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I bought What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know and it's kind of freaking me out. In particular, the Science section seems pretty advanced. Science has not been a focus for us. The remaining sections seem like a lot but on second glance, it's little bits of knowledge about many different topics. 

Are the Core Knowledge books a good representation of what a child should learn in that academic year? 

Overall, it seems like many different historical topics covered briefly. It seems a bit like overkill. 

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I like those books because there is an idea that we have a shared knowledge base. The idea that knowledge builds upon itself is also present. 
 

But, I think the books are overkill in the content subjects, I’d rather they just read based on interest. We keep the core knowledge books around because my kids find them interesting and like to look at them. They are one resource amongst countless others that are available to them.

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2 minutes ago, mms said:

I like those books because there is an idea that we have a shared knowledge base. The idea that knowledge builds upon itself is also present. 
 

👍

I recommend reading The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler if you want to go deeper into this.

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Just now, Plum said:

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I recommend reading The Knowledge Gap by Natalie Wexler if you want to go deeper into this.

I read Hirsch’s book, anything new in Wexler’s book that’s not covered? I mean I went into those books already convinced that there was such a thing as core knowledge, I just had trouble finding anyone in this country to agree with me.

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We used the gr. 2-6 books of that series, along about grades 2-5. I just matched up the science and history topics from whichever of the books matched with our science and history studies at that time, and we read that as just one of the multiple resources used for covering science and history. So, for example, when we studied American history when DSs were grades 3/4 and grades 4/5, I just went through all 5 of the Core Knowledge books that we had (grades 2-6), and plugged in the sections on American History as they fit with the time period of US history as we studied it.

I found the LA sections to be the most useful -- learning common sayings (we had a ton of fun doing those like a sort of "Wheel of Fortune" game to fill in the blanks to figure out the saying, and then reading the Core Knowledge book info about the common sayings). But also, exposure to classic poems, tall tales, and works of literature that were great ideas for read-alouds, esp. when DSs were in the early elementary grades. Again, I pulled from all 5 of the books as it worked for us, not worrying about matching up with the grade level on the book cover. We moved through the LA sections of the books in order, and read a page or two several times a week as part of our morning together time, so by the end of about 2 years, we had finished the LA sections in all 5 books that I owned.
 

In answer to your question re: representation of what a child should know:
I don't know if Core Knowledge really represents what a child *should* learn in that academic year. I took it more as: if after several years, and going through most of the books, your student has passing familiarity with most of topics in the books, you should end up with a basic understanding of the core knowledge TOPICS that are a part of a solid education. In other words -- I looked at the books as a reference for ideas of "Oh, yea! We probably should cover that topic at some point...", and sometimes as ideas for topics to go deeper with in the middle/high school years.

If wanting a very broad idea of what tends to be covered in U.S. public schools per grade, the World Book "Typical Course of Study" lists are useful. Here is the 5th grade "typical course of study". Eye-rolling -- the lists are worded in school administrator-ese  in terms of "standards"; but if you pick through that, you can figure out the basic content topics typically covered. Of course, it varies from school to school.

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14 minutes ago, mms said:

I read Hirsch’s book, anything new in Wexler’s book that’s not covered? I mean I went into those books already convinced that there was such a thing as core knowledge, I just had trouble finding anyone in this country to agree with me.

Knowledge Gap is coming from the public school perspective. She looked at classrooms using CC and purely isolated skills and reading selections and compared them to CK schools. So if you want that extra support in your core knowledge belief, it's a good boost. Otherwise, Hirsch does just fine. 

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Do you need to freak out about the Core Knowledge content?  Absolutely not.  Do you need to feel inadequate if you choose different topices? Absolutely not. Narrower, but deeper topics? Absolutely not.  

If something like that will reduce your stress, embrace it.  If something like that increases your stress, walk away.  As long as you know that you are providing your child with an education that over time is broad and deep, there is absolutely NO requirement that science and history topics need to be covered in any specific order, especially at the elementary age.  For example, my 5th grader is studying American history for the very first time.  Did it really impact her quality of education that she didn't study American history in K-4?  Not from my perspective.  But, I really don't give a flip about the scope/sequence of any outside source.  I know that over the course of their educations they cover what I want them to know.  I know now as a 5th grader we are going deeper in a more meaningful way than she would have been capable of in 3rd grade.  I wouldn't trade our British history study that we did last yr to accompany our Narnia study for anything.  So, no, American history for the first time in 5th grade is not a problem for our homeschool.

In terms of science, I am even more firmly of the opinion that younger kids are about exposure and nurturing interest.  Delving deep into science ultimately enters into areas where being older brings more understanding (along with the math skills).  

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Like others have said, those books give a list of topics that it's useful to know.  We used it for one child K-5 (and kiddo read the 6th) and with the other child used it K-4.  We read the lit from the book and used the book as topic guides for other subjects.  There's nothing magical about doing them in order or doing the topics in their assigned grades.  We also didn't use them in a stressful way, if that makes sense.  We didn't do a textbook with tests to learn about the American Revolution in its assigned year, but maybe we watched Liberty's Kids, or read some early readers, or read straight from Hirsh's book.  When we did the solar system, maybe we worked a floor puzzle, read a few kids books (we were fond of Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That' books to introduce new topics), watched a video, read a book, did a drawing, or whatever seemed appropriate. 

In our elementary years, those books guided our schedule.  Every year, we did math and language arts daily and then did units lasting 2-6 weeks that looked at the content topics.  We found a routine - every year started with geography, then world history, then some science, and then art.  Spring semester would be US history, then the rest of the science, and then music (sometimes we'd do science, the history, then more science, and then music).  I'd get a stack of books and maybe other activities on the topic that we were working on and kiddo could choose to read whatever they wanted from the stack to look at for 15-30 minutes.  

So, if you're asking if the content covered is required, the answer is no, but it seems to be reasonable material for its grade.  

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15 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Are the Core Knowledge books a good representation of what a child should learn in that academic year? 

