Monday, February 24, 2014

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic - Does Creative Learning Neglect These?

Looking around my blog, you may get the impression that we just have lots of fun all day, every day.  That would not be true, though.  We do crack plenty of books and do lots of math, writing, reading, spelling, memorization and recitation.  I'm sure some classically educating critics may think that we're neglecting something by doing our Wonderful Wednesdays each week or by following the Solagratiamom Teaching Plan.  So it begs the educational projects or crafts or videos detract from, or enhance, a classical education?  I think if the parent understands what the classical model is and puts everything in the right perspective, it should enhance, not detract from, their child's education.  Let's simplify and look at the basic areas of study for a classically Christian educated child in the grammar stage:
  • Bible Study 
  • Math (operations, word problems, everyday math use, math in art form, graphing & more)
  • Latin study
  • Reading (Bible, poetry, anthologies, picture books, readers in advancing levels to chapter books) 
  • Writing (learning to form letters correctly and transition to copy work)
  • Recitation (reciting out loud things such as catechism, math facts, poetry, Bible verses etc.)
  • Repetition (to gain factual knowledge of key content areas for later study and learning - we use the Classical Conversation's® Curriculum Guide)
I thought I would share a week in my own homeschool this year and let you decide if we are classically educating, understanding the model and still being creative and enjoying our school weeks.


We spend this day in our CC Community.  We are there from early in the morning (since I Tutor) until just after lunch time.  Once we get home, we do what the kids call "the basics" - math, Latin, handwriting (which they just graduated from their cursive books - so now they are doing cursive copy work), phonics workbooks (mastering phonetic rules and applying them - even though they read well, I think it's important to have a solid phonetic base and the rules memorized), spelling (which I like the Christian Liberty books because they tie together phonetic rules with spelling) and their catechism workbook.  I read aloud every night to my kids from the classics such as Aesop, Burgess, Lang, Harriott to name a few favorites.  I guide the book choices read independently.  I always have subscriptions to good Christian magazines on a steady flow -such as OdysseyKids Answers and Math Mania to name a few.  During leisure time, we discuss articles that my daughter found interesting or that may have provoked questions and it offers a different type of discourse, than literature book discussion.  


We start our day with Bible Study (alternating the kids reading out loud from the Chapter of study) and then move into math.  Math, they are required to do two pages of review concepts and then we do a new lesson, if they are ready to move on to the next concept.  Next, we do our Latin curriculum, copywork (which is usually related to history or fine arts) and spelling.  After that, they do grammar recitation -which involves copywork of grammar rules, memorizing them and then me reciting examples as they write them correctly, showing application of the rule to the sentence dictated.   Next they work on phonics workbooks (again memorizing rules and then showing that they can apply them through the workbook pages), catechism (memorization and recitation) and CC memory work (memorization and recitation).  We also do things like map drawing, map pinning, and I also use this day to do a few things from the Teaching Plan that pique their (or my) interest or will fit.  We use this day to do extra math projects and pursue something such as a Math Art project, like below (this one is on symmetry and the other is working on graphing).  Our school day starts at 9 A.M. and we usually don't finish until about 4 P.M.  Some days we go later if there is a project or something we're into.


We start our day with Math right after or during breakfast (review sheets of concepts learned so far).  Then we have everyone over for our Wonderful Wednesday's group and we cover all the memory work for Classical Conversations® Curriculum Guide for whatever week we just did in our Community on Monday.  We use lapbooks and CC Connected timeline hand motions/music.  We dress up like our history sentences or timeline characters and do a project based on science or fine arts, generally speaking.  We end our time with a Review Game of the previous 6 weeks of material covered.  Once that is done, everyone has left and we've eaten lunch, then the afternoon is spent doing the "basics" we do on Mondays - writing, spelling, phonics workbook, catechism and Latin.

