Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The First Four Weeks

Four weeks into the school year, for us. This year we're using Catholic Heritage Curriculum, with daily schedule. How's it going?

1. I am so proud of my big girls. The oldest, ninth grade, has been working through an ambitious reading list that Darwin drew up for her as part of his family's Humanities Program. The 13yo and 10yo are using CHC materials. They have taken responsibility for their own work, taking delight in checking off one subject after another and getting work done early. The older two have been working hard to make sure that they finish everything before Friday, so they can have a day off. I'm impressed by their drive, and I rather wish we'd gone with a more academically ambitious program for them.

My 13yo has disliked all the literature I've assigned her so far. She could tell me the plots of both Old Yeller and My Friend Flicka, but remained unmoved by either story. She also hasn't cared for Anne of Green Gables or its ilk. I think that she'd prefer to read a steady diet of Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. And no one -- but no one! -- likes reading biographies.

2. We have basically thrown out the schedule for the younger two, 8 and 6. I have to sit on them to get them to do any work -- I mean, if I am not sitting at the table with them, they will wander off, not finish things, stare out the window, fight with each other, start great projects, build forts, anything but the work at hand. I can get my 8yo son to do a page of math if I set a timer for him, but 6yo daughter needs someone supervising her, even if it's work she enjoys.

They both have religion and science books, but I feel so dragged out after hauling both of them through the three Rs that we don't usually do either of those subjects. (We read and discuss the daily Mass readings, so it's not as if they're religiously illiterate.) And some days I have to step away if I can't handle the level of... not idiocy, but... denseness? Look, you try sitting day in and day out with a child learning to read, who can't remember the word "sit" from one sentence to the next, who will sound out the first two letters of "mat" and then say, "map!", who has no sight words, who will guess at a word without even looking at the page, who will sound out the beginning of "mud" and then say, "dirt!". It's not an irredeemable situation; I can see progress from the beginning of the year. But it's slow, and she doesn't particularly care about reading. It's not a skill she has a great desire to acquire.

What has boosted an interest in reading is our new acquisition of a boxed set of Usborne Early Readers. They are charming illustrated and have engaging stories, and the very first ones have parent pages on the left and kid pages on the right, so Junior doesn't feel like you're making him do all the work. And it is fun, oh so fun, to take them all out of the box and sort through them, and then leave them laying around so that your mom yells at you and makes you pick them all up and put them back.

The one CHC book I will praise is the K/1 reading program. It consists of pages you can tear out and fold into little four-page booklets, so your child can feel a sense of accomplishment in reading a book, and you can write on them. I like to underline sound combinations and sight words, and she likes to draw on the pages to complete the story. The stories are cute and fun, but I don't really follow the parent suggestions. Come now, I'm not going to tell my child that maybe the reason why Mom isn't in this story about Dad taking care of the baby is because she's at a homeschooling conference or doing pro-life work.

Which brings me to:

3. I will not be buying CHC next year, for a few reasons. The first and foremost is that the books and workbooks are too Catholicy. I don't just say "Catholic", because everything that participates in the truth is Catholic. But every grammar exercise has some kind of moral or Catholic lesson. Every spelling list has a Catholic bit of vocabulary, or a religious picture. The history books, while not terrible, are very very focused on Church history or Christendom. I feel like there's little system to the handwriting and spelling books for the younger grades. I don't think it's a bad program. But I'm not sure it's for our family, after trying it.

But I am so happy with how the older ones are thriving with a daily schedule of work.

4. As always, my morning starting point is bible study/readalouds. We begin with the morning offering and intentions, read the readings and discuss them, read our meditation, have about 20 seconds of quiet prayer, and then have a chapter of our readaloud. The first book of the year was The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston, an instant favorite. Currently, I'm reading The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's a bit challenging for the kids, though I do make sure to have them tell me about plot points, and to discuss character and themes. I won't say that they love it, but there are times when people are listening intently.

5. We're planning a family dinner out this weekend as a sign of appreciation for how well the kids have jumped into the year and done their work. I know I've felt frustrated with how I have to drag the younger ones through their stuff, but imagine if I was having to sit on the big three as well! So some congratulations are in order.


mandamum said...

Good to hear :) Congrats are definitely in order, for all of you!

