Getting Ready for our first “official” school year!

After having unofficially homeschooled my son since last August (but in some ways longer than that!), I am very excited to officially register my son for homeschool next month for Kindergarten!  I have a lot of things to consider for this first official year…

Not the least of which is, after 3.5 years of infertility and believing we could have no more children, I am now 21 weeks pregnant with a little boy!  I am very excited -we are all every excited! However, I’ll be the first to admit that pregnancy is not what I’d call “fun” by any stretch of the means (and sometimes its very hard) though I hear it is fun for a few people out there!  I’m feeling baby move a bit, but I have an anterior placenta yet again so it might be a few more weeks before I can really feel him move.

So in August when we start up at Classical Conversations again, I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant…I was only able to keep working with my first son until 37 weeks, so I’m wondering how I’ll keep up with my 5 year old for those last few weeks! (Having considered my options and risk, I’ll be having a repeat C-section unless baby comes early so I’ll know it will just be a few weeks at that point!).

So this summer, I need to get a nursery ready and a homeschool curriculum ready!.  I found a core subjects list from the Well Trained Mind website that I found helpful…so I am going to start using this post as my working list to make sure I have all my bases covered for the upcoming year.  (We will still do some school during the summer like most homeschooling families do, but ramp it up come the school year and make it daily for the first time.)

Subject List, Work-in-Progress

Orthodoxy: Morning Prayer, Weekly Bible Verse, Daily Saints Life, Potamitis Publishing coloring books, Children’s Bible stories that make sense given church calendar, etc.

Math – finish Rod & Staff 1 as base, with supplement of Singapore/Mammoth Math.  Recently used Life of Fred- Apples. Loved it!  We will continue with Rod & Staff 2 after 1 and then supplement with Life of Fred, Singapore/Mammoth Math.

History – Being Kindergarten, I’ll make it simple and follow the Classical Conversations curriculum for upcoming Cycle 3 and just do history once a week or so, this year providing brief context and maybe coloring sheet for the week’s history sentence. (Honestly, I’m not crazy about Classical Conversations but while we are paying for it for a least one more year, I’ll use it as a guide for a few subjects.)

Geography – Review Memory work for Classical Conversations Cycle 3 with Trivium at the Table Placements.  (The geography portion of CC is one part of the memory work  I really like).

Science – To go with Cycle 3, I purchased an Anatomy game used and will use the simple anatomy workbook recommended by CC.  I don’t think we will do a full science curriculum this year.

Phonics: Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Level B

Grammar: First Language Lessons Level 1 (by Well Trained Mind) and Rod & Staff English 2 (since I obtained it at a curriculum sale…we will not write out all the exercises.)

Writing: Writing With Ease Level

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 1

Reading/Literature/Comprehension:  Read alouds/free time reading/not sure- I might have to put something myself together for this that fits his reading level and his maturity level

Handwriting/Copywork: Saints of the Church copywork by Paidea Classics and Getty Dubay Italic Program starting with book B

Spanish:  CD to listen to in the car, like SongSchool Spanish

Music: Piano Lessons

Art: Discovering Great Artists book and art projects as time allows

Physical Education:  Hopefully continuing in boys gymnastics

I’m not sure how it will all play out with a new baby and doing first grade level work with a kindergarten attention span…but I’m sure we won’t do all of the subjects every day in the least, aside from Math and Spelling/Phonics.

I take it back, Rod & Staff math!

So earlier this year, I posted some criticism of Rod & Staff math and it possibly being too easy and repetitive after my son completed Math-U-See Primer.  Was this a mistake!

Rod & Staff is kind of boring and needs to be tweaked and supplemented to make it interesting, but it is a very solid and slow building program perfect for someone my son’s age.

