The Not So Delightful Stuff

How do I handle the not so delightful lessons? I do it with focused learning sessions that we have a few times a year. They usually last about four to six weeks at a time.

Some things we have learned in focused learning sessions:

Grammar:  I teach grammar twice. The first time is around fourth or fifth grade and then again in eighth grade. I use a good grammar workbook like Abeka. Any book will do as long as it has proper grammar usage. I have seen some cheap workbooks that had improper grammar. Be careful about this. For six weeks we plow through the lessons, and after this we are done. In eighth grade we repeat with more depth. The rest of the grammar they learn comes from reading books, speaking with proper language, School House Rock, and writing activities. The purpose of the focused session is to put names and proper usage to things they have already been using.  All grammar lessons outside of the six week sessions are taught casually. It works for us.

State Capitals:  We memorized the state capitals over about four weeks. We played a game using a PopTart box that was labeled on each side with a state. We tossed the box back and forth and we had to name the capital of whichever state was facing us when we caught the box. At first I allowed them to check the map if they were not sure, but by day two they did it by memory. Every other day we changed the six states that we were working on. We did twelve states a week this way, and I quizzed them each Friday and again at the end. This hands on learning made it more fun and effective. They still know their state capitals.

Spelling: I don’t teach a lot of formal spelling, but I have done some spurts of Sequential Spelling for a few weeks at a time. Instead of doing one list a day for the year, we do several lists a day during our focus time. To save time, I skip to the words and patterns they need to work on. I usually start this around fourth or fifth grade and go back to it as I see the need. This helps them make some mental connections and greatly improves their spelling. We use chalkboards, tablets (to type), dry erase boards, spelling bee style, drawing words in the carpet, etc. Most of their spelling is still learned from reading books. (This may not work for my very tactile 10 year old. I may have to find something else for her.)

These are just a few of the types of lessons we learn in spurts. It works for us because we can be very focused on it for a short time and then leave it behind for something else more interesting.


What Does Delight Directed Learning Look Like (Part 3)

Let me preface this post by saying that it was the hardest of the three parts to write. I’m enjoying the fruits of the high school years. I am most passionate about the middle school years. I love the baby years. But the elementary years (somewhere between age five to eight or nine) are scary to me. I have seen 3 children go through this stage and the fourth is in the middle of it now . Each child in this stage develops at a different pace.  By middle school they even out to a great extent, but until then there can be great differences. Of my children, the first and second read by age five and the third and fourth by the age of eight.  The first and third were early walkers and writers, and the second and fourth were late walkers and writers. My approach was about the same, but they were made and responded differently.

“I don’t see what the difference is in a home setting whether the child reads at six or at eight. They still learn to read.”

Okay, that was my confident speech that I give myself often. Here’s the truth. I stress myself all the time about the little ones.

“Am I laying down the foundation that they need? Am I failing them? Am I too relaxed? Why aren’t they getting it yet? Why are they behind the other kids their ages?”

I’ve used a relaxed approach with all four kids. My 15 year old amazes me. My 12 year old has turned the corner and is becoming independent in his learning. My 10 year old finally picked up chapter books this year. I have one child left to watch through this time. It is still scary, but not as scary as it was the first couple of times through.  They do appear to be behind for the first few years, but they catch up and excel later.  I have to trust the process.

So what do I teach and what materials do I use?

Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons— I love this book. By the 13th lesson the child can read a three word story with an illustration, and they are so proud of themselves. It is simple but works. We never get through the whole book before they drop it for real books. That is the ultimate goal anyway. I want to help them fall in love with books.

Writing:  Assuming my child already knows how to form each letter on paper, these are ways I have found helpful in practicing writing naturally.

Have them copy from books, poems, songs that they love. They can write letters to siblings and friends. Set up mailboxes for them to play games that include writing. Have them take orders for dinner and write them down. There are so many ways to employ writing skills in everyday life.

I write for them sometimes too. I let them dictate a story to me and I write it out. They love reading their story in writing, and it makes them want to do more.

Math: I usually buy a workbook for them around age seven I buy the cheap $10 books because I know we will only do bits and pieces of it. I try to find hands on options when I can. I have a paper clock that I use to teach time. I teach measuring in the kitchen while baking cupcakes or when measuring how tall they have grown. I teach adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, even fractions with candy. I use the workbooks to keep an eye on where they should be, but it is definitely no big deal if we don’t use it if it is not what works. Sometimes what works are computer games and tablet apps. Our favorites are Jump Start, Reader Rabbit, and Math Missions.

Other:  They are also learning Bible from church and from talking about it as it comes up at home, science and social studies as we experience them in a natural setting, through good books, and through television programs like Wild Kratts and Liberty Kids.

I followed my own convictions in teaching them for a while before I found a name that defined what I was already doing. Charlotte Mason advocates a gentle approach to learning, and it really does work.