After all the reviews I have done, I was finally able to do one for Anah! For the past five months, we have slowly been developing a "school" routine for her. She loves to learn, but I had a hard time figuring out how to teach someone who didn't know how to speak the language and was still functioning on a very young level. Sounds like a toddler to me! I also was able to use it with Jonathan as well, so it served double duty in our home. Company Information: Flowering Baby, LLC, is a curriculum that provides "a whole child developmental approach from birth to age five." Written by homeschooling mom, Martha Saunders, for her son, with the inspiration and help of her mother, Carolyn Schulte, this program seeks to cultivate all areas of a child's early years, from language to gross motor development to music appreciation to life skills to literature...and more!
Price: $132 for the entire five year curriculum on CDs. $30 each for Birth to One, One to Two, and Two to Three, $38 for Three to Four and Four to Five. (Click on each of these for a one-month sample of the curriculum.)
Most of the activities require only a few simple household supplies or a trip to the library to obtain the recommended books. Of course, if you'd prefer, you can always purchase the books used or new. If so, plan on a little extra in the budget. Also, the curriculum suggests that you listen to classical music by particular composers, so if you do not have these, you may need to plan on borrowing or purchasing CDs of these works.
Age Range: Children from birth to age five, or children in that developmental stage. I used this curriculum with my preschooler (just turned five) and my Down Syndrome daughter, age seven.
Parental Preparation: I spent some time reading through the introduction, which didn't take long, then printed out the first month's activities. For the Four to Five year old program, there is the monthly curriculum plus a theme curriculum. I found reading the introduction very helpful for this program. It was recommended that we pick two thematic units to focus on per month in addition to the monthly guide, so I also printed out these pages as well. For Jonathan, we chose musical instruments and the farm units.
After printing everything out, I went through noted any special supplies or needs. If you are using the program for the entire year, a handy list of supplies is included in the beginning of the curriculum. As I collected these supplies, I put them in a paper bag for easy access. I also took note of the books that were needed and put holds on them in our library or purchased them used on Amazon.
How We Used It:
Before beginning, I skimmed through each year's curriculum to determine the best starting place for Anah. She was comfortably past all the Birth to One activities, but the Two to Three ones assumed some skills and vocabulary that she did not possess yet. I wanted her to be successful, so I opted to begin at a lower level and make sure her foundation was firmly set first.
Even as I was reading through the curriculum, I wasn't too certain how quickly Anah was going to be able to go through the activities. What I then did was wrote the activities down on index cards sans dates. There were some in that first month that I knew would make excellent activities, but I didn't want to overwhelm her by moving too quickly.
By having the activities written on the cards, I knew that I could spend as much time as she needed on one concept and then move on to another when she was ready without the pressure of feeling "behind". On the other hand, I didn't want to just do the same things over and over again. Having the ideas on cards allowed me to pick and choose from different new activities that she could do even while reviewing the old. In this way, we followed the curriculum, but I was able to tailor it to her pace and needs.
Each day, I would select the cards we were going to work on for our 20 minute session. If we needed more time, I would repeat that card the next day. Having them on cards made them a little more flexible for me. This is entirely optional, but I knew that I didn't want the time I had with her to be frustrating for either one of us because she couldn't move as quickly as the curriculum specified.
With the activities written out on cards, I was also able to group them in a way that made sense for us. Since we were learning facial parts, I also added "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" as it fit the theme. That has since become her favorite song, and she loves to sing it over and over! (And she has learned how to point to and say--in her own way--all those parts too!) Other activities she really enjoyed was dropping marbles through a cardboard tube (she did this for over an hour, several times!) and playing "hide and seek" with her baby doll. When I first read them, I thought they would be too simplistic for her, but not so--she really enjoyed them, which confirmed to me that I started her at the right level.
As for Jonathan, I used the curriculum as a "tickler" of ideas. Some of the listed activities were already covered in some of the other programs we were using (or covered differently and I didn't want to confuse him). But there was plenty to do each day even if I skipped some of those things. The activities were a great way to extend what he already knew by making him use it. For example, even though he knew what triangles were, it was another thing to actually use tape to make one on the floor.
The curriculum also gave me some ideas of things I should teach him but may otherwise forget, like our phone number or 911. This led to a great activity where he used my cell phone to dial our home phone (yes, we still have one of those). We talked about area code and everything...something basic that I don't often think about anymore because we have programmed phone numbers. However, he doesn't have a phone and therefore, learning his number would be very important.
For us, the most fun part was the theme units. We especially enjoyed the musical instruments study. The theme unit suggested several books, and we actually had one of them, so I focused our whole time on that. I found some coloring pages on the internet and we would listen to music and color. Today, he found a flyer from our city's orchestra, and we were able to talk about the instruments that we had studied. (We then made plans to go and attend one of their upcoming performances...a great way to extend what we're learning!)
What We Liked:
- The activities were very simple and basic. The One to Two year curriculum used materials already on hand: stuffed animals, hand mirrors, laundry baskets, baby blankets, etc. I liked the suggestions for how to turn these ordinary items into learning games and activities.
- I liked the way the lessons were sequentially spaced. Skills are introduced in order, which allows things to be built a little at a time.
- I especially enjoyed incorporating classical music into our day. It is easy and simple and not as difficult as it appears.
- The themes for the Four to Five curriculum had a wonderful variety of easy activities to do to enrich the books we read. For my hands-on learner, this is so important!
- I liked how she allowed us to pick our own themes to work at our time that fit our family instead of assigning a theme each month. Flexibility...that's the way I like it!
What We Didn't Like:
- I personally didn't like having a day assigned to an activity. I know that is for meant to provide structure and pacing, but I didn't actually follow them day by day. I did the activities, but on our own pace. For Anah, that was slower. For Jonathan, we worked a little faster.
- I found Gingerbread Baby, recommended in the first month, a little too advanced for Anah in the One to Two year level. Jonathan, on the other hand, enjoyed it. However, I still read it to her, and used the time for enjoying the pictures and naming the animals instead. Use your discretion when reading and feel free to substitute. The point is to read, even if it isn't the book that is listed on the lesson plan.
I have really appreciated this curriculum, especially for Anah, as we begin our homeschooling journey with her. I have found so many simple activities to do that are really covering so many areas of her development. I have also enjoyed the doors to discovery that the preschool program has provided for Jonathan through the themes. They are simple, yet easy to expand on if we find a topic that we really like. I am looking forward to using this with Anah in the years to come and watch her "flower" and grow!