Tuesday, 23 August 2011

2011-2012 Academic plan and approach

The Unit Study approach appears to work well for us, so we will continue with that.  We will start with a medieval tale, The Minstrel in the Tower then proceed to The Travels of Marco Polo, which again ties in with the historical period that we will be covering this year.

The second half of the year will be spent on Shakespeare (to coincide with the Tudor period).  Since this is the first time Tiger will be ‘officially’ introduced to the Bard, our focus will be on familiarity and enjoyment of the stories.  To this end, I will be using the Shakespeare for Kids as a guide for some hands-on activities relating to his life and times.  The main text that we will be using to get to know his stories is Lamb’s version.

Penmanship and Writing
Over the summer, Tiger had been very keen to write in cursive and he had been working on the Handwriting Practice book to get a gentle start.  Now that he has completed this book, we will move on to Cursive Writing made Easy and Fun.  He does not mind penmanship practice as long as it is limited to one page a day.  We will take this slowly and consistently since Tiger has learnt to write in the cursive style, therefore it is only a matter of consistent practice in order to perfect the aesthetics.

Writing With Ease workbook 2 will be our writing book.  Tiger likes to write short notes spontaneously but that is about as much as he would write without showing signs of distress.  Up to this point, he has not shown any burning desire to write stories or poems or anything-unless-absolutely-necessary, so Writing With Ease’s pace is appropriate for him.

Continue with Level 2 of First Language Lessons, using homemade Montessori Grammar symbols as visual aids.

We will be using Wordly Wise 3000 Book 2.

Continue with All About Spelling Level 2.

Mandarin Chinese
We will continue with the same set of curriculum as previous year.  To learn Mandarin in a totally English speaking environment is a very steep uphill climb, and I think Tiger has shown exceptional persistence and aptitude in learning this language, given his environmental constraints.  Therefore, although we will still be using Level 1 of Chinese Made Easy for Kids, I am happy as long as Tiger shows consistent (albeit slow) progress in terms of reading, writing and conversing in Mandarin.

Our core text this year will be Song School Latin, supplemented by games, videos and by our current text.

We will continue with RightStart Maths Level C as our main curriculum.  Tempting as it is to load up with fantastic Maths workbooks to drill Tiger, I have managed to resist doing it.

Speed and accuracy (both of which Tiger happens to fare well so far despite not having had drills put on him) will come with a combination of consistent training, patience and maturity.  The more important reason for not drilling him though, is that Tiger is a Right-Brained (Visual-Spatial) Learner, a characteristic of his that I had established in his preschool years through observation and research.  Workbook-type drills would be torturous for him, since he hates repetitive tasks and learns most effectively through understanding of concepts rather than through rote.  Another obvious evidence is when he 'intuitively' knows the correct answer to a complicated word problem, yet cannot write down the step-by-step explanation or simple equation of how he arrives at the right answer!  In any case, RightStart has just about the right amount of drills that Tiger can tolerate.

In addition to using RightStart as our core maths curriculum, I plan to introduce some fun maths with more day-to-day applicability once a week with Life of Fred: Apples with Tiger.  I expect Tiger will enjoy its humour, application of maths concepts, and minimal drills .  I suspect he will identify with Fred, who shares in his delight of sleeping in a sleeping bag.

Despite a year of struggling with science, Tiger is still very keen on the subject.  Phew!  However, I have had enough of knocking against the wall with trying to get a handle on science using the previous programme.  In the new year, we will be using a new approach to science.

I stumbled upon Integrating Science, Math, and Technology (I. Science MaTe) Curriculum, complete with lesson plans and student workbooks for each 'cycle'.  The best part is that each topic is well supplemented by many related online activities, animated storybooks, and slideshows.

I looked through the 'approach' page and am very pleased to find that this programme actually addresses the interrelatedness of various science disciplines, and acknowledges that a logical, building-block approach to science is essential.  A huge part of my frustration in the previous year was that science seemed to be done in a haphazard way, which did not result in any systematic building up of scientific knowledge - as far as I can tell.  Although the previous curriculum we (attempted) to use claims to do use the same building-block approach, it just did not work for us.

Although this new curriculum seems promising, I am well aware that it probably is not going to be perfect.  For example, some of the materials used in a few lessons are quite specific, such as an 'Inflatable Animal Globe' and different animal 'placemats'.  I will have to improvise and use appropriate substitutes in such cases.

I find the scope and sequence of the various cycles in the curriculum very useful as a guide in terms of narrowing down the areas to cover in the elementary years.  I anticipate having to improvise a fair bit in terms of materials to use the lesson plans but I can live with that.

As this curriculum is designed with the building-block structure, I think it is appropriate for Tiger to start from the Kindergarten level and work his way up, so as not to miss out on any essential fundamental knowledge in the early grades.  Although I am slightly annoyed that we have 'wasted' two years trying to work from the previous programme with no success, thus having to play catch up now by starting from the Kindergarten level, I have decided that we will take our time to acquire the necessary knowledge and enjoy learning science, instead of trying to rush through the lessons to make up for lost time.  Afterall, we want to focus on enjoying the process of learning, rather than winning the race.

In summary, the sequence for each grade (total of 34 weeks) that we will work towards is as follows:
  1. Life cycle (8 weeks)
  2. Water cycle (4 weeks)
  3. Rock cycle (6 weeks)
  4. Plate Tectonic cycle (4 weeks)
  5. Universe cycle (4 weeks)
  6. Applied Science cycle (8 weeks)
In addition, we will be doing some extra work on science this year, both to add some variety to our normal lessons and to really catch up in the subject area.


In this area I take inspiration from Charlotte Mason, in that we will take nature walks (while focusing on one topic per month to observe), supplemented by reading ‘living books’ on nature.  The mistake I made in the past with nature study was trying to study British nature using American texts, which clearly is not going to work since basic things like robins aren't even the same!

The reason I tried to use American texts was because I could not find good quality, contemporary living books on nature for children written by British writers.  Luckily in the summer that had just gone by I managed to find Round the Year with Enid Blyton, which will be our core text for nature study. 

The core text consists of four books: spring, summer, autumn, winter.  Each book has 10 chapters, each covering a different topic.  I hope to cover one chapter each month.  The following is how we will focus our attention in nature in the coming year, based on the chapters from the book:

World History
Continue with SOTW2 and its associated activity book.

British History
We plan to study four periods in British history this year:
  1. Middle Ages (15 weeks)
  2. Tudors (7 weeks)
  3. Stuarts (8 weeks)
  4. Georgians (6 weeks)

Our main text is still Our Island Story.  We will also continue with narration for each chapter, and adding to our timeline as we go along.  We will use the same approach as Year 1:
+ hands-on activities from various sources
+ lots of historical reading

Piano Lesson
This will continue as before with the Level 2 of the Made Easy series .

Music Appreciation
Since Tiger’s piano lesson is now consistent and smooth-flowing, I feel that we can devote half an hour each week (i.e. one lesson out of his five piano lessons per week) to music appreciation.  I will be using Stories of the Great Composers to introduce the composers gently.

Tiger is ready to be introduced to art skills.  Whereas previously we had been focused more on crafts, I am becoming increasingly convinced that art skills, when introduced gently, can greatly help one to create a more thoughtful piece of work, rather than the result being a hit-and-miss or a stroke of luck.  In this new academic year, we will have two one-hour art sessions per week: one for art skills, the other for art appreciation or artist study.

Art Skills
In this one hour, we will mostly use Art is Fundamental as our spine book.   The book is a not so much a hardcore skills book, although it does impart important and basic art skills without appearing to be overly demanding on small children.  The book has a three-year lesson plan so we will start from the beginning and keep going until completion.  Once a month, we will use a session to work on representational drawing skills from Drawing with Children.   This book’s layout is not exactly user-friendly but it is by far the best in terms of teaching representational drawing to children that I have found.  I think I can live with using it once a month, rather than trying to use it as a core book.

