Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Weaver Review

It just isn't possible to sum up The Weaver in a paragraph. So I suggest that you grab a cup of tea or some chocolate and put your feet up for a few minutes while I tell you our experience thus far!

When I first started homeschooling my preschooler in 2004, I was drawn to the idea of a Unit Study approach. I loved the idea that I could teach both kids on the same topic but at their own level. I looked over some types of Unit Studies and just didn't feel like God was opening the door for me to use any of them. Either it was clearly not for our family, or it was so overwhelming to me that I couldn't picture how to make it work. I tried various styles of learning, and all of them were wonderful in their own way. But something still seemed to be missing and my longing for unit studies didn't go away.
Unit studies have a base that all other subjects are centered around. For example, many are history based. As the student learns a new part of history, all the other school subjects deal with the same topic. Some are based on science. But still, none of them stood out.
I didn't want to just have 'Bible time' as part of our day. I wanted every part of our education to point our eyes to our Creator. And, it is sad to say, sometimes Bible time would get left out of our day because we ran out of time.

No matter how good my boys are (and I do think they are pretty good kids), they had many days where apathy was the attitude toward their school work. I know that we had the curriculum we had because I prayed and felt so certain in what I bought. And I still feel certain, I believe God had us where He wanted us, using what we were supposed to use.

In the late fall of 2010, I once again found myself asking the Lord if there was something else I had missed. I truly don't recall where The Weaver first popped up. But it was online somewhere. One reference lead to another. I was getting very curious and excited!

I wasn't looking to change things THAT year. I was thinking ahead to next year. But along came a sweet woman (you know who you are!) who happened to have an extra set of Weaver volume 1. I didn't expect to see it come so soon, but the mail moved FAST and it was at my home in a matter of a few days. I tore open the box and started to devour the information inside! It was as if this was written just for us! I would start using Weaver in January!

What is it that makes me love it so? First, this curriculum is based in Scripture. So let's say that today we read about the Tower of Babylon. We'll then start learning about architecture. Then we'll build some sugar cube buildings. With that in mind, you will never run out of time for Bible, because it all STARTS in the Bible! You can't do any other school work without opening in the Word!
Library time is always fun for us. We love it! But now it's a scavenger hunt. We look ahead at the unit we'll study and write down the topics, the books the author suggests, and a few rabbit trail ideas of our own. Then we head to the library with our list in hand ready to attack! We come home with stacks of rich videos and books. This is the ONLY weakness that I see in Weaver, the book list. Some of the books are very hard to find, and may seem dated. I don't feel discouraged by this, though. Instead, we just enjoy our scavenger hunt, both in the library and in our home library! I have found the Apologia elementary books work beautifully with the Weaver Curriculum, as well as several other books and DVDs.

Before going any further, let's go through the binders together...
Day by Day... Some people opt out of this planner, but I love it. I think you have to remind yourself that it is a tool. You aren't a slave to the planner. You can do, or not do, whatever you like. Each unit is separated by a divider. At the beginning of each unit divider is a "Unit Preparation" page (or pages.) Becky Avery (the author) has put these pages together for the educator to read in advance. It explains what you'll be teaching, possible book suggestions for read alouds, and supplies you may need.
From there, each page is labeled by the day. So you'll see Chapter 1: Day 1. You won't see Monday, Tuesday... There is no hurry in this. You do each day as you feel you are ready. Under the Chapter and Day is room for you to write in the date, and she has the theme written. Ie- "The city, Creation vs. Evolution." Under that you'll see a "thought for the day" section. These can be read to the student or can just be a pick-me-up for the teacher.

Each subject is in bold print below. So it opens with Bible, listing the reference to read, it tells you which bible lesson you will read from in Volume 1, and any other supplies or information you'll need for the bible study on that day.

