a level where I feel they should be at. I honestly feel that the conversation that I had with the representative at My Father's World helped to place the kids at a level that was right for them, making a huge difference in getting them on track.
|Garrett working on a math lesson from his Singapore workbook|
Included in the curriculum are various hands on projects such as art projects and cooking projects. For example, one week the kids made a Fraktur certificate. Another week they baked a "world" cake with the help of their older sister and last week we had a family barbecue where they helped their father grill hamburgers and bake an apple pie (while we were learning about the United States ). These projects tie in directly with something that they are working on in the curriculum such as the food being from the country they are studying or even creating a book mark that had Matthew written in Greek (as they were learning about who the disciple Matthew was that week).
|The kids working together to make a World Cake|
|The Kids completed World Cake|
The one thing that we have really enjoyed adding to our day is the reading portion of the curriculum. Four nights a week, we sit down as a family and we read either from the Kingdom Tales book or from one of the included YWAM biographies that are included with the curriculum. For the first four weeks, we read a chapter of the Kingdom Tales together. Starting at week five, we began reading the biography of Cameron Townsend. This has given us a nice time to sit down and spend time as a family and has become a routine now, in addition to our Bible study time.
Overall, I have been very happy with this curriculum and I'll be honest, I'm kicking myself for not having used this curriculum in the past. It's a program I had looked into previously but for a long time felt our piecemeal method was working - it wasn't. Even my husband has noticed the difference in how our school day is working and has began putting money away for us to purchase the next package from My Father's World down the road. I feel as if the Lord blessed us with this review and it has made a marked difference in our learning environment.
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