We've used Saxon Math from homeschooling Day 1, nine years ago. It has served us well but with my younger daughter, I'm tweaking it a bit. I add in lots of Math games—games I used when I tutored Essentials and also ones I used in my Challenge B class. Quick Flip Arithematic is brimming with math card games of various levels. There's also tons of free games online just waiting to be downloaded. I test them out on my 5th grader before my Challenge B students get their brains on them. She helps me with the fine tuning and enjoys every minute of it. Because of this, she's a whiz with negative numbers (a concept her Saxon book hasn't covered fully yet) and knows her math facts inside and out. Fibonacci numbers are another passion of ours. We keep math up year round having fun with Kahn Academy on days that we only want a little bit of independent, relaxed review.
My daughter is enrolled in Essentials, but we started learning English Grammar years ago. She was ready and so was I. Our Mother Tongue is a wonderful tool for learning grammar along with diagramming. I love all the history it shares in its sidebars. If you need an extra boost with diagramming, Grammar and Diagramming Sentences is a great resource. It provides more sentences to diagram when the Essentials guide isn't enough. We also spent a year with the IEW Fix-It curriculum. A link to IEW is found in the list at the bottom of CC's home page. By starting young with English Grammar, I not only helped my daughter, I helped myself.
Latin can also be introduced before the Challenge years. I like to sneak Latin into our English Grammar studies. This upcoming school year (6th grade) I'll get my daughter started with Henle Latin. We'll also watch some of the Visual Latin DVDs. Dwane Thomas is funny and makes sense. CC Connected has some of these videos in the Challenge Tier's Classical Learning Center as well as many other helpful videos to aid in learning Latin. Visual Latin can be bought through Compass Classroom or Roman Roads Media. Both links are on Classical Conversation's home page. Beginning this August, I'll be sharing my weekly plans as we learn Latin through English Grammar. I have my Week 1 plans ready to preview. Check out my link. If you think it looks interesting, please follow along with me in my adventure.
As far as literature goes, she'll read some of the books available through both Challenge A and B. It won't hurt her to have already read and narrated these before she hits the Challenge years. My personal favorites (and so the ones she will read) are Amos Fortune, Number the Stars, Little Britches, The Hiding Place, and Where the Wild Fern Grows. In fact, these will probably be read-a-loud books.
We've discovered a couple of other parts of the Challenge curriculum that are user-friendly for younger students. One is the digital logic lessons in the back in Intermediate Logic. This introduction to binary numbers and logic circuits is intriguing and has given us the desire to learn coding—something we're going to tackle this summer. If you have access to this curriculum, check out the last lessons. Unfortunately, the Challenge B students aren't assigned this section during the school year. What a shame. These are worth doing at home with the family.
And last but certainly not least, all ages can gain a basic knowledge of atoms, the periodic table, and bonding through Discovering Atomos. This is a light Introduction to Chemistry offered in Challenge B. We've thoroughly enjoyed this short study coupled with a basic molecular bonding set. It's a fantastic start into this area of Science.
Even if your student doesn't fill the age requirements of the various classes offered in CC, you can still take advantage of their rich resources and start some of the studies at home. And if you really want to tap into something wonderful, subscribe to CC Connected's Challenge Tier. Dive into the Classical Learning Center. There's enough great stuff in there to last a lifetime.
I strive to make learning fun and always take time for the things my daughter loves: cooking, playing the piano, Legos, just "messing" around with her stuffed animals, and making robots. Childhood is such a small part of a lifetime...
To sum all this up, one of my personal parenting goals is to offer my children/students what they need when they need it. It doesn't hurt to work ahead if that's where the interest lies, especially when the curriculum is right at our fingertips.
P.S. A variation of this article was originally published in Classical Conversations' Writer's Circle. Subscribe and enjoy.