I’m excited to share this next resource with you, because I bet a bunch of you guys haven’t heard of it yet. The biggest reason I wanted to try Memoria Press with Mr. Man is because of it’s focus on beautiful children’s literature. To be really transparent with you, Mr. Man and I have had a tough year. We have been working on some heart issues, and I am trying hard to build him up. I need a year to cuddle with him on the couch. We need a year with beautiful stories, and good morals, and strong character. We need some structure, and some quiet and some peace. Mostly though, we need that cuddle time on the couch.
I spent some time looking at Memoria Press‘ First Grade program, and was drawn in by the beautiful read aloud books that are scheduled each week, and the cuddle time I imagined it promised me (hint- it does deliver).
Memoria Press is a Classical Education company (read about what Classical Education means to them here) with curriculum for every grade level. Last year, I reviewed their Prima Latina Latin books, and fell in love with them. Their lesson plans incorporate quality literature, classical languages, world famous art and music, and so much more. When I open their books, I am drawn in by the clean lines of the pages and the sense of organization they give me.
For this review, I received a couple different things: The First Grade Enrichment Guide and Lesson Plans, Story Time Treasures, More Story Time Treasures, the Story Time Treasures Teachers Key and the First Grade Reading Lesson Plans. I also purchased the First Grade Art Cards to use along with the Enrichment Guide.
What is the First Grade Enrichment Guide
The First Grade Enrichment guide incorporates a read aloud, with associated vocabulary, picture review, and comprehension questions with coordinating activities for history, culture, and science. It also includes a weekly art picture study, poetry and music appreciation.
The Enrichment Guide is based off 33 classic books. I recognized most of the titles right away! Some are personal favorites of mine, like Miss Spider’s Tea Party, and Rechenka’s Eggs, and others are seasonal favorites, like the Polar Express. Some are clearly intended for holidays, like a book on Saint Patrick, or the Star Spangled Banner. I ordered most of my books used online, but you can save time and effort by purchasing the literature kits from Memoria Press. I am thrilled with the well written stories and beautiful pictures in the books I have received so far!
By the end of the year, you will have studied these books in depth, as well as enjoyed 33 poems, classical songs, and famous works of art. It’s best to explain how it works by SHOWING you how it works:
A Week with the Enrichment Guide
The second week in the Enrichment guide is based on the story “The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane.” I had never heard of this story before, but as soon as I had it in my hands, it became one of my favorites (if you are studying the middle ages, it’s a beautiful story about illuminations and monks!).
We read the story on the first day of the week together. Before we read, I looked at the Enrichment guide and read the information about the author and illustrator, and paraphrased those to Mr. Man. I read the vocabulary section, and the picture review and comprehension questions to myself.
While I read, I made sure to take my time on each page. I didn’t notice before how much I rush through books with my kids. This time, I made sure to pause, and define words that Mr. Man likely didn’t understand (the same vocabulary in the guide), and took time to look at the pictures on each page, and talk about what is happening in the book. I didn’t use the questions verbatim, but they helped guide me in knowing what to look for in the book.
After we read, we talked about the story, the characters, the setting and the plot. Not in a forced sort of way, but in a fun, relaxed way. There are a lot of questions and other information provided in the guide for the book, and I didn’t get to everything the first day, and that’s okay.
On the second day, I wasn’t required to read the book again, but I offered, and Mr. Man choose to listen to it again. This time, I reviewed the questions again, and made a mental note of which ones I wanted to make sure to bring up. We had another conversation about the story, and this time, Mr. Man noticed more of the pictures, and had more questions about what Brother Theophane was doing. After that, we listed to the song of the week, “Sheep May Safely Graze” and talked a little about the composer, Bach, who is also from Germany. Lastly, we looked at the painting “Titus as a Monk” by Rembrandt. Titus was a real monk, only 19 when he sat for this painting. Mr. Man thought at first he looked “maybe a little sad” but than decided “maybe he looked like he was happy and sleeping.” We both decided it was a calm, plain picture, a lot like the brown robes and brown lives of the monks in the story before Brother Theophane made pretty paint colors for the books.
Titus as a Monk (public domain from Wikipedia)
On the third day, we decided to read another book, Saint George and the Dragon, which has the same sort of illuminations featured in Brother Theophane. Mr. Man then remembered all the great medieval books he saw at the Gutenberg Museum here, and I loved that he made that connection. After that, we read the poem “Firefly”
On the fourth day, we talked about monasteries, and monks. The guide provided information about Benedictine monks. We pulled out our pictures from our Monastery trips we took in the past (we’ve visited quite a few because the benedictine monks here in Germany make the most amazing Trappist Beers), and talked about what monks do. Then, we read Brother Theophane again, and finished the last of the comprehension questions from the guide.
On the fifth day, we had tons of fun gathering plants and berries from outside, and we made our own paint the same way Brother Theophane did in the story using the recipe in the Guide. Then, we painted pictures using our homemade plant based paint.
