Help Me Be Good Books

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Besides the references to manners, virtues and character in our Bible curricula, we use Accountable Kids for a hands-on approach to character building. After all, I am dealing with concrete thinkers. DS and DD are five and three, respectively. They see their morning cards, they go accomplish the task in the picture. When finished with all the cards, they receive a ticket, which they redeem for an activity they enjoy. The same process happens in the afternoon and evening.

Last week, I was glad to find some books at the library which supplement our character training so well, I am thinking about buying them. It’s not as much a financial decision as it is a logistical one. I have been warned by veteran homeschoolers that my house will become engulfed in books. We love books, but we do not want to get suffocated by them. Hence, our great appreciation for the local library.

As a member of several Yahoo Groups, each with a specific theme under the general category of “Homeschooling,” I learn a lot from veteran homeschooling moms. I am so thankful for their generosity. Recently, on one of these groups, I read about a series of books on individual character traits, published by Scholastic and written by Joy Berry. The name sounded familiar and then I remembered she was the author of the potty training kit we bought a few years ago.

I made a mental note of the series and went on with my life, as I was not sure we needed to look into other character curricula as yet.

When I got to the library last week, I saw new books on display in the children’s section. Sure enough, it was the Scholastic series “Help Me Be Good”. Six of them, to be precise. There are a lot more in the series.

My children loved the books. They asked me to read them over and over. We even took two of them to church, for a tactile, concrete reminder about interrupting and being messy. So this last time in church, when they started talking a little louder in their pews, I put the book in their hands and asked, “Remember what we read about?” It worked to settle them down.

It was a good day at the office. Like anything though, this method might grow old and ineffective on them over time. Oh well. I will cross that bridge when I get there…

Spell to Write and Read

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As I researched spelling curricula, I bumped into Spell to Write and Read. It was love at first sight.

From what I can tell, my children like it already, too. You see, for preschoolers or non-readers, Spell to Write and Read (SWR) offers a variety of games to develop phonemic awareness – the key to good spelling and reading skills.

On pages 20-22 of the Teacher’s Manual, Wanda Sanseri, the author, offers several games to play with preschoolers. I have already done some of these at random times of the day. They don’t even know they are learning because I took the work out of it by saying, “Let’s play a game.”

One such example is “Run around the clock,” an exercise used to teach the directional orientation needed for writing. I made 12 3×5 cards with numbers 1-12, as suggested, and placed them on the floor of our living room like the face of a clock. I asked the kids to stand at number 12 and then I gave them directions: “Run to 6”, or “Walk to 3” etc. They loved it. They asked to switch with me and they gave me commands, too. I walked or ran as they gave me my marching orders, no pun intended.

When I got a chance, after they slowed down their excited comments, I told them: “This direction is called clockwise because this is how the clock hands move. When we learn to write though, we will move in a funny direction called counterclockwise”. I said that several times. They blinked and listened.

Most of what I do with them now is quick and painless, fit for their attention span. I just drop concepts into their receptive minds and let it go. When they hear about it again, it will sound familiar. Hopefully.

But the greatest moment for me was when my son took the game one step further. After playing it for a few minutes, he ran to the table, grabbed a stack of construction paper and several markers and made 12 different drawings which he placed next to each number card. He drew several types of trucks, a teddybear, a ship, a volcano, an ambulance, a map… you get the idea. Things a 5-year-old would draw. Then, he asked me to go to the truck and run to the map. Or walk from the map to the teddybear.

He was having so much fun, he asked me not to put the clock away overnight. He wanted to play some more the next day.

Another SWR game we play (sometimes even in the car) is vowelizing words. I was trying to teach them to count the syllables in a word, but found that they started prolonging vowels and so they would end up with extra claps and extra syllables.

So he said “CAT!” and clapped once. He knew that was one syllable. Then, he said “CA-A-A-AT” and the result was confusion.

His younger sister started imitating him, as she does in everything. From my reaction, she realized she would go down the wrong path. She went back to her clapping the word and not exaggerating the vowels. She takes her learning seriously, even though everything else in life is a game for her. She is my happy-go-lucky child, but she shows a lot of maturity when it comes to learning. Meanwhile, my son got stuck.

My strategy was to get him to hum the word (as suggested on page 21 of the red SWR Teacher’s Manual). That way, he could not go wrong. I asked him to say “CAT” with his mouth closed tightly. He went, “Hum!” That was it. One syllable. Once I showed him that, I could tell he was relieved he had a tool.

This spelling curriculum, like many others, is all about giving children tools. Wish me luck as I delve into it more and more.

What about you? Have you looked at Spell to Write and Read? Have you attended any of their training seminars? Have you used it in your homeschool? Why? Why not?