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How to add some rigor but not too much?


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We're in our 8th week of homeschooling. Things are going well but my daughter finishes her work so quickly. I think I need to add something. We're following a Charlotte Masonish plan with copywork, narrations (written and oral), and dictation. She finishes her work, including math, in about 2 hours. The readings are so short. 

I don't want to add time for math. My DH handles math and they're finally getting to a point where math is healthy for them. That required less math right now. 

I think we need to do more writing and maybe more reading? 

My daughter is 10 and in the 5th grade. 

Whatever we do needs to be gradual. Something that gradually adds a bit more rigor but not overwhelming. I've considered trying one of the "classical" curricula like Kolbe. But I think that might be too much. And generally speaking, we like most of the books we're reading. I remain unconvinced about Charlotte Mason language arts. 

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8 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

We're in our 8th week of homeschooling. Things are going well but my daughter finishes her work so quickly. I think I need to add something. We're following a Charlotte Masonish plan with copywork, narrations (written and oral), and dictation. She finishes her work, including math, in about 2 hours. The readings are so short. 

I don't want to add time for math. My DH handles math and they're finally getting to a point where math is healthy for them. That required less math right now. 

I think we need to do more writing and maybe more reading? 

My daughter is 10 and in the 5th grade. 

Whatever we do needs to be gradual. Something that gradually adds a bit more rigor but not overwhelming. I've considered trying one of the "classical" curricula like Kolbe. But I think that might be too much. And generally speaking, we like most of the books we're reading. I remain unconvinced about Charlotte Mason language arts. 

Since narrations have a short turn around time, what about adding some gentle research with a longer term project.  Maybe start with a "booklet" about a topic she's interested in.  Give her time to read a couple (shorter?) books on the topic and draw from all of them to make her booklet.  She could brainstorm different subtopics and create a page for each one.  This would build writing skills without disrupting the pattern of narrations you're already doing.  

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Two hours for Math and LA sounds pretty much on target for 5th grade -- perhaps a bit light on the writing, esp. if, as you say she's only doing narrations. At 5th grade, if the student is not remedial, you'd want to start branching out into different kinds of writing, and various types of writing projects.

Perhaps add in some content subjects. Are you doing any:
- Science?
- History?
- Geography?
- Art or Music? -- either history/appreciation, or creation of art, or learning a musical instrument
- Logic games/critical thinking activities?
- Computer -- learning to code?
- Typing? -- (although, learning to type is only about 10-15 min/day several days a week, for a few months or a year until it clicks for a child)

If you are already doing Science & History, what about adding unit studies on additional topics of high interest to her, and dig in with additional books, documentaries, projects, etc.

What about doing an in-depth cultural Geography study -- each year take 1 continent, and dig deep (like 3-5 hours a week) studying different countries on that continent -- read nonfiction and historical/cultural fiction, watch feature films/travelogues/doumentaries, make foods, listen to music, do art/projects, play games, do traditions from various cultures of the different countries. Also learn some key physical geographical aspects -- landmarks, unique plants/animals, the biomes ("climate zones") of the country, etc. Maybe "make your own atlas" with a print-out map, flag sticker, and fill in key info about each country as you study it.

What about an "elective" sort of subject, or regular time for personal project development, like baking, jewelry making, electronics, equine science, writing own stories or a novel, crafting, woodworking, sewing/embroidery, handcrafts (knitting/crotcheting, whittling, learning knots, macrame, Maker or DIY projects...), etc., etc...
 

Edited by Lori D.
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Thanks. We do science, history, and geography but the readings are so short. For example, history is usually two pages a day. She does written and oral narrations. We do art and music together outside of school time. She does typing a couple of times a week for about 10 minutes. My husband has introduced her to Sudoko. 

We haven't done any writing projects this year because I've been trying to do things in the Charlotte Mason way. I don't think of myself as a CM person but this has been so easy and pleasant for both of us. 

I thought that some of the readings would be more difficult for her. I know she understands what she reads because her narrations are good. 

ETA - the idea of unit studies good but I kind of dread it. We are doing American geography and she's reading books about people who live in the different regions of the country. We're also reading bits and pieces from some old geography texts. I think perhaps I'm not assigning enough. I assigned pages based on some CM standards, about 15 pages a day. She finished all of her reading yesterday in an hour and 15 minutes and that was with breaks. I think she could do all of her reading in 30 minutes un-interrupted. That does not include the free reading time I assign every day in addition. That includes history every day, a novel, science twice a week, religion, geography plus reading about the Egyptian gods and the Wanderings of Odysseus. 

