2017-2018 Curriculum Year-End Review

It’s the end of my son’s Kindergarten year so I thought it would be a great time for a year-end review of the curriculum we used this year. We took this past week off from school and this week we have officially transitioned to “summer school.” During summer school, my son will still do dictation/spelling (4 sentences from Spelling Plus dictation), a phonics page from MCP Plaid Phonics, and a math lesson from CLE.

So without further ado, below is a quick review of most of the curriculum we used this year.  If you are looking for something specific, here is a quick list of what is covered: Writing With Ease 1, First Language Lessons 1, 6 Trait Writing Level 1, Rod & Staff Math Level 2 (vs. CLE), MCP Plaid Phonics B, All About Spelling 1 & 2, Spelling Plus Critical Thinking Activities by Dale Seymour Publications , Beginning Geography by Evan Moore.

Writing With Ease 1

Writing With Ease is a great writing/reading comprehension curriculum for young children. The writer of Writing With Ease believes that children generally get a bad start to writing because they are asked to combine the physical act of writing with the mental act of forming thoughts before they are ready to do so.

The curriculum is divided into weeks, and each week into 4 days. Generally, the work for the 4 days is about the same novel and consists of two days of copywork and two days of narrations. At the end of the passage, the student is asked “What is one thing you remember about the passage?” On many of the days, the parent writes for the child. On some of the days, the parent writes for the children and then the student has to copy it.

All in all, I really enjoyed this curriculum and think it helped my son with the physical act of writing (copywork), oral reading comprehension (listening to the story and then answering questions) and forming thoughts (the narration.)

The drawback to the program is that, at least for WWE 1, it really lacks variety in the type of assignment. Every week is exactly the same. We really started to get tired of it after a while, but my son was really used to it and still wanted to do it almost everyday, despite being tired of it and not trying his best.  It became kind of a love-hate relationship.

We are definitely going to get Writing With Ease 2 (WWE 2), however, I am going to use it more as a supplement than a core curriculum.  (And introduce it as such so my son doesn’t get the idea that it should be an everyday thing.) Also, I will probably spread WWE 2, as a supplement over two or even three years. I do highly recommend the program, just know that the lessons can get monotonous.

First Language Lessons 1

This curriculum is an introductory grammar course with lessons mostly done orally. There is some copywork and other written work, but we often skipped it because it was redundant with Writing With Ease. In hindsight, this curriculum did not work for us. I mean, my son understands (with some prompting), the difference between a common noun and proper noun, nouns in general, adjectives, verbs, and even pronouns. However, it was very painful getting there! My son has severe ADHD (didn’t know at the time) and the oral scripted lessons without a worksheet to ground him and give him something to look at were painful. He could have learned the same things through songs or a game, or something like that.

The one thing I loved about the curriculum was the poetry memory work. I had no idea my son could memorize poems, but I discovered he has a great ability to do so. He can read a poem once or twice a day out loud and have it memorized by the end of the week. (I started giving him my own poetry memory work after we finished FLL.)

FLL does have several lessons that I feel don’t belong in the book, such as learning days of the week and months. I would feel most children ready for FLL would already know these things.

In conclusion, I recommend this program if it fits your children’s learning style!

(As a side note, next year we are trying out Classical Writing Primer which seems to be a combination of WWE and FLL plus some other things.)

6 Trait Writing 1

6 Trait Writing is more of a traditional writing curriculum that might be used in public school. Honestly, I was skeptical of the WWE method at one point and wanted to see how my son would do with a regular curriculum.  In hindsight, we probably could have skipped it as it was mostly busy work and my son didn’t learn very much from it.  The lessons were not geared towards a gifted child who sees things a bit differently and/or complicates things.

6 Trait Writing did not bring out my son’s best writing. I have seen him write much better using WWE or in his free time for fun. I definitely noticed that mixing the physical act of writing made it harder for him to form thoughts, so sometimes I wrote for him.

On a practical note, the workbook was very cumbersome to manage since it was printed on both sides, and I would have to flip back to ripped out/completed pages to find teacher instructions.  The layout was not very suited to homeschool use and definitely geared towards public school use (i.e. where the teacher is copying for many students.)

