Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Curriculum Change

It's that time. Somehow it invariably happens. And this time around, Skipper is the one in need of changing. For the majority of his schoolwork, we have been following Catholic Heritage Curriculum, Grade 1. And, for the most part, it works. The lesson plans are extremely easy to follow, and on a hectic day, you know that as long as the core subjects are completed, you can feel O.K. about not pushing more. Plus, nearly all the subjects bring in the Catholic faith in some way - a big, subtle plus. However, some parts seem lacking.

Skipper uses all of the core items in addition to Art with a Purpose: Art Pac 1, Math Facts Now! cd, and Science 2 for Little Folks. I need to stress that I truly do enjoy CHC curricula for the younger years (at least for my boys, for now), but a few things do not seem to be working and CHC, unfortunately, only puts the most positive feedback in advertising their products. There is no way to submit reviews for the public to see. So here are my reviews to some extent.

The Lesson Plan

This is easy to read, and easy to follow. I use a separate calendar workbook to write in what Skipper actually does. I grab what I need for the lesson plan, ignoring some of it (the "memory jewels", the coloring pages, and their suggested days of when to do the work).

Reading, Writing, & Spelling
  • First Readers: very central to the Catholic faith (love that). Not sure why they progress in the way they do. For Skipper, the introduction of long vowel sounds so quickly after short vowel sounds is definitely making it a slower process and tripping him up some. The name game is a time of fun or tears, depending on his mood. The worksheets seem to be fun for him. And he gets a laugh out of the silly sentences.
  • To help Skipper become more fluent and more confident with reading, we started supplementing the CHC readers with Hooked on Phonics. I was hoping to use the First Grade Level but after flipping through it and talking about it with Skipper, we have started at Kindergarten, Level 2, which so far has all been a review of what he has already learned (but he still loves it and I think it gives him a boost of confidence).
  • Spelling: This works for Skipper. We struggle sometime with the addition of more handwriting work though but at least the spelling words are short and simple (for now). He does two pages, each on different days. The fourth day we have "test" using the white board - he loves this. And the final day is a "spelling bee" over dinner where Dad can cheer him on.
  • Handwriting: This can be a struggle for Skipper (not because of CHC - just writing in general). It tires him out and he struggles with fitting it in the lines. The lines in a way are almost a hindrance to him (vs space like a white board). But he is slowly doing better and understanding why I want him to write neatly and in the lines. Also, I love the infusion of faith but the "reading" part of the book seems to be lost on Skipper. For now, handwriting and reading are separate in his mind.

Math has been progressing fairly well. Some days we have tears, some days not. I do have to add manipulatives to make it fun and to help him grasp a concept. He still struggles a bit with the plain formulas and likes to have visuals to aide him in doing math problems. We use blocks, cookies, our abacus, games, and the like.

The math cd is a bit much for right now but I think it will be a good bonus for the future on honing quick-response math skills.

  • Behold and See 1 (Science): I wanted to love this. I really did. Unfortunately, it is boring, and it is complete fluff. I will hold onto this because I think this is fun for pre-k/k level. I have done much of the seasonal/plant stuff already with Skipper so it was starting to feel like it was all a repeat. Instead, we will be starting on Astronomy (Skipper's final decision) using a number of items but the two major pieces being Exploring Creation with Astronomy and its supplemental lapbooks for each lesson. From the reviews, I think we all are going to enjoy this!

I use CHC items for this but have most definitely added to their suggestions with our own family faith formation plans and lessons.
  • The Bible and stories are fine though I am not such a fan as doing one story per week. I prefer to do a story each day. I started off doing the Bible Timeline cards but it is quickly becoming a pain so I may just drop that, and continue to cycle through the Bible, day after day.
  • A Year with God: definitely a great buy. It gives ideas on how to celebrate the liturgical year, and is good for all ages. So far I have not seen this in the lesson plan but I look through it all the time for our own ideas.
  • Faith and Life Series: 1 - I am not sure how I feel about this. It does not seem to be holding the attention of Skipper as the Image of God series did last year. Perhaps it is too drawn out over the week and I need to condense it to a day? Or find a different catechism for first grade.
  • And as I said, I come up with monthly liturgical plans to help fill in the gaps, celebrate seasons/feast days, etc.

Art with a Purpose: Art Pac 1 - Skipper was so excited to get this but it seemed he was not really focusing on it, and most of the time became frustrated. It is a very set-in-stone type of art: coloring in the lines, coloring lighter/darker, cutting/glueing, blah, blah, blah. Art should be fun. Art should be open-ended. Art should be an experience, an experiment. Somehow Skipper and I need to strike a balance since he needs a little structure but I want him to learn to be flexible as well. I quickly dropped this art pac (though I may bring it out after the baby arrives for him to do on his own, at his pace) and we have been doing art through his state study as well as additional, on-the-spur-of-the-moment projects. He does free drawing on paper and the white erase board, loves anything to do with paint, and if he can mix it in anyway (like colors), it is certain to be a hit!

A few future project ideas I want to try: soap carving, chalk drawing of a penguin (here is one of a polar bear), and t-shirt painting for big brother and new baby shirts using freezer paper stenciling technique.

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