Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tips for surviving (and loving) the 1st year of Classical Conversations

Well folks, we made it through our first year of Classical Conversations!  And truly, we loved it.  I cannot think of a better program for my girls and me.  We learned so much and had so much fun!  My girls love to sing and each week's memory work has a song to go with it, so they learned the info almost effortlessly.  I am amazed and impressed with the program and thought I would share what I had learned to help my girls learn such vast amounts of information.  I have tons of friends who are considering the program and they have all asked what we do at home to supplement the one morning a week that we meet with our tutor and friends.  So here are my thoughts:

There are 3 basic things that we do: our Memory Board, our itunes playlist, and a summary binder of all the weeks' information. 

1.  Memory Board.  This has been so helpful!  We only go over CC info about 2-3 times a week and only for about 20-30 minutes.  That is truly all it takes.  And the girls are always excited to take a break from our tablework (math, phonics, handwriting, etc) to pull out the board and start singing and dancing to our songs.  Even Abbi loves to do our memory board.  For great instructions on how to make a tri-fold memory board, visit THIS LINK.  But you can really make it however you would like.  I ended up putting 2 weeks of history, science, math, and geography on the board at a time (one for review and one for new information).  This way I made sure that the girls did not forget anything from the previous week.  I started out by printing off the week's information every Sunday, but sadly did not always have time to do it and we got behind.  I finally stumbled across power point posters for the entire semester on CC Connected and printed the entire second semester off at once.  Let me tell you, that is the way to do it.  It was so nice to have everything ready when it was time to update our memory board each week!

2.  Binders of the year's information:  I originally did this for my own sanity, so that I would not lose any of my timeline cards or posters for the memory board.  I was surprised to find that Karis and Karlie loved to pull out the binders and just sing through them!  It turned out to be a great way to review.  I did not mandate a time for reviewing in this way, but the girls usually did it on their own at least once if not twice a week.  I tell you, they love those songs!

This notebook is organized very simply... I didn't even use tabs to divide the subjects.  I basically just put all 26 weeks in order by subject together.

I just put the binders on the shelf with all their other favorite books so they could get them whenever they wanted:

3.  ITunes Playlist:  CC has provided songs for all the history, timeline, and some of the math information that the girls memorize.  CC Connected has songs uploaded by other parents for everything  else. (Some of them are great and some of them are really annoying.)  Since my girls love to dance around and sing so much, I uploaded a song for each and every piece of memory work.  Then I would randomly play the playlist throughout the week as they were playing. 

Extra helpful information:
1.  Mystery of History audio Cd's --  My girls learn so much history by doing the timeline and history sentences that there is no need for me to try to fit in another history curriculum with our other homeschool work.  However, The information they learn is short and concise and it is up to me to flesh it out and help them understand it better.  I know a lot of other CC families use Story of the World to complement CC history, but I decided to try MOH because it was more biblically centered and at this point I felt like my girls needed that.  We will probably use SOTW CD's also when they are in Middle School, but I wanted a firm foundation for the younger years.  And I have been so pleased with it!  My big girls listen to books on CD every day at naptime (since they no longer sleep) so these CD's were perfect to give them that historical background to what they were memorizing without taking any extra time from our day.  Karis really enjoys these CD's and will choose them at least 3 days a week.  Karlie chooses them every now and then also.  The first set is absolutely wonderful, beautifully intertwining Biblical History with Secular History.  The second set containing the early church and middle ages does contain some violent descriptions (martyers, battles, etc) so even though it is from a great Christian perspective, the parent will want to preview before deciding what is appropriate for the children.  All in all, though, we have really enjoyed these CD's and can't wait for the 3rd set to be finished!

2.  CC Connected: Only $6 a month and super helpful.  All CC parents can upload their posters, videos, songs, and helpful tricks for memorizing the informtaion. This is where I find all my posters for our memory board and my songs for our itunes playlist.
3.  CC iphone or ipad App -- I didn't get this until the second semester because I didn't have a smartphone until we moved, but my girls loved this!  I let them play with the app each morning while I brush and fix their hair and even Abbi loved to see the pictures and hear the songs.  Honestly, if you download the app, you don't even really need the teacher's book.  It is fabulous for reviewing old material especially.
4.  Half-A-Hundred Acre Wood blog -- there are tons of blogs out there with lots of CC info, but if I had to pick just one to follow, I would choose this one.  She has great ideas and also does a lot of link-ups so you can see other bloggers' ideas easily.  She has planning pages, booklists for each cycle, review games, and much more.

5.  "Blobbing" the continents:  After reading Leah Bortin's book, "The Core," (which I HIGHLY recommend if you really want to catch the classical education vision) I decided to have the girls start practicing drawing maps.  I was surprised at how much they enjoyed it!  I had seen Book 7 of the Draw, Write, Now series recommended and it did really help the girls in the beginning.

Here is Karis' very first freehand map.   Very basic, but she actually really enjoyed making it and showed improvement each week!

After a she got good at the basic map, we added in the 5 major circles of latitude

Her first map with the 5 great circles:

We will gradually add more and more detail to our maps and begin making the continents in their actual shapes :)