Saturday, February 28, 2009

Catechism, Fish-style

Fish and I are reviewing some of the material for his Sacramental Preparation class tomorrow, and while it is sometimes quite mind-numbing trying to grab this boy's attention, I must say, he certainly knows how to get mine with some wonderful one-line zingers!

We were discussing the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist and what those words mean. Eucharist means "to give thanks" and we discussed at great length (ok, for about 3 minutes) how we can show God our thanks.

We brought up the idea that we can thank God in our quiet times with Him. I asked Fish if he ever talks to God. He replied, " Yep, at night when I am trying to go to sleep!" I then asked him what kinds of things he talks about with God.

He replied, "Well... we just play Rock, Paper, Scissors"...

I said, "WHAT?! Ok, Fish, so who wins?" To which his answer was, "Uh, mom? He does! Remember, He knows my thoughts, so He already knows what I am going to do, so He always wins!"

Later in the conversation, he said "Mom, God is tough!" I inquired as to why he would say that and he replied, "Well, He ALWAYS beats the Devil!"

Finally, we completed our lesson with the writing of a prayer to be said after meals.

Here is Fish's prayer... just when I thought nothing was getting in there...

Thank you God for our family. Thank you God for our lives and all of our blessings. Help us to always remember to share our blessings with others. Help all of our family to go safely to Heaven. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

As Lent Begins

Another season of Lent has arrived and I find myself not ready for it. I am currently sick as are a number of the children right now. It's hard to feel as though I am fasting or abstaining when I can't eat anything anyway. It's kind of like cheating!

But my mind is what truly needs to be prepared. My heart, my soul need to be aligned with Christ and Lent provides us all the opportunity to do so.

As I ponder the sacrifices that I will make and the virtues that I will try to strengthen, I pray that I can keep my eyes fixed on Him.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Tool of Dictation for Younger Children

In my last post regarding Charlotte Mason techniques, I addressed Copywork. In today's post, I'd like to discuss a bit about Dictation and how I have used it in our homeschooling.

Children can begin with copywork very early and most do fairly well with it. Dictation is the next step within the process of CM style of Language Arts. I do not recommend beginning dictation with a child until they are of the age that they can recall a small line of prose or scripture from memory. Also, the child should be able to read at least at a beginning level, in other words, he should be able to read the selection that has been chosen for the copywork and dictation.

I like to use a very simple line of literature or scripture when first beginning this process. Most often, my children will start with a quote from Miss Mason herself;

I am;
I can;
I ought;
I will.

The dictation begins with several days of copywork preceding the actual act of the dictation.

Typically, I introduce the selection by reading it to the student and then go over any words that might be difficult to spell. I also am sure to point out marks of punctuation, if appropriate, I'll instruct in why a specific mark is being used, and I would also point out the layout of the selection. For instance, in the quote above, I would point out:

1. Why the "I" is capitalized,
2. The semicolon and the period and why each one is used.
3. The difficult spelling of ought.
4. The layout of the quote. It is not in one line, but rather 4 lines. This is how it should be copied and memorized.

The student will copy this selection each day for several days. Most often 4 - 5 days, but if he needs longer, that is fine as well. On the last day, instead of copying the piece, I will dictate it to him.

Dictation is done in the following manner. The student reviews the selection one last time being sure to commit to memory spellings, punctuation, and the layout of the selection.

When he is ready, I give him a blank piece of paper and a freshly sharpened pencil, complete with an eraser.

I instruct the student that as usual, this dictation needs to be in his best handwriting. Then I begin to slowly read the selection, a small bit at a time, carefully pausing at the marks of punctuation. I only recite each bit one time. If the student misses something, tell him to leave a blank and move forward.

At the end of the selection, I then re-dictate it to the student at a normal pace and he is to fill in any missed information at that time.

Once he feels that he has completed his dictation, I then hand him the original selection of copywork and ask him to find any errors that he has made. When he finishes, I ask him to correct the errors and place the number of errors at the top of the page.

