## Friday, March 16, 2007

### Math and More (Part Three)

(Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five)

Since I was talking about Ruth Beechick’s booklet An Easy Start in Arithmetic, I should have mentioned as well that its last page is “Ways to Use the Hundred Chart,” and there is a small hundred chart on the back cover (in addition to the poster-size one that’s included with the booklets). Hundred charts are a great way to enrich a math program without doing worksheets; in fact, we did a whole year of kindergarten math for Ponytails without any written work at all. There’s something about those ten rows of ten that not only helps with counting, adding and subtracting, but reinforces place value ideas as well, especially when kids learn the trick of adding or subtracting tens (go up or down a row) . When they’ve learned that, then adding fourteen becomes “add ten” (go down a row) and then “four more” (four spaces to the right), without any fuss about “carrying the one.” And the nice thing about hundred charts is that they can be useful in any size: tiny (like the one on the booklet), bigger (a handwritten chart or a page-sized printout from the Web—Donna Young’s site has printable hundred charts), or really big. We have a poster-size hundred chart from the teacher’s store and also one that we made on poster board with detachable (Velcro) number disks.

Bible Lessons

For many people, Bible is as much a part of a basic curriculum as reading and math. I could assume that most people have a Bible around and that they could make up a simple program of reading Bible stories to their children, as parents have done for hundreds of years. However, since I was trying to stick to the books in the shopping bag, I was limited to a paperback copy of “The Great News: The New Testament, New International Version.” This actually works out fine, although for a third-grader it might have been nice to have slightly larger print. The bonus about this edition of the New Testament is that it comes with a 71-lesson “Reading Plan to Get You Started” in the front, which works out to just about two lessons per week (maybe reading on one day and reviewing or notebooking on the next). This goes beyond the simplest stories; it starts with “Who is Jesus?” and goes on to “What is Christianity All About,” “What is Real Faith,” “How Does God Want His People to Treat Others,” and “What Stories Did Jesus Tell?” I like this approach because it’s a bit of a change from just reading straight through one of the Gospels, and it lends itself to keeping a notebook as well. I might even use this myself next year with Ponytails.

History, Geography and/or Social Studies

The lack of history resources in the bag might make this the weakest part of the curriculum, although that would be pretty easy to fix using online or library books. However—sticking to the bag and the teaching resources—I decided to try something different. Teaching Children includes both a “regular” Social Studies outline and an “alternate” one for grades three through six, written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. In the alternate outline, third graders spend a lot of the year exploring what’s around them; not in a dumbed-down “Mr. Neighbourhood Policeman” approach, but in an inter-disciplinary program that combines local and comparative geography, local history, natural history, and what you might call cultural anthropology and sociology. In other words, they find out where they live, who lives there, and what’s around them. John Holt once suggested something like this too; someone asked him how he would tutor a boy who lived in an unusual natural environment, and he pointed out that it would be foolish not to take full advantage of every bit of local exploring, beach-digging and museum-lurking that they could squeeze in—that this would benefit the boy in ways that his book lessons never could.

Of course this doesn’t come all ready-packaged for you, and in some ways it may sound like the vaguest part of the curriculum—go out together, do field trips, find out the names of the roads and the trees and the early settlers, and keep a scrapbook. Some of us might think we could cover our entire local area in one or two trips; others of us would immediately worry about how little we ourselves know about local birds, pond life, railroads and so on! As I said, you might not like this idea at all and then you’d have to fill in with other history and geography books. However, I do think it is suitable for children of about third-grade level who aren’t too interested yet in names-and-dates history (plus it would make a great ongoing activity for Friday afternoons). Can I tell you a funny story about this kind of exploring approach to social studies? A long time ago (I think The Apprentice was in the second grade), I read the book Who Killed Canadian History? by Jack Granatstein. Since the book dealt mostly with the weaknesses in secondary- and post-secondary-level education, I e-mailed the author to ask if he had any recommendations for teaching the elementary grades. Mr. Granatstein graciously wrote back and said he didn’t know a lot about teaching second graders but that his recommendation would be “Forts. Visit forts.” So there you have it.

As for the missionary/other countries side of the curriculum: I thought of three possibilities for this. One came out of the Child of China book that is included for literature; I found a unit study of Ancient China, by Judy Wilcox, written for homeschoolers, that’s meant to take twelve weeks and which sounds like a great addition to the last part of the year’s curriculum. Of course you have to buy that first (grin). Or you could buy the e-text A Child’s Geography, Volume Two: Exploring the Holy Land, which covers several Middle Eastern countries.

Or you could just go with whatever resources you know best: missionaries or organizations you know yourself or that your church supports.

How does that sound?

In the next post I'll talk about science and finish off with some extras.