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Question:

After one month of homeschooling for the first time, I know that we made the right decision. CHC's materials make teaching a joy. The lesson plans are great, but...help! I am not following them! I need that structure, especially in our first year of doing this, so an uneasiness is setting in already.

Our son is going to be finished with the second grade Spelling, Language and Handwriting by Thanksgiving. Map Skills is also going to be finished soon. Much of it was covered in first grade at the Catholic school. So, do we just finish up and proceed into 3rd grade in those areas? I'm concerned that the lessons are short and he might not have grasped the important new material well enough.

On the other hand, we are struggling with the recommended Catholic Science book. I ordered the supplemental book for elementary and middle schools but it is too advanced and we have not been using it.

Our daughter is using the Pre-K / K lesson plans and books. She knows all the letter and sounds, but is not motivated to read even though she CAN if she feels like it! Should I put all these great materials up on the shelf and wait for her to come to me, or try to give her an incentive to trace a letter or number, or read a Little Story?

Thank you for any advice you have to offer. CHC has so wonderfully designed the Lesson Plans and it is what drew me to using this curriculum, only now I am not following it!

Answer:

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question!

During the first year of homeschooling it is important to use the lesson plans that CHC provides and follow the guidelines as outlined each week. This way you know that you are covering all the material necessary for that grade. Even if your student already knows the material, it is still useful to complete and use as review.

When you are teaching, there are three steps which should be covered in any given lesson. Each step is equally important, and should not be overlooked. The first step is the introduction. This is an important step because this is when the teacher introduces the new material. During this part, the goal is to help the student connect the new material to something the student already knows. For instance, this is when the teacher might say, "Remember when we were learning about directions on a map yesterday? Well, today we are going to make our own map and learn how to find our way to the library and back." When the student realizes why he is learning something and how it can be applied to his life, then he will find it useful when learning other concepts. You can pick whatever method you would like to introduce the material, but usually the more interesting and unique fashion in which you first introduce the lesson the longer they will remember it.

The second part to teaching is the learning which occurs through practice, repeated usage and exposure to the material. This will always vary according to the student and the lesson. You have probably already discovered that your son learned a particular lesson with little difficulty and almost no practice, while there were other concepts that have taken him longer to understand. As you practice and review, you will gain a better understanding of what your son has learned and what he has not. This is important because you will know if you can move on to another lesson, or move back, if you realize that he needs a little more practice or reinforcement.

During the last stage of the teaching process, you will discover what your son has learned and how long he has remembered. The learning process is like building a foundation to a house. Even if one block is missing it will affect the foundation, and cause problems as more materials are added to it. Therefore, at the end of the learning process it is important to test and again review. The repeated practice will be helpful in this last stage. When you find that your son really knows and remembers what he has learned, then you know to move on. If, however, he seems unsure or does not remember, then it helps you know what needs to be re-taught or if he needs more practice.

With these three steps in mind, CHC's lesson plans work accordingly. Monday is spent introducing the material, Tuesday and Thursday are spent practicing and Friday is used to review and test. It is especially important to use Tuesday and Thursday to practice and repeat! It is easy to incorporate little activities which will keep interest, without being boring for the student. Ideally in 2nd grade, your son's school day should be about two hours long. If he finishes early, you can use that time for practice and review, or for free time, fun activities, reading and enrichment. Always remember that homeschool provides one on one tutoring to your child, so he/she will invariably finish the day in about half the time of 'regular' school.

My suggestion is that with Spelling, Language, Map Skills and Handwriting, you stop where you are; wait two weeks, then go back and, using the 'review' pages in Speller and Language as tests, test to see if he has retained. If he is not retaining, use the applications as instructed at the front of the Language books so he can practice the skills he is supposed to be learning. [Letter writing, etc.] To be almost finished with these three subject areas, it probably means that he is completing several worksheets per week. Instead, I would spend a week or two completing the review pages in these three subjects. If he completes the review pages with absolutely no problem in Spelling and Language, that's great. I would then take this time that he would be using for Spelling and Language and instead concentrate on developing his other subjects, such as math, reading and science. If you feel that he is not grasping the new material, then you definitely do not want him to be way ahead in everything.

As for the optional science experiment book, it is intended as enrichment at this level and can provide a wonderful introduction to science. However, at this age, he will need your assistance with all the experiments, so if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, I'd suggest saving this book until he is a bit older and can do it on his own.

Because your youngest is only four, I would not worry very much this year with the Pre-K/K lesson plans and books. If she isn't very motivated, that will undoubtedly change over time. Exposure to many books and fun reading activities will help develop her motivation. Also, the fact that her brother is reading might also provide some motivation.

God bless you and your family!

Laura Nicholson

   
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