I think that we're finally getting into a groove. I had decided that I needed to be more structured, and that I needed more help planning, so we decided to go with the Mother of Divine Grace plans for this year. I will say that I haven't followed them nearly as closely as I had originally thought I would. I substituted a few subjects, and I'm wondering for future grades how much of the plans I'd need to follow for it to be worth it to purchase the syllabi. I am following much of their methodology, though. Here's what I think so far about what we're using:
Math Mammoth -- this is new for us this year, it is what we are using for both boys, and I'm very happy to have found it. It is a lot more varied than Math-U-See, and is very good at presenting from different angles. It seems to hold the boys' attention better and I think it requires a lot more creative mathematical thinking than MUS. We are using Cuisenaire rods and base 10 blocks as manipulatives, as needed. It is also inexpensive compared to many other math curricula.
Religion -- we are using the Faith and Life series from Ignatius Press instead of the Baltimore Catechism. I went back and forth on having the kids memorize the questions and answers, and finally decided not to do so. I agree with MODG that memorization is good, but I disagree that memorization needs to take place in every subject area at this level.
Phonics, Spelling, Reading & Handwriting -- we are using the book The Writing Road to Reading. This book has given me fits. It is a very intensive phonics approach that begins with having the kids memorize phonograms, or letters and combinations of letters which work together to make specific sounds. Then it uses these phonograms to teach spelling and reading, and the spelling includes marking the words in specific ways to indicate the sounds being used. I'm not totally sold on such a rigid approach -- I feel like there may be too many exceptions in English to make such a rules based system worthwhile, and I also feel that teaching onsets and rimes (also known as word families) might be a better approach. Moreover, this book isn't straight forward, I disagree with some of the sounds taught (it seems to be based on how things were pronounced in New England 50 years ago), and I found the guide book suggested by MODG to be more annoying than helpful. I ditched the guide and simply reread the book itself a few times, looked at a couple other programs for ideas, changed some of the phonograms, decided to use a different marking system, and we're going to try to make it work. I still feel a bit like chucking it and ordering some spelling workbooks. I will say that no matter how the phonics and spelling book works this year, using this for the past three weeks has been totally worth it because of the improvement in the boys' handwriting. We have used Handwriting Without Tears for three or four years, since Pauly was in K or just before, but it never actually translated into good handwriting outside of the workbook. WRTR teaches handwriting, with very specific verbal directions to form each lower case letter, while the phonograms are introduced. We followed those instructions fairly closely and I am very pleased to see how much improvement there has been in their handwriting. I think part of the success of the WRTR is that the child is not taught to copy the letter and often doesn't even have an example in front of him at all, but is expected to memorize the movements.
Language Arts -- First Language Lessons, the Hillside Education edition. I like this just fine, although some of the language seems old fashioned. It is a reprint and update of a book from the early 1900s. We are using this for Pauly, both the boys are also doing poetry memorization.
Latin & Greek roots -- we're using English From the Roots Up and just memorizing roots. Pauly was looking forward to "learning Latin" and I was afraid he'd be disappointed, but he seems to enjoy learning the roots and talking about the words derived from them. He wants to move ahead faster than the syllabus, which is fine with me. I'd like to come up with some ways to make this more interesting.
History -- one of the reason I wanted to go with MODG long term was their history plans, which are have scheduled literature around the reading of a history text for a spine. Pauly like the books alright, and actually read many of them this summer, since he couldn't resist a shelf full of new books. I would love to be able to sit down and read the books with him, but that hasn't really happened. He has been reading them and then we discuss them, if I can. I have been thinking of reading the literature books aloud to everyone when they're schedule, but still have Pauly read them himself, as well. Pauly also has a map skills book.
Science -- we aren't following the lesson plans for Pauly's science, but are using Catholic Heritage Curricula's Behold and See 3. So far, so good. I think he already knows all of it from reading on his own.
Roger's favorite activity is listening to then retelling Aesop's Fables. I write his retelling down, he illustrates it, then we put it in a folder to make a book. He has been asking to do one every day. I figure when he finishes the fables I'll find something else to use for the same purpose.