Below that comes the Social Studies OR Science section. I say 'or' because you trade off every other day. This keeps it fresh for my boys! They love doing something different every other day. Under Social Studies or Science you'll see a list of grade levels and objectives. We'll come back to that in a bit.
After that is Language Arts OR Health and Safety, again, alternating. Then a list of books and supplies needed, creative writing suggestions, Wisdom Words (if you so chose to use her Language Arts program). And it ends with Math and Reading sections which are left blank. This way you can fill in what you want to use in your home.

A little side note... We have chosen not to use Wisdom Words. However, it is a fabulous program and I wouldn't have a problem using it at all. Instead, we chose the Phonics Road series. We are using Teaching Textbooks for our math program. These two resources keep me consistent and focused in those areas, and Weaver allows me to have freedom in the rest of our studies. I believe this gives my split Type A/ADHD personality a healthy balance.

Now for the BIG binder... Volume 1! Upon opening, you'll notice it has an overview of the entire volume. This is handy to see what you'll be covering at a glance. Mrs. Avery then has several pages of information, introduction, and ideas on scheduling (if you aren't using the Day by Day planner.) Then you'll see those lovely Unit dividers. Open divider Unit 1 and you'll see a Unit and chapter overview outline. "Unit 1, Chapter 1, 10 days" is the first heading, with the outline below. Of course you can make a unit last as long as you like. Remember, you are in charge of the flow, so if you want to follow rabbit trails, go for it! But she suggests how long a unit ought to take for planning purposes and to keep us from taking years to complete one volume. Then comes "For Your Information" where you, the teacher, will learn more about the topics you'll be teaching. So far all these pages have been white in color. The Bible Lessons and suggested reading list will also be in white. After that the colors change and they become quite important. 
This is another of the areas that I love in Weaver! Each grade, from K-6, is separated by color. So all pages of lessons for Kindergarten are golden rod. If I have a student who does work at a K level, I will turn to the golden rod pages no matter which unit I am on. She assigns them as grade levels, but you decide what level you want your child to work. In fact, they may be working at K level in science and social studies, but in language arts you feel like putting them on the grade 1 work. You have total control over the work they will be doing.
At the end of each chapter you'll see white pages again. Don't overlook them! There, you will find vocabulary words, health and safety, field trips, observation projects and memory verse suggestions.

So how do these 2 binders work together? Remember, earlier, when I said I'd get back to the grade levels and objectives? Here we go! So when Day by Day Unit 1 Day 1 says to teach your K student Science Objective #1... you'll go to Volume 1 binder, open it up to Unit 1 Chapter 1, turn to the golden rod colored pages labelled Kindergarten, look under the science section and read Objective 1! Day by Day will tell you exactly where to find everything in the Volume that you'll do that day. Simple!

At the very back of the Volume you will find the Resource tab. Mrs. Avery will often refer you to something in that resource section. So don't overlook it, there are several useful pages! Dads can get overlooked in our homeschool day. But in the Resource section you'll find A Father's Devotional Partner for Weaver. It is only a handful of pages, but it explains Weaver to the Dads and it has index card forms that you can copy and give to your husband so he is up to date on what the kids are learning. This way he can have conversations around the dinner table with the kiddos about whatever Bible verses or unit themes you are covering. This isn't a required task, and it isn't to bring guilt into homes where Dads aren't involved in the school. But if you have a husband who is willing and wants to know more about your day, this tool is really priceless. And it's unique! I haven't seen this sort of tool in other curricula.

One quick note: There are 7-12 grade supplements that you can order to make this curriculum go all the way through graduation! I haven't used them yet, personally, so I can't speak to them. Maybe someone will leave a comment here that explains those further. Or, possibly after I use it next year with my oldest I can update this post. But I thought it important to let you know it does go through grade 12. In the same manner, there is a Weaver Interlock binder for Pre-K! So it can be a complete curriculum from beginning to graduation if you wanted.

