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My Father's World Review by Heidi Shaw

"I have never seen a curriculum that inspired me or led me to believe that Kindergarten was needed or necessary in my home. Until now." - The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

I have been a homeschooling parent full-time for 14 years. I have taught four kids to read, graduated one, have two more in senior high, and a preschooler up and coming. I tell you this not to try to impress you, but to share with you that in all my years of homeschooling I have seen and tried a multitude of curricula. From a straight text-based program to online assistance to free wheeling "unschooling," I have literally been there, tried that. I have never seen a curriculum that inspired me or led me to believe that Kindergarten was needed or necessary in my home. Until now.

Marie Hazell has totally changed my outlook on early education. She and her husband David have developed a Kindergarten curriculum that is so full of fun, delight, and ease of use that I am amazed. I am SO excited to be able to share with you some of the delights this program contains.

Totally Christ-centered, this program will gently introduce your child to many different aspects of our wonderful world via a journey of letters. Each week will focus on a different letter of the alphabet. As the weeks progress, you will encounter everything from S for sun, learning that God made the sun, what it does for us, a bit about the weather, and of course how to write and sound out the letter. K for kangaroo takes you to Australia; R for rock and we go underground!

Lovely, realistic flashcards are included in the kit as well as a student workbook, game cards, handwriting charts, calendar sheets, and more. At the heart of all this is the best Teacher's Manual that I have ever used. Naturally scripted and constructed thoughtfully, you won't be constantly flipping back and forth trying to figure out what should come next or what step you are on. Mrs. Hazell has written this for use in a class or home setting, and coaching is given for both scenarios.

The beauty is that you need only learn the basic method and then you just plug in the letter of the week. There are fun activities for each day that focus on that letter, its sounds, and its formation (handwriting is included - manuscript). Each day varies in its layout and approach, but the focus on laying down a routine of learning is woven into a beautiful tapestry. There is no boredom because the activities vary and the topics are fascinating. Every week you will do the following "daily reading plans." They are so easy to follow. Encouraging and productive, this plan really works. You simply do the plan for each day, then implement the included plan for the science topic of the week. The kids love it and you will too. If a free wheeling person like me loves this program this much, those of you who already love to have a routine will adore it.

So, in a large nutshell, here are the bones of the program:

Day 1 - Introduce new letter and sound. Mrs. Hazell suggests using textured foam letters. You will also use the included flash cards. Sing the song provided for that letter and cut out picture cards from the workbook that corresponds. Trace the letter and play some tactile activities to reinforce the letter.

Day 2 - Sing short vowel song and practice handwriting (manuscript). Do a picture box activity (cards and instructions included) and a workbook page to review sound recognition.

Day 3 - Sing the "sound song." Practice with letter sounds and work on blending letters (chart included). Do a math activity and page from the workbook (included), a cut and paste page for un and recognition, and play letter sound bingo (cards included).

Day 4 - ABC song and letter review to ensure all letter names, not sounds, are known. Mrs. Hazell does mention that some students may be frustrated learning sounds and names for all the letters. If this is the case, skip the activities dealing with names because sounds are far more important in learning to read. More ladder blends and a workbook page on beginning words ( just six weeks in they are blending to make real words!). Play a go fish game or another tactile activity.

Day 5 - Short vowel song, drawing page from workbook, and a cut and paste page. There are activities here for building their own stories as well.

Day 6 - No reading plan because it's BOOK DAY! Read story and do activities (instructions included, story list also).

Besides letter recognition and phonics, MFW has a full plan of science topics that are matched to the letter of the week, and all the weeks' activities are tied to or aimed at that theme. The 26 activity lessons (one for each letter) are actually individual teaching plans that incorporate one or more of these topics: science, math, Bible, art, literature, and creative thinking. You are encouraged to modify, add, or delete as you need for your own situation. These flexible plans are implemented after the day's reading plan. For example, lesson 7 is the letter U - the theme is "US-God made us wonderful."

On Day 1, you discuss information on the human body from World Book, or any texts you choose and focus on the sense of touch. Day 2 the focus is on hearing; you will make musical instruments and look at the ear. Day 3 is smell, Day 4 is sight, and Day 5 is taste. Each day has its own special activity, song, or game that reinforces the theme and focuses on the reading and the discussion that has taken place during teaching time. Never too much, just enough information is always given. It seems Mrs. Hazell had an internal monitor to know exactly how much detail a Kindergarten student needs. The teachers' suggestion here is that you study the 26 themes ahead of time and prepare file folders labeled with the topic of the week. Then as you come across pictures, stories, or accessories, you will have a place to file it and it will be readily at hand when needed.

An interesting note about MFW is that each lesson is divided into six days, not five. You can rotate your "Day 1" throughout the weeks or you could start always on Monday and have "Day 6" on Saturday. Day 6 is Book Day where you will delve into your book basket and read stories about the topic at hand. Day 6 is a key component in fostering a love of reading and highly encouraged. Don't skip it simply because it's "just reading." Nature walks are suggested for Day 6 as well. If you take the amazingly well crafted reading lessons, the great math activities, and add in the science themes, you start to get a taste of how fun your year is going to be.

