Essentials is notoriously know for being overwhelming and stressful to mom and students alike. I was fortunate as a director to get lots of training over the summer for this stage of learning. I shared some of my thoughts on how I plan to simplify this year with intentions of encouraging other parents. I have decided to write about what this practically looks like in our house each week with a view into our first tour of Essentials. I would LOVE to hear how you are managing at home as well as any other tips you may have. Please do share in the comments!
My Noah is his daddy’s son for sure. Not only do they look just alike, but I swear they have the same brain. Anything logical comes so easy to him. Math, building, and directions are so easy. I think he could teach me. Reading and writing? Not so much. At 9 years old I would say he barely has a 3rd grade reading level. Aside from being in Foundations for three years he has had absolutely no additional preparation for Essentials. He struggles in the language areas and as much as I hate to admit it, my training as a school teacher made it worse. I was so stressed that he wasn’t reading at age 5 that I think I gave him a negative view of language as a whole. I am slowly trying to repair that view and pray daily that Essentials awakens a love for language within in. My goal this year is to make this year as fun as possible and to not push him too hard. I want to partner with him and learn together!
Day 1 – Community Day
My son was so excited to get to go to Essentials this year. His best friend is a year older than him and he was so excited to be in class with him. He seemed very lost the entire class. Almost bored. His eyes kept glazing over. I sat next to him the entire time and would gently point out where we were and what we were talking about. The IEW outlining portion was very hard for him to keep up. When class was over I was nervous about what he would think about it all. So I asked: “So Bud, what did you think of your first Essentials class?” to which he replied “It was so awesome! I love it!” Mom was a little perplexed at his response, but hopefully this will continue to be a trend.
Day 2 – First Day at Home
First we went over the outline because I didn’t feel like we finished it well in class. The last few sentences I wrote down quickly for him because he was struggling to keep up. I wanted to make sure he understood why I chose the words I did. Then we went back together and tried to remember what all our symbols meant and why we chose the words we did. I later found out I should have reread the written selection we were outlining first. I’ll remember that for upcoming weeks. We did go back and read the selection together after we finished the outline. Then we moved on to the EEL portion. First he wanted to go and practice correcting the sentences. He felt really lost in this area at the beginning of class this week. He is rather competitive so I think he wanted to be able to participate next week. I had planned to do just one sentence but he wanted to more so we did three and I told him we needed to move on. Then I had him copy the bold faced portions of Chart A on the blank chart with dry erase. Finally we used this awesome board my friend made him to go over chart A again.
We also sang some songs from the Foundations level to review the definitions of verb, subject, and other keys words. Overall we spent about 25 minutes. It would have been less if he hadn’t wanted to do extra work.
Day 3 – First Paper
We sat down and went over our vocabulary cards quickly. Then we read through the source text one more time. Then it was time to write our very first paper. He wanted to write the title and his name. Then I took over the writing and wrote each sentence exactly as he said it to me. Afterwards I asked him to find a place in his paper to use a vocabulary word. He chose three words! Next we worked on memorizing chart A. He copied the chart with dry erase and then we moved on to the awesome board we have and did that with the songs and chants I have off of CC connected. Today we spent about 25 minutes as well.
As an aside, I have found the the fine point dry erase markers are still a little too thick for chart copying (you can see this in the picture above). However, the ultra fine tip markers are amazing! They just came out last year I believe. I have a pack on it’s way from Amazon right now. I am looking forward to having them for next week. This is what they look like:
Day 4 – First Day with Decorations
Day 4 was the first day this week that Noah asked if we could stop. We started out editing a few more sentences and practicing the vocabulary then we dived into lesson 2 in the IEW book. He had a hard time understanding exactly how the -ly adverbs worked, so I did most of the work and he slowly caught on, but did not enjoy today’s lesson at all. He does not like doing things he is not great at, so he was eager to move on. We practiced reading the story on page 17 with different adverbs I chose and changing our voices. He thought that was fun. I also realized we should have waited to write our paper until after today’s lesson but I figured out a way to go back and make it work.
Day 5 – Dressing Up the Paper
Today we started with editing and vocabulary and then went back to work with -ly adverbs. I learned today how true it is that you simply cannot help your child too much in this stage. The school teacher in me would have been aghast at all the “work” I did yesterday and thought “he is never going to learn if I do it all for him”. Today that was proven completely false. We picked up adverbs again today and he understood them so much better. He was not stressed out or overwhelmed by them. He wasn’t afraid to ask questions and he was willing to learn more. We were both encouraged. After we did the brainstorming exercise on page 19 we went back to the paper he wrote and found a spot to insert an adverb into his paper. Then he wanted to put in a few more. His paper is turning out so beautiful! Finally we worked on and chose a more appropriate title using the last sentence in the paragraph. He told me he wanted to rewrite the paper for his final draft in cursive, but not today. We ended the lesson there after we practiced with our velcro chart A one last time.
Thankfully, we have the Labor Day week to work on re-writing the draft since our community will not meet this week. However, if we didn’t I think I would be perfectly okay with just leaving the paper in draft form. He did an excellent job pushing through and I was surprised at how much he could accomplish. Our first week of Essentials was wonderful and I pray we can keep the positive momentum going throughout the year. I want to continue to remind myself that I can not help my child too much and be amazed at how his grows this year!