Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Review of Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool

Text: A Review of Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool: Kindergarten at Home; product images; logo of BJU Press Homeschool & A Mom's Quest to Teach

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.

Our daughter has been eager to join in with the homeschooling studies of her older brothers ever since we started homeschooling. She wants to do the same activities as her six-year-old brother yet she is only just mastering some of the skills he already has acquired. When the opportunity to review BJU Press Focus on Fives presented itself, I jumped at it. I knew our daughter would be so excited to have a homeschooling program that was designed for her age and skill level. Because BJU Press Homeschool is the publisher, I knew I did not need to worry about any questionable content and that the material would be of high quality. This is excellent Christian Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum for families.

What Did We Receive?

We received in two separate boxes the Focus on Fives Subject Kit (fourth edition) which contains the following materials:

  • Focus on Fives K5 Teacher's Edition: 6 separate spiral-bound books that outline the objectives, lessons, crafts, snack ideas, extended activities, and more. 
book cover of Teacher's Edition Unit 1

  • Focus on Fives K5 Worktext: A full-color paperback book with pages that are easy to tear out. Each lesson seems to reference at least one page. The book is designed so that the pages will tear out easily. There is also a supplement section in the back of the book with a kindergarten diploma, lesson cutouts, and checkups. 
cover of Worktext and two pages from the workbook; text: A bright colorful cover for the Worktext with Hopscotch, Hopper, Dottie, and Bonnie; Sometimes the lessons require children to write while other lessons require children to cut and match pictures (which are in the back of the book)

  • Reading Books for K5: There are 34 paper books total that are landscape-oriented. The books progress from simple picture books with no text to books with increasingly challenging reading required.
book from collection - inside The Bed

book from collection; Naps; Reading Reward certificate from back of book

  • Phonics Practice for K5: This full-color workbook has a variety of exercises that align with the different lessons. For example, Lesson 103 has worksheets that focus upon 'wh' and asks your child to circle the pictures that begin with that sound. It also contains the Phonics Stories that you will need for some lessons. 
  • K5 Phonics and Review Cards: You receive a stack of pre-cut cards. Some of these are meant to be taken home by children using this curriculum in a schooling setting to help them review.
Focus on Fives Phonics cards

  • K5 Write Now! Handwriting: This book is printed in black and white with a paper cover. On some days, our daughter likes to color in the picture that is on the page.  
Focus on Fives Write Now! cover and inside the workbook; Text: Write Now! Workbook has a paper cover and is in printed in black & white; Sometimes the lessons require only half a page to be completed

  • K5 Phonics Flip Charts 
  • Focus on Fives Teaching Visuals Flip Chart: This is a spiral-bound book. The pages can be removed or left in the book.
I have been able to keep everything in one of the two boxes in which everything was shipped by standing all the books upright within the box. I added a few envelopes to hold the materials as well as paperclips and rubber bands to hold all the cards together. 

How Are We Using Focus on Fives in our Homeschool? 

There are a total of 180 lessons spread across seven units in Focus on Fives and we are averaging about three-quarters to one-and-a-half lessons a day in our homeschool. On average, we have been completing a little bit more than one scheduled week's worth in one week.
number 5 graphic; cover of Phonics workbook; Bonnie Phonics card

The Teacher's Edition is written for use within a classroom but homeschool parents can easily adapt it in their own homes with one or two children. Everything is so very clear and detailed that—even if you are brand new to homeschooling and have never used a teacher's manual before—you should feel confident in using Focus on Five with your kindergartener. I started by reading through the six goals, the Biblical worldview themes, examining the lesson features, going over the instructional materials, the goals of the reading books and the reading book lesson features, and the lesson plan overview. This information is all presented in the introduction prior to the first lesson plan. (There is also additional information in the introduction that I skimmed over because they did not apply to me since I am using Focus on Fives in my homeschool and not in a classroom with learners of different abilities.)

To prepare, I went through and pulled the necessary pages from the Worktext, Phonics Practice, and Write Now! workbooks and paperclipped them with the lessons in the Teacher's Edition along with any Phonics Charts and Cards that were necessary. For those lessons where I wanted to incorporate materials from the back of the Teacher's Edition (instructional materials and creative writing sheets that you will need to copy for your child), I copied them and placed them with the lessons, too.

Materials needed for Dalmatian Sort
One of the activities that requires you to photocopy needed pages from the back of the Teacher's Guide.

Playing Dalmatian Sort
Our daughter had to match the objects to the letter that they start with on the dalmatian. 

There are so many options for you to make the lessons fit the needs of your children!

