Before we began Essentials last fall, I shared about gearing up for the journey. Now that the first year has been over for a little bit, I wanted to share about our first year’s experience.
First, I’ll share my take on the program and the year.
I really love the Essentials program. I learned tons this year, gained confidence in teaching writing, and was challenged on how to work lovingly and patiently with my son. I am also very thankful that we have many more years to go since we just scratched the surface in our learning. By the time my youngest is done with Essentials, maybe I’ll have a handle on it.
In Class: We learned lots, but the day really is long. By that last hour, Elijah was spent. I really needed to encourage him to stay with the class (especially early in the year). I made sure I took notes, practiced the analytical tasks, and was engaged with him. The more I was engaged, the better he did (surprise, surprise, huh?). Since he tends to lose things on CC days, he actually brought a bag for Foundations and a separate bag for Essentials. This way, he had all the dry erase markers, pencils, and other supplies for both classes.
Chart copying: I am very impressed at how well my son memorized charts basically just by copying them over and over again. It also turned out to be great spelling practice for him (just making sure he spelled the words correctly on his charts). Having those charts in his head really helped with analyzing sentences throughout the year.
Vocabulary: I didn’t know my son had an aptitude for vocabulary. In fact, if it had been my choice, the vocabulary words would have been what we dropped off our workload this year. Instead, Elijah took on the words, willingly raced to the quizzes that took place during his play time between classes, and did great on them.
Editing Exercises: We started out the year remembering to use these, but they quickly dropped off our list as the IEW papers took up more of our time.
IEW papers: Elijah and I worked together on his first drafts (with him dictating the draft to me). If Elijah was to write his first draft alone, he used the least number of words possible. Talking to me, I found out that he was verbose, loved multiple adjectives for every noun, and used varied sentence structures. We dropped one paper in the year (when Gideon had his tonsils out) and shortened another assignment (the Ben Franklin one). His Faces of History project amazed me, and his growth and ownership through the year was encouraging. I look forward to seeing what he will write next year.
Analytical Task Sheets: At home, we did not do these nearly as much as intended. (Those papers really took us longer than I had imagined.) We mainly worked up through diagramming. Sometimes, I would even give him simpler sentences to practice the “new” aspect added that week in class. We did not really get to Quid et Quo.
Math games: Elijah enjoyed the math games so much in class. Between the math games in Essentials and the change in our math curriculum at home, Elijah’s math confidence has greatly increased. Elijah is a competitive boy so the competitive math games really spurred him on to improve in his math skills. We even played Beat the Board at home (using these boards we found called Board Slam) and bought the Game 24.
Overall, I love the program and look forward to learning more next year (with two children in the class next time). We’ll be working toward more independence as well as encouraging my kids to work together when they can. (They successfully got ready for Memory Master together so I have high hopes for next year’s Essentials work as well.)
Here is a little interview with Elijah about his first year of class:
What did you like about the class time?
I liked the diagramming and writing out the sentences and labeling it. I liked to kind of race and see how fast I could do it. I enjoyed the math games like running and answering flashcards, battleship, and board slam. I liked the key word outlines and listening to people’s papers. In fact, listening to papers was my favorite part over all, even more than the math games. The vocabulary words were one of my favorites over-all too.
What did you like the most at home?
The papers, vocabulary practice, and sentence diagramming on our whiteboard . I like telling the first drafts of my papers to my mom.
What did you least like to do at home?
The papers. I didn’t like the editing very much. The hard part was fitting in all the dress ups and openers.
What would you want to tell students who are starting Essentials next year?
It’s not as boring as you think it’ll be. I hope you can keep track of everything your tutor said because I can’t (meaning that he doesn’t remember everything).
We both are looking forward to a new year of Essentials. Ruthie has already started her chart copying to get ready for her start in the fall.