The one thing I liked about the program is that it had a social thinking aspect that I think benefitted my son.  For example, thinking about “feeling words” and how people “feel” when certain things happen. We probably could get this through other means though.

Even though we benefitted little from the curriculum, my son really enjoyed doing the pages and I would have to pull the book away from him sometimes so we could move onto other projects. I think he just enjoyed how easy the worksheets were (they did get harder towards the end.)

Overall, I would not recommend this program.

Rod & Staff Math 2 (vs. CLE 2)

I have talked about Rod & Staff math a lot on this blog and I still really like it, but things started to break down for us a bit in Level 2. There were way too many two and three digit column addition and subtraction problems in the lessons and in general, the lessons did not have enough variety and my son started really dreading math. Switching math programs immediately was one of the first things I did when we got his ADHD diagnosis. The program just wasn’t working for him. We have since switched to CLE 2, book 4 and things are going great so far!   He loves the checklist at the beginning that tells us what we need to do. He used to really not like flash card time (and we didn’t do it often) but now he loves it because the checklist says to do it! And he is really proud of himself when he finishes all of the flash cards in under 5 minutes. He is even taking to the speed drills and really improving in his math facts.  CLE does seem like a bit more work to be honest, but he likes it better and doesn’t get too bored at any one question type.   Despite the belief that Rod & Staff is behind and CLE is ahead, my son easily transitioned to Book 4 of CLE from being halfway through with Rod & Staff Level 2.   (However, I did supplement Rod & Staff quite a bit. I will not need any more supplements with CLE!)

MCP Plaid Phonics B

MCP Plaid Phonics is a traditional workbook and gets the job done. I think doing the phonics worksheets regularly has helped my son to be a natural speller.   When we took a couple months off of the book, his spelling started to slip. He seems to learn spelling more from memory of the words and extrapolating his own rules through analyzing words/following patterns. A phonics workbook definitely supports this.   We are using Book C now, and then we will probably stop with the phonics worksheets unless my son could benefit from the review.

All About Spelling 1 & 2

We did Levels 1 and 2 this year. The hardest part about this program, for my son at least, was memorizing the rules – the spelling words were the easy part. I stuck with the program thinking that someday knowing these rules would help him spell harder words, but I think the rules just confused him and then left his memory. When he did memorize the rules, he wouldn’t stop to think about how to apply them before spelling a word. Its just not how his brain works.

About halfway through Level 2, I stopped teaching the rules entirely and just did the spelling lists. He knew almost all of the words anyway.

Also, we never used the tiles – I just wrote on paper. We stopped segmenting words from the very beginning. We never really used the AAS spelling system the way it was supposed to be used. I have heard it said that AAS is mostly for the struggling speller and overkill for the intuitive speller. I would have to agree. We are now using Spelling Plus!

Spelling Plus

To use Spelling Plus as a homeschooler, you really only need the Dictation book. The main spelling book isn’t really needed, though its does have some interesting information in it. The Homonym book is also optional, however, I am finding it useful when my son misspells a specific homonym in the dictations. When that happens, I give him the homonym worksheet the next day in place of his usual phonics worksheets.

With that said, Spelling Plus is really just a spelling list with a sort of “spiral” set of dictation sentences for each list. Since we are in summer school, I am giving my son dictation sentences where he knows most of the words, and since we are also focusing on proper capitalization, etc. If and when we do hit a spot where there are words he needs to study (we are at the beginning of the second grade list now.) we probably won’t do spelling practice and dictation on the same day since that would be too much for 1st grade!

We will keep doing this program for a while, but at some point, I want to switch to Spelling Power.   One thing I don’t like about Spelling Plus is that it only teaches the most commonly used words in English writing, which means more challenging vocabulary is left out.   As my son gets older we will probably do  spelling/vocabulary and dictation separately so he can also learn more challenging words.

