Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Logic of English Essentials: A One-Year-Later Review May 12, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:45 pm
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I mention our use of Logic of English Essentials pretty regularly in my week-in-review posts, but it has been many months since I’ve written a comprehensive post with our thoughts about the program.  It’s now been a little over a year since we started the program and Miss M (age almost 9, third grade) has completed 36 of the 40 lessons of the program.  We took a break for a part of the summer, spent two weeks on a few lessons, and of course had a few other vacation weeks during the year — which explains why in about 55 weeks we have not finished a 40-lesson program.  🙂

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As a bit of background, here are a few other posts I’ve written about Logic of English:

A review of the book “Uncovering the Logic of English”

My initial review of Logic of English Essentials (also includes background of our previous spelling curricula attempts).

My last long “update” post from late last summer

A post about how I organized my LoE flashcards and game cards

 

I’ll just cut to the chase and talk about results first, then go back to some nitty gritty details of how we’ve used the program and our plans for the future.

Just to give you an idea of where Miss M was coming from shortly before starting LoE, here’s a few sentences she wrote last winter (Jan – March of 2012, 2nd grade):

On a worksheet about the five senses asking, “What did you smell,” Miss M wrote: “I donde no waet I smeld.”

A few more example sentences (they seem random, because they are from a writing curriculum we tried last winter and are in response to various prompts or pictures):

“I licke free time becus I can do waet evr I want.”

“The chilin are sackbordin.”

“I had cholitk melk. It was fomy.”

“My famly went on are vry frst bike ride this yaer.”

So, you can see why I was very eager to find a spelling curriculum that would work for us.  Not only was Miss M making a lot of errors (though possibly not more than some other 2nd graders), her errors didn’t necessarily make sense…they weren’t always even phonetically regular errors!  There were times when she would write something out, and later herself couldn’t even read what she wrote because of the types of spelling errors she was making. She told me she hated writing because it was so hard to figure out how to spell everything.

 

So what does Miss M’s writing look like now?

 

I don’t have a ton of examples handy of Miss M’s recent writing.  I made conscious decision to focus on spelling this year, and not ask very much in terms of a formal writing program.  Miss M has, however, recently taken up writing notes back and forth with a neighbor friend. She typically has me check these notes for spelling errors.  Here’s a recent note with spelling errors intact:

“Dear L______

I got your letter.   It was wet and hard to read.  Why was it outsid in the rain?  What kind of feald trip did you go on today?”

So, two errors.  Miss M found the “outside” error quickly when I asked her to look at that word again.  I then praised her choice of a phonogram for the /long e/ sound of “field,”  in that it was a choice that made sense — then I let her know what phonogram she should have used instead.

Miss M is only eight (she turns 9 in a few days!).  I don’t expect perfect spelling from her. But I am super pleased that when she does make mistakes it is often a letter carelessly left out or written out of order (that she can find quickly upon review), a wrong-but-logical phonogram choice, or a word she really can’t figure out (but almost always knows she has spelled the word wrong, and marks it that way before she hands it over to me for editing).

As she is writing notes on an almost daily basis these days (and doesn’t have to think so hard about how to spell each and every word), she’s applying her knowledge of spelling to the words she uses frequently, and is more consistently remembering which phonograms to use and how to apply the rules she has learned this year.

One of my favorite comments from her recently came when I was reviewing a note in which she had spelled the word “flower” correctly, and I had praised her for this spelling.  Her comment  was, “Mom, I used a lot of logic to figure that one out.”   🙂  I think she may have had “flower” on a spelling list at some point, but hadn’t used that word much since then.  Now she has the tools and “logic” to figure out a word like that even if she didn’t have the spelling automatically memorized.

Now on to a few “nitty gritty details”, for those readers looking for that sort of thing!

