Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Well Trained Wednesday: Grammar Stage- Grade Levels

It's always around this time of year that I begin to see more and more homeschool parents posting on the forums and the blogs about there question on curriculum choices and annual testing. The post come off more like a plea for help than an inquiry.Year after year so many of us new and veteran homeschoolers  alike begin to question our methods and ways because we wonder if our children are on "Grade Level". They are worried about "Falling Behind" or "Catching Up". Well I must pose the question behind whom?

 The early years of schooling should be focused on mastering reading, writing, and arithmatic. These are the foundations of all higher level learning. So if these things are not mastered it makes it very difficult to move to the next level. The problem that I have found with most other curriculums is that they are set up in such a rigid way that it makes it hard to focus your child into the righ levels of learning. That is something I have found to be the complete opposite in the Classical Education Grammar Stage model. Since adapting more of a Classical Homeschool philosophy I find myself focusing less and less on grade levels, falling behind, and catching up. We don't just plow through a grade level curriculum. We go through the skills necessary to master higher level in the future instead. Here is a quote from "The Well Trained Mind" that sums this philosophy up.

" In the early years of school, children vary so widely in their development that assigning a child to a particular"grade" can be extremely difficult... material isn't divided into grades, but rather into levels. You should always spend as much time on one level as you need and progress on to the next level only when your child has mastered the first level, whether that comes before or after the "normal age"... Adjust the time you spend on each subject so that you can concentrate on weaker areas."

I have totally found this to be true in our homeschooling experience. My oldest(6yr old) 2nd grader is on various levels throughout her curriculum. For instance we use recommended reading list geared toward 4th or 5th grade students. She is on the 2nd grade part of First Language Lessons grammar book. We are now at the end of Singapore Math level 1B. Math has been a trying subject for us up until this year when we switched to Singapore. I am grateful to homeschooling that enabled us to take the time to help my child through her challenges and find an approach that works. We follow the Classical science timeline which we didn't start until this year. The Classical outline for science starts with Life Science, Earth and Astronomy, Chemistry, and then Physics. Of Course with the  Classical model just like with the history you cycle through the sciences 3 times once in each phase of the Trivium. Now we are still in Life Science and typically a 2nd grader would be on Earth Sciencce and Astronomy by now but I understand from excerpts like the one above that I shouldn't feel the need to adhere to a rigid schedule especially since these topics will reintroduce themselves again. At this age the science is more focused on classifying, learning the scientific method through experiements, and reading materials on a subject.  The materials we gather from the libary are on all reading levels. In handwriting we are doing Handwriting Without Tears 3rd grade cursive. Now most curriculum(not all Abeka and SWR start with cursive) even those of the Public Schools don't introduce cursive until 3rd grade. Now in "The Well Trained Mind" they recommend starting cursive in the 2nd grade especially if the child has a tendancy to reverse the common mistake letters p,q,d, and b. Now for spelling we use Sequential Spelling level 1. It happens to be a program based on leveled learning rather than grade level learning rather than grade level learning. we have found it to be a perfect fit for my oldest cause it is a pattern based program and she can use her strengh in phonetic awarness to excell in the program. I am not going to go into our history cause that is where the "Eclectic" side of our curriculum comes into play and I don't follow strictly with the Classical Model.

I am sure that you get the picture by now that education is not so cut in dry. Very rarely will you find a child who fits into to a grade level on all subject matter. This is nothing to worry about. Just meet your childs needs where they are at. This outlook always reminds me of the bible verse:

"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little"
Isaiah 28:10


  1. Thanks for this post. I find myself falling into this trap agian this year. This year was our first year hs. But next year will be our first year using the classical method. I began to have lots of doubt. I have some major work to do in this area on myself. Agian thanks for this post.

  2. No, problem Tiffany. Like I said I think we all go through this phase as homeschoolers at least once a year. It is usually right on the eve of our Curriculum Convention or for some that live in those testing states that we begin to go into this illogical panic. lol! I have found what keeps me from falling off the deep end is to review my homeschool philosophy and my reasons for homeschooling. And that is what I am sort of doing with the Weds blog on Classical. It is helpful to me as well to kind of look at these topics in print. I get to look at it and see I am doing alright. Its all in my head.

  3. The classical method just makes so much sense to me. Building a solid foundation is key! And you're so right! I appreciate being able to be flexible about where my 5 year old son is. I learned early on not to stress about "grade level" and all that but just to progress according to his ability. We are using MUS and he just finished the Alpha book and started the Beta level--has nothing to do with grade level so I don't know what grade levels the work corresponds. I find this to be a good thing. I also don't really know how to respond when folks ask what grade he's in because it's a range: he's a kindergartner all the way up to a third grader depending on what subject we're talking about. I'm looking forward to "Grade 1" using the Well-Trained Mind which I hope to start in late August/early September.

    I actually love your blog because of your "eclectic" approach to history. :) Thanks again for Well Trained Wednesday.

  4. I agree totally Orignal Wombman. I am truly appreciating all the homeschoolers who came before me who have came out with curriculums especially for home use or have encouraged companies to create programs more easily adaptable for home use. I have heard great things about MUS. Steve Demi is always at our yearly homeschool convention.

    Thanks for the compliment on the history thing. I have found that instead of trying to add to an already existing Classical History program to be more inclusive of my heritage I might as well just do my own unit studies. Sometimes supplimenting an already existing program can be more work than making your own. lol!


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