The Core Knowledge books are E. D. Hirsch's way of showing how to approach developing cultural literacy in elementary age students.  In other words, the books should be thought of as an example scope and sequence of how one might approach a content rich elementary education.  It builds on itself, so if you're coming in in fifth grade, you've missed a bunch of foundational material, which might make it seem daunting.

Core Knowledge is not prescriptive.  What I mean here is that it is not saying that a fifth grader must learn these things because all fifth graders learn them--in fact, most fifth graders won't.  

If you're interested in what drove Hirsch to produce the series, his recent book Why Knowledge Matters lays out his thoughts on the importance of background knowledge in achieving literacy.  The poor man has been ringing this same bell for 30+ years and the education system has yet to listen to him.

 

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2 hours ago, EKS said:

The poor man has been ringing this same bell for 30+ years and the education system has yet to listen to him.

Hirsch was one of my early influences that led to the decision to homeschool. It's fascinating how he considered himself liberal -- his entire crusade was the leveling of the educational playing field by giving disadvantaged children the same cultural information as better-off children -- but was condemned as a right-winger by Democrats in the '90s. Then when his Core Knowledge charters proved effective for low-income children, his supporters convinced the Administration to implement the Core Curriculum (based on CK but not identical to it) nation-wide, he was condemned by Republicans as a leftist.

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7 minutes ago, Violet Crown said:

Hirsch was one of my early influences that led to the decision to homeschool. It's fascinating how he considered himself liberal -- his entire crusade was the leveling of the educational playing field by giving disadvantaged children the same cultural information as better-off children -- but was condemned as a right-winger by Democrats in the '90s. Then when his Core Knowledge charters proved effective for low-income children, his supporters convinced the Administration to implement the Core Curriculum (based on CK but not identical to it) nation-wide, he was condemned by Republicans as a leftist.

Exactly.  

Hirsch has had a huge influence on me as well.

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@Violet Crown and @EKS As another person whose homeschool decision was influenced by Hirsh, I've been amazed to see how badly the core-based plan seems to have been implemented in some schools.  I'm not really sure what the disconnect is, but I have some thoughts.  I've been volunteering as a homework helper at the same place for 6 years.  Some of the schools have grand visions for educating the kids, but I think there are missing pieces that aren't recognized.  My younger was in K when I started volunteering, so in a sense I've been able to see some of the kids grow up beside my own.  One problem is that the kids often have small vocabularies (right now I'm working on phonics with a small group - only 2/6 knew the word 'tan', for instance).  So, the schools have the goal of teaching about photosynthesis, and they do it using nonfiction reading.  I'm a fan and did a lot of this with my own kids, as Hirsh recommends.  But, instead of great illustrated books, the kids have worksheets full of words that they can't quite manage like 'light', that they are supposed to read and answer questions about.  In answering the questions, the kids learn to copy the sentence that matches the phrasing of the question while bypassing any thought about what it means.  Meanwhile, I've had my kid draw a picture of it, or build a model.  

It leaves Hirsh being criticized because it isn't working for a lot of kids, but it's not working because it's often poorly done.  It's the same with common core math (which wasn't his doing, I don't think - his math was pretty generic if I remember correctly).  Helping the kids with common core math...ugh.  I end up doing a lot of it because the older volunteers don't know what they want.  I recognize lots of bits from doing Singapore math with my own kids, but it's like they took the outward appearance of Singapore and made it useless.  I've complained before that, while Singapore teaches regrouping, so that 8+5 = 10 + 3 (which, once I explain, the older folks are able to help with), what they're assigned is to draw it so that they can 'show' how it works...so they never learn the regrouping because they are constantly just counting sticks or dots.  It takes the appearance, but misses the point.  

It's super frustrating because I'd argue that, using Hirsh's plan, my kids knew more at the end of elementary that I knew at the end of middle school at least, and seem to know more than some college grads about general knowledge stuff.  Yet, it's criticized all around for not working when it mostly seems to be poorly done. 

Sorry for the threadjack, Ordinary Shoes!  

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5 minutes ago, ClemsonDana said:

As another person whose homeschool decision was influenced by Hirsh, I've been amazed to see how badly the core-based plan seems to have been implemented in some schools.  I'm not really sure what the disconnect is, but I have some thoughts.

I think the disconnect is that most people have no idea how important content is because their own educations were also content-impoverished. 

I actually didn't completely understand myself until my own content knowledge was vastly improved in the process of homeschooling my children.  It not only made it far easier to understand a wide variety of complex texts, it also--and more importantly--made everything (everything!) more interesting and multifaceted.  It was as though all my life I had been viewing the world as a black and white 2D picture that suddenly had altered itself into a full color, 3D experience.  The difference was truly astonishing.

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6 minutes ago, EKS said:

I think the disconnect is that most people have no idea how important content is because their own educations were also content-impoverished. 

I actually didn't completely understand myself until my own content knowledge was vastly improved in the process of homeschooling my children.  It not only made it far easier to understand a wide variety of complex texts, it also--and more importantly--made everything (everything!) more interesting and multifaceted.  It was as though all my life I had been viewing the world as a black and white 2D picture that suddenly had altered itself into a full color, 3D experience.  The difference was truly astonishing.

Yeah, I agree.  I knew that my geography knowledge was lacking, so I decided to make sure to incorporate that with my kids...and suddenly history made much more sense.  But, I'm amazed that so many 'highly educated' people who plan school curriculum programs don't get this.  Unless they can happily pick up a journal in any science field and read it, then they know that content knowledge matters!  That's actually how I made the point when explaining my plan for our kids to my husband - we both have STEM PhDs, but I'm in bio sci and his is in engineering.  Neither of us could have made sense of the other's dissertation, while an undergrad working in the same lab as me could have read mine...because content knowledge matters! 

