to our review of WinterPromise Curriculum!
*Review from around 2007
"Have you ever wished for a curriculum that brings the best of all approaches together? You’ve just found it -- literature and activities, family projects, notebooking, student worksheets, and best of all, family memories! WinterPromise pulls together a variety of resources so you can tailor the program to meet the needs of your family members’ individual learning styles. You can count on activities that are exciting for kids and realistic for parents. We’re a great choice if you want a “wake up and go” curriculum that will also build a family culture all your own. "
-Quote from the WinterPromise site
WinterPromise is a fairly "new" company that offers literature based history curriculum, language arts, and some science programs. Their curriculum has a definite Charlotte Mason feel to it with a wonderful selection of books, narration ideas, notebooking and a reasonable pace of studies that still allows for plenty of free time and personal development.
I've always been partial to literature based curriculums - but before I came across WinterPromise, I never found one that included enough of a hands-on component or a decent enough variety of activities and supplemental materials. I was using another well known literature based curriculum and always having to "tweak" it. The level of reading was always just a little too dry or advanced, sometimes the material didn't go "deep enough" and I was always having to come up with activities to help keep the interest level high and ensure retention. I finally got tired of changing the curriculum I was using and decided to move on. For a year that meant making up my "own" curriculum from scratch. Any homeschool mom who has gone this route knows how much toil that entails!
When I found WinterPromise it was like a breath of fresh air and a reprieve from so much extra work on my part. Karen Brooks, the author of WinterPromise, has done all of the work for me and put it into a wonderful, easy to implement curriculum that is not only great for ME, but engaging, memorable and FUN for my children.
Each level of curriculum has a "theme". Books, activities, DVD suggestions, websites, worksheets, notebooking pages and more are all centered around whatever the theme happens to be. I put in an order for The American Story II , the American II Middlers Set and the 4th grade language arts curriculum: "Solving the Mysteries of Grammar". I was delighted when our great big box arrived and was like a kid on Christmas morning, pulling out all the books and goodies and ogling the big fat instructor's guides.
I noted right off that the selection of books is "more appropriate" for my soon to be 4th grader than another, similar curriculum. The books are listed in several categories: adventure reading for the family, history books, Bible study and activity resources. There is a good variety with plenty of novels, biographies and colorful non-fiction selections that are rich with photographs, facts and drawings - the kind of books my kids are excited to pick up off the shelf or browse just for fun. My oldest, a high schooler, started pawing through them immediately and exclaimed that she wished she had gotten to use WinterPromise when she was younger. Later on I saw her making off with an almanac. In the meantime I was busy letting my youngest know that no, we wouldn't be starting WinterPromise just yet, because he was ready to dive in.
The first thing I poured over in detail was the instructor's guides. The American Story II history guide is a thick 137 pages, but not overwhelming and very logically laid out. You get it for FREE if you purchase a package! The first section of pages is an introduction to help you get the most out of the guide. All of the resources are listed together and there are some great tips and ideas for narration, independent study worksheets, additional activity resources and lots more. The second section contains items to help you plan out your year with an activities list and so on. The third section contains a timeline so you can see all your timeline dates for the year at a glance as well as timeline cards with game instructions and ideas. The fourth and last section contains the scheduling with helpful notes, websites and extra activities listed at the bottom. The activities and projects portion of the schedule lets you choose what you do and do not want to do and rates the level of difficulty. A really wonderful addition is the "working on my own" pages. These pages are designed to foster independent study in your students and help them take some responsibility for their own learning. They schedule the "independent" activities and there is space to add in science and math assignments.
There are some really nice touches to the guidebook like pages that list optional resources such as DVD's in one place and what week they will be used so you can plan your library trips in advance. There is also a very much appreciated activities section that shows at a glance what supplies you may need in your craft cupboard and around the house as well as a chart showing what activities are scheduled when. Everything is laid out so that it's easy to read, easy to understand and so you can literally just open it up and get started. WinterPromise's guidebook is one of the best laid out guidebooks I've ever seen. Old-timers like myself will appreciate all of the thought that went into the organization as well as the numerous "extras" that help make homeschooling so much easier. New homeschoolers will probably find it all very accessible and friendly. There is plenty of hand-holding (if you WANT it), but not so much as to be smothering. WinterPromise has done a wonderful job. I will get to spend my time teaching and enjoying my time with my children instead of sweating over a plan and trying to put together all of the "extras". They've already done that for me and in such a way that I can still be flexible and do it "my" way without feeling controlled by the curriculum.
The American Story II set also came with an American Achievements Activity Pack and a Make Your Own History Book pack. The American Achievements pack has pages that have some fun activities like an inventor's game (complete with cut-out cards), design your own blue jeans, make a "reward" poster (complete with the necessary clip-art and cool looking text to cut out) and more. The activities are easily accomplished and give enough ideas and "starter material" for kids who have a hard time coming up with their "own stuff". The Make Your Own History Book pack has a variety of notebooking pages that have text to remind your student of things they've learned with small additional activities to accomplish like drawing, make a list or look up some places on a map. I think the pages will make a nice portfolio of work and be a fun reminder of the material covered at year's end.
Besides all of this, you also get a variety of kits and extra materials that help to make your year extra fun. The American Story 2 package comes with paper soldiers, a Spy Science Kit, some coloring books and a fantastic gold rush kit that includes a gold pan and even a real gold flake or two. Activity books such as World War II Days have all sorts of neat suggestions and things to do that will help make your studies more memorable. This plethora of activities adds some necessary depth and helps tie in the book selections to something more tangible. It also gives each child something that is active to do instead of just passively "listening" to mom or dad read-aloud.
