early education (1st/2nd grade and below) - whats more important - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 10-20-2011, 05:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So, I was reading a blog that quoted susan wise bauer

 

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Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, wisely states that “[a] second grader who doesn’t finish learning the constellations won’t be permanently hampered later on.  But a second grader who doesn’t grasp the concept of writing complete sentences instead of fragments will be hobbled until she figures this out. (168)”

She used this argument to focus her homeschooling on the 3 r's primarily (and her argument was better than the quote now that im re-reading it)

 

This bothers me, because I'm not focussing on the 3 r's much.  We get lots of books out of the library, and I pretty much always read on demand.  They like to "read" them themselves (we're talking mostly about the 6 1/2 yr old, but the 4 1/2 yr old too).

 

We're doing a letter of the week -- and we're doing handwriting without tears light (we read chicca chicca boom boom every monday and add our letter to our palm tree which they cut out ...  they do 1 writing worksheet for practice, and fridays are letter writing fridays (they dictate content, so they're pretty short on words and long on drawings... but they have fun and love it)

 

But mostly we're doing science experiments and nature walks...art projects and the occasional math game...  oh - and geography.  We're doing a state of the week too, which the kids are liking...

 

Where would your focus be?  (I should say that every year we debate about public school - so i can't go too unschooly...and it does bother me that my 6 year old isn't reading when i think about it that way..)

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#2 of 15 Old 10-20-2011, 06:13 AM
 
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The good thing about focusing on the 3 R's is that no matter where you are in life it's easier to ease a child into other situations if need be.  I pushed reading and writing because reading is mostly memorization and writing is great for hand eye coordination.  Math of course is quite important and reading is a must with math.  Sure you can do numbers but instructions need to be read and if there are word problems... kinda need to read them.  Everything else is gravy to me.  When I put my girls back in school my DD1 excelled in everything from the start due to there being no confusion when she read the instructions, math was a breeze for the same reason.  I didn't drill things into them we sat together during writing and reading and had a good time.  When math was the subject of the day we utilized outdoor time and found ways to implement math into play. 

 

As far as your 6 year old not reading yet... it's not that big of a deal.  DD2 had all the tools to read but didn't want to.  When I put her in school this year (1st) grade she was still considered a non reader, within 7 weeks she was on target.  She does get help from the reading teacher and she really has decided on her own that she wants to read.  Of course I do feel it was a little pushed since she needs to be able to read but really it was their choice to go back to school. 

 

If you want advice I'd go with teaching phonics and sight words.  I used the books we were reading to come up with curriculum since they were words we would see often.  It ended up helping her move quickly through levels when she decided to give it a try.  Good luck

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#3 of 15 Old 10-20-2011, 08:57 AM
 
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I would put neither skills nor knowledge at the foundation of early learning. Instead I would put optimism and curiosity.

 

I have a 12-year-old who is just learning to avoid sentence fragments in her writing and she has not been "hobbled." Far from it: she's got all sorts of advanced creative and academic skills, and is doing well in a combination of 8th and 9th grade courses, having entered school for the first time this fall. Over the years she's gained a lot of skills, and she's gained a lot of knowledge, but I did not have either of those things at the top of my agenda for her. I trusted that if her optimism and curiosity were nurtured they would follow. And they did.

 

If she had been taught and measured using a classical education model and hadn't mastered writing complete sentences at age 8, she would have been hobbled, I agree. But the problem wouldn't have lain in her -- it would have been the result of a poorness of fit with the classical education approach and its expectations. She's actually excelling in her high school writing class and I think that's because her creative gifts were nurtured without being held hostage to occasional inaccuracies in sentence structure. Sentence fragments can be edited. The eager, confident and creative expression of unique ideas ... a lot of tweens don't have that, but she does.

 

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#4 of 15 Old 10-20-2011, 04:18 PM
 
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I homes-chool classically, and in a general way I agree with her on this.  But I don't agree with her perspective on beginging academics with young kids - I thought the fact that she was determined that her kids should be reading before they started k was really kind of awful.

 

In many places children are just entering school at six,and just learning how to read.  They don't need to master sentance fragments that year.  I wouldn't worry that your child hasn't.

 

I also wouldn't worry about doing other things besides the 3Rs.  Kids learning to read and write still need rich ideas and beautiful complex language to feed their minds - you have to offer them that as well as time to practice skills.  And I think with kids starting, it is entirely possible to spend way to much time on writing tasks - my six year old spends about 10 min a day on copywork, plus maybe a bit of writing for French or spelling practice.

 

All of this is why I find CM more useful that WTM.  WTM is an interesting an inspiring book, but I have some issues with her approach.


