Last month I wrote about our schedule being too overwhelming, I had the occasional meltdown, and I’ve lately said that Classical Education was too stifling for us. I’ve since realised that these were simply growing pains. What I mistook for ‘problems’ were merely settling-in and adjustment issues that have since ironed themselves out. After all, I did begin first grade a year early so it’s not surprising that we encountered a few bumps along the way. The only real changes I’ve made that were necessary were allowing Esa to choose what he wants to study for science, requiring less narration and focusing on narration as a skill, rather than an assessment tool, at this point. We’re back to doing copywork as we were (via Writing with Ease), albeit smaller chunks. Adding in a few breaks has made a huge difference as well.
Things are now, thankfully, running like a well-oiled train. And I’ll add that it’s mostly WTM. I’ve learned that ‘living books’ are different for everyone. For us, living books are books that make a subject not only come alive, but make it accessible. Esa was not enjoying the old living books that Ambleside recommends. Maybe he’s just not ready for them. (He does, however, enjoy a few like James Herriot and Our Island Story). He loves the Usborne and DK books, with their bright pictures and photographs. These books may be packed with facts, but he likes that and learns from them. He makes up the ‘ideas’ himself.
We do, however, do more with art and music than WTM recommends, and handicrafts, all CM influences that enrich our homeschool greatly.
So, how are things? Here is a glimpse at what we’re up to and Esa’s progress:
We’re steaming along quite well and things are really coming together. Esa’s reading easy books fluently and reading things from his environment with ease. Doing dictation with magnetic letters has been such a great tool; I can’t recommend it enough. If your child struggles to write, this is an amazing way of getting dictation in. (Any sort of movable alphabet, with several of each letter will do) We plan to finish phonics instruction by next summer (possibly sooner).
I’m being more selective about our literature choices and Esa is enjoying the stories more. If none of the recommendations from the SOTW activity guide are to his liking, we find our own. We use these for our narration practice.
We do it when we have time. We can go several days without reading any, then have phases where that’s all we’re reading. I recently bought Esa a new I Can Read book (level 3!) called My Parents Think I’m Sleeping and it’s a book of poems. Esa’s going to love reading that.
We’re working our way through First Language Lessons. It’s quite slow in the beginning, so I’m remedying this by combining lessons, or skipping some. We’re on about lesson 32 and are very ready to move on to pronouns!
Although Esa’s handwriting isn’t very Italic-y yet, it has greatly improved. He does 2 letters a week and I supplement with handwriting sheets that I make for him using the StartWrite software. He’s half-way through the first workbook and I plan to start him on the second one while he’s doing capital letters from the first workbook.
Handwriting serves as a kind of warm-up for copywork, which we do immediately after handwriting. I make the copywork sheets using the StartWrite software, which helps to reinforce the Italic handwriting. We do copywork twice a week at the moment.
We’re following the model laid out in Writing With Ease and as we’ve just finished with week one, I can’t comment too much just yet. One of the reasons I was worried about the WTM method was that shortly after implementing it fully, Esa stopped wanting to write on his own. He loves to write and used to write all the time, and obviously I was worried about this. but he’s back to writing again. He makes his own little books, writes letters and cards to friends and family, and enjoys any kind of labelling activity. We also supplement with activites from Games for Writing.
Esa’s doing wonderfully well in math. Singapore Math deserves much of the credit. This programme is just right for Esa and challenges him just enough. I was having a look at the second half of it and discovered that he’ll be doing multiplication and division in a few months. Gulp! 🙂
I’m a bit bored with our curriculum as it’s simply vocabulary-based and requires a lot of drill, but Esa’s enjoying it. I’m looking forward to finishing it and using something more immersion-based.
We’re wrapping up our study of snakes and reptiles. This has been a big hit and Esa has learned so much and can even identify many snakes (not something we worked on directly). The Life in Cold Blood DVD has been an amazing supplement. Esa wants to study mushrooms next, so we’ll do that for a week or 2 in January. Not sure what we’ll do next. I’m looking forward to spring when we’ll resume our study of plants. This is something we will do each year. Esa loves gardening and I’d like for him to gain in-depth knowledge of at least one area of science.
We’ve just finished chapter 15 of Story of the World. We’re really enjoying it and doing more of the hands-on activities from the guide.
Esa really likes the Usborne History of Britain. We read a 2-page spread each week and Esa does a colouring page from his Ancient Britain Colouring book. We’re hoping to resume Our Island Story soon.
We do Geography one day a week. We do the map activities from the SOTW activity guide, then I drill Esa on things like the continents, the compass, the oceans, hemispheres, etc. Sometimes I print off a blackline map of the world and have him colour the contients different colours or some other similar activity.
We’ll study 2 more Monets and then move on. I’m planning to switch composers in January. (More about that later) We love these subjects.
We’re working slowly through the first lesson from Drawing with Children. The activities are challenging for Esa, but I’m having him repeat them several times and he’s making definite improvement.
So, Classical Education is working for us. And I’m so pleased. I fell in love with Classical Education 2 years ago and wanted so much to teach my son this way, but I had so many doubts, so many worries. The biggest of which was: What if it doesn’t suit him? And, What if it’s too hard for us? What if he hates it? What if it kills his love of learning?
Yes, it’s still early days yet, but already I can see the fruits of our labours, his love of learning is growing, and it is working for us.
I’m planning to add 2 new things to our homeschool…more art and spelling. (I’ll talk about that another time.) And since we’re about half-way through first grade, I’ve started thinking about second grade…more planning…yippeee! 🙂 (and I’ll definitely be blogging about that soon!)
For the next 2 weeks, we’re going to continue our homeschooling, but we’re going to have a more relaxed pace (I don’t want to stop his reading instruction because he’s having a learning-spurt with reading just now and I want to run with it). We’re going to focus on math and handicrafts, do some baking, finish up reptiles, review previous sections of Spanish, play games, and read A Christmas Carol.