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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Why I'm not using MFW for High School/MFW 9th Grade AHL Review


We loved My Father's World for K-8th!!!  We loved the family cycle and will continue to recommend it for younger grades! We also loved MFW Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade! 

But the time has come, I am finally switching curriculums. I will not be using MFW for the rest of High School.

"Never look at other curriculums, just make what you have work!" was advice given to me when my boys were very young, and for the most part I have stuck to it when it comes to our core spine of My Father's World (MFW).  

I have written a post about how there is no perfect curriculum and have been able to make MFW work for years with tweaks along the way, but I can not tweak the High School curriculum enough to make it work for us.

PLEASE NOTE: I will elaborate more in review below, but my kids did not fail or even struggle academically with this College Prep curriculum. We are still going to use academically rigorous college prep, but you will see below why MFW High School just wasn't the right fit for our family. This is just OUR experience, and what worked and didn't work for us. 


OVERALL REVIEW 

My Father's World 9th Grade

Ancient History & Literature (AHL)

 

1.  Familiar Format and well laid out lessons plans were helpful for our first year of high school 

Even though we didn't have the greatest 9th grade experience, I will say that NO ONE beats the simple organization of MFW teacher's manuals! I needed the familiar organization of My Father's World to help get our feet underneath us in this big jump to High School. The well laid-out student manual, with extensive notes for each week, allowed us to begin our High School journey with confidence, and just a little less stress. 

Homeschooling High School is a bigger commitment than middle school, and I was very scared when we began.  In middle school and elementary I tried to cover all my bases, and not leave a ton of educational gaps, but I never kept a transcript of "credits". 

 The lesson plans were well laid out and just what we needed this year.  It gave us a good first taste of what it looks like to get a high school credit.

I can not fault the quick and easy to use Open and Go Teacher's and Student Manuals that come with My Father's World.  


2. Good stepping stone to independence, but do not expect independent study right away

The implicit promise of MFW High School is that it is independent work, and the teacher/parent will just need to meet with them on Fridays for a conference.  I have two very fast readers who have great a work ethic (who have been using a semi-independent system of Workboxes since second grade), but they still needed a lot of hand holding the first few weeks/months!

The manual is written to your student, and so are all the text books, but do not expect them to be able to do their work on all their own right away! Just like 7th and 8th grade supplements were stepping stones to more independent learning, 9th grade is a stepping stone to full independent study.  The goal is to eventually have 100% independent time management, but expecting this without first guiding them/walking alongside them is just setting up your student for failure. 

Literature/English will not be an independent subject. The first several papers in Literature needed A LOT of parental help, but by around week 18 or 20 they were working more independently even in literature.  You will also need to be grading more often as you go the first few months to set your expectations.  If you only grade on Fridays during the conference either your student will either a.) spend a lot of their Friday going back and redoing their work or b.) not be working at a 9th grade level.


3.  Educationally solid, but jarringly different style than the family cycle

High school is harder than middle school.  Any type of learning is a challenge, that is just a fact, but high school is just harder.  I believe resistance is part of the learning process. It is ok for learning to be hard, but it is not ok if it makes your student not enjoy learning all together. 

My Father's World has always been a blend of Charlotte Mason influences, with some traditional and classical work mixed in.  When we got to High School, it dropped almost all Charlotte Mason influence and became pretty much all traditional and classical.

Both my boys are not struggling academically, which is why I kept doubting my choice to switch next year, but the heart has gone out of our homeschool.  The work is hard, but the the family cycle prepared them for it. They are getting As in every subject, learning to write argumentative essays, able to comprehend the tough ancient texts, getting work done on time, but it is just making learning into a check list. There is no excitement about the actual CONTENT anymore, and that makes me so sad.

Someone recently asked in a MFW group if you felt the readings have led to good discussions which prepare your kids for adulthood?  I had to honestly say no. I really enjoyed the family cycle, and we were able to discuss a ton of fun topics, but the independent study and lack of living books have made discussions less organic and frequent, even during the Friday conference. We still have tried to achieve them because we value conversation, but it is not usually in response to the curriculum.

But remember, I have twins, and no younger children.  If I had multiple younger children, maybe I wouldn't mind how different the style has become. My boys are not struggling academically, but I just want to be able to see them exciting about learning again. 


4. Lack of living books

This probably should be number one because it seemed to be the main source of my frustrations. We have always loved how many different History non-fiction "spine" resources and living books suggestions My Father's World provided or suggested, but this year it was back to one or two dry non-fiction textbooks, and pretty much no living book recommendations. I've had to start compiling my own living book lists for the times we are studying.

