I know I've talked a little bit before about Memoria Press and how we have used some of their products in the past (The Book of Insects and Geography I). I have been very impressed with their curriculum so far, using it in bits and pieces as a supplement to what we were already using.
I was curious to know how their curriculum stacked up when using it as a core for my children, instead of using it only for supplementary subjects. So, toward the end of this school year, we began using Memoria Press' Classical Core Curriculum for Grade 3 with my Bug, who is eight years old.
What Is Memoria Press?
Memoria Press is a family-run company that produces classical Christian materials for homeschoolers and private schools. Cheryl Lowe, the founder, is the author of many of the Latin programs used in the curriculum, is the Headmistress of the Highlands Latin School, where many of the Memoria Press programs are field tested, AND is a homeschooling Momma.
Memoria Press products are very recognizable at homeschooling curriculum fairs and conventions, with their simple, easily laid-out formats and workbook-style activities.
What Did We Receive?
We received the motherload of third grade curriculum--everything we needed to carry out what was in the "Accelerated" Lesson Plans for one full year of third grade!
Here's what that looked like:
Third Grade Lesson Plans (Accelerated)
The Student and Teacher Guides for all of the Literature: A Bear Called Paddington, Farmer Boy, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Charlotte's Web
English Grammar Recitation, Student Book, and Teacher Guide
New American Cursive 3 Workbook and Lesson Plans
Christian Studies I Teacher Manual and Student Book
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths Teacher Manual, Student Book, and Flashcards
States and Capitals Teacher Manual and Student Book
Latina Christiana Program, including DVDs, Pronunciation CD, Review Worksheets, Review Worksheets Key, Student Book, Teacher Manual, and Ludere Latinae 1: Latin Word Games
Poetry for the Grammar Stage Teacher Manual and Student Book
Timeline Composition and Sketchbook, Handbook, Flashcards, and Wall Cards
The Book of Astronomy Teacher Manual and Student Book
Introduction to Composition Teacher Manual and Student Book
Although Spelling (Spelling Workout), and Math (Rod and Staff) are traditionally included in the Core Curriculum, and the lesson plans reflect those choices, we chose to use our own spelling and math programs during the review period. Also, when purchasing the Core Curriculum Package, you will also receive the readers (such as Farmer Boy and D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths), as well as a book used for the States and Capitals study (Don't Know Much About the 50 States) and for Christian Studies (The Golden Children's Bible). Again, we chose to use books about the states that we already owned, as well as our own Bible.
Let me tell you a little bit about the materials we received:
Third Grade Lesson Plans
Calling this manual simply "lesson plans" is a bit like calling the Grand Canyon a little valley. This spiral-bound, 230 page manual contains much more than day by day lesson plans. First of all, there are about 24 pages of teaching guidelines that give specific and helpful information about teaching with both the classical style in general, and with the Memoria Press products specifically. For example, guidelines for Recitation are given, which is a memory testing method that helps children learn and solidify their learning in many different areas. Latin study is broken down by day, showing different suggested activities that help children to retain their vocabulary and grammar. Literature study hints are given for both before the reading and after reading the selection--and so on and so on.
Additional features of the Lesson Plans include a sample daily schedule, sample opening and closing prayers for the school day, 33 weeks of suggested Recitation material, and sample flashcards with "Review Box" instructions.
The Lesson Plans are broken up into 33 weeks, with each week on a two-page spread, broken into a five-day week. Each subject has instructions on each day, with handy little boxes given for us "check-off-the-box" types. While Latin, Math, Grammar, Spelling, and Read Alouds are scheduled for all five days, other subjects range from once to four times / week.
Other information given in the Lesson Plans include a suggested read aloud book list, an American Studies suggested book list, 35 weeks of spelling lists, 9 math tests and a final test, a final review and a final test for Christian Studies, a final exam for Latin, and, of course, test keys for those tests.
