C (aged 8) began homeschooling a year ago. Words are a strong suit for her – she is very articulate, has great cursive handwriting, and reads quickly and fluently. She also has strong opinions about what she does and doesn’t want to do, and one of my challenges is to find a careful balance between boring her and demanding too much!
In this area, my aims for C are:
- to develop her skills in the mechanics of writing without subjecting her to excessive drilling,
- to provide an environment which stimulates her creativity and enriches her vocabulary,
- to provide access to a steady stream of resources to help satisfy her appetite for words.
I mentioned in my post about our Grade 1 English that I am quite “unschool-y” about language arts; I want these skills to be learned as much as possible in a real-world context, and there are plenty of opportunities for that to happen.
It’s important for all writers to keep the mechanics of writing from getting in the way of creativity, and this is especially true for children, for whom the gap between the two skill-sets is larger than for adults. By “mechanics” I mean not just the physical process of handwriting but also the niceties of grammar, spelling, punctuation etc. I’m not under-estimating the importance of getting those things right – as a former lawyer I’m all too aware of how a misplaced comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence – but I also know that sometimes it’s best just to get the words down on paper and then tidy them up later. I love that the very first exercise in the Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Program (which C and I dabbled with and will return to later this year) is to draw a picture of your inner editor and then lock him/her/it somewhere out of reach where they can’t intrude on the creative process!
Strewing reading material works very well with C. If I leave a book on the table she will be read over a meal, near the sofa and I will come down early in the morning and find her engrossed, or on the upstairs landing and it will disappear into her room. With the recent loss of our guinea pigs (RIP Oscar and Ollie) and the consequent freeing-up of floor space, I’ve installed a new bookshelf in our living area with slanted shelves for displaying books relating to our studies. (Ikea magazine rails work great for this.)
Evan-Moor Daily Paragraph Editing (Grade 2)
Daily Paragraph Editing provides near-real-world grammar practice. Each unit is made up of four related paragraphs containing various spelling and grammatical errors. Different genres of writing are covered, such as non-fiction, biography, realistic fiction, historical fiction.
I print out the relevant paragraphs from the e-Book, and C puts on her editor’s hat and hunts for all the mistakes the “copywriter” has made, keeping to hand the book’s list of standard proofreading marks and checklist of proofreading errors while she works.
I look ahead to see what’s coming up, and discuss anything new with C in advance. I stay close by while C works so she can raise any queries with me as she goes along. If I notice that she’s unsure about a new concept (for example, plural possessive apostrophes recently) I plan a bit more practice on it over the next few weeks.
Both C and J love mad libs. They’re such great practice for both creativity and knowing the parts of speech, yet it doesn’t feel like “school” at all – win win! We’ve been using Best Of Mad Libs .
I wasn’t sure whether to use a specific spelling program with C at all as she is such a naturally good speller. But there are words that she misspells and although these might naturally be picked up over time, I followed Jimmie’s tip and invested in Spelling Power, on the basis that it will last right through school and I can use it with J as well. Spelling Power has placement tests so the student begins the program at exactly the right level, and C seems to be really enjoying it so far. Her biggest complaint is that she gets so few words wrong on the pre-tests, she doesn’t get to do many of the fun exercises like spelling out words with her finger in a tray of salt!
I’d love for C to write more stories. She wrote some great ones back when she was at school (though often with much whining, at least when they were set for homework). A few times I’ve suggested some writing, but so far C hasn’t been keen. She’s enjoyed a couple of exercises from The Writer’s Jungle, but I’m encouraged by Writer’s Jungle author Julie Bogart’s advice that most children start writing in earnest when they’re about 9 or 10 years old. In the meantime one of her favourite pastimes is to invent characters in picture form, giving them names and qualities; I’m hoping this is good practice for character-development in future story-writing! (Incidentally the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op is currently offering a 50% discount on Brave Writer products.)
We’ve also been reading aloud Spilling Ink, a light-hearted look at the creative-writing process by two female novelists, which is a fun and nicely aligned with my motto of feeling good around “school subjects”.
C reads a lot on her own – mostly library books and books on her new Kindle. She also listens to library audiobooks and we listen to Audible purchases together – we recently finished Anne Of Green Gables and we’re onto Anne Of Avonlea. I always read aloud a chapter book to C and J together as a bedtime story.
This term I plan to do more reading aloud of good quality literature and great stories – stories from Shakespeare, Homer and other classics – as part of our school day.
Extra Resources I’m Planning To use
I’ve just subscribed to the Evan-Moor subscription service Teacher-Filebox which gives unlimited access to all Evan-Moor’s eBooks. (30% off via the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.) I’m looking forward to exploring Filebox. For language arts we already use Daily Paragraph Editing (C) and Building Spelling Skills (J), and it looks like there are some good grammar resources there, like Language Fundamentals. More about this when we’ve had a chance to play with it some more!
I’d love to hear of any extra resources people use that we might enjoy.