We follow the same schedule and do the same curriculum load as we do on Tuesdays for both Thursday and Fridays- Bible study, math, Latin, spelling, copywork, grammar recitation, catechism, phonics workbook, CC Memory work and any additional activities I've planned or pulled from the Solagratiamom Teaching Plan or other supplemental resources I cited above.  We make these our long days as well, generally speaking.  Some Fridays, I may allow a play date with friends we do not see often or a field trip/nature study.


We require math to be done on both Saturday and Sundays.  Math consists of two worksheets, reviewing concepts covered throughout the week.  This was started by my husband at the beginning of this year.  He really wanted to create a love and emphasis on math.  I have to say that it's been amazing to see the transformation with math, this idea has facilitated.  It's expected and it's daily, so there's less resistance and she is moving through math much quicker now.  I didn't know my hubby was so brilliant!  LOL  :)

  • Bible study we are currently using is the Bible Study Guide for All Ages Here and last year we did the  Foundations study, which is excellent as well.
  • The math curriculums we are using are Math U See as our core math curriculum and then supplement extra math work from Making Math Meaningful and do hands on math projects such as those in Math Art.  I use principles from Revealing Arithmetic to guide my math curriculum down the Biblical Worldview path.
  • The writing curriculum we have really loved using is Handwriting Without Tears Here
  • Our copywork this year comes from The Happy Scribe
  • The phonics workbooks we are using are Here and you can read why Here
  • Our spelling program is Here
  • Recitation materials we use are Bible verses and Grammar Recitation as well as poetry
  • Regarding Catechism, I agree with this article on why we pursue it Here
  • Here is a great list of Classic Christian Literature we read from Here
  • The Latin program we love and recommend is Here
  • This is a great read on why recitation and memorization compliment one another Here
  • Ways that we have used to make learning through the repetition of facts more fun is Here
I think that getting off course is not a result of a Teaching Plan or a creative approach to learning but rather, a lack of purpose, perspective, plan, understanding and/or discipline.  Let me clarify below:

Purpose - We start our year with a "School Pledge" - this lays out our expectations for behavior and makes clear, our standards.  We make sure the kids know that homeschooling is a gift and the purpose of our homeschool, which is to ultimately glorify God and make Him known to a lost world.  We measure everything we choose to do, against the goals of our homeschool.  It doesn't make schooling perfect, but it does give us direction and a place to reference, when we get out of whack.

Plan - I create a realistic check off list (we use this one as our base and I add things that pertain to our current year - you can download it and modify it for your purposes with what fits for your homeschool - then laminate it and have the kids check it off each day with a dry erase marker, as they work through their day) or find another way of keeping oneself and children on course for the day.  Believe it or not, I'm not super detailed but more of a big picture thinker.  However, I realize that the devil's in the details, so I provide enough details to keep me and my kids on course and plan enough, to stay the course and arrive where I plan.  I don't have each day planned down to the hour but more a plan regarding scope for the day.  I use markers in my workbooks/Teacher's Guides to keep track (since they are little and my State doesn't require detailed records of work completed at this age) and I use the Teaching Plan to supplement the memory work or teach concepts in more detail, that are touched on via the memory work.  Routine is very important for kids.  Find a groove for school and a routine that works and stick to it.

