Using a very gentle, Charlotte Mason approach, My World Science (MWS) took me by surprise! I was expecting a structured narration dictation format as in many other CM science programs I have seen. MWS surprised and delighted me in that they make use of great ‘living’ books, awesome research books, and they include hands on activities and plenty of opportunities for digging deeper, thereby covering all the learning styles with one program. MWS is one of the few programs I have seen that actually delivers what it promises. This will be a huge asset to families attempting to home school with more than one child. It actually IS possible to have a first grade and a fifth grade student working together, enjoying the time, with neither one being left out, short-changed, or overwhelmed.
Maria has included three or four units of study in each of her modules. Each book will take you through a year so there is enough here to comfortably cover the elementary years. The module I reviewed contains Weather, Astronomy, Seashore, and Coral Reefs. Be sure to check out the website for other topics to match your studies, including African Savannah, Rainforests, Woods, Sound & Light, Force & Motion and more.
As mentioned earlier, MWS is written to cover grades one through five and manages to do a very good job despite the wide age range. Each unit is built around one or two recommended books (spines) and begins with a list of objectives for the parent and student, so you know exactly what you are aiming for from the beginning. The objectives are well balanced in that there will be some goals the younger students will find easier to explore and some aimed at the older children. I think all objectives can be understood by all ages, just at differing depths of understanding. Some examples from the weather unit include a) the water cycle, b) reason for earth’s seasons, c) different cloud types, and so on. The weather unit is a bit unique in that all the lessons work towards a final project at the end—that being a home based weather station! The students will be building various weather instruments to be used for your own information gathering. What a great idea.
Before the lesson begins, you are given a list of recommended books, all of which appear to be very easy to find at most libraries, bookstores, or online. The younger years use Eyewitness books and for the older ones the Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia is recommended. I had no difficulty locating and gathering all the supplies I needed for the weather unit and these were all conveniently listed for me in the unit intro. This program saves a lot on the pocketbook because almost all the required supplies are found in and around your home, with a few things that may have to be purchased, but these included only a compass and two thermometers for the weather unit. I was thrilled to find most everything right in my own arsenal of home supplies—a very big plus.
Besides the suggested reading spines that are used throughout the unit, the authors recommend that you choose at least three more books to complement and enrich each topic. Great book lists are included for you as well, and these have been divided into age/grade categories which makes the decision making so much easier. Suggestions have also been given for family read aloud time. This is a very definite perk in my opinion.
MWS follows the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and involves the whole family, which is much nicer than dividing everybody up to do their own thing in their own space. Video/CD and web enrichments are also included keeping your own research time to a bare minimum. The authors have included something for every learning style in each unit, again so your family can work together. I like how the lessons all follow the same format so as teacher you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you change your topic. Each lesson begins with an overview of the idea being presented, and it is gently scripted so you don’t have to read from a text but you can suit the intro to your particular age range without missing any important points. I am just beginning notebooking and flipbooks with my two students that are still at home and these units will be perfect for that method, just make mini books on what has been discovered and gather them all into a lapbook at the end of the study. I can’t wait to try it out fully. When you have been teaching at home for 15+ years, it is nice for mom to have something fresh to work with!
OK, after the overview, reading time is suggested with specific pages from the spine and a place for you to write your own chosen page and book selections, or keep a list of your extra readings. After reading time comes narration. Those familiar with CM will recognize this and those who school in the classical tradition often use narration as well to discuss what the children have learned. Some families do this orally; some require a written sentence or paragraph discussing what they have picked up through the reading time. Either way, narration is an awesome way of helping your student cement the knowledge into their minds. When they can explain something to someone else that means they really own it for themselves!
Application comes next and this is the time where you make use of the included worksheets and the students can record their discoveries on paper to be bound into a notebook or used for reference. There are worksheets for each lesson and the author suggests doing them before the investigation part of the lesson where the hands on, making and doing will take place. You could easily swap the order of the sections, as I did for my busy boy. The worksheets are definitely aimed at the older end of the suggested grade range, and I wouldn’t think you would need them at all with the early grades. There is enough learning and retention for them with the reading, narration, and investigation components. Many of the puzzles and questions, while too difficult for the young ones, work well for your older students. The worksheets are very comprehensive and diverse. Based on what you and they have read, there are puzzles, fill in the blanks, word answers, true, false, etc. so it doesn’t get too predictable. The compiled worksheets will make a great notebook for future reference!
I have a very active boy and investigation/discovery is his favorite thing. After application time comes time for investigation! This is where your students will put to work all that they have learned thus far. There are very interesting experiments and activities that seem to work really well across the age spectrum. The younger ones may need a hand here and there and there may be some things the older siblings can go ahead and do on their own. I really like that Maria has managed to include activities for all, and yet it doesn’t feel like silly busy work, it is just very fun. I also love that the work load for mom is very minimal. There is hardly any prep work and the lesson format just steps it all out one thing after another so it is easy to stop when you need to and pick up at next opportunity.
The suggested time for each lesson is one week, breaking the topic into three or four sessions. I found it so easy to stretch this out when I needed to without any loss of retention. I also could see where you could have a science ‘day’ and just keep going with the investigating and exploring, until you are filled up! You won’t feel pressured with MWS to ‘keep up’ with any prescribed schedule or to meet any time frames other than your own.
My World Science is one of the few science programs I have seen that is pretty accurate in their suggestions of what grade levels to apply to the program. I am looking forward to seeing more of their modules and really enjoying this one so far. MWS isn’t a ‘Christian’ science program per se, but nothing I have seen has offended me or made me adjust my words or my thinking in the slightest. The program uses readily available books that are secular in publishing but can easily be used to enhance your teaching about the amazing world God has created. I worked with the weather unit initially; and the astronomy unit and the seashore, coral reef units all use a series of books called “One Small Square.” These books explore the natural world using one square foot of the given subject. For the seashore, it is one small square of seashore and everything contained within. It is an awesome series and they are used to their full potential with this great program.
There is a review/evaluation at the end of each unit which employs different ways for your student to share what they have learned. Though MWS felt a bit lightweight academically when I first perused it, I was really impressed with how much ‘actual factual’ retention took place. I am sure that most home school moms not desirous of being on the textbook treadmill will embrace this program with open arms. My World Science combines and uses the best of the Charlotte Mason philosophy and the classical model, and makes it doable and enjoyable for the whole family. Isn’t that what home schooling is all about after all? I highly recommend it!