 

How we used Logic of English Essentials:

 

First, I want to say that I am terrible at using curricula as written.  I don’t think I use a single product exactly the way it is supposed to be used.  I am always tweaking, modifying, changing and experimenting. So these adaptations we have made are no knock on the curriculum.  I end up “changing” even the things I really like.  🙂

Each and every week we used the “lesson” on new phonograms, spelling rules, exploring sounds, and so on.  We often played phonogram games and occasionally played spelling games.   I dictated a spelling list to Miss M on each non-review week.  We did some spelling journal assignments.

For us, I found the grammar was too much for our priorities this year.  I started out doing aLoE Spelling Journal few of the basic grammar lessons at the beginning of the program.  But things started getting a bit more complex, and I didn’t find Miss M was retaining the information without spending a lot of time on it.  Given that Miss M was only 8 for most of the the school year (we started using the program when she was seven), I know she has plenty of time to learn more grammar.   We used an alternative, fun program to learn the parts of speech (Sentence Family — read my review here), and shelved the grammar portion of Logic of English Essentials.

We also were somewhat sporadic about the writing exercises and sentence or phrase dictation.  For much of the year Miss M found sentence dictation to be really stressful.  I think she might be ready for more of that next year.  As the program went on I noticed a lot of the written exercises were tied in to the grammar lessons, so I decided to find other ways for Miss M to practice writing her spelling words.

 

What did our week look like? Here is what our typical LoE spelling week looked like for most of the year:

 

Logic of English AppMonday: Together, I would introduce the lesson — new phonograms, spelling rules, and so on (basically, all the parts of the lesson before the spelling list.  After the Logic of English Phonogram App was released, Miss M would also be assigned independent phonogram practice with the app

Tuesday: Spelling list dictation.   Because Miss M didn’t like the thin paper in the workbook if she happened to need to erase, I started having her do her lists in her own spelling notebook (just a little blank notebook from Target).  After we developed that habit, Logic of English released an e-book version of the workbook.  For students that don’t like the thin paper of the printed workbook, printing just the pages you need from the ebook is a good option as well.

Wednesday: Independent spelling practice with Spelling City.  I copied each and every list into spelling city, so Miss M could practice with the games on the computer.  If we had time, sometimes we also did a game for phonograms and/or spelling words.   On weeks where a Spelling Journal assignment made sense, she would sometimes do those as well.

Thursday: Independent practice of spelling words out loud (Miss M finds it helpful to read the word and then spell it out loud a few times), and also either Spelling City practice or a phonogram or spelling game together.

Friday: End of week test/assessment using the Spelling City app on the iPad.  I am terrible about not giving hints with my facial expressions when giving spelling tests, so Miss M takes her test from an “unbiased tester”.  🙂

 

Plans for Next Year:

 

We’re almost done with our school year, and due to standardized testing and other plans during the next two weeks, we’re now on “summer break” from formal spelling instruction.  Of course, I’m sure Miss M will still be writing notes to her friends, giving her ample real-life practice with spelling.  🙂

Including the final review week, Miss M still has four lessons left to complete her initial run through the Essentials program.  At this point I plan to complete those lessons with her in the late summer.  Then when we start the 2013-2014 school year next September, we will go through the Alternate/Advanced lists available on the Logic of English blog for LoE Essentials.

I have not yet decided if we will use the grammar portion next year.  I have another grammar program in mind I had previously planned to use with my kids starting in 4th or 5th grade, but I don’t yet own that program so I need to do further research as to what I think will be best for Miss M.

If you read my earlier posts about Essentials, you may have noticed I originally planned to use the program with Mr. E, my Kindergartener, as well this past year.   I did try and use portions of Essentials with him all fall — but I had a hard time getting the pacing and activities right for him.  I ended up buying the Logic of English Foundations Beta in January to use with both Mr. E and Mr. K.   In retrospect I really wish I would have bought it when it was first available in August!  But it has been a wonderful nearly five months of using it (mainly with Mr. E so far).  I am nearly all the way through Foundations, and that will deserve a review post all its own.

But, since Mr. E has completed what is currently written of the Foundations program (levels A-D, though really mostly C and D since he came into that program with prior knowledge), I need to continue his reading and spelling instruction next year as well!

