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4th grade newbie, need help and advice.

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Soooo, I have a 4th grade DD that I started homeschooling this year. She asked for many years and finally I had just had enough of her Montessori Schools shenanigans, so I brought her home.


I stumbled across Classical Conversations and my husband liked it because it was "all laid out" in the guide. I did too for that matter, figured I couldn't screw that up.


After 3 weeks of community (5 weeks schooling), my daughter hates it. She doesn't like the place/people, she doesn't like the stuff we are learning and she doesn't like the way we are doing it. Honestly, I'm still up in the air. I feel like I'm not doing anything other than going over and over and over the Foundations Memory work with no time to do anything else for that.Then she is in Essentials which is the writing/grammar portion and that takes up so much time! She copies charts and writes her paragraphs and that's it.


Our day is Memory review, Math (Life of Fred, which she doesn't like and frankly I don't either), Essentials. Add to that she has a weekly art class, weekly garden class, Piano and Violin. By the time we are done, there is no spelling, no time for any additional reading, no fleshing out anything we are memorizing for Foundations. 


I'm pretty sure I'm doing something wrong here. I checked out the 4th grade thread for this year and see that there are so many different options. I see that some are doing a lot of "subjects" and some are doing what I'm guessing might be basics? If it isn't too much trouble, would anyone be willing to tell me the subjects that I should be covering minimum? After that, what would be the extras? I had such high hopes for this. I don't want to let my DD down. 



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Minimum would be the three Rs, I guess: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Other minimum standards might be imposed by the country/province/state in which you are schooling, be sure you know those.


The next set past those three might be geography, history, science.


Then there's fine arts, music, languages, and whatever other interesting things crop up.


Lots of physical activity fits in there somewhere as Phys Ed.


Life of Fred is not a typical curriculum. Perhaps you might want to get something a bit more laid-out since neither of you is enjoying LoF.


Are you intending to stick with CC? You've got a full day out of the house there, plus four other classes. That makes it hard to put in other things.


But she IS getting other subjects: art, piano, violin, gardening...



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If you're dissatisfied with Classical Conversations, but are looking for something all laid out for you, you should check out Memoria Press. Their Classical Core Curriculum has all the required subjects laid out day-by-day for the entire year, and it wouldn't take so long that you don't have time for other interests.


You can find the page for the 4th grade for new users here: . You can also look for each of the books individually to see samples of the student books and TMs.


Using a program like this would let you be confident that you were covering all the bases for this year while giving you a chance to figure out what you and your daughter want/need in curricula. For example, Memoria Press tends to use a lot of workbooks, especially in the younger grades. Some families find this works for them and some don't like it. A lot of parents think Memoria Press materials look drab or boring, but kids tend to like them. I will say that, drab or not, their materials do tend to be fairly high-quality.


If you do decide to consider Memoria Press I highly recommend that you call them at 1-877-862-1097. They are super friendly and can help you figure out exactly where to place your daughter in each subject.


I hope this helps.

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I would relax a little. It takes a while to figure out your own plan. Your dd will be fine. Read through the math threads and look at a more traditional curriculum. Is there a homeschool group around with folks that have books to show you? I have always liked the things sold on the Well Trained Mind Press, Susan Wise Bauer. Have you read The Well Trained Mind? It's gives a nice overview of teaching and learning. We also love The History of the World and the accompanying Activity Guide. We enjoyed having literature and history overlap. Go on field trips, get books from the library she enjoys, and read up more on options. School in 4th grade doesn't need to take all day. It will work out!

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She's coming from Montessori?  I think Life Of Fred would be an interesting contrast to that!  Same with Classical Conversations!


4th grade is a good time to begin conferences.  We used to get some pastries, make cocoa or tea, and just chat about our week.  What was working?  What wasn't?  How can we make small changes to respect both of our perspectives (mine: you need these subjects, his: I need a different way of doing them).


  At a minimum, I'd expect a 4th grader to be doing the following:


History w/geography

Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, literature, poetry)




I know Classical Conversations does a lot (or all?) of that, and it could take a few more weeks to get into the groove.  If that is your main program, then I'd put the focus there and work on getting a schedule going that optimizes your time.


FWIW, a big part of the problem sounds like your dd went from having more autonomy over her schoolwork to being in more of an assembly line setting.  It would take a bit of adjustment.  There are other tools I would have chosen instead:


Creek Edge Press task cards - they cover several subjects and lay out a weekly plan, but you choose materials & order of assignments on each card.  Look at the 'gallery' tab for samples.


