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.
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