For those of you following along, you know we’ve had some issues with Abeka Kindergarten. We are on lesson 119 in Phonics and lesson 95 in Numbers, and the pace has been murderous—even with minor adjustments. So I thought I’d update you all on what we’ve decided to do differently.
Handwriting has been a continual adjustment. My first adjustment was to shorten the assignments. For instance, on some days, the assigments would require two pages (one page front and back) from the handwriting book in addition to about five lines of copywork. I found the copywork alone to be more than sufficient handwriting practice on those days.
My next step was to shorten the assignments to just one side of a page. First, because my poor son would work furiously to get the handwriting done and run out of time to color the pictures—a real bummer for a kindergartener. And second, because I really felt that he was getting more than enough practice throughout the day in his other exercises.
Then, Abeka started assigning “seatwork.” In other words, a child was now expected to do his handwriting and much of his phonics worksheets all by himself. “Great!” I thought to myself, “that will allow me plenty of time to work with the little one.” But that was only great in theory. The “working on his own” just wasn’t happening, even after moving him to his own special handwriting seat in the next room. My solution? Supervise handwriting and give him easier activities for his independent work (i.e. the lacing cards he begs me to do, some cutting practice, number puzzles, etc.; I’ve got files full of options).
I’m going to make one more adjustment, I think, before I’ve got this subject where I want it. I like having the copywork; I think it is an important skill. I also like having the handwriting sheets because it gives him a chance to write some of the words and specials sounds he is learning in phonics. But I think I want to vary those essentials by adding some other fun handwriting activities. I’ve got a “My First Sentence Building” game that has a handwriting wipe sheet for the child to copy the sentence he has made with the game pieces. And I have another similar activity with “funny sentence” puzzles to piece together. Each is providing handwriting practice but varying it so that we don’t feel like we are plodding through with no time to get to “the fun stuff.”
My son’s main problem here was that the pace just went much too fast for him to master one thing before he was learning another. So I’ve nearly scrapped the lesson plans entirely and am making use of the materials in my own way. And, at least for now, I’m not worrying about the graded sheets; I’m treating them just like regular work sheets.
Additionally, I’ve added a few fun activities to vary our review of the material as well. For instance, one thing I noticed was that, although my son could rattle off all of the special sounds flashcards, he was not identifying those sounds when he saw them in words elsewhere. I’ve been combatting that problem in a couple of different ways. First, he does spell the sounds when he says them on the card: “s-t says st in stop.” Next, we play spelling games on the chalk board and with our felt letters to reinforce his knowledge of what letters make his special sounds.
I’ll call out either a word or a special sound, and he has to write the word or select the letters that make up the sound. Within just a few days, I saw a drastic improvement here. He still has trouble with “th” and “sh” sounds, but most of his other sounds he is grasping much better.
A third activity I have done here is to reverse his special sounds flashcards. On the back of his cards are lists of words that begin with the special sound that is shown on the front. I show him the list of words, and he has to tell me what sound is on the front. And, of course, I have super dramatic reactions when I “try to trick him,” and he gets it right anyway. The first day we did this, he was rolling in the floor with delighted laughter. It was very rewarding to see.
This is still my work in progress. He is acing his graded sheets still and doing well with flashcards and charts, but again the pace is so furious that we have no time to incorporate “living math,” the fun practical lessons of measuring things or playing dice games, number puzzles, money activities, etc. My goal here, even though I have yet to fully implement it, is to slow the pace where we cover the different sets of flashcards and charts on different days of the week instead of all of them every day. Next, I want to have work sheets on some days, computer math games on other days, and living math lessons on still other days.
Math adjustments are probably most difficult for me because I lack confidence. I’m not great in math, and I’m always afraid that my adjustments will cause him to miss out on a major step in the process toward understanding math. However, I feel strongly enough about what is missing from his Abeka math work, especially after comparing it to other curriculums, that I’m willing to try this adjustment. Abeka is miles ahead of everyone else on number recognition, addition, and counting; but I believe it’s rather at the expense of some of these other lessons—at least, from a homeschool point of view; a classroom approach might be totally different.
Praise the Lord, it has only taken me a couple of weeks to identify the trouble spots and find the adjustments I want to make! Last year, it took me nearly six months. We are well on our way, and every day I’m a little more satisfied with what we’ve got going.
And my son, he probably never knew we weren’t happy. The kid is wild about learning.