I think the easiest way to demonstrate how Focus on Fives works – especially in our homeschool – is to walk you through one lesson, Lesson 10: Surprise

At the start of the lesson, we reviewed previous information that we talked about, including the words "it" and "I" and the letters "i" and "t". We then used the Worktext worksheets which were Review for You pages.

page from Focus on Fives workbook

This lesson also included the reading of the second book: Surprise! Before reading the book, I asked our daughter the questions written in the Teacher's Edition (What do you see? What do you think the surprise will be?) and then we progressed into the book. There are seven pages in the Teacher's Edition with questions to ask during the reading of the book along with comprehension questions. (I love how the questions, answers, and pages from the book are directly printed in the Teacher's Edition.)

page from Teacher's Edition and children's book
The student's book here is laid on top of the Teacher's Edition.

The final activity for this lesson that we completed was the page from the Write Now! workbook where our daughter colored a picture of a bird and wrote the word "it". There are additional activities including a snack suggestion and an arts and crafts activity.

page from Write Now! workbook of a bird

So how long does each lesson take? Everything depends on how many of the various activities you include in each lesson. To maintain our daughter's attention I usually split each lesson into more than one part throughout the day. We may spend 20 to 30 minutes at a time. For example, we may complete one worksheet from the Worktext book and then go over different words that start with the letter 's'. If I have everything set up, we may finish up with a craft. Later in the day (even after dinner on a few occasions), we may complete the writing exercise from the Write Now! workbook. Sometimes, I even save those for the next day.

What Did We Think? 

We have the had the chance to really start a formal homeschool education with our daughter. Up till this point she has been using various materials as a preschooler but not set curriculum. I think that BJU Press Focus on Fives has been a fantastic resource to introduce her to more formal homeschooling. It allows us flexibility to meet her needs – she loves arts and crafts, to move around during her homeschooling, to work while sitting on the couch with me rather than at a table, and to be physically active while she learns.

Easter page; fire truck; tent; cloud with rainbow; 9-1-1 craft
We have been hanging up some of her artwork and lesson pages on the wall along with our social studies materials.
completing worksheet
The flexibility of using this curriculum allows our daughter to complete work while sitting in my lap.

Our daughter really couldn't decide on a favorite part of the lessons. She loves having the books that she could read and share with the rest of the family. Being able to write her name on them when she completed them was a great bonus. The extended activities that allowed her to be creative and get up and move were also important to her as she loves art projects and being physically active. I love that she gets a variety of activities in each lesson that helps build her writing and reading skills while teaching her about the world around her.

completing worksheet from write now!
Even with simple worksheets, she can be creative and color the spaces with the letter 'i' in whatever manner she chooses.

What Do We Have to Look Forward To? 

One of the things I am looking forward to is being able to take our family to visit some of the places we are learning about in Focus on Fives such as a fire station, post office, police station, and more. If this were a normal homeschooling season, we would have planned a trip to visit the places during each appropriate week but we will have to save those trips for the future.

I am really looking forward to using Focus on Fives for the rest of the homeschool year with our daughter. Just flipping through Teacher's Editions, I can see so many awesome lessons. In Unit 2, we will discuss the parts of the Bible, about libraries, nursery rhymes, and more about books and writing. In Unit 3, our daughter and I will talk about animals in the Bible (like sheep, donkeys, and lions), contrast the differences between a family farm and a commercial farm, and talk about how to take care of pets. In Units 4 and 5, we will study places, r-blends, how God answers prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance, and short and long i, o, and u words. A look at the Untied States White House is one of the many lessons in Unit 6. Finally, Unit 7 contains a review as well as lessons for various Holidays. I discovered the Easter lesson right before Easter so we were able to include one of the activities. (You can see the Angel in front of the empty tomb worksheet in the display of various projects from Focus on Fives in one of the above photographs.) I look forward to completing the Memorial Day lessons at the end of May.

In the near future, I will be greatly anticipating the next set of lessons we will be working on after finishing up the week about Postal Workers. It was fun to talk about the history of the postal service and teach our daughter about how to address envelopes. But I think the final week of Unit 1 will be very important, too. We will take a look at ways to keep healthy, ways to stay healthy, and talk about how to distinguish fantasy from realistic fiction along with many other language arts activities.

Do I recommend the BJU Press Five on Fives curriculum? YES! I have been really pleased with the entire package and love the flexibility it is affording us in our homeschool. I can see our daughter growing as a new homeschool student who is studying kindergarten at home.

all the products for BJU Press Focus on Fives kit

What else will be coming? If you want to incorporate videos into your lesson, you only have to wait till the summer for the opportunity. There will be the opportunity to choose Focus on Fives Online with Books on July 1, 2020. There are 160 videos (lessons are 60 minutes in length) taught by Mrs. Rebekah Rulapaugh. If you want to see a sample, you can view one on the BJU Press Homeschool site.

Would You Like to Know More?

BJU Press Homeschool Logo

Our daughter wasn't the only child reviewing Focus on Fives from the Homeschool Review Crew. Please be sure to check out the other reviews!

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