Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week 8: Colds, Curriculum and Cutting

The students were much improved this week. The teacher, however, succumbed to being sneezed and coughed on one too many times, so as I write this, I am in the process of recovering from having "bit the dust." We proceeded with the basics and Matty did his Tapestry of Grace (TOG) reading that was assigned. Year 3 Week 8 is the second of three weeks of study on South America, so we watched a lovely nature video called Eden at the End of the Earth by National Geographic, to complement our study. The kids really liked it, but there were some "survival of the fittest" moments for which Molly (tough as she is) preferred to hide her eyes. We also watched an IMAX movie about the Amazon, which was okay. The story line was underdeveloped and the IMAX photography obviously doesn't come through as nicely on a t.v., but my kids really did not like the completely naked tribe who wore only a decorative bone or reed-thing pierced through their bottom lips. I personally have no problem with showing my kids things like this, but some people don't want to see any naked bodies, so if that is you, don't watch that video.

As a periodic assessment of how TOG is going for him, I ask Matty what he likes about it and what he would change. He says he LOVES the reading, LOVES the subject matter, LOVES getting together with friends each week for co-op--he doesn't want to change a thing. Well, he could do without the student activity page each week, but even that isn't so bad. This speaks volumes to me. When a kid voluntarily goes to his week's assignments and finishes them ahead of schedule, then asks if he can read the unabridged, or "are there more like this?" something is really going right. I am so glad we made the choice to do TOG this year.
Spending time with friends after co-op on a Friday afternoon
I will not say that we are without any kinks, however. I am still working out how to get all the lower grammar reading done with Molly, as she is not quite an independent reader (although she is making very good progress.) I still have a hard time sticking to the schedule I set for us each week. I have never been good at this, but this year we seem to be doing better accepting the fact that school for us just isn't done until late in the afternoon, thus getting more done. Not always everything, but more. I am approaching school more as a list of things to get done than a certain amount of time we need to spend. This helps cut down on the dilly-dallying. Brilliant. Mostly. Some whining still occurs when the belief that school should be over must give way to the realization that something is still left on the list.

This unit has been a back and forth experiment with how to approach writing with the kids, as well. I have always used Writing With Ease (WWE) by Susan Wise Bauer, and I have seen fantastic results. I thought I would venture to use the Writing Aids (WA) that came with TOG to cut down on the number of things we needed to do--try to streamline, but it is hard to go from WWE, which I absolutely love to use because of its philosophy, thoroughness and ease of use, to something that I am not as sure about. I'd give Writing Aids an "okay" rating. If you are a TOG purist and do everything she describes in the text, then you will cover your grammar and writing pretty well over the course of your school career. I just find it cumbersome. In my opinion, WWE, in combination with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (FLL) is a tough act to follow. So this week I made the decision to go back to WWE 3 for Matty, to be followed by Writing With Skill (the new writing program for middle grade students by Susan Wise Bauer) next year.

That has been the nuts-and-bolts learning this week. I love the nuts and bolts, but mostly because they cannot be done in isolation. I have to be in a place emotionally and spiritually to manage them. Having had every member of the family down with this cold over these last three (yes, three!) weeks has reminded me that I have a delicately balanced stack on my plate. I have had to cancel things and stay home when I would otherwise be out. The time has come--I need to release a few things. There are two things in my life which continuously beckon me. The first and most important of course, is my family's needs. The joy of putting a well-prepared, healthy meal on the table, tucking kids into a freshly changed bed, and teaching them from organized lessons is a job to which none other can compare. The routine of baking fresh bread on Sundays and being available to help the kids memorize their verses for AWANA are the things that keep me alive inside. The second thing is a ministry with which I have been involved for the past three years (this being my fourth). In this place we pray for and minister to people who are seeking emotional healing. It is a joy and a privilege to serve with this team of amazing people and to help "feed His sheep" in such a precious way. While the second thing is definitely something I could set aside, I feel that I would be losing out more than I would be gaining were I to do so. My whole family participates by releasing me to this work each Thursday evening, and they recognize it as a service we give to God. The other things--too many and too personal to name here, will just have to go, though. It is time. I know that some pruning of the vines must happen, no matter how uncomfortable, in order to pour strength into the branches that are producing fruit.

We have a busy week coming up--a lot of wrapping up of our first unit / marking period. I look forward to finishing well and an even more successful unit 2.


  1. This is our second year with TOG and I decided to give Writing Aids a go with my oldest. We lasted about 6 weeks. I agree that it's cumbersome plus I didn't feel we had clear expectations for the assignments. We switched to WWS and haven't looked back. Hope your cold clears up soon!

  2. I'm really glad to hear you say that! This has been everyone's complaint in our group. I'm glad you're enjoying WWS. That will be us next year.


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