I read children's literature as an adult all the time, and I was disappointed that it seems like MFW thinks high schoolers are too old for any children's literature, even historical fiction.  I also firmly believe you are never ever too old for a well done non-fiction picture book.

I have always used the book basket as a jumping off point for my library search, so I would get several books that aren't on the list too, but this year all the reading suggested was half a dozen chapter books for the entire year, most of which my children had already read.

 AHL was too much reading, while also being too little

Too Much

The idea of High School history being chronological is a great.... in theory.  The problem is when you start with Creation on a high school level, you are taking the hardest ancient texts first and giving them to the youngest readers. The girl I tutored this past year was a slower reader and could barely get through her assigned reading for the day.  She had to keep looking up words as she read to understand the texts, leaving no extra time for any type of supplemental or pleasurable reading.  The reading, the independent research, the writing assignments, and her math, science, electives, and their co-op work took up so much time she has no time to read for pleasure. That made me so sad for her and her mother. 

 I asked in the MFW AHL Facebook group for suggestions on how to help and found she was not the only one.  They have to read deep hard ancient texts, and even the best readers can struggle. Again, struggling isn't a bad thing, but there seems to be no balance with pleasurable living books to keep them enjoying the learning process.  My kids did well with all the ancient texts, but the spark seemed to go out of them.  The texts were so foreign, they could comprehend them on a surface level but just didn't get them excited or engaged.  Again, school became a check list that they got done every day.

Too little

Again, lack of living books was jarring. My sons had plenty of time for pleasurable reading after school, yet none of their reading for pleasure was school related, like it has in year's past.  They used to get done with their main school work then dive into one of the many amazing living books in our book basket that continued on with what they were learning.


5.  Not able to easily individualize learning like the family cycle

This point doesn't fully apply to my boys, but to a girl I tutored this year this. I usually recommend My Father's World family cycle for everyone because it is so easy individualize. It is a blend of different learning styles and multiple books for all reading levels, so it can be aged up or down depending the needs of your family and student because it is designed to work for 3rd to 8th grade. 

This is not the case in AHL, it is ninth grade curriculum.  It seems obvious to say 9th grade curriculum requires you to work at a 9th grade level, but for many who have individualized their student's learning while using the family cycle of My Father's World, it may be a shock to the system. 

My twins were able to be academically successful, but it did not work for this other student I tutored.  AHL assumes you have SUCCCESULLY completed 8th grade level English/Grammar/Reading Comprehension and are reading and writing at a 9th grade level. The student I tutored is admittedly a slower reader who was drowning in the amount of reading this year, but they also struggled with the Essays and Literature assignments because they not completed the 7th and 8th grade supplements and reading comprehensions (Progeny Press Guides) during the family cycle.

Do not skip any of the 7th and 8th grade supplements and English curriculum in the family cycle and expect your student to do well in the MFW 9th grade curriculum. If your student is not working at the very least an 8th grade level, especially in language arts and reading, they are going to really struggle with this curriculum.  The literature supplement assumes you have taken a comprehensive writing curriculum when launching into instructions. 


6. Lack of variety of history sources and perspectives 

This goes along with the lack of living books, but I'm also REALLY not ok with presenting only one perspective of History.  

 I was already leery about using MFW for American History in 11th and 12th grade because  I have found in years past that many of the books recommended had obvious Nationalism tendencies, particularly the family cycle Exploration to 1850.  Many of the books in that cycle led to great conversation and teaching critical thinking skills in regards to spotting Historical Bias, but we needed the multiple books to see the biases, and sometimes even falsehoods, in the history books MFW recommended. 

I understand the need for a History Spine of some sort to keep you on track, but the lack of living books  was really frustrating and a huge departure from what made us love My Father's World in the first place.  I don't want curriculum that condemns Founding Fathers, but I also don't want history that only gives a few paragraphs about Indigenous population before diving into 10 weeks on the pilgrims.  I don't want a curriculum that villainizes early settlers who were just trying to make a life for themselves, but I also don't want a curriculum that ignores all the Native American treaties we broke. This is why living books are so essential to History!


7.  The history scope and sequence is too classical, with unevenly timed sequence

This year's history study was only Creation to the Greeks, so I assumed next year would follow the family cycle and do Rome to Reformation, but I bought the 10th grade World History and Literature (which I will be selling and NOT using) and it CRAMS all the history from Rome to Modern Times into one year.  There are no living books.  You fly through reading a textbook about historical events with no real time to digest what you are reading.

