It’s been a long minute since the last time I posted here! Life is busy and ever moving and the brain space for writing has been rather absent- never mind the time!
I’m over on IG a good bit these days (@kyndrasteinmann) so that’s a good place to catch up.
We have a little learning community that meets in our house three days a week, all studying together with different mothers teaching different subjects across Forms 1B-3 (Grades 1-8) using the curriculum selections and guides from www.thecmec.org. The first year it was my five plus two others, last year it was my five (but Stuart was part time at our local Classical Catholic High School) plus six others, and this year it will be Stuart (still splitting time between home lessons and the high school), William (Form 3), Jack (Form 2B), and Betsy (Form 1A), plus 11 other students. Full house!
The CMEC provides book lists and guides for how to teach the subjects, as well as some content where books need updates and extensions. We do all of the lesson plans for a wide range of lessons from Bible to Handcrafts and Art Instruction. A good bit of my summer is spent pre-reading the books, making notes and learning myself before I go on to offer the lessons to the children.
I’m not going to name all the books but I am going to give a few highlights that I am really looking forward to:
Science/ Nature Study
I am super happy with all of our Science across the grades. The Mason approach to education begins by encouraging the children to notice and to know the flora, fauna, geology, and geography of their own place and then expand that knowledge in particularity (study of particular phenomena and species) and in general (habitats, groups of species, general science).
This year the Form 1 students (1st-3rd grades) will be using Life in Ponds and Rivers by Arabella Buckley and The Burgess Animal Book by Thorton Burgess. Both of these books are written in an easy, conversational style. They teach a great deal about the life of a particular place – ponds and rivers – as well as the life of various species through studying the life of a representative of that species. Alongside the readings, the students will keep notebooks with their own drawings as well as pictures from magazines.
Form 2B (4th/5th grade) students continue their study of particular species using Arabella Buckley’s Life and Her Children. They will begin with the simplest one celled creatures and move up through the animal kingdom reaching starfish by the end of the year. They will also begin a book on General Science (covering basic knowledge of the solar system this year) and spend time each week doing various demonstrations of physical phenomena such as the properties of air. For each of these books they will keep a science notebook with drawings, diagrams, and records of the results of their demonstrations.
Form 2A (5th/6th grades) uses the same books but further on (since they began them last year). They also go through the five lectures of Michael Faraday on The Chemical History of a Candle which gives them a good grasp of basic chemistry as well as respiration.
Form 3 (7th/8th grades) uses Arabella Buckley’s second book, Winners in Life’s Race, to study Birds and Mammals. Next year they will circle back to the beginning of the book for Fish, Amphibians, and Reptiles. They also take on Botany and Astronomy as a discrete subjects, as well as continuing with General Science which is mostly geared towards Physics this year.
All of the Forms engage in Nature Study, using Richard Headstrom’s The Living Year. Headstrom was an Massachusetts naturalist so we find this book very helpful for helping us know what to look for in any particular month.
Last year we used the Strayer-Upton Math books for all the Forms and I was so pleased with the amount of mathematical thinking that the students gained and the joy they experienced in what is often a difficult and tear inducing lesson. These books were written in the 1930s and have been reissued in hardcover by Rainbow Resource. Each book is used for two or three years so they are well worth the $14!
The one thing I did not like about them was that I had to do a fair bit of planning in thinking how many pages to cover, how many problems to do, how to test knowledge and so on. This year, I am super happy to be using the Guides to Strayer-Upton from Emily and Heather at Beauty and Truth Math. Emily and Heather are homeschool moms and math lovers (as well as teachers) and their guides are easy to use and encouraging.
They recognize that many homeschool moms feel that they are weak in math and approach it with trepidation and that many moms are proficient in doing problems but don’t know how to think mathematically and so can’t explain the “why” behind the operations or show their students the connections between various kinds of mathematical work. Currently the Guides cover Years 1-4 (so the first and second Strayer-Upton books) as well as Practical Geometry. Year 5 is in the works as well as a guide to Jacob’s Geometry. I’m going to have to prep those years for myself this year, but I’ll be sending my notes to Emily and Heather in hopes that they will find them helpful.
They offer a ton of support materials to help develop you as a teacher in general and a math teacher in particular and are happy to answer questions as well about things like placement. All of the printables for the early grades are included in a separate file and linked in the lessons. The Guides plus the Strayer-Upton books would work as an open and go curriculum, but spending some time reading through the teacher materials is extremely valuable and I would highly recommend it.