Perspective - If you are doing Classical Conversations® it is easy to get focused in on those 24 weeks of "school" and then peter out when you hit the end of that.  My kids know school is year round.  They expect to work at school year round in some capacity or another.  We also weave education into everyday experiences and tie things together for them, so life itself is a learning experience, not just set in a classroom.  That's not to say we don't have bad attitudes or subjects on some days, or take time off at other periods - that's why we school year round, so I can have some flexibility to our school weeks.  We lighten up our school year during the early summer and fall months, keeping core elements like Math year round, even when we're "not doing school".  This allows me to do things like take a field trip that seems beneficial or do something silly like celebrate PI Day - without stressing.  As far as my perspective, I recognize that there are 52 weeks in a year, so if I don't get to the things I want to cover for CC during those 24 weeks or there are things on the Teaching Plan I want to do but they don't end up fitting in that specific CC week - I just do them during the other weeks of the year we are doing school.  I have a big picture plan - I know what subjects/lessons we're doing in a day.  That's it.  However that happens and however long that takes, is up to how diligently the kids work that day and how many interruptions we have.  If it's a beautiful morning and we all want to go for a nature walk, then we can and we all just know that the check off list has to be done - so we may work later that day or more diligently when we return.  I like the flexibility.  That works for me - I can check off my list and as long as I accomplish what I need to, I'm good!  Some of you need a specific plan for each hour and day and I get that.  I would just caution you not to become a slave to an hour by hour plan, but rather a purpose and an overall goal, allowing flexibility when life happens, because it will!  That's also why we homeschool year round, because life does happen - so plan for it!  I also shift from year to year on our "focus" outside of the basics.  Last year; it was nature study, geography and map drawing.  This year; it's been fine arts, math and finding math in other subjects such as art.  You have to take a "long view" and realize every year isn't going to fit everything you'd like your kids to learn - so pick areas of focus each year to weave into the core curriculum you are working with.

Understanding - Make sure you really have a grasp on the classical model and what the key elements are to maintain a classical homeschool.  There are books such as The Core, Simply Classical or The Well-Trained Mind to help you understand fully, what it looks like and how to execute it.  This way you can flex your creative muscle, while not dropping the weights in the process and breaking your foot!  :)

Discipline - This one will get you every time!  If you don't remain disciplined in your pursuits, learn to say no, recognize that your child doesn't have to participate in everything that "sounds good," then it is ever so easy to get taken off course and run out of "time" for the important stuff.  I think most homeschool families might say it's hard to find time for school with all the social opportunities that abound these days for homeschoolers!  So, be wise and disciplined in your choices.  Now that my daughter is in third grade we no longer allow activities like sports during school hours - no matter how great the homeschool class being offered is.  We also look to see if the activity will divide or unite our family, encourage a classical education or not and further develop or hinder in our children, those godly characteristics we are working so diligently to instill.  The activities we have allowed this year are; ballet (because it is physical exercise, classical music, and develops a further love of the arts), Christian youth theatre (because it develops the skills of public speaking, love of the arts and spiritual discipleship) and piano (because it teaches music theory, trains her ear classically, is a gateway to playing other instruments down the road, and provides an outlet to serve our family and the Church, through worship).  This is a LOT of activities for our family.  Last year she only did piano, as we intentionally drew back and re-prioritized.  We made sure that the activities serve a purpose and don't interfere with our school.  Another way to describe discipline in this context is living intentionally.

To summarize, you can live with intent and have lots of fun too.  You just need a few elements - a purpose, a plan, a perspective and understanding, to provide the underpinnings and then discipline to see your purpose and plan come to fruition.  The final element is prayer!  Prayerfully decide your purpose and plan for your homeschool.  Pray for perspective, discipline and understanding -bring everything you pursue or consider before Him.  This will allow you to set and stay the course and have lots of fun and joy in the midst of the journey!

So tell me what you think?  Feel free to comment if you have any insights or ideas.



  1. Good for you! I like your approach and think you have a wonderful balance.
    Carry on!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. :) It's much appreciated in a pretty thankless job most days. LOL

  2. I think it's great that you focus your blog on the creative side of your homeschool, because it is a great inspiration to all of us! I think we all know that math and reading and that sort of thing has to be done, but we don't always know how to make things hands-on and fun. That's where you shine! I think your weekly schedule looks wonderful! I can say, though, that I've never heard of anyone doing math on Saturdays and Sundays =) I can see where that would be great if the parent's can handle it! Great way to involve dad, for sure! Thanks for sharing this at Trivium Tuesdays!

