Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


May 4, 2009 2 comments

>>Can you explain a little bit about the “copy work” you mention?<<

Copywork is a method espoused by Charlotte Mason.  Being an eclectic homeschooler, I don’t limit myself to approaches or techniques from just one method – I adopt ideas that resonate with me.  When I read about Charlotte Mason’s work, I connected with several things she wrote about.  One was the focus on quality literature; another was the idea of copywork. 

Copywork is exactly what it sounds like – you have your child copy written passages.  My kids begin copywork as soon as they finish a basic workbook on handwriting, so that they are familiar with how to form the letters properly, at about the age of 6 or 7, depending on the child.  My six year old now isn’t doing it; I don’t feel it would be constructive for him yet.  It’s important that whatever they copy be quality writing samples; though the copywork serves as handwriting practice, it also serves as so much more.  They continue doing copywork on a daily basis until they are ten, at which point I transition them to developing their independent writing skills.

By providing your child with a good model of writing, over time he will develop a sense of good sentence structure, grammar, and spelling.  I don’t make grammar or spelling an independent subject – I know that they’re internalizing these things when they do their reading and copywork.  How much they do is much less important that the quality of the work they do.  When they do their copywork, it has to be exact – every punctuation mark copied properly, every word spelled correctly, written neatly.  If it’s sloppy then they have to do it over (that has rarely happened).  Part of the goal in doing the copywork is to help a child focus on the details; too often kids gloss over small details in their rush to get their work done.  Before they show it to me, I tell them to look at it and compare it to the original, to be sure there are no mistakes.  They often see things on their own that need to be corrected, and finding your own errors is more valuable than having someone else point them out to you.  Their copywork should be something that they can take pride in showing someone. 

I’ve used different things for them to copy from over the years.  It can be any book that you feel is well written and appropriate for the child’s age.  Initially, I used A Child’s Garden of Verses, by RL Stevenson.  That was good but then I felt that copying poems wasn’t as helpful in developing a sense of regular sentence structure as a book would be.  I started my dd8 (then 7) on the first book in the Billy and Blaze series, and now she’s using a McGuffey reader, as is my ds10 (they use different levels – McGuffey readers begin with a primer and go up to level 6 – I start the copywork with the first reader, which comes after the primer).  I plan to use the McGuffey readers for copywork for all of my kids from now on, with the exception of when they are new to copywork – to start them off, I’d give them something more engaging if I felt it would be helpful to them.



Hebrew reading and writing

April 23, 2009 5 comments

>>I wanted to find out if you have any good suggestions for kodesh studies for
1st grade. We’re using the Migdalor program (Shy Publications) and Shaah
shel menuchah for Hebrew and like both of those pretty well. We also use
lots of things from, and use Little Midrash.<<

I don’t have a structured program for children this age.  I’ve looked at Shaah shel Menucha and used it for a short time; it’s nicely done.  The Little Medrash is nice to read with kids, or to give to independent readers to read to themselves to prepare the parsha. I’ve also looked at a lot of things on and only used them the first year we were homeschooling.  At that point, I was new to homeschooling and needed the security of the kids learning things in a traditional school-like manner.  I look back and kind of smile at my need for these things – like the weekly parsha sheets I printed out for them to give to my dh on Friday night to be asked questions from (like what the schools send home).  It was so artificial, but again, I didn’t yet trust the natural learning process and it gave me reassurance that they were actually learning something.  I use very, very few of these things now.

What I use to teach aleph bais isn’t necessarily the best, but I have three different readers in the house – one that my younger brother used in his school as a kid (Aleph Binah), one that my dd used in her school in kindergarten (Sefer Kriyah Hashalem), and one that my dh did illustrations for so we got a copy (Girsa d’Yankusa).  Oh, I also have one called L’shoni – Sefer Hakriya by Ktav Publishing House – this is the main one that I use.  I don’t know if I can honestly say that I use it – my dd8 independently taught herself to read Hebrew using this.  I expect that my dd6 will do something similar.  I don’t actively teach reading, but I do listen to them read out loud, in English or Hebrew, when they’re beginning – that’s as formal as I get.  I have other programs, like the materials on tefilla by Berman House, which are good, but the truth is, most of this is unnecessary – by waiting until a child is ready (versus pushing certain skills just because they are at certain ages), they can move fairly quickly though whatever program you use. 