Most of the materials that we received for each subject were formatted very similarly, and Literature was no exception. Each Teaching Guide begins with suggestions for teaching, and is then followed with several activities for each chapter of the book. Reading Notes usually covered some important information that the child would come across in the chapter that they might not be familiar with; for example, what "apple-blossom time" might mean in terms of seasons. Reading Notes are followed by vocabulary words, usually about five-seven per chapter. There are also comprehension questions and discussion questions--comprehension questions are usually questions that the child will answer in writing, but discussion questions are the ones that the student and the teacher can dialogue about. There are quotations to go over with the student to help make sure they are understanding some of the key points of the story. And, my personal favorite, there are enrichment activities included for each chapter for use when there is time. The enrichment activities can include copywork, writing a paragraph inspired by something that happened in the story, ordering events, map work, and even making marmalade when reading about that silly bear Paddington!
Some other things you will find in the Teacher's Guides include quizzes and final tests, answers to the discussion questions (just in case you didn't read the books yourself, lol!), and additional background information on some topics specific to the story: spiders in Charlotte's Web, for example, and a map of London for A Bear Called Paddington.
The Student Guide is set up in the same manner, except, simply, the answers aren't given. There is ample space provided for the child to write in their answers to the questions.
The English Grammar Recitation program consists of the Recitation Book, the Student Guide, and the Teacher Manual. Again, the Teacher Manual is set up with teaching guidelines in the beginning, review and recitation tips, and a suggested five day lesson plan, offering memorization exercises, copywork, practice exercises, and review. The lessons are then broken down into 26 lessons, focusing on things such as capitalization rules, sentence structure, helping verbs, comma rules, and even hyphen use. Reviews, quizzes, and tests are provided, and grammar recitation exercises are also found in the back of the Teacher's manual. Again, the Student Guide is set up in exactly the same way--minus the answers.
The English Grammar Recitation Book is designed to be used over a period of five years, and includes questions and answers for the student to memorize and recite during their grammar study. The questions for each section correspond beautifully to the rest of the student's grammar program, giving the child information they can use throughout their schooling.
The Cursive Writing program lesson plans come with Teaching Guidelines included in the beginning, and very simple lesson planning in order to cover 100 lessons in 33 weeks, with lessons offered three times / week. The workbook itself is a spiral-bound, (top bound, so that it can be used with either right-handed or left-handed children) soft-cover book. It has a good deal of introductory information about paper position, spacing, and pencil position, and then it dives right into the beginning pages. The first few lessons serve as a review, of which there are several built into the curriculum, but then most pages include Bible verse copywork with size 18 font lines. Later in the lessons, copywork extends to paragraphs, and there is additional instruction in things like keeping margins neat and writing your address.
Memoria Press' Christian Studies I course focuses on the stories of the Old Testament, from Creation to the death of Moses, through a series of 25 lessons. As with other curriculum products, review lessons, tests, vocabulary, and some worksheets are included in the books, as well as teaching guidelines to read before beginning. These lessons are set up with some beginning background summary given for the teacher / parent, and then a Bible story is introduced and suggested. The Golden Children's Bible is recommended; however, we simply used the Bible my son uses on a regular basis. After reading the Bible story, the child is given facts to know (important people, places, or events talked about in the story), comprehension questions, activities (usually mapping), and a memory verse. The child is encouraged to memorize the verse, and different techniques for helping the child are included in the teaching guidelines. There are five tests and an answer key also provided in the Teacher Guide. The Student Guide mirrors the Teacher Guide, without the answers given.
Classical Studies for Third Grade include the studying of Greek Mythology, primarily through use of the book: D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. The Teacher and Student Guides follow the text through the use of 25 lessons (and additional review lessons). Each lesson offers facts to know at the beginning, followed by vocabulary words. Page selections from the text are given to read, and then comprehension questions and activities are offered. Many times the activities include going back through the text and identifying items / persons in the pictures, comparing and contrasting the Greek Myths and Bible stories, deeper discussions questions, and art activities. Review lessons, review questions, maps, a pronunciation guide, and tests and answer keys are found in the back of the Teacher Guide, and the Student Guide again mirrors the Teacher Guide, with blanks to fill in rather than answers given. There are also flashcards available for this study, which offer a helpful way to help the student work on their memory facts.