What about the cost of all those books she suggests? I have found that some of the suggested Milliken books are worth having, however I bought them used on Amazon and other places. And I wouldn't recommned them unless you are dealing with upper ages, possibly 4th grade up. The Usborne books are great. They are generally easy to find in the library, but worth looking for if your library doesn't carry them. Speaking of the library, most of the topics you'll cover can be studied in depth with books found at the library. So you could honestly do most of your studies with the library and the internet. No major book investment needed! I also found that many of my books on my shelf at home have worked just fine.
In the early Weaver days I would pull out the huge Volume binder and the not-so-small Day by Day binder. They'd take up the floor by my feet and part of the table as I'd flip through looking for each activity. This wasn't so fun... So I decided to consolidate into one binder thanks to the advice of others who went before me. It is essentially my 'Brain'. In the front I have a little DVD pocket for our math and grammar DVDs and CD-ROMs. Then I have my school planner. And behind that I have a page with our "Mission Statement." The first tab is Day by Day. I pull the Day by Day pages for the unit we are studying out of the big binder and put it in this section. It may be 4 or 5 pages, or it could be a couple dozen depending on the size of the unit, but that's easier to carry with me than a big binder. My next tab is Unit Information. I use that for any of the Overview and For Your Information pages out of the big Volume for that unit. Then I have Boys' Studies where I pull their grade level pages from the big volume binder just for the unit we're studying. The next tab is Resources where I have pulled all the resource pages from the big volume and keep them handy in my daily binder. The next tab is Master's Loom. I highly recommend ordering this resource from www.unofficialweaver.com. This is a topical index and biblical reference chart to accompany the Weaver Curriculum. So if we're studying Helen Keller in Volume 1, I can look at the index and see we'll also study her life in Volume 5. This helps me to know just how much I need to cover on Helen Keller. If I am covering Herbivores in volume 1 and see that it isn't covered again in any future volume, then I may want to be sure we've learned all the material I had planned. Another tab I have is the Overview of all the volumes. I like being able to see the topics we'll cover in each volume. My last tab is Books. I have to thank my husband for this one. He had me begin a book list organized by subject years ago. This way when I am at a used curriculum sale I can flip open my list and see if I already have that book. And on the last page I have a hand written wish list with the cost of each book written beside them so I know a good deal when I find it. All of this fits in a standard 2" binder. I found my binder for 25c at a thrift store. So this doesn't have to be very fancy. But it is much easier for me to use than having to pull each big binder out each day. And it is handy for travel as well!

What does a typical day look like for us? Amazingly smooth compared to before! Remember when I said there was great apathy many days in our schooling? No more! We usually start with our AWANA memory verses. Then we'll move into the bible study and sometimes I'll add an extra book or even bring out a hymn CD to sing together if it fits the lesson. Then we move right into the topics that the Day by Day has laid out. The wonderful thing about a unit study is that both boys are learning the same things together! When we've finished with the work listed, I pull out the Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading for my youngest, and my oldest works quietly on his Teaching Textbooks. Then my youngest moves to his Teaching Textbooks while I work with my oldest on the Latin Road. We do all of this from 9 to noon each day. Any time left over can be spent with my oldest doing a read aloud with his little brother. Last week we studied composers, so he would read a picture book to his brother about any given composer. After lunch we usually have a very free flowing time. The kids may take the afternoon to enjoy the sunshine outdoors. They may play card games. Or they may be found turning their school work into play. And this isn't unusual since we've started The Weaver! They learned about architecture, so in free time they watched DVDs about buildings and bridges and they built them out of Legos.

Gone are the days of complaining about school. Back are the days of awe and wonder over what we're learning! Do we still have bad days? Sure! I think any homeschooler has to question their sanity at times. But I am so grateful for the joy and interest that The Weaver has brought back to our learning!

Feel free to ask questions or post comments. :) God bless you in your journey, no matter what it looks like.

~Christa

10 comments:

ourhearts4home said...

http://www.aophomeschooling.com/theweavertour.php?utm_source=catalog_weaver&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=catalog

That is a link to the Weaver Tour. You can try Weaver for a short time for free and see if it fits your family. :)
christa

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. I had a lot of questions about the program and your post has really helped me! I have been highly interested in this program, but had not found anyone else who used it!
Becky

ourhearts4home said...

