Friday, September 23, 2016

Language, Logic and Latin Curriculum 2016-17

This post is a continuation of my previous curriculum post.  In this post I'll cover spelling, grammar, writing, reading, religion, logic and latin.

Spelling

This year I decided to try out a purely textbook approach in an effort to encourage more independent work. So far this seems to work and it doesn't work. We are using this Spelling Workout series.  For now, D is working in 2nd grade book B, S in book C and T in book D. There is a teacher book that isn't much help. It is mostly an answer book. But the "workouts" aren't that complicated. There aren't really enough activities to help the child remember the spelling rules or practice spelling the words.

There are only three pages of exercises in each chapter.

So, I have instituted additional activities for practice. T and S write down spelling rules on a separate piece of paper and put this in their binders. At the end of a 5-chapter section we do spelling dictation, or you could call it a quiz, but we don't use grades.

I dictate the words to the child and they write them down. After, they check their work against the words in the book, and note any that are still a problem. Before the next review, they check the problem words from last time and we go over those again.

I'd like to say that we review the spelling rules at some point after writing them down, but so far this hasn't been incorporated in to our work.

The photo above is of T's level D book. On average all the kids know how to spell about 90%+ of the words correctly before the lesson.

In the meantime, we are always looking for correct spelling while working in other subjects. Many times the kids just know that a word is spelled a certain way but are unaware of the rule. Other times we need a reminder.

I don't know that I'll continue with this text next year. I liked the All About Spelling, but it is much more teacher-time-intensive so I don't know that we'll go back to this either.

Year End Goal:
Each child to finish their book.

Grammar

This year I chose to use Voyages in Language from Loyola Press. This set of materials was super expensive, but really it was the teacher manual that was expensive.

 If you have a relatively good grammar background already and don't need the answers to all the exercises, you don't need the teacher manual.There is also a ton of additional resources on their website if you are interested in additional exercises, drills, etc. I am not. I think that there is enough drill between the text book and practice book already.

T is working in book 4 and S is working in book 3. In reality, book 4 is a bit easy for T, but he needed to learn traditional sentence diagramming before we could really moving on (see below). He has had quite a bit of the Montessori advanced grammar. S has not had the Montessori advanced grammar but has received all of the first grammar lessons. She also needs way more review than T.

There are 9 chapters that are divided up into different sections (about 9 for each chapter). We treat a chapter section as a single lesson.

The text book can be used alone if you didn't want to buy the practice book too. If your child is going to be using this curriculum as a review, like mine are, you could probably get away with not buying the text book and only purchasing the practice book.

S is more drawn to the practice book drills. T is more interested in the text book drills. Since his grammar sequence is tied to his writing curriculum sequence, I am having him do the exercises in the text book on notebook paper now, and we'll re-look at the exercises in the practice book as a review when his writing curriculum ties in.

One thing I've learned about my kids is that they need to review, review, review. They get it the first time for sure. Then it all goes to mush and leaks out their ears and is gone forever. "Huh? What is a noun?" Ugh. We need review!!

Oh, I don't love the definitions in these books. I feel the book's definitions are confusing and vague. The child and I end up coming up with different definitions for things like transitive and intransitive verbs by drawing on our Montessori grammar lessons.

This textbook material also has some writing exercises which I am ignoring. About half of the book is writing exercises. But if you look at how much these books cost you might want to use all of the material instead of only half the book.

D is doing something entirely different for his grammar studies. I had thought The Voyages series started in 3rd grade but there is a 1st grade book that D probably could have done. D was maybe too young to remember all of the first Montessori grammar lessons, or maybe not. For now we are using a combo of First Language Lessons Level 1 by Jessie Wise and a primary/elementary hybrid first introduction to Montessori Grammar. I am giving him the elementary presentation for each part of speech and he can read well enough to do the grammar boxes independently. But, his favorite activity is for me to write sentences on strips of paper and for him to find each word's corresponding grammar symbol. He also likes the short verbal lessons and memory work in the First Language Lessons book and so we will continue as he is interested.

Year end Goal:
T and S will finish their practice book.
D will receive all first Montessori elementary grammar presentations, complete grammar boxes, and begin Montessori advanced grammar and sentence analysis, and finish the First Language Lessons book.

Writing

I am using Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer for S and D. S is in level 2 and D is in level 1. I have The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease, and Workbook 1, and Workbook 2 and the separate student pages for each level. (I didn't realize that the Workbooks have the instructor scripts in them AND the separate student pages. So if you have one kid, or like photocopying, just get the workbook and not the student pages.)

I like how the Writing With Ease sequence takes the child through thinking about what they are going to write, remembering their thought sentences, and then executing the mechanics of notation. Wise Bauer explains in her book, Writing With Ease, how forming thoughts and then writing these thoughts down are two separate skills that must be learned differently.

