WinterPromise (WP) has developed a surprisingly broad curriculum for preschool through high school levels over the past few years. It's a themed curriculum, similar to a unit study but with a few differences. WP predominantly uses the Charlotte Mason approach to education, but much of the learning occurs around themes as in unit studies. Along with real books, WP courses use ebooks published by WinterPromise, the occasional text or workbook from another publisher, and your choice of math programs from other publishers. WP incorporates technology such as interactive computer programs, DVDs, CDs, and website links. Like unit studies, WP incorporates lots of hands-on activities and projects. It is also a multi-level program to some extent so that you can often teach students working at more than one level from the same course.
Similar to Sonlight and BookShark in one way, with WP you select your core curriculum package called a “themed program,” which might be themed around either history or science. Listed below are the themed programs, a brief description when appropriate, and their grade levels. (Note: The first two programs might be used simultaneously over one or two years.)
Journeys of Imagination - an introduction to children's literature (preK)
I'm Ready to Learn - readiness for math, language, science, etc. (preK-K)
Hideaways in History (K-1)
Animals and Their Worlds - animals and science (1-4)
Children Around the World - culture and geography (2-6)
The American Story 1 - early American history (1-3)
The American Story 2 - Civil War through the 20th century (2-4)
American Crossing (4-7)
American Culture (5-8)
Adventures in the Sea & Sky - history of sea, air, and space travel that incorporates the science for each area (4-6)
Quest for the Ancient World - ancient history (4-8)
Quest for the Middle Ages - history and science themes (4-8)
Quest for the Ancient World (9-12)
Quest for the Middle Ages (9-12)
Quest for Royals & Revolution - the period of exploration and colonization (10-12)
After choosing your core theme package, you also select language arts and a science curriculum—if the themed program isn't already focused primarily upon science—from coordinating packages published by WP. They also sell Horizons Math, the Life of Fred math series, and Saxon Math, although none of the math programs are incorporated into the rest of the curriculum as essential items.
History follows chronological themes in all of the themed guides except for Journeys of Imagination, I’m Ready to Learn, Animals and Their Worlds, and Children Around the World. Timelines are used in most of the programs to help children understand the flow of history and relationships between events.
The key item in each curriculum package is a guidebook. Each guidebook provides basic instruction on how to use the materials in the package, detailed daily lesson plans, a supply list, and additional lesson plans/schedules for older students who will complete some of their work independently when appropriate. Guidebook pages are three-hole punched for insertion in a binder for use for both planning and record keeping. Simply check off assignments as completed.
Guidebooks are very easy to use. They are designed to make WP a curriculum with minimal teacher preparation work. Each guidebook directs you in the use of quite a number of books and resources. You can purchase various packages—choose print or ebook versions of guides and some of the other books, and choose either basic or more comprehensive packages. Packages do not include the adventure reading books although all of the books are available from WinterPromise by special order. Required novels and biographies are easily available through the library and other sources.
As an example, The American Story 1 Guide and Exclusives Set for the early grades includes the guidebook and two WinterPromise exclusive items: A New Land (Early American stories) and Make-Your-Own American History Book (for creating timeline pages). The complete set includes 18 more history-related books that are biographies or brief topical history books written for children. There are two Bible study books, four activity resource books, and seven more books on Native Americans (the focus theme). On your own you need to obtain the ten adventure reading books that tie into the historical theme—books such as Ben and Me and Little House on the Prairie. In addition, you will need timeline creation items which WP also offers, or you can use your own. You might also want the optional Early American Trades & Crafts Kit. A few of the items are consumable, so you will need extras for additional students, but most items are non-consumable.
Activity Books and Notebooks
I mentioned WinterPromise’s Make-Your-Own American History book for The American Story 1. A similar Make-Your-Own book is included in each history-themed package. These unique publications have a variety of activity sheets for students to use for creating their own notebooks. A separate Timelines in History book consists of heavy cardstock pages, punched for a binder. Students use these pages to create their own timelines using figures sold by WP, Homeschool in the Woods, or another source. Notebook pages from Make-Your-Own books correlate with their respective courses and can be inserted between timeline pages if you so choose.
WP has started creating premiere versions of their interactive notebooks for some of their courses. I reviewed the Make-Your-Own World Travels Diary notebook for Children Around the World. This 286-page ebook is in full-color, but pages can be printed in either color or black and white for children to add to their notebooks. (A print version is available in black and white with selected color pages in the back.) Make-Your-Own World Travels Diary includes country maps to be colored and/or labeled; Flags and Facts pages to complete; Native Costume pages that have children add details to drawings of costumes; Folks to Know pages and Things to See pages with a variety of drawing, writing, and arts-and-crafts activities; Culture and Traditions pages, again with a variety of activities; and Postcard pages that have illustrated postcards on which children can write (writing prompts included). Some activities are recommended for older or younger students and some for all students.
