Curriculum Review: Peak With Books
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 11, 2011
Peak With Books: An Early Childhood Resource for Balanced Literacy, in one sentence: Before Five in a Row on steroids! According to Dr. Ruth Beechick, author of some of the best homeschooling books on the market:
“I think this book is topnotch. Any parent who used these lesson plans for awhile would be getting a good education in using books with children and building upon them to expand vocabulary, experiences and thoughts. For people who want to do the “living books” thing that Susan Macaulay has popularized, here is the Kindergarten program all worked out for them.”
From the back of the book: “Peak With Books shows how to use popular children’s literature to build reading, writing, and cognitive skills in an inquiry-based environment. Instead of using a “skill and drill” approach, the authors employ conversations, questions, and meaning-based activities to stimulate children’s curiosity, confidence and thirst for knowledge.”
Peak With Books, like Before Five in a Row, is:
*encourages multiple readings of each book
*includes discussion ideas and activities related to each book.
*Peak With Books does not include daily lesson plans. Like Before Five in a Row, you will have to decide how and when to use the activities.
*You should choose the activities that you think would be the most helpful for your child; don’t think you have to do them all.
Unlike Before Five in a Row:
–Peak With Books is written primarily for classroom use. Even so, the activities are easily adapted for home use.
–Peak With Books is adaptable to ages 4-7…it is for advanced preschoolers, Kindergarteners, and First graders, depending on their readiness/development (some activities will may not be appropriate for preschoolers.)
–Peak With Books is a curriculum. It is not a distinctly Christian curriculum, however, and therefore it does not include Bible/character study ideas (I prefer more of a Biblical emphasis; however, from what I have read of the curriculum, you would be hard-pressed to find anything remotely offensive or inappropriate.)
*It is not a complete curriculum. Its purpose is to build literacy skills, thinking skills and vocabulary. You will need other resources to cover Bible/character traits, as well as phonics, handwriting, math, science, social studies (history), etc for Kindergarten and First grade.)
Peak With Books (PWB) uses 42 picture books; many of which are classics. Additionally, related books are listed (“story time extensions.”) The front of the book includes a list intended to be used to turn PWB into a sort of unit study or thematic approach. Personally, I don’t think it goes nearly far enough for that…no non-fiction books are suggested! Additionally, the books listed under each “unit” aren’t well enough related to me, and many of the topics are weak, at best. (Some of the weak topics include: Bear Hugs, Caps and Hats, Circle Stories, and Walking. It does include some good themes, such as “animal habitats”, but without non-fiction books, so much learning is left out.) Compare these themes to my suggested units HERE or my unit study archives (see categories on the left sidebar.)
Peak With Books includes story questions (good conversation starters), music (mostly singing; CD’s are suggested), drama ideas, 84 finger plays (Peak With Books calls them “finger rhymes”), and 82 poems. It focuses on early writing skills, “reproductions and retellings”, as well as learning games and activities that are intended to help children learn those “preschool/Kindergarten facts” such as letter recognition, beginning writing, colors, etc. Thinking games and memory games and included as well.
PWB is a good resource for those who want to learn how to pull elements out of literature (parts of the story, illustrations, questions, etc) and use them to teach their children literacy, vocabulary and thinking skills. It would also be a good starting point for families who want to use a literature approach, and need some “starter ideas.” But to me, it seemed incomplete. It felt like the authors had a good start on a wonderful unit study, but left it unfinished. They only needed to add only a few elements to turn each book into a full-fledged unit study. Since no non-fiction books were used at all, I don’t feel it could really be called a complete “thematic approach” or “unit study; it is not fully integrated. It does fulfill its purpose: Building literacy. However, for as much time as you would spend doing the various activities, you could easily enjoy a full-fledged unit study and achieve a better and more complete result. In my opinion, Five in a Row is a better option. It is much more complete, especially when you add the Bible supplement.
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