So far, I think that both kids are working the level that is right for them. For D, his challenge is that he tires of copywork easily. I am endeavoring to teach him how to read the word, remember the word, and then segment the sounds as he writes each sound in sequence. His penmanship is much better when I dictate "c-a-t" than when I simply say the word "cat." (This tactic isn't in the book. It is something that I noticed works with D.)

For S, we are working to form complete sentences in her narrations. Many times she will narrate something that sounds like, "and then he went home, he was sleepy, and he got a drink and went to sleep." She produces lots of phrases, but not a whole lot that will make sense in written form. We are also working on detail retention and really developing a picture in our brain of what is going on in the story. (This also isn't in the book. It is something that I made up and seems to be helpful to her.)

With all of the chaos at the beginning of the year, and perhaps making an error in choosing T's writing curriculum, I am holding off on T's writing program for now. I hope to be able to pick it up again in a month or so.

Year end Goal:
D and S will finish their Writing with Ease pages.

Reading

Beyond what the kids decide to read on their own (and they read a lot on their own) I have instituted an assigned reading time. The boys read for about 45-60 minutes while S practices her flute after breakfast, and S has extra reading time just before bed. During this time the kids read books I have picked out for them that relate to our history or science studies. I also pick out additional quality fiction as well. So far, I've just been searching through the stacks, with my head tilted sideways to read the spines, and picking out books randomly. I focus on story content maturity, number of words on the page, illustrations, if there are any, vocabulary, and style. I skim some of the pages right there in the stacks to make sure that the books are somewhat appropriate. Our rule is that if the child has read a couple of chapters and doesn't want to finish the book, they don't have to finish it.

We do try to keep track of the books they read. This is pretty challenging because they end up reading so many. For right now, they write down the book title and author on a strip of paper and we tape it up on the wall like a book spine. When this gets to be too much maybe we'll just start a reading journal.

For D, I am using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jesse Wise. He is about half way through the book, but his reading level is way beyond where we are in the book. He is just about a fluent reader, maybe in a couple of months things will tip. Most words he never sounds out anymore and he can read multi-syllabic words and people's names.

For now, we are reading a handful of pages a day for fun, and doing some of the activities in the book. There was one where I read a sentence which had one word missing. That word I wrote on an index card and D had to read it and then tape the word to what it described. He really liked this game.

Year End Goal:
D will finish the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

Religion

All three children attend Religious Education classes at our church and attend Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes each week. Last year I served as a catechist in level 1 CGS and as an assistant in the grade 2 RE class and I just felt that the kids needed a bit more.

This year I've added these texts from Seton. D is using the 1st grade book, S the 3rd grade book and T the 4th grade book. All of the books speak to the same topics, but expand upon those topics to varying degrees depending upon the child's grade level.

These books were designed for a 4-5 day a week lesson sequence for a full school year. (32 weeks? Can't remember off hand.) Since, these books were designed mainly for discussion and I don't have time to discuss everything with each of them we use them in a slightly different way. I ask T to read a lesson and answer the fill-in the blank questions at the end of the passage. Then I ask him to go back and underline, color-in, highlight or what-have-you, two favorite parts of the passage. I hope that this helps him revisit two points he felt resonated with him. Usually we do a couple of lessons a day, and I sit and talk with him about at least one after I actually read it. (This is the fourth grade text.)

I require the same from S and sometimes there is a part of the passage she wants to illustrate and color. (This is the 3rd grade text.)

For D, we read the passage together, (I read one line, he reads one line) and then we discuss the questions at the end of the passage. (This is the 1st grade text.)

Year End Goal:
T S and D will finish their Religion lesson books.

Logic

This year, only T is starting with logic. This is a second, logic-stage of development subject for the 5th-8th grades. We are using Building Thinking Skills: Level 2.


The second book explores math logic, and then bridges these topics into language logic. I love that there are vocabulary analogies in the final pages of this book. THIS was one of the topics that just had me confounded on the SAT. I am so glad that T is being introduced to these now. 

Originally, I had purchased the first book, but then D stole that book and wanted to do all of the worksheets himself (which he was able to do successfully.) I had T take a look at the last pages of that level 1 book and we figured out that he could move on to the next level.

T loves, loves, loves this subject and I think it comes easily for him.

Year End Goal:
T will finish level 2 logic book.

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Whew, so that is what we will be using this year! I am hoping that an approach different than Montessori will help us get more writing and reading practice and will continue to heavily encourage independent learning.

Looking ahead I know that there are very few years between T and high school math classes. I haven't decided what to do about this yet, but am weighing options outside of our homeschool. It is my intention to, over the next couple of years, help him develop the discipline and responsibility necessary to be successful taking a class somewhere else. Wish us luck!

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