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Monday, March 5, 2018

Pros & Cons MFW Exploring Countries & Cultures

Exploring Countries and Cultures (ECC) was our first year in the family cycle of My Father's World, and then also our last before high school. It was by far one of our favorites in 3rd grade!

DO NOT SKIP THIS IN THE CYCLE It is essential to begin with this study; the geographical and cultural context you gain will be essential to any historical study that follows. 

We did this study first as third graders, and it gave us a great foundation for the next 4 years of History because it was hard to learn about Germany when you don't know where it is! 

The beauty of My Father's World curriculum is the core teaching is done together, with additional activities are suggested for older students.  While the Daily lesson plans are in an easy-to-use weekly chart format, it took a few weeks to get the hang of the family cycle.   Since the curriculum designed for a multi age classroom, some resources hit younger  kids, some middle elementary, and some for older. Don't get discouraged if a resources seems over your kids heads, everyone retains information at their level.  

 Don't get overwhelmed if you are beginning, the manual will become easier to navigate as you establish the rhythm for your Together Time Subjects .  It took a week or so of actually teaching from the manual to be comfortable with the flow, and to learn how to leave items out that weren't meant for us.  Throughout the year, you will also need to assess if a book suggested works for ALL your kids. It is OK if your youngers don't retain all the details from every book, they are still learning at their own level.

 For those of you like to check all the boxes,you need be OK with sometimes not doing something listed because it is too old or too young for your kids.

Below are descriptions of why a book did , or did not, work for our kids.  Your kids are different, so your cons may be our pros!  Please leave a comment on what works for you!



Teacher's Manual Hands-on activities (cooking, flag sticker book, passport, etc) were easy to execute, without buying too many crazy extra items. I would usually make whatever food item was called for on Friday for family movie night. If we didn't want to use the recipe in the manual for the country, I'd just google a simpler recipe for that country, or GASP, skip it that week!

World Cake in Third Grade (week 2)

World Cake in Eighth Grade (week 2)

Student Sheets 
  • Younger Students-You will definitely need the student sheets for this year with younger students!  When we went through this with 3rd graders, the student sheets were the spine of the curriculum!
  • 7th & 8th grade Students- As we go through it the second time with 8th graders, we are using less of the student sheets and more the World Geography pages, but the student sheets are still useful and I would still recommend 
Trip Around the World & Another Trip Around the World- These books have a few extra worksheets & activities for some of the countries you visit.  You will have to make copies for each child.  

Book Basket- We used the book basket list  and the library heavily this year, more than any other year. These books will so much more context than you can provide to your together time. Remember this is a jumping off point for your library search! Every country allowed us to fill the library basket full of fiction and non fiction books for all ages. Online library searches at home were a weekly event, and allowed me to easily add many books that weren't on the book list to our basket. Studying one country or continent at a time made finding alternatives very easy.

Children's Atlas of God's World, Classroom Atlas, & Maps and Globes were everyday resources that were essential to the study. Even older students will learn something from the picture book of Maps and Globes

Blow Up Globe- You definitely need some sort of globe for this study. We did enjoy the blow up Globe when my kids were 3rd graders, but as 8th graders I had purchased a real globe that we used.

Geography From A to Z-  was a wonderful book, age appropriate book. It might have been our favorite book of the year!  The illustrations are clear and even taught me many new vocabulary words.  The books is also scheduled strategically throughout the year, like learning about Fjords when you visit Norway.  
  • In 3rd grade We used the Printables from Mama Jenn, so that at the end of each child had their own hand drawn dictionary!
  • In 8th grade I had my children use Index Cards to illustrate the differnt terms 

Currency Kit- We used the money kit in only 3rd grade, and never fully the way described in the manual. We were suppose to use it to "buy" items in your house each week. What we did was to have them visit the "Money exchange" office each time we got a stamp in the passport. Each new country, they would exchange  $10 American for the currency of that country. They just kept the money with their passport, until we went to the next country. 

Exploring World Geography- 
  • In 3rd Grade- We did not use because it is for the 7th and 8th grade supplement only
  • In 8th Grade- Great workbooks that develops research skills through the study of the different continents

Mixed Feelings

Wall World Map-We did not use a world wall map due to a very small house & not enough wall space, instead used the map placement we had bought during Adventures in U.S.  History. The blow up Globe also took the place of the need for the wall map. If you have the room for this in your house, I would recommend you putting it up, it just wasn't a possibility in our home. 

