Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Advice for a Mom Starting Classical Conversations in K4, K5 or 1st grade

I have now been homeschooling my daughter for 5 years and have been around homeschooling professionally for almost 10... I definitely have found it to be an ongoing learning experience and I always find myself asking for advice from moms a bit "ahead" of me in the journey.  Like... "what did you do with the baby when you had two to school?" or "what curriculum did you love for ___ subject?"  I've been asked many times for my input on curriculum to use starting out with a child in that first year of schooling and especially homeschooling.  Today I thought I may as well make it an official "post" so maybe it will help more moms!

I am a part of a local Classical Conversations Community and highly HIGHLY recommend it.  We have been a part of one for 4 years and the more I get into a groove with it the more I like it and see its value.  (It does have two potential downsides I'll mention by way of full disclosure:  1-- your tutor may not be great with classroom management, seeing as how they may have no classroom experience and 2-- your child may do better with you out of the room and CC requires a parent on campus at all times.  With this in mind, know you also will be able to affect both of those by either being proactive in your child's class to help manage if it's needed, or you can volunteer in child care or go with your other child if you have more than one enrolled in CC).  Ok on to my recommendations.

How would I recommend a new homeschooling mom start off with a new student?  ESPECIALLY if you are on a tight budget?

KEEP IT SIMPLE.  Don't get overwhelmed by all the amazing ideas out there and wonderful curriculum options!  Don't feel like you have to do EVERYTHING.  Here are my recommendations.  The titles are all links to where you can buy the materials mentioned, mostly on Amazon if they are available there.  I've also made a "Shopping List" here.

For you:  grab The Read-Aloud Handbook (Jim Trelease, any edition) and Teaching from Rest.  These will help you get a real feel for what matters in home-schooling (and any education).  If you can get your child familiar with the world of books, if you can maintain the wonder that God has put in every child as they survey His creation... your child will be absolutely fine academically.  Also grab Cathy Duffy's 102 Top Picks (or the older editions 100 Top Picks & 101 Top Picks-- all are great) from your library or borrow it from a friend to peruse at some point between this year and next.  It's super helpful but I would hold off on reading it until after you have most of your first SIMPLE year under your belt.

Now on to the subjects.  My recommendations are made with both cost and simplicity in mind.  If after trying these out you hate them, ping me for alternative recommendations:

- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, as your main phonics-based reading curriculum.  (Available used on Amazon or Better World Books for $5; older editions are fine).
- Fun picture books out of the library--  you can use a book list like Best Books or Honey for a Child's Heart, or the one at the back of The Read Aloud Handbook, or just grab whatever books you think looks fun.  Many public libraries have pamphlets with titles like "100 Books to Read in Kindergarden" or you can ask a librarian.  I have many times just grabbed 6-7 titles off the display shelves and run!  Caldecott Award Winners are pretty much always shoo-ins.
- Bob Books- for some reason kids love these small quirky books, and they are a great compliment to the 100 Easy Lessons.  Costco regularly carries them, and they are not hard to find used.  *more on this later*

Handwriting:  For the youngest, I would honestly more focus on drawing lines, curves, shapes & don't worry so much about letters, except teaching them to write their names. Scissor work is great for motor development and hand strength.  Kumon workbooks are wonderful for this -- aesthetically pleasing and perfectly incremental.  Or you can take a permanent marker and draw straight lines, waves, swirls, and shapes on catalogues or junk mail and let your child cut on those!  Also of great use are stickers!!  Have them line up stickers along the lines you drew, or inside big shapes you drew. Pinterest ideas for fine-motor skill development and use things you already have-- spoons, tweezers, cotton balls, cups, empty egg cartons... All that is handwriting-readiness.  Make a bean box and a salt tray! Use paint on sandpaper or puff paint on cardstock to make tactile cards of the letters for them to trace with their fingers... All of this is "handwriting."

As they get older & stronger, I personally teach cursive first and highly recommend it.  We are using The Rhythm of Handwriting workbook and love it-- I use a sheet protector over the pages and dry-erase markers so we will be able to reuse the pages indefinitely.  Cursive First is also decent.  If you want to do print first, Handwriting Without Tears and Get Ready for the Code (Get Set for the Code, Go for the Code)  come highly recommended.

Science & History:
CC Foundations Guide-  Classical Conversations topics are quite sufficient for this age.  Grab books from your library or buy a child's encyclopedia.  Each week read picture books or illustrated excerpts on the topics.  If you want to, you can find printables to color online to go with each week's topic, or there are coloring books you can find via Amazon or Rainbow Resource on almost every topic!
Classical Conversations Songs CD for your year's Cycle (you will reuse it in 3 years)

Saxon K if your child is in preK, Saxon 1 if he is in K, Saxon 2 if he is in 1st grade. DO NOT feel like you have to do all of every lesson-- it repeats & builds on itself so you can combine as you want and omit portions of each lesson.  (For example we regularly combine 2 lessons but only do one side of one worksheet and a timed fact worksheet, instead of the recommended 4 sides of a worksheet and 2 timed fact sheets). ** Find a used homeschool edition teacher's guide off ebay, Amazon or homeschoolclassifieds.**  For Saxon 2 you will want to buy the student workbooks.  I have found them "used" (but not written-in) on ebay for cheaper than buying them new.  (Most homeschooling families put the worksheets in page protectors and use dry erase markers so you can reuse them.)  **Don't worry about the manipulatives or "meeting books" if money is an issue. **

(For manipulatives:  Use stuff you have around the house and/or grab a pack of 100 erasers or glass vase beads at the dollar store-- that's what we have done! Instead of the Saxon Meeting Book you could use a wall pocket calendar like this one or you CAN make ALL those out of paper!  Dollar Tree often has small math workbooks that can be a fun addition too.)

- Grace & Truth Memory Workbook, Volume 1.  I LOVE this small booklet.  It has hymns, catechism and both verses and passages of Scripture all laid out for each age, from 2 years old to 4th grade.
- Whatever story Bible or Bible reading plan you want.  My favorite story Bibles are recommended here.  I really like The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History which has you reading chunks of Scripture aloud-- we are going super slow; started last year and are still in Deuteronomy. :)

For the "extras," I would put a few things on your child's birthday or Christmas wishlist as they are both fun and VERY useful throughout the school year:
-  Bob Books
-  audiobooks of The Story of the World-  you can start with whichever best matches your CC year (Cycle 1 goes with Book 1; Cycle 2 with Book 2; Cycle 3 with Books 3-4)
- wooden pattern block sets- Amazon has many options-- we have and love Melissa & Doug's set
- wooden clock set- we have and enjoy Melissa & Doug's Shape Sorting Clock
- Usborne's Encyclopedia of World History
- wall pocket calendar like this one

As for WHERE to do school... we kind of do it all over the house, often at the dining room table, but I do have a "School Area" where I store all our currently used books and manipulatives. It's just a corner of our foyer w a rug from IKEA, shelves off craigslist for school stuff, a bulletin board strip & our wall pocket calendar.

I hope that was helpful!  Please feel free to add any comments or ideas of your own!

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