Welcome!

I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Experience with My Father's World Adventures in U.S. History


Written by Jessica.

I’ve never been a fan of pre-packaged or all-in-one curricula. I’ve always thought that part of the advantage of homeschooling is being able to pick and choose the curriculum for each subject and come up with a personal plan for the school year that’s unique to each family or child within that family. Gathering curriculum and piecing things together always seemed more frugal, more tailored, more…homeschool-y? And then, there was last summer.


(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)


My Experience with My Father's World Adventures in U.S. History #curriculum #homeschool

Like any homeschooling parent, I was eagerly awaiting the rest and refreshment of summer vacation. I had big plans of major things that I would accomplish. Instead, we kicked off summer with an illness that lasted more than two weeks. Then there was a major health issue with the beloved family pet that required surgery. A couple of additional financial emergencies were thrown in. Then there was another illness, again lasting two weeks plus. “Summer” didn’t begin for us until early August. At that point, we were a blink away from a family birthday and then the annual visit from my mother-in-law from overseas. I did not feel rested or refreshed. I was not prepared for a new school year.

In my search for a history curriculum over the summer, I had stumbled upon My Father’s World. According to their website, “My Father's World Christian homeschool curriculum combines the best of Charlotte Mason's ideas, classical education, and unit studies with a biblical worldview and global focus.” Hmm, that sounded good. I was particularly drawn to their Family Learning Cycle model; it made so much sense as I considered the “big picture” of my children’s educations. I was giddy when I saw My Father’s World Adventures in U.S. History. The history portion covered exactly what I wanted to teach in the upcoming school year! But, it included science, Bible, art, and music…this was a package program - exactly what I said I’d never use! I tried to find something better. I hedged and hesitated. I tried but knew I did not have time to put together anything comparable myself. Finally, almost at the last moment, I decided to give it a chance.


Like many homeschooling families, finances are tight for us. In order to save money and because I already owned some of the books, I did not purchase a complete package. I ordered the proprietary materials from MFW directly and the rest from Rainbow Resources. I would recommend doing that to anyone who cannot splurge on the deluxe or basic packages. Also, Charlotte Mason’s living literature approach to history feels like the dominant method in this program, and so you need to use a lot of real books. We live in a rural area with a very limited library, and while I purchase many children’s books to grow our home library, my ability to do so is not unlimited. Epic! saved the day for us, and if you are in a similar situation, I recommend it.

While MFW Adventures in U.S. History package is intended for families with the oldest child in second or third grade plus younger siblings, I actually used it with a kindergartener, second grader, and fourth grader. I chose the Adventures in U.S. History package, rather than the Exploring Countries and Cultures package because I wanted to cover U.S. history and had already done a whole DIY study of countries and cultures with my children. Having taught 4th grade for many years gave me confidence that I could tweak things where needed, but my background wasn’t needed. The extensive booklists provided by MFW, plus other books I found myself, enabled me to engage and challenge my 4th grader and make this program work.


What We Enjoyed


The strongest part of this package is the history program, and it is superbly done. At first, I worried that the broad range of topics would be too much (“a mile wide and an inch deep”), but I was very pleasantly surprised. From the Age of Exploration, to colonial days, to the Revolutionary War, to the Westward Expansion, to the Civil War, and right on through the inventions and progress of the very early 20th century, my children all learned so much about the major people and events of our nation’s history and developed a very solid foundation in U.S. history, one that will be added to in years to come.

We L.O.V.E.D. the literature choices for history! MFW has trademarked the “book basket” concept; essentially, having a basket of books on a given topic at the ready for your children to look at or read. That’s something I already do at times, so this felt like a very natural fit for us. One of the two main texts, American Pioneers and Patriots, is about different fictional children throughout history. My children loved it and would cheer when it was time to read.

The book lists in the back of the Adventures in U.S. History teacher’s manual are treasures. I felt that I could trust the brief but thorough reviews of each book, and they gave me a wonderful starting point with which to select books for read-alouds and individual reading for my children. The Picture Book Biography series was one of my favorite options for read-alouds, along with countless stand-alone titles. I found many excellent Level 3 and Level 4 books from the I Can Read Series that were perfect for my second grader and kindergartener (a gifted reader). My fourth grader devoured almost every book in the Childhood of Famous Americans Series, from Native Americans to female patriots to presidents, and read several challenging books from The American Story series. MFW also recommends optional chapter books for afternoon/evening read-alouds throughout the school year that correspond with what’s being taught in history – a nice addition.