Edited by Ordinary Shoes
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My son is just a year younger than your daughter and I had a very similar conversation with my husband just last night! So I sympathize.

I think it really depends on which areas you want your daughter to work on. Maybe that means having her do longer, more detailed written narrations. Maybe creating a timeline for her history. Maybe doing a detailed nature study. I don't really follow Charlotte Mason but I know there are lots of ways to make the Charlotte Mason approach very rigorous! 

 

Edited by Little Green Leaves
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3 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

... We do science, history, and geography but the readings are so short. For example, history is usually two pages a day. She does written and oral narrations. We do art and music together outside of school time. She does typing a couple of times a week for about 10 minutes. My husband has introduced her to Sudoko. 

We haven't done any writing projects this year because I've been trying to do things in the Charlotte Mason way. I don't think of myself as a CM person but this has been so easy and pleasant for both of us. 

I thought that some of the readings would be more difficult for her. I know she understands what she reads because her narrations are good. 

ETA - the idea of unit studies good but I kind of dread it. We are doing American geography and she's reading books about people who live in the different regions of the country. We're also reading bits and pieces from some old geography texts. I think perhaps I'm not assigning enough. I assigned pages based on some CM standards, about 15 pages a day. She finished all of her reading yesterday in an hour and 15 minutes and that was with breaks. I think she could do all of her reading in 30 minutes un-interrupted. That does not include the free reading time I assign every day in addition. That includes history every day, a novel, science twice a week, religion, geography plus reading about the Egyptian gods and the Wanderings of Odysseus. 

Well, art and music count as educational activities, so even if scheduled "outside of school time", that counts towards her education, so she is doing more than 2 hours/day, when you add in time spent of fine arts. 😉


However, if you are thinking the "formal seat work" types of academics is not taking enough time, that might suggest that:
- the level of work is too easy for her and she needs more of a challenge
- or perhaps the volume of work is not enough for her working ability
- or perhaps not enough subjects are being covered (or not scheduled often enough each week)
- or that she's a fast reader, and perhaps needs to do more with the material than just read about it



Just some random ideas:

Maybe instead of scheduling pages, try scheduling by blocks of time (say, 30 minutes *each* for history & science each day, and have a variety of materials and options for working on that subject throughout the week -- books and magazines, science kits, projects, add to a timeline or do mapping, educational videos and documentaries...

Or maybe this is the year to schedule an hour a day to learn useful home skills (cooking, baking, sewing, how to do laundry, etc.) Or life skills -- personal finance; nutrition; computer safety and how to set up a word processing document, etc.

If wanting to add to a subject -- some ideas for adding to Geography:
- Beautiful Feet Geography & Map Pack covers American Geography and is perfect for grades 4-6; lots of ideas for research/writing short reports, and extension activities
- While it's only 5-10 minutes, what about adding in some free online geography games or apps to practice states & capitals?
- Also only 5-10 minutes, but what about adding a mapping workbook page a day, 2-3x/week?
- Add projects from Ellen McHenry's Mapping the World by Art?

What about adding a short study on a topic on Civics, what with the upcoming election? Or other topic? I don't mean a a unit-study -- certainly DON'T do unit studies if you dread the idea and if it rocks the boat that took so long to get sailing so smoothly. 😉 

I see she's reading a lot in the different subject areas, and that is *super*. But what else is she doing besides reading--anything that requires "output" or working with the information she is reading about (other than narration)? Projects and hands-on activities tend take more time and can help some students work with and make connections with the material they read about.  Would adding any hands-on projects to go with History or Geography or Science work?

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I have my last 5th grader this yr. I agree that what you are describing sounds too light. I'd try assigning by time vs pages. 30-45 mins each for science, history, and lit.

You could add geography related projects. Research current crops, diet, some recipes, traditional dress, typical home, music, religious buildings, language, entertainment, sports, etc.  She could create research booklets incorporating pictures, examples, brief descriptions, maps, etc for the different areas.

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I'd definitely add more reading, especially you reading aloud to her and discussing.  I'd add in literature that is above her reading level, as well as both fiction and nonfiction that touch on the other subjects she is studying.  Our read aloud time was always the best part of our day--and it continued right through the teen years.  I generally spent between one and two hours reading aloud each day.

Edited by EKS
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Thanks for the advice. I had a feeling that school wasn't taking long enough and wasn't enough of a challenge. I discussed it with a few CMish friends who said everything was fine. 

I've tried assigning a length of time to dedicate to a subject instead of a number of pages to read and I observed that she would actually read less pages that way. 