Geography Game (in Student Sheets)
  • In 3rd grade- Even though it comes with the Student Sheets, we didn't actually used the Geography Game when my kids were in 3rd.  Instead we used Stack the Countries App.
  • In 8th Grade- We used the game because my kids were able to play it a little more independently , but we still used the Stack the Countries App a lot. 



Hero Tales- We really enjoyed this kid friendly book of true stories of godly men and women and the character traits they portrayed as they served as missionaries. The manual lays out the schedule well, so you learn about a missionary from the continent you are studying. 
  • In 3rd grade we printed copy work from Mama Jenn that helped cement then stories and lessons.

Window on the World- This was an informative book, that was also a family friendly introduction to the religions around the world. I like that it gave us specific prayers for each country, to teach us how to pray for different cultures. It also gives you context on a bigger variety of countries that the student sheets.

God Speaks Numangagg-  This book is only used once, but it s a great read.  

Mixed Feelings

Memory Verses & Bible Copywork- We did not do the Weekly memory verses and daily readings from Matthew because my kids are active in AWANA, a Bible Memorization Club. 

* If you'd like alternative plan to copywork, try my Proverbs Copywork workbook

Missionary Chapter Books (Deluxe package)
  • In 3rd grade-These were way too old for my 3rd graders and  Hero Tales covered all the heroes already, so it felt redundant
  • In 8th Grade- These are more appropriate for an 8th grader, but not essential if you want to just order the basic package. We had a few in the book basket but never read together

Our favorite part of this year in 3rd grade was the easily accessible science topics. All kids love animals, and the focus on different habitats (desert, rain forest, grassland, forest, polar region, etc.) was loved by all.

In 8th grade, we didn't use MFW manual science because my kids already had a very full plate trying to get Apologia science done. That said, we did watch older documentaries on Disney Plus about the ecosystems of the country we were studying (like Planet Earth).


Living World Encyclopedia was a great kid friendly book, with lots of bright illustrations.

Book BasketPlan to get as many of the optional library books listed in book basket as you can, especially for younger kids.  If the book listed isn't at your library, just type in Keyword for whatever ecosystem you're studying! The ecosystem always correlates to the country being studied (e.g., rain forest when studying Brazil), so searching your library catalog will be pretty easy. Even the least well stocked libraries should have some fiction and non-fiction  books on the major ecosystems (babies animals in the desert, animals of the savannah, etc.).

The Great Animal Search- This is a good book for younger kids.  Again, the animal study was very age appropriate for elementary aged children. Too young for my 8th graders.

Properties of Ecosystems- was a good book that we tried to read with my science lovers.  It is more of a textbook, as opposed to a living book.  While we enjoyed it sometimes, I'd recommend it for older elementary/6th grade.  Be ok if your 3rd grader doesn't retain all the information given. 

Mixed Feelings

The Complete Books of Animals (for 2nd & 3rd graders)  We did not use this book, because we used  Draw Write Now which was a science and art curriculum combined.  I found our schedule for these books on the MFW ECC Group.  We also felt the abundance of library book options made this book redundant.  If you do not use Draw, Writw, Now  or your library is not well stocked, I would recommend getting this book for 2nd & 3rd graders. 

For 7th and 8th graders, add Apologia science (purchase separately
  • When we were in 3rd grade this didn't apply to us.
  • In 8th Grade we added an 8th grade science. We used MFW recommended were on Apologia Physical Science, 2nd Edition by Dr. Wile.  We were successful with Apologia, but it was so heavy that it was hard also do ECC science. If I could do it again, I would probably for Friendly Physical Science  alongside the very fun and meaningful ECC science 



Teacher's Manuals Art Projects I am an artistic person, but can slack on art with my kids. Thankfully the projects were scheduled that didn't overwhelm the day, or require super weird materials. Example: When learning about Mexico, we made tissue paper flowers on Thursday that we then used for our fiesta on Friday (we made homemade tortillas on Friday, and it was almost the only thing scheduled for the day).
Fun with Easy Origami (Deluxe package) My kids LOVED this book. That said, is only used during Japan, so you could easily get any simple Origami book to use this week! Be prepared from a house full of paper animals! 

