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The Well-Trained Mind’s chapters 5 and 6 are jammed with useful information about grammar stage reading, writing, arithmetic, setting up notebooks, memorization, and more. I’ve condensed down to what my family has focused on, but every time I read the chapters something pops out at me reminding me of something I overlooked.
Grammar Stage Reading, Writing, Arithmetic
Also children start 1st grade at different levels of ability. Just as babies don’t develop at exactly the same rate, young children don’t develop academically at the same rate either. I’ll give you the classic mother’s advice. Don’t compare your child to your friends’ children.
The Well-Trained Mind recommends children read actual books rather than read textbooks or excerpts. The goal isn’t to simply teach the children to read but to inspire passion for reading. Folks, we’re making bookworms here! You know, the child you have to keep an eye on at bedtime because they’ll stay up all night reading if given the opportunity.
We’re also filling the child’s mind with stories, all types of stories. The children read Bible stories, myths, fairy tales, classic books, and stories about historical figures. Our kids don’t need to be able to recite every tale verbatim. Rather they should be familiar with the tales so they don’t need to think twice about exactly who is The Big Bad Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood.
Obviously children should spend time learning to read and practicing reading. The Story of the World series includes many wonderful suggestions to go along with their history studies. I was amazed how many delightful picture books we’d missed when we began the Story of the World series.
One note: I tried to push my oldest child into chapter books soon after he was reading well. Many 1st and 2nd graders aren’t ready for the longer reading of chapter books. Instead allow your child to read picture books during these early grammar years. Picture books actually use higher vocabulary and more difficult words than easy chapter books because the picture books are meant for parents to read to their children. Children love the lack of text on the pages while they’re actually reading more difficult material. As they grow, children naturally progress into chapter books.
The Well-Trained Mind recommends creating notebook pages of the various books your children read. The child can draw a picture about the book and write a short narration. You may write the narration for the 1st grader. A 2nd grader could copy from your original. Most 3rd and 4th graders are able to write the narration themselves.
Spelling is an important component of language arts during the grammar years. Obviously it teaches children how to spell, but it also reinforces their understanding of phonics.
Grammar study is begun during the early grammar years along with writing practice. At first the lessons are simply penmanship. Children need to learn to form their letters before they begin writing. Then the students progress to copy work.
Take copy work from the child’s studies. You can choose passages from literature, history, science, or your current read-aloud.
I like to begin my 1st graders with very short sentences of only 3-4 words. The cat sat. We slowly progress over the year from a sentence of 3-4 words to long sentences.
Once my child is easily copying long sentences, we begin working on paragraphs. I start with 2-3 short sentences for the child to copy. The cat ran. The rat ran. The cat chased the rat. My goal is to gradually increase the length of the sentence and the number of sentences.
The frog never notices the water heating up, but he’ll jump right out of a tub of hot water. The same goes for our children. They’ll complain, whine, and fuss if handed a long paragraph to copy right off the bat. But if you begin small, they’ll never notice the gradual increase in expectations. My goal is for my 2nd graders to be able to copy a long paragraph or two by the end of the year.
Dictation works the same way. Begin small. You can start by dictating works, progress to short sentences, and work slowly up to long paragraphs.
The Well-Trained Mind recommends several math programs and goes through the advantages of each. My family has chosen to use Saxon Math. It’s worked well for us for many years.
The most important thing to remember about math is that each curriculum has a different scope and sequence. Switching math programs constantly leads to holes. Pick a math program and try to stick with it. There are good reasons to switch but be cautious about jumping just because the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. We switched from another program to Saxon early on in my homeschool journey, and it was one of the best homeschooling decisions we’ve made.
I’ve glanced over many topics the Well-Trained Mind covers in depth. My recommendation is to read The Well-Trained Mind and concentrated on the parts that fit you and your homeschool.