After being initially disappointed by Rod & Staff Level 1, I purchased the Horizon’s curriculum.  While I did like it enough, I thought the program was geared towards a normal aged 1st grader (i.e. age 7, not 4 1/2).  Within the first 20 lessons or so, children are already being asked to begin memorizing math facts through 20.  My son was good at doing these problems on the number line, but I wasn’t about to have him start memorizing his facts through 20 before having them down through 10.  I had reviewed the placement information on the Horizons website and it definitely put him at the 1st grade level, but perhaps it has to do with the age.  1st graders are usually 7 and doing a full day of school and have more time to learn, where he just did school for an hour or so 3 to 4 days a week.  So I stopped the curriculum and got Mammoth Math!

Everyone raves about Mammoth Math and I definitely see the strength of the program.  There were parts of it my son really enjoyed and so far we are through page 50 of Level 1 in the middle of addition fact 9.   But I could see that he was starting to dread math and shut down, when he initially liked it!  I think there were a few things at play.  One….Mammoth Math is kind of boring in its own way: many problems on a page, little colors, not geared towards 4 year olds.  Second, it seems that half of the problems were solving for the unknown.  I have no idea how this concept works for other children, but my son, who seems to catch on to math well, seemed to grow fatigued by the constant having to count and count again to figure out the unknown, and switch his brain from regular addition which he is still mastering.  I think by the end of it he was actually beginning to see the merit of memorizing math facts so the problems would stop being so tedious!  In any case, it was mostly the near constant solving for the unknown and his dread of it, that made me say on Friday, “Phineas, you said Rod & Staff was too easy, but now you have seen a really hard program, would you like to go back to Rod & Staff and maybe go back to this one when it can be more fun?”  He gave a relieved, “Yes!”   The other thing I think that was a play is his young age, while he completed all of the prerequisites for the challenges of first grade math, he might not be ready maturity-wise or development-wise to charge ahead in math (he is now 4 years, 10 months) and may need more time to just stay at the level he is at with small jumps in difficultly.  That is why we are going back to Rod & Staff math…and I couldn’t be more relieved!

Through the recommendation of some other homeschool moms, I am going to try supplementing with a free online curriculum called MEP that will add the conceptual  and “fun” component to math that Rod & Staff is lacking.

Well, there you go…hopefully our math journey will help someone else make a curriculum decision!

Review of Rod & Staff math

classifieds-50399-0-19727500-1483465617_medCertain parts of Math-U-See Primer were difficult to get through, but I have to admit that it was well worth it.   My son memorized way more addition facts than I thought he would and can easily write his numbers now, with few errors.  The hardest part about Math-U-See Primer was all of the number writing for skip counting, but it really paid off!

We started “Semester 2” yesterday and I pulled out the Rod & Staff level 1 we had ordered. Unfortunately, I just don’t think its going to work for us.  Even though its supposed to be for Grade 1, it really seems like its for children who have no experience or very little experience with math.  The problems start out so easy and the book moves so slow!  The lesson plans in the teacher’s manual are pretty pointless for a homeschool environment for a child who already understands numbers and math conceptually.  After Math-U-See Primer, I thought I would start him at Lesson 15 in Rod & Staff, but then saw that he was ready for Lesson 37.  So even with that, it moves REALLY slow.  The curriculum spends like a week on each “Fact Family.”  That might be fine for children who are just learning math, but Grade 1?  I will just be skipping around lessons so my son can cover the core, useful content and then we will transition to Horizons Math which I have read is more challenging. (And if that doesn’t work, maybe Singapore, and then back to Math U See?).  So with that said, I think Rod & Staff would be an awesome curriculum for a non-math inclined child who enjoys mastery, repetition, and requires the lesson plan provided to understand the math fact taught.  (My son and I are both kinesthetic learners…so he just wants to get right to working on the problems to learn the new thing and I totally get it!)

One thing I do like about Rod & Staff is all of the extra worksheets they provide.  Since they are “extra” I am able to gauge where my son is using them, without having to use the actual workbook pages for that.   I’m not sure how typical this is or not, but after we put my son to bed around 7:45/8:00pm, he stays up for about 2 hours and will often “work” on something and sometimes it is math worksheets.  (Sometimes it is making cards for people…could be anything!)  I like that I can give him a stack of worksheets to take to his room…well, we have done this the last two days at least!