Shiller math OR Right Start.  I think she'd be at the upper end of both.  In a pinch I'd suggest Math U See or the Key To series.


A language program you both enjoy.  There are several out there to choose from.


Spelling Power - one program for all years, she goes at her own pace and only studies what she needs to.


You can definitely have a plan AND decide your own curriculum!  CC simply packages it for you, but most curricula come with a lesson plan of some sort and you can easily plan a week yourself.


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See if your library has a copy if the Well-Trained Mind. It is worth perusing even if the overall approach does not appeal to you. It will also give you a sense of where some of the other people in the 4th grade thread are coming from.


Separately I would suggest brainstorming what subjects you would like her to cover. Then maybe see what things interest her in particular. Then you can think about how and when to cover those.

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We're in our 3rd year of Foundations and 2nd year of Essentials. My oldest is in 5th, and my youngest is in 1st. I tutored Foundations for 2 years, and this is my 1st year tutoring Essentials.


I refer to us as the "bad" CC family. Lol We treat it as more of supplemental information that we work into what we're doing. In addition to Foundations & Essentials, my 5th grader does Math in Focus 5A/B w/ Beast Academy 4 & KA as a supplement, IEW'S PZ for spelling, Wordly Wise, Harcourt Horizons Social Studies w/ supplementary work from History Pockets, McGraw-Hill Science, Speech @ co-op, band @ co-op, and some supplementary work from McGraw-Hill Language Arts & We do about 30 minutes worth of daily CC review at home.


That looks like a lot, and I honestly don't think I could've pulled that off my first year of homeschooling.


So, what would a typical CC-at-home day look for someone who is truly "trusting the program," as they say? Here are some ideas:



Go to the library. Find some books on what they're studying - creation to Miceneans (sp?), Christopher Columbus, human anatomy books, books about New England states, etc. (We just finished week 1, so that's fresh on my brain. ;) )


Are you on CC Connected? There are some really cool memory work games out there like Trivial Pursuit cards, notebook work, etc.


Do you have any of the songs? Listen to them while you're going places.



Our mantra is that there is no crying in Essentials. 😊


Chart work for a 1st year student should only be about 15 minutes a day. If copying too many charts is an issue, copy them & cut them into puzzles.


Again, if writing is an issue, let her dictate while you write. Andrew Pudewa emphasizes that you can't help them too much.


Play Boardslam. Drill math facts.


It's a lot of information at first, and it does take a bit to get accustomed. Talk to your tutors and directors if you have concerns.


That said, not all communities are created equally. There are some less-than-desireable ones out there. CC also isn't right for everyone. I don't see us doing Challenge, and I'm not sure we'll do Essentials next year. You have to do what's right for you. There are SO many homeschooling options out there. If you're on the fence, I might give it a bit more time. How many weeks are you in?

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We always followed the WTM, so our 4th grade years looked something like: 


Math, Rod and Staff

English, Rod and Staff

Spelling, Rod and Staff

Latin, Latina Christiana I 

Story of the World: History, geography, writing, dictation, art, and so forth

Science: WTM style (that would be a physics year if you followed the entire sequence from 1st-4th grade, but no matter what branch we were in, we followed the methods, read about the topic in a science encyclopedia, did an experiment, wrote up a report on the experiment, wrote definitions, did additional fun reading or videos...) Sometimes we used Memoria Press materials, some years we did Apologia because co-op was doing it. 

Art: usually was in a co-op class by that time, but we did reading at home along with history. 

Memory Work: lists from history. This was a SHORT 2-10 minutes of history time a couple of times a week. We memorized the list of English kings in vol. 2, the list of presidents in vol. 4, we would do a poem or speech throughout the year, often suggested in SOTW to go with our chapter, and some years we did books of the Bible or Art Cards from Memoria Press. 

LOTS of read alouds from picture books and history books to go w/SOTW to a couple novels aloud a year to Bible studies around the church calendar to whatever struck our fancy sometimes. 


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So she dislikes CC. And she disliked school. (What are the things she disliked about it, anyway?) I am noticing a pattern here. What did your daughter envision when she begged to be homeschooled? What would her ideal day look like? What does she consider the things she needs to work more on or things she'd like to cover this year in greater detail? (I'm not saying you have to fulfill these wishes. But since you DID fulfill her wish to be homeschooled, I know you care enough to at least hear her out and probably already have heard her out!)