I also purchased a "Middlers Set" (*no longer available). This set has additional books that help add in extra resources for an older student in grades 4-6. The guide is designed to be used by the student with independent assignments listed in an easy to use format. There are suggestions at the beginning of the guide for the parent to help make the most of the independent study sheets. At the back of the guide there is a "Make-Your-Own" State Notebook with some notebooking pages. The notebooking pages aren't the best quality - the states on the pages have gray striations which makes them look like cheap photocopies. They do not match the quality of the Achievement and Make Your Own History packs, but that's a minor gripe.
The books that come with the middlers set add some geography, notebooking projects and additional literature and history selections as well as activities like History Pockets and more. It's a worthy addition for those who like a heavier load of work or want to add more books and activities to flesh things out a bit more for an older student.
The 4th grade language arts curriculum also comes with a guidebook as well as custom designed worksheets and some really cute / fun handwriting sheets. The worksheets are designed to go with the different themes of history curriculum available. If you've purchased the American Story 2 package, your custom sheets will go with that year's theme. If you've purchased a middle ages themed package, the assignments will match that theme instead. There are also sheets that are common to all of the themed history curriculum programs.
I like that the instructions and lessons on the sheets are written to the student. There is no hunting down a concept to figure out how to teach it for the parent. Some of the sheets are written to the parent and contain suggestions, ideas and guidance. There are even notes on what types of errors will be typical of most 4th graders and what your student "should" be able to accomplish and also what will be worked on over the course of the year. The sheets are easy to read and understand, containing just the right amount of work so that your student most likely won't feel overwhelmed.
The scheduling sheets in the language arts guide lay out everything for the year week by week. Each history curriculum theme has different readers scheduled, but shares the same main language arts workbooks. It's easy to see at a glance what your study's readers for the week are and this type of layout ensures that you can more easily use a history theme with multiple ages. Just pick a theme for your family and place students in the appropriate language arts program. You aren't stuck with just one option, which makes WinterPromise more "family friendly" than some other literature based curriculums. You also get the benefit of having your readers coordinate with your history topic which helps reinforce what your child is learning.
There are a variety of main texts / workbooks that come with each language arts level. Some of the workbooks included are Grammar Cop, Cursive Writing That's Easy and Fun, and SpellWell. The guide also includes extra activities and help for spelling and handwriting. Scheduling pages have additional notes at the bottom for creative composition suggestions and handwriting practice ideas. Holes are punched on the right side of the pages so that you can put the pages in with your history guide and see what you are doing for the week in one place instead of juggling guidebooks.
I have been watching WinterPromise grow at an astounding rate in the last year or so and that is no surprise. They provide a terrific product. I have personally dealt with them and found them to be very helpful and willing to go out of their way to make their customer's happy. Companies like this soon gather a following of loyal customers and WinterPromise is no exception - you can see some of that on their forums and on homeschool bulletin boards around the web.
Another great thing about WinterPromise is that they offer special charter school packages that contain no religious materials where those happen to be state restricted. Currently I know of NO other Christian company with a curriculum like this that offers such a service. Items that would otherwise be out of reach of families in the charter school system are able to be purchased and used. This is a very appreciated aspect of their company, that they would be willing to put these "special" packages together and so bless the families in this sort of situation. Parents can always then purchase the Christian components on their own.
As for the negatives, I would say Winter Promise is not the curriculum for you if you want to follow a classical education 4-year history cycle. WinterPromise does feature some years that could fit in such a cycle, but that is not their main scope & sequence. They have just come out with some themed programs like their Children Around the World package which covers over thirty countries and the children that live in them with their cultures, traditions, etc. They also have an Adventures in Sea and Sky program - a unique study of seafarers, astronauts, pirates and pilots -mixing history and science in a year long "adventurous" study. These don't fit anywhere into a four year history rotation.
I also think that there are some families who will not appreciate the hands-on activities and projects and some moms will feel overwhelmed if they don't "do it all". Some families may not like the book selections or want a stronger Bible focus for some of the years, although you will find that especially in the Children Around the World program. The programs as is (without the middlers sets) has a lighter schedule than some other literature based curriculums. While some parents may find this to be a more reasonable and do-able pace, others may desire a heavier reading load. Children (and/or parents) who are adverse to notebooking probably won't like the fact that WinterPromise tries to really integrate this style of learning into their program. There also isn't as much "meat" as some other programs because, as far as I can tell, at this moment, there are no comprehension or discussion questions for the books. This is one area I find lacking, especially for high schoolers.
For those with a high schooler there aren't a lot of offerings right now, although it's my understanding that eventually more will be added. There are some programs which are designed to be used with Jr. or Senior high but at first glance they are not as "heavy" as they could be.
Another potential negative, especially for families who are on a tight budget, is that WinterPromise doesn't want their exclusive consumable and reproducible materials to be re-sold. Many homeschooling families make their purchase decisions with the idea that when they are done with their curriculum they can sell it and recoup about half the cost to apply to the next purchase. This decision by WinterPromise may make their curriculum inaccessible to some families and make some others think twice about becoming customers. However, it does appear that the company is very willing to work with families who have a financial need and there is a payment plan available.
UPDATE: Any exclusives as of 2013 may be resold, so this should no longer be an issue.
There is so much more to WinterPromise that I haven't gone over. I find them to be an engaging curriculum, reasonably paced, well laid out and easy to use. I am really looking forward to using their materials and I encourage you to take a look at their site and see if they might be a fit for your family. As their company grows, maybe you will consider being a part of that growth. I know a lot of families are considering the switch but just not sure about it yet. I made it and anticipate the year to come to be one of our homeschooling best.
Families Yahoo Group
There are over 600 families signed up on this email loop. I find that it's much more active than the forums as of this writing. I hope their forums take off so that the families considering WinterPromise can see how many of us are really loving and enjoying this curriculum.
*Update: We ended up using several WinterPromise programs: