I’m really liking Rod & Staff English (and various thoughts on a Christian education)
I was raised in a Christian school — the same one, for preK-12th grade, save 9th grade, when I went to a different Christian school. In retrospect, my feelings are very mixed about the education I received. Everything was *so* Christian that anything non-Christian just wasn’t investigated.
During my freshman year of college, as I was holed up in the library at Tulane, figuring out *why* I didn’t believe in evolution, I determined that my own childrens’ education would be different.
I don’t just want to say to my kids, as a blanket statement, “Evolution is wrong.” I want to investigate why it is that we believe what we believe, and what it is that many others out there believe, and why we don’t believe that.
My desire for that extends beyond science. I feel similarly regarding the study of other cultures, religions, history, all of it.
We are intensely Christian. That is just who my dh and I am — we are children of God, seeking to go “further up and further in” with Him, learning to know Him and love Him and His ways.
BUT… that doesn’t mean that, for my kids’ education, I wanted Christian handwriting, and Christian math, and Christian history, and Christian English and so on. There are a lot of EXTREMELY Christian curricula out there, and IMO, it can get goofy. I just don’t think there needs to be a Scripture verse that applies to every math lesson. I’ve learned, by experience, that just b/c one slaps the label of “Christian” on something doesn’t necessarily make it better.
So, for much of my kids’ education, I’ve eschewed Christian-for-Christianity’s-sake curriculum choices. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I chose Sonlight. They believe, as I do, that we can still be Christian, but study from a book that isn’t necessarily Christian.
For example, I studied Greek myths for the first time with my kids. I’d never been exposed to them before. We were able to laugh at the humanity of the Greek gods, and it made us appreciate our own, non-capricioius God.
That said… This past Spring, I did cave and purchase A Reason for Handwriting for Ethan. I thought that it might be a good idea to combine learning cursive with learning Bible verses. I have really enjoyed having him do these… He’s enjoyed them, too. He really likes having something to show off on our fridge. Here’s Thursday’s:
Also, this year, I was determined to find a better Language Arts program. I do not like Sonlight’s at all, and for the last 3 years, have been doing pieced-together stuff, mostly workbooks. That worked all right — for 2 or 2 1/2 years, Ethan really didn’t “get” English at all, and we had to take it really slowly. But, something clicked this past Spring, and what we were doing almost-suddenly became way too simple. I wanted to choose a new curric that would bring some continuity to our study of English, and challenge him, but not *too* much, resulting in his frustration and/or discouragement. After much searching and angst, I settled upon Rod and Staff.
Rod and Staff is a publishing company that produces material for use in Amish schools, which I find sort of ironic, given our recent mini-relationship building with a young Amish man this past summer.
The only problem I had is that, seemingly, the only online source from which to purchase these books had an unattractive website that didn’t really have a whole lot of info on each item. The whole setup was startlingly unprofessional. They didn’t give est. ship times until after I ordered. They didn’t ship the books until more than 2 weeks after I placed my order. What’s up with that? I did see this tidbit on the website, which I apparently missed when I placed my order, so maybe it’s not their fault after all:
This is not Rod & Staff’s site. Such a site does not exist. In fact, they don’t even have an email address.
How soon do you ship?
Within two weeks of receiving your payment, the Lord willing.
I think that’s odd. I just don’t think one should pawn off the ship dates on God’s will. I really don’t. I don’t think that God has a WILL for when Mark, the sitemaster, ships the material that’s been bought on his site. And, if they don’t get it out in two weeks, it’s like they have an automatic escape clause, b/c it, apparently, wasn’t God’s will that they ship it out in a timely manner. Hmmm….
But, I digress.What I really wanted to say was that, to my suprise, I’m really, really loving Rod & Staff’s English program. Their Reading, too, but that’s another matter. I like that R&S doesn’t pull any punches; they say it like it is. They’re also completely unapologetic for being Amish. There’s nothing in those books that makes allowances for anyone non-Amish using the books. So it reads very “old-fashioned,” very agriculturally-oriented, and *very* Christian. But… I think what I’m loving is that it’s not a slapped-on kind of Christianity. It’s sincere. It’s… intrinsic. The people who wrote this book obviously weren’t just writing to Christians; they are Christians, and it comes out in how they present each topic.
On top of that, the material is fabulous. It is meaty w/o being smarter-than-thou. It is substantial, but presented in a way that makes it seem easy. The teacher’s manual is nearly scripted, with an overview for me to read, oral review, an idea for presenting the topic (using “real life” — that is, real Amish life — examples)… The text for the day is kept to one or two paragraphs, some examples, then oral drill, which is great, b/c it becomes quickly apparent whether or not my son understands. Then, it has written work for him to do — and it’s not too little, not too much. And the answer key, both for oral work and written, is written in the margins of the teacher’s text. It works really well.
*AND*, the material is dirt-cheap.
12404.3 Pupil’s Textbook $14.90
12424.3 Worksheets $2.95
12494.3 Teacher’s Manual $20.20
12414.3 Test Booklet $1.95
It’s not fancy; it’s b&w… but most of the materials are hardcover and nicely bound.
I don’t think we’ll get through the whole book — there are 127 lessons, but we’re only doing English 3 days/week for 35 weeks. But I am confident that whatever my son gleans from this program will be superior to what most other 4th graders have studied.“Superior” in the sense that it works. There’s no sense, IMO, in having a mentally superior curric if it’s not effective. I’m thrilled to have everything that I was wanting in an English program, and also have giggles here and there about references to nut grinders and “our new calf.”
I’m thrilled with it, even though it IS Christian English. ;)