Bible study is included in all themed programs, usually, but not always, coordinating with the program theme. Resources and perspective are Protestant. The Christian (Protestant) worldview carries through the entire WP curriculum even though some of the books used are secular. The publisher notes in the lesson plans when there might be potential problems for Christians such as evolutionary assumptions. Children Around the World is a good example of how the Christian worldview is incorporated. It has wonderful sections that help children understand the poverty and danger in which many children live, then it encourages children to pray for other countries and cultures.
WP language arts programs are comprehensive, covering phonics, readings, vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, grammar, composition, and communication, each at the appropriate levels. These programs include some workbooks like Explode the Code, SpellWell, Wordly Wise, and Easy Grammar. But they also include activity books and sets of real books to be used as readers. Reader packages are selected to coordinate with the themed programs. Language arts programs are available for preK through high school, but only three programs for high school level are available at this time. Guidebooks for language arts have the same type of four-day lesson plan schedules that make it easy to use and coordinate all of the resources. Language arts programs for beginning readers require quite a bit of one-on-one instruction as you would expect, but once children are independent readers, the language arts programs require minimal instruction.
The nine WP science programs are intended to supplement the core programs that already have varying amounts of science included. Science program titles are followed by a brief description and the appropriate grade levels.
The World Around Me - introduces children to basic science topics such as nature, water, light, color, and the night sky (K-2)
Hoot & Chirp, Buzz & Bite - a study of birds, plants, and bugs (1-4)
Dinosaur Days - teaches about dinosaurs from a creationist perspective (2-6)
Rock Around the Earth - geology and earth science (3-6)
Equine Science - specializes in the study of horses (3-7)
Human Body and Forensics 4/6 - body systems and forensic science (4-6)
Jiggle, Jostle & Jolt - introduces energy, electricity, magnetism, and heat (4-7)
Slimy, Grimy and Scummy No More - conservation science (7-9)
Human Body and Forensics Jr/Sr - advanced version of this course (7-12)
These programs should take only two to five hours per week to complete. All science programs include guidebooks plus a number of other books, always including some with hands-on activities.
By now, you might be envisioning quite a stack of books for each year, and that is certainly an accurate picture of this curriculum—lots of books and lots of reading to do. But the selected books, especially for younger levels, are often colorful and appealing, and most are real books rather than texts or workbooks. Many of these books are ones you would love to have in your family library.
Scheduling and Accountability
WP is designed for a 36-week school year. Schedules are set up for four days per week. The fifth day might be used for field trips, extended activities, reading, or tackling some of the ideas in the curriculum that you don't have time for the rest of the week. It doesn't seem likely that families could actually get through all of the read-aloud books and activities that come in each package, so you will sometimes have to be selective. While there is lot of reading since this is a literature-based program, WP also incorporates plenty of hands-on and active learning activities. More hands-on and arts-and-crafts type activities are included for younger students while older students are given more research and writing projects. Older students still have plenty of hands-on work such as experiments, active investigations, and practical applications. WP has made it a bit easier to select among the numerous activities by coding them as to how easy or difficult they are and how much prep time is needed.
While preparation time is minimal aside from some of the more challenging projects, parents/teachers spend a great deal of time actually using the program with their children, especially at younger levels. Most of the books for younger students are read alouds, while only a few are read alouds at upper levels. In keeping with Charlotte Mason methods, children do narrations, create notebooks, and participate in activities with varying amounts of parental assistance.
You might have also noticed that there's no mention of tests and answer keys. While answer keys come with the SpellWell books used in the language arts programs and are optional for a few other workbooks, there are no tests and answer keys for the core programs. Instead, children write, narrate, and create notebooks—demonstrating their knowledge through their activities. Parents work closely with their children and can easily spot when a child does or does not understand a concept. Nevertheless, WP guides suggest using games (directions included) if you want to quiz children on retention of information as well as other methods of evaluation.
WP has gradually been writing and producing many of their own books. These coordinate much better with the themed guides than trying to use books from other publishers. They also help create a consistent Christian worldview. In addition, since most of the WP books are published as either print or ebooks, the ebook versions present an opportunity to lower the cost of your curriculum.
The curriculum intentionally does not align with state or Common Core standards. Like most unit studies, topics are studied fewer times but at greater depth than occurs in standard textbooks. Ultimately, children are likely to cover all of the required topics, but they are also likely to retain more since learning methods are much more appealing.
The publisher's website has explanations, free sample pages, a discussion board and other information that will help you better understand the curriculum before purchasing.