It was a lovely week. We did get a lot of cuddle time on the couch (like I had wanted). The poetry, music, and art appreciation helped me feel like we really did have a “well rounded” week, and brightened our days. The activities were all pretty simple to do (even making the paint) and flowed nicely with our day. In all, I think we spent less than half an hour each day (Friday took slightly longer) and it was time well spent. I’m excited to have many more weeks like this one!
This week did have a lot of talking and “still time” which isn’t always easy for my wiggle-bug boy, but since it is an “enrichment” program it really doesn’t take much time out of the day. I’ve been using this program at nap time, while the little one is in bed, and Big Brother is off reading. It’s our time to be quiet and still and enjoy each other’s company. It’s time to soak in beautiful things; stories, music, art and poems that will hopefully brighten my Little Man’s day.
What is Story Time Treasures
Basically, Story Time Treasures is a program that takes readers (more classic books that I am sure you’ll recognize) and combines them with language arts work. It covers everything from teaching about setting and characters to working on basic mechanics, like punctuation.
The set up for the program is simple, the child does a little bit of reading each day, and most days, they’ll do a page from the workbook. The lessons are very well done. I love that it combines readers (which a first grader really needs to practice with) and so many other language arts topics.
When your child reads Little Bear, they’ll also work on sequencing, vocabulary, comprehension, punctuation, and more. Everything is effortlessly blended together. The teachers key provides you with all the answers to all the questions in the student book. I really love this literature based approach to first grade language arts.
I will suggest that when Memoria Press runs a re-print of this program, they look at the page orientation and binding carefully- it’s of a high quality, and holds up well, but because the program is top-bound, the page orientation proves to be problematic. The pages on the top (imagine opening the book open so one is on the top, and the other is on the bottom) is oriented down, so the child needs to either work across the page on the bottom, or fold the book in half. I simply removed the pages and put it in a binder (which I do for most of Mr. Man’s work, because he is a lefty).
I am using this program with a boy whom I would never call behind, but I would call….. active, squirrel like, and fine motor skill resistant. Story Time Treasures (and the More Story Time Treasures book) both use half-inch guided lines for handwriting, which require a certain level of precision. Mr. Man is still working on that. The reading is broken down into nice, little chunks and do not overwhelm him. This program is one we do first thing in the morning, while he is still fresh and willing to work slowly.
How do the Lesson Plans Work?
When I opened these lesson plans, I swear, I squealed out loud. Memoria Press “gets” me. Last year, I blogged about how I make myself a “master schedule” breaking down each of my programs into a year’s worth of lessons. Memoria Press did that for me!
The lesson plans are a very small booklet (The Reading Lesson Plans are 10 pages, and the Enrichment Lesson plans are 30 pages long) that breaks down the work into Monday-Friday assignments, for 33 weeks. There are check boxes to mark what you have done, and makes it easy to see at a glance what you need to accomplish each day and each week to complete the program in a year.
They are not very expensive, and what’s really neat is that Memoria Press creates these individual lesson plan schedules for most of their curriculum. I wish I had known about them with Prima Latina, because I could have saved my time in creating my own schedule! I’ll be ordering them in the future along with any other materials I get from Memoria Press.
A Complete First Grade Program
If you like the sound of these materials for first grade, the only thing missing to create a complete educational program is a Math and Phonics curriculum. I already had my own Math and Phonics I knew I wanted to use with Mr. Man so I skipped the full package, but Memoria Press has one (complete with Lesson Plans for every subject- be still my heart!) that uses Rod and Staff for Math and Phonics, and looks fabulous for 325.00 (Readers are included, but read aloud books, featured in the Enrichment Guide are sold separate).
Enrichment guides are also available for kindergarten, and while they are an “optional” part of the curriculum at these levels, I really feel like they have a beautiful heart to them, and are so much fun. I’d use them to enrich any K-2nd grade program!
Other Thoughts from Here and There
First, let me start by saying the Enrichment Guide and the Story Time Treasures books are not reliant on being used together. These really are two different products, which complement each other nicely but do not lean on each other. So you can use just one or the other if you see fit.
The art cards, which I purchased separately, are a wonderful addition to this program. When they arrived, the first thing I did was take my art cards, and laminate them. They were very sturdy on their own, but I know I may want to re-use them with at least two more children, so I reenforced them (like I do most of our materials), then I cut them leaving an extra 1/2 inch of plastic, and used that extra space to bind the cards with my pro-click- which created a little art booklet. These cards are just right for little hands (5 x 4 so a little photo album would work the same way to hold them) and are printed in beautiful full color.
There is a *lot* covered in this program. Some may see the amount of questions in the Enrichment Guide as “overkill” for first grade students. This program is really best for people who understand and appreciate the ideals of classical education, and those who also don’t feel the need to “check every box.” There is a ton here, and not every last question needs to be answered, Memoria Press has been thorough in giving you many different things to talk about, and angles to approach the material. Read them, and choose what is best for your kiddo, and don’t worry too much about accomplishing everything. This is true for ALL curriculum.
Lastly, if you are considering using Memoria Press for any subject, I highly suggest you check out their Forums with any questions you may have about the materials. All of my questions were answered quickly, by friendly faces who knew their stuff. Their Forums are a fantastic place for information and conversation with like minded homeschoolers.