I like most of our books this year but I don't like the tiny bits and pieces of them that we are reading. I think I need to add a more challenging book to the schedule. 

I think I need to do add something more formal for grammar and spelling instead of just copywork and dictation. We have been using SCM Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well which takes DD about 5 minutes to complete. I want something that is independent. I already have a spelling book that I think will work. 

I was looking at both MODG and Kolbe but I think they are too much in the other direction. I definitely don't want to do Spalding which is what MODG assigns. 

We've used the Holling books before but I've never had the packet from Beautiful Feet. I'll confess that we disliked some of the Holling books, in particular Tree in the Trail and Seabird. We've read, narrated, and mapped Paddle to the Sea. 

My daughter specifically asked for projects this year and I'm trying to accommodate even though I NOT good at projects. I bought a small loom and we watched some interesting documentaries on tapestry making. She wants to do basket weaving next. 

We've done Latin and French together. We've reading Minimus for Latin and I've taught her the very small amount of French I remember from school. I think we're ready for a French curriculum but I haven't chosen one yet. I don't want to do anything more for Latin as I'd rather wait until she's older. 

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We’ve had too much rigor if anything, and we’ve been doing 30-45 minutes of my reading out loud to the kids, no output except discussion required. Even my 4 year old can listen for that long, and it’s just fun 🙂 .

I’d also make sure at least something is challenging. It should be something she’s confident about, but I think learning to stretch yourself is important. 

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One quick way to add more material to the Science, History, and Geography is educational videos, documentaries, travelogues, and feature films set in the time/place being studied. Maybe get a subscription to Brain Pop (all subjects) and Generation Genius (science), and let her explore for 30 minutes a day? Maybe watch CNN-10 (a 10-minute current events video) together and discuss? Short, but a good brain-warm-up, and possibly mo

I started to try and make more suggestions, but I realize that will just be more random shots in the dark (lol), and what might be much more helpful is if you were to list your resources and scheduling, and then indicate where you would like to add rigor/time/depth...

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I know CM purposely has a lot of short snippets of books with narrations.  How about one advanced book you just read aloud for a set period each day?  History, literature, whatever. Just immersion in higher level materials.   

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7 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Thanks for the advice. I had a feeling that school wasn't taking long enough and wasn't enough of a challenge. I discussed it with a few CMish friends who said everything was fine. 

I've tried assigning a length of time to dedicate to a subject instead of a number of pages to read and I observed that she would actually read less pages that way. 

I like most of our books this year but I don't like the tiny bits and pieces of them that we are reading. I think I need to add a more challenging book to the schedule. 

I think I need to do add something more formal for grammar and spelling instead of just copywork and dictation. We have been using SCM Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well which takes DD about 5 minutes to complete. I want something that is independent. I already have a spelling book that I think will work. 

I was looking at both MODG and Kolbe but I think they are too much in the other direction. I definitely don't want to do Spalding which is what MODG assigns. 

We've used the Holling books before but I've never had the packet from Beautiful Feet. I'll confess that we disliked some of the Holling books, in particular Tree in the Trail and Seabird. We've read, narrated, and mapped Paddle to the Sea. 

My daughter specifically asked for projects this year and I'm trying to accommodate even though I NOT good at projects. I bought a small loom and we watched some interesting documentaries on tapestry making. She wants to do basket weaving next. 

We've done Latin and French together. We've reading Minimus for Latin and I've taught her the very small amount of French I remember from school. I think we're ready for a French curriculum but I haven't chosen one yet. I don't want to do anything more for Latin as I'd rather wait until she's older. 

This is probably stating the obvious, but in terms of the bolded, why not just assign more pages? (I assign pgs for my 5th grader.  I estimate how much time it should take and assign accordingly.)

FWIW, I agree about not adding MODG or Kolbe.  THere is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Just try tweaking what you are doing until it feels more balanced.  Another FWIW, I personally think 5th grade is too old for just strictly copywork.  I see that as a more appropriate approach for up through 3rd or possibly 4th.  But, by 5th grade I would expect simple report writing. 

For French, you could just start some immersion type activities by having her watch videos in French and listening to French music.  Getting used to accents even if there is no formal study would at least be a small step in that direction that most kids that age don't mind or even enjoy.

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9 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

This is probably stating the obvious, but in terms of the bolded, why not just assign more pages? (I assign pgs for my 5th grader.  I estimate how much time it should take and assign accordingly.)

