I taught Adventures this year to my 3rd grader & advanced 1st grader. It was wonderful & they learned so much about our country & every state too! Because I had an older child doing this curriculum, I did add a few things &, in hindsight, would have done a few other things as well.
(1) A neighbor gave me the CD where you learn the states by the Southern, Eastern, Western & Northern borders & then In the Middle. In about 3 weeks, my boys (& even my 3 year old daughter) learned all of the states & could sing the songs & point to all of the states on a map. This was an amazing addition to the year, gave them a sense of accomplishment & will be something they use their entire lives. Now I can tell you which one is New Hampshire & which one is Vermont
. I noticed that this same CD is used later in the 5-year cycle, but would definitely recommend using it with Adventures.
(2) We would color the state sheets & then read the backs. I would try to have them write a summary about each state (at first) but it was just too much. Looking back, I would make a spreadsheet on the computer where they would have typed in one or two sentences about the state after we read about it. At the end of the year, you can then look back & read all of your favorite/most interesting things about each state. We tried to do this at the end of the year & it was amazing that they could remember something, even if it was just the crops or animals, for 35-40 states.
(3) We live on a farm & my boys have been stacking wood, riding 4-wheelers, building forts, etc since they were 3-4 years old. The read alouds were okay but a few just weren't keeping their interest. We ended up reading a bio, that reads as a short adventure story, on Buffalo Bill Cody as a child, when we were learning about the great plains, the railroad & westward expansion. I would also strongly recommend Owls in the Family (no relation to our curriculum) by Farley Mowatt, Fantastic Mr. Fox, the BFG, James & the Giant Peach & pretty much anything else by Roald Dahl. My first grader especially loves Roald Dahl books!
(4) It was recommended that I purchase the 1st grade curriculum for my son, but I chose to teach him handwriting with a dry erase book, phonics with an online program (he thought it was a game for 1/2 the year), and I did use the math curriculum recommended until he finished the book & then he started Singapore 2A. He made amazing strides in all subjects!
(5) The science curriculum for this year was a good overview of pretty much every science topic I can think of
. We were able to explore some things more in-depth when they were really interested in a topic. They loved the experiments. We added an experiment growing different types of field grass that related to or farming & then started lots of vegetables in the spring. We also kept our 2-liter bottle bird feeders filled all winter/spring. I would have them make spreadsheets on the computer to chart their findings, including a bird count in February/March when winter feels like it is dragging on forever. Gave them something to look forward to & be excited about.
(6) Language Arts - We did the recommended program for my 3rd grader until we got to January & realized that we had testing in March. The copywork, dictation, narration approach is wonderful but it is completely different than what is taught in schools. We switched to a vocab workbook curriculum for a few months so that they would be able to do well on the school testing. It took a few weeks before they understood the questions/layout, but I am glad we switched, as they would never have passed the tests without some experience with the similar format of reading comprehension, word comparisons, etc.
My compromise between the more classical copywork, dictation, narration approach & the teaching to the test approach, is to do both so that we don't sacrifice our freedom to teach whatever we want. We now have vocab workbooks for the boys & they do some type of copywork, dictation, writing, grammar or narration activity as well. This does add about 15 minutes to our day, but it is definitely proving to be worthwhile. I can see in their writing & comprehension that it is starting to payoff. I make this cover handwriting too, so that it doesn't add even more time to our schedule. My 3rd grader would write part of his assignments in cursive & I would be checking handwriting for the 1st grader as well.
(7) Bible - We really enjoyed having our daily Bible study. If nothing was assigned on a day, I at least had them copy the memory verse. Looking back, we learned so much about the nature of Jesus, without them really realizing how many verses they were memorizing. I know we could have done 1 every week, but I think the 1 every 2 weeks approach is just right. They have time to really understand the concept & not just memorize the words. I absolutely love how the historical journey that we went on included our faith! This made our entire year special & is what truly set it aside from public schooling. When kids read about other kids with similar faith in their books, it is encouraging & they can relate more easily.
** This was my first year homeschooling. We belong to our school district's homeschooling program, so we get $750 per child for extra-curricular activities & we also get reimbursed for our internet access. I have to pay for MFW because I choose not to use the school district's curriculum, but it is well worth the cost. We do have to test every year instead of just every 2-3 years, but we receive the benefit of being able to go to field trips & a few classes a week as an additional resource. We chose to do our own thing with MFW & then just be involved in very few activities this year. We really needed to establish our own program & have a year by ourselves. The $750 for each boy enabled us to do swimming lessons at lunch time 2x a week for about 4 months, to have a membership at our local science museum, to travel to other cities to see museums, etc & it also paid for soccer, baseball, self-defense, gymnastics, etc. That definitely got us out of the house & gave everyone something exciting to look forward to. Because our kids went to public school until 2nd grade & Kindergarten (plus preschool), this helped make the transition to just being at home a lot easier.
We also got kittens in August, a puppy in February & then 6 chickens & 2 turkeys in March. We are possibly going to raise pigs next year. This has also added a fun element to our schooling. Of course, we can't get new animals every year, but it did make this year very enjoyable.
Our school district's coordinator comes out one time per month to read or do math with the kids. This has been an invaluable resource for me, as a first year teacher
, because then I have some feedback as to our progress. She would notice things that I would over look because that's just how my son had always read or written his letters, etc. Plus it gave the kids someone to "present" their accomplishments/activities to, who was very interested. It also gave me someone to ask for help on how to teach certain math concepts.
Anyway, this post got very long I am afraid, but I hope that it is helpful to others. I have learned so much about myself & my own shortcomings this year, that I am realizing home schooling is another one of God's blessings that will help to refine me in the fire so that I am ready for the amazing future He has in store for us in heaven