Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Horizons Preschool - A Review

It's difficult to believe that I am in preschool again.  Well, not me really, but we all know that when we are homeschool families at least part of the fun is doing each grade level multiple times.  That is, if you have multiple children at multiple age levels like we do.  The last time I really "did" preschool was when my now 21 year old first began his homeschooling journey with me.  It was fun!  I forgot just how fun those lower, single digit, wee ones can be.  Of course my kids are cool.  They have great imaginations, and they are well on their way to becoming lifetime learners.  But, the fun part of life kind of got overshadowed by the necessary parts of life.  You know.  The messy stuff.  Family drama, big life changes, growing pains, dirty dishes, injuries, and entrepreneurship.  When the opportunity to review Horizons Preschool Set by Alpha Omega Publications came across my desk I was unprepared for the journey I would set out on.  I mean who knew preschool curriculum could spur a reevaluation of priorities and our approach to life?  I know I didn't.

Technically our homeschool won't be back in full swing until October this year.  Can I tell you just how happy I am about making that decision last fall?  This is a routine that will likely see us through many years.  I say likely, because you know as well as I do that things have a way of changing when we least expect it.  This summer has been BONKERS.  We've not even had a few weekends free from commitment or strenuous activity.  There's a lot going on in the Smith Household this summer.  Reviewing Horizons Preschool with Bella was like a breath of fresh air while cleaning the chicken coop.  Taking time to work one on one with her gave us all an opportunity to slow down, even just for a bit.

Alpha Omega Review

I have to say that I really love the way this program is set up.  We've used Alpha Omega Publications in the past, but I was completely unaware that they had a full curriculum for preschool available.  And, honestly, had I not been given the opportunity to review Horizons Preschool we likely would have stayed the course without a boxed curriculum.  Since my curiosity got the better of me it looks like Royal Academy will be using a curriculum for one child for preschool.  We're rather eclectic around here.  So, saying that this curriculum will fit with our style is saying quite a lot really.  There are several things I love about it.

It's easy to use.  There are two teacher guides and two student books, part one and part two.  There is also a consumable resource packet as well as a sing along music CD.  These resources all work together quite nicely.  (Before we even began the curriculum Bella had listened to the CD several times.  It gets listened to quite often outside of our designated work time.)  Everything is laid out in the beginning of the first teacher guide.  There really isn't much to getting started.  It can be as simple or as complex as you would like; appealing to all the teaching and learning styles.  There are optional resources indicated in the guide should you choose to expand on the provided curriculum.  A modified program is also illustrated for those that have less time available or those that choose to take a more relaxed approach, like myself.  Everything is laid out simply for you, and it is completely adjustable to meet any routine or approach.

It's well rounded.  This is a full, Christian curriculum that encompasses every subject.  It's all there; Bible, social studies, science, language arts, phonics, reading, writing, math, shapes and colors, stories, music, arts, and physical education.  This program is so thorough that it is even able to be used in a formal schooling situation or even a daycare.  Everything is there to help you plan ahead, prepare your class room or learning environment, and have your resources prepped before you begin.

It's fun!  Each lesson is designed with a nice flow to keep the young ones engaged in what they are doing.  There are times for paying attention, singing, talking, thinking, using fine motor skills, dancing, making music, and playing.  The need for movement is surely not ignored here.  If we all lived like we were still in preschool what a fun world it would be!

It's simple.  Getting a new curriculum can be overwhelming.  If you're anything like me you have to keep your eyes from glazing over when you flip open the cover and see all the reading that you need to do before you begin the journey.  With Horizons Preschool I felt kind of like that, at first.  Then, once I started reading I quickly began to see just how simple it is.  Don't get bogged down in the details!  The 44 pages before the first lesson are basically just resources you will reference throughout using the program.  You don't need to read it ALL right now.  I mean, you can, but it's okay to take in the format and dig right in.  Fortunately, we have been homeschooling for MANY years.  So, I didn't have to worry about any resources.  If you're new to homeschooling you may want to take a peek at the weekly supply lists to be sure you have everything you'll need for the first month or so.  Even if you are new, I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised at all the things you already have in your home.

Alpha Omega Review
I am happy to discover that Horizons Preschool is a nice fit for Bella.  We enjoyed the few weeks that we explored the curriculum.  Together we did many fun things.  It gave me a chance to gauge her readiness and current knowledge base.  It gave her a chance to be the center of attention when it came to our homeschool.  So far most everything we plan and focus on is based on the needs of our oldest.  So, the younger two get "pulled" along with her.  Of course, they do activities and course work at their level, but it's not based on them.  Now, we have a chance to balance the scales a bit.  This coming year will see Harmony, age 10, on to more independent work which will free up time for more individual instruction with the younger two, ages 4 and 5.  It's rather exciting!

One of the things Horizons Preschool focuses on is colors, and one of our first activities was a nature walk.  It was a rare opportunity for Bella and I to have some fun one on one time since the older two were away from home when we did this.  We are blessed with a country home, so our nature walk was around our property.  The first week focuses on red, green and blue.  Bella had fun walking and running looking for things that were these colors.  We took the camera along to document what we found.

Another activity that we did was also fun for both of us.  It was a lesson on The Trinity.  I just love a good object lesson!  This one is so simple that it left me wondering why on earth I hadn't thought of it myself.  You get an egg and crack it into a container showing the child the three parts of the egg and explaining how the three parts make up the whole.  It was a wonderful lesson for both Bella and myself.  She loved it!  We even saved her egg so she could scramble it up for breakfast the next day.

I think Bella may enjoy using the scissors the most.  She's all about writing, and she loves to learn to write new letters.  When given the opportunity, or when the mood strikes her, she loves to pretend she's writing words by writing the letters that she does know over and over again.  Here's a quick peek at the fun she had doing the hands on activities the past few weeks:

Learning about the number one.

Did I mention she likes to cut?

Cutting triangles from construction paper.
Yes, standing does help.

Avery had to join in the fun!
He did all the blue triangles for Bella.

This made me smile.
The assignment was to draw a picture of your family.
Bella made us all into balloons.

The dry erase board is wonderful for teaching letters.

Now that we've had the opportunity to give Horizons Preschool a trial run in our homeschool we are even more excited about our upcoming school year.  Between now and October I will be doing a lot of planning, and working this curriculum into our routine will definitely be part of that process.  Bella is excited about preschool, and so am I!

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