Friday, July 9, 2010

Planning 3: Curriculum for Jetter ~ 4th Grade

I have read a lot of blog posts regarding planning lately and I admire those people who can, in a very succinct way, describe the curriculum choices they have made for their children.  I am not that gifted!  My posts tend to go on and on, and I apologize for that.  I guess I'm just a "wordy" person.  I had originally intended to include the plans for all of my children in this post but that didn't work.  So here is part 2, in which I will describe the plans for Jetter, my 4th grader, and there will be yet another post regarding plans for Social Butterfly, who will be in 6th grade.

Once again, I must include the fact that we are enrolled with Mother of Divine Grace School .  They are self described as an accredited "distance education program".  We first enrolled with MODG when Night Owl was entering 6th grade.  At that time, although I enjoyed putting together my own curriculum, I really felt I wanted the accountability that MODG provides.  I also felt that the program was very thorough and I  believe the classical method, in the way the founder, Laura Berquist, utilizes it, is an excellent way to teach the children..  I have also always been interested in, and used much of the methodology of Charlotte Mason.  With MODG, much of that methodology is already incorporated in the program.  The other benefit that I have enjoyed with MODG is the availability of a consultant.  My consultant and I have become good friends over the years.  She knows about my children, their learning styles, their difficulties, their strengths, and she has been great at advising me in certain curriculum choices.  Even though MODG has a certain curriculum they recommend, it is no surprise that some children need alternatives.  My consultant has been great in advising me when these alternatives are required.  So, with that little plug for MODG ;), on to Jetter...

Jetter is my one child that I could describe as a "square peg in a round hole" when it comes to MODG.  But, as I mentioned, my consultant has been very helpful in helping me to find the right fit for him.  (I would also just like to add here that MODG provides special needs advisors for those children who have academic struggles.) 

Even though Jetter has struggled in some areas of learning, he is extremely bright and quite creative.  The questions he often asks, or the ideas he comes up with can be amazing.    In regards to learning styles, Jetter is a strong visual learner.  I sometimes call him "Eagle Eye" just for fun, or when I'm looking for something and need his help.  He has an amazing ability to remember the smallest details and I try to use this ability when teaching him.  This is one of the reasons that I am including more study of sight words in his curriculum this year.   He is also a very mathematical thinker.  He understands concepts that are way beyond his grade level. 

Jetter's struggles come mostly in the area of relating what he knows, specifically anything written.  He has always struggled with handwriting and shows all the signs of a person with disgraphia (I've been studying!).  Early on, when math came easily to him but writing the answers was almost impossible, the Montessori Method came to the rescue.  The manipulatives he was able to use helped him to grow in his knowledge of the concepts without being slowed down because he couldn't write those answers in a workbook.  The same goes for his spelling.  He is a very good speller, but couldn't write the words well enough to prove it.  The Montessori Movable Alphabet really came in handy here.  Now I have a program that I will describe later that also allows him to strengthen his spelling abilities without being hampered by poor writing skills.
So for Jetter, I will just say that while he might struggle with relating what he knows, he has no struggle knowing it!

I will also mention that Jetter's reading ability is not quite at grade level.  This does cause some challenges as we try to follow the MODG recommendations, but it is not something I worry too much about.  When Night Owl started homeschooling in 3rd grade, his reading abilities were not as developed as Jetter's.  We just kept plugging away at it and by 6th grade he was devouring books like the Lord of the Rings series, the Redwall series and the Complete Sherlock Holmes.  Better yet, he was comprehending what he was reading and was able to narrate them beautifully, in full detail.  So, for Jetter, I'm not too worried.  I will make necessary adjustments and we will continue to plug away at it.  Reading every single day is the main strategy that I believe will help.  Jetter will be doing more phonics, but I think that's mostly for my benefit.  He really has a great understanding of many of the phonics rules.  It's more of a need to apply them as he reads which will come with time and practice.

Here are the subjects Jetter will be studying and the materials we will be using ~

Math - Like Builder, Jetter will be using the Abeka Mathematics text.  Typically, MODG changes in 4th grade to Saxon but I believe Abeka will be a better fit.  For one thing, it is a workbook while Saxon is a textbook.  Because Abeka is a workbook, Jetter will be able to write his answers directly into the book and that will be easier for him.  One of Jetter's other struggles is that he is very easily distracted and he needs something that not only appeals to him visually (which the Abeka book should do) but it also needs to be challenging enough.  If he is bored with a program it becomes very difficult to keep him on task.  I think Abeka will provide the challenge he needs to stay focused.

I've also added another resource, called "Math It", for Jetter.  His understandings of the mathematical concepts come easily but memorizing the math facts is more of a challenge.  Trying to do long division, when you don't have the math facts memorized can be very tedious work!  I'm hoping Math It will be a good resource for this.

