Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvert 4th Grade Review

Well, we finished school quite a while ago, but with the house being its usual circus, I never did my end of year school summary.

This is my second time through Calvert School's 4th grade homeschool curriculum, and I loved it must as much the second time around. I've been homeschooling this child since Kindergarten, always using Calvert's curriculum, and been nothing but pleased with it. My son is highly intelligent, and has always been considered "too young" for the grade that he's in by the school district. This is why I started teaching him in the first place: his birthday being only 5 days after mine, I knew he could start Kindergarten 2 months before his 5th birthday and do well, but the school district refused to even consider admitting a child who could already add and subtract, and was beginning to sound out words. "He's too young," they said, "He can't possibly do this work."

So here he is, finished with 4th grade 3 months before he "should" start it. Let me tell you about our year.

Mark used Calvert's 5th grade math (remember, he taught himself to add and subtract before he was 4). After reviews of place values, multi digit addition and subtraction, and other such concepts, he learned multiplying 3 digit numbers by 1, 2 and 3 digit numbers, longer division, areas, perimeters, graphing, and rudimentary statistics. It is a well organized program, and the separate math manual tells me, the parent, exactly how to explain each thing to the child. The answer keys do not show how to arrive at the answers; they simply give the correct answers. I don't feel that the steps are necessary. If Mark didn't understand something, we would work it out together on a white board (which is obviously more fun than paper) and get the right answer, then let him work similar problems until he had the process down. My biggest problem with this child is that he doesn't want to write down all of his steps, because he can do so much in his head. Well, September starts another year in which I can try to beat him into writing his steps down...

Other than Math, we used the 4th grade curriculum. I understand that Calvert is offering a somewhat simpler 4th grade curriculum next year, the Scholastic curriculum, in addition to the Academic Curriculum, which is what we used. This is a lot of work, but the kids do learn much more than one would think possible, and much more than I would have thought I could teach!

Spelling is the Scott-Foresman 4th grade book. I was not a fan when Calvert changed from their original spelling program to this a couple of years back, and haven't changed my mind, but there were a number of parents who were happy that their chlidren would no longer have to learn 40 words per week. This is a standard spelling book; nothing more needs be said.

Reading is a wonderful program. The kids read novels written for their age group. We started with Robinson Crusoe, then proceeded to Mighty Men and Famous Legends (both produced by Calvert School), and finished with Island of the Blue Dolphins. My son expected not to like Island of the Blue Dolphins (his brother had held the same expectation), and very much enjoyed it. The lesson manual presents discussion questions which query the child's memory of the events of the chapter, and also questions which cause the child to think about what he read, and conclude why something happened, or what might be in the future. There is also a phonics workbook (which is optional), which helps with both reading and spelling if the child has trouble in either area. Finally, a Critical Thinking workbook helps develop the child's analytic thinking process. A separate collection of poetry was assigned periodically, although there wasn't any formal analysis of it. We enjoyed the reading greatly.

Grammar is taught via a Calvert developed workbook. It introduces nouns, pronouns, verbs, including verbs of being, verb tense, regular and irregular verbs. The book also covers pronouns, including subject and object pronouns (no, you may not say "Ben and me are going to the beach," and you also may not say "Give the money to Ben and I.") Adverbs, adjectives and subject complements round out the course. Blech, I know. I love grammar. I'm nuts.

Composition is a biggie in Calvert. They teach the planning stages, as well as refining compositions. The assignments included compositions about self, factual compositions, fiction and letters. One assignment I vividly remember was where the child was supposed to write about a famous person he'd like to meet and what they'd do. My son invited Thomas Jefferson to dinner. Yes, the dead president. If I can remember, I'll find that and reproduce it for you one of these days; it was humorous. They also had to write letters to someone about a real thing; it could be something about their town, or even a suggestion to a toy company about something they'd like. My son griped about creating planners or outlines, because he likes to write out of his head, but he did enjoy most of the assignments.

History uses the book "A Child's History of the World". This is an excellent book. It presents the basics of history from cave men to present, in a story format, which children can read and enjoy. I've seen people on the Calvert School forum complain that there isn't enough detail to the course, but, let's face it, 4th graders are 9 years old. Are we really trying to give them all the details of everything that ever happened? They'd be overwhelmed. Give them a nice overview, and they'll find topics about which they want to read more. And they will certainly learn more in the next few years with Calvert. For me, this course is an excellent introduction to the history of the world. It also came with a workbook which contains an outline of each story, and the child has to fill in key words in the outline. This was a great refresher, and it also is a nice introduction to outlining.

Geography was an introduction to the art of map reading. Now, I know that map reading is rapidly becoming a lost art, with Mapquest and GPS units in most cars (but not mine), but I think it's important. This course taught latitude and longitude, continents, oceans, distances from a map scale, using a map key, and geographic regions. It's a little dull at times, but what isn't? And you really can't understand your world or history without an understanding of geography.

Science uses the McGraw Hill textbook, which has input from National Geographic. It's a nice, colorful text, well written. I find that each year of Science is pretty much the same as the previous, but more in depth. We start with plants, and this year learned about plant cells. We also learned about animal cells, vertebrates and invertebrates, and classifying living organisms. Simple machines, motion, magentism, rocks and fossils, and the human body were other units. While Ryan loves Science, my little guy really doesn't. Overall, however, this is a good course, and he learned a great deal, albeit reluctantly.

Calvert also includes an online technology course. It's really child friendly, and touches on everything from typing to internet to word processing.

If you have any questions, please ask them. If you leave your email address when you sign in, I'll give you a personal answer to any of your questions. I am looking forward to 5th grade with Mark, in a couple of months, when we've had time to enjoy our summer, of course. I'll post about 7th grade shortly.


Cathy said...

My son's pre school teacher turned me to your site when I decided to home school my soon to be first grader. California schools and I don't see eye to eye. After reading your reviews of Calvert and several other blogs that touted their experiences I was sold. We will be starting this fall. My son is an Aspie (Asperger's) who has a few other quirks. I would love to hear what you thought of the first grade program. Also is Calvert OK about adjusting the program to fit a child's needs? My email is

Paula said...

This is a great synopsis of the 4th grade curriculum. I have heard that composition really ramps up in that grade, and also that A Child's History of the World is a great book. Another successful homeschool year!

Channon said...

Interestingly enough, I don't seem to recall a single detail about my own 4th grade. 3rd and 5th, yes, but not 4th...

While home schooling isn't on my radar (although I suppose I have home schooled little Gretch since she never went to class?), I like reading your reviews.

Angela said...

How long is day with Calvert 4th grade and did you do any other grades as well? I will be doing 4 grades at a time and wondering how I will fit it all in a day.