I've been doing daily morning-work with my kids, for the first time ever (I'm pretty eclectic-un-school-y, but turning toward classical). Some of my people were feeling their lacks, without a good way to meet the lack on their own (you can only really get fluency with your handwriting by... well, by writing over and over and over, for instance, even if you don't really feel like writing). Plus, I have been working through IEW's Teaching Writing Structure and Style, and was looking forward to teaching it to the kids (YAY! It has been a hit, even with the amount of work I'm having them do). We're only 2 wks in, because we took off to go to the Tetons, but so far it's been good. As you have said, it's good for my own discipline to have a daily plan. We've been trying to start with the day's Gospel (and, with a tiny reminder on Lectio Divina-ish prayer, we're trying to practice praying). The True, Good and Beautiful, slowly being worked out in my home.

Our "spine" is the Classically Catholic Memory work for the week (from co-op, because otherwise I wouldn't be doing it) - gives us a bit of science and a bit of history, and we pull books from the library to fill in as we want.

Have you looked at the "Bible Tells Me So" book? We use it here just as a read-aloud (and discuss). I know people have used "St Patrick's Summer" similarly. But as you say, your people are getting their daily dose of Church-set Bible, so I'm sure they're doing well. (I loved Melanie B's piece on the Lazy Homeschooler's Bible Memorization program :) )

Julia said...


I found CHC useful for adding a snippet of faith-flavor to the overall curriculum, but notably uninspired academically. We're doing the Kolbe 9th grade Greek History and Lit this year with my 8th grader, and while the readings are terrific (he's doing Herodotus and the Iliad at the moment) I'm not overly impressed with the lectures they provide or their study guides.

What we liked most as a spine was Sonlight. It's literature-based, and you can dump the Protestant bios and do saints instead (sorry, that came out sounding harsh; I didn't mean it that way!). I loved the read-alouds, which (back in the day) had everyone on the same page.

Best bet we've found for science is the Ellen McHenry unit studies. It took me a long while to realize that science is an utter failure unless we have every single supply needed on hand in September.

Glad you're having a good year. I do think a good portion of homeschooling is being a policewoman. Keeping folks on track is work! I do find that saying, "If you can stay on track for 12 minutes I can put a batch of brownies in the oven" extends the attention span.

Sally Thomas said...

I always wanted to like CHC,but two things got in the way.

1. The Catholicy-ness, as you say. Right there with you.

2. The real and serious lack of literature, or books of real and serious literary quality.

When I had really young children and a wide age spread, I think I was attracted to the potential for structure in CHC for the younger kids (though when I tried to use the lesson plans, I could never make myself follow them -- they were for somebody on another planet, I guess. Planet Organized), but what I have kept returning to, and will never leave again, is Mater Amabilis (with my own tweaks and modifications). Read the good books, narrate the good books.

federoff11 said...

I'm in my 19th year homeschooling. (Yea! Only fifteen more years to go!) and I currently have an 11th grader, 10th grader, 7th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, and a 3-year-old.

I uses CHC SPARINGLY. I like the reading program you mentioned. And, after I've taught a little of the Writing Road to Reading, I like CHC's spelling series with apologetics. I just make sure my kids write out their words and phonetically mark them a la WWTR.

We are classical, but very eclectic. Some Kolbe (even their online class... HIGHLY recommended!)... some MODG recommendations, a strong history spine in a 4-year cycle that I've crafted myself, over the years.

Two of my favorite curriculums: The Latin Road to English Grammar. It takes 2 years of high school lever Latin, and spreads it out into 3 years. We start in 7th grade... finish in 9th (so it counts as Latin II in high school) and then have 3 years to do Spanish! :-) I love that it teaches/ reinforces English grammar while teaching Latin. Good stuff. And, for 6th grade (and up) Religion.... the Ignatius Study Guides to various NT books. We start with the Gospel of Mark in 6th grade, then do Acts, Luke, etc. By high school, my kids are doing Paul's letters.

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks, all, for sharing your family's programs -- this gives me a lot to draw on for next year. We're going to be mixing it up (again) but one thing that will definitely stay the same is having daily schedules for them as can follow a daily schedule. That has been so gamechanging, I can't tell you.

Also for next year: cloning myself twice so I can sit with both younger ones and the baby at the same time.