Unless something wonderful and new comes along between then and now, I plan to try again on Essentials with Mr. E in the fall when he is a first grader.  A lot will be review — but I think that’s okay, because he seems to be retaining his reading knowledge from Foundations better than he is retaining/applying his spelling knowledge at this point.

I have this idea of keeping Miss M and Mr. E on the same “week” of the program with different lists, so they could review the same phonograms, spelling rules, etc together and maybe, just maybe even do some grammar work together.  I have no idea if this will actually work out for us! (I guess you can follow my blog and check back next year to see how it goes.)  🙂

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H is for Health May 6, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:20 pm

When I look back on my elementary school days, two of my least favorite classes or subjects were Health and Physical Education.   Health was just boring…and in Phy Ed, I was that kid who was the slowest runner or the one who wasn’t paying attention and got hit in the head with the basket ball.  Sports were definitely not my “thing.”

Among the requirements for homeschoolers in Minnesota is that we teach “Health and Physical Education.”   Oh fun!  We’ve really got  Phy Ed pretty well covered.  Our twice-a-month co-op has a Phy Ed class where the kids get to try out classic gym sports like kickball, dodge ball and floor hockey.  For the past couple years we’ve done a homeschool gymnastics class for at least part of the year, as well as going to “open gym” at the gymnastics club.   The kids do tennis and swimming in the summer.   We’ve tried out other sports at various times as well.   Not to mention family bike rides, runs around the block, jumping on the trampoline for a mid-day break, and tons of playing outside.

Last year (when Miss M was in 2nd grade), was our first year “officially” having to follow the homeschool law, since it was the first year that Miss M was 7 when school began.  So, I thought I might just buy a textbook to cover the subject of health.   As I read through the topics covered in the textbook, I realized  that so many of the topics in the book could be covered in the course of day-to-day life and/or incorporated into other subjects!

Here are the main topics this health textbook covered (aimed at 2nd-3rd grade), and how we incorporate these into informal discussions or into other subjects:

  • Basic anatomy/body structure — we cover this in science class
  • Personal body care and grooming — discussed in daily life
  • Caring for your teeth — discussed at twice a year dentist appointments
  • Basic nutrition — discussed often during meals and at snack time.  We talk about nutritious food choices, what food labels mean, and so forth
  • The importance of physical fitness — discussed in the course of life
  • Safety topics (fire safety, water safety, and so on) — some discussions during daily life.  We also covered fire safety in a special presentation from the Fire Department at our co-op.   Other safety topics come up as we participate in various activities.  When we are about to ride in a boat, we discuss boat safety and life jackets!
  • Illnesses/Germs — Discussed in daily life as we deal with regular illnesses or hear about others getting sick.
  • Medicines and drugs — Discussed in the course of life.  We talk about rules like alcoholic beverages being only for adults.  Only take a medicine a grown-up says is okay to take.  If we see someone smoking a cigarette, we may talk about how this is bad for their health.
  • Feelings — Comes up in daily life.   We talk about how to handle negative emotions regularly, and since we are at home…we can talk about how to take those feelings to God and turn to the Bible for wisdom.
  • Family issues — Comes up in daily life.  Homeschooling is full of opportunities to interact with and love family members!

Needless to say, we never read the textbook!  Anybody want to buy a cheap health textbook? 😉

Even though most “health class” topics are covered naturally in the course of daily life, I know I will have to be purposeful about some topics.  Sometime soon Miss M will be ready to learn more about the changes coming with puberty.  I’ll try and make sure we cover fire safety at home every year even if we don’t have an opportunity to hear a presentation somewhere from the fire department.  At some point we may want to do a first aid class or a more in-depth study on nutrition.    But overall, I’ve decided that the “health” requirement in the law is nothing to stress out over!  🙂  Homeschooling and the time we have together gives many opportunities to learn about this topic naturally.

I’m linking up with Blogging through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!