Religion ~ In Religion, like Builder, Jetter will be studying in three areas - Bible, Catechism, and the Saints.
For Bible, Jetter has moved on from the Bible stories of the earlier years.  He is now studying Bible History.
We will use Schuster's Bible History for this purpose.  This book will be quite challenging to read for Jetter so I will be reading the book with him.  For Catechism, Jetter will be using the Baltimore Catechism #1.  For the study of the saints I've found something a little different for Jetter.  This Holy Traders Activity Kit is sure to catch and hold his interest.  For one thing, there are trading cards of the saints.  For each trading card there is information to be read and a worksheet to complete.  Then, the kit comes with storage pages so that he can keep his cards organized.  I'm thinking we will study one saint a week, and after reading about that saint and finishing the workbook page, Jetter will get the card to keep in his organizer.  Once again, I  must say though, that Religion isn't just about the academics.  It's the living of our faith that is so important.  Jetter can more fully participate now that he has made his First Communion and First Confession. 

Reading ~ I mentioned above that Jetter will be doing more work on phonics this year. For fourth grade Mother of Divine Grace does not give a specific resource for phonics or reading instruction.  There is plenty of reading though!  The phonics is actually combined with the recommended spelling program.  I see the importance of this, and I appreciate that MODG does combine the various subjects (for example, writing is combined with history so the papers being written are about the history they are reading about).  But for Jetter I've added a couple of the  Explode the Code workbooks to keep some of the concepts fresh.  We will also be working on the same sight words program that I am using for Builder,  Sight Words in a Flash but at a different level of difficulty.  Finally, there will be daily reading practice.  I don't have a specific program for this because there are so many great books that MODG recommends for history.  We will simply work our way through these.  Jetter is also fond of the Magic Treehouse Books which we read occasionally and he enjoys reading on his own at bedtime.   One thing for sure is that Jetter will always find something to read, or something he wants me to read to him.  He is very curious about so many things and he has discovered that books are an excellent way to learn about them.

Handwriting ~ Here is another subject for which MODG does not give a specific recommendation.  As I mentioned above, handwriting is a real struggle for Jetter.  Night Owl struggled with it as well and I'm not exaggerating that his handwriting only became legible when he entered the high school years.  But Jetter's struggles are different.  Early on, I discovered the Handwriting Without Tears program.  This has been an excellent program for Jetter.  The products and methodology, described in the teacher's guides have really helped me to teach Jetter.  I know that some say the font is not so pretty, but when you have a child that struggles so, it is a blessing to see legible handwriting.  One very interesting thing I have found is that Jetter's cursive is nicer than the print.  Perhaps it's the start/stop of the print that makes it more difficult.  I don't know exactly, but his cursive is much more easy to read and he enjoys practicing it.  Now, the really neat thing that I will be using with Jetter, besides the Handwriting Without Tears workbook,  is something called Startwrite.  This is actually a program for the computer that will allow me to create copywork for Social Butterfly and Jetter.  I prefer the use of copywork for handwriting practice,  to teach concepts in sentence formation, and other writing skills.  I have had my eye on Startwrite for some time but couldn't see purchasing it because of Jetter's struggles.  BUT, I have now discovered that Startwrite will allow me to use the Handwriting Without Tears font!    I'm very happy about this.  I will print off passages for Jetter to copy into his copywork notebook.  This will be handwriting practice, but since I will use quotes from some of his favorite books it will be more interesting for him.  I can go on and on about the value of copywork for teaching so many things, but that will have to be a post for another day.  Here I am, using too many words again!

(Jetter and his good friends)
Language Arts ~  Speaking of copywork, MODG recommends a Language Arts resource in which copywork in already included.  Because of this, Jetter will only do copywork that I have created for him using the Startwrite program on days that it is not already required by the MODG syllabus.  For Language Arts, MODG recommends a book called Intermediate Language Lessons.  This is a reprint from the original book which was published in 1914!  I used this resource for both Night Owl and Social Butterfly and it works well in teaching them the Language Arts concepts they need to learn at this age.  MODG describes it well with this quote: 
 "Intermediate Language Lessons includes all the elements that are appropriate for the language development of the student in this stage of formation.  He works on patterns of language and that involves copying, dictation, conversation, usage exercises and creative writing.  All of these are included in Intermediate Language Lessons."
Now, with Jetter's writing and reading struggles I have to admit I was a little concerned that this might be too difficult for him.  I did find this version of the same book though.  For one thing, it is larger (8 1/2 x 11), which will make it easier for Jetter to read.  It also lays flat since it is spiral bound, and it is a "write in" book.  This will be a big help to Jetter.  The down side is that it makes the book consumable which means it will only last through one student.  The other book was originally to be used for all the kids.  But, one of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can do what is necessary for each of the children, to meet their needs.