Critical Thinking Activities by Dale Seymour Publications

This is a very expensive workbook at around $22, but its worth every penny. It is filled with so many fun and challenging critical thinking activities for children.   The book is 1/3 pattern challenges, 1/3 visual challenges, and 1/3 logical challenges. There is just so much in this book that we have worked on it for a while, set it aside, worked on it for a while, set it aside and we are still not done. There are a few activities that my son is a bit young for, but for the most part it is just such a wonderful book, and considering the quality content, a great deal!

Beginning Geography by Evan Moore

We loved the first 1/3 of this book, which was just focused on map skills, but the rest of the workbook seemed more suited to classroom use.  Instead of purchasing Beginning Geography, I would recommend Map Skills by Teacher Created Resources.  I just purchased Level 2 and it looks like everything we liked about Beginning Geography without the stuff we didn’t.  It was also much cheaper!

Advertisements

“All Boys are Hyper”

I haven’t posted on my blog for quite a while. Part of that is due to being busy with my new baby (who is doing great and is now 7.5 months!) and also due to having something of an identity crisis. What kind of mom was I and what kind of child did I have? What is the context of what I would be saying in my blog if certain questions were still unanswered?

When 2018 started, I had one resolution in mind. This would be the year I finally got my son evaluated. I contacted a local psychologist who wanted to wait until he was 6 (6.5 months out), for testing. When you are raising a certain kind of child, and dealing with certain kinds of things, you want clear answers quickly. I just couldn’t wait until July. I couldn’t handle another person telling me “all boys are hyper” and either purposely or accidentally insinuating that I was not mentally prepared or equipped to raise a “typical boy.”

So one night as I rocked my youngest child to sleep, at about 3.5 months old, I begged God for an answer. I was desperate and crying. I just needed an answer because it felt like no one believed me, and that was impeding on my friendships.

Shortly after, I received a recommendation from my mother-in-law who received a recommendation from a friend that I should contact the psych department of a local university for assistance. After my first call to the clinic, I was told to wait for another call from them and I didn’t hear back for two weeks. When calling to follow up, it turned out there was someone available for an intake call right then (slightly unusual) and at the end of the call, it turns out there just happened to be someone who wanted to take on our “case.” We went in the next week! It was a very answered prayer! (And we saved a lot of money going through the university.)

We found out, or received confirmation, that my son has ADHD – severe ADHD.   He is also most likely twice exceptional, but the IQ testing was a bit hard to run because of his age and the ADHD. We have two sets of scores and the second set is more reflective of him, but they are technically unofficial. I guess giving an IQ test to a child with severe ADHD is pretty silly since most of the test is like playing with toys!  I also learned that giftedness for twice-exceptional students is often determined by the GAI score, not the FSIQ, because working memory and processing speed is affected by various learning difficulties.)

So here I am, with an official ADHD diagnosis coming in the mail shortly, and how do I feel? I am glad to have an answer for sure. But now, I have a new feeling to deal with and it is somewhat comical. Before I was worried that no one believed me when I said my son was challenging and probably had ADHD, but now I have confirmation that he does, and REALLY does, but now these same people probably don’t even believe ADHD exists!

I am imagining myself saying asinine or condescending things to people about medical studies and brain scans and how ADHD is REAL. Trust me, it runs in my family. I KNOW its real.

ADHD is so real that my son who has been on an adhd diet since he was born (no artificial color or flavor, almost no preservatives, no soy, very low sugar as toddler), watched almost no television/movies and hardly used the computer until he was 3, grocery shopped with me since infanthood without an iphone in his hand, was read to constantly, was fed on a schedule when appropriate which was said to reduce the likelihood of ADHD, has a healthy, structured family life, STILL HAS ADHD – severe ADHD!

My son’s diagnosis flies in face of all of the internet trolls who say ADHD is not real. Another point I want to share is that I read somewhere ADHD is common in certain social demographics because true ADHD is kind of disability that is passed on genetically. Luckily for some, when you are “twice exceptional,” or close to it, you are able to compensate, take medication perhaps, and still be very successful in life.

So I will end this post with a few things to consider NOT SAYING to someone who thinks their child might have ADHD, ASD, or anything else similar. (And remember, people usually share things because they are looking for empathy, validation, a listening ear, and/or support).