Blogging Through the Alphabet

 

Character Curricula: Idea vs. Reality April 15, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:46 pm
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I attend a monthly “homeschool moms support group”  with ladies from my church.  We have small prayer groups, have discussions or guest speakers on various topics, and usually someone shares a short devotion with the group.  This year, the 5-10 minute devotional for each month was supposed to be on a character trait we were learning about or working on with our children.

Here, (with a few edits) are some thoughts I shared with the group tonight:

Last fall, I signed up for this month’s devotional slot with the idea that we would, by now, have learned so much as a family about various character areas.  After all, I was armed for the year with resources to really make “character study” a priority. Although many moms selected a character quality to speak about when they signed up, I didn’t choose one ahead of time since I assumed I might like to pick the best from what we studied this year.

Now it’s time for a reality check.  I bought a Bible study on Proverbs months before our current school year started.  But after a couple weeks of use Miss M, my third grader, thought the “fun” word puzzles were stressful, and just couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea of reading the same verse or short passage several days in a row.  She said, “That’s crazy, mom!”   So, the Proverbs Bible study was put on the shelf to save for another year. It’s a great product — just not the right thing for her right now.

I thought the “We Choose Virtues” cards were so cute when I saw them on various homeschooling blogs I read.  Each character quality or virtue has a “kid” that represents it, along with a verse and a catchy phrase.  But, always looking for the frugal option, I bought a small version of the cards (the flash cards) not realizing that this size of card didn’t have any instructions or ideas for teaching about the virtue like this bigger version did.  I just couldn’t really make very good use of the cards, so most of these small cards got lost in the mess of our school room.  Again, a great product (especially if I would have had the larger cards with teaching ideas), but the reality was different than the dream.

At a conference last year I bought a few resources from Doorpost books.  Just like the “We Choose Virtues” program and the proverbs Bible study, I think these are great resources too.  I bought a couple things we decided just weren’t quite the right fit for us, but I was really excited about this Bible study in particular about various qualities we can “put on” from Colossians 3.  But, when I actually tried to present this material to the kids, it was a bit of a flop.  I don’t think this is the book’s fault – probably more my lack of skill in the style of teaching it required, or the place I tried to fit it into the schedule.  But, whatever the case, despite how much I liked the material, it just didn’t get done.

So, when I realized a few weeks ago that this devotional talk was looming over my head, all I could think of were the negative character qualities I have seen my kids exhibiting.  I’m sure this never happens in your homes, but I just thought about all the ways my kids think of themselves instead of their siblings or of others.  All the times my kids yelled or hit or threw a toy at one another in anger instead of using words to work out their conflicts.  All the times my kids whined and complained or even screamed and threw a fit about schoolwork or chores.  And then there is my lack of character growth to consider.   I thought about all the times I got angry with my kids or lost patience with them as they did all of the above and more.  I thought about all the times I chose laziness or fear or complaining instead of hard work, trust and joy.  And I seriously considered backing out on sharing tonight.  I know that God does not view me or my kids through a lens of failure.  His grace abounds.  But what wisdom do I have to share?

Even though we failed to complete the character curricula that I purchased, I have been trying to make sure the kids read or listen to the Bible each day.  Miss M reads the Bible on her own, and most days the boys like to listen to the audio Bible app on the iPad.  But one day recently the internet was down so the app would play audio.  Instead we snuggled together on the couch and picked up where we left off in 1 John with chapter 4 (I’m going to read starting with verse 7, NLT):

7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19We love each otherb because he loved us first.

And I realized, that when I look back at what overall “character quality”, if you want to call it that, that I’ve been dwelling on most with my kids is love.  Doesn’t it all come down to that anyway?  – “The greatest of these is love”  and “Love God and Love your neighbor”

As my kids fight with each other or refuse to do their chores or act selfishly, I’ve been trying to bring it back around to love.  Do your actions show love toward your brother? What would be the most loving thing to do in this situation?  How can you go out of your way to show love to someone else right now? Can you ask God to give you Spirit-filled help to love this person right now?

