Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Copywork and Journal Writing

Copywork is not something that I have used until very recently.  I have not read a whole lot about the Charlotte Mason method (which, I think, is where this idea comes from).  I know that it's something that is encouraged in several classical models of homeschooling.  I had a visit with a homeschooling friend recently who expressed that she does not think a child should do "free writing" until they have had a strong background in copywork so they can learn and understand the mechanics and tools of written language before trying to apply them to expressing their own ideas creatively in writing.  I have to say I tend to disagree with this a bit.  I do feel it's important for children from an early age to begin to express their ideas in writing, even if those ideas are not perfectly executed in terms of spelling, usage, punctuation, capitalization and grammar.  Writing is a means of communication and I would hate to see children being discouraged from communicating their ideas in writing until they have mastered all the basics.  With that said, I'll share what I'm doing right now with my first grader who will be seven in about a month.

We started the year doing a minimal amount of writing because he was reluctant and skeptical about his own abilities.  Now that he has a better grasp of some basic phonics rules (we used Explode the Code 3 and just finished it) as well as some spelling rules (we use All About Spelling), he is in a better frame of mind to do some writing on his own.  So.......about a month ago I gave him a spiral notebook to use as his journal.  I have him write the date on a new page each day and require him to write at least two sentences about a topic of his choice.  I often suggest ideas if he's stumped, but the thoughts he writes are strictly his own.  If he needs help spelling words, I either help him sound it out, remind him of the rules he knows, or just write the word in a word box at the top of the page.  Here is a recent entry he wrote about a Lego Universe he is building in his spare time.

In the top left corner you can see the box where I wrote "Lego Universe" and "vehicle".  The next photo shows the sentences he wrote.  I think he's doing a great job!!   I can see I need to give a lesson on contractions soon, though!!  :-)

In addition to writing in a journal each day, we have just started  doing copywork each day.  My first grader is reading Frog and Toad books now, a chapter each day.  So.......I've been choosing one sentence from the chapter he reads for him to do as copywork.  He just finished doing his Handwriting Without Tears book, so copywork is replacing that and this is one of his main ways to practice his handwriting. After he writes the sentence (you'll notice that I draw a line for each work with a red colored pencil to help him with spacing), we talk about various aspects such as, "What words are nouns?" (and he draws the Montessori noun symbol over them), "Why are these words capitalized?"  or "Why is there a question mark?"  With a simple conversation like this we are able to target several skills in a very short amount of time.  Below is a photo of a recent copywork passage.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

one thousand gifts

One aspect of homeschooling that I really cherish is how we start our "school" day together each morning.  Around 9:30 a.m. the boys and I (and Lucky!) gather on the couch for our read aloud time.  Lately, I've been reading one chapter a day from the "Jesus Storybook Bible", as well as a chapter from our read-aloud book.  Right now we're reading Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  Something I've added recently is that we're making a list of "one thousand gifts" in a notebook I created just for that purpose.  I got the idea from Ann Voskamp and her book of the same name.  It has been a real blessing to be able to share this practice of daily gratitude with the boys.  We are all challenged to come up with new blessings each day.

For our special notebook, I just took a regular spiral notebook that I had on hand and decoupaged some pretty scrapbook on it along with a label I made.  

Below is a glimpse of our first page........the boys are excited that we get to try to come up with 1000 ideas.  I know it will take a while, but will be so nice to look back on.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Our Little Lucky

We are proud to introduce the newest addition to our family.  On March 17th, we welcomed little "Lucky" into our home.  He is a Japanese Chin and is about 5 months old.  We adopted him through a local rescue agency who had rescued his momma from a puppy mill.  She was pregnant when rescued and gave birth to four male puppies.  I did not know much about the Japanese Chin breed before we adopted him.  I am now convinced it is one of THE best small dog breeds.  Chins are very docile and loving.  They are NOT yappy.  He hardly ever barks and this is characteristic of the breed.  He is so fun and playful, and we are SO glad he is part of our family.   His official name is Lucky, but we often call him Pup-Pup.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Workplans (instead of workboxes)

If you click on the page link above and take a peek at our schoolroom, you'll likely see photos of some drawer/boxes that I originally planned to use like "workboxes".  To be honest, this system did not last long.  I have kept the boxes because it's nice for each boy to have his own shelf with a dedicated place to keep the materials for various subjects.  However, I have never ended up filling the boxes with work to be completed individually by the boys.  Instead, what I have done up until very recently is write out a list of work to be done for the day on an index card.  Each boy has their own card and they can check off each item once it's completed.  This system has worked very well, especially for my oldest son.  He has become much more responsible about getting his work done and can move from one activity to the next without interrupting me when I'm working with my younger son.  One downside to the cards (especially for my oldest son) is that because they are small, they tend to get lost during the day.  Perhaps that seems surprising since we are only using them right in our own home!!  Still, they often get placed under things or taken into another room and "forgotten".

When I decided to move to a more Montessori-based approach to our homeschool, I made some changes to our system.  Now, instead of writing up a list for each day, I type up a workplan that shows what work needs to be done in each subject for the whole week.  I require that they do at least one "work" in reading, language, and math each day.  Otherwise, they can work at their own pace and do the subjects in any order they want.  If they want to work ahead, that's okay.  In fact, I told them that if they finish everything by Thursday, they can have Friday off!!  We'll see how that works.  I'm hoping they will make it their goal to get almost everything done during Mon-Thur each week so we can be more relaxed on Fridays.  Maybe we'll plan field trips then, or maybe I'll let them look through my back issues of Family Fun magazine to choose a fun activity to do on Fridays.

To prevent our workplans from getting lost, I clip each boy's plan onto a clipboard.  My oldest son's board is shown below.