But, I don't think that content can be taught as a discombobulated list of vocabulary words, which so often seems to be the case.  I've seen this with the elementary school kdis that I work with but also with older kids at church who have asked for help with homework.  Science made much more sense once I started thinking of it as a series of short stories that inter-relate.  That was due to a college prof who was teaching about metabolic pathway regulation by saying 'So, if you had too much of X, what would you want to do?  How could you do that?' and suddenly it was a story relating molecules in a sensible way, and it show up all through science where there are lots of cycles...for that matter, history is full of cycles, too.  🙂  

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23 minutes ago, ClemsonDana said:

Yeah, I agree.  I knew that my geography knowledge was lacking, so I decided to make sure to incorporate that with my kids...and suddenly history made much more sense.  But, I'm amazed that so many 'highly educated' people who plan school curriculum programs don't get this.  Unless they can happily pick up a journal in any science field and read it, then they know that content knowledge matters!  That's actually how I made the point when explaining my plan for our kids to my husband - we both have STEM PhDs, but I'm in bio sci and his is in engineering.  Neither of us could have made sense of the other's dissertation, while an undergrad working in the same lab as me could have read mine...because content knowledge matters! 

But, I don't think that content can be taught as a discombobulated list of vocabulary words, which so often seems to be the case.  I've seen this with the elementary school kdis that I work with but also with older kids at church who have asked for help with homework.  Science made much more sense once I started thinking of it as a series of short stories that inter-relate.  That was due to a college prof who was teaching about metabolic pathway regulation by saying 'So, if you had too much of X, what would you want to do?  How could you do that?' and suddenly it was a story relating molecules in a sensible way, and it show up all through science where there are lots of cycles...for that matter, history is full of cycles, too.  🙂  

The bolded drives me insane with adults to be honest- and perhaps the fact they were taught that way as kids is why they think they can read a few things on the internet and have as much knowledge as a PhD on a subject matter. Things are seen simply as definitions- there seems to be a misconception that the definitions are all that are needed to master the content;  but there is no inter-relatedness, or integrated experience, or respect of true expertise. Everyone who can regurgitate the definition is now the expert. 

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I'm pretty sure I read something by Hirsch years ago. I have always agreed with the idea of core knowledge in theory. This just seems a bit disjointed to me with little bits and pieces of information without much context. 

In reviewing the history section, I think my DD knows much of this already. We read SOTW 2-4 and read many picture books through the years about historical figures, e.g books like Good Queen Bess. DD definitely knows about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I'm sure she's fuzzy on Charles I and Charles II but that's what I would expect from SOTW which is more big picture. If we follow SWB's history sequence, we would study Charles I and Charles II in the 7th grade. 

DD's has also watched some of the Youtube videos that are made for children about history. She particularly likes this series and has watched it many times. 

I can see how some schools would use this as a checklist and present this in a very boring manner. The history section is largely a list of important historical figures that everyone should know about like Catherine the Great, Frederick Douglas, and John Brown. I often feel that the only proper way to learn something is through reading it but my daughter knows all about Catherine the Great from that funny video series. 

I like the list of sayings and catch phrases. 

The only area where we have completely failed is with science. I've always assumed science wasn't very important in elementary school beyond piquing a child's interest. Actually I suspect my DD knows more about science than I think because she's watched many episodes of Magic Schoolbus. 

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10 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm pretty sure I read something by Hirsch years ago. I have always agreed with the idea of core knowledge in theory. This just seems a bit disjointed to me with little bits and pieces of information without much context. 

In reviewing the history section, I think my DD knows much of this already. We read SOTW 2-4 and read many picture books through the years about historical figures, e.g books like Good Queen Bess. DD definitely knows about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I'm sure she's fuzzy on Charles I and Charles II but that's what I would expect from SOTW which is more big picture. If we follow SWB's history sequence, we would study Charles I and Charles II in the 7th grade. 

DD's has also watched some of the Youtube videos that are made for children about history. She particularly likes this series and has watched it many times. 

I can see how some schools would use this as a checklist and present this in a very boring manner. The history section is largely a list of important historical figures that everyone should know about like Catherine the Great, Frederick Douglas, and John Brown. I often feel that the only proper way to learn something is through reading it but my daughter knows all about Catherine the Great from that funny video series. 

I like the list of sayings and catch phrases. 

The only area where we have completely failed is with science. I've always assumed science wasn't very important in elementary school beyond piquing a child's interest. Actually I suspect my DD knows more about science than I think because she's watched many episodes of Magic Schoolbus. 

My kids sound similar on the videos, but with Horrible Histories. They know way more about British History than American. I still laugh at the time a couple of years ago we were with a group and the speaker held up a picture of Paul Revere and asked the kids if anyone knew who it was. My son, I think he was 5 or 6,  yelled "That's Dick Turpin." 😂 Of course no one had the first clue who that was, nor why I started laughing.....but hey, I thought it was great. 

Honestly, I've read an insane amount of British history over the last decade, and I still sing the Horrible Histories' Monarch Song to remember the order of the monarchs to give me a mental peg for dates. I don't think videos can replace books, but I think they can serve their own purpose, especially when they're funny and memorable. I'm going to check out the one you linked. 

Also, fwiw, I am like PPs on the science. I wouldn't feel behind in junior high or elementary. It all starts again in high school, and then you build. And even if you miss something in high school- they can know how to learn the content to do so later. RE related to my post- I just wish with science, people would make it more clear to kids that just because you took a biology course, it doesn't' make you a biologist, you know? For whatever reason it seems like science is the most likely field to spawn all of that type of thinking. Very few people go "well I once googled something historical and now I am a historian!" But everyone is now suddenly a scientist- I blame the internet personally, lol. 

 

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20 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Delving deep into science ultimately enters into areas where being older brings more understanding (along with the math skills).  

I agree.  I'd say the best science to do with very young kids is anything that can be concretely understood--this lends itself to a lot of nature studies, things that can be read in books, and other hands on/fun stuff.

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4 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

The only area where we have completely failed is with science. I've always assumed science wasn't very important in elementary school beyond piquing a child's interest. Actually I suspect my DD knows more about science than I think because she's watched many episodes of Magic Schoolbus. 

Well, I never utter the words "Good Queen Bess" in our homeschool other than to quantify why I wouldn't use them! 😉  But, my dd has a great background in British history, too. 🙂

I really wanted to address the above.  Unless your dd has never been exposed to science, you have not failed!  I absolutely do believe that its main purpose is to pique a child's interest.  Goodness, my kids have never done anything other than read science books of interest until high school credits and have majored in science fields and easily mastered concepts.  Just b/c it is printed in a book doesn't make it any more necessary or valid as a "requirement" than ps's scope and sequences represent the end-all be-all of grade level mastery.