I believe MFW Kindergarten combines the absolute best beginnings for Charlotte Mason style educators, Unit Study homeschoolers, Classical Education advocates; even those who will be following a structured plan for the formal years will enjoy this curriculum. It really covers the best of all methods and is easy enough for anyone to implement, even with lots of younger ones milling around. You can have a joyous, Christ-centered Kindergarten program. What a fantastic way to start a child's educational journey. I wish it had been around 10 years ago, but I am very glad to have it available now.

I give this absolutely five stars. Highly, highly recommended by this homeschool mom who has seen most of what's out there. You won't be disappointed. Oh, and the Hazells love to communicate, so if you have any questions or concerns, check out their website and e-mail them - they would love to meet you.

I also have reviewed the Hazells' new curriculum, Exploring Countries and Cultures in My Father's World. Read it below!

Product Review by Heidi Shaw; The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Exploring Countries and Cultures in My Father's World
By Marie Hazell

Let me start by saying that this is no ordinary curriculum, and the Hazell's are no ordinary authors - these folks have spent eight years in Siberia, following the Lord's leading, and translating the Bible for a previously unreached people group. David and Marie and their family have been whereof they teach, they have seen the world, felt the need, and now they are back in the U.S. writing for children with the prayer of equipping a generation of children to see God's hand in all of history, and share God's heart for the nations. They also support the ongoing work of translating the Bible into languages for minority groups that don't have their own written language.

Just knowing this about the Hazell family intrigued me. I couldn't wait to see what they would come up with in terms of a geography curriculum, and I was totally blown away. Following the teachings of Charlotte Mason, with their own uniquely developed ideas for unit studies, Marie and David have produced a geography unit study package that is one of the best I have seen in every way. Ease of use, enjoyment, variety, and academic achievement as well. I am a veteran high school mom now, and I long ago stopped looking for the perfect curriculum, but let me tell you, this one comes as close as is possible - and it has appeal and interest for everybody. Come take a look with me.

Exploring Countries and Cultures in My Father's World will open your student's eyes as to how vast and varied this world is and how big and magnificent is the God who created it all. Focusing on geography for the first of a projected five-year plan is, in my opinion, a great idea. Helping the kids get a handle on the size of this globe, on the types of environments people live in, and on the cultures that other children grow in can only give them a firmer grip on the unfolding of history as they learn it in later years. They will know when learning about Ancient Egypt and the Nile river valley, because they will know where Egypt is! They will understand about the Mongols and the invading hordes, because they will have studied the vastness of Russia and China. They will connect with the stories of the Aztecs and Incas, because they have already learned where South America is and learned how the people of the jungle developed their own unique cultures. So, set sail with your children and enjoy alongside them the amazing creativity and genius of God in the building of this planet where we live.

No matter what your style or stage of homeschooling, MFW has something for you. Moms new to homeschooling will love the well laid out weekly lesson plans. Complete on one sheet for each week with any extra instructions on the very next page, you won't have to fret about flipping around big teachers manuals to find your space. The lessons are easy to implement and the books can all be copied for extra children in the home. You can relax and enjoy your journey with the children knowing that the bases have all been covered and you can easily keep track of where you are at any given time!

For moms of many, you will be thrilled at how adaptable the program is to differing ages and stages. All the books are able to be copied and each child will be making their own notebooks as they "visit" different countries. The difference will be in how much detail and content each child brings to their book. All grades from two through six can join in together and read about the same missionaries, discover the same countries, and share the same discussions. The older ones go on to build a more detailed book with pages from World Geography, among others. There are easy instructions for each activity and art projects are also included right in the book, or the accompanying Global Art book. There should be plenty to keep your children active, so even if you need one-on-one time with a certain child, the others can carry on or delve into the book basket for some reading at their own levels. Responsibility for their own work is rightly handed to the older children, while still having mom close by for accountability and encouragement. And no one feels left out because all are studying the same theme each week.

For the veteran mom like me, you may well consider this program a gift from God. If you have always planned and sourced out your own curriculum and made your own lesson plans, Exploring Countries and Cultures will be an enjoyable respite for you and, I discovered, a delight to be able to be in anticipation with my kids as to what was coming next (I only read one or two weeks ahead, so then it is fun for me too, and I can still order books from the awesome resource lists to put in the book baskets when we get there)! The library is indispensable to me as a mom of five and Marie has prepared great reading lists for each unit, placed with each unit, so I can find it easily and get the books coming in on time. There is enough flexibility and free time with this program that you can easily schedule in extra activities, field trips, or service projects for your kids while still following the lesson plans. Another thing I like is that the lesson plans are not dated so you can stop and start if need be and always be in the right spot! Or you can tweak it and jump around a bit in the units, to follow your children's specific areas of interest. No harm will come from visiting Australia before South America or vice versa - it just flows beautifully however you arrange it. I encourage you to take the opportunity to try an all-in-one unit study, and maybe, like me, you will be pleasantly reminded as to why you began homeschooling in the first place - you can all be learning together and enjoying each other!

