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Teaching Spelling in a Meaningful Way

The last two periods of Monday afternoons in Second Year at High School were English. Part of this class was weekly library time, but not for me. I went to Learning Support, I couldn’t spell well. I remember the embarrassment, trying to hide my spelling book, and trying to slip into the Learning Support room unseen. My 20 spelling words were written out 4 times, and now I had my spelling test. I am still not convinced how effective this was. Then, whilst at University I had a holiday job doing secretarial work. On my first day, my first email, I misspelled the word “tried”, the shame of not being able to spell such a common word! I have never spelt it T-R-Y-E-D since. As a result of these experiences in my own life, and the subsequent reading about dyslexia, have made me reluctant to teach spelling in the conventional way. Therefore I have been looking for a method which is more effective. Phonics Training Phonics is an obvious place to begin. To have a systematic rigorous foundation in phonics makes the teaching of spelling much easier. I have used Jolly Phonics with my boys. This has helped me with my own spelling and understanding of the English language, as well as my boys. For example the long vowel sound-i can be created using ie, igh, y, or i_e having this list of possible ways to create the long vowel sound-i is a start makes it easier to decode how to spell words with this sound in them. However, how do we know which one to use? And even with a comprehensive list of different digraphs there are still the tricky words to deal with. In addition to Jolly Phonics I have used the book Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Approach to Reading, Spelling and Literacy. This book also gives lists of spelling rules, which open up the reasons why we spell words the way we do. For example, most English words do not end with c, that is why words with the /k/ sound almost always end -ck. Or the rules for the soft g, and soft c sounds in words. I have found that by using these rules to explain difficult words to spell, slowly begin to enforce how to spell these words. Tricky Words However there are still the tricky words. I have a list of the most common sight words. This list is used as the foundation of a weekly spelling lesson to teach these difficult words. I write the word on a...

Investing Time in Things that Are Good

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 This is one of my favourite passages in scripture. It has shaped my parenting and our homeschool in profound ways. I use this scripture as a litmus test as to what resources I use, which books I read, the places we visit, and the things we watch. I do this to make the end goal more achievable: to think on these things. We cannot think on things that are not permeating our being. We cannot be expected to dwell on the noble, if we have no notion of nobility. In modern culture how can we expect a child to recognise virtue, and value it, unless there is a model of virtue to aspire to. I believe this is true for moral virtues, but also the ascetic. A soul gazing on beauty will be richer for it. If we are exposed to the awe-inspiring richness of creation we are more inclined to worship the awesome God of creation. How to Invest in Good on a Tight Budget? It is all very well and good having lofty thoughts and great ideals, but such aspirations can be expensive. To take a large family to classical concert, a ballet or art exhibition can be very expensive. How to feast on the best affordably? Nature I choose wisely where to spend the budget. I want to take the children to places of outstanding natural beauty, therefore I invest in the diesel to take us there. So when we go on one of our adventures in the wild I pack a picnic so we do not need to stop and buy food, and I make sure we have enough snacks and drinks for the journey home. It also means I choose not to spend money on more expensive family pastimes. These times of exploring natural beauty store up a treasure of beautiful memories. It reminds me of William Wordsworth’s famous poem The Daffodils: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. By intentionally filling our mind with natural wonder we can draw on these memories at other times. Art and Literature Art galleries are often free to visit, although special...