Art Appreciation
I like Discovering Great Artists’ low-key, chronological approach to this subject.  Instead of sticking to one artist each week, I would like to take a more flexible approach in art, in the sense that we might end up learning about a particular artist for several week, taking project inspirations from the numerous art books we have lying around, or from the Art Project for Kids blog.

In addition, I intend to supplement each lesson with additional information found at a new BBC Your Paintings website, which I absolutely love because it also tells us where in the UK we can go to see the actual paintings!  The website is a one-stop shop for artist study, in my opinion -- biography, examples of major works, gallery links of where the actual paintings are in UK, video clips.... etc.  I love it!

Tiger will continue with his regular 3 hours of karate training each week.


  1. Our daughter is a strong visual-spatial learner as well. I wish I tried out Right-Start. How is it working for Tiger? We've decided on Miquon but haven't done too many workbook pages yet. We looked at Math-U-See but it does not work for us.

  2. Hi Joyful Learner,

    We used RightStart from Level A and it has worked well for us. It was chosen for its strong Montessori-inspired lessons and manipulatives, which resonates strongly with how Tiger learns Math at the beginning. He enjoys it and we're continuing with it as our main math programme.

  3. Hi! It's Jae again. I've been scanning your curriculum and was interested with the Science resources. I was wondering what's your final take on this? I'm trying it out but I am a little bit hesitant to print the lesson as it might not be worthit. Also, I've heard good things about Story of the World... did it work for Tiger?? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jae, it's good to see your comment again! I still think the science curriculum in this post is a good one, and we did use it for a while. However, some time in the year after this entry, we decided to follow an interest-based approach (by following tangents that came along after we started on a topic) rather than the sequential approach of the curriculum, so we dipped in and out of the curriculum instead. I still use it from time and time for ideas, but I don't use it strictly in the way that it has been designed to be used.

      As for Story of the World, we completed the activities in book 1 and half way through book 2 before we decided to do our own things. :-) I'd say that the texts of all the 4 SOTW books give a child a good foundational overview in world history from ancient to modern times. However, by the middle of year 2 Tiger started to really study very deeply different aspects of the Middle Ages, especially warfare, so we didn't have time to go through everything in SOTW book 2. From then on, our history study has been very much interest-based and going really deep in certain topics, rather than taken a broad overview of things. However, Tiger reads a lot of history books (in addition to the SOTW series) on his own accord, so he has actually learned the sequence and scope of world history pretty much through his own reading since the middle of year 2.

      I hope I've answered your questions. If not, please feel free to ask some more and I'll try to answer as completely as I can! :-)

  4. Oh my... I've commented already but am not sure if google loaded it.

    Anyway, thank you for you this! I scanned the science curriculum and it is indeed quite thorough. I've printed Life Cycle already and though we may have touched some of the lessons in Kindergarten, I have to agree with you that it would be nice to start from the beginning so nothing's left out. The curriculum is good and would be a good reference as well.
    I already purchased SOTW Vol 1 upon reading the sample. Will test the waters first. But I think he's gonna like it as he loves history as well.

    I see that you are also using First Language for grammar. Is it good? I can see they have PDF version. Did you purchase the hardcopy or pdf? I wanted to get the All About Spelling but quite expensive and the shipping fee might be pricey as well considering we're in Europe.

    Thank you so much for the time... in answering my queries :D I love what you do, such an inspiration.

    1. You're welcome, Jae.

      For First Language Lessons, we barely got through book 2 before we found it to be too repetitive and then abandoned it and studied grammar using other materials. However, I think FLL is still very thorough so I'm returning to it this year to make sure that we have a complete grounding in grammar. Upon reflection, I think there are many factors that contributed to our unsuccessful first attempt to FLL: (1) I wasn't confident enough to skip some of the more repetitive lessons, and (2) Tiger wasn't in the right frame of mind to learn in the way that is intended by FLL. Now that he is older and slightly more mature, we are ready to tackle FLL again so we're getting back to FLL books 3 and 4.

    2. Thank you! I'm waiting for the books and can't wait to see if my son would respond well to them.

    3. You're welcome, Jae. Hope all goes well for you and your son! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...