I have aleph bais cards that each have a vowel wheel, and I like to use that.  The child can do one card at a time with no vowel, you can turn it so whatever vowel you want is displayed underneath the letter, and the cards can be combined to create sound combinations or words.  Any kind of English reading word game can be adapted for Hebrew and pretty easily made at home – like fishing for letters, for example. 

>>Also, do you spend much time on block print?? Or just do script? My daughter
doesn’t need block to help with her reading skills, so I’m thinking of not
spending any real time on it.<< 

I’m assuming that you’re asking about Hebrew writing.  I don’t see much of an advantage to teaching block writing, except as reinforcement of letters when the child is learning to read.  My current 6 year old does do some block writing, albeit very sporadically at this point.  I don’t think it’s important enough to have a child to do it if he has no interest; actually, I think it can be a waste of time unless a child is pushing you to give it to them.  Script writing is really what’s important when it comes to Hebrew, and I think a good time to learn it is after a child is reading well enough that they won’t be confused by what is essentially like learning another alphabet.  As I said, not one of my other kids did this and the only reason I did it with him is at the beginning of the year, he wanted to do some Hebrew writing, but it was too soon to give him script because his reading skills weren’t yet strong enough. 

>>I’m finding our kindergarten year is about 50% kodesh and 50% chol. Is that what you’ve found??<<

This is a surprisingly hard question for me to answer, because it’s philosophical in nature, not technical.  I don’t use any kind of structured curriculum for kindergarten because I don’t believe it beneficial to actively teach anything at that age.  Whatever I do is very laid back and informal.  A lot of reading together, games, parsha/Jewish story cassettes, and having them work with  me on household things is their curriculum.   They pick up an amazing amount without any emphasis on ‘doing school’, but because it’s so informal, I can’t say quantify it percentage-wise. 


Recommended curriculum for first graders?

August 14, 2008 Leave a comment

>>I wanted to know if you had any advice for me in regard to a first grade language arts program for my son.  …..Do you have any suggestions for a first grade language arts curriculum that would include reading, writing, spelling, and grammar and punctuation (Calvert includes all this as well as introducing cursive in first grade)?  Your opinion would be greatly appreciated. <<

I have to tell you the truth, as far as structured school in the box type programs, I don’t use them because I don’t think highly of them.  I think it’s the most limited and unstimulating way for kids to learn.  Schools have to rely on things like this to teach many kids at the same time, but it’s a matter of efficiency more than effectiveness.  So I try to take advantage of the freedom homeschooling allows me in finding something that will be more engaging and tailored to each child.

What I do with kids this age is: read to them lots, bake with them and play board games (many games are great for math skills), listen to them read, and use a basic handwriting workbook (I like D’nealian because the transition to cursive is very natural, instead of learning two forms of writing).  Once they know the basic letter forms, they do copywork.  And the rest of the day is spent being part of a busy household – meaning free play and chores. This has worked well for us to help the kids learn all the skills they need in a relaxed and fun way. 

I believe that good grammar and spelling come with lots of reading, and I encourage a lot of reading for my kids.  If I were using a program, I would choose something that was integrated with literature, like Learning Language Arts through Literature.  But I’m more free form in my approach and I at the most adapt materials that I see, not use them precisely as they’re written.  I have yet to find something that so exactly fits my personality, priorities of what to teach when, and my children’s needs that I want to follow it exactly.

I don’t teach reading – I wait for readiness and then help them with sounds of letters, so my first six kids have all picked it up mostly on their own.  There’s a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, by Siegfried Engelmann, that I’ve heard recommended by many.  If I were going to use something systematic, it would probably be this.  I did try Phonics Pathways quite a while back but didn’t love it.  I have 100 Easy Lessons out from with library now, thinking to show it to my newly turned six year old to see if he was interested, but I haven’t yet gotten around to it.  I have this feeling I probably won’t get around to it, because my style to teaching reading just isn’t so systematic – it seems like a waste of energy to consciously teach something when it is so naturally picked up when they’re ready.

I’m not oversimplifying what I do – this is really all.  Homeschooling a child this young is simple – the hard part is trusting that it’s enough and letting go of our preconceived notions of what learning looks like.