Then I review his dictation and am careful to check for any errors that he may have missed on his own. I always praise the student for doing a wonderful job, if in fact they did. Take every opportunity you can to applaud a difficult word spelled correctly, a mark of punctuation placed appropriately, or the beautiful penmanship that the assignment had been finished in.

What I treasure about dictation is much of what is unseen while performing this activity. Through dictation, we are developing the habit of attention, the skill of memorization, editing, and the art of listening, which is so important for auditory development. We are also incorporating the learning of grammar, spelling, and the skill of beautiful handwriting.

Dictation and copywork are very simple techniques to implement in any home or school. Do not let their simplicity fool you however, as they are extremely powerful in the art of education.

I do want to add that the above technique is what I use for my younger/new to dictation students. I do things slightly different for my older students and will elaborate more on that in another post.

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Lem!

Lem celebrated her 11th birthday recently and had a series of events which commemorated it!

First was a wonderful party with some of her friends. The girls made homemade personal-size pizzas and watched a few of their favorite movies.

On her actual birthday, she was treated to her favorite breakfast, crepes, and then her favorite dinner! She has wonderful tastebuds, so we all were able to enjoy the meals.

On our Family night, Sunday, we celebrated both her birthday and that of her soon-to-be uncle! It's always so much fun to be a part of a big family! Sharing birthdays make them even more special!!

As I watch my youngest baby girl grow into a lovely young woman, I am in awe of her grace and poise. She is one of the nicest people I've ever known, and I see the hand of God upon her each day. She has a very sensitive nature that allows her to feel for others in a deeply moving way. I am excited to watch where life brings her, but I will admit, I do not want to let her go...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Something's Been Missing

It's true. Something HAS been missing around this blog. That would be posts! More specifically, homeschooling-related posts.

I am so blessed to still be homeschooling after 10 years! I have learned so much, and yet still learn more every day. It is an amazing journey, and I pray, one that we can continue until we start on our grand-children.

As most of you know, I love to follow the Charlotte Mason Methodology of education. I implement as much of her philosophies as possible into our school life. Actually, into all of our life. I am not the best at it, but what we do works for us and keeps our learning joyful most of the time.

I also begin to integrate some to the Classical Model as the children get older, typically around 7th or 8th grade. I feel that this really helps us to become better writers and thinkers as they enter the high school age. Without the CM method in the younger years, I have no doubt that the cognitive processes which need to occur before writing can be of any quality.

Another aspect of my life is working with children who have auditory processing difficulties. This translates into the academic world in the form of poor reading/writing/spelling skills. Most of the students that come to me are considered dyslexic or ADD and are doing terribly in school. When I implement the programs that we use to help re-train the brain, I can't help but see how brilliant CM was. One of the key components that CM used was the practice of Copywork/Dictation/Narration.

In today's world, all of us are using more and more visual skills and less and less auditory skills. Computers, tv, movies, iphones, text messaging... it's all visual. The auditory centers of our brains are not be utilized and therefore, often results with their delayed development.

I try to get the parents of my students to understand this. It is so very important to read aloud to the children, let them narrate back to you, and to actually LISTEN to what the child is saying. It is not important that they get each detail correct, but more, that YOU are listening attentively and that he/she is able to verbalize what they are trying to express. This is the surest way to excellent writing skills. One who can not express what they mean to say verbally, will NOT be able to write effectively. I have seen this theory proven time and time again, with my own children as well as the many that I have worked with over the last few years.

I am so passionate about the way our children are educated. When I see what is being asked of our young people in the public school setting, it makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong, I think the educators are trying in earnest to have our students be as well educated as possible, but I believe they are missing a key component. That is the normal cognitive and fine-motor development of a child.

I have seen assignments expected of these students that ask children as young as 5 to write stories. Never mind the spelling, the teachers tell them to just write. The problem with this is that the young mind is impressing upon itself the incorrect spelling of many, many words. This is just one example of the problems I see with the current method being used by many traditional schools. I could cite many more, but the point of this post in not to rip apart schools. Rather, I would like to present a different CM method that I use in my homeschool a small bit at a time.