In contrast, beginning of the 9th grade year was a huge long focus on ancient creation texts, with almost an entire semester on Greek texts and alphabet. It was full of HARD ancient texts, like Epic of Gilgamesh. It was a great foundation in Old Testament, but by mid way through the year there were weeks of History only using Old Testament Readings and memorizing one letter a day of the Greek alphabet.  By the second semester there were weeks where the only reading was one of the personal devotionals, and no Historical reading at all. 

I bought the 10th grade manual (which we won't be using) and was shocked at how condensed the readings for history are. AHL could have condensed some the OT work and readings and gone through Rome at the very least, so that all of Rome to Modern times isn't squished into next year. 



REVIEW OF SPECIFIC BOOKS

My Father's World 9th Grade

Ancient History & Literature (AHL)

ORGANIZATION

Ancient History and Literature Student Guide Daily Lesson Plans

We buy My Father's World because of the Teacher's Manuals, and that hasn't changed in High School. We stuck with My Father's World again because of the daily lesson plans.  They are laid out so well and easy to use.  

MUST READ NOTES WITH YOUR STUDENT THE FIRST FEW WEEKS

It was confusing at first to figure out what to answer from what book.  For example the students don't answer the questions in Exploring World History, but instead in the Student Review, but that isn't said anywhere except a small note in the first week.  I would highly recommend starting your high schooler at least one or two weeks before any of your other children.  You will need to walk them through each book, reading the manual to see which books to read and how/where to write their answers to review.  

You will need to help them write in their manual their other assignments, like math, electives, and chores.  I had to help them set their pace and expectation, like one full Math and Science a week.

HEAVIEST WORKLOAD IS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR

The students have to write an essay during their first week of school, and the reading is the heaviest during the first few months. 

Our experience has been that MFW frontloads your year, assuming you have more motivation at the beginning of the school that is February or after spring break. By the time we passed Christmas school was taking 2/3 the time it has taken at the beginning of the year.

END OF THE WEEK CONFERENCE 

My favorite part of this year is the Friday Parent/Student conference, but it makes me laugh each week that my manual calls it "Parent/Teacher Conference". I'm meeting with my student, not myself! My husband also jokes that I never invite him to the Parent/Teacher Conference!

At the beginning on the year we were great at checking in every Friday, but as they have gotten into a rhythm of independent work, and were proving themselves trustworthy to get their work done, we got kind of apathetic about getting the end of the week parent conference done. The apathy has started showing. Today my son has had had to go back and do two assignments that he "forgot to do" but checked off in hopes I wouldn't ask about them.

For reference, he is very responsible and gets up every morning to so his work without reminders, and never cheats, but he does have a history of cutting corners if no one is looking. 


HISTORY/BIBLE

Exploring World History 3 Book set by Notgrass (EWH) This is your main history spine. It is was our least favorite book the year is one of the main reasons we are not using MFW 10th grade, because it is the same series used next year.

  • Part 1 Creation Through the Middle Ages You will only use this book for the school year.
  • Part 2 The Renaissance to the Present You will not use this book at all this year, it will be used next year in MFW 10th grade World History and Literature
  • In Their Words We appreciated reading original sources, but they are challenging reads.  I would definitely suggest the parent read these with their students if your student struggles with older English and Ancient texts.  The manual even says you omit these readings if your student is struggling with the amount of reading this year.

Student Review Pack for Exploring World History

  • Student Review- We used a blank notebook to answer the questions from this book because with twins I could not buy two consumables. They are helpful to process and summarize what they have read in EWH and In Their Words.
  • Answer Key

The Victor Journey through the Bible-  This is the version in our manual, but the latest manual recommend  Baker Illustrated Guide to the Bible.  We absolutely love Victor Journey through the Bible, and was our favorite part of the Old Testament study

Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World- Like years past, we love how visual the Usborne History books are for every age.  This is an older student's version of , with more text, but still included the wonderful illustrations children need

Unwrapping the Pharaohs- Both boys really enjoyed this book, great context while studying Egypt. While in a textbook form, it is readable and has a lot of visual helps.

The Student Bible Atlas. Went well with the maps at the back of the Daily Lesson Plans book, and helped them complete their history maps, which are part of their grade.

