The short version: the curriculum fair was fun and there are lots of possible curricula and supplemental materials that I'm excited about. If curricula just isn't that interesting to you, I won't be offended if you skip today's ramblings!
Yesterday was curriculum fair day! Matt needed the car so that he could go in and take his final after work—which he passed with a much higher score than he expected!—so I decided to keep our lives sane and skip the preschool/kindergarten presentation I'd planned to attend at the curriculum fair yesterday morning. We just didn't need the craziness of trying to coordinate trading out the car midday or me driving him to his final and then having to burn an uncertain amount of time downtown with a hungry kid while Matt took the test.
It was for the best. Little Bear wound up not falling asleep until 11 Monday night, and woke up just in time to run out and give Matt a hug before he left for work. We had a peaceful morning and evening at home, and in the middle of the day my mom and the kids picked us up to go to the curriculum fair with them. Going with two aunts and an uncle meant that Little Bear had plenty of people to run around and play with him while Mom and I actually looked at books and materials and talked with vendors. And sat down, in my case. Lots of sitting down. I was thankful for all of the chairs!
Many vendors had little free stuff to draw kids to their tables; you know, the kind of stuff that kids are sure is the neatest thing ever for two days and then it clutters up your house until you finally toss it. Little Bear brought home a squishy ball/globe (c/o BYU independent study), a balsa wood glider (c/o Oak Meadow), a small polar bear (c/o University of Alaska distance ed), and three brightly colored erasers shaped and decorated like dice (c/o Interior Distance Education of Alaska [IDEA], the organization that hosts the fair). And a set of little plastic dogs that he found at the booth of a local homeschool supply store and managed to convince Grandma that he needed. For school, of course! (Pretty much anything can be a "math manipulative" at the preschool level, right? He did come right home and start counting them into and out of his dump truck...)
IDEA's Parent Advisory Council had a table set up for kids, too; volunteers supervised kids while they colored or did simple projects so their parents could look at materials for next year. I love the family-friendly atmosphere of the fair—there's definitely no expectation that moms leave their kids at home! I saw lots of strollers, and even more babies in slings or carriers. Middle school-aged boys were flying their gliders around along a wall without any vendors or much foot traffic. Several of my brother's friends joined him in kicking the little ball back and forth with Little Bear, and they all looked like they were honestly enjoying themselves.
I picked up information from a couple of vendors, mostly stuff that Little Bear won't be old enough for for a couple of years but I wanted to talk about with Matt: several early elementary science programs full of hands-on experiments that the two of them might enjoy, a manipulative-heavy math curriculum that my mom has used with good results for the first few years with my youngest siblings, a collectible trading card game that teaches world and American history called Historical Conquest. Would kids really willingly play something like that? That was among my first thoughts too, but the game's creator had a steady stream of elementary and middle school boys at his booth eagerly playing or waiting their turn to play in a tournament with the sample decks he'd brought. The illustrations are pretty well done, the kids all seemed to be having fun, and you actually have to learn about people, places and events from throughout history to play successfully. Once Little Bear is old enough (so not until he's reading fluently), we're definitely picking up a starter set for him.
Also for the "look what's available as Little Bear gets older!" file, I brought Matt a flyer from the Mad Scientist Workshop, where local science teachers offer workshops and classes in everything from K-2 level basics of biology to high school computer science, robotics, or metallurgy and knife making. Knife making.
The Etiquette Factory's materials looked interesting, but unfortunately the vendor was in another room giving a presentation while we were walking around (on "Teaching our boys to be gentlemen," which makes it sound like a program I want to learn more about!) I didn't get a chance to flip through their beginner-level book, and I'm not seriously considering picking it up for another year or two, but I do really like their placemats:
How great are those for teaching kids to set the table properly? There's way more silverware laid out there than Little Bear will probably ever see at one place setting, but it would sure be helpful to be able to point out to him "See, your cup goes waaaaay up there, far away from the edge of the table." I think my mom has a couple that she picked up several years ago and her kids don't use, so we might be able to use one of hers.
I already have two of Ring of Fire Science's PreK-2 level activity books (earthquakes and earth science) that I'm planning to use this coming year (or more accurately, that I'm planning to hand to Matt and say, "Have fun!"), but I was excited to see that they have quite a few other books for that age range now, including the science of flight, volcanoes, and dinosaurs. Good to know that they're available for the following couple of years!
So ultimately, I had fun looking at a lot of things and found a bunch of good ideas for the future, but nothing we needed for this year. The two books from Ring of Fire that I already have should be plenty of science for a 3 year old, and for where he is now I'm happier with the math and literacy materials I've found from Catholic suppliers (Catholic Heritage Curricula and Seton Press). Maybe we can pick up a simple field guide or two on Alaskan birds and plants, and then join him in being excited about learning the names of things we see while we're out this summer, since he's been starting to ask. He likes "school," I like that he likes learning; I'm going to let his interest level dictate how much actual school we do, and have a laid-back, fun school year so that he continues enjoying it.