Don't fall in the trap of thinking that others need to completely override your common sense and well-thought through plans.  I have read enough of your posts to know that you are not neglecting your child's education.  For some people, Hirsch's book is a wake up call to topics that they have not considered or have completely neglected.  Personally, I would much rather cover fewer topics in depth and slow and steady over a long period of time cover breadth than sacrifice the depth/interest-led path we take for a breadth sprint. 

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3 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

... Unless your dd has never been exposed to science, you have not failed!  I absolutely do believe that its main purpose is to pique a child's interest.  Goodness, my kids have never done anything other than read science books of interest until high school credits and have majored in science fields and easily mastered concepts... Personally, I would much rather cover fewer topics in depth and slow and steady over a long period of time cover breadth than sacrifice the depth/interest-led path we take for a breadth sprint. 

Exact same here science process here  -- and it worked great for us as well. DS#1 is now getting close to finishing a BS in Mech. Eng. and enjoys informally learning more about Astronomy and Astrophysics out of interest, while DS#2 is enjoying learning more about environmental sciences while on the job as a wildland firefighter, and enjoys watching some entertaining Engineering-based Youtube channels...  I love that they still love learning about Science stuff! 😄 (And, I do too! 😉 )

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I can't really imagine teaching anything in this disjointed a fashion. I like the idea of Core Knowledge, but random tidbits would NOT stick in my own head, and in fact, haven't from my own education. 

I far prefer studying subjects by hanging them around a theme. And yes, I would like my kids to learn more history/geography/science than I did as a kid, but I'm OK if it comes in the form of longer rabbit trails... I like the bits to stick together in a coherent way, I guess.

For example, this year, we had a looooong virus project,  during which we learned about viruses, cells, DNA and RNA, immunity, and lots of other stuff along the way. It all hung together, which made it much easier to remember, and it was sophisticated. I don't think that's a worse way to go than just sticking random bits of information together. 

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18 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I can't really imagine teaching anything in this disjointed a fashion. I like the idea of Core Knowledge, but random tidbits would NOT stick in my own head, and in fact, haven't from my own education. 

I far prefer studying subjects by hanging them around a theme. And yes, I would like my kids to learn more history/geography/science than I did as a kid, but I'm OK if it comes in the form of longer rabbit trails... I like the bits to stick together in a coherent way, I guess.

For example, this year, we had a looooong virus project,  during which we learned about viruses, cells, DNA and RNA, immunity, and lots of other stuff along the way. It all hung together, which made it much easier to remember, and it was sophisticated. I don't think that's a worse way to go than just sticking random bits of information together. 

You know it's funny. In theory I agree with this and I never plan to teach bits and pieces of information. In practice though, there are lots of times when I've picked out a random book from the library just because it looked interesting -- like, how chocolate is made, or what is DNA, or whatever. And we read it all together and the kids remember it. I don't know what that's about, but at this point "random stuff" is practically part of my plan 🙂

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5 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

You know it's funny. In theory I agree with this and I never plan to teach bits and pieces of information. In practice though, there are lots of times when I've picked out a random book from the library just because it looked interesting -- like, how chocolate is made, or what is DNA, or whatever. And we read it all together and the kids remember it. I don't know what that's about, but at this point "random stuff" is practically part of my plan 🙂

But I think random things that hang together that connect up with other things in your life are very different than disjointed historical facts! And honestly, our virus project was kind of random, too. But somehow, it fit into our overall worldview. 

But random factoids are something else and I just CANNOT remember them. They don't stick, at least for me. 

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Here's how I really envision it. I think of the general knowledge you currently have as a big blob -- think, like, an ink blot. And the way you learn is by having the inkblot spreading out and out and out as you absorb more information. The information you retain is at the edges of the ink blot, where it connects to the rest of the inkblot. The information that goes into some sort of void in your head and disappears is the stuff that is way too far outside the ink blot. Where, specifically, you attach content at the edges of the inkblots doesn't matter much, and there are lots of choices, but you don't want to go too far away from the blob itself.

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The interesting thing about Hirsh's books is that he says that they're only intended to spell out about 1/2 of the content for the year.  The idea was that it would give schools flexibility to incorporate local/state-specific things or a teacher's favorite unit studies as the rest of the content.  For us, it let us go deeper in the individual areas.  Over the books, I figured out that there was a pattern.  There were 1-2 modern countries covered each year. Then there was a bit of world history and a bit of US history.  We broke those into 2 units, one each semester.  There were a few biographies of famous people, and we just did them whenever.  In science, every year had 1-2 body systems, 1-2 other biology topics, and 1-2 chemistry or physics topics.  We fell into the routine of doing the chemistry/physics bit in the fall semester, the human body part right after Christmas, and the other life science in spring, which often coincided with being able to go out and look at bugs or go to the zoo or plant a garden.  It was also convenient for us because every January I'd pull out the human body stuff, for instance - the floor puzzle, the illustrated books, etc - and both kids could work on 'human body' stuff while reading about different systems.  Of course, I didn't limit them to just reading about one thing so there was review and divergence, too. 

Again, I don't think that there's anything magical about his sequence vs many other ways of doing it.  Some families would be happier spending a whole semester studying the human body, and that would work well.  Other kids don't have long attention spans, or need the knowledge that they only need to look at biology for a week before they can move on, or they need an end point because otherwise they will spend an entire school year re-enacting battles from whatever war they were studying, not that I'm speaking from experience.   There are families that prefer to be student-led for content subject in elementary school, and that can be great.  There are families that memorize a lot (like the memorization songs in the other thread) and that can be great, too.  For some people, covering history sequentially is important.  My goal was broad exposure so that they'd know about lots of things that they could be interested in - when we go to museums and aquariums, that they'd have a lot of bits for me to relate what we were seeing to. In middle school, I do chronological history so that they can have a broad overview and link together various things that they know, so that in high school they can choose topics of interest to dig deeper into (at least, that's the plan).  But, any of the approaches can work - it's mostly about finding a good fit.  

