January 25, 2011

New Approach to Spelling

I've recently decided on a new approach to teaching Casia spelling. Up to this point, I had a weekly list that I would pretest her on, and then test again at the end of the week. In the meantime, she had to write sentences and could use www.spellcity.com to practice her words. I would group words together with a common theme, but I found that the lessons weren't sinking in and although she would have the words memorized at the end of the week, she wouldn't necessarily be able to spell them three weeks later.

I found this article by Linda Schrock Taylor which talks about 'the lost art' of spelling. She explains how it makes much more sense to learn the basic rules of spelling and all the basic phonograms instead of memorizing thousands of words. I'm a terrible speller myself (I like to blame that on genetics as my father was never much of a good speller either) so I'm as far from an expert on this as you can get. But I'm a big believer in the quote "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten." (Sorry, can't cite the source on this one.) So I'm prepared to change the way I'm teaching spelling in the hopes of getting different (better?) results.

In addition, since Garrett is in his early reading stage (Dr. Seuss, Henry & Mudge, etc.), this is the perfect time to start teaching these rules to him. It will help Casia spell and help Garrett read. To this end, I have just recruited Garrett to our Language Arts class every morning after breakfast. As I've been doing with Casia since the beginning of the school year, we start with a quote. Casia uses it to sharpen her listen skills and practice her cursive and now Garrett is copying it to practice his printing. After that, we do a spelling lesson. We just started it this week, so it's tough to tell how it's going, but I will be posting updates over the next couple of weeks. Maybe it will even improve my spelling! 

(Fingers crossed that I didn't misspell anything in a post about spelling!!!)

Homeschooling Group

Before the move, we relied heavily on a YMCA program for our homeschooling network. It was nice. It had a decent gym program, including swimming, and was a chance for Casia to be with other homeschoolers. But it was on the small side; only a handful of families.

Here, in our new hometown, I've found this wonderful program that has dozens of families from all over the area. We all meet at a church's family center (although the homeschooling group itself has no religious affiliation and is inclusive of all people regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background) on Thursdays and the kids have a wide asortment of clases to choose from; everything from dance to drawing, acting to chemistry, music to Japanese. The classes run throughout the day and are very reasonably priced. This term, Casia has signed up for Irish dancing, a violin ensemble, private violin lessons and a middle school play.  She is loving it!

We spend early Thursdays getting a few basics in: math and language arts. Then, after we get Garrett on the bus, we take our daily walk, eat lunch and head out of the house to the highlight of Caisa's week. When we arrive at the church, there is this wonderful bustle of energy from the kids. Some are in classes and others are playing in the big open area with a wagon brought by one of the families or getting some work done at the many tables set up for the families' use. Some are just hanging out and catching up with their friends. Something I noticed right away was that the kids don't necessarily group themselves solely with their age peers (except the teenagers). I saw 9 and 6 year olds running around together, school aged children waiting patiently for preschoolers to move out of the way before making their shot at the basketball hoop and tweens chasing after toddlers. 

The atmosphere is always welcoming, laid-back and accepting. Everyone is respectful and helpful. And the kids all seem to be enjoying themselves. Casia loves the classes, but she also loves the time in between her activities when she gets to run around with her new friends.

By the end of the day, as Casia and I head back home, she fills me in on all the funny things that happened during play rehearsal, or tells me about the new dance step she learned. She positively beams when she tells about her day and I think to myself how grateful I am to the wonderful ladies that started this group a few years back and to all the families that participate and make the program possible.