    1. Thank you Amy. I probably should clarify that the math the kids do on Saturday and Sunday are review concepts - things they already have mastered for the most part so it's not like they need assistance as they do them. It's just a quick sheet of addition problems or subtraction problems - doesn't take but 5's just keeping their minds sharp on math and less resistant to it. :) Blessings! Colleen

  3. I'm always curious about others Math choices especially those in CC. What made you choose Math U See and what are your thoughts/plans for the future? Will CC and Saxon be in your future? Math is my only curriculum choice that I'm constantly unsure of.....:)

    1. Hi Carrie - I've been working on a post about our math journey. We've had a few stops and starts. I think it's very important to find a curriculum that speaks to your child's particular learning style - otherwise, math becomes a source of frustration for both your child and you as the Teacher. We started with Saxon, which I liked because I'm not strong in math IMO and I liked that it was scripted and showed me how/what to teach. My daughter, who is gifted, got frustrated with the spiral aspects and constant review and long repetitive lessons. So we switched to Right Start. I thought it would be a good program for us because it was hands on and visual which spoke to my daughter's learning style. However, Mommy didn't have time to get up on the learning curve of a whole new approach to math and it was Teacher intensive, so we moved on to Abeka. That was too simplified for her and jumped around. So.....we ended up with Math U See. It was visual, hands-on, and took the main "teaching" aspect off me because of the videos. So my daughter and I BOTH liked it and it was a great fit for us. I would say don't be afraid to do what works for your child even if it's not on the beaten CC path and whether or not we will return to Saxon in the future is to be seen. I don't anticipate that we would, but you never know...I try not to say never - I've learned my lesson on that one! LOL! If I ever finish that math post - It will have more explanation about all this.... Blessings - Colleen

  4. Loved this post and the 4 "P"s you mentioned. We currently do a Sabbath School Schedule (6 wks on, 1 wk off, with 6-8 weeks off in summer) but I often wonder if we won't end up moving into a year-round schedule. It is honestly VERY, very hard for me to separate from learning mode in our weeks off because so much learning is still going on, informally. Sometimes these informal experiences (like today, all the kids exploring/playing with their aquatic creatures around the table and asking me questions) lead so effortlessly into a more formal reading/teaching time. The traditional side of me still fights it, and I always feel so very ready for a break come summer. But math consistently suffers with our 1 week breaks, summer breaks, and even the weekends, that I actually think I am going to try adding in an extra day of math practice over the weekend, and require a lighter math routine during all breaks. Thanks for sharing with us. Obviously I also agree that creativity and Classical Ed can (and for us~DO!) work well together :)

    1. Joanna - sounds like we could be good friends! I love your blog and ideas. Do shoot me an e-mail and let me know how it goes if you end up trying some schedule adjusting and adding in math. I truly feel it's been a big blessing to our home. Also- would LOVE to have you link-up some of your great crafty ideas on my Wednesday Link-Up! :) Blessings - Colleen

  5. A great article and just goes to show if you plan you don't need to neglect the basics whilst having fun

    1. Thank you for the comment. I appreciate it! Have a great rest of the school year!

  6. Oh wow! I write about lots of our hands-on history and science activities on my blog too, but like you, not because we spend the most time on them, but rather because they are the most unique. It looks like your days and a small part of your weekends are filled with learning which is great. Remember it's ok to take some time off and play. Planning this much activity must drain you? I know I often feel drained, and don't think I put in this much effort. I admire what you're doing and look forward to reading your posts, but don't feel guilty if you want to spend an entire day at the swimming pool, or just doing what you want at home. :)

    1. Hi there! :) I appreciate your comment. I tell my husband that I work hard, so I have to play hard. I do take Mommy breaks when I need them and I homeschool with my Best Friend -so we switch off on mental health days! However, I also have found in my life, that functioning within your gifts is the best way to find joy in what you do and not become burned out or burdened. I really don't get burned out with school at all. I love to learn and I love to teach. I more so get burned out with the burdens that come along with having a special needs son at times - like now when I've been short on helpers. I often feel like Solagratiamom and the Wonderful Wednesday's are my "down time" from being a special needs Mom and I thrive off them! :) Have a blessed day!

    2. By the way - I love your blog and think you are functioning well within your giftedness, friend! :)