Online Resources That We Use

We use a few online resources in our homeschool. Over the years we’ve tried some that haven’t worked for us, and other that are now firm favourites. English My favourite site that we use is Reading Eggs. This has helped my boys a lot with their reading. The lessons are fun, and in depth. They compliment our Jolly Phonics/Grammar really well. This is not a free resource, but I have had my money’s worth from it. And renewed our subscription last year. It is also a British site, which is also helpful when teaching phonics. Computer Programming To get my lot started in computer programming we have used Scratch. We have used it both online, and I have downloaded the program onto the computer also. This is a free resource, and is fun to use. We have just started to use Tynker. I have been looking for better resources to move onto after scratch. This is free, but also has a subscription option. Currently we are looking into whether this would be worth doing. Science The Mystery Science site has been one of my favourite finds of this year. These engaging lessons have been fantastic for my younger two boys. They have captured their imaginations. And the activities have been simple and achievable as well. French My daughter has used DuoLingo for a few years now and I have been really impressed by it. It is not only French you can learn from this site, but various modern languages. This is also a free site. Maths This year we have used XtraMath. This is not a flashy site, but it is a good free resource to improve mental arithmetic skills. A few minutes a day for each child is all it takes. We have also started to use Nessy Maths. Again this is not a free resource, but it is inexpensive for a year’s subscription. Nessy maths focuses on multiplication skills and telling the time. We have used it for a couple of months now and I am seeing the improvement in multiplication skills. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Easy Mild Chicken Curry Recipe

I’ve fiddled around with many curry recipes over the years. I go through phases where I have a favourite. This one is my current favourite. Although I mainly use chicken other meat can be used. I sometimes add chick peas to bulk it out. I often make this to use up leftover meat, and just put whatever amount I have. My children are not great spice fans, the boys hear the word spice and immediately decide they don’t like it! But this is very mild, but very tasty. I also really enjoy using the mortar and pestle to grind the spices, I find it therapeutic, I love the smell of the freshly ground spices filling the kitchen- especially the cardamon. I serve this with rice, I also really enjoy having naan bread or roti to go along with it. I recently discovered the website Global Table Adventure and would love to make this Eritrean bread to go with this (this bread tastes amazing!) Ingredients 300g of chicken thighs or breasts. This can be altered to suit family size, with leftovers it is whatever amount I have left over. 1 onion, chopped 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated 2 fat cloves of garlic minced 1 large tablespoon of coconut oil (if you don’t have this use vegetable oil) 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 1 teaspoon garam marsala seeds of 5 cardamon pods a pinch of cayenne pepper 250 ml chicken stock 1 tablespoon tomato puree 75g ground almonds 2 tablespoons mango chutney 150ml single cream 4 large tablespoons natural yogurt Begin by grinding the cumin seed and the cardamon seeds together. Fry off the onion, garlic, and ginger in the coconut oil until softened, make sure not to burn the onion. Add the chicken and the spices. Stir in the stock, the tomato puree and the mango chutney. Cook until the meat is tender. Stir in the ground almonds, this will thicken the sauce. Finish by adding the cream and the yogurt. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

In Praise for the Average

A good few years ago I read the book “Blessings of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel. In the opening chapter of her book the clinic psychologist described a new phenomena, in which parents were welcoming the news their children had a “diagnosis”. When parents were told the “good news” that their child was normal she was met with disappointment. “If nothing was wrong, if there was no diagnosis, no disorder, then there was nothing that could be fixed.” Mogel writes. Re-defining Special The problem was that we have created a culture in which everyone is special, and this creates a problem, because not everyone is special. Let me explain: my children are special, they are very special- because they are my children. Do I have a family of geniuses? Are the child prodigies? No on both counts, they are in fact normal kids, and thus they are no more special than the next child. By making everyone special negates the fact that most people are not. Most children are not maths geniuses, or reading fluently by age 3. So when we see our child struggling or just plain failing in an area we need a reason. And averageness is not a worthy reason. We not only want a reason, as parents we feel like we have failed them. That there is something wrong. What’s Wrong with Average? At what point did average become as sin? When did not racing geniuses make us failures? I’ve been meditating on these things lately and by coincidence I read a quote in Ann Voksamp’s latest blog post, by D.L, Moody “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in this world who have great talents.” There are very few Einstein’s in the world. An yet God has called us to affect the world- whether that is telling the multitudes, or being faithful in the small circle He has placed you. God doesn’t judge value or success in size and numbers. He isn’t going to use that extraordinary person in the pew next to us, because he’s not that extraordinary. He’s going to use all of us ordinary people. In the homeschooling world we do see the families who have children graduating with degrees aged 13. But these are the exception. Most of us have our average children, who struggle with their times tables, still don’t get the difference between their and there, and think pumping jokes are the height of...
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