Sunday, June 1, 2008
Calvert 3rd Grade Review
Well, the school year is finally over, all of the tests have been taken, sent off for grading, and returned to us. Onward, children! To the summer! Picnics, bike riding, chasing (or being chased by) your dog, climbing trees.....
Here's the summary of Calvert 3rd Grade.
We used 4th grade math. Mark has always been a whiz at math, so he completed 3rd grade math in 2nd grade (after completing 1st & 2nd grade math during 1st grade). The third grade math book was very colorful and kid-friendly, with great instruction in the 4 basic operations, word problems which are quite kid-specific, a little bit on fractions, etc. The textbook is a write-in book, and they supply another workbook for extra practice. All in all, a nice program.
Mark's favorite subject, without a doubt, was Mythology. The Calvert-published text was called Gods of Greece, and the stories were simplified and published with line drawings which the child was invited to color in (although my son didn't). Now, there are people who object to the study of mythology, perhaps feeling that it objectifies false idols. Truth be told, however, the subject is "Mythology", or the study of myths, which are stories which are not true. Many things in our culture have roots in mythology, for instance, Pandora's Box, and now my sons are pretty conversant in the subject.
His second favorite was History. Again, this was a Calvert-written book, containing 52 short biographies about various famous Americans, including a few presidents, Revolutionary-era figures (John Paul Jones, Patrick Henry, etc.), authors, poets, artists. It was a nice look at a wide variety of people in our history.
Mark also loved Smiling Hill Farm. This is also a Calvert-published book. It's a novel in 3 parts, which is the story of a family who leaves Virginia in approximately 1805 to move to Indiana. Some of the descriptions are awe-inspiring, such as the family's somewhat dazed reaction to bright sunlight after having spent days walking through the dense forest of Kentucky. Who knew that it was dark in the woods all day long? They also described flocks of brightly colored parakeets flying through the forest. I never heard of such a thing; turns out they were Carolina Parakeets, native from South Carolina north through Ohio. They are extinct, having been killed as nuisances by farmers. The book describes the building of the homestead, and how it changed over the next 125 years; where the descendants of the original settlers went, etc. I believe that the author must have been a descendant of the family, and must have written down stories that were passed to her by her parents and grandparents. This was the first "school" foray into novels, and Mark loved it. He found the classic reading anthology textbooks at the beginning of the year rather dull; while there were some stories he liked, in all cases, they were much too simple for him. Now, I am certain that he could do 5th grade work right now, but I don't feel Mark has the maturity level to do so. So, while the reading is easy for him, he can always read novels in his spare time.
The science textbook is very nice. It touches upon all aspects of science - plants, animals, physics, chemistry, rocks, etc. I know from experience that each year, the same topics are covered again, but in more depth each year. Mark's not a great fan of Science, but he's decided that next year we should do all of the experiments. I guess I should start ordering "stuff" now, eh?
Geography is taught for about 2/3 of the school year. It doesn't focus on specific locations, rather, the course introduces the "themes of geography" including landforms, human & environment interaction, location, latitude & longitude. Mark found it a bit dull, but this is the child who got a wooden US puzzle at age 2, and could name all the states and point them out by 3. He's challenging, to say the least.
Grammar is touched upon in the course; mostly it's nouns and verbs, complete sentences vs. fragments, using more interesting words (use strolled or raced instead of "I went outside."), etc. Mark is very well spoken, so he didn't even recognize this as a class. Composition is writing a paragraph or so about something, such as "My Favorite Day", "A Good Friend" or similar topics. The first composition is about the child's living environment, and is entitled "A City Child" (or country, suburban, or, I suppose, even "A Boat Child"). They also teach letter writing, business and personal. Calvert recently switched to a regular spelling curriculum, but I liked their original spelling better, and still use the CDs for the boys, in addition to being sure they know how to spell the assigned words. Frankly, I don't think 10 age-appropriate words per day, 4 days per week, is too many, but evidently, some people did.
In addition to all that, Calvert sends an unassigned book entitled "Tales from Far & Near/Tales of Long Ago" which retells many excellent stories, including Romulus & Remus, Napoleon, and King Canute holding back the tide.
The best thing about Calvert is that it comes with nearly-scripted lesson manuals. After the child reads his assignment, ask him these specific questions. I can usually think of others based upon the kid's answers, but I really need someone to tell me what to do. Additionally, for a fee, you can send 8 tests per year to a Calvert teacher to be graded, and Calvert will provide an actual transcript should you need it for any reason. As if this isn't enough, the course comes with all of the paper, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, ruler, etc. that the child needs. All of this was good enough for me. My feeling was that if I needed more material for the boys, at least this way I have a splendid basis for their educations through the eighth grade.