Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flowering Baby Preschool Curriculum, a review

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Flowering Baby is a gentle, year-long curriculum designed to help your little one reach her full potential through fun, developmentally appropriate activities.

Since “preschool” can cover such a wide range of abilities (from birth on up to just before school-age), this program comes in 5 different levels (note:  you will also find a downloadable full-month sample at each of these links):

Volume 1:  Birth to One Year 
Volume 2:  One to Two Years 
Volume 3:  Two to Three Years
Volume 4:  Three to Four Years 

Volume 5:  Four to Five Years

Volumes 1-3 are $30 each.  Volumes 3 and 4 are $38.  Buy the whole 5 year set for $132.  Each level is available in pdf format on cd-rom.

The authors of Flowering Baby, Martha Saunders and Carolyn Schulte, recognize that wee ones change so much in their early months ---there is a world of difference in ability between a 6-month-old and a 12-month-old!   Therefore, the individual levels vary not only in content, but in implementation, as they are designed to work with where your child is at in terms of development.   

The first three levels are based solely on the child’s age.  Once you get to age 3, the levels are organized by calendar month and include activities appropriate to the seasons and holidays, plus more “academic” activities like science, math, and language skills.  There are also added “Theme Units” for exploring certain topics more in-depth.

How did we use Flowering Baby?

PhotobucketI had the opportunity to try out Flowering Baby with my 3-year-old daughter, Emma.  We are using Vol. 4:  Three to Four Years.

Format:

Vol. 4 is contained in 2 pdfs, the “Monthly Curriculum” and the “Theme Units.”  You could easily print these and pop them into a binder (the monthly is about 115 pages, the themes file is shorter).  The pages are mostly black and white text, although there a few small, full-color photos (a few of these illustrate something in the text, but they are mainly examples of student work or cute pics of kids jumping in puddles or painting or some such).

Alternatively, save paper and read them from a tablet or e-reader! There are no printable worksheets, record keeping charts, or cut and paste activities---this program can very easily be used entirely electronically.   There are there are some printable “Learning through Stories” discussion questions in the appendix that you may choose to print, or not.  I was able to read the pdfs on my Kindle (note: Flowering Baby is not in mobi or ePub format and I did need to magnify it to be able to read it), but preferred to print each month so I could easily make notes.

What Flowering Baby is Not.

This is not a printable pack of stuff to put into your child’s workboxes (in fact, there are no printables provided).  It is not a completely self-contained curriculum---you will need to provide your own books or borrow from the library and you will need to provide a large variety of items like blocks, toys, craft supplies, etc.

This is not something you can give to your child to keep her busy.  It is designed to be used one-on-one with your child. 

Now, let’s talk about what Flowering Baby is, starting with the Monthly Curriculum first, which I consider to be the meat of the program.

Monthly Curriculum

After a brief intro, a list of general supplies for the year, a list of good books to keep in your read aloud arsenal, and a list of some educational websites you may find useful, the rest of the Monthly Curriculum is divided by calendar months.

Each month has:

  • A list of supplies for the month
  • Suggested books by topic
  • Which books have “Learning through Stories” questions in the appendix
  • Music to use this month
  • Holidays this month
  • suggested field trips (or extra activities) and websites
  • 10-15 or so “days” of scheduled activities for the month

Days are not dated, so you are free to use the activity days as they fit into your month.  We found that we sometimes combined activities from multiple days into one real day, depending on what our schedule was like.

Each day will have an assortment of activities from these basic categories:

  • ABCs:  becoming familiar with the alphabet, prewriting exercises, writing letters, speech, letter sounds, sequencing, proper pencil grip, etc.
  • Math:  counting, one-to-one correspondence, sorting by size, assembling puzzles, etc.
  • Read:  reading one of the books on the suggested list (or suitable substitution), and acting out the story or discussing it
  • Reasoning:  games and activities that help build critical thinking and puzzle solving
  • Music of the month:  the idea is to expose your child to different types of music (not force them to listen), so it’s suggested that you play it in the background while doing something else
  • Physical:  somersaults, jumping with both feet, standing on one foot, and other demonstrations of physical prowess
  • The month’s topics:  each month has certain topics that are being explored and reinforced.  January’s topics were:  blue, ears/hearing, triangles, and healthy eating.  Some of these activities involve reading a book from the suggested list and others involve hands-on exploration.

You can see that you really are practicing a lot of important skills.  The brilliant thing is that it’s only a little bit at a time and it’s never tedious.

The amount of time it takes to do “a day” varies somewhat depending on that day’s activities and the book chosen, but I’d say the average is about a half hour or so---Emma always wants to do more.