  1. Well, you know, boys are hyper. If you must say this, consider adding, all boys are hyper, but certainly there are some who do have ADHD and I only see your son for an hour (or fill in the blank) each week. I’ve heard early intervention is important so its great you’re thinking about this.
  2. Well, you know, boys mature more slowly than girls…. If you must say this, consider modifying it to include that my son’s ADHD symptoms might improve or change as he gets older and matures, but please don’t call into question his diagnosis. (I heard this yesterday probably from someone who doesn’t believe ADHD exists. Just because someone wants to know if their child has ADHD, doesn’t mean they plan to medicate. Sometimes they just want to know what is wrong…and why things are so hard. Not diagnosing ADHD isn’t any different from not diagnosing dyslexia. Wouldn’t you want to know why your child couldn’t learn to read and help remedy it? And there is no medication for that.)
  3. Oh really, he just seems like a normal kid to me…(I have learned that some people say this because they notice he is different and want to make me feel better. Thanks for that, but please validate first.) If you must says this, consider adding things like he seems like a normal kid to me, but I don’t spend much time with him, I’m sure you see a lot more than I do.
  4. Have you tried exercise? This one really gets to me. You cannot eliminate ADHD through exercise. If you could, then ADHD really wouldn’t exist. My son doesn’t tire out like that. And with all of the challenging behaviors I deal with sometimes, forcing my son to exercise when he doesn’t want to, and when it provides only minimal benefit, is not always worth it.   And yes, my son gets a lot of outside time, especially now that he is older and more independent. There is really no way to modify this one. It is really something to try not to say. It is like asking someone with a dirty floor if they have tried mopping it. I’m sorry…not trying to be “smart” just venting after many years of waiting for this diagnosis!

So with it all said, I guess we have some answers. The diagnosis is still pretty fresh – less than two weeks. Now, to move forward and tackle homeschooling while catering to both his ability and disability without medication…while maintaining composure and keeping a smile on my face at all times. (Already failed today.)

Review of First Language Lessons by The Well-Trained Mind

Well, believe it or not, we are actually getting some homeschooling done with an almost 7 week old in the house!  My new son is a very sleepy baby and has been very calm during homeschool time for the most part as long as he is napping/being held.  Today was actually the first day I put him in the baby carrier for a bit during school and bounced around as he was a bit fussy. He has been very newborn-y and has really just loved being held and cuddled with blankets.  This is completely unlike my first son who barely napped and needed constant entertainment from the very beginning.  (If we were still breastfeeding, I probably wouldn’t have time…but like with my first son, I had low supply and we had to supplement and now we are just on formula.  Low supply plus cluster feeding resulted in a somewhat traumatic breastfeeding experience thats for sure…But I digress.)

We are currently finishing up the Common/Proper Nouns section of First Language Lessons Level 1 (put out by The Well-Trained Mind) and are on Lesson 45.   I am not crazy about the curriculum but I also like it enough to finish the book.  What I like about the book is that it is fully scripted and requires little to no prep.  I also like how we sit together and do the lesson and its not just another worksheet.  Lastly, I like that it is a gentle introduction to grammar.

The main thing I don’t like about it is that it is incredibly repetitive/simple, especially for an advanced/gifted Kindergartner.  Even at Lesson 44, the book is still requesting the student to repeat the definition of a noun three times.   We stopped doing that long ago!  Often the lessons just take a few minutes and I’m not always sure my son is learning anything.  The book has spent 45 lessons on the difference between common and proper nouns.   He got the concept long ago and I’m just going along with the curriculum in case the creator knows something that I don’t about information retention.  (I have only skipped a couple of lessons.)  Even though I’m sure most people, including myself, don’t always remember what a common and proper noun is, its a very easy concept to grasp.   The enrichment activities and lessons also include very simple exercises regarding proper nouns such as writing the names of aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.  This just seemed a little un-interesting and we often skipped these parts.  My son got the concept and I didn’t want him wasting his limited attention span on practicing writing their names, etc. to further drill down a concept he already understands.

We have enjoyed the poetry memorization.  My son is a great reader and has memorized each poem easily after just a few readings.  There was just one poem so far that is a bit long and might require more effort on our part to get him to memorize!

