In many ways, preschool is arguably more important than school itself because it is where character begins to form and the skills needed to read, think, and communicate are initially gained. This is certainly the attitude of the instructors and writers responsible for Christian Liberty Press's preschool curriculum and resources. The emphasis tends toward character, but academic skills are very much in view as well.
While the many disparate resources do cohere around the Christian Liberty Preschool Teacher's Guide, they can also be used on their own, or in any combination you choose. This flexibility is well-suited to the often hectic nature of preschool at home, and means you don't have to be a tiger mother to use any or all of this effectively.
Students will learn the basics: shapes, opposites, the alphabet and its sounds, colors, numbers and counting, etc. The goal here is not mastery, however, but simply to position kids for readiness to encounter the more challenging subjects of reading (as opposed to simple letter and sound recognition), math (as opposed to simple numeral identification and counting), and writing (as opposed to just tracing letters and numerals).
Parents or teachers will have their work cut out for them (this is preschool, after all), but with the CLP Teacher's Guide much of the difficulty of planning and preparation is eased away. These resources were mostly developed in the classroom of the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois, so you'll have the advantage of material backed by years of experience and practical use.
How Do These Work?
The Christian Liberty Preschool Activity Book is the main text for students. The book is a full-color consumable worktext, though you can make copies for multiple students based on need. There are 30 one-week units, each with ten workpages to be completed at the rate of two per day. If you're only using this book, preparation is minimal—all you really have to do is read the instructions to your child at the top of each page and make sure they complete the exercises accordingly.
Exercises progress from very simple to more complex. For instance, in the beginning children learn to trace lines, identify identical objects, color animal pictures, etc. By the end of the book, they've learned the alphabet, some basic counting (1-10), shapes, and colors, and can write each letter and identify basic phonetic sounds. Motor, visual, auditory, and basic comprehension skills are all strengthened as children absorb the building blocks of more advanced learning.
It should take a little less than one school year to complete Christian Liberty Preschool Activity Book. Two one-page tests at the end can be administered to gauge students's progress, though by then you should have a pretty good idea what they know and what they are capable of. This is a very low-intensity worktext for both students and parents—children are gently led to the brink of math and phonics with exercises that they'll find fun but which are deeply educational.
A complementary full-color consumable worktext, the Christian Liberty Preschool Drill Book focuses exclusively on handwriting skills, with workpages that correspond directly to those in the Christian Liberty Preschool Activity Book. This is a much shorter book, with 56 workpages that cover basic pencil movements (lines, curves, etc.), each letter of the alphabet, the numerals 0-20, and basic shapes. Children both trace the letters and numerals, and practice writing them without assistance.
Five vowel-based readers are also available, though the term "reader" might be somewhat misleading in this case. These are not meant for children to read themselves, but for parents to read to them while emphasizing certain words and sounds and helping get kids on the road to visual identification. Each reader is just eight pages long, with brief text and attractive full-color illustrations. The set covers the short vowel sounds (a,e,i,o,u), with one volume for each sound.
There are three stages for interacting with the readers. First, parents flip through the book with their children, looking at the pictures and discussing any that depict a word with a short vowel sound (i.e., a picture of a cat, a bed, etc.). Next, you'll read the story to your kids, pointing to each short vowel word as you read it. Finally, re-read the story, and have your students read the highlighted short vowel words as you encounter them; you may help them with a pointing prompt. A list of appropriate short vowel words appears at the back of each book.
Trottino's Tale looks like a reader, but is more of a character curriculum element. It contains a series of short vignettes about a rabbit named Trottino, adapted from a late 19th-century French storybook for children. Trottino and his brother Lapino get into all sorts of mischief, which provides plenty of opportunity to elucidate compelling moral lessons to young ones. At the back of the book, ideas for providing Christian instruction for each of the 12 stories is included, along with suggested Scripture readings.
Finally, a Christian Liberty Preschool Teacher's Guide helps you pull everything together for a complete preschool curriculum. A teaching outline that matches the 30 weeks of the Christian Liberty Preschool Activity Book presents craft and activity ideas, Bible readings, memory verses, and ideas for special snacks that correspond to each unit in the Activity Book. Most of the rest of the Teacher's Guide is comprised of page-by-page explanations of the Activity Book along with teacher's notes and references to corresponding Drill Book exercises.
This comb bound volume does not integrate the five vowel readers or Trottino's Tale. It does include some reproducible letter and number flashcards in the back, student evaluation forms, alphabet charts, number lines, and a preschool progress report to help you keep track of which skills your kiddo has mastered. If you want to give your kids a full-orbed preschool experience, the Teacher's Guide will help you do that and help you retain what shreds of sanity you have left.
Our Honest Opinion
One of the chief selling points of Christian Liberty curriculum has always been its streamlined approach: simple and easy to use without being inadequate or bare bones. This holds true of the CLP Preschool resources as well, along with the fact that Christian character is front and center throughout the workbooks, teacher materials, and readers. The authors and editors recognize that Christian parents don't just want smart kids, they want godly kids who can think on their own.
If you're looking for a complete preschool curriculum but don't want to go all-out with expensive kits that include multiple volumes, videos, games, animal puppets, etc., this is a good option. The approach in the Activity Book is similar to that found in Simone Bibeau's Developing the Early Learner series of workbooks. We and many others find the focus on thinking-oriented skills both refreshing and necessary and effective for raising good scholars and citizens.
Don't expect the Teacher's Guide to be exhaustive, or to find answers to all the exercises anywhere. Also don't expect to just hand your preschooler a book while you go catch up on Netflix or the latest Patricia Cornwell novel. Preschoolers don't yet know how to study or learn, and getting them ready to do that is the job this program will help you with. Whether you use just one or all these resources, a child primed for big kid school by Christian Liberty Preschool will be ready to learn indeed.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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