Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adventures in Learning - Preschool Ready Packed Curriculum

One of the challenges that I face once in a while being a FTWM is the shortage of time . The lack of time to research, prepare learning aids and materials for Dumpling, as well as the time to cut and laminate, etc.

With that challenge, I spent some time last year researching on homeschool curriculums which I can use with Dumpling. I first ordered from Calvert when I read some reviews on this curriculum and after plowing through their website. There were lesson plans and some prepacked materials in the kit. Thereafter I decided I wanted to order something which is easier and chanced upon Adventures in Learning.

Adventures in Learning is from the US and is apparently used in several preschools / daycare centres there. But the main selling point for me was that it is pre-packed into sort of daily packs. Craft pieces are precut / perforated, books and instructions are included along with some other learning aids. So basically all I needed to do was to read up prior and the deliver the session.

How you can place your order is to look through the various months they have and choose which topics you would want to do with your child. Here's the themes for 2011 / 2012. You will need to have a US suite / shipping address and have it shipped there before getting it sent to SG. I use Borderlinx because its via DHL and I have had only great customer service with Borderlinx so for me, it is worth the cost.

After researching and getting the backend shipping issues sorted out, I decided to then try this out and here are some pictures and thoughts on the curriculum (I will touch on Calvert in another post).

This is what the kit contains:
- a starter kit (this is with every first set of curriculum purchased) with some basic stationery 
- a book (for my month, it was Humpty Dumpty)
- lesson plans
- daily activity sheets, craft materials, etc.  

The monthly curriculum kit and the starter kit

Part of the starter kit included a felt calendar. Unfortunately, some months were missing from the kit hence my handwritten effort

For the "month/theme" I purchased last year, it was on "Homes and Family". So all the crafts and activities were centred around this theme.

Here we have Country Mouse and City Mouse story sheet and the paper cut outs. I think it was just meant to be a colouring exercise but Dumpling likes dramatization so we added popsicle sticks for that purpose.

Then there were cutting exercises. This activity focused on how many members there are in Dumpling's family where she counted, then cut out accordingly 

For more Math bits, there was another sheet with printed figures which we were to attach to toilet paper rolls (included) and sort them according to size.  

There was also a simple game with the "board game sheet" seen below as well as the figurines.

Included in the kit was also a simple "race" which Dumpling and I took turns throwing the die and then moving the corresponding number of steps with our representative figurines.

We also had a go at a "house-matching" game

There was also "discussion" time included in the lesson plan. For the below, it was a session on classification of homes which we can and cannot stay in.

The craft bit - G for Grandparents

We also had some discussions on family time and family activities.
Here the guide suggested for us to make something which can be used during family dinners and we made pizza toast!

And of course, some writing exercise.

And finally, Dumpling's first family portrait :)

From a curriculum perspective, my personal thought is that it is a fairly interesting program though the quality of some of the print outs was not that great. But I like that Dumpling is being exposed to a different set of curriculum as compared to the local system as there is clearly more discussion involved and it uses a mix of inquiry and multiple intelligences approach. So this is clearly not for a parent / homeschooler who is very academic driven - rote learning or needing to achieve certain literacy milestones.

The downside? The monthly box costs about USD55-60 (including domestic shipping) and the freight to SG costs about SGD30-35. However, even after conversion, it is still cheaper compared to sending our kids for enrichment since this has 20 - 23 days of lessons and materials packed in it. As a working parent, it saves me loads of time though I need to read up prior to the sessions and I also borrowed books to extend the lesson.

BUT, the main issue I have with AIL is customer service. There was not only missing "month labels" for my calendar but also one missing "lesson". Email replies are terrible (I think they have yet to reply to my last email a few months back) and customer service is quite terrible in that sense. Being an international "customer" I had questions on shipping and curriculum contents and after a few exchanges, there was no reply at all. I read from some forums that some parents / customers experienced the same thing as I did.

So, if you are not fussy about customer service, you can certainly give it a try. Be it for the experience or to have something on standby for weeks which you are too busy to create the lesson plans or even as a home based enrichment / home learning activity over the weekends. Enjoy!

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