Organizing our Days: Cursive Class

This year we have been focusing on language in our home school, as I understand that to be the foundation of all learning. I have three ages at home, and my desire is to teach in a style that we can all learn together instead of me teaching three separate children at different points in the day. Cursive class is my effort to teach reading and writing to my children as a group, all being at different stages of this skill.

My oldest started reading at a young age of 5 and a half. He is very self-driven and, although we worked on it some together, he picked it up quickly with little instruction. His first reader was the Bible! That was his great motivation because he had his own Bible and enjoyed looking up the Bible verses for Daddy to read during family worship, and soon he had the books of the Bible memorized. Next he wanted to read the verses himself! He had taught himself to sight-read Genesis and Deuteronomy and Matthew and Revelation, etc. I moved forward with teaching him to read by sight words from the Bible and our nature studies, but as my son grew older I noticed he wouldn’t sound out bigger words he didn’t know?!

When we discovered Spell to Write and Read over a year ago, I was so excited! I loved the idea of teaching the phonograms to my children, and I was already learning too! This process of teaching my children to read by “thinking to spell” was revolutionary to me. I dedicated time to studying the phonograms and method of teaching myself before I finally dove in to what we now call “Cursive Class” in our home.

I chose to teach my children cursive as they learned to “spell to read and write” for multiple reasons which I won’t go into detail in this post. Basically, my oldest who’d been writing for some time seemed to not be progressing with his handwriting skills, and often was still struggling with letter facing and progression. My younger son is a different learner, and I knew he needed something to aide him in his letter development. So, we switched to writing everything in cursive, even me. That was almost a year ago and I haven’t looked back! It truly is faster for my own purposes, and the children have no problem understanding which way a letter faces or how it develops as they write out their letters and words. Plus, their handwriting is developing so beautiful!

Cursive is our first sit-down class of the school day, because our minds are fresh after our morning routine. All three of my children participate, and we have prayer for school and dive in. I recently purchased some tracing cards for my younger two to make class more multi sensory for them.

My oldest has a cursive journal he brings out during this time, and we go through our single letter phonograms as a group. Sometimes I’ll have my youngest, who’s 4, hold up the flashcards, and I’ll call them out as she echoes the sounds each letter makes. My oldest says the sounds and writes out the phonograms in cursive in his journal. My middle child traces the letters as he also says the sounds each phonogram makes. This is such a simple exercise and takes approximately 15 minutes start to finish, but it has been the sole thing to improve handwriting and phonogram retention in my home so far. My oldest is already spelling better, and he’s sounding out those bigger words he doesn’t know! So, it accomplished my goals with him. We go on later in the morning to work on his spelling lists, just the two of us.

This class has another purpose behind it for my younger two children. It’s not a forced repertoire to make them learn to read, but very natural and fun, so as they desire to pick up God’s Word themselves and have their own reading experience, they too will have the foundations to start down that path of greater understanding and application.

My middle child is 6 and has recently expressed interest in learning to read on his own. I encouraged him to learn his letter sounds (phonograms), and that reading will happen after he develops that skill first. He enthusiastically chimes in during cursive. I know he will be a slower learner when it comes to reading on his own, but this method is so strong that he will progress quickly when he’s ready, and I’m excited for his experience in accomplishing his goal.

My youngest is exposed daily to reading through our frequent read alouds as well as participating in cursive with her brothers. She is eager to “teach” (with me) and quiz her big brothers on their letters. Repeated exposure is one of the biggest themes I have gathered from true education methods. It is how Jesus taught the multitudes as well as his own disciples during their short time together on earth.

So, I hope my 15 minutes of Cursive Class inspires you to take small snippets of your day to regularly expose your children to the foundations of reading, which is the foundation of all learning.

Blessings,
Allison

Maturing the Parent, Teaching the Child

Here we are at the beginning of our homeschooling journey. Our oldest is starting kindergarten. We have a lot of ideas about homeschooling, what we want our children to experience during this journey, and how we will get there. However, to borrow from Stephen Covey, we are going to “begin with the end in mind.”

