School teachers, trained to manage a class of 30 or 40 children, have a relatively easier task addressing students in a classroom. After all, they are teaching a pack of kids of the same age. But how does one teach children of varying ages? Sure, I may only have five students in my “class” but none of them are in the same level. I could surely pair them in twos, at least, to teach certain content subject such as science and history. But what about skill subjects like math and language arts where they have to learn in specific levels and progress systematically?
Of course, children are gradually taught to work independently as they age. Around 3rd or 4th grade, most children should be able to keep a schedule, read independently and therefore follow instructions, and sit still to finish their work with minimum supervision. If you are using straightforward, particularly workbook type of curricula, then this is even more realizable. In this scenario, you assign them a number of pages to work on each day. This applies to math lesson worksheets, spelling workout pages, grammar exercises, penmanship sheets, or history/science fill in the blanks questions after reading a certain text. You would plan out, depending on how many lessons you would like to complete in a school year, the number of pages a child is to complete in a given day or in the span of a week. Then, you would just have to keep them accountable by checking their work regularly, discussing their progress with them, and making sure they are understanding the material. And, really, for some subjects like math or maybe penmanship, this is most likely the way to go whatever curricula you choose.
If you are using more complicated programs, however, you would have to train your child to a routine. Most non workbook type curricula can be broken down to daily lessons with a different set of tasks to do in a day. For instance, we use a spelling program that has as its goal to regularly present an average of 40 words a week to a third grader. So, a weekly schedule for this subject would look something like this:
- Day 1 : Review phonograms and related spelling rules. Take dictation for 20 words of Spelling list A into spelling log.
- Day 2: Review all 20 words. Compose original sentence using as much of the words.
- Day 3: Spelling list A quiz. Take dictation for next 20 words of Spelling list B.
- Day 4: Review 20 words learned yesterday. Compose original sentence using as much of second set of words.
- Day 5: Quiz Spelling list B. Review all “trouble” words for this week and past weeks.
For composition lessons, we use Classical Writing. This program introduces several skills children work on that become tools to writing independently. The work of excellent writers are studied and imitated as models. A sample weekly routine for this course would be (“A/I” stands for Analysis/Imitation, “WP” stands for Writing Project):
- Monday: A/I – read and analyze model; ask basic questions or components of the narrative. WP – prepare outline by identifying scenes in the model.
- Tuesday: A/I – vocabulary analysis, dictation. WP – plan by identifying components (person, action, place, time, manner, cause) for each scene.
- Wednesday: A/I – sentence shuffle (diagram, synonym substitution, etc). WP – first draft based on outline of scenes.
- Thursday: A/I – paraphrase a paragraph. WP – edit writing project draft and revise.
- Friday: free day!
You get the idea.
Of course, when you first begin your specific curricula, how to create such a routine will not instantly be clear to you (unless you found someone who uses the exact same program and suggests a schedule for it that you can try). So, you just plug along each day until you notice a pattern where you are accomplishing what is required each week. Initially, you sit with your child to test this routine. When you feel you’ve nailed it, it’s time to train your child to work out its details daily.
So, when you tell your child, “Ok, do WRITING now” or “Have you done WRITING today?” He knows exactly what that means. It’s all a matter of setting goals for the week and breaking it down in steps to realize those. Once a child has gotten the routine down, it’s all a matter of being there for the tasks that need mom’s supervision (perhaps once in awhile) or evaluating work (hopefully, done by mom regularly). Easier said than done though and a topic for another post…