Becky,
I'm glad this helped. Please feel free to ask if you have specific questions or a curiosity. :)
c

Alecia.livingforchrist said...

Thank you for your review of Weaver. We are looking for a new homeschool program for next year. I love that it is based out of the Bible and that Bible is not just added in. And I love that our family can all be learning the same topics. I do have a question though and hopefully it is just something that I am missing. Right now I have a 8 and 6 year old. They love doing school together which is one of the reasons I went looking for a family curriculum. I also have 2 smaller children (ages 3 and 1) that will eventually join us in our lesson time. By the time they join us I will assume that we will have completed at least Volume 1 if not Volume 2 as well. Will the 2 younger children be able to join in with us or be lacking because they did not complete the previous 2 volumes? Also, would I eventually return to volume 1 and 2 with them? Just curious as to how Weaver is set up with additional children coming up into the study times. Thanks again for your review. It really did make me favor this curriculum over other Unit based studies that I have looked in to.

Stacy Jarman said...

So you think the apologia books correspond with the weaver science really well? I am just trying to figure out where I am going to find creation science information when the time comes because the library has nothing.

thanks, stacy

ourhearts4home said...

Hi Stacy,
We made it Apologia work... ;) You can either use the Texts separately as a science class, or you can use them like encyclopedias pulling info from them as you come across it in Weaver. The boys found them far more interesting than the Millikens and of course they are Creation based science. :) I love Apologia elementary. This is our first year out of the elementary, we're using General Science, and it's been a pretty good fit for us so far.

Lisa said...

I asked this just moments ago on http://www.christianhomeschoolerstakingastand.com/ but I'll post on here too, since this is more recent. :)

Are you still using the Weaver? I’m in year two of homeschooling. My oldest graduated from public school 2 years ago and the two I’m homeschooling are in 6th and 7th grade (11 and 13). We’ve used Sonlight, since we have access to the program to borrow for a year, but the spine is history. I’d love to spend more time focused on the Bible. I’m not sure what ages you have used, but it sounds exactly like what I’ve been searching for. Have you used the supplemental books for the older kids yet? My girls don’t love reading, but because they spent so much time in public school they don’t love learning anything and even balk at the time required to do activities and fun learning things. Are the fun things fun enough to keep it from feeling like you are “doing school” all day long? Thanks for any additional info you can give!

ourhearts4home said...

I'm sorry I didn't see this question sooner!!

We are no longer using Weaver, but not because it isn't excellent. I love it and it was hard to switch gears. I had planned to switch over to a different curriculum when my kids were entering high school. So we've done that (not that Weaver isn't good for high school, quite the contrary...)

As for hands on, yes there are plenty of fun things you can do in Weaver. And you have the freedom to add even more!! :) This curriculum is your tool, you use it however it best fits your family. So if you want more of something and less of something else, or half way through you want to change gears, you can do that. :) I have nothing but good things to say about this curriculum!

Anonymous said...

I began using Weaver vol 1 with the Day by Day, last year, I am still finishing off this 2nd year the end of Vol 1. I read reviews on this curriculum and I could see a lot of people saying not so encouraging things about it! but when I read the testimony of this one mother who testified how she loved it, and how her son who was now in college used it thought out his whole school years. Well I believe I received confirmation on that. So I dived in and purchased it. I love how the studies are all based on The BIBLE and you have to use library books, if you desire, for info on all kinds of subjects. It has plenty of suggestions for field trips, projects, ect. You can use Wisdom Words for grammar, but if not, use another. I am using something called Easy Grammar, and Daily GRAMS...wonderful so far. For math I'm using CTC math an online program which you pay either monthly or for a year, and I believe you can have up to 5 kids on it..and you can go on any grade level you need to review. I pray this will help others to use this as a part of their homeschool. GBU.

Dawn said...

I just received a used copy of Vol 1 that I purchased on Ebay. I am hoping this helps me keep my sanity while teaching such a wide range of age levels. I will be using it for 4 of my 5 daughters. I see this original post was from 2012 and I am curious if you are still using Weaver to this day????