I don't know what you daughter is like, or what will work for her. There is wonderful advice and ideas here, but kids thrive on different models. It doesn't matter how wonderful CC or a classical education in general is if it's not engaging your daughter. But you are not doing anything wrong! If your daughter spent years disliking school, you've got a wonderful challenge to create a learning environment that is unlike that bad experience as possible. Perhaps your daughter needs more creative and intellectual freedom than CC offers? (I don't know. I've never done CC. I don't know your daughter.)

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You might check out other companies, like Bookshark or Timberdoodle for some fun "all-laid-out" plans for school that are more up your alley. :) When we switched from public school to homeschool, we used Sonlight, which was a great way to get our feet wet in a way where I didn't worry I was not going to plan well. :) Then, the longer you are at it, you start to hear of different things from friends, or learn more from being involved in the homeschool community, and it gets easier and easier to make up your own "custom" school plans. :) (Actually I still use a completely laid out plan, but I customize it with things we really like or that work better for us.) And this got be thinking, for my youngest who has always been homeschooled, I use more of a classical approach and curriculum, and my middle son who was public schooled at first thrives much better on things that are actually a little bit more public-schoolish, like workbooks. So it could be that something closer to her experience will help in making the transition. Anyway, I hope you find a good fit and really enjoy homeschooling your daughter! I always tell people my main goal for my kids with homeschool is they will learn to be life-long learners and love it, and that they won't regret being homeschooled, so finding a good fit and the right activities is definitely worth the research. :)

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Love/hate with CC here.  It is impossible to go deep with CC memory work because as you said the topics go by too fast.  Some kids love to memorize and compete with the peers on community day (review games).  Some kids don't.  Essentials - the first 3 weeks is a "drink from the fire hose" overview of the whole program.  Around week 3 it settles down into analyzing one sentence per day with the task sheet (though you still have lots of memory work with the charts).  The whole philosophy of Essentials is drink from the fire hose.  No one expects a kid to get it all the first year - that's why it's generally three years.  Works great for some.  For others, that first year is overwhelming and frustrating.  For others, they understand so much of it the first year that the other two years are boring.  


The foundations memory work is so doable for about 6 weeks and then it really takes a bit out of the daily schedule to keep it up.  


All that said.... there is definitely freedom in leaving CC and doing your own thing.  And as others have said, there are other ways to get plans that are laid out if you want that.  Some things to consider - will you feel enough accountability for your chosen work without the community?  will you feel like you have enough social interaction without the CC community (sounds like you do)?  If those are yes, and you don't mind losing the money spent (it's a sunk cost anyway), then pull out.



Memoria Press has nice grade level plans (just don't make her fill out - do a lot of that orally).  Or, if you want more freedom you could continue the IEW US based writing lesson book on your own at home, finding a different grammar to do at home (Junior Analytical Grammar or Rod and Staff or Easy Grammar are some options), continue whatever spelling you chose (or if you're using the spelling in the EEL guide, you can always grab a workbook instead - Rod and Staff or Spelling Workout).  Switch math to something that at least one of you likes, lol.  Life of Fred is a great idea, but when we tried it the story distracted us from the math and it was never enough practice anyway.  For history - Stay with US if you want (you could use Complete Book of United States History or A History of Us or other options) or start with Story of the World - let her listen to the CDs while she does something she enjoys (coloring?  legos?  crafting?) - keep it casual and focus on enjoying it, not specific retention.  Look at maps that correspond to history and let that be enough for geography for now (or get the stack the states app).  Science - check out books at the library.  The Let's Read and Find Out series is below her level, but are quick reads and might spark an interest to go deeper with something.  Literature - you can choose lit. books from the SOTW activity guide or browse various packages (Memoria Press, Sonlight, etc.) for ideas.  Read some aloud together and require her to read books of her choosing for 30-45 minutes/day.  


That's probably more than you wanted to know, but it's one way to do 4th grade with a little structure and a little freedom mixed together.  Also, you don't have to do every subject every day - especially if you're not in CC - you could do history 3x and science 2x per week.  Grammar 3x, Writing and spelling 4x, Math 5x - just some ideas.  


Some kids are just not going to enjoy schoolwork no matter what you do to make it great, but somewhere in there should be the cultivating of interest, the opportunity to feed heart and soul, not just the mind.  Jmho.  

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