Those of you who love CM philosophy and techniques, you will find oodles of great things in these pages. Marie loves the CM philosophy of gentle, natural learning, and it shows! The nature walks some of us only dream of starting are built right into the plan, along with tons of great ideas, living books, and "twaddle-free" activities. Lots of dictation, narration, and read aloud will let you follow the principles Miss Mason espouses, and allow you the freedom and time to enjoy them!

For those of us who like to have traditional, text-based programs, you will enjoy this program as well. Marie has written a schedule for each week incorporating specific books, most of which could stand alone and be worked on independently, just as with text books. The kids can set their own pace to get through the books and they have the benefit of having great art projects to choose from to give some variety, and tons of great reading selections, any of which you can use for book report material, if you so desired. The programs that Mrs. Hazell recommends for spelling and writing were designed to be used on their own rather than as part of a unit of study, so you can always structure your time the way you like it.

As you can see, this program has broad appeal for all walks of homeschooling. I have learned we are a very eclectic group and I am amazed at the versatility built into this plan.

The whole Exploring Countries and Cultures program can be built on your own, requiring purchase of the guide only. However, I strongly recommend you consider purchasing the whole package. Everything comes together, even the stickers for the passports the kids will be using. I have SO enjoyed this year not having to go looking for everything I will need. I am one who likes to get the best deal on everything, and I love the hunt, so I was a bit surprised at my own reaction. I just loved receiving the box full of books and it is very economical. Everything is reproducible for your own family and so you always have the core books. I know that we will use a lot of them over again in years to come. Many are non consumable like the wonderful Windows on the World and Hero Tales; they will remain a part of my library forever.

Bible is an integral part of this curriculum, and rightly so. Every week, handwriting practice and dictation will be used to help students memorize verses from the Bible. The Hero Tales book will be used for dictation of character qualities, and you will be reading about missionaries and the work they have done in almost every country you visit. The books chosen have been selected with great care. As Bible translators themselves, David and Marie know the importance of God's Word and how vital it is to our daily lives. I like that I find this sentiment throughout the program. I really feel that we are accomplishing something with a more eternal purpose than just our math and reading skills.

The first two weeks of the program are building block weeks. You will learn and read about the world as a whole, learn the basics of map reading, learn how to identify where a location is in the world and generally get a taste for different cultures everywhere. From there, you will be touring the globe, visiting different continents and countries within those continents. Science is incorporated every week, and the topics here integrate into the area you are visiting. During science, you will be discovering the different climates, eco-systems, and topography found in the area of study. You will travel from desert to mountain to tropical rain forest and meet the animals and vegetation in each location. The science books were chosen carefully, for their excellent academic content and high interest level. You will find some evolutionary comment, as these are not purely creationist books, because the Hazells were looking for the best to discuss the topic needed. What you do with that information is up to you. I tend to agree with the authors that this is a perfect opportunity to discuss with the kids the whole creation vs. evolution topic. Read up and have answers ready for them. There is not much in these books to disagree with and it's important that the kids know what the rest of the world believes. That we have the privilege of teaching them the correct point of view with no distortion, is a joy to me, and I find the kids really like the discussions that go on in our house!

So, what will you need to add to MFW, Countries and Cultures'? Within the package, you will find books covering Bible, geography, science, and some language arts. music, art and math drill are also included. You can choose to add the specific recommendations for English (Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons), spelling (Spelling Power), and writing, (Writing Strands), or you can do as I do and integrate the programs you are using already. The lesson plans block out the time frame for you, how you use those times is up to you. This flexibility of MFW is another thing I love about it. I can take the fantastic plan they offer, add my own flavor to it, and have a wonderful year to which we will look forward. I can't wait! You will need to use a math program - anything that fits your family will work well here. There are some math activities included, such as learning about each countries' currency and how to exchange it, and what it is worth compared to our own. There is also a time blocked for math drill and there are great little drill cards included in the basic package.

Great reading lists are also included, as I mentioned above. Marie has this wonderful part of the plan called "Reading Basket." This is time set aside for the kids to choose books to read from baskets that you have stocked with choices from the lists. The result is that even when you have to be one-on-one with a child, tending to a baby, or busy elsewhere, productive time is still happening. The kids choose and read from pre-stocked baskets that correlate to the country they are studying. My kids LOVE having their own choice, and yet I still control the content.

You will also find sample schedules - including what works for the Hazells' busy family. You will also find many great hints and ideas to help your days flow. I love the music, Wee Sing Around the World, included in the basic package, gives our days some fun and variety. All the extra sheets you need for copying each week are in the appendix at the back of the book. There is so much variety in each week's suggestions that it never becomes predictable. Some activities carry on from week to week and others appear interspersed throughout the weeks.

There is also a great fellowship board available to access from the main web site. The web site is and the board is Marie often stops in to answer questions and to encourage. The ladies on this board are all as excited about this program as I am, come on over and find out why!

By the end of your year in My Fathers' World, you will have completed activities, built your own notebooks, met wonderful missionaries, discovered cultures, and traveled around the world. It doesn't get much better than this! Bon Voyage and don't forget to write!

Product Review by Heidi Shaw; The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine