Rod & Staff Preschool Workbooks

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Earlier this year, while my son and I were doing math, my daughter asked to do math, too. He is five. She is three. I use Singapore Math Earlybird Kindergarten with him and I really like it, by the way. But alas, Singapore Math does not publish a preschool workbook. What’s a homeschooling mother to do?

For a while, I printed worksheets for my daughter from the internet. When I got tired of it, I investigated around and found the Rod & Staff Preschool Workbooks. They come in two series: one for ages 3-4 and the other for ages 4-5. Since my son was still in preschool (technically speaking), I ordered both series.

My daughter loved her workbooks from the start. She finished one in two sittings. It was almost scary. She kept turning the page saying, “One more.”

Rod and Staff Preschool

Rod and Staff Workbooks for ages 3-4

She seems to be a natural pen-and-paper learner but, of course, she still likes hands-on activities, too – and we do plenty of those. As a younger sibling, she has been learning new concepts by osmosis on a daily basis. I work with my son and she plays nearby, within earshot. She absorbs information without realizing it.

I was amazed at how much she already knew as we worked through these booklets. The whole experience felt like a review of material I never covered with her. But it did not feel like a waste of time. We practiced important study skills like following directions, working on a page from top to bottom and from left to right, and stopping when the attention span wanes.

It also felt like the perfect way to ease her into the role of student and me into the role of teacher. For three years, I have been mommy. Now I am her teacher, too. We uncovered a new layer in our relationship.

The publishers have included cut and paste activities throughout, not just matching, drawing lines, coloring and tracing. The black-and-white format does not catch the eye, but it does the job. My daughter never objected to it in the beginning. However, after a few weeks of sitting next to her brother, who was working through his colorful Singapore Math workbook, she asked for a book “like his.” I told her she would get one “like his” when she gets to kindergarten.

I believe three-year-olds are too young to trace neatly. We skipped the tracing pages or, if she asked me to do it, I traced to show her the motions, by saying out loud, for instance, “To make a one, we go from top to bottom.”

As to my son, the workbooks for four- and five-year-olds never appealed to him, probably because (1) they were below his level and (2) Singapore Math offers tactile practice before asking a young child to show understanding of an abstract concept with pen and paper. So my daughter may inherit the Rod and Staff books for the next level.

Don’t you just love homeschooling? Things don’t always go as planned, but they work out in the end.

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Learning Styles

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Children fall into two categories: those who like school and those who hate school. The reason why some children hate school is because traditional classroom environments do not cater to their learning style.

That is why Mark Twain wrote, “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

A book I possess, treasure and refer to on a regular basis is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.” Here is a summary of chapter four, on learning styles.

As a homeschooling teacher, you will make your life easier when you grasp three concepts:

A. Learning modalities

B. Learning styles

C. Teaching styles

A. Learning modalities

There are three types of sensory input, or learning modalities:

  • auditory (hearing)
  • visual (seeing)
  • kinesthetic (feeling or experiencing with one’s body)

People lean toward one more heavily than the others. Modalities help, but they are a bit too simplistic, even if you realize your child is 75% kinesthetic and 25% auditory. That’s where learning styles come in.

 

B. Learning styles

A learning style is the way a person most easily learns and processes new information or skills. A preschooler does not have a learning style yet and a five-year-old might change his learning style by the time he is ten. Up on your toes you go!

There are four learning styles:

  • Wiggly Willy (WW)
  • Perfect Paula (PP)
  • Competent Carl (CC)
  • Social Sue (SS)

Don’t worry about male/female names. Focus on characteristics. A girl can be a Wiggly Willy and a boy can be a Social Sue.

Wiggly Willy would rather play and have fun than work. He dislikes paperwork and record keeping. He leans toward the fine arts, physical education and activity-oriented classes. This student must be taught using hands-on activities, multi-sensory audio-visual aids, short, dynamic presentations and learning games. Variety is key.

Perfect Paula likes planning and following schedules. She is not very good at coming up with creative ideas. She gets upset easily when others don’t cooperate. PP is more comfortable with “cut and dry” subjects than those which require exploration with no clear answers. Best methods for this child: workbooks, consistent structure, lectures that follow an outline, drill and review, and time to prepare for any discussion (remember, she has a hard time with creativity).

Competent Carl likes to be in control. He thinks and acts logically and has trouble understanding others’ feelings and emotions. He prefers math and science rather than language arts. Methods to use with CC: independent work, logically organized lessons, clear sense of purpose for lessons, long-term projects, problem solving, brainstorming.

Sociable Sue worries about what other people think. She is idealistic and interested more in general concepts rather than details. Social Sue prefers language arts, social studies and fine arts. When teaching SS, use real books, unit studies, discussions, social interaction, public presentations and situations where she is personally recognized and valued. Sociable Sue needs repetition for detail and help with self-discipline.

 

C. Teaching styles

Think about how you like to learn. That’s also the way you like to teach. The above four learning styles apply to teachers as well. In His wisdom, God gives a Sociable Sue daughter to a Perfect Paula mother to help both of them develop their characters. Don’t you love it!

 

Winning Formula

Put learning modalities together with learning styles for a winning formula. An example should help. Your child might be a kinesthetic Sociable Sue. As such, she prefers more project-oriented learning. If you had an auditory Sociable Sue, she will lean toward sedentary, read-aloud activities.

So should we pamper our children by catering to their learning styles and modalities and never push them outside their comfort zone? Not at all. Use your knowledge of their particular learning style to introduce new and difficult subject matter. Once they have grasped a concept, use other more challenging methods. Case in point: a very active Wiggly Willy can learn math by using objects, without paper and pencil. Once he has mastered a concept, have him do a worksheet of review and practice.

Teach to their strength and review through their weakness, thus helping them grow not just academically, but in self-discipline as well.

Your next job is to match learning styles to curricula and fine tune the motivation process.

Finally, if you have tried everything and your child still does not “get” it, he might have a learning disability. Your local homeschool support group can recommend a professional in your area who will help you determine what is going on.

For extra credit, read Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson’s book: “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style.”

Leave me a comment below about your experience with learning styles. Have you figured out your child’s learning style yet?

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How to Homeschool

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Homeschooling is different for every family, but there are six basic approaches or methods:

1. Classical – A child’s brain development naturally sets the stage for the trivium: primary school, or the grammar stage, during which learning is based on concrete tasks and memorizing facts; middle school or the logic stage, during which learning tackles abstract concepts and reasoning from cause to effect; and high school or the rhetoric stage, when learning focuses more on expressing what has already been acquired. This is the method I lean toward heavily.

2. Charlotte Mason – A British educator of the nineteenth century, Ms. Mason is more relevant today than ever, in my opinion. Her emphasis on living books, i.e. regular books (as opposed to textbooks/workbooks), narration, and nature study would bring life into any educational pursuit. I like this approach very much and use it to balance my natural propensity toward rote memorization. Get more information about Charlotte here. Want a free curriculum with a Charlotte Mason approach? Get it here.

3. Unit Studies – The method which took me the most to understand and appreciate, even though I studied under one of its biggest proponents. The Prussian educational method of separating knowledge into subjects, which was used in my public school, had indoctrinated, errr…. trained me well. Once I got unit studies though, I used Before Five in a Row and came to a new level of freedom in my mind about home education. The mother of all unit study curricula is Konos. I find I am not brave enough for it, but it obviously works for a great number of homeschoolers. In conclusion, I use this method sparingly.

4. Traditional – Most of us learned like this in a public school somewhere around the world. Textbooks provide the theory, which you apply while filling out workbooks. Homeschoolers tend to call this method dry and boring, but some children thrive on this. I have a three-year old who asks for worksheets almost every day. Rod and Staff, Abeka and Bob Jones are examples of traditional curricula. Personally, I use Rod and Staff and anything I can find online. There is a vast array of worksheets online. Don’t get overwhelmed.

5. Unschooling – Also known as relaxed homeschooling or delight-based or child-led. I could not be an unschooler, but I like the emphasis on the child’s desire to look into a certain topic. I recognize that the highest point of learning is when a child asks a question. I capitalize on those teaching moments throughout the day. However, I need the structure of a schedule and a carefully laid out curriculum to feel sane.

6. Eclectic – People like me, who pick and choose at least two different methods, curricula and approaches to tailor the education of their children, are called eclectic homeschoolers.

I am leaving out Montessori, Waldorf, independent study, umbrella/charter/online schools and other methods. The best book I have found, which I think any homeschooler should have on their reference shelf, is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum“. The first few chapters explain methods and learning styles. You will walk away with a clearer picture of what your homeschool should be like.

Special note on The Moore Formula

For a balanced education, i.e. one which trains the hand, the heart and the head, taking into consideration a child’s readiness level for formal education, I always keep in mind The Moore Foundation’s philosophy. In fact, it is the overarching method I keep in mind before making any decision in my homeschool.

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