If you’re the parent of a rising fourth grader in Classical Conversations, you are probably pretty nervous about this next year. It’s time for Essentials. Maybe you have been doing another curriculum at home already. Maybe you tried and stopped so already feel like a failure. Maybe you’re like me and, apart from MadLibs, have hardly touched grammar. Or maybe, this is your first year homeschooling?! All of these are okay. All of your children are prepared in their own way. They have their own strengths. Quit panicking.
I like to tell the story of my second-born when it was our turn to enter Essentials. Here was my ten-year-old boy who hated writing and reading, refused to hold a pencil, and was the opposite of his independent older sister. Boys and girls can be so different!
The first paper we wrote showed me just how “neglectful” I had been when he wrote his name on a lined sheet of notebook paper – he wrote it on the bottom of the back of the page. I hadn’t even shown my kid how to use a piece of paper? And now I was supposed to be his Essentials tutor in community?
Fast-forward three years, this stubborn, still-doesn’t-like-writing kid graduated Essentials and is heading into Challenge A next year. By the end of his third year of class with me, he could knock out papers largely on his own with minimal guidance from me. And this wasn’t because we drilled and practiced over and over at home. I’m the ultimate Essentials slacker mom I promise. But, if my son can do it, there is potential for all of our kids! We’re still going strong with Classical Conversations after eight years – my love for Essentials is one of these reasons.
Which Of These Parents Are You?
- Which Of These Parents Are You?
- Mom #1: I’m Going to Finish Our Other Curriculum Too
- Mom #2: My Kid Isn’t Ready!
- Mom #3: I’m Not Ready!
- Mom #4: I Didn’t Learn Grammar, so Why Should My Kid?
- Mom #5: I Love Grammar!
- Homeschool parents are full of doubt and worry. Essentials shouldn’t be one of them. Let’s do this together! Do you have any further questions about Essentials? I’d love to help.
Mom #1: I’m Going to Finish Our Other Curriculum Too
It’s too much. Just stop your other one. Here’s what you may not realize. Essentials of the English Language (called EEL) is a high-school level grammar class – at least. You will be learning alongside your kid advanced grammar. The first couple of weeks feel like a fire hydrant blast of information. You might even start to doubt yourself more than you already did because it’s so much introduced all at one time, but then it slows way down with frequent review.
The program takes all the grammar memory work you have already learned from Foundations, incorporating it with new information and diagramming. There is constant review of the material which means that
when even if you don’t get it the first time, there will be plenty more opportunities. It even includes optional spelling lists, spelling rules, and editing practice. You do not need to supplement with any program other than perhaps handwriting or typing. With the right approach though, you can incorporate those into the writing portion of Essentials class by utilizing copywork.
If you want to add anything to Essentials, I would suggest an editing program like Fix It Grammar through IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). While there are paragraphs to edit the EEL guide, I have yet to meet a family who uses it because they are Bible paragraphs which aren’t traditional grammar. It makes it difficult to do. From what I’ve witnessed during the writing portion of class, mom’s often do not know how to edit their own children’s writing. Adding a specific editing portion would benefit everyone.
Mom #2: My Kid Isn’t Ready!
Trust me: he is. It might be a bit more challenging if he’s “behind” in reading or forming letters. But is he really behind? Note: please communicate your concerns to your tutor and let us know where we can encourage. If I don’t know your child’s fear of reading aloud in class, I might call on him; my job is to assist you not humiliate your child.
Each kid is at a different level. Even the kids in the same grade have different math, reading, writing, and presentation skills. While one kid rocks math, he may need help with forming a sentence and your kid is the opposite. This is why you, the parent who knows their strengths, are their teacher not me. You taper it or bring it up for their specific needs or skip an assignment based on your family’s current level of crazy. If it takes your kids two weeks to write a paper instead of one, do it. I’d much rather they go slow and understand than rush through.
Another beauty of EEL is that they will repeat the curriculum three years if they start in fourth grade. Even in that one year, there is a lot of repetition. I have had so many moms comment on how amazed they are at what their kids have picked up just from class. Just sit in class the first year and absorb. You’ll both learn a lot. Next year add more.
Don’t compare your kids and don’t compare apparent parenting skills either. Even that family who looks like they have it all together… doesn’t.
Mom #3: I’m Not Ready!
Here’s the beautiful thing about the way this program is designed. The tutor is there to help you work with your kid. Everything that is taught in class comes straight from the book. The guide talks you through all the sentence diagramming and shows exactly what to do. It all goes home with you to reference as needed. Essentials gives you the opportunity to sit in class and learn beside your child. If their mom is taking notes and participating actively in class, your child is seeing life-long learning modeled right in front of them? If you don’t know it, don’t be afraid to say so. Let’s learn together.
A bonus of being in class with other moms is that you see that so many moms who feel exactly like you do. We learn from each other and correct each other’s mistakes. I love it when the moms speak up in class to correct something I’m doing – that means they’re paying attention! 😉
Not to mention, if the tutor or the book or the other moms still aren’t able to help you with a topic, there’s always the internet. Google the subject and see how other people have explained it for further help. Sometimes just seeing a harder subject in a different format lets the lights go on.
Mom #4: I Didn’t Learn Grammar, so Why Should My Kid?
This is a pushback I hear especially from people outside the Classical Conversations world. If Dad has worked in business for twenty years successfully without ever diagramming a sentence, why should his kid spend three years of their life learning all the details? Maybe it seems like you could be doing something better with your time.
Classical Conversations, like many classical homeschool programs, is designed for you to learn Latin eventually. If you’ve been in Foundations, you’ve already been memorizing noun and verb endings. Your child will have to learn what a direct object is before he can add the correct endings. Learning a second language is a lot easier if you already understand your own native one.
While this post has been mostly speaking to the grammar portion of EEL and not the writing portion, let’s address both. Honestly, your children need you to assist them with their writing; however, many of you don’t know where commas go and can’t pick out sentence fragments. As homeschool families, unless you’re turning in papers to an outside source, you may just need backup to help your child be able to write with commas. It sounds harsh, but I do believe it’s true. Instead of guessing where commas go, let’s work from the ground up to understand how sentences are formed. The writing and grammar portions of Essentials complement each other and build off each other nicely. Don’t just add a comma because I told you to; figure out where the clauses are, add your dress-ups, and discuss with your child if this is a compound subject or sentence. It really does make more sense.
Mom #5: I Love Grammar!
If you’re that parent who already loves the English language, you will be a great asset in class. When everyone else is feeling overwhelmed or feels that the current day’s subject might not be important, you can be the one to encourage and show why it’s important to know the different types of adjectives. Show your love for the structure so that kids can see the beauty of our language. Be the positive voice when others are disheartened.
As a caveat, I will add that there are slight variations in how grammar is taught here compared to other programs. While it lines up with most, this approach is classical in the repetition just as we repeat the memory work in foundations multiple times in the younger years. You aren’t expected to master something before moving on. Take what you already know and use it to help your tutor and child see it from a different perspective if needed.
Did you notice how all of these parent types are heading into the same class with different expectations and hesitations? There is not that one “perfect” parent – no matter how put together they look. Share your concerns with your Essentials tutor. Let them know how the year is going. Allow us to celebrate the little victories and to come up with a plan for the struggles with you. That’s what we’re here for.