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#5 of 15 Old 10-21-2011, 03:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I toyed with the idea of classical conversations (oh how nice that sounded -- 20  min a day plus a half day out a week and you're done!) ...  but decided it just wasn't for us.  I much prefer picking a few themes and building our week off of those...and I think it shows.  When we dabbled in cc, you could tell i was phoning it in... but this year, we're all having a ball (although I'm still trying to figure out our groove) ... ;)  (but we're not really focussing on the 3 r's per se...  I'm  consciously adding in writing every day (about 5-10 min, except fridays when THEY drag it out longer) ... but other that that, we're just reading our way around the US - which is fun...  :) I want to say that us having fun with a bit of learning thrown in will do more for them than me forcing them to do worksheets or memorizing a bunch of stuff will do...but I have nothing but my opinion to base that on! And I have that darm - one day they will go to public school -thing hanging over my head...   :)

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#6 of 15 Old 10-22-2011, 04:22 AM
 
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I think that more important than the physical skill of writing complete sentences, is the MENTAL skill of CREATING complete and interesting sentences.  Even if that means they just narrate them and you write them down.

 

It's just a biological and physiological fact that when kids are young, most of them will have their physical writing skills lagging behind their mental creative skills.  This is NOT due to a lack of 'training' or practice, it's purely developmental.  Making them write everything actually hobbles them... the slow process of beginner writing limits the amount they're able to write, limiting the extent of their creativity they can express, if you see what I mean.  But if you let them TELL a story, they can come up with amazing, detailed, and lengthy stories. 

 

The technical details of form and structure can easily come later.  They can be taught and learned at just about any age.  But if the spark of creativity is trained out of you, it's much harder to 'teach' that later.

 

Of course there are kids who are just naturally more inclined to write and be skilled at those technical elements, and it could very well be that SWB's children were in that category and she's extrapolated that to mean that if ANY parent does what she did then they'll get the same results with their kids.  I think my daughter might end up like that.  She's almost 5, she's already doing level B Math -- not because I'm making her out of some sense of needing to be ahead or train her or anything, but because she loves it and ASKS to do it.  And she's just started doing a lot of self-initiated writing.  It's all the 'invented spelling' but I'm encouraging it because she's KEEN and wanting to exercise her creative, and she's really trying hard to 'sound out' her words when she writes them.  We're planning to do mostly Charlotte Mason style with her, which has lots of narration and also some dictation.  

 

My son was the opposite when he was young - he didn't like to write, colour, do math, do any work at all.  I tried to force it for  the first few years before I learned better.  A few years of unschooling and very light, creative schooling helped to undo the damage I had done!

 

We then let him DRAW his 'written' responses and that unlocked everything!  I decided -- and realized -- that the mechanical process of writing well is a separate skill than understanding physics, or history, or whatever.  You have to be able to write an essay to do well in college, but you don't have to be able to write an essay about a particular subject in order to prove you understand that subject.  There are many different ways to express that knowledge.  And so we did gradually keep working on his handwriting, but in no great rush, and separate from his other work.  Yes, his sentences were mostly fragments, but that's separate from the knowledge.  I think that's Bauer's error -- the idea that not being able to write well means you can't learn other stuff!

 

This past year, when he turned 13, he finally started showing *ease* with his writing.  Still not great long paragraphs, but no longer complaining about it.  So now we're finally getting into the mechanics like paragraph structure, good form, etc, and by next year will be well into essays.  He's WILLING to do it now, when it would have been a fight before -- which would have turned him completely OFF the idea of writing.  Now he's willing and even ENJOYING it, so it's setting him up for a lifetime of enjoying writing and doing well with his essays.  Forcing it earlier would have made him hate it.  And we would have been no further ahead *in the long run*.  By the time he's 18 I guarantee you won't be able to tell the difference.


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#7 of 15 Old 10-22-2011, 05:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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tankgirl -- that makes a lot of sense.  My kids LOVE storytelling games (we have quite a few varieties) and their stories get better and better every time we play...  My 4 year old's stories now have beginning, middle, and ends - AND usually a problem (or usually a quest) to overcome -- (not that they always make sense but there are identifiable parts) and he's nowhere ready to write anything like it down... in fact, when we do  our letter writing on fridays, I usually have to help him edit what he wants to say because his hands just get tired...  I wonder if it would be better to let him write the first part til he gets tired, then take over instead of editing his words...  but I like that its HIS letter.  Homeschooling gives you SOOOO much more to think about/worry/wonder about...  Kids really should come with instruction books to suit them! :)

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#8 of 15 Old 10-22-2011, 01:22 PM
 
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I think overall and in the long run skills wins out over content.  You will never learn all subjects - but you can learn skills that will help you learn what interests you.  Skills that will enable you to learn things in your chosen interest:  research, understanding of stats (to a degree!)  logic...and the soft skills of patience, determination, risk taking....

