Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
One of my kids turned five at the end of January. And she was ever so eager to get started on “real” school and not just “preschool.” So, when I had the opportunity to review BJU Press Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool, I knew she’d be thrilled.
When we began opening the material, she was a little overwhelmed. There was so much to look at. Here’s a peek of what was inside the boxes:
Brynna and I took some time to look at it all, and then start figuring out what to do with it. We started reading the first teacher’s guide, which really helped to explain things well. Going through the material step by step helped eliminate some of the overwhelm.
We started prepping materials to get started the next day. It took quite a bit of time to get everything ready. One of my older kids helped greatly by cutting things out:
After we found a home for the materials we wouldn’t need right away, we got set to begin the next day.
The first lesson seemed to take forever. I wasn’t used to it, and had to keep double checking. But, Brynna really enjoyed learning. The little puppets were one of her favorite components. These “helpers” show up throughout the lessons, which she really liked.
You’re supposed to make these by using craft sticks. But, we had straws on hand so we used those instead. Remember one of the best parts about homeschooling is you can change things up a bit to meet the needs of your family.
What Is This Product?
Focus on Fives is designed to help kindergartners study phonics, improve in reading, and explore themes for learning other key subjects. It doesn’t include math, so it’s not a complete curriculum. However, if you supplement with a math course of your choosing, your kindergartner would be set with this program.
It comes with teacher’s manuals and ancillary materials that you need to teach. All together, the set includes:
- Focus on Fives Teacher’s Editions (6 volumes)
- Focus on Fives K5 Worktext
- 34 Reading books for K5
- K5 Phonics and Review Cards
- Focus on Fives Teaching Visuals Flip Chart
- K5 Write Now! Handwriting
- K5 Phonics Charts Homeschool Packet
- Phonics Practice Workbook
As a note, there will be videos available for this course in July. These will be optional. We will not be using them because of our metered internet situation, but they’d be a great addition for anyone who doesn’t have those limitations. To see a sample video, click here.
What is the Worldview?
Coming from BJU Press, Focus on Fives is presented in a Christian worldview. Throughout the lessons, four essential points are woven in:
- God is great and God is good
- God created me and all things
- The Bible is God’s word
- I learn in order to serve God and others
I truly appreciated this aspect of this curriculum. In addition to these guiding principles, there were also Bible Connections throughout the material. Each lesson has a page of Extended Activities in the Teacher’s Edition, and one of the activities was always a Bible connection.
Do You Need the Teacher Guides?
In some curricula, the teacher’s guides are optional. That is not the case with this one. The Teacher’s Edition have the information you need to connect all the pieces of the curriculum and make sense of it. Teaching without these key parts would be nearly impossible.
In the Teacher’s Edition, you’ll find:
- Basic information about teaching kids in this age range
- Information about how to use the curriculum
- Directions for using the Teacher’s Edition
- Lesson plan overviews
- Unit songs
- Daily lesson plans with details and a scripted portion
- Directions on the visuals and worktexts you’ll need each day
- Extended activities to keep the learning going in a fun way
Bottom line? You need the Teacher’s Editions to successfully teach this material. There are six of them. They are heavy. And they are definitely written with a classroom in mind, not a homeschool. But, they break everything down into a day-to-day instruction.
There are a few books full of consumable worksheets for students. Each worksheet corresponds to a particular lesson, and at the bottom of the worksheet, you can easily see which one it is. Some of the worksheets were fun, asking students to color, cut, and paste. Here’s one page my daughter completed:
There are so many readers, my daughter had a blast looking through them. They start off with only pictures. Then, they move into phonics based readers. The Teacher’s Edition is clear about which book to read for each lesson, and there are directions for doing some pre, during, and post- reading instruction.
The pages of the books are very thin, and there’s just a paper cover. So they don’t get many points for durability. But, they are colorful and fun. So just be careful with them, and if you have a child with Pica like I do, don’t leave them out…
Phonics Review Cards
The phonics review cards are used to review letter sounds. There are some different ways to use them, but we typically just free played with them outside of the curriculum. Remember, I don’t do everything “by the book.”
We hid the cards that my daughter knew around the room and she had to go find them and run them back to me. As she handed each one over, she had to say the sound. It was a fun, active way to practice. She also had her older siblings hide them for her as well, and she took turns hiding the cards for them.
Visual Flip Chart
Typically, you need to purchase the visual materials in addition to the curriculum. That is not the case with Focus on Fives. The visual aids came with the other items, as a flip chart. You could easily flip to the right visual and use it during the lesson.
I wish this would have had an extra flap of cardboard on the cover, allowing it to stand up. Since it doesn’t stand, we just used it while it was flat. The only problem with this is the teacher’s information for the visual is on the back. So, we had to keep lifting it up so I could read what it said.
Here’s a peek at one of the visuals, about ladybugs. You can also see an image of the back of the page.
Write Now! Worktext
This curriculum also helps kindergartners learn to write their letters and improve their handwriting. The lessons start off with simple tracing exercises, and progress into copywork. There are simple black and white images to go with each lesson. They were fun to look at, but not too distracting.
Phonics Charts Homeschool Packet
This packet included colored visuals printed on cardstock. They have held up well so far, and appear to be durable.
There’s a variety of charts and cards in this packet, including the characters that you need to cut out for puppets, spelling cards, and the alphabet song chart. Here’s what the ABC song chart looks like:
It’s a two-page spread.
If we had room on the walls, there are many of these charts that I’d hang up. But, since we don’t have the space we just set them on the table while we were using them.
Phonics Practice Workbook
This book is full of worksheets that help students practice what they’ve learned about phonics. Here’s a page my daughter did on the letter i.
How Did We Use This Product?
We worked through a lesson each day, four days a week. But, we didn’t do all of the activities. I purposefully shortened the material, so it wouldn’t take as long. This worked better with my daughter’s short attention span.
We broke the instruction up a bit, alternating activities and lessons. There is a lot of material here, so again don’t feel like you have to do it all.
What Did We Think?
I really like the layout of this curriculum, and appreciate that it includes the visuals and readers. It takes time to prep each day, and isn’t an open-and-go curriculum. You will need to cut things out and organize all the pieces so you know where to find what you need.
I like that science and social studies are integrated throughout the units. These are done in very kid-friendly terms, and are engaging.
There’s an overarching story about a family who moves to a new neighborhood. There are visuals of them, and it would have been awesome to hang those all up. But, we just don’t have the space on the walls, so we couldn’t. I think this curriculum would be awesome if you had a dedicated homeschool room to decorate with all the cool visuals. Then your kids could learn just by looking at the walls as well.
I didn’t like that it’s obviously written for classroom use. The Teacher’s Editions have several classroom activities throughout. In most homeschool settings, those simply won’t work. So, you will need to do some adapting to make it fit your environment. There may be some group activities that you just skip, unless you have several sibling helpers to volunteer.
My daughter loved being able to do “real” school. She enjoyed it and often asked to do more pages in the workbook. She even asked to do school during free time, which is a definite win.
All in all, we both really liked this product and would recommend it to other early learners who are ready for kindergarten.