Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Memoria Press: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

The last review of the maiden voyage of TOS Homeschool Crew is (drumroll, please), Memoria Press. I've written quite a bit lately about the difference between developmentally appropriate and age appropriate materials, and the subject of developmentally appropriate is an extremely high priority for us. Memoria Press encouraged me to try the Latin program, but I am not convinced that a Latin program is developmentally appropriate for us at this time. A child with delays in areas of communication needs to concentrate on one language, in my opinion.

After a very helpful phone consultation with Tanya at Memoria Press, we were sent the three copy books that make the Primary Copybook Set ($39.95) and both the student and teacher books for Christian Studies I. (The three sets, Christian Studies I, II and III student and teacher books plus the recommended Bible is offered for $119.95 at the Memoria Press web site.) A sample lesson from Christian Studies I is HERE.

from the Memoria Press web site:
What is Memoria Press? Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces simple and easy to use classical Christian education materials for home and private schools. It was founded by Cheryl Lowe in 1994 to help promote and transmit the classical heritage of the Christian West through an emphasis on the liberal arts and the great works of the Western tradition. Memoria Press is currently developing a K-12 classical curriculum at Highlands Latin School in Louisville, Kentucky, where its popular Latin, logic, and classical studies courses are developed and field-tested.

The Christian Studies Bible Course

The Christian Studies Bible Course recommended (not required) a children's Bible that we do not own, so I headed to my local large chain bookstore with coupon in hand (after confirming that my local Christian bookstore did not have a copy to sell me) and I bought the Golden Children's Bible for around $15. "Students work through one third of The Golden Children’s Bible each year."

I do really like the Christian Studies first year study!!! The books are written in chronological order, thus users are encouraged to begin at the beginning with Book I. There are 30 lessons in each book. Each student lesson has a reading assignment (students may use any Bible or the Golden Children's Bible), followed by a facts to know section, a memory verse plus questions to answer, and a section of comprehension questions. After five lessons, there is a review lesson. The Memoria Press web site explains, "Maps, timelines, activities, and discussion questions offer the critical integration that is central to classical education."

The problem for us is that the student book will turn off my daughter quickly. The assignment of our reading a story together and then answering questions like the ones in the student book is a source of anxiety for her and will send her running. I won't do that to her.

But, what I *can* do is to read each lesson before I sit down with her, learning what the lesson intends to spotlight, and I can begin to spotlight those pieces of information for her. The workbook and q & a will wait until her comprehension, confidence and compentence grow.

Honestly, for she and I right now, the teacher manual is all that I need because of the way it frames each lesson in a way that I can use it with her, slowly, gently. It contains all the questions from the student book, plus the answers, plus a background and summary, teacher notes, vocabulary, and activity questions and answers. We are able to make the Golden Childrens Bible our focus (not the workbook, which would create resistance and anxiety), go at our own pace, and make adjustments for days that wiggles are high and attention is low. We're using a Charlotte Mason approach with a product written for classical education, I suppose.

My homeschooler's big sister, a typically developing 11-year-old, looked at the Christian Studies I book with excitement, and I offered it to her to "test". I gave her the option of using her Bible, or using the Bible I'd bought to go with the study. She chose to begin with the Golden Children's Bible, and she loves the pictures and the way it is written. (I predict she'll move to her Bible soon.) The studies are geared for children from 3rd - 7th grade. Each lesson has taken her approximately 15 minutes (she is a strong reader), and she has commented that the questions seem simple, but they really make her think. Checking her answers is easy for me with the Teacher Manual. She is enjoying the study. I'm glad -- I've been looking for a study like this one for my homeschooler's siblings. This will be a nice resource for summer and will give her an idea of what it might be like to be homeschooled, too. (NOTE TO SELF: order one for my son.)

I like that this product is NOT digital. I can take the Teacher Manual along to appointments while I wait for my daughter to have a class or a therapy. It's affordable. It requires exactly ONE book (a Bible) as an extra. And I can use the pieces that are developmentally appropriate for my homeschooler who is diagnosed w/ autism, and skip the rest for now. My 11-year-old asked about future studies, and I told her I will order the other two when she finishes the first book. She likes that idea. :)

The books are soft cover, sturdy, and do not have a spiral binding. A spiral binding would enable them to lie flat when open, and that would be a welcome adaptation to the books, in my opinion, especially for children who struggle with the motor planning needed to hold a book open and write in it at the same time.

The copybooks

Each of the three copybooks begins with a table of contents, an introduction that explains what copybook is and how they selected their Bible verses, followed by teaching guidelines outlined in seven steps. Next, a recommended schedule is offered. Line and Letter Practice is next. (I have to take issue with the sentence that says, "We have found that little instruction is necessary to teach basic letter strokes." I am guessing they are referring to children who are typically developing!) Each book in the series provides a page of student guidelines and several pages of practice pages that involve copying lines and letters. In Book I, the actual copywork begins on page 26; Book II, page 26; Book III, page 20. Book I is 96 total pages. Book II is 152 pages. Book III is 110 pages.

Each copybook page sits across from an illustration page. Students create an illustration of the verse they copy each day.

Verses in the beginning are short. The lines are big, words are scattered not-too-close-together in a way that keeps the pages from being visually overwhelming.

The verses are not limited to Bible verses. Students learn poems, books of the Bible, the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, Doxology, and some entire chapters from the Bible.

Each copybook ends with blank copy pages that are reproducible. The rest of the book is copywrite protected, so families will need one book per student at home.

The beginning copywork is simple. The verses and sentences are short (some are quotes, some are poems). Students are not expected to visually track from one page to another--they copy right below the example line. The spaces are large, creating fewer obstacles for a child who may struggle with fine motor skills.

In the teaching guidelines section at the front of each book, we are told, "The Copybook Lesson outlined below need not be done in one sitting, but may be broken up into two or more sessions. There are 7 skills or steps in each lesson." (Bible Story Time; Language Lesson; Memorization; Copying; Proofreading and Correction; Illustration; Review.)

The teaching guidelines sort of mention "developmentall appropriate" but only regarding typically developing children: "*Some Kindergarten students may not be able to completely copy verses at the beginning of the year. They should memorize and illustrate verses according to the schedule but work on alphabet pages for step 4 until they are ready to do copywork." Parents of children with developmental delays need, I give you permission to adapt and adjust this product in a way that might not be age appropriate, but will be developmentally appropriate! (Thus saith Penny. *grin*)

I would never in a million years purchased the copybooks. I have printed copywork from e-books and e-unit studies, and my daughter does not like them. She dislikes them so much that I stopped asking her to do copywork for several months.

So, guess who was surprised when her daughter attacked with enthusiasm the very first copybook in the series? (This is actually a page to trace, not copy, but STILL, she did not find it to be aversive.) She even drew a picture to go along with "And God said, Let there be light."

Wow. WOW!

So, we're using the copybooks, putting our own spin on them, sometimes doing one WORD at a sitting. I ordered some special triangular shaped pencils and a kindergarten/first grade writing program to help me guide my daughter on making those letter shapes as we copy. There are sample pages HERE.

Do I like these products? YES! Are they adaptable for a child with different learning needs? YES! This is one of those products that I like because it's solid plus I like the ease of adaptation.

For the reviews of these and other Memoria Press products by my Crewmates, please click HERE.

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