 

In the younger years, I would focus on providing an environment that promoted:

 

creativity

exploration

independence/ empowerment 

empathy

 

If I had to pick an academic skill  to focus on in early years it would be reading (either read to them or  help them learn to read if they are ready) and number sense.  I think this can be accomplished through regular practice in small amounts, thus allowing lots of time for activities that encourage the above list.

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#9 of 15 Old 10-22-2011, 01:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

I think overall skills wins out over content.

 

In the younger years, I would focus on providing an environment that promoted:

 

creativity

exploration

independence/ empowerment 

empathy

 

if I had to pick an academic skill  to focus on in early years it would be reading (either read to them, help them learn to read if they are ready) and number sense.  I think this can be accomplished through regular practice in small amounts, thus allowing lots of time for activities that encourage the above list.


I agree with this-- the academics will come easily later.  Astonishingly easily, IME.  I cannot imagine putting much effort into making sure a 2nd grader could write a complete sentence.  How would the lack of that skill "hobble" a child of 7 or 8?  

 

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#10 of 15 Old 10-23-2011, 10:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

I think overall and in the long run skills wins out over content.  You will never learn all subjects - but you can learn skills that will help you learn what interests you.  Skills that will enable you to learn things in your chosen interest:  research, understanding of stats (to a degree!)  logic...and the soft skills of patience, determination, risk taking....

 

In the younger years, I would focus on providing an environment that promoted:

 

creativity

exploration

independence/ empowerment 

empathy

 

If I had to pick an academic skill  to focus on in early years it would be reading (either read to them or  help them learn to read if they are ready) and number sense.  I think this can be accomplished through regular practice in small amounts, thus allowing lots of time for activities that encourage the above list.


Totally agree. Sweden and Finland don't even start academics until age seven. Don't remember which is which, but one of them has the highest academic achievements at twelfth grade and the other has the highest literacy rate in Europe at age ten.

 

When I taught nursing students (college level) there were some basic things the students needed to know. However, my highest priorities were if 1. They could think critically. 2 They knew where to get the information they needed. As long as they, and anyone, can do those two things they can succeed. Without them they won't go anywhere.

 


Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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#11 of 15 Old 10-24-2011, 03:33 PM
 
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As a special education teacher - I would just like to say "Writing always follows reading!".   Children always read better than they write.  At 4 & 6  years old there is no need to worry about formal writing.  Handwriting without tears is by far the best handwriting program out there!  Handwriting does not mean you just sit and do the worksheets!  Handwriting can be any activity that develops a child's fine motor skills.  Such as making letters out of playdoh, sticks, etc.  (Do the whole HWT program, not just the worksheets)  Even in public schools students are encouraged to write, but the teacher does not correct their work!  It's called free writing. Let them write and draw then tell the story to you.  As their reading improves so will their writing. ;)

 

That's doesn't mean you can't teach them simple things like this is a period you use at the end of your sentence.  Or if your character asks a question you use this ? symbol.  My three year old asks questions like what is that letter and he's pointing at an !...so of course I tell him what it is.  ;)

 

Exploring and problem solving are great things for all kids to to do and I would never cut that out for a pure "classical" education.  Having said that it is important for some skills to just be routine and not have to be thought about....Like recogonizing letters and numbers.  There are many ways to make it fun!  You can also teach phonics without ever doing a single worksheet!  Search the house for items that start with ____.   When you buy things say "look what letters are on this box!"

 

Math is very important. Work it into your science experiments...count things and make charts! Kids love charts!

 

When I work with kids that have problems reading it's mostly because they were never exposed it or have a LD.   Also, I will say the only kids I've ever met that didn't want to learn how to read were the ones that hadn't had any success at it!  You have to make it fun. 

 

Also, saw some one mention sight words.  The most used sight words are the Dolch sight words.  (They are commonly used words that can't be sounded out.)


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#12 of 15 Old 10-24-2011, 06:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wissa19 View Post

Also, saw some one mention sight words.  The most used sight words are the Dolch sight words.  (They are commonly used words that can't be sounded out.)



The Dolch sight words are def. common (if not the most frequent) words in our language.  However, most of them actually can be sounded out.  :)

 

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#13 of 15 Old 10-24-2011, 08:52 PM
 
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"In phonics instruction, sight words refer to common words where one or more phonemes in the word has a unique spelling that cannot be sounded out using common phonics rules (for example: aunt, friend, and sieve). Reading researcher Diane McGuinness estimates that there are approximately 100 common words in English which fit this description, and require specific word-level memorization.[1] This number is far less than the 220 sight words listed on the Dolch word list. Sight words are also words having very high frequency of usage particularly in early stage of learning to read. They become familiar due to very frequent occurring and are remembered through vivid memory and sound associated with them. This process can be better understood as NLP."

