Lesson Plans: What Are They Selling?

in Blabber, Philosophy

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I have seen a lot of lesson plans, and so have you.  They come in different forms. Each has it’s own proprietary information that you can’t get without buying the plans.  This isn’t a comprehensive analysis, but it will introduce us to enough to talk intelligently about how ours compares.

Some plans are selling pacing.   For us “living book” lovers, this is gold.  Reading assignments by pages.  Think Sonlight.  The read alone pages, read aloud pages are all scheduled by day for every subject. They timed it out.  See below.   Oooooo.  (Online, we now have history pages per day, but they aren’t TIMED OUT so they’re even week to week.  They will, however, make sure you finish before the next book is coming down the pike.) 029_thumb[1]

Some plans are selling comprehension questions and integrated activities. A few questions per day, a map or a timeline figure to paste.  Sometimes there are project suggestions.  Sometimes the Language Arts lesson is based on the history lesson.  (You can see Sonlight’s here.)  Beautiful Feet.  RC History.  Lots of people, really.

Some plans are selling the SCRIPT.  This is like Abeka and Saxon.  It goes way beyond the workbook.  Say this.  Read that.  Show this picture.  There are oral drills, classroom activities to introduce new concepts, games, daily review, etc.  (FYI, I think it’s super weird that we have only the Abeka workbook up against the full Saxon program. It’s apples and oranges.  I don’t get that yet.  I use manual for Abeka, but I cherry pick it.)

Some plans are selling the methodology.  That’s ours.  The pacing and content is actually less relevant than HOW you interact with it.  Math is pretty much math, but most everything else is altered to fit our methodology.  The instructions we use don’t follow the actual resource directions.  Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons are a good example.  We have different instructions for each lesson.  A child that uses our syllabi will have a very different experience from a child that uses the book alone.

Same for art.  We don’t use the Child Sized Masterpieces as intended.  Well, we do for a minute, but then we use them for a bunch of other things.  And we throw out certain Child Sized Masterpieces cards and skip certain “steps” in the series entirely because some of the images aren’t worthy of close observation.  They’re ugly, disorienting, or disturbing.  Other curricula would keep them because they are “famous.”  Great artists that make famous ugly stuff can be easily learned later.  We want to imprint BEAUTY on the brain in the early years.

The plans for every subject are written to emphasize certain skills based on the child’s stage of development.  Very few resources come that way out of the box.  But some of the resource selection going on IS based on methodology.  I didn’t realize this until I got further on.  I thought the book lists just needed some MAJOR updating.  Lemme give you some examples:

  • The Bible resources in K-4 are old-timey and HARD.  It’s not just because the school hasn’t found more accessible Catholic Bible books.  It threw me at first.  I was so hung up on learning all of the stories that I missed what was supposed to be going on.  Fluency in complicated language patterns is best acquired early. (Those of us who grew up fundamentalist got it from birth with constant exposure to our King James Bible.)
  • Our fiction lists are remarkable in what they DON’T contain.  Famous books with questionable themes are deleted.  And questionable doesn’t mean “adult,” it means “untrue.” Is growing up a BAD thing?  Nope.  Well, out goes Peter Pan.  Like the images remarks above, great famous works are still going to be there when the child is older and his world view is less malleable.   There are SO MANY directed reading minutes in later years.  You have plenty of time to go back and catch classics you missed.
  • The chosen editions for Concepts and Challenges approach “informational text” reading and comprehension a particular way that fits the developmental level better than other options.  You could use another text, but to get the same skills you would have to make up your own questions every two paragraphs.  There is a “retell me the main points of this paragraph” thing that is already written into every page of that text.  That’s different than your usual “comprehension” type questions.  It’s not checking to see if the child read the informational text; it’s teaching them by example HOW to read informational text.
  • For Wordly Wise in 7GRD, we use a particular OLD edition because of Latin roots and other stuff we want were edited out of the later editions.

I guess the most frustrating part of using our lesson plans is telling what is “methodological” and what isn’t.  That’s where having the consultant comes in handy.  A consultant is trained in the methodology and can tell you what features a particular resource or course has and what can be changed without messing up the overall approach.  For example, MoDG loves Writing Road to Reading.  But my dyslexic child is already doing a lot of intervention through Lexercise.  So we talked about the curriculum and realized that Lexercise was a MORE INTENSE VERSION of the MoDG goals.  Hurray.  No need to do both.

So there’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary July 9, 2015

“Great artists that make famous ugly stuff can be easily learned later. We want to imprint BEAUTY on the brain in the early years.”

You are so right with this quote. This is true for so many books. I’ve often been surprised at some folks’ idea of a classical education. It runs something like this “Let’s study a whole bunch of pagans and progressives to see how Catholic we can be.” I just do not think that that is a good way to go. Too much explaining necessary for little ones.


2 admin July 9, 2015

“Great artists that make famous ugly stuff can be easily learned later.”
I LOVE that you liked it. It was my favorite sentence.


3 Mary July 10, 2015

Indeed. Maybe we should say that the famous ugly stuff could be omitted completely — I keep thinking that I’ll get back to some artists and authors and never make the time for it – especially if they produced other indecent or “progressive” works…..

Why waste the time…..


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