Did Not Use

GLOBAL ART (Deluxe package) The teacher's manual provides so many hands on activities, that I didn't usually feel like we needed any projects from this book. It would make your day extraordinarily  long if you added all these. If you have crafty kids, you will like to be able to pull from this book throughout your year.
Wee Sing around the world (Deluxe package) At first, when we finished every country by eating food from that country, we would play a song from that region while eating.  But the CD only has one song from each region.  I would recommend just getting some CDs from that country from your library, or looking up some on your phone. 


We have never had great luck with MFW recommend math, so we have always used Math U See instead. 

We use Math U See,you can see our review here.




Language lessons for Today, Grade 3-  We again enjoyed LLFT, because it is a gentle Charlotte Mason approach to language arts.  Some feel it is too light, but as we have stuck with it, I have seen it gets harder at an age appropriate level.  Some years past have felt almost too light, but I think the 4th and 5th grade are beginning to pick up, and challenge them more with grammar and writing. 
Cursive Handwriting -  This was a great year to start cursive! I recommend paring your cursive with a read aloud and using Learning Cursive with Literature Series, if you child loves Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, The Hobbit, or Proverbs.


Progeny Press Study Guides (MFW Recommendation) We all really enjoyed these guides, a great resource for  reading comprehension.  They were independent enough for my kids to do most of them on their own, but challenging in good ways. I will caution you that the first guide your child does, you will need to more hand holding as they learn.

Easy Grammar Plus  I am VERY glad we introduced grammar gently through LLFT, but they needed this year of repetition through Easy Grammar. It was a little  dry and repetitive compared to our past Language Lessons for Today, BUT I would recommend it because it was simple to execute and my kids really learned their grammar.

Writing with Skill Level 1 (MFW Recommendation) This is done independently, and my kids enjoyed it for the most part.  It took longer than I expected to finish, each week in the books took about two weeks to finish, which is why MFW recommends you only do the first half of the book this year. We could only fit it in twice a week, but that is okay for the recommended schedule in 8th grade.


Spelling By Sound and Structure  MFW Recommendation of Spelling Power is confusing, and just does not work with our work-boxes.  It is very teacher driven and we needed a more independent spelling curriculum that didn't require so much teacher presence.


Stack the Countries App   We use this instead of the Geography Game

LEGO LANDMARKS- free supplement using the Legos in your house- This past year we turned my boys' Lego obsession into another avenue of learning. 

LEGO Landmarks: Free Supplement to ECC

Friday Family Movie Night Family movie night during ECC always included a movie from whatever country we were studying. Thankfully Disney+ has done several different countries.

In 3rd grade we would watch an animated movie based in that country (Frozen during Norway, Mulan during China, etc)

In 8th grade we watched documentaries from the countries we studied.

 You can find an extensive lists and suggestions in the MFW ECC Group.

Workboxes - The Workbox system has saved my sanity! I can't imagine homeschooling elementary and middle school without it!

3rd Grade Workboxes- ECC

Draw Write Now  in 3rd grade used this as a science, art, and handwriting curriculum, and my kids LOVED IT.  Their drawing improved by leaps and bounds, and it as an independent activity that worked perfectly with our work boxes  We used a schedule for these books in MFW ECC Group.


  1. We love the missionary biographies! Coming from Sonlight to ECC, I had already read Gladys Aylward and George Mueller (and a couple of others I think?) to 1st and 2nd graders, so continuing on with 3rd graders, no big deal. I am back in the cycle for the second time with a 3rd grader and he has enjoyed all of the Benge missionary biographies so far-- it's amazing how much they can enjoy them when they are read aloud and discussed. When you hit them again in 8th, you might just assign them to be read by your students--

    1. Good to know! We look forward to reading them the next time we do the cycle!

  2. This was a super helpful review! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I'm currently doing Adventures with a young 2nd & Kindergardner. I'm excited for ECC but wondering if I should hold off a year. Hearing how it worked for you is helping me think through that.
    We are missing the Ecosystems book and while it sounds fun to me I love that you pointed out its textbook-is style. I might not work so hard to track it down.

    1. I'm so glad it was helpful! We skimmed the Ecosystems book with my third graders, but I'm excited to repeat the cycle with them in 8th grade when that resource is much more age appropriate. Good luck with ECC, it is a great year!!