 

"Dolch sight words are those initial words that students learn by sight in during their primary years. They include those words that may or may not be able to be sounded out. Most words that children learn they can sound out phonetically and process. However, words on the Dolch sight word list are not quite as easy to sound out."

 

Yes. Many of the sight words can actually be sounded out.  However, it is far easier for students to be able to sight read them.  Of course, if you are working with students/kids that have  very southern accents many of these words can't be sounded out because they are not pronounced in the region the way they are spelled. ;)  And some kids will be able to "sight" these words long before they are able to sound them out..especially the struggling readers.

 

 


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#14 of 15 Old 10-25-2011, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This thread is very reassuring!!  Our favorite things to do are reading books and projects/experiments (which is sometimes me just dumping a bunch of stuff on them and asking them what they can do with it!) and they love to tell stories...  I have lots of doubt, where I feel like we're not doing enough "school-y" stuff -- esp if they're headed to public school sooner or later...   but we're gradually adding in stuff -- and i totally agree about how they pick things up super quick when they're ready.  I bought a math curriculum, and i've abandoned it because my 6 year old flies right through it (he's missing some basics -- like how to write his numbers, what the signs mean, what a math problem looks like -- but the actual concepts he already knows...  so i'll work with him on that stuff, and im glad to know he's missing it, but I like the loose approach we're taking...)

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tankgirl73 View Post

I think that more important than the physical skill of writing complete sentences, is the MENTAL skill of CREATING complete and interesting sentences.  Even if that means they just narrate them and you write them down.

 

It's just a biological and physiological fact that when kids are young, most of them will have their physical writing skills lagging behind their mental creative skills.  This is NOT due to a lack of 'training' or practice, it's purely developmental.  Making them write everything actually hobbles them... the slow process of beginner writing limits the amount they're able to write, limiting the extent of their creativity they can express, if you see what I mean.  But if you let them TELL a story, they can come up with amazing, detailed, and lengthy stories. 

 

The technical details of form and structure can easily come later.  They can be taught and learned at just about any age.  But if the spark of creativity is trained out of you, it's much harder to 'teach' that later.

 

Of course there are kids who are just naturally more inclined to write and be skilled at those technical elements, and it could very well be that SWB's children were in that category and she's extrapolated that to mean that if ANY parent does what she did then they'll get the same results with their kids.  I think my daughter might end up like that.  She's almost 5, she's already doing level B Math -- not because I'm making her out of some sense of needing to be ahead or train her or anything, but because she loves it and ASKS to do it.  And she's just started doing a lot of self-initiated writing.  It's all the 'invented spelling' but I'm encouraging it because she's KEEN and wanting to exercise her creative, and she's really trying hard to 'sound out' her words when she writes them.  We're planning to do mostly Charlotte Mason style with her, which has lots of narration and also some dictation.  

 

My son was the opposite when he was young - he didn't like to write, colour, do math, do any work at all.  I tried to force it for  the first few years before I learned better.  A few years of unschooling and very light, creative schooling helped to undo the damage I had done!

 

We then let him DRAW his 'written' responses and that unlocked everything!  I decided -- and realized -- that the mechanical process of writing well is a separate skill than understanding physics, or history, or whatever.  You have to be able to write an essay to do well in college, but you don't have to be able to write an essay about a particular subject in order to prove you understand that subject.  There are many different ways to express that knowledge.  And so we did gradually keep working on his handwriting, but in no great rush, and separate from his other work.  Yes, his sentences were mostly fragments, but that's separate from the knowledge.  I think that's Bauer's error -- the idea that not being able to write well means you can't learn other stuff!

 

This past year, when he turned 13, he finally started showing *ease* with his writing.  Still not great long paragraphs, but no longer complaining about it.  So now we're finally getting into the mechanics like paragraph structure, good form, etc, and by next year will be well into essays.  He's WILLING to do it now, when it would have been a fight before -- which would have turned him completely OFF the idea of writing.  Now he's willing and even ENJOYING it, so it's setting him up for a lifetime of enjoying writing and doing well with his essays.  Forcing it earlier would have made him hate it.  And we would have been no further ahead *in the long run*.  By the time he's 18 I guarantee you won't be able to tell the difference.


Yes.  I think that in early years it is often a good idea to separate writing and composition.  Composition is oral and writing is essentially copying an example, be it single letters of phrases.

 


 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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