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Monday, February 6, 2012

Adjusting our Language Arts

Last week I admitted that we had a hard time getting back on track in the New Year in our homeschool, but that I was finally getting a grip on things.

And overall, it was a productive week with some little revelations.

We are tweaking a bit here and there to make some needed changes, starting with language arts.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary finished Level 2 of All About Spelling (AAS) and we moved on to the next level. While AAS has been a very good spelling program for her and she’s spelling above her grade level, the gap between her vocabulary (or the things she really wants to spell) and her spelling ability continues to widen. And she likes to write, so this is frustrating for her.

AAS is so teacher intensive and involved (even if you drop using the letter tiles, which she has because they simply annoy her), that it simply takes a lot of time to add more and more words to your spelling arsenal.

Plus, once you get beyond Level 2, you are encountering more and more words that are “exceptions” or follow a different rule for the same sound, and so there is a lot of studying of “word banks” (lists of words) to become familiar with which words follow which patterns.

Mary was dreading spelling.

We’ve decided to put aside AAS for the moment and try something else, something a little less teacher intensive. We’ll be using Queen Homeschool’s Learning to Spell Through Copywork Book B. What I plan to do is having her write the week’s copywork page on Monday, and then use the sentences for dictation for a day or two until I’m sure she knows the words. Writing sentences every day is important because Mary is still working on remembering things like capitalization and punctuation.

We’ll move on to the next lesson when she’s ready. If we move at the same rate as with AAS, she should be finished with the book by the end May (or sooner).

David will be doing Book C, because while I still don’t think he really needs a formal spelling program, he’s getting a little sloppy about some things like capitalization and does make a few spelling mistakes. I think that doing some regular copywork will help. We’ll see.

Peter has begun All About Spelling Level 1. Right now we are working on some phonograms. Now here’s a good example of how boys are different from girls.

When Mary was learning the phonograms (all the different sounds represented by each letter or letter combo), she was pretty serious about it and she knows them all well now.

Peter turns it into a sound effects event. Really. His favorite is “ch.” /ch/-/k/-/sh/ in rapid staccato sounds just like gunfire.

Somehow even the vowels come out sounding like explosions and tires screeching.

One of the joys of home education.

For David, we are also putting aside Grammar Made Easy and Editor in Chief.

A word on grammar---I have a degree in English and yet I will freely admit that my grammar training is poor. My knowledge of grammar is primarily intuitive. It comes from reading lots and lots of books, as opposed to having a good understanding of grammar rules.

Don’t ask me about things like dangling participles, please.

It might not be fair to blame my public school education for that, but the fact does remain that I didn’t really learn grammar very well in public school.

Now, truth be told, I believe that an intuitive knowledge of grammar is probably more important than a formal understanding, in the sense that writing properly should be second-nature to be done effectively. It’s a lot harder to write well if you have to constantly think about the rules of writing.

I’m usually spot on when it comes to spotting a grammar mistake. I just can’t always tell you what it’s called. And so, hubby and I feel that having a more formal understanding of grammar (in addition to an intuitive understanding) would be a good thing.

Think of it as being able to both think clearly and have an understanding of how those thoughts fit together.

Which brings me back to why I’m putting aside Grammar Made Easy. It sounded like a good idea, a simple course to teach sentence diagramming so David could get a more formal understanding of how sentences fit together (because, like me, he already has a strong intuitive understanding of grammar). But it left me confused because there were too many things that either were not addressed fully (unless they will be addressed in later lessons?) or were presented in an order that didn’t make sense.

I felt myself floundering. Sad, really, because I was looking forward to learning sentence diagramming myself. But I felt myself screwing my eyeballs up trying to come up with explanations on my own for certain things.

Yeah, not really a good feeling. I hate a curriculum that makes me feel dumb.

David is now using the free 6th grade Grammar and Writing Handbook from Scott Foresman Reading, but just the grammar exercises. Mary is using the 2nd grade book. I don’t normally go for the worksheet method of teaching, but this is a free resource and one thing I like about it is that it often has them writing out sentences instead of just filling in a blank or choosing an answer from a list. The grammar exercises teach basic grammar (subject, predicate, clauses, etc.) and are easy to understand. I don’t care for the writing exercises (too vague and pointless), so we skip those. This is a good start, but I don’t know what we’ll use next year.

I thought David would enjoy Editor in Chief because he does like to point out typos and mistakes in magazines and books. And my blog posts. But he got frustrated, mainly because some of the mistakes are not grammar mistakes but mistakes about details---you are told that the picture and caption are correct, and there are often discrepancies between the text and the picture, sometimes nit-picky discrepancies.

Having a critical eye is a good thing. But, he’s not training to be a newspaper editor, and he felt that this was unnecessarily distracting. So we dropped it. We can still laugh at mistakes in magazine ads.

Are you making changes in your curriculum?

You might also enjoy:

Delighting in Their Industry

What Happened to Our Week in Review?

10 Life Lessons from My 2-year-old

2 comments:

  1. You had said you would link my post up for me when I got it done. I didn't know if I should put it with that post or here at you most recent post. I wanted to make sure you saw it so I am putting it here.

    Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
    http://debbiesdigest.blogspot.com/2012/02/beauty-is-in-eye-of-beholder.html

    Oh, great post by the way. We are not making any changes in our curriculum though after a very long winter break and then going with my husband to his Uncle's funeral and then being sick we spent last week struggling to get back to doing all of school. Hopefully this week will be even better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Debbie. I've linked you up. ;0)

    Getting back into the groove definitely has its struggles.

    ReplyDelete

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