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49 minutes ago, square_25 said:

But I think random things that hang together that connect up with other things in your life are very different than disjointed historical facts! And honestly, our virus project was kind of random, too. But somehow, it fit into our overall worldview. 

But random factoids are something else and I just CANNOT remember them. They don't stick, at least for me. 

I hear you. I haven't looked at those "what your x grader should know" books in a while but I don't remember them as having lots of factoids. I think they suggested a few topics in history and science every year, and some readings in literature.

I definitely don't think we all need to follow those books and they shouldn't turn into a source of stress for anyone, but I also don't remember them seeming absurdly scattershot. If anything, I remember them as being kind of fun, with lots of unexpected stuff in them. And I guess what I'm finding with my kids is that sometimes it's hard to say what's going to stick, so the more stuff I offer, the better.

 

 

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Just now, Little Green Leaves said:

I hear you. I haven't looked at those "what your x grader should know" books in a while but I don't remember them as having lots of factoids. I think they suggested a few topics in history and science every year, and some readings in literature.

I definitely don't think we all need to follow those books and they shouldn't turn into a source of stress for anyone, but I also don't remember them seeming absurdly scattershot. If anything, I remember them as being kind of fun, with lots of unexpected stuff in them. And I guess what I'm finding with my kids is that sometimes it's hard to say what's going to stick, so the more stuff I offer, the better.

I might be overly prejudiced because there's lots of stuff I don't know in them ;-). I'm pretty weak in history. 

On the other hand, I'm not at all weak in science, but there are tons of things I simply do not remember. And then I start to wonder how important it is to memorize things, because I'm also sure I could learn them again if I needed to...

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10 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I might be overly prejudiced because there's lots of stuff I don't know in them ;-). I'm pretty weak in history. 

On the other hand, I'm not at all weak in science, but there are tons of things I simply do not remember. And then I start to wonder how important it is to memorize things, because I'm also sure I could learn them again if I needed to...

There are LOADS of things I've forgotten in every subject. That's why I like reading these things with my kids! It gives me a chance to learn them again (or for the first time). I don't know what's going to stick but I like the process.

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4 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

There are LOADS of things I've forgotten in every subject. That's why I like reading these things with my kids! It gives me a chance to learn them again (or for the first time). I don't know what's going to stick but I like the process.

Oh, I enjoy the process, too, although DD7 far prefers reading things to herself, so I don't get to do it as much as I wish! I've enjoyed relearning some biology for our virus project, because the book was too hard for her and we did read it together for once... 

I just wonder how much people actually retain from these long lists. I guess I wonder about that because I do think about what to spend time on, and so far, for me, that's been skills and not content. Not because I don't care about content, but because I tend think content lasts less well. But I am not an erudite person and may be undervaluing how important it is. I'm a lousy generalist -- I always become a specialist in whatever I learn about. 

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10 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Oh, I enjoy the process, too, although DD7 far prefers reading things to herself, so I don't get to do it as much as I wish! I've enjoyed relearning some biology for our virus project, because the book was too hard for her and we did read it together for once... 

I just wonder how much people actually retain from these long lists. I guess I wonder about that because I do think about what to spend time on, and so far, for me, that's been skills and not content. Not because I don't care about content, but because I tend think content lasts less well. But I am not an erudite person and may be undervaluing how important it is. I'm a lousy generalist -- I always become a specialist in whatever I learn about. 

I'll be honest, I have never understood what people mean about choosing skills over content (or vice versa). What does that mean? How do you separate them? I've seen this idea in lots of threads and I never get it.

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1 minute ago, Little Green Leaves said:

I'll be honest, I have never understood what people mean about choosing skills over content (or vice versa). What does that mean? How do you separate them? I've seen this idea in lots of threads and I never get it.

I guess I want DD7 to think critically, organize arguments logically, and to have a good grasp of mathematical notation and ideas. I also want her to spell and punctuate correctly. Those have been independently of content so far. They do require content to work on, but the specifics don't matter much. 

Edited by square_25
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8 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I guess I want DD7 to think critically, organize arguments logically, and to have a good grasp of mathematical notation and ideas. I also want her to spell and punctuate correctly. Those have been independently of content so far. They do require content to work on, but the specifics don't matter much. 

Okay. So you mean you don't have a pre-set idea of what you want her to know, but she's probably still gathering a ton of content anyway. That makes sense.

 

 

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1 minute ago, Little Green Leaves said:

Okay. So you mean you don't have a pre-set idea of what you want her to know, but she's probably still gathering a ton of content anyway. That makes sense.

Exactly! Or, I probably do have a pre-set idea of what I'd want her to know by the end of middle school, but I'm not super worried about which piece of that we grab in the early elementary grades. 

One of our projects this year used a high school or maybe college level biology textbook. I'd like her to learn this stuff by the end of high school, but I didn't really think she'd be learning the details of how viruses worked this year, if I had to plan it out. That's just how it turned out. 

So, lots of content, but pretty interest-driven content, and I don't mind if she learns tons of random stuff by reading, either.

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I don't have the expectation that my kids will remember content that they learn in elementary grades in the same way that a high schooler will remember material that they are studying for a final exam.  I'm never sure what details they'll remember - sometimes they remember things that I wouldn't expect, and other times they forget stuff that I'd think they're remember.  But, I'm always trying to build links and they are always making connections.  As a simple example, when we learned about modern China in K, we read or watched something about the importance of rice as a food staple.  We looked at rice farming and how that works in some places but not others.  We were also learning about continents in K, so we tried foods from different continents.  We were able to get Thai and Japanese, and the kids saw how rice is a part of all of those cuisines.  When we moved on to other continents, we talked about how the animals are different, and the agriculture is, so Europe is more bread-and-potato than rice.  Several years later, when we made our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii, they noticed that rice was the side dish with plate lunches.  We talked about the influence of Japan, and as we did our sightseeing we learned about the many influences on the islands.  Similarly with plants - we had these cool books that showed great pictures of leaves, stems, roots, etc, that we use in K.  As we gardened, we talked about what part of the plant we were eating.  I'm sure that they don't remember the details from those books, but they knew that we needed to protect the roots because that's how minerals and water get to the plant, and when we transplanted the tomato seedlings they were concerned that we needed to leave enough leaves exposed to the sun for the plant to be able to make food.  Learning about history let one kid see that princesses in history didn't live the life of a fairy tale princess, although princesses are a real thing.  I'm sure that the specific royalty may be forgotten for the time being, but that idea stuck.  

