Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Classically Catholic Memory

It's not often that I think so highly of a resource that I write a blog post about it.  Recently, when I sold an item from Classically Catholic Memory on Cathswap, my email box was very busy with people interested in it.  I had to turn them down, except for the first inquirer, and many responded with questions: "How did you like Classically Catholic Memory?", "What grades did you use it for?", "Which resources did you use?" etc.  So I decided to write a post about it.

I discovered CCMemory when I was whining discussing the issue of catechism memory work at 4Real.  We have had such a struggle with staying on top of our memory work.  I know it really doesn't take long, less than a couple of minutes to get through a poem recitation, but we just couldn't get it done.  When I mentioned this struggle, one of the moms suggested CCMemory, I checked it out, decided to purchase it, and boy am I glad I did.  This resource has helped us with not only our Religion memory work, but poems, history quotes, science facts and even Latin!

My first impression, upon opening the box, was that I noticed the good quality of the materials.  I had ordered the Alpha level Teacher's Guide and Student Book, the maps, the timeline cards and the audio CD's.  The books are hefty, spiral bound, with laminated covers.  The maps are colored and also laminated, but with a much thicker material. They are two sided, one for tracing and one for labeling.  The maps come with a set of stickers for the child to locate and label the locations being memorized for that week.  The timeline cards are a nice size, big enough to actually see when hanging around the top edge of the school room.

I use this program for all of my children and we all do it together.  This includes my daughter in 8th grade, who follows the MODG syllabus.  During our morning meeting, we go over the memory work each day.  At the start of a lesson, I write the memory work out on our big chart tablet.  We go through it, subject by subject and I use the Teacher's Manual to help me teach the information.  Sometimes it's pretty straight forward - memorizing a Catechism question.  But sometimes, like in the case of science, there is more to talk about, including some pictures that I show the kids which are located in the appendix of the Teacher's Guide.  Sometimes there are project or demonstration suggestions.  To be honest, we mostly just use it for memory work but I've always thought the science information would make a nice "spine" to follow for those who don't like to use a textbook.  Back to our CCMemory routine ...

So it's on the chart, and I take turns calling on who is going to recite first. The start of a lesson takes longer because I explain things.  Sometimes it takes us a couple of days to get a new lesson introduced.  After that, each day is a quick run through of the material for memory purposes.  I use the chart I make for this, but the kids can use the Student Book to practice at other times in the day.

Just a note about how I do this with the various grades -
Beany, my Kindergarten student, listens in and I have him repeat everything after me.  I also modify it for him so he only has a couple of lines to memorize from the poem.  I don't usually have him do the Catechism questions, unless they are very basic.

Builder will be in 3rd grade.  He is able to memorize the information as written.  There are two different poems for each lesson, one for the higher grade levels and one for the lower.  He usually memorizes the poem selections for the younger grade.  Some weeks, he doesn't quite get the Latin or history facts memorized.  I go on ahead anyway, knowing this information will come back around for him as he gets older (since I plan to use the program forever! ;)

Jetter will be in 6th grade.  He also memorizes the information as written.  He memorizes the poem for the older students.

Social Butterfly will be in 8th.  The only adaptation I do for her is to have her memorize the assigned poem from Mother of Divine Grace.  I do this by simply adding it to the chart tablet used at our morning meeting and she gets a copy of it to study on her own as well.

The chart tablet idea is mine and takes more preparation time than the program probably should, but I like the way it keeps us all on the same page.  My kids seem to like using it too, since I use a pointer and when it's their turn to recite something they come up to the chart and point to what they are reciting.  We also do things all together, chant style, which they seem to enjoy (even though the older ones act like they're bored!)

Whether they truly are bored or not, I don't know and honestly, I'm not sure I care.  I really see the value in memory work and with this program we are finally getting to it on a daily basis and my kids are memorizing so much more that in the past.

One last thing ...  the Teachers Manuel explains in depth how to use this program in a coop setting.  We don't belong to a coop, but if we did I think it would work very well. 

I would love to answer questions about this program because I find it so beneficial.  If you have any, leave them in the comment box and I'll try to answer  them.  I really, really wish I had a camera so I could share some pictures.  I'll update this post as soon as I get one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Using the Resources Wisely

(Note ~ My intention was to add pictures to this post.  Unfortunately, my camera is broken and I don't want to wait until I get a new one to post this.  So, I'll just say, pictures are coming ...eventually.)

Now that I have all the resources I will use for the coming school year in hand, or, I should say in bins and boxes, it's time to decide how and when they will be used.  For too many years, I stopped my planning process at the previous stage.  Once I had all my books, sorted by who would use them, I considered my planning complete.  The problem is that I never really felt like I was getting everything from the resources I had ordered.  Math was easy, I just followed the book.  But many of the other resources I used should have been better planned out.  If you are an unschooler, or someone who does not like to plan you might find that this post seems like over doing it.  But for our homeschool I find it necessary.  So, the next step then is going through each resource and making some important decisions.

