Sigh of joy and relief... we finished week 12 of school and we are breaking for Thanksgiving! Things have been going great, but I was wise and planned for some time off. The old teacher-mom in me would think, "Nah, we can keep going!". No, we need a little vacation.
With that said, I'll get to the thrust of my post. Quite a while ago, a blogging friend asked me for more information on My Father's World curriculum. I am only a first-time user this school year, so I certainly don't know all the ins and outs, but I will attempt to share what I've learned and experienced so far.
My Father's World is an all-in-one curriculum provider, meaning when you purchase one of their core programs, you receive a complete year of social studies, science, art, music, and read aloud literature. The teacher's guide pulls all the included books together, schedules them for you, and supplies hands on project ideas, language arts suggestions, and more. You add math, English, foreign language, writing, and spelling of your choice. They sell their preferred version of these, including Singapore Math, Spelling Power, Writing Strands, Emma Searl's Language arts, and Rosetta Stone, but they can all be substituted with your own preferences.
The cores follow a five year chronological history cycle. They are designed to be multi-level for grades three through eight. This means you can teach all of your children that are at this level together, however the teacher's guide has some work that is designated for "Advanced" students.
Other all-in-one programs include Sonlight and Winter Promise. Again, you purchase a core of books and receive a teacher's guide that outlines how to use the materials to teach your children.
By contrast, there are many, many home education products available that teach only one subject, such as Apologia Science, or The Mystery of History. These often have teacher's guides available along with suggested teaching schedules. You could make your own combination of these curriculum to create your own "core".
For the first five years of homeschool, I used The Weaver curriculum from Alpha Omega. It is a unit study series made up of five volumes that move chronologically through the Bible, deriving the units studies from here. Book suggestions are given, but they are rather outdated since it has not been updated since 2001. It requires a lot of teacher planning and the purchase of books of your choice, or the frequent use of a library. I personally enjoyed the planning process for those years that we did it. I liked choosing the extra books to teach the units and choosing our own read alouds. However, last year I grew weary of so much resting on my shoulders.
I have always loved the idea of using Sonlight, as I am such an avid book fan, and a book collector, and I believe it is a very rich curriculum. However, it has not yet felt like the right fit for my children. My sister-in-law used My Father's World for the past two years and found it very easy to use and very complete. The first thing that sparked my interest was the teacher's guide, laid out in a very easy chart form for each week of lesson plans. I just liked the look of it. I have looked at many curriculums that are wonderful, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around the teacher's guide. My Father's World is laid out very simply. A list of materials required is given at the beginning of each week, a list of photocopies needed at the beginning of each unit.
That's another thing I love- the units! Unit studies work great for me and my children. I love dwelling on one topic for an extended period of time. But not too long- almost every unit this year in Exploring Countries and Cultures is two weeks long. Plenty of time to get a feel for our topic, but not get bored. Hands on projects that are easy are given in the teacher's guide. I don't feel the need to do everything, though.
You can purchase either a basic or deluxe package for each core that My Father's World offers. The basic package includes the books necessary for social studies, science, and Bible. The deluxe package includes scheduled read-alouds, art, music, and perhaps some fun kits like an ant farm or magnet set. Their prices are very reasonable because they also suggest a "Book Basket" for each core. In the back of each teacher's guide is a list of books by unit that could supplement the program and provide further learning. It's a list you can take with you to your local library or purchase some books of interest new or used. The packages provides everything you need; the book basket is if you want more. I love this aspect of the curriculum. I don't have to do all the planning, but I still get to enjoy picking particular books I think my children will love.
While the schedule is very thorough, I don't feel like we are doing so much school work that we don't have time to enjoy play, going outside, or work around the house.
The most important aspect of My Father's World, for me, is it's Biblical worldview and the integration of everything with the Bible. Bible is not an isolated subject. We are memorizing verses, using them as copywork and dictation exercises, and reading about great heroes of the faith and the work God is doing around the world. This is not a west-centric curriculum. In our 12 weeks so far, I've seen amazing fruit in my children's lives and my own when it comes to the things of the Lord. This is irreplacable and this is why I home school.
Each time we finish a week, I literally want to sing the praises of this curriculum because it is not a chore to get through, or another thing to accomplish in my busy day. Yes, it is work of course, but it has eased the burden I began to carry in trying to do everything myself. I honestly think "What on earth was I doing the past five years, planning everything myself! This is so much easier!" And it is a great fit for us.
I got to hear David Hazell speak at the Great Homeschool Convention in Hartford this past June. He and his wife Marie are the writers of My Father's World. They are former missionaries and Bible translators. I had already bought my Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum when I heard him, but it confirmed our choice for the new year. To me, it truly does bring together the "best of" unit studies, Charlotte Mason, and classical education, and it's only our first year, and twelve weeks into it.
There is a great community of families that use this curriculum. It's fun to see what they are up to on their blogs or on the message boards. This is something I missed during my five previous years too. It's a real encouragement to read about how others are being blessed by the curriculum too, and to get ideas for alernate projects etc. My children love that we are doing the same school as their cousins and vice versa. I think we all enjoy feeling like we have something in common with others.
It's very easy to do school on-the-go with My Father's World. Several times we have gone to visit my parents and just packed up my Desk Apprentice from Staples with all our books in it and my teacher's guide. We've had everything we need to easily get school done while we are away.
There is certainly a lot more to this wonderful curriculum than I can expound on. Again, it is my first year, and I have not used the K-2 programs that MFW offers. But I think my thoughts are an accurate reflection on the grade 3-8 Family Cycle. It's such a great fit for us this year and I would already go so far as to say it's our best year ever, partially because my own work load is lighter thanks to the wonderful teacher's guide. Home education curriculum has come so far and there is so much to choose from, it can be extremely daunting. My hope is that you find the resources for your family that are just the right fit.