Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Curriculum Review, grades one and two

I think it was my friend Ashley who first mentioned The Well Trained Mind to Jim and I. I must have heard the title before because I remember being vaguely familiar with it. One winter Saturday when the kids were little we were all in Barnes and Noble for a story hour. I don't remember if it was Jim or I who picked the book off the shelf, but Jim decided to buy it.

I look back on this as one of those moments which altered the course of our education decisions. It was startling, for one, because Jim doesn't randomly pick up homeschool books and decide to read them, and two because it is even more rare that he would spontaneously pay $35.00 for a book. A homeschool book.

This was the beginning of our homeschool journey. Jim took it home and read it and the Classical method clicked with him. I read it next and was instantly on board. And, I was excited to see him excited about home education- a topic we had been tossing around but hadn't yet made a decision about.

The next year we began homeschooling our first-grader following Susan Wise Bauer's curriculum suggestions as outlined in the book. For our second year of homeschool (this year we are finishing up), we joined a Classical Conversations homeschool co-op; unrelated to WTM, but using a Classical approach, as well as The WTM.

Anyone considering homeschooling or wanting to learn more about Classical Education, this is a great place to start. I keep The Well-Trained Mind nearby and review it again every few months.

A brief review of the curriculum we have used the past two years:

Story of the World- Volume 1 and 2

This is, hands down, Sam's favorite part of the school day. We purchased the textbook, activity book, and audio. The first year I felt like relying too much on the audio was cheating (why??), but by the second year I learned that my introvert-self is very glad for audio!! Sam can listen to it during her quiet time or if I am needed somewhere else. 

The Activity Books are great, and I would definitely recommend them as a supplement, especially if you have a hands-on learner, or enjoy doing projects. There are lists of books to go along with each chapter. I would try to look ahead and request these from the library several weeks in advance. When I didn't, or the books didn't come in on time, we supplemented with The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (recommend!)  The Activity books also have review questions for narration, maps, coloring pages (great for the kids to color as they are listening to the story), along with dozens of arts and crafts, games, and other ideas. I especially like the map work.

However, it isn't necessary. This year I purchased only the audio for volumes 3 and 4, we'll see if we miss having the books. Highly recommend this!

First Language Lessons- Level 1 and 2

First Language Lessons is a straightforward grammar curriculum using copywork and narration, and a few picture studies and poem memorizations. Lessons are simple and based on repetition. Sam sped through these. 

Writing With Ease- Level 1 and 2

Copywork using selections from classic children's literature.

What I liked: fun read-aloud stories and a great way to teach writing, similar to Charlotte-Mason
What I didn't like: Sam would become interested in the story but it was sad to only read a small portion. This year I am going to do copywork using the books we read aloud.

I love this handwriting series!

This is the core of what I have used for Sam in first and second grade.  We used Saxon math in first grade and Teaching Textbooks for second, and have been happy with both.

I will post later what I plan to use this year, with a preschool, first and third grader.


Danielle said...

I love Bauer's book, The Well-Trained Mind. It made education seem so common sense. We also have had two years in CC and love it! I think of ourselves as classical unschoolers because I love the classical approach with a heavy dose of hands-on activity.

We've not used The Story of the World yet. We've simply gotten out library books that go with each week of CC. My boys (twins) just finished 1st grade. But I know we'll use it in the future.

We loved First Language Lesson Level 1.

And thanks for your thoughts on Writing With Ease. I'm considering it but wondered about taking parts of books out of context for copywork--even great ones! I've heard that you don't need the workbook AND the teacher's guide. Only one. I'm still looking into the option of teacher's guide only, as I think it covers all the years, but haven't made up my mind.

Jessica Stock said...

Danielle, I agree, if you use WWE you don't need the teacher's guide. I appreciated WWE for the structure it gives, but I'm pretty sure I could do the same thing using books we read.