FWIW, I agree about not adding MODG or Kolbe.  THere is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Just try tweaking what you are doing until it feels more balanced.  Another FWIW, I personally think 5th grade is too old for just strictly copywork.  I see that as a more appropriate approach for up through 3rd or possibly 4th.  But, by 5th grade I would expect simple report writing. 

For French, you could just start some immersion type activities by having her watch videos in French and listening to French music.  Getting used to accents even if there is no formal study would at least be a small step in that direction that most kids that age don't mind or even enjoy.

Thanks for the advice about French. I've looked at French curricula but did not want to dive into workbooks and writing yet. We've watched some videos. I think we'll continue with that. Just basic vocabulary while listening to the accent. 

I have gradually begun adding more pages but it's hard because some of these books have very short chapters and my DD begins to think I'm assigning more work because it's more chapters. 

I think the benefit of this year's copywork is that she's remembering how to write in cursive. She learned it in school and then claimed she forgot it. Now she's writing well in cursive again. But I think we can move on. 

Today she began her work late and then I realized that she was trying to finish all of her Friday reading too so she wouldn't have anything to do tomorrow. I think it took about 2 hours or so? If she can do two days of reading plus copywork and math in 2 hours, it's a problem. 

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FWIW, we're very rigorous CM homeschoolers. I think a lot of "adaptations" of Mason end up throwing away the rigorous principles of Mason while keeping her "gentle" approaches. I actually was not really attracted to Mason until I read her volumes and realized how much she expected from the students. I expect you either have a very modern/simplified Mason approach or you are a beginner in the philosophy and aren't aware of or implementing the rich variety of pieces within the Mason puzzle.

Just thinking about dd's 5th grade year last year for some ideas that you might not have that might add depth.

Are you doing weekly science experiments? 

How is the nature journal? Are you doing studies?

Foreign language? We have two going full speed ahead. DS8 has two going that he works on every day for at least 5-10 minutes a day and then twice a week for an extended 20 minute time in addition to folk songs in those languages.

Does your daughter have a biography going for the time period along with a history chart of the person's life?

Are you doing scouting / geography studies?

Direct instruction in art to support nature study and science?

I'm not sure what Mason curriculum you are using, but can give you some other ideas if you PM me. Before jumping ship, remember that you chose your approach for a reason. What was it? Is it fulfilling those purposes to some extent? How can you fulfill those goals better? While I love a curriculum as a jumping off point, using or changing curricula without a clear philosophy probably won't lead to the results you want.

Emily

 

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32 minutes ago, EmilyGF said:

FWIW, we're very rigorous CM homeschoolers. I think a lot of "adaptations" of Mason end up throwing away the rigorous principles of Mason while keeping her "gentle" approaches. I actually was not really attracted to Mason until I read her volumes and realized how much she expected from the students. I expect you either have a very modern/simplified Mason approach or you are a beginner in the philosophy and aren't aware of or implementing the rich variety of pieces within the Mason puzzle.

Just thinking about dd's 5th grade year last year for some ideas that you might not have that might add depth.

Are you doing weekly science experiments? 

How is the nature journal? Are you doing studies?

Foreign language? We have two going full speed ahead. DS8 has two going that he works on every day for at least 5-10 minutes a day and then twice a week for an extended 20 minute time in addition to folk songs in those languages.

Does your daughter have a biography going for the time period along with a history chart of the person's life?

Are you doing scouting / geography studies?

Direct instruction in art to support nature study and science?

I'm not sure what Mason curriculum you are using, but can give you some other ideas if you PM me. Before jumping ship, remember that you chose your approach for a reason. What was it? Is it fulfilling those purposes to some extent? How can you fulfill those goals better? While I love a curriculum as a jumping off point, using or changing curricula without a clear philosophy probably won't lead to the results you want.

Emily

 

I'm a beginner in CM. DD just finished a biography but we didn't do a history chart. We are studying geography and mapping but we haven't done any activities. DD just joined AHG which requires activities for the badges. We're doing a brush drawing class and working through a drawing textbook. 

We're slackers on the nature journal. I am waiting for it to cool down. We've done some object lessons using the Handbook of Nature Study questions. We only do science experiments once every other week because that's in the plan for the curriculum. One week is object study and the next week is experiments. 

I choose this approach I like the books. 

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Maybe take a peek at Barefoot Meanderings samples of their Wayfarer Curriculum. http://barefootmeandering.com/site/wayfarers/

Our homeschool is heavily inspired by the samples but we don’t actually “use it” 

Their language arts is like Simply Charlotte Mason and could be done independently, we like how the poetry and pictures studies are built right in. 
 

 

Edited by macmacmoo
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