So overall it seems that ordering Rod & Staff Math was a homeschoolers beginners mistake!  We will definitely do some of the curriculum, but after that I’d rather just reinforce his math facts with flash cards once a week, while using math lessons that are more challenging and fast paced.

My review of Math-U-See Primer

mathusee

I think the main reason I chose to start with Math-U-See for my son’s math curriculum is because I loved the name.  Calling a textbook “primer” makes me think of a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800s.  The second reason is because it has a great reputation online – people seem to really like it or they don’t.  I think I may fall into the “don’t” category.  Before continuing with my review, I wanted to note that I did not buy anything else other than the Primer student workbook.  When we needed manipulatives, I just used things around the house.

Primer is the first workbook available from Math-U-See and is often referred to as the “pre-school,” and sometimes “kindergarten,” workbook by people online.  One issue with that is that it does start out that way but the early lessons go very fast if a child has already mastered counting that they will soon be doing math that is a stretch for a pre-schooler.  My son is four and four months and definitely math inclined.  The book moves so quickly that my son is already working on math problems like 100 + 300 and most recently solving for the unknown!  (As in blank  + 3 = 7) Am I wrong or is this stretching pre-school/kindergarten math?  I would at least think this would be towards the second half of kindergarten so the first half of the book should take more than 6 weeks to get though, right!

They do say on the website that Primer is supposed to be a ‘gentle introduction to math” so mastery is not necessarily the goal.  Perhaps it could have been easier if I had watched some of the videos, but I just did my best to explain things to him.

Here are a few other things I didn’t care for in Math-U-See:

  • It is not a complete curriculum for the year.  There are 30 lessons which at most take a week to get through.  (However, the rest of the year could be spent in review or moving to a new level.)
  • I’d rather have the lessons just be the suggested work for one day, rather than a whole section. It’s motivating to complete one lesson a day, or to be getting through a chapter, and demotivating to spend a week on one lesson.  So I’d rather the lessons be called “Chapters.”
  • I have not seen the other levels, but Primer did not include enough worksheets  for mastery, or near mastery, for some of the harder concepts.  I feel a curriculum should provide enough work for an average student to gain mastery.  Skipping extra problems because you don’t need them is motivating (we did this earlier on in the lessons) but having to get extra problems because the curriculum does not provide enough is demotivating.
  • My son is motivated by math problems written traditionally, which he somehow sees as real math, and is less motivated by how Math-U-See writes some of their problems.
  • The Primer level is marketed for pre-school/kindergarten age but requires A LOT of handwriting in the skip counting sections, so math has become for us number writing practice and math practice.  On one hand this is a good thing, but it has caused some frustration to my son.  Two lessons from now, he will be skip counting 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s at random and having to write out all of the numbers himself.  He is mentally there but I am dreading keeping him motivated to write it all out!  I try to only correct him if he writes a number backwards, completely illegible, or reverses the numbers in a two-digit number, otherwise we wouldn’t get anywhere!
  • I’m not interested in a program that requires watching a DVD for it to work well…on top of that, I don’t own a DVD player.

Good things about Primer:

  • The workbook is already 3 whole punched and the pages are easily taken out.
  • It is a good “introductory” math worbook as far as conceptually understanding addition, skip counting, etc.
  • It has been useful in teaching the one’s place, ten’s place, hundred’s place etc.. My son can read any number up to 999 after using this book (with errors at times of course, but he understands it.)
  • Each lessons ends with one or two fun pages that motivate my son to continue with the standard practice and review pages.

So, with all that said, in nine more lessons of Math-U-See Primer, we will take a week off of math (if my son wants to) and then start with Rod & Staff Level 1.  (We will probably skip the first 10 lessons or so…).  I am also planning to order the first CLE Sunrise and Sonlight Horizons workbooks for supplementation.  We’ll see how this new plan goes!

Hope this review of Math-U-See Primer helps someone!