In considering questions like these, I’m hoping my kids and I can grow in love for one another that honors God and, as verse 12 said from 1 John 4, “brings His love to full expression in us.”

I know I can tend toward being a “box checker” spiritually, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of my kids had personalities that tend in that direction too.  There are a lot of good things about character curriculum products, but I could see how they could also lead us to feel like we had “checked off a box” of patience or honesty or diligence because we memorized a verse and catch phrase and completed an activity.

I’m not sure what we will do in future years to help our kids grow in character in terms of using a curriculum or Bible study, but at least for the moment, I’m feeling like we can’t go wrong with asking ourselves and our kids, “How can we show love in this situation?”, and praying for the kind of love that we can only have with God’s help.

 

Book Discoveries this Week: You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine April 11, 2013

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:06 pm
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Providing kids the time and resources to pursue their interests is truly one of the joys of homeschooling.  Sure, there is a lot of time spent practicing math facts and spelling words and the like.  We read stacks of books and the kids find some more interesting than others.  But I just love it when something ignites a spark of true desire to learn all about the topic.

Sometimes, this spark of interest is on a topic I would have never picked or guessed that my kids would get excited about.

A couple weeks ago, knowing that we were getting close to starting a unit on the Civil War, Ifirst submarine grabbed You Wouldn’t Want to be in the First Submarine from the library.  The boys (Mr E, age 6 and Mr K, age 4) have really enjoyed titles from this series in the past.  The You Wouldn’t Want to… series has cartoonish illustrations and the text is written addressed to the reader, as though he or she might really be considering participating in whatever the book is being written about (emphasizing the downsides of these events or time periods, of course!).  I think they have the format down to a “T” in terms of what would appeal to young boys reading historical non-fiction.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be in the First Submarine isn’t really about the very first submarine ever invented.  Rather, it is about one of the first successful submarines — the Hunley, a confederate submarine that was the first submarine to sink another vessel.   Prior to reading this book, I had never even heard of the Hunley.  This book gave a pretty good introduction to the history of this sub.

As I expected, the boys enjoyed it quite a bit.  I didn’t wait for the official start of our Civil War unit to pull it out — they wanted to read it as soon as they saw me grab it at the library. But then what did surprise me was that Miss M (age 8.5) read it soon after I brought it home from the library as well.  She was fascinated by it! I guess I just didn’t peg early submarines as a topic that my doll-and-horse-loving 3rd grader would jump on. (Though maybe early transportation history is her thing — she did request a unit on the history of aviation last year!)

All three kids said they wanted to get more books about the Hunley.  I said, “ok” and promptly forgot about it.  I honestly wasn’t sure this was a topic that we would find much about!  Then this past Sunday we took a trip downtown to the “big library” as the kids like to call it.  🙂  While browsing for other books for our Civil War unit, I discovered they had several books about the Hunley!

I brought them home, and submarine mania ensued.  😉 Miss M has read several of the books already, and asked if we could look up the answers on the internet to several questions we had.  Where is the Hunley now?  (Answer: In a museum in South Carolina.) Can we read a list of all the artifacts found on the Hunley? (No, I haven’t found one single list yet of all the artifacts.)  Do they know yet exactly why it sank? (No, they have theories but still no concrete answers.) The boys wanted coloring pages of early submarines (That was surprisingly hard to find!).

This morning we enjoyed browsing a lot of pictures of the museum where the Hunley is kept.  The kids asked if we could go there…I had to say, “Sorry, not this year!” It’s about a 24 hour drive to South Carolina from here and our vacation this summer takes us in the opposite direction.  It was hard to cut off the submarine research, but I did eventually have to keep our school day moving along.

I’m still just a bit amazed at how one book from a prolific series of history titles could be so inspiring to an unexpected audience!

I’m linking up to Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!