As I've said, there are lots of ways to do school, especially with young ones.  I like for my kids to have seen all sorts of material because I think it makes it easier for them to think about the world around them and gives them the words to talk to us about it.  I also like relating the world to what we see in 'school stuff' - one of mine in particular needs that to help believe me when I say that one reason that I want them to learn is so that they can know enough to be useful in the world.  Other people like to talk about topics as the kids show an interest, and that could work well, too - it's just a matter of preference and fit.  

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4 hours ago, square_25 said:

I can't really imagine teaching anything in this disjointed a fashion.

The Core Knowledge Sequence isn't meant to be a pedagogy. It's just a list of Things One Ought to Know About, arranged by grade level. One of Hirsch's hobby horses was the problem of children moving between schools and covering the same content repeatedly, or not at all, because of a lack of uniformity in content curriculum. He certainly did not intend it to be taught qua list.

ETA: The CK Sequence also calls for covering earlier topics in greater depth at a later grade. And the list explicitly includes skills as well as content. 

Edited by Violet Crown
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I will also say that the content models were intended to specifically address the idea that you can teach skills without content knowledge.  For kids of educated parents who talk to the about a lot of stuff, they probably don't need any sort of list of things to learn.  We don't realize how many things the kids absorb just from being talked to.  But, for some kids (like the ones that I volunteer with), their content knowledge about anything is very low.  I remember one first grade teacher friend who was reading a story about a rabbit eating lettuce, and she had several kids who didn't know what lettuce was.  Peter Rabbit is a very different thing if a kid doesn't know what lettuce, or a garden, look like.  The kids can't think critically about 'What would you do?' because they don't know that lettuce is a leafy vegetable that both people and rabbits might want to eat.  Kids in an enriched environment don't necessarily need to be explicitly taught so many things, but there are kids who need the exposure.  For us it was a convenience - without it, I could have come up with 'human body, kinds of animals, germs, plants, planets, magnets' as a list of possible elementary science topics, although I might not have thought to explicitly talk about Aesop's Fables (which were very popular with my kids).  But, they would have been learning something, even if from a different list, or no list.  That's not the case for everybody, though, hence the plan.  

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5 minutes ago, ClemsonDana said:

Peter Rabbit is a very different thing if a kid doesn't know what lettuce, or a garden, look like. 

Hirsch likes to use the example of a newspaper account of a cricket match: most Americans would find it bewildering, boring, and not remember any of it, not because they can't think critically about sports competitions, but because they don't have enough content knowledge to make any sense of it. 

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16 minutes ago, ClemsonDana said:

I will also say that the content models were intended to specifically address the idea that you can teach skills without content knowledge.  For kids of educated parents who talk to the about a lot of stuff, they probably don't need any sort of list of things to learn.  We don't realize how many things the kids absorb just from being talked to.  But, for some kids (like the ones that I volunteer with), their content knowledge about anything is very low.  I remember one first grade teacher friend who was reading a story about a rabbit eating lettuce, and she had several kids who didn't know what lettuce was.  Peter Rabbit is a very different thing if a kid doesn't know what lettuce, or a garden, look like.  The kids can't think critically about 'What would you do?' because they don't know that lettuce is a leafy vegetable that both people and rabbits might want to eat.  Kids in an enriched environment don't necessarily need to be explicitly taught so many things, but there are kids who need the exposure.  For us it was a convenience - without it, I could have come up with 'human body, kinds of animals, germs, plants, planets, magnets' as a list of possible elementary science topics, although I might not have thought to explicitly talk about Aesop's Fables (which were very popular with my kids).  But, they would have been learning something, even if from a different list, or no list.  That's not the case for everybody, though, hence the plan.  

I've thought about this issue a lot, actually... how do you make up for the scarcity in concepts at home? I see this in math, too... I realized at some point that lots of parents don't use their fingers to count or show numbers at all, so it just doesn't occur to some kids to use their fingers. Not that you HAVE to use fingers, but for the 3 year old group, it seems like a great way to practice subitizing and small addition. 

Or how about people who never use the word "half"? What do you do about that? 

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@square_25, yep, that's exactly it.  I'm having that problem right now with the phonics helping that I'm doing.  I didn't realize this because it was much less of a problem for my kids, but when kids sound out a word, they know that they've got it when they recognize the word...b-a-t becomes bat, and they know it's right when they get a word that they know.  For these kids, even simple books are tricky because they have a lot of words that they don't know.  I've been using cards with single letters to make words and I switch out one letter at a time (bat->sat->rat->ran->tan).  I've started getting them to tell me what each word means and it's a struggle for some of them.  Hirsh is also big on the idea of reading to the kids (fiction and nonfiction) and doing other things to expand their knowledge and vocabularies until they are at a point where they can read for themselves.  I read his book when my kid was a baby and his ideas simultaneously seemed very common-sensical for how we would normally raise kids and the complete opposite of how learning is handled in many schools.  Its easy to think in terms of teaching skills when you know that your kid knows content about at least some topics, but schools often jump straight to 'teach students to write a paragraph' and the kids don't know enough about any nonfiction topic to write a 5 sentence paragraph.  Likewise, 'sequencing' is a skill, but a kid needs to know what order things happen in to make the sequence.  To put 'plant seed, water seed, seed sprouts, plant grows, flower blooms, bees come, fruit forms, pick fruit' in order...that's a lot of content knowledge.  It's not science as adults think about it, but it's appropriate science content for a little kid.  My kids would know that from gardening, but plenty of kids need to be taught that explicitly.  