Our curriculum for this year is Destinations. My husband and I went through the process of identifying our goals for educating our children. We identified 28 goals that are important to us, and seven overall goals that will be the focus of the work we do. The other 21 goals will secondary, or tertiary, and we will document on them when we notice them, but they aren’t the priority goals. I look at our goals, and think this will be harder than I thought. We aren’t simply focusing on the tasks of learning, like reading, mathematics, and writing. We want our children to live these goals, with our ultimate success knowing that our children have a personal walk with God.  As parents we also have to learn how to model the actions we want our children to imitate, because they do imitate us already.

When it comes to being parent-teachers, we get to work together on the expectations we have, our parents have, and others in our support system might have for the education experience of our children. The education process has reinforced the notion of teamwork. At the same time, my husband taking a primary role in educating our children challenges societal norms. Sometimes these challenges are easily overcome. Other times the challenges take some time to work through. Educating a child becomes as much about the maturing of the parent, refining routines, learning or relearning skills, and being or becoming the type of person we want our children to imitate…as it is about teaching a child. Having education goals keeps us from being pulled in too many directions, and allows us as parents to intentionally model what we want our children to imitate — even as they imitate many other actions that we aren’t intending to model.

For educational learning specifically, we follow a Montessori approach right now, a hands-on method where the children are able to interact with their environment without specific direction. We provide different opportunities for learning. We know which learning tasks that are necessary such as reading, writing, and mathematics. How a child accomplishes the learning tasks will likely vary. A Montessori approach gives us the opportunity to observe our children, notice learning preferences, and let our children teach us about their own interests. The children create, problem solve, and share with us their experiences and successes. We are able to develop a relationship with our children, without focusing specifically on behavior management like sitting still, focusing, and staying on a task for a predetermined amount of time. While important skills, we can get to them at a later time. For now, it’s about modeling, observing and enjoying each other.

References:

Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lessons in personal change. London: Simon & Schuster.

Dickerson, E. (n.d.). Check These Out:. Retrieved September 04, 2017, from http://showcase.netins.net/web/nurture/

Exploring a New Year…

 

The most frequent response I get when I tell people I homeschool has been, “Wow, I don’t have the patience for that,” or “You must be a very patient person!” My answer is that it takes a lot of patience to parent. Homeschooling isn’t that different, just extended.

One thing that has really helped me to be patient in our homeschool has been to remember my children are people first. When I remember that they are people, I can be more compassionate. Jesus told us to “let the little children come to Him” in a time when children were thought to be a nuisance and in the way. Things haven’t changed much in that aspect. Adults tend to want children to do what they are told, when they are told to do it, how they are told to do it. In fact, when I was a young girl if I was told to jump, the reaction expected was to ask “how high” as I was starting to jump.

One of the blessings of homeschooling our children is that they are able to develop their own sense of identity…except we don’t always appreciate that independence when it comes against us. It is possible to harness that independence, to use it to enhance their educational experience.

I don’t want a carbon copy of me. It would certainly be easier to predict their desires, interests, and actions, but it would be boring. My sons have different interests, different life goals, and they are still discovering them. My job is to help them discover their path in life, to discover God’s calling on his life. When I remember this, it puts life, and school, into perspective.

Our homeschool journey includes exposing the children to many different options. Sometimes we do weird, crazy things to explore those options. We’re often researching topics of interest, no matter how strange they may seem to be. You can use all of those options to teach all of the subjects needed. We’re stepping into junior high this year, and that makes it a transition year… It’ll be an interesting journey as we move forward.

My advice as we move into a new school year: Don’t be afraid to throw out the books sometimes and explore the weird things in life. Let the kids find their own passions and use those passions to teach what they need to know to succeed in life. Get hands on, and discover what’s available in your community to reach your child’s interests. Forget about the path you had planned, and let them discover their own.

Charlotte Mason Preschool

Charlotte Mason was a huge supporter for starting formal academics later. She spoke about the benefits of short lessons, rich living books, and lots of time spent outside. I love how her method of teaching supports early childhood development. It is my goal that my early learner is in love with learning! Currently I am working with my three-year-old, and want to share what a Charlotte Mason preschool looks like in our home.

