Planning school this year was a lot of fun. I felt more confident with a year behind me and having previously made some successful and some not-so-successful curriculum choices gave me a bit of a picture of what we loved, needed and could do well (and likewise, what we didn't want). Perhaps most importantly I've learned to leave budget room to repurchase if any given curriculum doesn't work well for us.
Mostly we've gone with classical materials: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind(English), The Story of the World (History), Literature from a compiled list from here, here, here and some of my own favorites, Singapore Math with some Miquon Math supplement, Handwriting without Tears, French for Children and All About Spelling. For science I'm doing monthly unit studies using 'real books', this book at times and focusing on nature study. Aside from our 'core' we also are doing some music, art, physical education and Bible.*
When I was looking at curriculums this year I came across Peter Enns' new Bible curriculum and I was intrigued. It is published by the same folks that put out The Story of the World and what I've read of Enns' work I've really enjoyed. He is a clear thinker, good writer, and has a grasp of the Bible as a larger narrative. So, I decided we would give it a try. We haven't gotten too far in the text, but I've thouroughly enjoyed Telling God's Story: A Parents' Guide to Teaching the Bible (this is a quick read and a companion book to the curriculum, though it can stand alone) and would highly recommend it. Its the sort of book I want to give at baby showers to every new parent. I think Enns does a very good job at describing how the Bible should be read (and not read). He is nuanced in his thinking and he makes a solid case for why introducing our children to the person of Jesus is our primary task in the early years. Enns' theological thinking is similar to my own (from the little I've read of his work), but both his book and his curriculum would be usable by parents who are more conservative.
Telling God's Story, the curriculum, is well written. The first year is based around stories Jesus told and Christ's life. There is a text, which the parent reads out loud and then there is an Student Guide and Activity Pages (it is very similar in set up to The Story of the World). Enns' writing is clear and each chapter begins with notes for parents about the context and historical background notes. The lessons read as stories and do a wonderful job of painting a picture of the historical context. So far, the way they are written seems to be a stretch for a preschooler. Of course it isn't written for a preschooler, but Rowan loves listening to The Story of the World, so I was surprised by this. The lessons aren't multi-sensory as you simply read a couple pages, so I find myself grabbing for godly play materials or trying to have the boys act the story out later. That said, I'm really happy with the few lessons we've done and will continue to use them and probably will buy the other years texts as well (if for no other reason they are a good resource when teaching any given text as Enns has done careful study).
Unfortunately, I'm not as happy with the activity book. Compared to the The Story of the World activity book it is a bit weak. Each story has a coloring page and several activities. A few of the activities are quite good and helpful in relating to the story (i.e. sweeping for lost coins, that make a secret message; making coins to act out the story), but many are standard sunday school fare, that relate in name only or loosely to the story (i.e. make praying hands stained glass to go with the story of the persistent widow). The activities do include some interesting interdisiplinary activities, such as planting a mustard seed, doing a yeast experiment, and looking at great art work. The activity books also has some codes, maps and mazes, which Mr. 6 really likes. The major item I would add would be reading and resource lists. There are wonderful illustrated books and great artwork depicting parables and stories from Jesus' life and I expected (after the reading lists in SoTW) that this curriculum would help reinforce the story in this way. Simple lists of artworks, music and books would be a very helpful addition.
Overall though, I'm quite happy with the curriculum and am happy to be introducing a more scholarly approach to scripture to supplement the boy's Bible reading and godly play.
* A couple readers have asked about what we are doing this year for school, hopefully this will answer that question. Also, I love to think and talk about curriculum, so if you have questions about anything we are using let me know. I always find it so helpful to talk to someone who has used a curriculum.