I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I hold a degree in Early Childhood Development, have worked in many a preschool setting (Montessori schools, home day cares, and of course-the real "learn as you go" classroom experience of raising 4 children, and also my nephew [for a time], and a few extra kids thrown in there for good measure-all during their preschool years). That said-I feel quite qualified to give an opinion on preschool-aged curriculum. In fact, it is one area I am passionate about. I maintain a very strong position regarding the methods, and best approach to navigate the preschool era of life. But before I delve further into my penning of said things, I would like to give you some information on the Ideal Curriculum: Transportation.
I received the download of this unit, but a print version is available-so visit their page to see which one best suits your needs. The unit offers a lesson plans and materials to introduce/teach:
- Letters and sounds- Learn letters very fluently; upper and lower case, quickly and accurately, recognize letters from different fonts and sizes
- Learn basic sight words- There are about 30 level one sight words that provide the foundation for reading and writing. There are about 100 sight words that build reading fluency.
- Exploring the ability to write- Develop motor skills and hand strength, gain a concept of themselves as a writer, learn to write their own name, learn to write the letters and move into writing sentences and stories.
- Be able to hear, recognize and manipulate sounds of language-Develop skills in rhyming, breaking sentences into words, breaking words into syllables, breaking syllables into onset and rime, breaking words into individual sounds or phonemes and blending them back together
- Oral language and vocabulary- expanding their vocabulary, understanding concepts, increasing their ability to express themselves using higher level language structure.
- Science and social studies- Developing concepts of how the world works.
- Math- Build and use a mental number line, master rote counting (counting in order, forwards and backwards), one to one correspondence (be able to touch and count pennies or m&m’s), cardinality (how many), adjacent values (what is next to 7?), basic Shapes, number recognition.
- Calendar- Learn basics of scheduling and remmbering and learn parts of the calendar.
This kit is a month's worth of material, covering the above subjects-centering on transportation as the main theme, with a few sub-topics thrown in there as well. There are additional suggestions for books, and play activities that will require the instructor to locate, and have ahead of time-but it is not overwhelmingly difficult to do so. Then each month-you can move into their next unit. They do have some videos demonstrating teaching techniques, and they provide a newsletter for further support. What's more, they offer a free trial (and I strongly encourage you to take them up on that. You will need to see for yourself, if this is something that will suit your needs) on one week's worth of material when you sign up for their eZine newsletter. This is very teacher directed material, which requires prep time, and your constant involvement; but thankfully, they provide helpful teacher's manuals to clarify their goals and what you need to do to successfully navigate their curricula.
Now for my thoughts:
It is pretty clear the original target here is for the preschool programs ran in schools and daycares. This is quite typical in nature, to what you will find in those classrooms. The material is scripted at times, and asks the teacher to perform recall exercises which, most moms do naturally anyhow (that is called Motherese). So it does come off a bit overdone or unnecessary (but one could simply skip over that part) in a few areas for most typical homeschool families. I am also against teaching sight words to children this age [which is a part of the Ideal Curriculum] and that is one of my biggest issues with this program. Obviously, we stand on two very different islands of thought, regarding how to best instruct little ones, and you need to keep that in mind as you ponder this. My take may not match yours, so decide what you feel best suits your family, and go from there.
Granted, some of the songs were catchy and easy to learn-and we all know how a young child loves to hear and sing their favorite songs. The sound bingo is a good way to help the child recognize the letters, also having them find/point out/write their ABCs is something quite manageable and necessary (eventually-should not be done if the child is absolutely not ready for it tho), and the caterpillar letter shape lesson, and lines tracing activities rendered themselves useful too. Some of the noted activities were OK. But nothing earth shattering, because frankly-most of us would and could come up with those from our own experiences, exposure to other mums, or just by picking up a few books on preschool activities from the library.
So, for those who are greener than a sailor on his first day out to sea, during hurricane season-this could be a good fit. For those who have had absolutely no experience with these little peeps, and are totally in the dark as to what, and where to go-perhaps this may suit your needs. It totally depends on your personal convictions and ideology regarding how to approach early learning. I like to stay along the lines of what the good Lord wove within these marvelous wonders right from conception-a nature curiosity of the world, with an innate ability to learn through exploration and observation. To let the "formal" stuff remain shelved until a later age, to let the littles enjoy being little, and not kill their desire to learn by overburdening them with unnecessary busywork.
There seems to be (in my opinion) not enough truly useful material to warrant the cost of the program. I could easily find other avenues to gain a nice collection of goodies, in order to teach a preschool-aged child and then some-for far less than their fees. I simply would not have used this with my own children. Too frank? Yes, but since I am being asked to provide my honest opinion-you've got it right there. My apologies to the Ideal Curriculum company, as I am sure your materials have been, and will continue to be a blessing to many-I am simply do not feel comfy recommending something that is in opposition to my [deeply rooted] passion, regarding this matter.
I want to give this a 1/2 a raft due to the reasons noted above-but I do not
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For the month of May-you can get a 10% discount by noting the code: "welovekids" when ordering.
Download for Transportation unit (month 1) : $30 [all other one month downloads are the same price], Print Version (available in May 2010): $55
Units 2-9 will be available in June [download] and May 2010 [print]
3 months combo download: $85.50 (available in June 2010), Print combo version: $156 (available in May 2010)
9 months combo download: $240 (available in June 2010), Print combo version: $440 (available in May 2010)
Don't forget to check out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.
***Ideal Curriculum provided me with a free download of the Transportation Unit (month 1), to go through, analyze and review. No financial compensation was exchanged for my honest opinion of this product.