 

Thoughts on Formal Grammar Instruction April 5, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:07 am
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In my recent post about our experiences with The Sentence Family, Ashely asked in the comments if I would share more thoughts about my decision to delay grammar instruction. I thought about just writing a comment in reply, but as I gathered my thoughts I realized that they would be more post-like in length.  So here it goes… 🙂

I didn’t necessarily start out my homeschooling journey intending to wait until later elementary school to start grammar instruction.  As I read books about various homeschool philosophies, there was a time when the Classical model of education sounded a bit appealing.  One thing the classical philosophy of education recommends is extensive memorization in the elementary years, including memorization of grammar knowledge starting at an early age.

The closer I got to starting “real” homeschooling (not that teaching a 2 year old the alphabet isn’t “homeschooling” in some sense…but, I think you know what I mean!), the more I realized that many aspects of the classical model didn’t really fit me, and I wasn’t sure they were going to be a good fit for my oldest child either.  The truth is, I hate verbatim memorization.  I have memorized a sad few number of Bible verses in my lifetime.   Miss M showed no particular strength at being able to memorize things, and, in fact, seemed to struggle with even very basic memorization.

Now, I know that Classical education isn’t all about the memorization, but some of the most popular Classically-influenced curricula for grammar instruction are basically about rote memorization of grammar information, possibly before a child is really old enough to need it or apply it.  I looked at a popular curriculum called First Language Lessons, and I thought it would drive me crazy repeating some of this grammar information over and over again in order to get a first grader who could barely read to memorize the definition of a noun.

I had to take a step back and ask myself, “What is the point of grammar instruction anyway? Can a student be successful without it?”  My own grammar instruction was pretty minimal.  By sixth grade I remember being bored out of my mind that we were learning again that year about nouns and verbs and subjects and predicates.  I don’t recall any formal grammar instruction after sixth grade, though I am sure we must have studied a few punctuation rules here and there in junior high.

Somehow, I made it through learning to write various forms of essays and research papers in high school, easily got A’s on nearly every paper I wrote in college, and got a degree in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Professional Communication.  And I did all of this without so much as a single higher-level grammar course, and without being able to diagram a sentence or really explain what a dangling modifier might be.

How I learned to be a good writer (at least, good enough for A’s in college), is still a bit of a mystery to me.  I think a good deal of it must be attributable to a natural skill or inclination toward writing.   So, I think it is very possible to be successful with a minimum of formal grammar instruction.  I have a desire now, myself, to study formal grammar — but mostly for the sheer joy of better understanding the English language (and to be a better editor — my co-editor corrects my punctuation way too often!).

Now, back to my journey in homeschooling.  Few people teach grammar in Kindergarten anyway, and at the beginning of her first grade year Miss M was still struggling to get beyond three and four letter words in reading.  Sometime during the late fall of her first grade year, her reading skill exploded without further intervention from me.   Her spelling skills did not take off, so we focused on spelling.

Meanwhile, we were not doing very much writing either.  Miss M started out her school years being pretty writing-phobic.  At first it was a fatigue issue — she couldn’t write more than a few words without getting very tired.  Later, I think it was more of an issue related to her difficulties with spelling (though I am not sure she could have articulated that).  Since Miss M wasn’t doing a lot of writing, grammar seemed relatively…irrelevant.  Yet, when Miss M would orally dictate to me something she wanted written down, her sentences were naturally full and complete, and typically quite grammatical.  So, even without formal instruction she was clearly picking up on something!

By second grade, I was still spending a great deal of time on spelling with Miss M.  We tried out a couple more spelling programs to see if we could find one that would “click.”   Writing was still frustrating — she would write something, and not only could I not understand what she wrote due to the spelling mistakes, she herself couldn’t even decipher it later.

By the spring of Miss M’s second grade year (about a year ago), I discovered Logic of English and we got on the road to better spelling in a way that really works for Miss M.  Spelling is still a bit of a struggle, but it is so much better now that she is finally this year willing to do some writing.   Now, Logic of English Essentials does have grammar instruction, but in order to spend more time on spelling we have simply skipped the grammar portions.  We’ll be going back through LOE-E next year with more advanced words, and we will probably cover some of the grammar at that time.