Honestly, I think my son learns more from workbook pages and drills than the learning style required by First Language Lessons.   As soon as we finish this, we are going to start the Rod & Staff Grammar Curriculum…I think my son is ready to start the book at a slow pace.

I’m really not sure of a better introduction to grammar and confidence builder with regards to grammar than First Language Lessons.  Its just a little painful to get through because of all the repetition and lack of variety in lessons.

Hope this helps someone!

Homeschooling Kindergarten: The First Month in Review

Despite being pregnant, the first month of homeschooling kindergarten has gone pretty well.  I feel like homeschooling is one of the only things I can actually do right now!  I’m sure we will have to slow down for a few weeks as the baby will be here next Friday, but I’m so glad we got started in early August to get a good routine down before the big change.

Since I know other homeschoolers enjoy seeing what other families are doing…This is what we are doing for Kindergarten.  Technically, this would be considered advanced/accelerated Kindergarten, but nonetheless my son is registered for “Kindergarten” this year.

So the first thing I have been doing each day is writing out our agenda for the day.  We check it off as the day goes.  So the lists below are exactly what I put on the daily agenda for my son.   We don’t always get to do “read aloud” during the school day, but we have three different books going right now so reading gets done at some point.  My husband is reading The Horse and His Boy to our son when he puts him to bed, I am reading Little House in the Big Woods to our son when we do read aloud or I put him to bed (can’t always now due to pregnancy symptoms), and my son himself is reading Farmer Boy (also by Laura Ingalls Wilder) but will ask me to read to him from that too.    We each have our own book to be in charge of…strange, but true!

The first book we read and finished during school was Mr. Poppers Penguins.  We were doing this each day for read aloud until my pregnancy got a bit harder and we had less time.  Initially, I had printed out a study guide to go with it and my son was also doing out loud comprehension questions about each chapter, but I decided to get rid of that because we do that already for Writing With Ease 1 (narration every other day) and I didn’t want him to get burnt out.  So now we just read together.

Schedule on Monday / Wednesday / Friday (These are our “full” school days. Also, transition time and getting my son to focus makes things take way longer sometimes.  A few times, I’ve been surprised at how quickly we got it all done.)

  • Breakfast
  • Prayers
  • Brush Teeth / Get Dressed
  • Start School (School Prayer, Saint’s Life (one from Prologue of Ohrid), Bible Memory Verse) (10 min)
  • Geography (Classical Conversations weekly review )(5 min)
  • Handwriting (Getty Dubay Italic Book B) (5 min)
  • First Language Lessons 1 (5 to 10 min)
  • Writing With Ease 1 (5 to 15 min)
  • All About Spelling  (10 min)
  • Break / Lunch or Lunch /Break depending on time
  • MCP Plaid Phonics Level B worksheet (5 min)
  • Rod and Staff Math Level 1(10 to 20 min) – supplementing with Horizons and Singapore 1 workbooks
  • Read Aloud sometime during the rest of the day
  • Piano Practice sometime during rest of the day but not on Fridays (10 min)

Tuesday

  • Classical Conversations
  • Math (10 to 20 min)
  • Piano Practice (10 min)
  • Read aloud

Thursday (This is also a shorter day due to afternoon activities, but what we do might vary)

  • Breakfast
  • Prayers
  • Brush Teeth / Get Dressed
  • Start School (School Prayer, Saint’s Life (one from Prologue of Ohrid), Bible Memory Verse) (10 min)
  • Handwriting
  • All About Spelling 1
  • Phonics
  • Math
  • Piano Lesson
  • Little Gym

Once my son gets in the routine of homeschool kindergarten and things are taking less time, we will add in some more “elective” subjects such as art, science, and foreign language.  My son asks to do science and I keep telling him I will buy him a curriculum in December if he does a good with the first half of the year.  When I first started homeschooling my son…just starting school, which included a short school prayer, reading a Saints Life and doing a Bible Memory verse could seriously take up to 30 minutes due to his distractibility.  Now it only takes 5 to 10 minutes so I know as time goes on we will finish our subjects more quickly and have time for more “fun” subjects.