There are many aspects of Victus Study Skills that I really like. The biggest and most important is that Victus Study Skills attempts to teach vital skills in context and with purpose. The goal of Victus Study Skills is not to teach how to take a test, how to read a textbook, and how to take notes. Those are important skills that are taught, but the goal is to teach a lifestyle- one that will propel the student to be better. Furthermore, I really liked that in the the teacher is encouraged to go through and do some of the same activities as the students including writing their own mission statement, working on their own time management, and practicing their own note taking. Teachers who do the work of a student are better mentors to their students. Our favorite part was the first couple of lessons which taught about time management, mission, and how to live in accordance with one’s values. The reason this was our favorite part is because it was the most applicable to Tiger’s life at this time. I also like the lesson on note taking because explaining the value of shorthand to a student and giving some tips on how to write in a shortened form was very well done.
I felt a little ill-equipped to teach directly from the manual though. As I attempted to follow the lesson plan, I kept feeling like there was something missing. The introduction encourages the teacher to have an activity or something to assist in the lessons and sometimes those were provided, but sometimes they were not. Some of the activities provided would have worked much better in a group setting, either co-op or a classroom. Also, I didn’t feel like every lesson gave enough detail about what was being taught to be taught effectively by me. I just finished teaching a 4 week time management class to middle and high schoolers at our co-op and I found myself pulling a lot from all the research and work I did on that class to teach the first couple of lessons. If I had not had that experience, I would have really struggled with the first couple of lessons.
Additionally, right now, Tiger doesn’t take tests or read textbooks and while he does need to work on note taking, he has been doing pretty well in this regard. Yes, he can do some of the skills of reading for comprehension in a classic work or biography, but some of those steps need to be modified. I would have liked to have seen a little more information on practical application for the reading model outside of textbooks. The other thing I didn’t really like were the fill in the blank worksheets. The way the teacher’s manual was set up, there weren’t any guiding questions to help the student figure out the answers. Short of reading the sentences and inserting the answers I wasn’t sure what to do. Since I am anti-busywork worksheets, I wasn’t too thrilled with this approach. I would have found it more helpful to have a little more information on guiding a discussion in the lessons. The irony is that the teacher’s manual was very wide open with minimal explanations and yet the at times the instructions to discovery were too confining for Tiger. For example the learning strengths activity wanted him to rank things as equal, all, or nothing. He had some that were slightly more than others and he wanted to adjust the scoring. I couldn’t see a reason for the instructions to be so confining so I changed the instructions for him. The next issue was once he discovered his primary learning strength, I didn’t really understand how he was to apply that knowledge to the subsequent lessons. Was it just personal knowledge? I felt like we were hanging on a branch waiting to see somewhere to jump to. The last thing that Tiger and I found cumbersome was sometimes in a lesson I would ask him to turn to a page, skipping several pages, and then turn back several pages to do the previous worksheet. I think having the pages in order would have been more effective and less confusing. Several times Tiger asked me why I was making him back up. It felt disorderly to us.
Ultimately, I think this course has huge potential, but the whole time I was using it, I felt that something was missing. I think it would be a better fit for someone who was used to a more traditional fill in the blank type schooling method or a family where testing was more common in the middle school years. I think it could have been a better fit for my family if I had had more assistance with understanding the vision for each individual lesson. While I don’t often follow scripts of scripted lessons, they do help me to understand the progression of teaching. While Victus recommends this for grades 5+, I think I would recommend this for 7th grade and up.