With smoother sailing in the spelling arena, I finally felt like a bit of grammar instruction might be welcome.  Curricula that teach in the form of a story are always a hit with my kids, hence my decision to try out first the Sentence Family, and now a classic public-domain book called Grammarland.

A final piece of that decision to wait until sometime “later”  for grammar was the advice my good friend and co-editor gave me.  She is a seasoned homeschooling veteran who has now graduated all her children (and several have gone on to writing or other language-related careers.)  D. V. recommends Winston Grammar and advises, “Instead of teaching them the same things every year from an A Beka workbook, which they will promptly forget, let them slowly go through these two work books, and that’s about all they need to know.”

This advice seems so wise to me! A common complaint about grammar programs is how repetitive the are!  Why not just avoid the repetition in the first place and teach this information at an age when the student is truly ready to remember it.

She also mentions that standardized testing is often not done until 2nd or 3rd grade anyway (it’s age 7 by Oct 1st here in MN, so some test as early as 1st grade) — and even those first standardized tests only expect a knowledge of the most very basic grammar terms like noun, adjective and verb and a few common-sense things about writing (like using a period at the end of a sentence).

The Winston Grammar website itself offers this advice on when to begin instruction: “Most grammar concepts are abstract with the exception of nouns (things a child can hold in their hand), action verbs (things children do) and adjectives (descriptive words such as colors or numbers). State of being verbs, helping verbs, nouns that are concepts (such as a May 1, or love, happiness, etc), many adverbs, all the ways nouns and pronouns are used (direct and indirect objects, predicate nominatives, etc) are all quite abstract. Until a child has developed their abstract thinking skills, which usually occurs about 5th-6th grade or 10-12 years of age, trying to teach and have him/her retain abstract concepts is very difficult. My advice is to not worry much about grammar until 5th grade. If you feel a great need to do grammar, then just start with the very basic concrete nouns, action verbs, and adjectives.”

So what will I do with Miss M? Next year, when she is in 4th grade, we will try Winston Grammar along with some of the LOE-E grammar instruction.  But if it is a struggle, we will wait again.  I think most of what is truly key to know about grammar could be learned in a very short time when a child is at the right age and stage of maturity. Meanwhile, I will be looking for my own reference or text to help me become a better editor.  Commas, clauses and dangling modifiers watch out! I may finally learn some editing based on technical details rather than intuition!

 

Curriculum Discoveries: The Sentence Family April 4, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:11 am
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It’s been my plan for a while to delay formal grammar instruction until at least 4th grade.  A friend I really respect in this aspect of homeschooling gave me advice that tended in this direction, and given that a big priority for me with Miss M has been to work on her spelling, I was eager to follow this advice.

With spelling going quite well, I decided that it might be time to add in a little bit of “fun” grammar as a preparation for more serious grammar studies next year. I had read some good reviews of  The Sentence Family, so I decided to give it a try.  It’s available as an inexpensive download at currclick.com, and this was the format I purchased it in.

The Sentence Family takes the parts of speech, as well as four main types of sentences, and sentence family notebook page 1turns them into characters that are all part of the same family. Each member of the family has a short story about him/her, and these comprise the chapters or lessons of the text.  Each lesson also has suggestions or directions for drawing a picture of the character, and sample pictures are provided.  The chapters are quite short and take only a few minutes to read, though there is also the additional time for drawing to consider.  The drawing is really a pretty key part of his program, as the drawings help the student remember key details about how each part of speech or type of sentence operates.

Since no student workbook or notebooking pages are provided for drawing each character, I created my own simple notebooking pages to go along with The Sentence Family.   I bound a little notebook together for each of the three older kids using my proclick filled with one page for each Sentence Family character.

sentence family color codingAfter the four sentence types and several of the parts of speech are introduced, there is a brief lesson on diagramming sentences. We skipped this portion, as I didn’t want to take our study to that depth.    Example sentences are provided in several places in The Sentence Family, and we did use these sentence to do some “color coding.”  Each part of speech is assigned a favorite color, and Miss M coded the sentences using these colors.

