Monday, January 20, 2020

Morning Basket for MFW ECC

In my last post I shared what changes we're making to our core curriculum as we cycle back around and repeat Exploring Countries and Cultures from My Father's World. Now I'd like to share how we're organizing our day with a "morning basket."

My kids are three years apart in age. From the time the youngest was in kindergarten to now, we have always done school together. Even when they were working on independent lessons, I'd have one kid on the right doing math and one kid on the left doing other math. But partway through our last school year, my eldest up and left us. Without consultant me, she apparently decided that she preferred the solitude of her own bedroom for her independent lessons. In fact, she started even taking some of our group work off on her own to complete independently! (The nerve!)

So, we've made some adjustments. As much as I miss the togetherness of our younger years, this new style has its benefits.  For one thing, it allows me to spend more one-on-one time with my younger child who can often be overwhelmed by his big sister's large personality.  It also allows us to get through his work more quickly since my attention is not divided between his-and-her assignments.

This year instead of eating breakfast together and then heading downstairs to start our school day, I put together a basket of things to keep in the living room where they are accessible. Once the kids come together for breakfast, they are now "stuck" with me for the next hour or so while we work together on a handful of lessons before letting them split off to do their own thing. Even though I have half a dozen subjects in the basket, each day we will only work on 2 or 3 of them.

What is in our Morning Basket?


The heart of our Bible lessons this year will be an in-depth study of the book of Matthew. I am following the progression and reading breakdown of Matthew as scheduled by My Father's World, but we will be taking it at our own pace which may go beyond the expected 34 weeks. Instead of just reading the passage, I am preparing a series of Bible study questions that will take us verse by verse through the entire book.  I bought each of us a gorgeous Illuminated Scripture Journal containing the whole book of Matthew with pages for taking notes opposite each page of Bible text. I am hoping this will encourage the kids to record their insights and discoveries during the course of our study.

God Speaks Numanggang will not stay in the morning basket all year since we read it in one sitting, but Window on the World will be used weekly.


Maps & Globes will be used for the first several weeks of our school year, and after that we will be using the Geography Game weekly. I did not include Geography from A to Z in the basket though because each kid will be working on those assignments independently. I made sure to schedule them for the kids on different days though since I only have one copy of the book.  In addition to what MFW schedules, I'm adding Draw the USA by Kristin J. Draeger and the others in that series as we progress in our studies. These are either going to be a big hit with the kids or a total flop. Time will tell! Not pictured, but our Classroom Atlas from Rand McNally will also stay in the morning basket most of the year.


Both kids have portions of science that are independent, but our Properties of Ecosystems readings and worksheets are going to be done together.  I adore this book that teaches ecology from a Biblical worldview, and I am very much looking forward to going through it again. I'm sure it will open up some great discussions with my kids!


Usually before the kids are even finished with their breakfast, I'm already sitting on the couch reading to them from our latest read-aloud. Right now it is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. After that we plan to pick up with the next book in the Narnian Chronicles. We finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last fall, so we will read The Silver Chair next. I haven't decided what we will read after that, but my list of possibilities is near endless! At some point we will definitely add in Kingdom Tales, though probably not following the precise schedule that the ECC teacher's manual has it.

Foreign Language

My eldest is learning Japanese independently, but I have included our Tagalog flashcards in the morning basket so both kids can improve their knowledge of father's first language. (Nanay means mother, in case you were wondering).

Current Events

One item not pictured that will be going into our morning basket is World magazine from God's World News. I only recently subscribed, so we haven't gotten our first issue yet, but once it comes we will be reading and discussing articles at least once a week if not more.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

MFW ECC: What's different this time around?

I am so excited to go through Exploring Countries and Cultures again. The last time my kids were so little -- 3rd grade and Kindergarten. And now they are in 5th and 8th grades! They have grown so much over the past five years.

As I began to think about our plan for this year, I realized two things: 1) my gifted eldest child remembers just about everything we covered in ECC the first time, and 2) my younger one hasn't had many of the basics that ECC covers. So I was faced with a dilemma -- how do I adjust ECC to suit the very different needs of both children? How do I shift the focus for my 8th grader to aspects of ECC that she hadn't spent time on before (such as types of governments, imports and exports, etc.) while also taking my younger child through the more foundational information that he missed when he was just a kindergartener?  ECC is designed to be parent-led, family learning, with a supplement for 7th and 8th grade. But I came to the conclusion that I need to deconstruct it even further and divide up which lessons and assignments are suitable for each child. We will end up doing less together and more independently, but I think it will work out well in the end.

