An in-depth review of one of our favorite secular homeschool curriculums
We are huge fans of Blossom & Root over here, in fact, it's typically one of the curriculum choices that shows up in our own homeschool in one way or another. Level 4, or 4th Grade, is an exciting year that we're looking forward to using ourselves this fall...however, please note that these levels are so adjustable that I really do feel that the 'level' label is much more accurate than assigning a specific grade level. We will be using Level 4 with a 3rd grader and 5th grader.
There are some super exciting new changes included in Level 4 that are not found in earlier levels! It's geared towards encouraging independence, in a way that Kristina (the creator of Blossom & Root) describes as 'transitional'. This means that some kiddos might be ready to take on more independent work at this level but some will need more guidance, especially depending on what grade level you choose to use this particular level with. Regardless, the parent/teacher *is* still intended to oversee the work. You are still intended to be the guide, especially for the science portion.
The curriculum clearly lays out what should be adult-led, transitional or independent, so that you have an easy way to see which areas should be more parent-guided and which should be more child-led. However *ALWAYS* screen materials prior to use. I don't ever recommend handing over materials or books directly, without screening, and often pre-read literature selections to check for age-appropriateness for my own kiddos.
On a more general note, there is also a new approach to the art study for this level, as well as a new focus on science AND a nature study focused on gardening, all of which I found to be really exciting and engaging changes for this level. I'm going to take you through each section step by step, because the curriculum includes a LOT if you purchase the full level! (However, note that you can also purchase each subject separately, which is a huge benefit to this particular curriculum. In past years, we've used just the science or art portions, without having to have purchased the entire grade level!)
Language Arts is focused on the them of 'Heroes & Myths', where you get to "explore gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, heroes fighting against all odds" all through narration, copywork, hands on activities, and projects.
The foundation of the language arts component is the stories. She notes that 'if you have weeks when you accomplish nothing else, other than reading these stories, you have still had a successful week!" I LOVE this. The book selection this level is full of things that I cannot wait to read aloud with my kiddos, and I know that I'll enjoy them just as much as they will.
After your reading, you'll then explore the selection through activities, journal entries, word play, vocabulary, copywork and dictation. The student works through all of these in the included Student Notebook, which contains the word lists, copywork pages, narration spots and even grammar notes! This is separate from this level's Super Secret Notebook, which the student keeps in a multimedia book (such as this one) which has prompts and art experimentation in the form of 'secret missions' each week, such as word collection, lists and collages.
There is also an optional geography component that you can add on, with a huge supplemental booklist to support this addition!
The other bonus for this year is that they've added a daily schedule layout, which was a huge request from a lot of users of previous years. For those who need a little more handholding, or just really prefer curriculum with the schedule already laid out for you, this is a really wonderful addition!
Please note that though there is a suggested daily schedule, this curriculum is NOT considered 'open and go'. You do need to source all of the spines, suggested materials, optional books, and pull them all together in the way that best fits your family. You will also need to add a math component as that is not included.
"explore gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, heroes fighting against all odds" all through narration, copywork, hands on activities, and projects
The science theme for this level is 'Wonders of the Physical World', which is focused on physics and engineering for the first half of the year (with optional profiles on scientists and inventors) and human anatomy for the second half.
This portion of the curriculum differs from language arts in that it's recommended to be parent led.
Each week there is a 'wonder' or specific topic, in which you'll read about it in the spines (the main resource books chosen for the curriculum), then 'explore', via videos, hands on activities, supplemental books, etc. and then 'record' by drawing pictures or writing down whatever information the student chooses.
Often, we choose the more minimal approach to science, by using just spines and recommended videos. This year, I've set aside some really fun STEM kits over the last few months to intersperse as we go along with the curriculum. (You can check out my Amazon storefront here, to see some of the ones I've purchased to use this year!) But that is one of the things that makes this curriculum so flexible. There are options provided for whatever type of learning works best for your family... minimal, 'book basket' (supplemental picture books), visual learners (video links), outdoor, table lab, and arts and crafts. And because all of the options are laid out for you, you can choose exactly which ones you want to use, or you can mix and match exactly how you want!
Profiles in Art differs from past years, which previously focused on one artwork each week centered around a math concept. This level covers 9 artists over the course of the year, with studies of their different works and then an option to create your own similar style of art. There is an amazing optional booklist that goes along with the artist study as well. The art study is one things we ran out of room for last year, but it's so engaging for this level that I'm going to make sure we make time for it.
And finally, the nature study for Level 4 is themed 'A Garden of my Own'. This garden study is wisely broken up into seasons, with appropriate growing or experimenting for each quarter, based on weather. Obviously, if you're in an area with longer or shorter growing seasons, you can adjust or adapt easily, based on how it's already laid out. You'll know easily how to adjust for your particular area. While I've learned since my pandemic garden attempt that gardening is not for me, I can appreciate how thoughtfully this study is laid out, and makes it accessible to anyone wishing to learn more about it.
While I do love the ability to purchase each individual piece of the curriculum as needed, I truly feel that the entire level is so thoughtfully put together, and is the most engaging and fun level that Blossom & Root has put out yet. They truly grow each year in depth, diversity, creativity, and intrigue.
Purchase the curriculum HERE
You can find my review on the River of Voices inclusive history curriculum from B&R here
You can find my earlier general review of Blossom & Root here
To see my Amazon list of resources for this grade level, click here
To see the books available on Bookshop, click here