Saturday, May 20, 2017

Curriculum Review: 4th grade

I remember a college prof of mine telling me he never taught a course the same way twice. Every year, he discovered something he needed to tweak, and every course had a different mix of people with different abilities and learning styles.

So it is with my children. Kyrie learns differently, loves different things, and I have had to rethink how I do things to maximize her learning enjoyment. She is far more independent and likes to control her schedule.

These are the tools we used this year.

Bible-- God's Great Covenant New Testament 2 focuses on the book of Acts and the Missionary Journeys of Paul.  This is the final offering in this series and we have enjoyed all of them. I skipped the teacher's guide which I didn't find necessary. Kyrie was required to complete worksheet pages and take quizzes for the first time this year. These are challenging, and while she struggled, she learned a lot and it allowed her to become comfortable with a variety of testing methods (e.g. true/false, matching, short answer).  We spent several days a week on this together (1st, 4th, and 7th grade) reading Scripture and the chapter, and learning memory verses.  (5 days/wk)

History/Humanities/Literature-- Story of the World Vol. 3 is so much more than history and we use it to guide our reading, literature, and do some art and cooking projects from the activity book. I have no idea why anyone would use this as a stand-alone without the activity book which is what makes the series what it is. The reading lists alone make it worthwhile. It is so adaptable for multi-level use. We do a lot of reading together but Kyrie likes independent reading enough that she read a lot of the literature recommendations on her own. (4-5 days/wk)

Math --Horizons is a strong math curriculum that typically runs nearly a grade ahead. Having said that, its best years are 1-3 and 7th and 8th (I hope). The first half of the 4th grade curriculum is largely a review of 3rd grade, and then the last half picks up again. Kyrie wanted to stick with Horizons and the colorful and consistent format really appeals to both of us. It was a good choice for her; I think the review only strengthened her abilities in math and solidified some things she needed more time with. I thought the long division would kill us both, but we survived. The spiral method is essential to her learning and she enjoys the puzzles more than Ben did. (5 days/wk)

Grammar-- The strength of Language Lessons becomes more and more apparent when we reach the end and I struggle to find a new Grammar course. Without being busy, LL covers the topic masterfully, following a spiral method to review key concepts. The teacher's guide gives all the help and there is no prep involved. We get our books and do the days work in about 20 minutes. It only goes through 4th grade and I am sad. (3 days/wk)

Spelling/Handwriting-- Kyrie's handwriting is nice and she works at it on her own so I skipped any formal instruction and just had her use cursive in her spelling book. She excels at spelling and it involves independent work so she completed two books (Spelling Workout D & E). These are workbooks but offer a list of words for each lesson with exercises that develop both spelling and comprehension, with a small bit of writing. A lesson could be stretched out over a week. (2 days/wk)

Writing & Rhetoric--  This writing program is engaging, but challenging, and I was thrilled at how Kyrie embraced it and excelled. I had only planned for her to finish the book we started last year (Fable), and complete one more book (Narrative I); however, she loved it so so much, she ended up finishing Narrative II as well. She loves to write, and this forces her to speak as well as write. This series encourages reflection upon what makes good writing, exercises to encourage comprehension, and writing exercises that help a young writer think through better word choices, summarizing, elaborating on, and other valuable tools. It also teaches how to outline.  (3 days/wk)

Science-- Kyrie participates in the experiments and labs from Ben's Real Science 4 Kids courses. They are designed for middle school (they do offer elementary) so I don't have her take quizzes and do the research; however, the text is colorful and engaging and she participates in that with us. (1 or 2 days/wk)

Spanish--We started the year with Classical Academic Press's Spanish for Children Primer B and mid-year had to make a change. I don't abandon a program easily. When we started, Kyrie was excited to learn Spanish. And she worked hard last year and did well with Primer A. We were not very far in to this book, when the grammar was well beyond what I had in two years of college Spanish. The teacher was engaging and humorous, but we were a little lost and exhausted. I switched mid-year to my old Conversational Spanish text that I used in high school. We had a lot more fun with that. I opted to end Spanish in March so we could finish strong in other subjects. (4 days/wk)

Logic--Mindbenders is a great series that helps develop logical thinking. We have used the books and this time used the software for a change of pace. (1 day/wk)

Art--Kyrie started Little Annie's Art Book of Etiquette and Good Manners last year. It is a little young for her, ideal for K-2nd, but she enjoys learning proper etiquette and then drawing related to the lesson.  (1 day/wk)

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