The focus for Geography this year is States and Capitals, primarily using the book, Don't Know Much About the 50 States. Using this book, after the first two lessons, the student will study 2-3 states a week and fill out the corresponding page in the Student Study Guide, identifying the state's abbreviation, capital, nickname, and fun fact, as well as completing some map work. After each region of the United States is studied, there is a review of that region, a quiz for each region, and of course, a final review and exam.
Poetry for the Grammar Stage is designed to be used over a period of time from third grade to sixth grade, and many of the poems correspond to literature or science selections already included in the core curriculum. There are 34 poems included, and they vary from simple to incredibly complex. The beginning poems, designed for use with the third grade curriculum, and scheduled into the lesson plans, come complete with an area to copy the poem and draw a scene from it. There is added vocabulary the child may be seeing for the first time in the poem, a section for analyzing the poem (rhyming structure, use of tools such as alliteration), and comprehension questions. The child is also encouraged to memorize and recite lines of the poem. For some of the later poems, additional historical context is provided as well. The Student Guide is set up much the same way, except suggested answers are not provided.
|The Tower of Babel, of course!|
The Timeline program is another, like Poetry, that is designed to be used with the student over several years. By completion, the student will have a beautiful record of sixty events from Creation through the Third Millennium. The Timeline Handbook offers, again, teaching guidelines, as well as brief overviews of each event, including the key participants, location, and event description. The Timeline Composition and Sketchbook is where the student records that information, as well as offering a full-page illustration of the event. Each event, then, covers a two-page spread.
The Student Flashcards offer a way for the student to practice putting events in historical order or memorizing dates of important historical significance, while the Wall Cards offer an opportunity for history to come alive in the schoolroom. Each event offered in the timeline has a student flashcard and a wall card created for it, that can be used as valuable visual tools in the study of history.
The Book of Astronomy Student Book and Teacher Guide offer a year or two-long course covering constellations and the Solar System. Both guides offer text lessons, with workbook-style questions, including fill-in-the-blanks, filling out charts, and drawing the constellations the student is learning. One of the first items the student learns are the 15 brightest stars. Again, unit tests and final tests are included, with answers given in the Teacher Guide.
The goal of the Introduction to Composition program for the third grader is to teach correct and expressive writing to students through modeling. So the format of the Composition lessons encourages modeling and talking the student through forming their writing. Each lesson begins with a reading passage from the literature they are currently working on, followed by some guided questions to get the student thinking. At that point, the parent helps the student form an outline with the main points they wish to write about, followed by the three-sentence summary. There is also a dictation sentence for the child from the same literature selection as another modeling tool for the student.
How Did We Use Memoria Press?
Probably not exactly the way it was intended. Of course, right? First of all, let me remind you that much of this year we have been loosely "unschooling". To move from that mindset right into a workbook-style, structured Classical type of learning made me very nervous. I wasn't sure how my son would react to it.
Because of my reservations, we moved very slowly through the first week of lessons. As in, it probably took us three weeks to complete what was in Week One of the Lesson Plans. We simply went subject by subject, allowing my Bug to choose which subject to do next, with a lot of slow downs with Momma re-reading teaching guidelines as we went. However, that plan seemed to work, and by the end of the review period, we were able to stick much more to the suggested plan, completing the whole day's work in a day (or, maybe more like a day and a half).
We tend to set aside mostly mornings for school time, and Bug and I were able to easily complete the curriculum in the mornings if we were focused and diligent. The reality, though, is that he is an 8 year-old boy and I am a Momma easily distracted. So, if we wanted to stay completely on track, we would double up in a subject one day, or get together for a quick session after lunch, and we would be able to check our boxes off in a timely manner.
What Did I Think of This Curriculum?
Again, let me remind you that we were coming off of several months of an unschooling mindset. When I first opened the package from Memoria Press and saw all of the workbooks, I may have gotten just a wee bit overwhelmed. And a little teeny tiny bit terrified.
But I overcame. I rallied and really read through the Lesson Plans and teaching guidelines and dug into the books for each subject. And I made up some pretty color-coded flashcards for some of the subjects that didn't come with any, and I crossed my fingers and I prayed.
