NOTES FOR NEWBIES
One of the commenters made the following awesome summary statement: “I’d love to see them redo the early years and have a much more comprehensive syllabus (like CHC). I think many are turned off by the first couple of years. They are fine when you know what you’re doing, but for just starting out and not having read/listened to all the resources, you miss a lot!”
I wholeheartedly agree! I was seven years into MODG and before I understood what was going on. I don’t want that for you. K-5 is REALLY confusing.
The Good News
MoDG takes the whole medieval Catholic education system, and scales it down to the appropriate developmental level. In the early grades, the only thing they CAN do is learn to love beauty, exercise their memory, learn to observe closely, and work on sequencing. It’s not because that’s the ONLY time to do it and we have to cram it all in now, but the rest is out of reach. Instilling these intellectual virtues when the brain is primed to embrace them with gusto is GENIUS.
MODG turns out GREAT kids. The course of study K-12 makes goodhearted, wise kids who focus on what matters in this life. The curriculum persuades (in contrast with those that indoctrinate) the child to LOVE goodness and truth using art, music, reason, writing, history, and all kinds of scholarly sources and of course the church. Don’t bail out before high school; it’s the best part. You’ll learn as much as they do.
It all fits together. Subjects aren’t isolated. They all funnel into each other all the way to 12th grade. There’s no busywork. Subjects come around and around and weave in and out of each other. It’s especially obvious in high school.
There’s NO hurry. The whole school culture seems to be about giving kids time to grow up, not ramming things down their throats before their brains are hooked up biologically. Don’t overload the kid. MODG syllabi and consultants err on the side of TIME. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You aren’t behind.
MODG feeds the heart beauty and wonder. Art, music, nature, stories…MODG flat refuses to ruin these subjects by teaching them like math facts. YUCK. These subjects are heart food. Absorb them. Observe. Go on rabbit trails. Kindle wonder. Read the same book over and over. Listen to the same symphony a million times. It’s fine.
These subjects DO NOT build on themselves like reading, spelling, and math do. Even public school state tests don’t test science and social studies like the 3 R’s. (My husband taught middle school math for a decade.) Order of content is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. In MODG, they’re the most important!
It’s really hard to get your brain around this since even most other “classical” curricula don’t do it this way; they barrel through timelines and artists and composers, even ones with ugly, dissonant music or paintings. BLECH. They’re “exhaustive,” not leisurely. But, leisure is important for loving beauty. Here is a good video about this mindset.
The K-6 syllabi aren’t teacher’s manuals. If you are new to teaching language arts and math, the syllabi are not going to teach you how to do it. Neither is Teaching Tips, DYOCC, Writing Manual, or anything else published by the school (so far). There’s plenty of “classical mindset” instruction. Definitely take the “stages” classes Laura gives each year. But, the actual “how-to do this lesson” has to be gleaned from assorted sources and trial and error, lots of error. There’s no “course of study” for mom’s who aren’t already veteran math teachers.
The K-6 syllabi aren’t consistent. There are really detailed instructions for certain subjects (art) and gaps in others (math). Don’t let this confuse you. I thought, “Look at all this detail in art; surely, the absence of math facts is intentional.” Nope. The syllabi used to leave out practicing math facts entirely until 2GRD and then it’s only once a week (Maybe it’s been fixed? Dunno). You don’t even get through the alphabet in KGRD. A child who knows less than half his letters is asked to “read an easy reader” with no instruction on how you’re supposed to pull that off. Some print syllabi don’t have the daily reading practice scheduled after KGRD. You’re just supposed to *know*.
The syllabi leave out practicing math facts entirely until 2GRD and then it’s only once a week. 5th grade geography assigns the wrong maps. The whole “absorbing beauty and wonder” in science looks more like “no assignment today.” The learning objective documents are out of sync with the current curricula. The “Suggested Weekly Schedule” doesn’t match up with the assignments. Music in the evening? That 1 minute hymn? Nope. Worse, books like Sound Beginnings that have thorough teaching instructions are NOT in line with how MODG does it and no one tells you what to ignore.
Some moms handle all this just fine, but many of us FREAK SMOOTH OUT. Or worse, we follow the directions to a “t” for three years and wonder why our kids aren’t reading on grade level or why those stupid Abeka worksheets take SO LONG!
If you mention this in any of the public forums, the bullies will attack you. “This curriculum is incomplete, confusing, or inconsistent,” WILL be met with, “No, it’s perfect; it’s you!” or, “Laura Berquist is a wonderful woman and a personal friend; how dare you,” or, “Yes, there are errors but no one else is complaining; you’re being too detail-oriented.” None of these logically fallacious answers address the complaint.
If you try to fix any of the gaps for your fellow moms, watch out. If you try to share even single pages from resources privately and you dare to mention it online, watch out. Forget about actual fair-use copyright law discussions. We’re back to pearl-clutching and bullying, “How dare you endanger Laura’s livelihood! You’re a bad person. This curriculum needs no updating! We’re deleting your illegal post.” Bullies never calmly explain the actual law.
To Save Your Sanity
Decide. Are the benefits worth the weaknesses? Will you brave the waters of incomplete directions and online bullies? I’ve decided it’s totally worth it. Infuriating at times, but definitely worth it.
If you don’t have a consultant, you’re going to be lost K-5. It’s okay. Lots of us were lost, and if you publicly faulted the syllabi in any way, you got attacked by the Kool-aid drinkers. Ridiculous and discouraging? Yes, but it’s still totally worth it to me.
If it’s too much for you, use something else for K-5, but be sure to come back for middle and high school. Sixth grade is when it gets good. High School is AMAZING.