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3 hours ago, square_25 said:

I might be overly prejudiced because there's lots of stuff I don't know in them ;-). I'm pretty weak in history. 

On the other hand, I'm not at all weak in science, but there are tons of things I simply do not remember. And then I start to wonder how important it is to memorize things, because I'm also sure I could learn them again if I needed to...

The Core Knowledge books are not geared as "facts to memorize", but as short overview exposure to topics in History, Science, Music and Art; excerpts form Literature; topics in Math. Something to start with, and then use other resources to go deeper, or get the complete piece of Literature and read the whole thing... 
 

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12 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

The Core Knowledge books are not geared as "facts to memorize", but as short overview exposure to topics in History, Science, Music and Art; excerpts form Literature; topics in Math. Something to start with, and then use other resources to go deeper, or get the complete piece of Literature and read the whole thing... 
 

I know, I know, I just have trouble remembering bits that don't connect up to other stuff :-(. I don't know how to solve that problem, really. 

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4 hours ago, square_25 said:

I just wonder how much people actually retain from these long lists. I guess I wonder about that because I do think about what to spend time on, and so far, for me, that's been skills and not content. Not because I don't care about content, but because I tend think content lasts less well.

I don't teach content so that it will necessarily last. I teach it because it is interesting and engaging and because cultural literacy is critically important.  I don't drill facts or whatever in an effort to make it stick.  I just assume that some of it will stick and what doesn't will stick on the next round.

I highly recommend that you read the book Why Knowledge Matters by E.D. Hirsch.

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1 minute ago, EKS said:

I don't teach content so that it will necessarily last. I teach it because it is interesting and engaging and because cultural literacy is critically important.  I don't drill facts or whatever in an effort to make it stick.  I just assume that some of it will stick and what doesn't will stick on the next round.

I highly recommend that you read the book Why Knowledge Matters by E.D. Hirsch.

It's possible I take all of this a bit for granted, since DD7 is such a voracious reader that she's constantly learning things. And we talk about lots of stuff. So I guess we currently unschool content? 

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36 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I know, I know, I just have trouble remembering bits that don't connect up to other stuff :-(. I don't know how to solve that problem, really. 

You sound very much like a whole-to-parts learner. 😉 

- Multiple resources -- keep circling back to information, from different angles and with different resources
- Repeated exposure with more depth -- you'll be seeing material at deeper levels with your students grow into the late elementary/middle/high school levels
- Start with big picture and then add details -- use overview materials to start with to give you context and "pattern" for then fitting in your "bits"
- Consider using integrated Science materials, which make it easier to see connections and processes across Science areas
- Consider using language arts materials that incorporate multiple aspects of LA together -- writing + grammar; lit. + vocab.; or even lit. + vocab. + grammar + writing all in one
- Unit studies -- connect multiple subjects to an overall topic
- Time lines -- visual memory device seeing where key people/events fall together, or how they are separated in time
- Pick topics of high interest and then branch out -- what is of interest tends to stick with us

And specifically for you as the adult learning alongside your child -- as you cover "bits" -- activity work to place bits within the context of the "whole" that you already have -- as you described elsewhere -- figure out ways of adding this "bit" to the "ink blob" that you already have in your head -- ask yourself the "how" and "why" questions about the "bits" to figure out "how and why" they fit into the big picture


However... Be aware that your children may be parts-to-whole learners, so you may just have to learn how to use materials that teach from both perspectives. I have one very auditory-sequential learner (takes in best via hearing it; does well with abstract; processes sequentially and parts-to-whole), and one very visual-spatial learner (takes in best via hands-on or visual; needs concrete; processes randomly and whole-to-parts). Thank heavens I am a fairly ambidexterous learner, so I was able to stretch in each extreme for initial exposure for each very different DS, and then provide supplements coming from their weaker intake/processing perspectives to help strengthen those. But it was exhausting at times. 😉 

Edited by Lori D.
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3 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

You sound very much like a whole-to-parts learner. 😉 

- Multiple resources -- keep circling back to information, from different angles and with different resources
- Repeated exposure with more depth -- you'll be seeing material at deeper levels with your students grow into the late elementary/middle/high school levels
- Start with big picture and then add details -- use overview materials to start with to give you context and "pattern" for then fitting in your "bits"
- Consider using integrated Science materials, which make it easier to see connections and processes across Science areas
- Consider using language arts materials that incorporate multiple aspects of LA together -- writing + grammar; lit. + vocab.; or even lit. + vocab. + grammar + writing all in one
- Unit studies -- connect multiple subjects to an overall topic
- Time lines -- visual memory device seeing where key people/events fall together, or how they are separated in time
- Pick topics of high interest and then branch out -- what is of interest tends to stick with us

And specifically for you as the adult learning alongside your child -- as you cover "bits" -- activity work to place bits within the context of the "whole" that you already have -- as you described elsewhere -- figure out ways of adding this "bit" to the "ink blob" that you already have in your head -- ask yourself the "how" and "why" questions about the "bits" to figure out "how and why" they fit into the big picture


However... Be aware that your children may be parts-to-whole learners, so you may just have to learn how to use materials that teach from both perspectives. I have one very auditory-sequential learner (takes in best via hearing it; does well with abstract; processes sequentially and parts-to-whole), and one very visual-spatial learner (takes in best via hands-on or visual; needs concrete; processes randomly and whole-to-parts). Thank heavens I am a fairly ambidexterous learner, so I was able to stretch in each extreme for initial exposure for each very different DS, and then provide supplements coming from their weaker intake/processing perspectives to help strengthen those. But it was exhausting at times. 😉 

I think we're all a bit of both, honestly. In math, I need lots of examples.  I don't have trouble matching my kids' learning styles, generally. 

