Thoughts from my experiences with my middle daughter who was an average 4th grader in ECC with older sibling. There are many things you can leave out and not worry about it.
World Geography Pages
: you use those with a 4th grader to help teach them how to read a map and draw information from it. do these alongside your child. There is no expectation in the ECC manual that 4th graders do "all" of those pages. Vary the kinds of pages as you do the continents. Leave out any that add too much stress or time to your day. My average 4th grader enjoyed those pages. The pages called "Physical Geography" and "Human Geography" -- think of those similar to how you treated the back side of the state sheets in ADV. Read some of it, highlight or underline one or two neat facts. the object is not to do every page with 4th grader, but to help introduce the idea of reading information and learning to make sense of it. For more helps/hints on specific kinds of pages
http://board.mfwbooks.com/viewtopic.php ... 819#p48819
The TM is clear that 4th and 3rd grader MAY do some of these pages with adult help. It is not a requirement to do all, and definitely not to have them do it on their own. 5 minutes, maybe 1 or 2 days a week, keep it light and do them as a team. Isn't that enough to fit the goal of reading the page and processing information? sure. That's where Light Friday can be nice.
I found WG easy to use in the way that MFW recommends it for 4th grade. My daughter is very average (maybe a bit slow). She liked doing the book. It is about learning skills for research and how to interpret information in various forms. Just use it lightly, work with them as needed. It's ok if you don't use it until South America continent if time is tight.
in some ways my 4th grader used the WG book as part of her "reading comprehension time".
Illustrated World Atlas
: you have my permission to leave out any advanced assignments when oldest is in 4th grade and time is tight. Don't worry about the advanced assignments at that point.
: same thing. leave out "advanced" if you want to. You might find that as the year progresses, you will be able to more easily add in the advanced readings in different countries/continents. And it will be ok with no regrets that you didn't get it in North America. It's ok.
in fact, anything that says "optional" or "advanced" -- if you want to leave it out for 4th grader, it will be ok. If you want to modify and just help them with part of the advanced assignment, that's ok.
My approach with IWA and CA (formerly called intermediate world atlas) was to have it as couch time to look at maps and just make general observations. Some of the topics were over my average 4th grader's ability, so we didn't worry about it. But I liked how with the "advanced" maps, she picked up the idea that not all places in the world have interstate roads like we do in the US. She learned something. IWA - she liked the pictures and captions. She learned that some places in the world had jobs different from what we do.
we grabbed some Schlessinger Media DVD's about families around the world, biomes around the world. stuff like that. then, the readings in the books were just to have a tiny bit more.
: some of that will be done in ECC with some of the pages in A Trip Around the World, and Another Trip. and even the Wee Sing songs. If you want to do "more foreign language": easy way on that. Pick Spanish for now and turn on subtitles/secondary audio tracks or whatever on DVD and TV shows that you already know and approve. That will be enough.
The pace in ECC really does get easier as you get past the US weeks.