Recently, a friend asked me if I had ever heard of the Global Village School homeschool curriculum. She knew I had unschooled my kids in the early years and she knew I was Quaker, with a strong belief in community service and civic responsibility. When my friend stumbled onto GVS, she thought of me and wondered what I thought of it. I had never heard of Global Village School, but the website did, indeed, look like something that would have caught my attention back in the day.
My friend wound up buying both the 3rd and 4th grade curriculum to use with her kids. Within days, she called me up and said, “You’ve got to take a look at this!” So, I made a cup of tea, sat down, and started looking at Whole Child, Healthy Planet. Then, I looked again. I even came back another day to look one more time because I was convinced that I had to be missing something.
I went back to the GVS’s website to get a better sense of what I was looking at. What I can tell you is that there’s definitely truth in advertising with this product. BUT (and, yes, that’s a big ‘but’) I can see why expectations can be dashed once you open your download.
GVS clearly states that their product is a curricular guide – NOT an actual curriculum. The $125 – $185 you drop for a single grade level of Whole Child, Healthy Planet does not include daily lesson plans nor do you receive a single book you can actually use with your child.
Instead, you are told, “Our K-8 curriculum guides cover all of the core academic subjects in a way that engages students through a sense of enchantment, awe, and wonder as well as through incorporation of art, music, nature, imagination, and story.” GVS believes they do that by providing you with:
Resource List: You get a list of numerous picturebooks, activity books, workbooks, and basic homeschool curriculum that you will need to purchase. Unfortunately, the book list is dated and not everything is still published.
Guidelines & Instructions: GVS prides itself in its customizable nature – which is good when the “structured” instructions you get for, say, Learning About Cultures in 4th grade tells you to “Choose a different culture to study each month. Ideally you will be able to coordinate this with the cultures and regions you are learning about in your World Atlas for Young Explorers book.” For what it’s worth, we’re told that the Grades 5-8 curriculum guides are even more detailed, but we haven’t seen it for ourselves.
Scheduling: The curriculum guide provides you with 9 pages where you are supposed to jot down notes for what you want to cover over 36 weeks of time. You also get some blank forms you can fill out to help you document your daily and weekly learning. In addition, you get helpful scheduling hints, such as “P. E. Keep breathing-hard. Do something every day that clears out your lungs so the oxygen flows better to your brain. Did we mention this makes you smarter? No kidding.” Yup, I kid you not.
Support: Tucked in the back of the 3rd and 4th grade guides, you’ll find the same handful of articles, such as “Am I going to ruin my child’s life if -“ and explaining why homeschoolers shouldn’t grade work.
Bonus Content: More book lists.
On the surface, I can appreciate the appeal of Global Village School. It promotes an enlightened – almost spiritual sans religious – connection to the wider world. It encourages parents to put their children’s interests and learning needs front and center. It looks to be the perfect fit for families who want to unschool but are willing to just do something different from the traditional public school model.
The biggest weakness of GVS, however, is the lack of true instructional guidance for the parent. For example, the 4th grade guide gives parents a 4-page sample integrated novel study. It’s presented as a set of ideas to inspire you do come up with similar activities for other books you read. You find ideas such as picking out metaphors and similes from the book and making an illustrated collection of them. That’s a fun activity to do, but what’s missing is any background information to help a parent remember the difference between these 2 figures of speech, in the first place. Also missing is any master list of basic language arts skills a 4th grader generally covers. So, unless you do your own research into general 4th grade curriculum, it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to be customizing throughout the rest of the year.
Good news exists, I suppose. If you’re intrigued by the GVS philosophy and book lists, GVS also offers a Customization Consultation. For $400+, they’ll tell you how to use the curriculum guides you already bought.
Date of Review: 7/6/2016