Imagine for a moment, sitting down with the ECC teacher's manual, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. Cut apart each week and paste the assignments onto three separate sheets -- one for work we do together, one for independent work for my 8th grader, and one for my 5th grader (who will still require my involvement). That's essentially what I did, only I did it digitally instead of literally cutting up  my manual. I designed a lesson planner for the year that divided up every day's assignments into these three categories. I pruned, paired back, and simplified. I appointed certain tasks to one child alone, other tasks to both of them separately, and still others to be done together as a group. It was a lot of work! But now I feel confident that the needs of both children will be met and, Lord willing, our year should run smoothly.

In considering the interests and personalities of my children, I did some ruthless culling of the scheduled assignments in ECC. Some things I cut out entirely as depicted in the image above. Here's a brief summary.

Bible: I bought the newly released edition of Window on the World to replace the one we used last time through ECC. It was already dated then and with five more years of changes taking place in the world, I decided the upgrade was well deserved. The only changes to scheduling I did here was to update page numbers to match the new book, and revise some of the people group names (for example what was previously listed as Gypsies is now listed as Romani).

This time around we will be skipping Hero Tales and the accompanying character traits. They were wonderful for my eldest when we did ECC before, but she still remembers the stories well, and my youngest has heard many of them through other years of MFW by now as well.

The only other change we're doing for Bible is a more in depth study of the book of Matthew. I have been preparing study notes for the whole book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse to take the place of the scheduled readings. We will most likely progress at a slightly different pace as we dig deep into this gospel, but I am very excited about the prospect!

Supplemental Math: ECC is now sold with a Currency Kit, but when we bought it six years ago, that was not offered. If I already had it on hand, I might incorporate it somehow, but since I don't have it I didn't feel it was important to buy it. We do have the Fast Facts and have used them for quite a number of years. I don't think further math drill will be necessary for my 8th grader; and my 5th grader gets bogged down with the handwriting aspect of the Fast Facts, so he will be drilling facts using an app or flashcards or some other method(s).

Science: It was just the year before last that we went through a study of zoology in Exploration to 1850, so we will be minimizing that side of things this year and focusing more on the ecology side. Both kids will do the Properties of Ecosystems lessons, but only the 5th grader will do lessons from Living World Encyclopedia. My 8th grader will also be working on a high school level anatomy & physiology course from Master Books.

World Geography: Our first time through ECC we did not use the worksheets from Exploring World Geography since they were a bit advanced for my kiddos. This time, however, I have a copy for each child. But here's where I start to wander away from MFW a bit: I have added pages from several other geography workbooks in addition to the ones MFW sells. These are all available at Carson-Dellosa, but don't pay full price! They have several amazing sales throughout the year where you can get them for half price or less.

The Complete Book of Maps & Geography
Map Reading Skills
Discovering the World of Geography Grade 5-6
Discovering the World of Geography Grade 7-8
World Governments

Hands-On Activities and Crafts: When we did ECC before we went all in on the activities, crafts, and art projects. Border crossings, costumes, dances, songs, traditional drinks, whole meals, desserts, handicrafts, and more. It was so much fun! But my kids are older now and have no interest in all that. They're not so much into imaginative play and prefer to get their school work done so they can go do other things that interest them. And I'm okay with that! I'm so thankful that we did as much as we could our first time through.  So this time we'll skip the sticker flag book and the "border crossings" with passports to be stamped. We will use some pages from the two Trip Around the World books, but will likely skip most of the activities, projects, and recipes. (I consider Maps & Globes and Geography From A to Z to be a key part of our geography study, so those stay).

Art & Music: Dabbling in art and music is pretty much a way of life around here. Last time we took some of the chintzy projects and improved them with quality materials and techniques (an example being the Rosemaling project which directs you to paint a cardboard paper box, but we opted to use nice wooden boxes from the craft store). But this time those activities don't appeal to my kids as much, so we will be skipping both the Wee Sing songs and Global Art. We'll keep the origami book though...because who doesn't love a little origami now and then?

So that's the basic breakdown of what we're doing differently than our first time through ECC. In my next post, I'll share more about what else we're using this year and how I'm implementing the popular "morning basket" method.