I loved the Charlotte Mason elements, which is the methodology that seems to come through most strongly in the package, such as the use of note-booking pages and a timeline. These things went very far in helping my children to remember and contextualize what they were learning. The note-booking pages (called “student sheets”) are well done. The timeline pieces are very basic, but I added in this one and it made a huge improvement.

The whole package is engaging and hands-on! Every week, there is more than one craft, activity, or recipe to try. Most importantly, they’re doable – short and sweet and using things most families already have on hand. You don’t have to do everything (we didn’t), but it really brings the learning to life when you do. From making a paper tricorn hat like George Washington’s, to making Hasty Pudding when learning “Yankee Doodle,” to making a model Liberty Bell, to trying your hand at using a quill pen when learning about the Declaration of Independence, to making yummy regional recipes when learning about the fifty states, there are lots and lots of simple but fun things to make and do.

Related, this is a sensory-rich program – it’s not just reading. In history, science, and music specifically, there are many opportunities to see, smell, listen, taste, and touch to help children better connect to what they’re learning. The authors clearly know children, understand how they learn, and put great care and thought into making this a special program for young students.

We enjoyed the music program. It’s a natural fit to learn the words and tunes of patriotic American songs alongside a U.S. history program like this one. It was useful to have the provided song lyric sheets, although the music CD that accompanied them wasn’t our favorite. My husband and I aren’t musically inclined, but a more musical family could go further by learning to play and (properly) sing the music (note: no sheet music is provided). Along with the patriotic American songs, there is also an ongoing composer study of Tchaikovsky. This study seems out of place, so if I were able to change the package, one place I’d do so is here. I’d eliminate the Tchaikovsky study altogether, add in literature specific to the patriotic American songs to better explain the stories behind them, and include note-booking pages for each song.

We also liked the simple Bible program that teaches the names of Jesus. This was something that I wanted to do with my children anyway, and it’s nicely done. The children learn a portion of Scripture about every two weeks that teaches a name of Jesus, and they do copy-work of the Bible verses on provided note-booking sheets. The teacher's manual provides brief scripted discussions, short Bible readings, and related questions. There are cut-outs of the Bible verses too, so you can make a poster out of the verses throughout the year and keep that on display if you’d like to. There are also some related crafts sprinkled throughout, although they seemed too Sunday School-ish and young, so we didn’t do those.

The art program uses the I Can Do All Things CD and Book set. The CDs seem low-budget, but the artist is excellent. It’s a Christian program, and there is a lot of kid-friendly encouragement and wisdom included. The materials are thoughtfully designed to give young children an introduction in technique and to encourage them to try and do their best. It’s a pricey program because each child needs their own art book and paint and marker card set. We’ve never spent this much on an art program before or been as formal about art. Our typical art MO is to do one seasonal, holiday, or open-ended piece of (often messy) art a week using things my children like to work with like watercolors, acrylic paints, oil pastels, collage materials, etc. They were all resistant to using this program at times, probably because it is so different from how we usually do art. We ended up giving up on it mid-year and falling back on our usual art routine. Having said that, I think this program has a lot of merit and I’m still glad we purchased it. It actually has enough art lessons that it can be used over more than one school year. A family could have the flexibility of doing just one art lesson per week or doing them multiple days a week. We will be revisiting this program and using it again.


What I’d Change


The science program uses the Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science, Science with Air, and Science in the Kitchen. If there was only one thing that I could change about MFW Adventures in U.S. History package it would definitely be the science program. The main problem is the breadth of topics. In the history program, there is breadth, but also depth and a clear thread of continuity (U.S. history across a span of time). This is not the case in the science program. There are many topics covered such as stars, weather, plants, animals, atoms, energy, gravity, friction, computers, magnets, and more. This variety initially sounds like it would be fun and interesting, but in reality, it feels haphazard and disconnected.

The main spine is more of a science primer with little substance, and while MFW does provide book lists to choose from that you can (and should) add in, you spend so little time on each topic that it seems there isn’t enough time to really learn anything. Likewise, the experiments are simplistic and there is no provided way to document what you do. I ended up making some very basic note-booking sheets for my children to use. This could be improved if MFW would narrow down the topics, maybe to two for each quarter of the school year. Providing note-booking and experiment recording sheets would also be meaningful improvements. If I could do one thing over again myself, I would have allotted some time to tweak the science program to make it work better for us.

