Getting Ready for Summer Learning

Cozumel, Mexico - Going here in January! Hope it is as beautiful as this picture suggests. :DI know, this post just might not be the most popular post – especially with the kiddos. Yet, this year I am realizing that I need my children to keep on working through the summer. There are alot of areas that I feel they are slack in and could use the extra work. We’ve talked about it this week, and I must admit I felt as if their stares would burn a hole right through me.

Though my children do school just about every single day, there are still some gaps that I have noticed. So, our goal this summer is to fill in the gaps and get ready for the next “official” grade.

My first grader has a bit of dyslexia. She is struggling with reading, and is getting pretty frustrated. I plan on keeping her working on basic phonics skills and small readers throughout the summer. We will use the first grade language arts lessons from T4L to help her review what she has already learned. I also love Bob books, and will use those in conjunction with a Disney princess early reader. (simply because she adores Disney princesses!)

My third grader does well with her writing and grammar… however, at our house this is the pivotal year for multiplication tables. She understands multiplication, but just doesn’t have the “facts” down. We will be working through those during the summer- getting them to the rote memory stage. I love using kids learning software along with other math learning games.

My seventh grade twins are both doing fairly well. They are currently writing their first research paper (translate- I’m losing my hair). They also have begun learning some basic algebra. So, during the summer we are going to continue using Time4Learning as a supplement and reviewing the spelling lessons through Spelling City’s customizable lists.

Revolutionizing Spelling Curriculum

spelling curriculumWhen I first started homeschooling, I thought my kids had to conform to my previous classroom standards. I made myself and them miserable those first few years. In fact, I thought I had to teach each of our individual grades and their homeschool curricula in their entirety. I have six children, so that really began to make me crazy. My life began to change when I noticed how other homeschooling families used one curriculum to reach many different grade levels. This really made sense to me, and I could see how it would liberate my life!

One of my first moves in this direction was to begin using Spelling City. This online spelling program allowed me to quit teaching 5 different spelling levels. I simply had to enter in my lists into the program and assign them to my children.  The rest was up to them. They would learn the words, complete drill and practice exercises that I chose for them, and then take a spelling and or vocabulary test on the words. Spelling City also made my life easier by keeping track of their progress, and storing all of their grades! They also have printables that can make homeschooling a little richer including spelling flashcards! I immediately fell in love, and have been with Vocabulary and Spelling City for 5 years now. The games are interesting, the options are nearly endless, and the record keeping is taken care of… what more could I ask for?

My review can also be found at The Happy Housewife

Making a Case for Spelling

Spelling and Vocabulary is often put on the back burner…

Sometimes, whether you’re homeschooled or not… spelling just isn’t top priority. In fact, many people view spelling as simply a side note to the bigger skill of writing and possibly reading. However, I submit that spelling is actually a study in and of itself. You may wonder why I seem so passionate about this? Well, to be honest when I was teacher I saw how spelling truly interacted with almost every subject. The fact that students could achieve at a higher rate through the study of spelling and vocabulary was simply astounding to me. It didn’t coincide with how most teachers, students, and even parents viewed the practice of the subject. Yet, it made sense.

You see spelling and vocabulary are at the heart of all learning whether it is math, science, or even history. If we can encourage children to understand concepts and meaning of words through the study of vocabulary and spelling then the actual  participation in a subject is easier for the child. They already have an understanding of the concepts. So, my methodology would be to use a spelling/vocabulary introduction to a subject presenting all the vital words and concepts and then have the child use spelling drill and practice with those words before beginning a formal study of the concepts. Your drill and practice could include everything from word analogies, definitions, to segmenting. This method actually aids in comprehension and in building connections to prior experiences.

Spelling Builds Good Readers…

Secondly, instead of putting spelling on the back burner it should be an integral part of learning because it not only builds a foundation of understanding it also builds better readers. Yes, we all know spelling is the support structure of good reading. Yet, truthfully it goes hand in hand with it and I would press further to say that a good speller is a good reader. The more a child works with words – whether it is through spelling/vocabulary, writing, reading, etc. the better that person will be able to use words appropriately in speech and language. A systematic approach to teaching spelling is efficient at enabling students to understand our complex language and to become masters at communication. Don’t wait until problems arise – teaching spelling  in a “correct the errors” manner does nothing to strengthen or build the student’s understanding… it simply adds confusion.

