To Adjust or Not To Adjust
The second week of 7th grade went much more according to plan than the first week! Things still aren't perfect in Composition and Math. Should I adjust my expectations? Stick to my guns, even if it means butting heads? Wait it out and see if it's just a beginning of the year hiccup? When we're in the middle of a full-blown tween meltdown over the surface area of a triangular prism is not the time to make those decisions!
Because of last week's chaos, math was a full five days this week, instead of the typical four. Combine this with Emma's least favorite math discipline - geometry - and you have a recipe for meltdowns. Geometry is something that simply has to be learned. In this case, it's just a chapter in a general math book, not an entire year course. While I may have wished to throw the entire subject out the window, the answer in this moment is just to persevere. When faced with a meltdown, my most frequently used tool is to take a time out. I usually set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and everyone goes away to calm down. Once heart rates are down and tears are dried up, it's easier to come back and restart the explanation. Fortunately for us, we escaped the geometry chapter with a skin-of-the-teeth 70% on the chapter test and scooted on to the next chapter, Statistics.
Composition required a different approach. The Classical Composition curriculum from Memoria Press takes a very different approach to writing than anything Emma learned in public or private school. In a perfect world, one curriculum level lines up with one grade level and we should be taking 2 weeks to progress through a single lesson. I had been planning to work through two levels of the curriculum in 7th grade by keeping the two week spread but only doing every other lesson in the curriculum. This distribution of work isn't too heavy in terms of volume but apparently when combined with the totally foreign approach to writing, it was overwhelming to Emma. At the end of week 1, I tried spreading the work out to complete one lesson in 3 weeks. By Tuesday of week 2, it was readily apparent that while we were only 1/3 of the way through the first lesson, Emma was so tied up in confusion and distress that battling through the lesson wasn't going to teach anything except a distaste for the entire course level.
The glory of homeschool is that when it requires an adjustment to the plan, you can stop and make that adjustment! I cancelled composition for the remainder of Week 2, which allowed us to carry on through the remainder of our subjects (and the difficulties of geometry) according to schedule while I regrouped on how to approach composition. Ultimately, I determined that the largest struggle was with how the instructions were written combined with Emma's total unfamiliarity with the style of writing being asked of her. Despite the answer prompts given in the teacher guide, there are not complete example sentences, paragraphs, or essays for each lesson and, inexplicably, the sample essay given in the teachers guide is for Lesson 9. Fortunately for me, this particular level of Classical Composition is 18 quotes used to practice the same identical writing process. It was easy to pull Lesson 9 forward in the schedule so that we could create a new beginning for this year's composition. My thought is that once Emma has seen how the prompts in her workbook lead to the examples in the teacher book and then develop into a completed essay, it will be easier for her to trust the process. I will have to watch how this develops for the next several weeks so that I can decide whether we will actually get through two abbreviated years of the curriculum this year and be 'caught up' to her grade level or whether we will continue to work a year behind level.