I would like to note here, that I don't do any of this planning for my daughter, Social Butterfly.  She is enrolled with Mother of Divine Grace so in her case, all the planning is done for me.  This is a great fit for my daughter and each year they add new services to help  us busy homeschooling moms out.  This year Social Butterfly will have the advantage of taking a few on-line courses provided my MODG.  We are both very excited about this.  I do not have my sons enrolled yet.  I decided to hold off for a couple of years since I really enjoy making the decisions regarding what they will learn and when. But like their sister, they will all be enrolled by 8th grade, if not sooner.  I have nothing but good things to say about Mother of Divine Grace.  Now, back to the planning...

This year, I am using a very helpful e-book from Simply Charlotte Mason called Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.  This is a very thorough planning resource that takes you through several steps to, in my opinion, getting the most from the resources you have taken the time to gather and possibly purchase.  This book takes you through the stages of planning, from looking at the year as a whole, to breaking down your day.  The steps look very much like the steps I have been blogging about, since I am using this tool, but I have tweaked things to suit our needs a bit better.

I really appreciate the tables that are included in Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.  The book shows how to fill them out, providing examples, and includes a section in the back containing more blank tables that can be used.  One of the first tables to be filled in, once you have all the resources in hand is the "Term Outline Chart". On this chart you will list each resource, how you want to divide it (pages, lessons, chapters, etc.), how many of these divisions there are, and how you want to distribute the divisions into your school terms.  For example,  one of the books we will use this year is the Baltimore Catechism #2.  I noted that this book has "lessons" for the divisions and there are 37 total.  The chart in Planning Your CM Education divides the year into three 12 week terms, so doing a bit of math,  I know we need to accomplish 13 lessons for one term and 12 for the other two.  I, personally, have divided my year into 6 six week terms.  I just find it easier to plan that way so I added a few columns to the chart and divided the book further which means I have 6 columns noting that we will cover six lessons each term, and one term adding a 7th.

The next form this book provides is the Weekly Work Worksheet.  This is a worksheet you will fill out for each term.  Here you will list the subjects, the books chosen for each subject, the number of division for the term you are planning and the number of days you will use that resource.  Back to the Baltimore Catechism example, I listed it as Religion, Baltimore Catechsim 2, 37 divisions (lessons), and 6 for Term 1.  That means we will cover 6 lessons in the first term.  For number of days, I put 4 because I will spread each lesson out over 4 days.  For "living books", like in the case of historical fiction, I might decide to have my child read the entire book in one term or divide it among several terms. I would simply need to note the number of chapters to be read for each term the book will be used.

Planning Your CM Education then goes on to show you how to create a weekly schedule and plug the resources in, according to the number of days you will be using them.  There is much more to this book, many examples and helpful tips to aid you in your planning.  It also provides chapters on how to choose resources, Charlotte Mason recommendations, planning your day, and more.  I highly recommend it as a planning tool.

Once I've used these tools to help me with the break down of the books we will use, I break them down farther with a chart I make on Word.  It is a simple chart, just listing the week number, resource, and pages or lessons to be accomplished.  I use this chart to create my weekly lesson plans, or sometimes I just use the chart as the plan and cross things off as we go.  I really like the way Sarah color codes her lists.  I think I will use that idea as I go through this step of the planning process.  While I sometimes think I need lengthy paragraphs describing what we will do in the various subjects I realize that in the midst of a busy day with children in various grades and little ones getting into things that all I really need is the book and page number.  If I need to get more information regarding an assignment I can always look it up.  This chart gives me a nice, at a glance, look at what we need to accomplish each day and where we are at in terms of our goals.  Below is a portion of Jetter's chart, so you can see the layout.  I just need to plug in what pages from the resources he will be doing.  You wont see religion, science, or memory work listed because they go on a seperate "Family" Chart.  We are doing those subjects together this year.

Lesson Plans for Grade 6, 2012-2013                                      

Saxon 7/6
Latin for Children
Spelling Wisdom
Daily Paragraph






Finally, I want to talk about one other planning tool I am using this year.  It actually comes from another  e-book that I purchased several years ago.  I got The Tanglewood Corebook to use as my planner one year.  It was very nice and helpful but after that year I no longer used it.  However, in this corebook, there are pages that I find quite helpful.  One of these is a sheet for listing your goals for the year in each subject, divided by term.  This is similar to the chart I talked about above, but it's lay out is a bit different.  First, it's divided into 6 week terms.  For each six weeks, you simply note what chapter or lesson you should be on for each subject at the end of that term.  I find this helpful for subjects like math, grammar and spelling, especially.  Then there is another chart, to be filled out at the end of the term where you note which chapter or lesson you are on, verses the goal you had set at the start of that year or term.  You then note what adjustments you need to make, if any, to reach the original goal.  I think this will help me to stay accountable to my goals.  So often I find that life sweeps us away with it and the original goals I had set are not attainable.  Evaluating every six weeks will help us stay on track, and help me to see if my goals are even realistic.

This part of the planning process takes quite a bit of time and I usually do it in spurts, whenever I have some free time.  From this step, I will go on to how I communicate to  my children what their responsibilities are for each day.  This year I'll be using a combination of past methods, depending on the personality and needs of each child.  This will be the content of my next post.  If you missed the last planning posts, here are the links ~

Beginning the Planning Process
Setting Goals
The School Calendar
Choosing Resources
Hunting and Gathering
Cleaning the School Room