The Tabernacle (pamphlet) visually helpful

What on Earth Am I Here For?  While we skipped all the other devotional due to these reason, we actually liked this one and it needed. It felt during a time where there wasn't a ton of other reading, so it didn't feel like overloading their plate and busy work, and I was able to talk to them about what they were learning.  I personally usually don't usually like Christian devotionals and most Christian nonfiction books. I like original source the Bible, or books like Journey Thru the Bible that add historical context, but this book was their main reading a lot of week (see above how I didn't understand the History sequence), so we did it.

Old Testament Bible Reading My kids did read this and it was good they read through so much of the Old Testament

Taking the Old Testament Challenge-  My student read the Bible passage they assigned each day, but after the first few weeks I did not require them to do this challenge. After all the worked and reading in Exploring World History, The Bible Atlas, the maps, Journey through the Bible, it was just redundant and busy work. I also felt like the questions were leading and not inductive.   

Timeline Book for Ancient History & Ancient History Timeline Figures Dozen of moms told me that while they had loved the timeline figures in the family cycle, this books was busy work and not well done, so we skipped it. In hindsight I wish I had gotten it because it is part of the Charlotte Mason approach that I missed so much this year. 

The New Answers Book I am not a fan of Ken Ham and not use this book.

Daniel Teen Inductive Bible Study- My students are already in Bible Study Fellowship, which is a school year long inductive Bible Study.

ANCIENT LITERATURE & COMPOSTION

Ancient Literature Supplement with Grammar and Composition

My kids did very well, but did not enjoy it as much as year's past.  A girl I tutored did not do well, and really really didn't enjoy it. The curriculum also assumes a lot of prior traditional English instruction. You can see more in my overall review above

These are the books used to write essays though out the year.  The students will read sections and answer comprehension questions Ancient Literature Supplement with Grammar and Composition

Epic of Gilgamesh-  I appreciate the idea of going through history chronically, but it seem inappropriate for a 9th grader to first dive into in this hard book.  My boys got it, but I have heard from several moms who rough this was for their students in 9th grade.

Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable My kids love Greek mythology, but this was a bit dry. 

The Iliad My boys did well with this, but the manual recommend Black Ships before Troy for some students who are a slower reading and comprehension level.  The girl I tutored ended up using it and I found easier review question in the MFW AHL Facebook group that were very helpful. 

The Odyssey  

Eric Liddell One of the most interesting books they got to read this year.

READING LIST/LIVING BOOKS

The manual says for them to read 20 minutes a day, and does not give any good living books or book basket suggestions for this. 

The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt During Weeks 5-7 they suggest the student reds this book during their reading time.  My boys said it was ok.


ELECTIVES

Introduction to Logic- WE LOVED THIS ELECTIVE.  This is probably our absolute favorite part of the entire year.  They were so sad when it was done!

  • The Fallacy Detective
  • The Thinking Toolbox
  • Logic Puzzles Workbook They ended up loving the logic puzzle at the end of The Thinking Toolbox so much that I bought them a logic puzzle workbook to use for the rest of the year.




High School Curriculum, Tenth Grade:
Switching from MFW to Sonlight

8 comments:

  1. I’ve followed you for a few years and I’ve loved seeing how you used the family cycle. My oldest will be going into 8th this year and we’re starting to think a lot more about direction for high school. This post intrigues me and I so appreciate your honest evaluation and details of what went well and what didn’t. I’m so curious to know what you will be using moving forward? Are you planning to write a blog post on that? Thanks!

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    2. Thanks for following our journey! We have switched to Sonlight for High School! Since their sequence is so different than MFW, w are actually using their 9th grade American History, but 10th grade Classic Literature. I hope to write a blog post about it once we get more into it and I know what I'm talking about!

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    3. Here is a blog post about the curriculum we are switching to from MFW! https://www.leadingthemtotherock.com/2022/08/high-school-curriculum-tenth-grade.html

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  2. What curriculum will you be using? My daughter will be in tenth grade. We did Notgrass last year.

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    1. We have switched to Sonlight High School. We needed a more living books based curriculum, and I was able to rent it from a friend for a reasonable cost.

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  3. Thanks for this, Robin! I shelved Adventures in US History for some of the reasons that you described, and wondered if I was the only one disturbed by the Christian nationalism in the spines. We also are not strict young earth creationists and I will have to tweak some of the ancient history because of that. We had loved MFW for preschool through first grade. We did something else this year and will try continuing with ECC this year, if we homeschool high school all this will be helpful for me to keep in mind.

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    1. You are definitely not alone! The trend towards Christian Nationalism in many Christian American History spines is very discouraging. Hope you can find something that works for you!

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