We loved it.
Truly loved it.
I actually couldn't believe it! First of all, I may have been a little put off by the workbook-style, and, therefore, to my mind, "school work". But there is so much beautiful, classic literature and some very good "snuggle up and read" time built into the curriculum itself--not just in the literature selections, which are perennial favorites, but also in the suggested book lists, where we read through books like Mary Poppins, and Leif the Lucky. I was very pleasantly surprised with how often we got to just sit, and read, and talk over what we read.
Also, we adapted (as all good homeschoolers do, right?). My son, while a wonderful reader, is a horrible writer. As in, horrible. As a result, we completed many of the questions in the student books orally. I'm sure that contributed to Bug's enjoyment. See, although he is really, really bad at writing, he loves to talk. And talk. So this process worked out well for him. We also worked through the Introduction to Composition orally, although I would have him work on forming his complete sentences and then do the writing for him. I was again, pleasantly surprised with how well the curriculum could be adapted.
I was also surprised at how quickly Bug took to the curriculum. I think it was perfectly challenging enough for him without completely frustrating him. He picked up the memorization (and there is quite a bit of it) so very quickly, even though he was often overwhelmed when the material was first introduced to him. Even some of the material that I found a bit dry (read, astronomy), he was thrilled with. And how many kiddos can name the fifteen brightest stars in the sky? In order? Turns out there is something to this "grammar stage of memorization" thing! Bug loved all of it.
All in all, while there were a few kinks to work out in learning how to use the curriculum--mostly worked out on my own when I went back to read through it all a second time, this was a curriculum that really worked out well for us. It is a bit overwhelming at first, probably more for the parent, especially if said parent is not particularly well versed in the Classical method of education. But once the initial learning curve is over, it is very much open and go in everyday use. There is a lot of challenging material, and yes, a lot of memorization. However, there is also a lot of room for adaptation, and still so much relaxing reading time, which is our favorite part of homeschooling. There are even hands-on projects included here and there, although those with more active learners may want to supplement a bit to add more.
Now, in all fairness, I'm going to tell you that we didn't get past the first page in the cursive book. Did I mention Bug and his aversion to writing? To practice his penmanship more, we're moving back to very introductory printing before we try this one again. And according to Memoria Press, you are welcome to substitute programs like that when buying the core curricula. Doing it again, we would have simply substituted for an earlier printing product.
I know I didn't cover the Latin. There was so much to cover specific to Latin, as a new family never having done it before, that I'm going to do another review just on Latina Christiana.
In short, we loved the Third Grade Curriculum from Memoria Press. We have put it aside for the summer now, but we will be jumping right back into it come August, per Bug's request, and per mine. This one is a keeper, for sure!
"A Bear Called Paddington was funny. It was easy to see when Paddington would get in trouble, but it was still surprising to see what kind of trouble he got in and to see if he got in trouble or got away easily. The vocabulary words, some of them were hard, and some of them were easy, but I managed to memorize them all. (Literature)
The capitalization rules are interesting and I think they're going to help me a lot. It was fun to memorize them all. (Grammar)
For the Bible, some of the cards that I thought I couldn't be able to memorize, I did. It was a little tough to memorize all the verses. (Christian Studies)
I liked having the cards to be quizzed on it, and even though I knew about some of the stories already, it was fun to go over them. (Greek Mythology)
It was fun to learn about different time zones, and how there's different sections of the United States, like New England. (States and Capitals)
Poetry was a weird poem, but fun to memorize some of the lines. (Poetry)
The Timeline was fun to learn about the different things that happened during close to the same year. And it was also fun to draw the pictures and put up the cards up where the bigger cards were. (Timeline)
Astronomy was really hard to memorize all of the stars from brightest to darkest. (Astronomy)
I really liked most of it, just sometimes it was a little hard to memorize it all. I still want to use it." Bug, age 8
Find Out More About Memoria Press:
The Third Grade Curriculum Complete Package, which we received is $400.00, and includes all of the materials needed for every subject, including Lesson Plans.
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