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 includes 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.
Those with preschoolers can begin with Journeys of Imagination, a story-based course with weekly themes. I'm Ready to Learn provides more-academic readiness skills for math, language, science, and other subjects. The two courses coordinate with each other but can be used on their own.
Adventures in Pine Hollow (another of my Top Picks) follows next with a series of courses that cover reading and language arts for kindergarten through third or fourth grade. For kindergarten, you can complement these courses with the first of the core packages, Animals and Their Worlds, if you wish. A number of the core packages can be used for first grade and beyond.
With WP, once past preschool or kindergarten, 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 (if needed), and their grade levels.
- Animals and Their Worlds - animals and science (K-4)
- Hideaways in History - world history and cultures from ancient to modern times (1-4)
- Children Around the World - culture and geography (1-7)
- The American Story 1 - early American history (1-7)
- The American Story 2 - Civil War through the 20th century (2-9)
- Adventures in the Sea & Sky - history of sea, air, and space travel that incorporates the science for each area (2-9)
- Quest for the Ancient World - ancient history (4-8)
- Quest for the Ancient World - ancient history (9-12)
After choosing your core theme package, you also select language arts and a science curriculum from coordinated packages published by WP. You won't need a separate science package if your core-themed package already covers it. WP also sells 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 packages except for 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 the relationships between events.
Some older themed packages are sold only as PDFs. Those are listed under "Classic WinterPromise." These packages are no longer being updated.
- Quest for the Middle Ages - history and science themes (4-8)
- Quest for the Middle Ages (9-12)
- American History & Government (9-12)
The key item in each curriculum package is a guidebook. The guidebooks provide 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. Printed guidebook pages are three-hole punched for insertion in a binder for use for both planning and record keeping.
The 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—some created by WinterPromise and some from other publishers.
You can purchase various packages. Choose either print or ebook versions of WinterPromise guides and their exclusive publications, and choose either basic or more-comprehensive packages. Some packages include books from other publishers, but more frequently, you will need to obtain the other required books on your own. Those books that you might borrow or buy include "Adventure Reading" books, recommended books to read aloud with the family. The packages do not include the Adventure Reading books since these novels and biographies are easily available through the library and other sources.
As an example, Quest for the Ancient World for grades four through eight requires the WinterPromise guide and two WinterPromise exclusive items: Make-Your-Own Ancient Chronicle and Setting Out on Ancient Adventure Quests. You will also need to obtain these essential books from other sources: The Story of the World: Volume 1, The Mystery of History: Volume I, Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, and Great Ancient China Projects. Other resources that are scheduled into the program, but which are not essential, include the printed books Ancient Egypt Projects, Pharaohs & Foot Soldiers, Kings and Carpenters, Explore Ancient Greece, Explore Ancient Rome, and Lamps, Scrolls & Goatskin Bottles. Adventure Readers include titles such as The Golden Goblet, Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, and The Odyssey.
Activity Books and Notebooks
I mentioned WinterPromise’s Make-Your-Own Ancient Chronicle book for Quest for the Ancient World. A similar Make-Your-Own book is included in most history-themed packages. These unique publications have a variety of activity sheets for students to use for creating their own notebooks. I was able to review the Make-Your-Own World Travels Diary notebook for Children Around the World as an example. This 286-page, full-color book is available in print or as a PDF. It includes country maps to be colored and/or labeled; Flags and Facts pages to complete; Native Costume pages that let 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.
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 the timeline pages if you so choose.
Bible study is included in all themed programs, usually, but not always, coordinating with the program theme. The resources and perspective are Protestant. The Christian (Protestant) worldview carries through the entire WP curriculum even though many 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. The Children Around the World course provides a good example of how the Christian worldview is incorporated. It first teaches children about other cultures and the poverty and danger in which many children live. Then it encourages children to pray for other countries and cultures.
WP language arts programs for pre-K through high school are comprehensive, covering phonics, readings, vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, grammar, composition, and communication, each at the appropriate levels. Adventures in Pine Hollow is a series of courses for kindergarten through third or fourth grade that teaches reading and covers the other areas of language arts.
There are additional language arts courses for grades three through eight that build language arts skills in a sequential fashion. These programs include some workbooks from series, such as 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. The 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 a lot of reading, 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 and teachers will spend a great deal of time interacting 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's 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 not understand a concept. Nevertheless, WP guides suggest using games (directions included) to quiz children on retention of information along with 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 the Common Core State 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 the 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.