Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spelling Resources for Early Elementary Homeschoolers

One of the reasons we chose to go with the Classical Education model for our homeschool was because of its focus on language. I have always believed that if you taught a child to read and write well, that they could learn anything. That's the same philosophy that Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise espouse in their book, The Well-Trained Mind. We spend a lot of time on reading, spelling, grammar, and writing, along with copywork and dictation (which I'll talk about more in a future post.) With that in mind, here are some of my favorite resources for helping your elementary-aged kiddos become superstar spellers.

1. Spelling Workout


The Spelling Workout series of workbooks by Modern Curriculum Press is the basis of our spelling curriculum. The chapters in each workbook are organized not by theme (words about weather, words about animals, etc.) but by spelling rules. This dovetails nicely with the phonics I used with the kids when I taught them to read, as well as with some of our grammar lessons.

Each chapter begins with a short piece of writing, using some of the words in the chapter's spelling list. Then (my favorite part) a spelling tip is given, such as:

"When a vowel is followed by r, the vowel sound is changed by the r. Listen for the or sound in corn and the ar sound in farm."

Each chapter includes three pages of practice, including a section that familiarizes students with common proofreading marks. We love this series.

2. Free Online Spelling Lists


If you'd rather not buy a workbook, there are several good free resources online to build a spelling curriculum around. Here are a few we've tried:

3. Online Spelling Games


These games aren't built around a specific list or curriculum, but they're a fun way to give kids some extra spelling practice (and see how well they remember the spelling rules they've learned!)

4. Extra Practice: Spelling Soup Activities

If your kids have a few words that just keep tripping them up, combine them into one list and use the Spelling Soup activities to provide extra drills. To begin, print out the PDF from Have Fun Teaching (Choose either primary grades or intermediate grades). Then just let your child work their way through the activities. If you and your kids like reward systems, consider coming up with a reward for getting all possible points, or for completing a certain number of the Spelling Soup activities. Once they do a few of these, chances are good that they won't have problems with those trouble words anymore.

I hope these resources are helpful to you. We use most of them every week, and (thankfully!) so far my kids really enjoy spelling. What are some of your favorite resources for teaching spelling?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homeschooling with Toddlers

We have two very distinct age groups in our family. My two oldest children are seven and eight. And then there are the two younger kids, who we have dubbed "the Littles." The Littles are ten months apart. It's like having twins, except that one of the twins is just a smidge more mature than the other, and comes up with all kinds of great ideas to keep Mom and Dad on their toes.

It's a lot of fun. Really.

Anyway. The Littles are out of toddler phase now, and will be starting a preschool curriculum in the fall. Living and homeschooling through the toddler years was . . . interesting.

There are a few things that kept us sane (at least as far as homeschooling goes) during those toddler years.

1. The Power of Kits

One of the most successful ways I was able to keep the Littles occupied so I could teach the two older girls was to put kits together ahead of time. These kits were meant to provide short activities, and were only brought out at school time. Over time, the Littles referred to their kits as "doing school," which worked out because now that they're ready to start preschool at home, they're already used to staying busy and (somewhat) quiet for periods of time. I think this will help our transition a lot.

Kits can be very, very simple. Here are some of the kits I've put together:
  • Homemade felt board
  • Rubber stamps, stamp pad, and paper
  • Stickers and paper
  • Play-Doh, cookie cutters, small rolling pin
  • Dry pasta and pipe cleaners (to make bracelets)
  • Crayons and small coloring books (either purchased or homemade)
  • Wooden shapes with matching shape cards -- kids match the wooden shape to the card

There are more great ideas for simple kits:
I keep my kits in gallon-sized zipper bags, stored in a basket in our dining room (which is also our school room). Just pull one out when you need it, get the toddlers started, then enjoy a few minutes of peace to teach!

2. Laptime

 Often, all a toddler wants is to feel like he or she is part of the action. I've done a lot of homeschooling with a toddler or two on my lap. You'd be amazed at how much you can get done if you let your little one sit on your lap and give them some crayons and paper.

3. Naptime

I can't attest to this one, since all of my kids gave up napping shortly after their first birthday (sigh). But, if your toddler still naps, try to schedule your most difficult/involved subjects for that time.

4. TV is Not Always Evil

There is nothing wrong with letting your little one tune into a short age-appropriate DVD or show while you try to get some school work done. It can be a nice treat for them, and a nice break for you. Just beware of using this method too often -- it can quickly become a habit rather than a treat.

5. Special Toys

Much like the kit concept (above) it's a good idea to have a few toys that are only available to play with during school time. Of course, these should be quiet toys -- leave the toy drum set for another time.

Homeschooling with toddlers can definitely be a challenge. Some days, nothing will work. There will be times when no amount of creativity or coaxing on your part will be enough. That's OK! Take a break, or work on something that your older kids can do without your help. Remember that tomorrow is another day (Or, next wek is a new week -- yes, you will have weeks like this).

I hope these ideas help!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Homeschooling Schedule

I know that when I read homeschooling blogs, I always wonder about how other families schedule things. Here's our schedule, generally modeled after the recommendations in "The Well-Trained Mind."

Monday through Thursday

10:00 - 11:00                 Math (Lesson, Khan Academy, or workbook drills.)
11:00 - 11:30                 Pooks - reading / Sauce - copywork
11:30 - 12:00                 Sauce - reading / Pooks - copywork
12:00 - 12:30                 Lunch
12:30 - 1:00                   Spelling
1:00 - 1:30                     Grammar
1:30 - 2:30                     History (Monday/Wednesday) or Science (Tuesday/Thursday)
2:30 - 3:00                    Silent reading time


Friday is our less-structured day. We usually have a spelling test, science projects, art study time, French, and we finish up any reading we got behind on during the week (it's good to build this kind of flexibility into your homeschooling week -- it's almost impossible to stay on track all the time!) We also usually do some baking on Fridays -- everyone loves getting into the kitchen and making something tasty.

Non-Structured Time

One of the best things about homeschooling is that not all "lessons" have to take place during your scheduled school hours. Pooks loves to write and draw, and usually writes a story or comic book every week (writing practice!) Sauce loves her guitar and spends time practicing every week (music!) and they both love to read, so there's never any lack of time spent reading (both silently and out loud.) Baking, helping with the younger kids, spending time out in the garden -- all of this is "educational." Kids spend their whole lives learning. All we have to do is give them the opportunities to do so. More about that (and how I managed the Littles) in future posts!