Technology to Teach Spelling…

Finally, using multiple methods to teach spelling and vocabulary instruction can make all the difference. Children who are learning spelling through a fun and engaging method will not find the practice dull. The key to motivation is finding a way to enhance learning through meaningful methods.  It is key that as students are practicing vocabulary and spelling that they receive feedback and success. The use of technology in spelling and vocabulary can be a most effective method of teaching for success. Spelling  – in almost every subject area – spells out success!

A few tips to get you headed in the right direction:

1) Spelling in other subjects. – Mathematical spelling lists, science spelling lists, history spelling lists

2) Teaching spelling systematically – usually using a phonics based approach

3) Use interactive spelling games and other fun resources to make spelling and vocabulary rewarding

Worried about Losing it?

I think that is the biggest concern of most homeschooling parents… if I don’t school in the summer will my child lose what we have learned?

I have to agree it is a viable concern. Research has clearly shown that it is a fact. Without daily practice the skills that we have sharpened and honed in our children all year are left to get dull and dusty from disuse. This is a mjor reason why many homeschooling families just homeschool all year long. This keeps the kids on top of the skills that they have studied and worked so hard to gain.

But what about those that just don’t like doing school during the summer… (I have to raise my hands here!) I enjoy having a few months to rest, relax, and not stress about making my kids toe the line. So, how do I accomodate my needs while still keeping my kids sharp? Well, the best way I have found to do this is to use an online curriculum to give them a daily challenge. This summer we are using Time4Learning as well as an online  homeschool spelling curriculum. This curriculum is free, and has many types of lists about various subject matter, that we use to review what they have learned over the course of the year. I typically set a time like an hour each day, and they are required to work on either online curriculum during this hour.  I don’t have to keep track of our goals and objectives, nor do I have to record grades or keep up with paperwork. I am able to get the best of both world for me and my children with this method.

Let me know if you have any great ideas on how to keep your kids sharp during the summer.

Vocabulary Learning is Key

Vocabulary learning is an essential part of each child’s education. Many relegate it to a slightly important status in their homeschooling endeavors… However, I believe that spelling and vocabulary are pivotal to every subject that our children learn.

Spelling and vocabulary are the essential tools with which our children gain understanding. These tools are used constantly when new words are encountered, and children learn better when they understand the terms with which they are being taught. From the Dolch word list to complex math vocabulary terms spelling and vocabulary enables students to gain mastery.

Simply put, if a child is being taught an intricate lesson on light waves yet doesn’t understand the many terms that are being used in teaching the process the student will not gain an understanding of the subject matter. Yet, if we turn this around, the student who has a complete and thorough understanding of the complex words used in the unit will then easily be able to follow the process of light waves.

Spelling and vocabulary are the pillars on which the understanding of all other subjects rest. Yes, I know that reading is foundational – but spelling and vocabulary learning are foundation to reading. It is rather a questions of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Spelling and vocabulary are integral aspects of successful reading, and yet all of them are pivotal to understanding other subjects.

Spelling and Vocabulary

I have met a few homeschooling families that don’t take spelling and vocabulary seriously.  This really breaks my heart.  I believe that spelling and vocabulary is a foundational core subject that influences how our children learn and achieve throughout life.   Sometimes children have difficulty spelling, and may need tutoring. This can be a result of a phonics foundation. If this is the case, the child needs to be taken back to beginning phonics and given a proper foundation of letter sounds, and phonetical blends. If the child knows the sounds thoroughly, there is typically no problem “sounding” out a word. 

Also reading and spelling and vocabulary instruction go hand in hand. The more a person reads, the better their vocabulary gets.  Yet, the more vocabulary a child learns, the better they can read. It really is amazing, but the connection is strong and effectual.  The importance of spelling is undisputable. If we teach a child good foundational phonics skills, and build on that with good vocabulary practice… we set them up for success throughout life.  They will be able to read well, and through reading have the doors to their future open wide for them.