The Theme Units are (generally) less involved.  There are 24 themes, many of them science related.  Like the Monthly Curriculum, each theme gives you a list of suggested books, resources, supplies, websites, and possible field trips or optional activities.  They each have 5-7 days worth of activities.  Typically you’ll read a book and then do a science-related or artistic activity.  Some of the themes:  Winter, Aquarium & Artic Life, Bugs & Birds, Frogs & Fish, My Body, and so on.

The curriculum does not really suggest how to incorporate the Theme Units into the Monthly Curriculum, so I just played it by ear. 

We used the January Monthly Curriculum schedule with the Themes Winter and Family.  Just some the books we read:  Blueberries for Sal, Brave Irene, The Snowman, The Snowy Day, Museum Shapes, Vincent’s Colors, The Hat, The Kissing Hand, and Three Bill Goats Gruff.

On a typical day, you might walk a masking tape shape,

003

Sort by number of “nobs” and learn about ordinal numbers,

009Color using different shades of blue or sort things from light to dark blue,

022work on sequences,

006build a snowman indoors,

008practice some manual dexterity.009and read a book (or several).  And maybe you’ll act out The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  The whole family got in on that one.  Oh yeah, I think we’ll be acting out many more books in the future.

Now, I considered using the Four to Five Years curriculum with Emma, because she will be 4 in a little over a month.  Let’s take a quick look at how Vol. 5 varies from Vol. 4, just in case you’ve got a child straddling the fence, too.

Again, I recommend taking a look at the samples.  Overall, the book selection is very similar, but not exactly the same.  The monthly topics are the same.  The themes for the Theme Units are the same.  Many of the concepts being taught are the same and some of the activities are nearly identical (there are some changes made to allow for the increase in manual dexterity, for instance).

But if you look over Vol. 4 as a whole, there’s an slow overall progression towards doing more verbal communication, more writing, and more combining of concepts.  Vol. 5 is simply a continuation of that progression.  Vol. 5 has your child writing letters and numbers early on, a skill that doesn’t come until the later part of Vol. 4. 

I think Emma will probably be ready for it by her birthday next month. 

What did we think of Flowering Baby?

Emma loves it.  She loves getting the individualized attention.  The activities are fun and not stressful.  She loves having a “book box” (I put all the books for her monthly unit into a bin).  She loves doing “school” with the other kids.

She especially loves it when one of her older siblings does her “school” with her by using the schedule and all the supplies and books I’ve already collected together.  That’s a bonus for me!

What I like:

  • The way the book and supply lists are given at the beginning of each month so I can plan ahead
  • The flexibility---if an activity isn’t a good fit for us, I can just sub something else from another day or skip that day 
  • That I can substitute different books if I like
  • That most of the activities require simple supplies that I already have

What could it be improved?

Remember how I said there are no printables included?  It would be great if this curriculum included some printable sequencing cards, puzzles, etc., all things that are required in order to use it effectively, or some links to freebies online (there really are lots and lots of free options out there).  The truth is…I didn’t know what “sequencing cards” were (doh!), I’d never heard of them before they were mentioned in Flowering Baby, so I had to infer what they were---an explanation would be nice.

Along those same lines, many of the activities involve singing children’s songs like “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”  I’m only familiar with this song at all because my oldest son learned it when he attended kindergarten.  And I don’t know all the words.  It would be a welcome addition to have the words included for any songs.

One last thing---there are some crafts and activities described in this curriculum for which it would be really helpful to have a photo or even a drawing demonstrating what is intended, as it is sometimes difficult to visualize what is being described. 

Overall, I like Flowering Baby.  It is definitely filling a need in our household---it reminds me to give some undivided attention to the youngest member of our family.  And it’s fun.  I recommend it for those with a little one who’s an only (i.e., no older playmates to keep her busy) and for those with a little one who is maybe suffering a bit from attention deficit, because everybody else wants Mommy’s attention.

Visit Flowering Baby for more info and samples of this preschool curriculum.  

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Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

2 comments:

  1. We used the program very successfully in the workboxes. But I guess if you have the traditional idea of workboxes being completely independent of adult interaction then it would be hard to make it work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmmm, well I'm sorry, it was not my intention to imply that Flowering Baby was incompatible with workboxes or that workboxes are only for independent work.

    When I said, "This is not a printable pack of stuff to put into your child’s workboxes...", I wasn't talking about the program's overall compatibility with workboxes or about workboxes in general, but only stating that if someone happened to be looking for a pack of printables to add to workboxes, this program doesn't fit the bill.

    Clear as mud, right? I typed and retyped this, because no matter what wording I use, I can still see how my meaning may not get across. I finally called it quits. I'm going to stop reading between my own lines, now. :)

    ReplyDelete

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