Friday, October 29, 2010

Analytical Grammar: Curriculum Review

Whenever I hear about a new curriculum that sounds interesting, I go ahead and check it out. I was on a homeschool curriculum review yahoo group when I first heard about Analytical Grammar. I went ahead and visited their website. First of all I have to say that they have a terrific website and I encourage everyone to stop over there. It is comprehensive and informative. They have some excellent videos which explain their program extensively. Be sure to take the time to view those. The Analytical Grammar curriculum is meant for grades 6 and up.

The program was written by an experienced English teacher who created the curriculum while still teaching. She adjusted the course over the years as she experimented with her students. It is a well tested program, you can't deny that.

The idea of this program is that grammar is not a subject which needs to be taught every day and every week of the school year. It is knowledge that can be learned and then you can move on and use that information in your writing. They have broken down the grammar instruction into three seasons. It can be taught over three years, two years or even one year as necessary. Year One takes ten weeks, Year Two takes seven weeks and Year Three takes seventeen weeks. To learn more specifics of the program visit their website. It is on the pricey side as it cost nearly $100. That includes the teacher and student binders. The good news is that you can use it for the next three years.

As I learned more and more about this program, it looked like a perfect fit for my upcoming seventh grade student. He has always been a good grammar student, grasping grammatical concepts as early as 2nd grade that I wished many of my eighth grade students had so easily understood. In the 5th grade, we used EASY GRAMMAR and had an intensive year of grammar. He did terrific and it gave him a strong background in grammar. In the 6th grade, we focused a great deal on his special needs in math. Therefore, grammar took a backseat. I felt that we had covered so much the previous year that we should place our attention on the subject needing it.

Before purchasing the program, I contacted the company. I discovered that they were local to where I lived and I wondered if I could purchase the materials from them directly and avoid the shipping costs. They were great in responding to my question and even sent me to a local retailer where I could buy it.

The Fall came and I started my son in Analytical Grammar with much excitement, but after that very first day I felt disappointed . Not so much in the curriculum as in my son. He seemed to have forgotten so much of what we had previously learned and I couldn't understand why. After a week I decided maybe he just needed to review some things. I took out the 5th grade Easy Grammar book and reviewed prepositions. He did super! We went back to AG for another week. He did better but I still felt he was struggling with the material. And I realized why.

The material and the idea of the program is great. I don't doubt that when we come back to it that my son will thrive. AND WE WILL COME BACK TO IT. But at this time, it has just been a little confusing to him. The reason is because the sentences used from the very first lesson are very complicated. They use phrases, clauses, infinitives and so on. Usually when you begin a study in the parts of speech the sentences gradually become more and more complex as the student progresses. I know this because I taught 8th grade English in the traditional classroom.

If your student has a thorough grasp of grammar--parts of speech, phrases and clauses--then he or she will do well with the program. If, however, your student is shaky in grammar or needs a good review, it might be better to start with something simpler. I am currently using the 8th grade Abeka book with my 7th grader and he's doing terrific. I hope that at the semester or next year that we can switch back to the AG. I do belive it has merit in the idea behind it. I probably would have started with simplier sentences in the beginning myself, but I am sure they have their reasons behind why it was designed that way. Next year I hope to review this program again having gained more experience with it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Learning with BBC Sherlock

Coming home from church last night, I knew I wanted to make it in time to watch Mystery Classic on PBS. They were airing the first (Study in Pink) in a series of three movies from BBC's Sherlock staring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. In this incarnation of Holmes, the plot takes place in the 21st century. Same Holmes, same type of fascinating cases and the same consulting detective exploits of observation and deduction.

What does all this have to do with homeschooling and learning? Well, the last couple weeks we've been studying the hero's journey and also certain literary terms. For example, hero, protagonist, antagonist, villain, etc...

While watching this program with my 7th grade son, the conversation began concerning who was the hero vs protagonist of the story. He said it seemed  to be that Watson was the protagonist since the story followed him but of course Holmes is the hero. I have to say that I agree. It was great to see that he made a connection between what we've been learning in school with a story outside of the classroom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Socialization & Burning Out

When the topic of homeschooling comes up amongst those who have very little experience and knowledge of the homeschool movement, the issue of socialization will inevitably come up. WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION??

I'll be honest that in the years that I've homeschooled I have not incorporated enough social activities. That's not from lack of opportunity but from motivation on my part. Since moving to North Carolina, I became a published author and things got busy and crazy at my house. Is that an excuse--well, sort of. So, this year I decided to rectify that situation.

I signed up for several activities for both of my children. Field trips, park days, skating, bowling, etc...My oldest is taking band. The youngest is in Cub scouts. Then there is church. We had it covered. We were socializing!

The problem was we were socializing too much. By the weekend, I was burned out and I had schoolwork to look over and file. I had new lesson plans to write out and supplies to buy. When did I have time to breathe--let alone write?

Socialization is never a problem when homeschooling. The real problem is picking just a few activities and sticking to it. What I did is give each of my boys one long term activity that takes place weekly and then the occasional activity only one a week or every other week. It's enough to keep them involved without burning out.

When the socialization question comes up--remember to think about who you want socializing your children. Is it really important to have peers socialize your child? Just how long will your child be a child and an adolescent? And how long will he be an adult? Having your children learn to interact with kids and adults of all ages is much better for them in the long run. Gaining the ability to converse and interact with adults will prepare them more for life. And that's really what we are trying to do here--Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go...Prov. 22:6