Blossom and Root is a secular curriculum for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade with an emphasis on language arts, literature, science, nature, the fine arts, and geography. The curriculum strongly supports STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). They have just published their first course for history, and have two more history courses in development. A fifth-grade program should be available in August of 2021.
Blossom and Root presents a relaxed approach to learning that addresses various learning styles and developmental capabilities. It is meant to be an interactive, flexible curriculum that is tailored to suit each child. It reflects the influence of both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason approaches to education. Waldorf influences are evident in the overall design and philosophy as well as in elements such as experiential learning and the frequent use of arts and crafts. Charlotte Mason's influence is visible in the use of living books, picture studies, narration, copywork, and nature study.
Blossom and Root is decidedly secular in its approach. The curriculum is so strongly oriented toward secular views, both in the curriculum itself and in many of the resources it recommends, that I doubt it will work for families with Judeo-Christian beliefs.
The curriculum is designed to be affordable since everything is sold as PDF files. Lesson plans direct you to use lots of information and read-aloud books (not sold by Blossom and Root) and occasional internet resources.
The information and read-aloud books are a major part of the curriculum, and they are used for all subject areas. Some of those books are required, but there are also long lists of optional books. You should be able to get many of the books from the library, although you will probably want to buy the ones that will be used frequently over the year. According to the publisher, the program is undergoing revisions to add “stories that feature more diverse characters” and to “support a greater variety of family structures.”
Blossom and Root incorporates lots of hands-on activities, projects, and outdoor activities. You will need many resources for the projects and activities─arts and crafts resources, household items, and findings from nature, for the most part.
The curriculum begins with two volumes for pre-kindergarten. The Early Years: Volume 1 and Volume 2 present lessons plans for a two-year program. After that, their more-expansive kindergarten program has three parent guides titled Arts, Reading & Language, and Nature Study. For first grade and above, the curriculum is presented in subject-area components for language arts, science, nature study, and integrated arts. (Integrated arts adds some math concepts to art.)
The lessons are directed from the parent guides. There are also student notebooks for each subject beginning at kindergarten level. Student notebooks consist primarily of graphic organizer pages where students can draw and write in an open-ended fashion rather than traditional worksheets. (Literature student notebooks add some reading activities and fill-in-the-blanks pages, and the history student notebook has lots of map work.)
You can purchase either a complete grade-level program or individual subject area components for kindergarten through fourth grade. Cross-subject connections make it most beneficial to purchase a complete program for one grade level. However, if you have two or more children at different grade levels, the language arts component should be selected to suit each child. Then you can still combine children working at different grade levels in the same components for science, nature study, art, and history.
The curriculum requires parent involvement each day with read-aloud books, discussions, projects, and activities. Preparation time is also required to choose activities, gather resources, and plan for nature outings if needed.
How It Works
The Early Years programs for pre-kindergarten introduce academics and basic skills in a gentle fashion with interaction and lots of hands-on activities.
Children begin to read in kindergarten with a phonics approach, although the program supports delayed reading for children who aren’t ready. (I wish more programs would offer this option!) The program uses word play rather than workbook activities. You can use any sort of letter manipulatives you want (magnets, letter tiles, cubes, flashcards, etc.) to teach phonetic concepts and help children build words.
Kindergarten also introduces beginning math skills with integrated math and science lessons. History and geography begin with the child’s personal home and family, then move out into the broader world. Art includes both appreciation and activities as children learn about the lives and works of famous artists and composers.
Phonics and reading skills continue to be taught and reinforced through fourth grade.
Writing and grammar skills are learned through narration and copywork from kindergarten on, but explicit instruction on grammar, punctuation, composition skills, and spelling rules doesn't begin until fourth grade. You might want a separate spelling course, but it isn’t essential. You will probably want your own handwriting course since it isn’t taught within Blossom and Root.
Read-aloud and resource books on geography and culture are suggested as options within the language arts programs for first grade and above. This helps integrate learning across subject areas. Recommended books include atlases, books for learning about maps, and books about world cultures.
Exploring the Math in Art lessons teach art appreciation and art skills. Lessons consist of one picture study, one integrated math concept, and one project each week. Math concepts trend toward patterns, symmetry, and similar visually-related concepts. While math skills are covered sufficiently within the pre-k and kindergarten programs, you will probably want to add your own math course beginning at first grade.
Science in Blossom and Root is weighted toward nature study more than toward technology and engineering, but that is likely to shift in at least some of the future courses that Blossom and Root will publish. In the meantime, the Book Seeds described below stretch into other areas of science. Science lessons are presented with all sorts of options for different learners and different time schedules. Lessons introduce and explore each topic, often with hands-on activities. Then students write, draw or otherwise express what they have learned. There’s also a student notebook and a lab guide. The lab guide provides detailed instructions for further hands-on explorations.
The separate Nature Study guides present projects, suggested books to read, and nature-study prompts. The projects are multi-day or ongoing activities while the prompts are single-day activities.
The complete programs for second grade and above include a Creative Extensions Guide with optional projects for creative expression. It seems to me there are already lots of opportunities for creative expression elsewhere in the program, but some families will find these useful.
Book Seeds are two-week studies inspired or supported by a children’s book. (You need to get the children’s book on your own.) There are two types of Books Seeds: Seasonal and Profiles in Science.
Seasonal Book Seeds focus on nature themes and are written for ages two through eight. These can be used alongside the Blossom and Root programs or on their own.
Profiles in Science Book Seeds for ages six through twelve investigate the contributions of men and women in the STEAM areas. Some of them are incorporated into the complete programs. For example, third graders will use six Profiles in Science Book Seeds. In addition to reading the children’s book, other activities directed by these Book Seeds include nature investigation and journaling, some scientific investigations, a lot of arts and crafts, a recipe to create a food item that is related to the topic, and a quotation for copywork.
A River of Voices: The History of the United States Volume 1 is a 36-week course that can be used at different grade levels by choosing one of three pathways. The Gentle Pathway is for children in kindergarten through second grade or those the publisher describes as sensitive learners who might be bothered by stories that include killing and physical suffering. The Standard Pathway is for grades three to eight, and the Advanced Pathway is for seventh grade and above.
The “river of voices” concept in the title means the use of different voices and viewpoints rather than a single viewpoint of our history. While the concept is great, the execution leaves something to be desired, in my opinion. (I know that some people will disagree with me about this!) There are a few options for the spine books (your primary sources), and many more options for additional books required for each pathway, so parents can shape the course to some extent by the options they choose. The spines and many of the other books present a revisionist view of history that tends to portray explorers, settlers, and Christianity in a negative light, with much more attention and sympathy given to the plights of native Americans and slaves. While history instruction needs rebalancing, in this case it seems to have shifted too far in the opposite direction.
The course also recommends videos to watch, virtual field trips, websites to dig deeper into topics, occasional hands-on activities, map work, and suggestions for writing or drawing in the student notebook.
Blossom and Root should work for secular families who love to read books aloud together and who prefer a more relaxed approach to education. The curriculum’s flexibility allows you to shape it to suit your children, but it also requires more preparation, decision making, and lesson presentation to make it work.