After we have morning time with my middle schoolers, I send them off to their individual studies and work with my three-year-old. We read a short Bible lesson and then do her calendar board. Some days she will play with felts or do other hands-on activities during morning time. After her Bible and calendar time, we move to her “core” work.

I found a wonderful Charlotte Mason based preschool curriculum called The Peaceful Preschool. It is a literature and project based curriculum that is letter themed. I love the rich book suggestions and gentle hands-on projects for each letter of the alphabet. These activities include read alouds, phonics, counting skills, fine and large motor skills, practical life skills, and art skills. There are 26 weeks or 52 weeks of lessons depending on how much time you want to spend on each letter.  All of the lessons are pre-planned and include a weekly grid, book, activity, and field trip suggestions. It makes it really simple and restful for me as a teacher and offers flexibility for my child’s interests.

I chose to spend two weeks per letter so that we could move slowly through her learning. I love that I can add in my own manipulatives, activities, and books as we go along, depending on her interests.

Along with her letter themed activities, we are also learning about nature study. The Charlotte Mason method of education has a strong focus on time spent outside and in nature study. We love to go on walks; play in the dirt; and spot birds, flowers, and plants, and then learn about them. These nature activities can also be tied into the letter themes to round out their learning.

One thing to remember about early learning is that it doesn’t have to be fast-paced with lots of formal learning. Children learn through play, enriching books, simple activities, and lots of nature time. Keep it simple, let them grow within their developmental abilities, and provide a loving environment.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt. 7


How Do I Afford This?

Homeschooling “on the cheap” is covered by various sites. It has also been covered by this blog in the past. Yet, because this series is about homeschooling as a single parent, I felt I needed to at least address some ideas on how to be able to afford to homeschool when funding may be tight.

With the internet, a printer, and a good local library, it is possible to homeschool for almost free. Unit studies are very popular ways to homeschool inexpensively. There are literally hundreds of free unit studies available online. There are some paid sites such as CurrClick that offer a free study each week. There are sites like HomeschoolFreebie which offer daily free resources. They also have paid resources that are often offered at a discount. Khan Academy is a well-known free site for many subjects. YouTube offers countless free educational videos and even audio books. Your local public library often offers free learning kits also. It is an extremely valuable resource.

There is a time exchange when you want to save money on homeschooling. When you have free resources, there is no one there organizing the lesson plans. That means it will require more time of the mom or dad to do the planning. Sometimes it is easier to find time than to find money, though.

I should say that the most “bang for the buck” I have found is Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which offers curriculum that is Christian in nature on every subject, and dozens of electives. They offer very easy payment plans also (sales are advertised often). Even though my children are finished, I still maintain my membership in this site since learning never stops. They also offer lesson plans. This is truly a one-stop place for all grades and subjects.

Other curriculums that are low-cost: Pray & Prepare. This is an excellent program that is not Adventist, but teach many of our doctrines such as Saturday Sabbath, unclean meats, and even modest dress. It is low-cost and has activities for all age groups. It is truly a program for the whole family.

Blessed is a Man/Far Above Rubies are high school programs that are specific for gender. They are college-prep programs that require a good deal of reading and writing/research. Again, they provide activities and ways to count high school credit. The parent only has to pick and choose according to interest and needs.

Before leaving this topic, I will also share about the K-12 program offered all across the country through the public school system. Because of the growing number of families who are pulling their children out of the public schools, a home-based public school program is now being offered country-wide. Word of warning…it IS public school. They do offer a number of perks like a free computer, a printer, and funds for internet access. They also offer funds for extras in some areas. When considering this option, ask yourself why you are homeschooling. From the friends I have seen using this program, it is a lot of work. There is also a teacher who oversees the work. Many times I have seen families extremely stressed in trying to finish the work by the end of the school year. Even though the cost is free, there are other costs to consider.

There are other options with information available on the blog and other lists. This post is simply a reminder of some ways to cut the cost of homeschooling. Having low funds needs never be a reason to not homeschool.