Finally, there are the note-booking student sheets. Overall, the note-booking sheets are lovely, especially the state sheets that provide excellent graphics and facts about each state, along with the full-color state stickers and state bird/flower cards. The student sheets are an important part of the package and shouldn’t be omitted. My issues are with the format and the price. The sheets have wide-ruled handwriting lines and there are few lines to use. Since this program is recommended for families with the oldest child in second/third grade, there should really be two sheet styles provided for every page: single-ruled lines in greater number for older children (2nd and up) plus wide-ruled handwriting lines for younger children (K/1st). Families would get more mileage out of the sheets that way, and as it stands, the price for the current sheets is far too high (MFW states copying them for multiple children is against copyright rules).


Final Thoughts


The history program is the strongest part of the My Father’s World Adventures in U.S. History package, and it’s the part that our family loved using the best. The science, Bible, art, and music programs are not quite as well developed but still add to what is overall an excellent, easy-to-use, family and child-friendly, thoughtfully designed product. I would strongly recommend it!

All of my children, in kindergarten, second, and fourth, have learned so much. They are now regularly overheard saying things that completely belie their ages like, “John Adams was the second President and then his son was the sixth President,” “That happened after the Civil War ended in 1865,” “It became a state after the Louisiana Purchase,” “That was after Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence,” or “That was the same year as the Gold Rush.” They are all pursuing further reading and hobbies in their spare time that are directly connected to what we learned about in history. They are sharing what they know in conversation. They can be seen acting out and demonstrating what they learned in their play.

They never took notes. I didn’t give a quiz or test. We didn’t do fancy culminating projects. But we read excellent books. We had fantastic conversations. We wrote down and drew things worth remembering. We did hands-on things that they connected to. They were inspired to learn more. They asked excellent questions. They all chose to read far more than I asked them to. Our school year is wrapping up, and they are all still asking questions, still wanting to read more, still pushing the limits of what they know. My Father’s World Adventures in U.S. History has been a highlight of this school year for all of us, and I’m so glad I gave it a chance!



7 comments:

  1. My Father's World is one of our favorite "boxed" curricula programs! I have a love/hate for them, but if I keep myself grounded that it is a "guide" and not a noose around my neck, it is really a wonderful curricula that offers such beautiful literature and structure to keep us on track. We are excited to begin another year with MFW using Exploration to 1850's and add our own extra Charlotte Mason's flair to round it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree! I also tried to see it as a guide and to remember that I could add things in or leave things out as we needed. The structure of the whole program (not having to plan it all out myself!) was wonderful and such a blessing to me this school year.

      Delete
  2. I agree almost 100%! We just finished this as well. The history was great, though I almost wish it was more in depth especially the beginning and ending weeks- they seemed the weakest. Nevertheless we all loved it. I think my biggest issue (apart from the science, music, etc you mentioned- agree 110%) was that I thought it was too easy overall and needed some extra challenges. But we still enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I'm curious if you think you may continue on with mfw or not. I'm taking at least one year off but since it was SO simplistic I'm not sure I'll continue with their curriculum. Wasn't bad, but we need more meat. :)

      Delete
    2. Sounds like we had very similar experiences with the program! I am honestly still in the process of deciding whether or not to use MFW again next year - weighing the conveniences and the strengths of it versus the weaknesses. As a first time user of a boxed program, I was sincerely impressed by the ease of use. The organization of it all, the simple pre-planned projects, and the book lists all made the school year so much easier for me. If I use MFW again, though, I will definitely do more pre-planning in the summer and decide beforehand where and how I can strengthen any areas that seem weak to me. I didn't have that planning time last summer and was really assessing this program and using it in an open-and-go way throughout the school year. Some school years are just like that :) but I do think I could have made even better use of the program if I'd pre-planned more last summer. At this point I'm considering using MFW again but doing something different for science (that was the area of greatest weakness to me), but we'll see! Hope that helps a little.

      Delete
  3. Sarah - I wanted to add that while parts of the program are more simplistic (science, music), I think the history is so well done that it balances out those areas. Particularly once you add in the 'optional' hands-on activities and all the extra literature from the book lists, the history is substantial and engaging. It's for this reason that I'm leaning toward 'yes' on MFW next year, while still knowing that I may have to tweak or change the science (maybe the music, too). Again, hope that helps/clarifies! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it does make complete sense. Thanks! I do know a lot of people who will swap out those subjects which I do think would help a lot. I think myself and MFW are just on very different wavelengths as far as challenges and gentle approach goes... even with adding in the extra activities. I was thinking, if I had planned this out a year ago, that I would've done some kind of science around the history and inventions. Studying the inventors, how they figured it out, trying something along the same lines to do at home, etc. Oh well haha!

      Delete