The Program is designed to be used with three year olds and again at age four. A good look at it suggests that it's right up my teacher alley. A number of lay parents complain that it takes a lot of organizing and prep work, but I'm used to that.
It's set up this way: Bible verse, songs/finger plays, poems, books, interactive learning activities, art projects, and music appreciation. It's obviously a Classical learning program, but it's very open ended so you can throw some good ol' Montessori in there too.
The program runs August through May with a unit each week and three days worth of lessons (which some parents said was too much for their youngster so they broke the days down into smaller components).
Some cursory downsides: Well, in her resources she mentions Dobson (of the Focus on the Family variety) and one of his books "The Willful Child." Yikes! Well, this is a curriculum not a disciplinary source. So I'll ignore that bit of advice.
Secondly the illustrative stuff for the projects and whatnot that are included aren't the greatest. Granted I'm no artist myself, but they could be re-done in better quality. The book and illustrations are also only in black and white which means I have to color them in.
Thirdly, it's mostly "academic." I use this word loosely because it isn't tradition in that she pushes children to regurgitate letters, but rather to read books and other "unschooling" methods of learning. She doesn't however go very far into the liturgical calendar. She includes the "major holidays" (Christmas, Easter, St. Pat's, etc) but there's no week of Divine Mercy Sunday. No Pentecost. No All-Saints (or even Halloween). So I'll be supplementing because I think it's also a part of child's education.
The other thing that bothers me is her Guardian Angel. She seems to suggest that giving them a name is okay (not sure I'd have to look at it more closely). In her acknowledgements she names hers. Now Guardian Angels do have names, but we can't name them like their a pet. They are beings (without bodies) and deserve respect. If your angel tells you it's name, that's a different story. But just to assign a name is disrespectful. In the section about angels, she has a story where the angel has a name. It kind of bothers me a bit because of this whole "are you sure that's his/her name" thing, but...
Lastly the author emphasizes classical/art music selections. She suggests to incorporate the music by playing it in the car or during meals. As a music teacher my heart stops.
Dear parents. You can do far better than this. If you want to get your child to truly appreciate music, let me give you the low down on what happens here.
1) Sing- I don't care if you're terrible. In order for a child to appreciate music, they need to be able to use their primary instrument: their voice. Yes, she includes finger plays and poems. But a true classicist would suggest children's folk songs too. They're in the supplemental suggestions, but not included in the main body. Tisk. Tisk. Countdown Kids is really great. We have a couple of their Mommy and Me cds.
2) Dance- I'm not graceful, but we still boogie. The point is to teach children rhythm and keeping a steady beat. It also helps to develop listening skills (every parents wish, right?). And the easiest way for youngsters to do that is by moving. It doesn't have to be teaching them ballet or to salsa. They just need to be able to twirl and even follow the directions of the Hokie Pokie. Yes, it's that simple. You can use her classical suggestions and songs like Looby Loo. Although I note that she does include the Hokie Pokie under the finger games category, but really it's music.
3) Instruments- It's really fun for children to learn that any sound is really music. Make rattles with beans and cups. Stretch rubber bands over old tissue boxes. Use your kitchen utensils. Use your body.
Why do all this? To truly appreciate music and to reinforce language. My oldest could sing sentences long before he could speak things. Music develops a different part of the brain from language (that's why stroke patients can sometimes sing, but can't speak coherently). You need to get your child to work on that part of the brain too.
I'm hoping that I see more of that in her book, but I can't tell yet. I have another one to review tomorrow. So between those two books and the internet as my guide, I hope to have a program up and running for when HB is three. Otherwise the Wii and the porch will drive all of us nutty.