I originally assumed that only Miss M (3rd grade, age 8.5) would participate in The Sentence Family.  Much to my surprise, Mr. E (Age 6, Kindergarten) and even Mr. K (age 4, Pre-K) wanted to listen in and draw pictures for each character as well!  While I am not sure the boys will remember the parts of speech very clearly, early exposure to grammar concepts certainly won’t hurt anything!

We read Sentence Family two or three times per week, and possibly even missed a few weeks here and there all together.  It’s a fairly short book (only 14 chapters if you don’t count the section on diagramming), and we completed it in less than three months.  All the kids were sad to see it come to an end!

sentence family notebook page 2sentence family drawing

 

C is for Chronological April 1, 2013

Filed under: History — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:00 pm

I decided pretty early on in my research about homeschooling that a chronological study of history was sensible and appealing.  After all, history has a clear path to it — it begins at creation and moves steadily toward the present day.  Why not study it that way?

Like most of us, I didn’t study history chronologically when I was in school.  In fact, other than a brief study of state history in sixth grade, I don’t remember studying history very much at all in school until I had US History from the Civil War to the present in 8th grade.  After 8th grade we moved to a different school district, and I took a year of Ancient History in 10th grade, and another year of US History from the Civil War to the present in 11th grade.  Lucky me to get the same thing twice! I guess if we wouldn’t have moved, I might have gotten the first part of American History sometime after having gotten the second part.

Despite my lack of history study at school, I grew up in a family that loved and appreciated history, and we watched many historical movies and documentaries at home.  My mom passed on to me her love for European history (especially the history of England), so in college I selected the History of Western Medieval Europe and The History of England as humanities electives.

While I did enjoy all this exposure to history, it was very disjointed.  I knew a lot about a few time periods, while knowing next to nothing about other important time periods (like the Revolutionary War or other early American history).

With Miss M, after dabbling in a bit of light US History and World Geography in her Kindergarten year, we embarked on what I planned to be a 4 year history cycle when she was in 1st grade.  We covered world history from creation to about 1600 using Mystery of History, then switched to US History, which I plan to cover over two years.  Then we’ll go back to Ancient History.

All of that is a backdrop to a recent conversation I had with Miss M:

Me:  Mrs. B___ told me that this book [a book about the underground railroad] was her daughter M___’s favorite about that topic.

Miss M:  Oh, is the B____ family studying American History this year too?

Me: No, they study history a little bit differently than we do.  They study different picture books, and use those to inspire their studies of different topics in history and geography.  I prefer a chronological study of history, so that’s what I planned for our family.

Miss M:  Oh, so what does chronological mean again?

Me: It means studying history in time order, from the beginning until now

Miss M:  That makes sense.  Like we started this year at the beginning of American history, and we are moving closer and closer to now.

Me: Right, but we started a couple years ago, way back at the beginning of time.  Do you remember that?

Miss M: Oh, you mean those books we used to read?

Me:  Yes, Mystery of History

Miss M: Yeah, those seemed kind of like a bunch of random stories.  You mean they were chronological too?

Me: (wanting to smack my forehead).  Yes, they were definitely chronological.  I guess we should have kept up on our timeline.  Maybe then it would have been a bit more obvious that it was chronological!

——

Do I regret using Mystery of History (volume 1 through the first half of volume 3) in first and second grade? No, but I now can look back on it and see that we could have done “something else” and her overall memory and understanding of history from Creation to 1600 might not be all that different.  She definitely enjoyed it most of the time while we were reading MOH those two years, and she always looked forward to our history time together.

Will I continue with a chronological study of history? Yes, if nothing else because it does make sense and seem easier to me as far as planning goes.  We may even repeat Mystery of History again, since Miss M will get a lot more out of it as a 5th-6th grader (and Mr. E will be a 2nd-3rd grader when we wrap back around to ancient history!).   But maybe we’ll also take more time for tangents or “out of timeline” topical studies.  After all, there is so much history to learn that a person can easily spend a lifetime learning about it!

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