Spelling ~  For spelling, Jetter will use the program called All About Spelling.  This is the perfect fit for Jetter.  For one thing, the program uses letter tiles to teach the concepts.  This means Jetter doesn't have to focus so much on the writing, he can instead concentrate on the spelling rules.  Another benefit is the use of a white board and instead of lessons, this program uses "levels".  For some reason, this concept of levels is very motivational for Jetter.  This program is a little more expensive that many spelling books, but it is non consumable and I will use it for the rest of the kids as well.

History ~  I love the history program through Mother of Divine Grace!  The text book used, Our Pioneers and Patriots, is the same one I used for Night Owl and Social Butterfly.  I have to say that my kids haven't been really fond of text books, but the additional reading MODG recommends makes the history come alive.  I will be using some of the additional reading books as read alouds for the kids during our morning history reading time.  Social Butterfly has already read them, but most are so well written, she wont mind hearing them again.  Some of the other books will be books that Jetter uses for reading practice, as well as just free reading on his own.  The list for 4th grade is quite long, so instead of listing each book, I will suggest that you go to The Mother of Divine Grace Booklist, found at the bottom of the link to see a list of the recommended books.  Each of the kids will have a sketch journal that they will use for sketching as I read to them from many of these books.  We started this last year when I read the book "Madeline Takes Command" and the sketches that all the kids did were very impressive!  They were then able to use these sketches to retell the story in their own words.  It was such an enjoyable exercise for all the kids (and me too!), I will make sure to include it more often this year. Along with American History, Jetter will also be sitting in to hear the read alouds from Social Butterfly's study of Ancient Egypt.  As with Builder, I have some materials that Jetter can work on while listening.  These are the Ancient Egypt Dot to Dot book (more difficult than it sounds!) and the Ancient Egypt Drawing Book.  Jetter loves to draw so this will be something he really enjoys.

Geography ~ For geography, Jetter will continue to work on memorizing the states and capitols and work in a map skills workbook.  Jetter is very interested in the study of maps so I will be incorporating more hands on work in this area.  I'll have to post about that later though, as I haven't got all the details worked out yet.  Night Owl was also a big fan of studying geography so I have many resources already at hand.  It's just a matter of organizing them all.

Science ~ Jetter is very interested in the Solar System so I will follow that interest and we will be using the Apologia Astronomy Text.  I find the Apologia books to be very interesting to read and the kids enjoy them which makes all the difference in the world.  I will also be gathering materials for the many experiments and projects included in this book. 

Latin ~ This will be the first year that Jetter studies Latin as a subject.  We will be using the Prima Latina program which I also used with Night Owl and Social Butterfly.  It is designed for teachers with no Latin background (Phew!) and begins very gently.  As a matter of fact, most of what Jetter learns this year will be  vocabulary, which is the fun part for most kids.

Poetry ~ Jetter will be using the same program that Builder will use, Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.  As I stated in the post for Builder, this is a program that we started using last year and both boys really enjoy the selection of poetry to be memorized.  They also like hearing it recited on the CD by Andrew Pudewa, the author.

Finally, there are the subjects of Music, Art and Phys Ed.  For music, Jetter will be taking piano lessons again this year.  Music is something that often gets lost in the shuffle around here so I try to get the kids involved in lessons as soon as they are able.  That ensures that it will get done!  As far as listening to music, we do alot of that, it's the instruction that I don't often get to.  Driving to, (and paying for!) piano lessons isn't something I always appreciate, but it ensures that the kids get proper instruction.
Art is, in some respects, the same because I don't feel like we get to it as much as we should.  However, my children all love to draw and are very motivated to learn drawing techniques.  This is good!  I supply the materials and instruction books and they practice on a regular basis.  At this point, Jetter says he would like to be an architect.  I know he is young, and this can change, but it does encourage him to work on his drawing skills.  I also find it interesting that while Jetter really struggles with handwriting, his ability to draw is pretty good.  MODG recommends a very simple drawing book called the Drawing Textbook that is a great introduction to drawing.  Once again, this is a resource I already have since Night Owl and Social Butterfly also used it.  We will also have some fun art projects scattered throughout the year.  These will be included in another post, but will involve various mediums like clay, wood working, and paint. 
And then, for the grand finale, there is Phys Ed.  As I said in the post regarding Phys Ed for Builder and Beany, I really don't feel that it is something I need to "teach".  My kids are very active ... sometimes too active!  For Phys Ed, besides the usual outdoor play, Jetter will also be involved in a sport.  Like last year, he would like to play football again.  With all the talk about Builder taking Tae Kwon Do though, he might be wavering in his choice.  We'll have to see what the final decision is.

And there, in way too many words, you have the curriculum explanations for Jetter.  One more to follow.  Hopefully I can make Social Butterfly's post a bit shorter!

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