Alphabet Smash can be used as a complete pre-K program or as a supplement. Learning the letters of the alphabet is the main event in this curriculum, but this comprehensive program builds the entire curriculum around the theme of one letter of the alphabet for each week. Depending upon which activities you use, children will learn:
- to identify and write both upper- and lower-case letters
- the primary sound of each letter
- to practice copy work
- Bible stories
- to memorize Bible verses
- character traits
- about missionaries
- to create handiwork
- about artists
- to do picture studies with narration
- to study pictures by attempting to copy them
- to listen to and memorize poems
- basic math concepts informally
- science concepts through hands-on-activity and observation
- about their community, family, and home
- about countries and people around the world
- about composers
- hymns and songs
The entire program is strongly influenced by Charlotte Mason’s ideas. Author Christina Parker Brown includes occasional quotes from Mason in her introduction, and ideas such as picture studies are drawn directly from Mason. Like Mason, Brown recommends that children try to do as many activities outside as possible. Some field trips, science, and other activities obviously need to be done outdoors, but you might consciously shift other activities outdoors as well.
Parents or teachers might be tempted to jump ahead to the lessons plans for each week, but the introductory section is a vital part of the course. Here Brown explains learning methods and activities that might be used throughout the course; how to use the block letter, clip art, and handwriting pages; how to use Bible, missionary, and character trait suggestions; how to do picture studies; and, otherwise, how to flesh out the activity suggestions for each letter of the alphabet.
For each letter of the alphabet there are four or five pages of activities for the week, including specific recommendations for read-aloud books, composers to study, hymns and/or songs to learn, and movies to watch that all start with the letter of the week. You will need to plan ahead since you will have to gather resources for many of the activities.
Occasionally, instructions are included within the week's list of activities, but in many instances you need to refer to the instructions or explanations at the front of the book. However, many activities are relatively simple lists or general suggestions without instructions. For example, on page 41, “Eggshell art” is fully explained: “Crush the shells of several eggs and soak them in different cups of colored water using food coloring. Let dry on paper towel; then glue onto a drawn egg shape. Layer the colors and make designs.” On the other hand, Bible ideas for the letter “e” simply list, “Elijah, Elisabeth, Elisha, Ephraim, Esau, Esther, Eve, Ezekial, Ezra, the star in the East, eternal life, the Exodus from Egypt.” Also, under the miscellaneous activities we find only general instructions such as “Decorate an envelope” and “Learn about eagles and elephants” (pages 40-41).
The design of the curriculum makes it great for creative parents and teachers who appreciate a bit of extra help coming up with ideas and making sure they cover a wide range of subject areas. Those looking for detailed step-by-step daily lesson plans with instructions need to look elsewhere. The wealth of suggestions relating to the Christian faith make Alphabet Smash a particularly good choice for Christians, but non-Christians can simply skip those activities.
Since learning the letters of the alphabet is such an important aspect of the curriculum, Brown has created special worksheets to make this easier for parents and teachers. These are available online for free to those who subscribe to Brown’s free newsletter. The block letter worksheet page for each letter has both upper and lower case forms that are large enough to decorate with buttons if you are studying the letter “b” or feathers or fabric if you are studying the letter “f,” or whatever else you might choose to use begins with the letter featured that week. Handwriting practice worksheets have lines with models for practicing both upper- and lower-case letters. Bible verse copy worksheets feature each week’s memory verse in traceable letters and with enough space for children who are able to copy the verse again below. These three types of pages, all printed in black-and-white, are available within the printed book, Alphabet Smash Supplement. However, in the book, all pages are printed on both sides which might be a problem since you will use only one side per week. The block pages pose a particular problem since you will definitely need to print or copy those pages onto a single sheet of paper if you plan to glue or paste things on them. Printing these out yourself from the website makes the most sense to me.
Children are supposed to each create a binder of their work for the year. The pages I’ve already describe will go into it. In addition, children should create a page each week with cut-and-paste illustrations of objects that begin with the letter of the week. Twenty-six pages within Alphabet Smash are full-color clip art pages that children may use for images representing each letter of the alphabet. You can also have children search for other images to use. These images are also available as printable pages from the publisher's website.
A reproducible weekly schedule worksheet on page six of the book can also be printed directly from a page on the publisher's website. This worksheet helps you keep track of activities for all of the different categories and maintain a record of what you have accomplished. There are more suggested activities than you can use, so choose those most practical for you and most suitable for your children.
Alphabet Smash can be used in homeschools or with group classes. It seems to me that Alphabet Smash would be great for homeschoolers meeting in co-ops for one or two days a week, since parents can then share responsibility for gathering materials and preparing activities for multiple children in the same time it takes to do so for one child.
Alphabet Smash is available in a Kindle format or as a printed book. The savings are huge if you can work from the Kindle version, and it includes hundreds of links for topics listed in the book.