A Mom’s Review of PreScripts- American History Edition

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My nine almost ten year old is using the American History Prescripts book this year.

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Each week, she will copy a history sentence twice and then complete an art lesson/ drawing activity to illustrate and go along with that sentence.

This first week of Classical Conversations, she copied a sentence about Columbus and completed a drawing of a sailing vessel at sea.

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This book is a good fit for my particular daughter for three, particular reasons:

  • She is enrolled in Classical Conversations
  • She already knows how to write in cursive and
  • She likes to draw

The history sentences in this book are the same history sentences my daughter is learning and memorizing through Classical Conversations each week. If she were not a part of a Classical Conversations group, the sentences might not be meaningful to her and they probably would not be timed with what we were doing in history, so I probably would not choose to use this book if we were not a part of Classical Conversations.  I would just find another source for copy work ideas.

My daughter has already completed Zanier Bloser Handwriting workbooks K, 1, 2, and is almost done with workbook 3, so she knows how to write in cursive well enough and does not need much instruction, review, or practice in forming each letter and then putting those letters together to make words. This book provides only one page of review for cursive letters a-z, so it is a more advanced book and kids really should have a firm grasp on forming their cursive letters and making words before using this book.

My daughter also loves to draw and is very confident when given a pencil, pen, paper, paints, etc.  She can copy and even customize just about any image. When she chose peregrine falcons for her presentation this week, she was able to draw a peregrine falcon from a image I found on the computer. That is something she does with regularity and enthusiasm. If she were not that confident of an artist, I might hesitate to give her this book because the drawings students are asked to reproduce are complicated.

There is a good reason for this.  The drawings in the book are based on real artwork done by real artists.  For instance, a drawing lesson on Point of View that my daughter will do in two weeks shows Native Americans watching colonists build a fort from where they are standing in the woods.

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Apparently, this drawing is based on a real piece of artwork by Sidney E. King.  I did a quick search on Google and I found a painting that is almost identical to the drawing.

I like this because it follows the classical model: teach kids how to draw by letting them model great drawings.  Don’t expect them to just know how to make a good piece of artwork innately.  Teach kids to write by letting them model great pieces of writing. Don’t expect small children to be capable of writing amazing stories innately.

But if my daughter were less confident and more apt to stress because she could not reproduce the drawings in this book, I might choose something else or tell her to skip the drawing exercises all together. I sit next to her and tutor her at elbow for many, many subjects that often stress her out like math and spelling and writing, etc. so drawing is not another subject I, personally, would want to have to sit and walk her through step by step.  I like the fact that this copy work book provides her with meaningful, yet independent practice. But if my daughter couldn’t do this book independently, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble of adding it to our home school day.

That said, as it is, it is a perfect fit for my daughter, so this book is a blessing to us.  It provides some review of the history sentences we want to memorize, it provides practice in cursive handwriting, and it models lessons in drawing from real works of art- all good things that work for us.

Our Second Year in Essentials- How We Are Scaling Up

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My daughter (and I) are beginning our second year in Essentials.  Since this is our second year, we are going to be scaling up our work in a few ways that I will share with you below.

First, my daughter will be doing more handwriting.

As you can see from the picture above, I made my daughter hand write her first assignment this year, a short paragraph about Columbus. Handwriting the first assignment was one way we have already scaled up from last year. I never even attempted to make my daughter hand write any of her writing assignments last year.

Our first year through Essentials was difficult enough without adding that kind of stress. She’d hand write the keywords into her keyword outlines last year, but when it came to the writing assignment, I just had her use the keyword outlines to speak what she wanted to write and I would type everything into the proper format.

But her tutor asked us to do have our kids hand write the first paragraph this year, if possible, so that we will have at least one sample of our child’s handwriting to cherish. My daughter’s handwriting skills have improved so much since last year that I felt comfortable doing what the teacher asked. Having to write it by hand herself, my daughter got practice with arranging, spelling, grammar, and capitalization. She took even more ownership of her work than usual, so I will probably continue having her write at least the first draft of her assignments for the rest of the year.

I am pretty sure her teacher wants the rest of her assignments after this one to be typed, so I will still have to type the final drafts because my daughter can’t use the keyboard yet.  But I think I will have my daughter start keyboarding this year so she can be ready to type her own papers by the beginning of her third year in Essentials. It will be glorious when she can write her own papers from start to finish and all I have to do is proofread and facilitate. Oh to dream.

As a second year student this year, my daughter will be doing even more writing.

The tutor gave us a copy of the suggested writing schedule that comes with our US History Based Writing book. If you read the photo, second year students are assigned two paragraphs the first week.  We are going to attempt to follow the schedule for second year students, so doing more writing will be another way we scale up this year.

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I knew that doing two paragraphs this week meant we needed start right away. One year in Essentials taught me that much.  We have Classical Conversations on Thursday, so on Friday, I had my daughter read the first source paragraph on Christopher Columbus and fill in her own keyword outline. Again, that’s something she got used to doing herself last year, so that was easy enough for her to do on her own.  Then I made her use her keyword outline to tell me out loud what she wanted to say about Columbus in her paragraph.

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After that, she thought we were done for the day, but then I asked her to write her paragraph onto loose leaf paper, skipping lines, etc. She gave me a little push back since that was more than she ever had to do in one day and she never had to hand write an assignment before, but told her, “You’re a second year Essentials student now.” And since she has heard her tutor talking about the expectations for second year students and since her tutor honors the work they do, she got right to work.

The next day, yesterday, I proofread her paper, circling the words that were misspelled, etc. After I was finished proofreading, I had her make the corrections.  She is not a natural speller and we are only on the third level of All About Spelling, so most of the mistakes were spelling errors. She had a lot of practice using the dictionary Saturday night. I gave her the correct spelling for some of the words, but most of them, I made her find herself.

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This morning, Sunday morning, I asked her to add vocabulary words to her rough draft and add one -ly word. We are following the checklist in the USHBW book for the first assignment. Then I had her write her final draft in her neatest handwriting and put it in her folder.

Tomorrow is Monday, so we will begin the second assignment on Europe Meets America in the morning and that will give us three days to complete that assignment, too, before we have to go to Classical Conversations again.

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As a second year student, my daughter will also be copying all the charts.

Last year, my daughter and I always reviewed the assigned charts together out loud, but I only made my daughter copy some of the charts. And, when she did copy a chart, I always gave her a blank copy of the chart to fill in. She never had to copy a chart onto a blank sheet of paper.

But she is ready to do more this year with charts, so my plan is to have her copy every chart she is assigned this year onto blank paper or onto a blank copy of the chart, depending on how complicated the chart is.

This week, our Essentials guide says we are supposed to focus on Charts A and B. I already made her copy Chart A on a blank sheet of paper this week because that’s one of the easier charts, so she didn’t need a blank chart to fill in. We are also supposed to review Chart B, but that chart is a lot more complicated, so I don’t think I will make her copy that one onto blank paper. I will probably give her a blank copy of Chart B to fill. But this is her second year, so she will have to copy all 112 model sentences before this week is over.  That is much more work than she ever had to do on any chart last year. Being diligent to copy charts so we can memorize them for use in future years is another way we are scaling up this year.

Are you an Essentials mom with an Essentials student?  How many years have you been in the program?  How are you scaling back/ scaling up?