So, now that we're on the downhill side of the year, I thought I would write a little about what has worked well for us this year and what hasn't.
Back in January I copied the grid pages from my CTG and First Grade teacher's manuals and assembled them into a lesson planner for the year. (Remember: MFW allows for photocopying of the grid pages for planning and record keeping as long as you agree to never loan, give, or sell the teacher's manuals you've copied from.) Since I am running these two programs concurrently, this has been a life-saver! Sure, I still have to pull out the First Grade TM for the phonics lessons and the CTG TM for the notes of the week, but I don't have to juggle them both all day long. I can stash them safely back on the shelf out of my way while keeping my planner handy and keep us moving efficiently on through our day.
My other stroke of genius (or at least it felt that way when the idea came to me in the wee hours one night) was to make a second set of copies of the CTG grid for Miss M's planner. I went ahead and had the extra copies spiral-bound into the back of my planner so that once a week I can pull out the next week's page and have her prep her planner. At first I was doing this for her. I would cut apart each day and tape it one day per page into her spiral notebook. Then I would write extra details or special instructions for each lesson. Somewhere along the way we shifted this task onto her shoulders. Now she puts the lessons into her planner herself and I read her the notes to record. I am so thankful to be modeling this kind of organization and self-regulation for her as she approaches the junction between late elementary and middle school.
I really wanted to make verse memorization something pleasant and maybe even a little bit exciting for the kids. To that end, I created a little "treasure box" of prizes they can pick from at the end of each week if they are able to recite their memory verse(s) correctly. I don't have something new in there every week, but I try to snag little inexpensive surprises to toss in there when I can. Recently there was silly putty and a Wooly Willy in there.
Art has both worked well and not worked well. Here's what I mean. We started out the year doing both the art from First Grade and from Creation to the Greeks. The only problem is, my first grader really dug his heels in about participating. He's a bit of a perfectionist and just doesn't have the fine motor control to accomplish what he envisions. So while the program itself was enjoyable, he wasn't having it. For that reason, I set aside most of First Grade art and have focused on God and the History of Art from Creation to the Greeks. Mister E participates as often as I can get him to, but Miss M and I are enjoying it immensely! Just take a look at some of the things we've done!
We are using MFW's recommendations for 5th grade language arts: the middle third of Intermediate Language Lessons and Writing Strands. (We aren't doing formal spelling, but that's a post for another day). The way the teacher's manual schedules language arts is ILL on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and then WS on Thursdays and Fridays. I found through the course of last year and this year that this schedule doesn't work well for us. Many times the Writing Strands units take 4-5 days to complete. Having a huge gap between days (the weekend plus three days of ILL) made for a really broken flow. We would waste a lot of time trying to remember what it was we had been doing, where we were in the process, what she had been thinking of writing, etc. In order to make the writing process flow more smoothly, I have adjusted the timing of the lessons. Once we begin a unit in Writing Strands, we set aside the Language Lessons until the WS unit is complete. At that point we go back and pick up the ILL lessons we missed and do those back-to-back days until we are caught up. Then we flip back to WS. This sort of blocking has made a lot more sense to us than breaking up the WS units across several weeks.
Since this year is all about Biblical and ancient world history, notebooking has taken center stage. MFW sells a pack of student sheets to go with Creation to the Greeks and we have been using those, but we have added quite a number of sheets in addition to them. All of our extras have come from NotebookingPages.com. <--- this is an affiliate link. If you sign up through this link I will get a little kickback. And if you sign up....THANKS! We have added pages for major characters, major events like this Jericho page, people groups, geographical locations, etc. It's a great way for the kids to capture what they're learning and is going to make a great keepsake at the end of the year!
Our biggest failure has been -- no surprise -- foreign language. That seems to be the one area I just cannot seem to get a handle on! We loved Song School Greek when we started out our year, but I just can't seem to fit it in. By the time we're done with everything else, we're done in and ready to break for outside play, housework, and supper plans. Darn! But I figure, if nothing else they've learned the Greek alphabet and that's more than I had at their age.