Sunday, November 21, 2010

Elementary Academics -- what has worked for us

Elementary Academics

Philosophy of Education-- My overall philosophy of education is that children need to learn and do stuff. How they do it is less important than what they do. So the most important thing for the parent to figure out is what they think their child needs to learn. The end goal will help you get them there.

So for me in the area of academics my husband and I have mapped out where we would like our children to be with each subject. These are some of the things we want them to know, master and be familiar with:

For Mathematics -- Calculus.
For Logic and Grammar -- Latin
For History -- A good working and in depth knowledge
For Music -- Play an instrument and understand music theory
For Art-- Know the great artists and be able to draw well
For Science -- Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy
For Economics -- Markets, Business, Government
Literature and Philosophy -- Great Books of the Western World
Home Skills, Cooking, Gardening, Life Skills
Love of Learning and Reading
Religion -- Know our Faith and Scriptures and love and obey God

Your list may be very similar or different or both.

So now that I’ve established where I want to go I can figure out how to get there.

First Skills -- They must be able to read and write and do arithmetic.

So we start as soon as the kids are ready usually around age 4 especially for the younger ones who are watching the older ones.

For Reading I like to use several resources.

First to learn the letters I recommend “The Letter Factory” by Leap Frog. Now they know the letters and their sounds.

The next step is to start putting the sounds together to make new sounds and then words. So to do this, practice saying words slow and then fast and letting the new reader guess which word it is. Then they are ready to start ready easy books like Bob books or other reading curriculums. My favorite is the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading by Jessie Wise. My first daughter learned to read on McGuffy and Bob Books. The second daughter memorized those easy words quickly and never learned to sound them out so That book solved that issue. I also love Diane Hopkins “Phonics Games” from . That really helped her learn all the different phonetic combinations, and my boys have enjoyed it also. It just takes practice, practice, practice. If it is too hard or frustrating, find something easier for them to read, and pretty soon they will take off. The boys have taken longer to read chapter books on their own so they are also doing the Explode the Code workbooks. I think it is also helping with spelling and penmanship.

For writing I like to teach my kids cursive first because it teaches them that there are spaces between the words and they can’t write it backwards. I print off the scripture of the week in grey or another light color and school script dashed font because it’s free and they trace as much as I tell them given their ability. Eventually they are able to copy and write on their own. I have also been using a writing workbook I found at Sam's Club.

For Math-- I love Singapore Math. I like their approach and their format and I like that they have the results to match-- #1 in math in the world. The kindergarten books get them so ready for level 1 and they are fun and colorful and make sense. When we need extra help, then we go to the textbook but otherwise we just work through the workbooks. Keep up on checking to make sure they are doing it right, and again go back to easier problems if they get too frustrated so they get the concept and then they will be able to continue on through their book. I also supplememt with extra multiplication, addition and subtraction problems from

If they keep up with Singapore Math they will be ready for Algebra in 6th or 7th grade which will get them to calculus their sophomore or junior year.

Then to get them used to beautiful language and language usage and to love learning and books, we have story time. We have little kids story time first with the picture books and nursery rhymes and scripture stories. Then we move on to reading directly from the scriptures to other stories and longer poems turning it into big kids story time which consists of an interesting chapter book, a longer poem, a history chapter, a Greek lesson and memory verses ending with Science. I love the stories and resources at . We love story time. The older girls color, draw or crochet while I read to the younger kids, and the younger kids play with toys while I am doing the older kids stuff. If they get too fussy then we eat lunch and put them down for a nap.

For music I like to play a lot of classical music. It seems to make the house calmer and happier and it really helps them with music later because they are familiar with so many tunes even if they don’t know the names. We also like to sing together. We sing all sorts of songs and make sure to include lots of fun little kids ones like popcorn, wheels on the bus, Fun To Do, pioneer songs, etc.

For religion we read scripture stories during story time and memorize a scripture a week and a religious song. Obviously, we try to be good examples and attend our church meetings.

