Monday, 18 March 2013

Our first spelling lesson

I find myself inside a quiet house after a morning of firsts.  There were some words being read for the first time by Jaelyn.  There was an introduction to calculating area and volume, and how to write square and cubic meters in shorthand.  And there was our first spelling lesson.

Before Chris and I kissed our children goodbye and sped out of town to our province's homeschooling convention last month, we asked the children what, if anything, they would like us to bring back for them.  Nicholas and I talked quite a bit about how practice makes all things easier (note I say "easier" and not "easy").  We agreed that we could up the time he spends with a pencil in his hand writing words.  Our agreement was that he would alternate between working on creative writing of some sort for one week and then spelling the next week.  He, in fact, requested that the structure of the spelling week be much the way it was when he was in school - a list of spelling words, followed by tasks for using those words, culminating in a "test" at the end of the week. 

My task at the homeschool convention was to find a resource that would be easy to use, provide guidance for varying ages and skill levels, and suggest engaging activities.  With the children's list of suggestions and my requirements, I scoured curriculum catalogues and researched resources on the internet.  I narrowed down the possibilities and let the children take a look at what I found too, as I've discovered that something that looks marvellous to me can look different in their eyes.  Finally, donned with my trusty list of curriculum leads, we made a break for the used book sale when the time was right.

Today we brought out the first of those resources for a try.  It is The Natural Speller by Kathryn L. Stout.  Why this resource?  I liked that it covered spelling words from Kindergarten to Grade 8, had various activities for using those words, and activities for creating more words using the root and prefixes and suffixes.  I liked that it grouped words with similar structures together so that basic spelling rules can be learned, applied and retained.  I liked that it could be customized to the child.

Best of all, it really didn't take me that long to put together five lessons for the week.  I simply found an exercise book (as I've discovered that looseleaf tends to get pulled out of binders much too easily by my little ones), chose 10 words from one of the lists, then adopted the activities from the sample lesson plan.

I know that Nicholas and I will need to tweak things as we go so that we find the right balance of just enough challenge and just enough variety.  We'll need to figure out how much handwriting and how much practice using dictionaries and thesauruses works for now.  We'll need to talk often, and listen closely to each other.  That's really what we've had to do to get to this point.  While the morning had it's share of firsts, it ended with a real-life practice in respectful communication.  And that's a life skill we'll all be practicing for the rest of our lives.

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