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Starfall Pre-K Homeschool Kit Review by Jenn PorscheStarfall Education Foundation
PO BOX 359
Boulder, CO 80306
My preschooler always wants to do schoolwork like her older siblings. As a busy homeschooling mom, I don’t have much time to piece together my own curriculum. Many people are familiar with the popular learning website Starfall.com, but did you know they also offer a Pre-K Homeschool Kit as well? Starfall Pre-K Homeschool Kit is a complete curriculum set that includes everything you need to teach twenty-five weeks of Pre-K. Other than opening packages and arranging a few things, it is ready to teach straight out of the box. Also included with the curriculum is a one-year subscription to Starfall.com.
Starfall Pre-K Homeschool Kit is designed to meet many states’ learning goals and is Common Core Ready. There are seven themed units with lessons which are broken up into two semesters. The Teacher’s Guide contains almost six hundred colored pages chock full of lesson plans. There are two binders included to put all the lesson plans into. It starts out with a “Read Me First” section which covers many things such as daily routines to the yearly-theme plan. One thing to note is that the Teacher’s Guide is set up as if you were teaching a Pre-K classroom with several children. This threw me off a little bit as I was under the impression, since it was called a Homeschool Kit, that it was written for a single student. This wasn’t a huge deal as I just ended up making adjustments on how we used it. The section on classroom preparation I really didn’t need. I did use a few suggestions such as hanging up some of the posters and wall cards though.
Also at the beginning of the Teacher’s Guide is an overview of the Yearly-Theme Plan. This lists what each individual unit will be covering such as the target letters and what literature is being used. It then goes on to list what the child will know by the end of the school year. After that, there is a forty-seven-page section that covers the seasonal holidays. Each holiday gives book suggestions, crafts and activities, games, songs, recipes, as well as Starfall online activities. Each season is color coded so it makes it easy to flip through the pages to find which season you want.
At the beginning of each unit is a table-of-contents page. It lists each week and then each day and a short overview of a few things that are being covered that day. In addition to having the unit schedule, you also have a two-page spread of the week’s activities. This roundup tells you how to prepare for the week and what you will be teaching your child. The next set of two pages, gives a spreadsheet layout that gives a brief synopsis of what you are doing each day for each of the daily sections. The Pre-K day is broken down into the gathering, morning meeting, learning centers, circle time, story time, small group, and exploration. Finally, you then get into the detailed daily schedule.
Each day’s schedule consists of two to four pages that list in detail what to cover in each of the sections. Highlighted in blue is wording that you can use to speak to your child so you don’t have to figure out what exactly to say as you present the different lessons and concepts. In the columns of the pages are small boxes that include a list of materials. There are also other small boxes with other tips or concepts that you are covering.
Along with the detailed lesson plans, there are many other items that are included with this homeschool kit. Throughout the lessons, you are told exactly what piece of material to use when. For example, during the gathering, you may reference the weather using the large, laminated weather poster. There are ten posters included; all of them are thick, colorful posters that are laminated. American Sign Language, five senses, an alphabet chart showing upper- and lowercase letters, and safety posters are just some of the examples of posters that are included.
During the Morning Meeting, oftentimes you are directed to playing one of many songs that are included on the CDs. There are two volumes of Starfall Sing-Alongs. They include books that list the words to the song with the CDs attached to the back of the book. There is also a CD of instrumental selections as well. Throughout the lesson plans, it will tell you exactly what song to play when.
After the morning meeting, it is time for the Learning Centers. This is a time for your child to explore hands-on activities. Included with this kit are heavy stock cards that you can hang on your wall above each learning center to help the child identify what it is. There is a total of nine of them along with five blank that you can create your own. Some of the learning centers included are construction, library, and art center.
During circle time, there are a number of activities that take place and vary each day. Sometimes you discuss emotions using the laminated emotion picture wall cards. Other times you work on letters, shapes, and numbers. Another key component to this homeschool kit is the Instructional Card Set. This contains ABCs, pictures, numbers, shapes, colors, and weather cards. These are colorful, laminated cards that are just a little bit bigger in size than a traditional set of playing cards. They are conveniently kept in a heavy-duty box with dividers to separate each letter and category.
Story Time follows circle time. There is a total of twenty-eight books included with the Homeschool Kit. The books include a variety of fairytale books adapted for younger ears, folk tales, nursery rhymes, Chinese fables, and books that I would consider “live” books that show pictures of things such as “A Day in the Life of a Firefighter” that depicts actual photos rather than cartoon drawings. All the books are of high-quality pages, and both real photos as well as the illustrations are colorful and eye catching. The daily story time section tells you not only what books to read, but also gives you comprehension questions to ask your child. There are also vocabulary words to review as well.
The Pre-K day ends with Small Group & Exploration. This could involve doing some art, playing a game or another listed activity with day five being open for you to choose what you want to do. Also included with this kit to help with motivating your child are gingerbread boy stickers and a stamp. These could be used as on papers or projects as a “well done” acknowledgement.
A cute component to this kit is the stuffed gingerbread boy that is included. On day one, you introduce him during the morning meeting, and he plays a part throughout the curriculum in introducing the children to different activities. He even has his own book that is read to your child called ABC for Gingerbread Boy and Me! Sometimes he has special messages found in the side column of the teacher’s guide as a message for your child. There is also a large, stuffed grandmother doll that is introduced during week five of the curriculum. The curriculum suggests coming up with a specific voice that you use when she “speaks” to your child. The curriculum lists specific wording for both stuffed figures to say to your child. The grandmother doll helps introduce different lessons and concepts throughout the curriculum.
As I mentioned before, this curriculum is written as if you were teaching several children in a schoolroom setting. This can be a little confusing for a homeschooler teaching one child in a home setting. A different set of lesson plans with this in mind would’ve been a little bit more helpful. With that said, it was easy enough for me to make adjustments to use with just one child at home. I did not set up activity centers but instead would rotate through a different learning center activity each day. Some of the group activities and games that involved more than one child, we either included her six-year-old sister to participate or we skipped them. Otherwise, everything else was easily applied whether you used it for one child or several.
The online membership to Starfall.com is a fun bonus for your child! This can be used on your computer or as an app on your tablet or phone. My daughter loved using it on my Kindle. There are so many games and activities your child can do that will help them learn letters, colors, learn to read, and so much more! Even all the sing-along songs on the CDs can be played from the app. It was very easy for my daughter to navigate through the website on her own without my help. There is even a parent-teacher section online that has a large number ofprintables and worksheet generators available to print out for free. You can even customize many of them as well.
Overall, Starfall Pre-K Homeschool Kit is a very thorough and in-depth Pre-K curriculum. There is so much high-quality material included that would be excellent for both a homeschooler as well as a Pre-K classroom. I especially loved and appreciated how well laid out everything was, from listing needed supplies with each section down to the prompts to say to my child so I wasn’t left trying to figure out exactly what to teach. The schedule at a glance made it easy each week to prepare and gather what I needed ahead of time. This curriculum kept my daughter’s attention, and she quickly picked up the concepts that were being taught. I found it affordable for $185 knowing that I would be able to use it for my other children as they reach the Pre-K age.
-Product review by Jenn Porsche, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2017