Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Ideal Curriculum

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I had the opportunity to review a preschool program called Ideal Curriculum.

Ideal Curriculum is available in print or as a download.  We received the first unit -- Transportation -- as a download.  Each unit contains:

  • Literacy: The program teaches letters and sounds, introduces approximately 100 sight words, works on developing motor skills and other writing skills, explores phonemic and phonological awareness, and develops oral language and vocabulary.  Included in this program is music and games along with the print-based materials.
  • Math: Ideal Curriculum works on basic math concepts such as the number line, rote counting, one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, adjacent values, an basic shapes and number recognition.  The Calendar portion works on various concepts of time.  The plans include a weekly math lesson and a weekly calendar lesson.
  • Science/Social Studies: Each unit has a different theme involving science or social studies.  Within the theme are included picture books, sequencing stories, vocabulary lists, suggestions for library books to supplement the study, and lots of oral language and vocabulary activities.  There are lots of hands-on suggestions in the daily lesson plans.

I did try to use this with my 4 and 6 year olds, and I have a mixed response to it.  Some things we really liked:

  • The transportation part was excellent.  A pretty lengthy list of books you can look for at the library, which is a huge plus for me.
  • The transportation unit includes a lot of great suggestions for things to talk about with your preschoolers.  A statement I saw repeatedly was the reminder that you need to not just do the activity, but discuss it.  And to use specific vocabulary.  On Day 1, you are discussing wheels and axles.
  • The literacy and science sections include a variety of activities -- electronic picture books, hands-on activities, music, games, and more.
  • The literacy section also includes some great teacher coaching, so you understand a bit more about the concepts you are addressing in the activities.
  • The literacy section especially has a lot of great repetition, which is great for preschool ages.
  • It is pretty clearly laid out, so teacher prep is minimal.
Some things that we didn't particularly like:
  • The math section.  Instead of 20 daily lessons like in the literacy and science sections, the math/calendar section includes two weekly lessons (one math, one calendar).
  • Okay, so I know my kids are not exactly normal when it comes to math.  But I was wholly unimpressed with the math concepts being addressed.  Maybe it is appropriate for a three year old, but my four year old was way past it, and it was painfully basic for my six year old.
  • So, to keep ragging on the math -- I know math is not considered as important as learning to read, but... really, 10 minutes per week for math?  That seems way too light.
  • Since I am homeschooling five kids, and my PreK/K kids are the youngest ones, I just had a very difficult time finding the time to do these activities.  We just have so much else going on.
Overall, I like the program, but it is not something that would be worth the money for my family right now.  When my oldest kids were in the PreK/K range there is a lot that would have been valuable to me though, especially the suggestions for discussion and vocabulary.  I could have used more guidance when I was just starting out.  For less money, I would be tempted to get this for just Trina, as I know she would really enjoy a lot of the themes.

But -- I would absolutely add more for math.

Oh!  And if you use the code welovekids when you order in May, you will receive 10% off.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about Ideal Curriculum at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the transportation unit (month 1) for free from the publisher.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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