Sunday, June 1, 2008
Calvert School 6th Grade Review
Calvert's 6th grade was a challenging curriculum!
Ryan hates math, but he did very well at it. The book is colorful and nicely done. With each concept, the book tells a little story, and tells how to work the solution (for perimeter, as an example, they might say that Mr. Jones needs to buy fencing to keep bunnies out of his garden.....) They then have several "Try These" problems which the child is supposed to work under parental supervision, and, finally, a page of problems. At the bottom of each page is a mixed review consisting of maybe 5 problems. This book was hardbound, but they also provide a practice workbook for the child to write in. Since Ryan doesn't care for math, I rarely have him copy problems out of the hardcovered book, preferring to let him write in the workbook (we must always choose our battles, after all!). At the beginning of the course, they have 10 or so review lessons, in which they advise the parent to have the child do a couple of problems on supplemental page so-and-so, and if he remembers the topic, go on. If not, review on these pages before beginning the course. I find that to be a very thoughtful addition to the curriculum.
Science is probably the favorite subject of this son of mine. This book was well written, containing the same subjects as he's covered in previous years, but in ever increasing detail. Topics included plants, simple machines and other physics topics, earth, astronomy, rocks, and biology including genetics. (At the time when Ryan was supposed to make a chart showing all the different hair, eye and skin tones in his family, he was only able to list one brunette and one blonde. Solid light eyes and skin tone. He bellowed at me that we were Boring!)
History this year covered Mesopotamia through the fall of Rome. He very much enjoyed it. I feel boring saying that this was another nicely done book, but in my experience, Calvert chooses excellent textbooks. Geography sort of followed History, focusing on Africa, the Middle and Far East and Australia (Poor Antarctica only got one lesson, but I guess it's pretty remarkable that a continent known only for penguins got any real coverage!) Because of this course, Ryan was able to make intelligent comments about the elections in Zimbabwe and the natural disasters in Myanmar and China. Primarily, his comments were common sense, such as "Why do those people in Myanmar not just tell their government to get out of town?" but at least he has a basis of knowledge on which to draw for such comments.
Grammar was a groaner. Sentence diagramming is not an 11 year old boy's idea of a good time. I do think it gave him a better picture of sentence structure, however, and that's a plus. Composition was also well done, giving several lessons for each comp., and expecting much more sophisticated work than in 5th grade. Both courses were taught using the Elements of Language book; I am pleased that Calvert continues using this series in 7th and 8th grades. Spelling is a workbook published by another company, and I feel that it's busywork. I have the original Calvert spelling CDs, which introduced 10 words the first 4 days, then a review the fifth day. I don't think that's too much for a child to learn to spell. Often, they are related words, such as money, dollar, cent, interest, finance, and I find the course to make sense. That is my single great disappointment with the Calvert curriculum - the change in their spelling course.
Art History focused on sculpture this year, and was a clear winner. As I mentioned on my posts about Wyoming, Ryan really took to the subject (during that trip, he pointed out that Ben Franklin wasn't wearing pants, and then proceeded to instruct us as to who was the first sculptor to successfully sculpt a subject in pants, as opposed to breeches or a toga). He learned a bit about everything from ancient Egyptian cups and scarabs to modern sculpture, which he dubbed mostly stupid. Can't say I disagree; no fascination with bent metal pieces resides in this Mom.
Reading is a perennial pastime hereabouts, and, accordingly, a favored subject. This year's reading course covered a number of classical novels and 3 poets: Emily Dickenson, who was pronounced old, stuffy and girly; Langston Hughes, who wrote pretty well, but not on subjects to which my boy could really relate, and Robert Frost, the absolute favorite, who wrote about nature in New England. Almost all fo the novels read were classics, with the exception being The Phantom Tollbooth, a relative newcomer from some time in the 1970s. Ryan has read that book before, but greatly enjoyed it nonetheless. The other novels included Anne of Green Gables ("Too girly!"), The Swiss Family Robinson, Theras and His Town, a 1924 Caldecott Medal winner which was pronounced excellent, and King Arthur and His Knights, which was adapted from The Once and Future King, which had been adapted from Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. Ryan had read The Once and Future King, but enjoyed King Arthur nonetheless, and had read a children's version of Swiss Family, which dimmed his enthusiasm not one bit. I like the concept of children above 3rd grade reading from novels, instead of anthologies. Especially in this day and age of computer games and gaming stations (none of which reside in my house, and never have), I feel that novels help develop a child's attention span and imagination. My husband's late aunt, a teaching nun from 1928 until her death in 1985, told me on more than one occasion that she had noticed a marked disimprovement in children's attention spans after the advent of child-centric TV, starting with Sesame Street and continuing from there, but no great improvement in their bases of knowledge from generations earlier, when their mothers had simply read to them and taught them their ABCs in singsong fashion. This is the basis for my resistance to electronic entertainment, and I have never regretted it. Sure, a review of a reading course becomes a diatribe against a culture of electronic entertainment. Sorry!
Again, the Calvert course came with all the paper we needed, as well as various school supplies including ruler, protractor and compass. Stack the Lesson Manuals on top of that, and this curriculum was terrific! Of course, different people want to teach different things, foreign languages or art, for example, but with this course taking only about 4 to 5 hours per day, there's plenty of time for add-ons. No homework, and the child has plenty of time for just being a kid, too!
And now, summer-bound!