Today, I would like to discuss Copywork. Please note that the way that I implement these methods may be slightly different than the way that Miss Mason actually practiced them. This is what has worked best for my family over the years. Feel free to comment about what you might do differently and how it works in your home.

Copywork is a wonderful tool for so many different reasons. It is a wonderful way to introduce in a gentle way, punctuation, grammar, spelling, memory skills, handwriting, and exposure to quality literature, biblical verses, and famous essays, quotes, and poems.

In our home, mom, (or dad, as you'll see below), selects a piece for copywork according to age and experience with the Copywork. In our home, we do not begin copywork until the child can comfortably handle a pencil, can form letters well, and is beginning to read. This typically ranges between 6 or 7 years of age. If the child is not ready, and you will know fairly quickly if he or she is NOT ready, (the crying, fitful, episodes of drama are usually a dead give-away), shelf the copywork until a later time.

If the student is ready, the selection should be short at first, one line is best. I usually start with Charlotte Mason's infamous quote, and our school motto,

I am;
I can;
I ought;
I will.

This is a wonderful exposure to punctuation, some tricky spellings, and introduces the high ideal that we as parents hold for our children.

I introduce to student to the selection by reading it aloud to them and then begin pointing out all marks of punctuation, teaching why a particular mark is being used and making sure that the child can recall the name of the mark if it is not new to them.

I also will point out indenting, stanzas, capitalization, new spellings, and other items of interest that may come up.

The child will then copy this phrase, in his very best handwriting, allowing no errors. This means that the teacher must be present as he does his assignment, carefully overseeing the process. If there is a misspelling, it must be corrected immediately. Do not allow the child to impress this error within his mind's eye. If the word is a particularly difficult word and the child continues to misspell it, we practice a visual spelling method of pointing to the letters in the air, spelling it out forwards until he knows where each letter is and then demonstrating true knowledge of the spelling by correctly pointing to each letter in a forward and then backward manner. I will try to post a video on this technique later.

The child will continue with the copywork selection, copying each day for several days, typically in our home 4 - 5 days, eventually moving to a new selection of copywork.

I really like to use Spelling Wisdom from the website Simply Charlotte Mason The selections are graded from beginner to advanced ability. Honestly, you can use any good quality selection you would like. In the past, I have used the poem that they might be working on memorizing at the time, a scripture passage that we are instilling, or even a passage from one of their favorite books.

Keep in mind, CM allowed for short lessons, so for a young child of 7 or so, no more than 5 minutes should be expected. Older students, I would say, no more than 10.

One more thing regarding copywork in our home. With the young/beginning copywork student, the selection is copied onto the same paper that he will be writing on, placing his work directly below the copied lines.

As the student becomes more comfortable with the method, he will transition into copying from a separate typed selection, possibly even directly from the source such as the Bible or the novel itself. This helps with the visual skills necessary for copying from books and chalk boards for eventual note-taking and other needed study skills.

When the child can demonstrate his very best work, be sure to praise him and even place the best copy into a notebook for safe-keeping. I try to put ours into page protectors in what we call their Commonplace Book.

Below are two examples of copywork that were done by our 7 year-old, Fish.

The first was Dad's choice. (I find it humorous to see what Dads pick over what Moms pick!) This was a very early attempt at copywork as you can see that the selection was printed onto the lined paper for him to refer to.

The second example is his first attempt at true copywork, copying from one sheet to his copywork book. This was also the first selection that he was able to transition into dictation with. Dictation will be a topic covered in another post.

Please feel free to comment how this works in your home. I love hearing new ideas and trying them out on my guinea pigs... I mean children!!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My first Blogging Award!

I am the proud recipient of the highly coveted FOMUBA award! It's the first award I've ever received, and probably will be the last...

So take in the precious sight and yes, Envy me... go ahead... envy me!