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1 hour ago, ClemsonDana said:

@square_25, yep, that's exactly it.  I'm having that problem right now with the phonics helping that I'm doing.  I didn't realize this because it was much less of a problem for my kids, but when kids sound out a word, they know that they've got it when they recognize the word...b-a-t becomes bat, and they know it's right when they get a word that they know.  For these kids, even simple books are tricky because they have a lot of words that they don't know.  I've been using cards with single letters to make words and I switch out one letter at a time (bat->sat->rat->ran->tan).  I've started getting them to tell me what each word means and it's a struggle for some of them.  Hirsh is also big on the idea of reading to the kids (fiction and nonfiction) and doing other things to expand their knowledge and vocabularies until they are at a point where they can read for themselves.  I read his book when my kid was a baby and his ideas simultaneously seemed very common-sensical for how we would normally raise kids and the complete opposite of how learning is handled in many schools.  Its easy to think in terms of teaching skills when you know that your kid knows content about at least some topics, but schools often jump straight to 'teach students to write a paragraph' and the kids don't know enough about any nonfiction topic to write a 5 sentence paragraph.  Likewise, 'sequencing' is a skill, but a kid needs to know what order things happen in to make the sequence.  To put 'plant seed, water seed, seed sprouts, plant grows, flower blooms, bees come, fruit forms, pick fruit' in order...that's a lot of content knowledge.  It's not science as adults think about it, but it's appropriate science content for a little kid.  My kids would know that from gardening, but plenty of kids need to be taught that explicitly.  

Yeah, I remember my sister having trouble with reading in Russian, because every other word was a word she didn't know, and that made reading arduous and boring. She never did get good at it. There's a reason I'm not rushing Russian reading with DD7... 

DD4, on the other hand, is so good at guessing from context that she manages to read quite complicated books already without having actually internalized certain phonics rules, sigh. She really needs nonsense word practice in a way that DD7 never did, because DD7 is a very logical and linear kiddo and never "cheated" like this. 

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1 hour ago, ClemsonDana said:

@square_25, yep, that's exactly it.  I'm having that problem right now with the phonics helping that I'm doing.  I didn't realize this because it was much less of a problem for my kids, but when kids sound out a word, they know that they've got it when they recognize the word...b-a-t becomes bat, and they know it's right when they get a word that they know.  For these kids, even simple books are tricky because they have a lot of words that they don't know.  I've been using cards with single letters to make words and I switch out one letter at a time (bat->sat->rat->ran->tan).  I've started getting them to tell me what each word means and it's a struggle for some of them.  Hirsh is also big on the idea of reading to the kids (fiction and nonfiction) and doing other things to expand their knowledge and vocabularies until they are at a point where they can read for themselves.  I read his book when my kid was a baby and his ideas simultaneously seemed very common-sensical for how we would normally raise kids and the complete opposite of how learning is handled in many schools.  Its easy to think in terms of teaching skills when you know that your kid knows content about at least some topics, but schools often jump straight to 'teach students to write a paragraph' and the kids don't know enough about any nonfiction topic to write a 5 sentence paragraph.  Likewise, 'sequencing' is a skill, but a kid needs to know what order things happen in to make the sequence.  To put 'plant seed, water seed, seed sprouts, plant grows, flower blooms, bees come, fruit forms, pick fruit' in order...that's a lot of content knowledge.  It's not science as adults think about it, but it's appropriate science content for a little kid.  My kids would know that from gardening, but plenty of kids need to be taught that explicitly.  

I think, actually, part of the reason I have trouble with content in the early grades is issues like this. These are, of course, much less dire in a family that has lots of conversations, but it's still sometimes really surprising what DD7 doesn't know. 

For example, DD7 took a class at the local historical society. It was an American history class, and they were talking about America having been a colony of England. We were talking about the material, and it became clear to me that DD7 didn't fully understand what a colony was. She also didn't seem to really have an idea about how far people from England traveled to get to America, and thought that they came from somewhere nearby. (And note that she has a fancy electronic globe that she plays with all the time! It still didn't connect up, though.) 

So, I guess my issue with content for this age is that there is SO MUCH background missing that it's hard to teach more detailed stuff, because some of it will make literally no sense given the lack of experience. At this point, I do start to wonder if just having interesting conversations about a wide ranging of topics, and checking that your child is following and understands lots of the words and concepts is a better idea. And I wonder if it'd also be a better idea in an elementary classroom. 

Of course, this all still content. It's just more conceptual content than what tends to be taught in a classroom! 

I'm probably not arguing with anyone here :-). I just think that when we get into long lists of things kids should know, we can start to lose track of the point of the knowledge, which is to make our society comprehensible and meaningful. 

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40 minutes ago, square_25 said:

So I guess we currently unschool content? 

Don't you do SOTW together?  That's content.

And yes, reading counts as content!

11 minutes ago, square_25 said:

So, I guess my issue with content for this age is that there is SO MUCH background missing that it's hard to teach more detailed stuff, because some of it will make literally no sense given the lack of experience.

When you start with the content it's hard to get a toehold.  At least that's what it felt like to me.  But you have to start somewhere and once you start it gets easier and easier.  And it's ok if the stuff you say is a bit advanced and she doesn't get it all right now.  

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5 minutes ago, EKS said:

Don't you do SOTW together?  That's content.

We have been, but she hasn't been enjoying it. I need to do something different for her for history, because I don't want her to be bored. 

She does read a ton, so I think she got lots of random bits of content from the Horrible Science books. And we got her Horrible Histories, which I've started bugging her to read. But I probably should actually discuss content with her more often. We've been much more focused on the 3R's so far, but I've started adding more content. 

5 minutes ago, EKS said:

When you start with the content it's hard to get a toehold.  At least that's what it felt like to me.  But you have to start somewhere and once you start it gets easier and easier.  And it's ok if the stuff you say is a bit advanced and she doesn't get it all right now.  

Yeah, I started with SOTW because it seemed like an easy place to start :-). I realized that if I didn't start somewhere, we'd never start. But I really should plan something more serious that she'd enjoy more. 

The thing isn't that I don't care about content, because I do. What I do wonder about is whether strewing lots of books across her path and letting her read them as much as she likes is likely to be as effective as anything else I do for now. Those aren't creating a coherent whole, of course, but at least she enjoys it and is interested and it's all knowledge marinade for her to stew in, so to speak. 

Edited by square_25
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