Saturday, August 25, 2012

English changes again

Well, public schools around here start on Monday, but we've had a full school load for a few weeks now (4 days a week, anyway). It's funny - I've seen some raised eyebrows when I've told others that we're already doing school, but then when I tell them we're planning a vacation the end of September, they say, "Oh, ok." I guess they think I'm working the kids too hard! It doesn't take much explaining here in the Houston area, actually, to convince people that having school in the middle of the summer when it's too hot to do anything else is actually a good plan. We'd much rather have time off when it's decent enough weather to go play outside!

We've already changed our curriculum plans for 2nd grade English too. I really, really like the way CLE Language Arts and Reading is set up. It seems like such an organized, thorough program, with plenty of variety for interest, yet covers the material in a rigorous, complete manner.

Rebekah hated it. I admit that she pouts and complains on Monday mornings with many things, but after a few weeks of CLE lessons, she was just impossible to work with. She dragged through the pages, getting slower and slower, and didn't seem to retain any of it. I know that was because she was protesting, and instead of thinking about the material and learning it, her thoughts were more like, "I don't like this. I don't like this." Her handwriting was getting terrible, and her reading was getting slower.

So we changed the curriculum. She did really like the CLE Math curriculum, and we are still doing quite well with that. But for English, with this child, I'm thinking we will be much better off with a more Charlotte Mason-type approach. I have always been in favor of the CM approach for science and history, but have been a bit skeptical of the CM language arts style - delayed grammar teaching, more natural language learning, reading good books to learn proper English, etc.. But really, I think this is going to be the way to go with my oldest. My middle child will do just fine with CLE English, I think (hopefully, so I can still get my money's worth). She's a more structured, workbook type of learner. But for my oldest, we're going to back off on the structured English.

So, what are we using? A mix of things. I cannot bring myself to totally ignore grammar, so we are using parts of a Foresman English workbook we found online here for free. We are using just the grammar portions, doing one lesson a week, split into 3 days of oral questions, and 1 worksheet on the 4th day to review the week's lesson. We go over the main point on Monday and do part A orally. Then we do part B on Tuesday and part C on Wednesday, both orally. This gives her an introduction to some terminology, but at a very relaxed, easy-going pace. It only takes about 5 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

I also give her 1 page of handwriting practice a week. We will move on to learning cursive the 2nd half of this year.

We are still using Writing With Ease level 1, which gives us a little bit more grammar (punctuation), a little bit more handwriting, some copywork (for writing conventions) and narration practice (which we neglected last year, but which has been improving, along with her attention span, considerably so far). This also takes about 5-10 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

I am having her listen to the Wordly Wise level 2 word definitions (found online for free) 1 day a week. There are only 15 lessons, so we will finish this early, and maybe just do games with the words (also free online) the rest of the year. Again, just a bit of exposure - no need to do the whole workbook.

For spelling, as I wrote earlier, we are using Sequential Spelling (level 1), and she is doing remarkably well with this compared to any other spelling. I gave her the option of skipping spelling this year, and she said no, she wants to do Sequential Spelling still. Sometimes she only does half a lesson a day (12-13 words), but she's still going strong (we got the DVD too, which she likes).

For phonics, she is going through the online Click'n'Read lessons, 3-4 lessons a week, since we already have a lifetime subscription to it, and neither of the other kids is using it right now. All the other phonics we've done has been heavy on learning the rules, and that just never went over well with her. Too many rules just confuses her (and me too, sometimes) - she does better picking up on the "rules" naturally.

For reading, I am still having her read through the CLE readers (starting with the Grade 1 reader, which she's almost finished), and instead of doing 3-4 pages of worksheets on each story, I'm just having her tell me about what she read. This is the Charlotte Mason narration practice which I am finding works much better for her. No handwriting, but she has to remember the details of the story, and put them into her own words. She is getting much more out of the stories this way, and is even eager to read them now. She is missing out on some of the insightful questions in the CLE reading curriculum, but we just had to make some compromises. I still can bring out some of the best questions informally (and orally) during our discussion time. We are also going to mix in most of the Sonlight Grade 2 readers this year, with her doing narrations only for each one.

Finally, I am also doing several read-alouds with her, taken from my own interests (Black Stallion), Sonlight lists (core B mostly), and Ambleside Online lists. Right now, we're reading Charlotte's Web, with some stories also from the Burgess Bird Book, Aesop for Children, Parables from Nature, and the Blue Fairy Book. Not to mention our Bible (Leading Little Ones to God) and history (Hillyer's A Child's History of the World) readings. I'm not requiring narrations from her on these, just expecting her to listen. I know that's not quite pure CM-style, but it works for us.

This seems like a lot for English, all written down, but not everything is done every day, and overall, it's only taking us about an hour a day, 4 days a week (with read-alouds being extra time, and also sometimes on Friday and Saturday). And the important part is that she's enjoying it (mostly, except on Mondays), and she's learning!

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