So that for me covers the basic foundational skills that will be needed for the younger children. So far this is what has worked . On to the next level:

After the Basics

Once they are able to read and write fairly well, they can start Greek. Our goal is to get good at Latin and Greek is a good fun stepping stone in that direction. Greek has 4 declensions instead of 5 and they can learn all the grammar and concepts with the easier Greek and then Latin will be a little less challenging. Plus I love the Greek curriculum we are using. It is found at and is called Elementary Greek. Our pick for Latin is to start them around age 11or 12 on Henle Latin. So they should have very good mastery of the subject and be able to read many of the Great Books in the original Latin by high school age.

For writing and English Studies I like Singapore’s program Sentences to Paragraphs and Word Study. They are workbooks that are fun to fill in and cover things that the kids pick up just from reading but may not realize there are rules governing punctuation, capitalization, grammar, etc.

Also for writing, I require some sort of journaling whether a traditional journal or a story journal, it is up to the child. Out of there I find spelling words for them to practice writing. I also have some writing cards which I got at one of these conferences that give some fun ideas to write about. I also have them write up a summary of something they’ve read for me once a week. I also ask them about what we’ve read after we read and have them summarize the story for me during story time.

But the main focus in these elementary years is for them to be able to write well and quickly and to be able write down what they are thinking in their head. Then when they are age 10-11 they can learn to outline and other rules of good writing, and then to be able to express themselves fully with reports and journals and other compositions. Maybe they’ll write short stories or novels or screenplays. Once they can read and write and think, they can grab a book and figure it out.

For Science I again really like Sinagapore‘s program, My Pals are Here Science. They were ranked #2 in the world in science, and we love the pictures, the explanations and the activities.

For History we like the series written for different age groups about different times and area of the world found at Also anything published before 1950 is probably good. The older kids are required to 15 min. a day 4 times per week or 1 hour per week of an approved history book we have for them. We also read many historical stories during story time and movies can be a valuable resource.

For piano, I like Music masters and Edna Mae Burnam piano course as well as music theory books. My kids have also had fun playing the recorders from West Music.

We continue with the stuff mentioned above as needed for the older children and add things like reading time on their own and reading the scriptures on their own always with the end goals in mind.

Schedules-- Now that we know what we want to do, how are we going to do it?

Organize and schedule

1-- Your house needs to be orderly and dinner needs to be planned has worked wonders for me to run my household smoothly and efficiently-- follow her plan to the letter, there are letters from other home schooling moms that are very helpful. Babysteps- alittle at a time
will help your children pace themselves and be ready to go in the morning.

We have to start by 9 a.m. or we will not accomplish our tasks for the day. Clean up after yourself and require the children to help clean and pick up after themselves including meals!!

2-- Make a school schedule that your kids can mark off and so that they know exactly what is required of them. My kids also like to use timers to see how long it takes. Figure out how to make this worthwhile for them-- a trip to the park or library when they’re done, a special treat, free time, etc.

Other considerations

Co-Op -- Think about what you would like for your family and then figure out how to get it. We organized a girls club when my girls were younger and this past year we joined a larger co-op. This coming year we’re organizing a Greek club and doing some smaller co-ops. Just be specific and find or make something that will work for you and your kids.

Enjoy your kids-- Do School when it’s time to do school and be home and enjoy your sweet family the rest of the time. If it gets to be too much, take a break and then start over. Keep up with Math and Piano as those are skills that are harder to make up later. Don’t push too hard while they are little. Enjoy your freer time as things seem to get more time consuming and demanding the older they get. Just love them and encourage and require and they will do their best.

Health -- Take care of yourself, exercise, eat dark green leafy salads and raw foods. Soaked almonds are great. Cut back on meat and dairy products and all processed foods. You will feel better and be able to accomplish and enjoy more.

1 comment:

  1. I've just read a ton of your blog. I agree with your philosophies on education. I am so not into all the TJed and I love getting curriculum form LDFR.
    Good to know that you like singapore. My Kindergartner is doing the Horizons K book and the Singapore K book- I was nervous to switch completely over to Singapore, but next year I think I am.