Writing Organically

While there is always a time and a place for formal writing and learning grammar and techniques, I find my kids make the most progress through a more organic method of learning. By organic I mean naturally occuring…a term I fell in love with while reading this article in Homeschooling Today.

I have a five year old boy and a three (almost 4) year old girl who are at that age where writing has suddenly become very important. If these had been my first I would have been lining up the preschool-kindergarten curriculum. But they are numbers 3 and 4 sandwiched between six kids and I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser now.

They really don’t need much from me. They seek out writing utensils whenever they possible can…pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, sharpies…whatever they can get their hands on whether it is out to use freely or locked up. They write on everything…paper, scraps, notebooks, recycled material, the walls, furniture, cement. They mark their territory as individualism starts to shine. (As I type my laptop cooling pad sports the name “Luc” in sharpie). They are fascinated with letters and all I have to do is where t-shirts for quick 5 minute lessons as they point out and sound out letters on my chest. They draw picture upon picture upon picture and sign their name to everything.

Why was I ever worried with my first that I had to “teach” writing? God gave them these amazing brains that develop and unfold in His perfect timing. In the same way we don’t sweat teaching our children to talk, I’ve learned that we don’t need to do much for writing either. Showing them how letters are formed here and there, providing them with tracing opportunites so they can “do” school with the others, and writing down (dictating) their stories as they want is about the extent I do now. I know that later there will be copywork and dictation that will ease them into excellent grammar, spelling, and composition work. But, for now, I will thoroughly enjoy watching them discover writing on their own.

Unadulterated passion for learning…

A natural extension of who they really are…

Isn’t that worth stepping out of the way for?

Linking up with ~

The Learning Room ~ More Project Work

We have continued on with project work this week. I feel our biggest accomplishment was sticking to the generic schedule ~ doing school work from 10-12 each day no matter if chores were done or not and using later free time to pick up the slack on chores kids were too lazy to get done in a timely manner. For me, who has a huge tendency to get distracted by side projects, this was a major win for the week. And the biggest benefit of having them work on projects for school, aside from the obvious freeing up of my time, is seeing from an unbiased view what they actually need work on.

And, can I just rave for a minute more about Junie B. Jones? That little girl has stolen our hearts and our lunchtimes! We have read through two of her books this week and will be going to the library a week early tomorrow just to get some more. This is the most endearing book series and just begs to be read aloud. I wish they had been around for me as I was an emerging reader!

Junie B. Jones's First Boxed Set Ever! (Books 1-4)

Lily, age 7,  has officially finished her first chapter book all the way through. I think she felt very proud of herself! She did much better at her narration chapter summaries this week due to last week’s coaching. The Junie B. Jones project dominated much of her time and thought. And she slowed way down on the Fancy Nancy project I think due to the fact that it involves a lot of writing and that was tiring her out so she kept procrastinating. I finally had to goad her on a bit so that I could get her to the fun part of the project (cutting out and decorating the hearts – you know, the fancy stuff).

Her area of most-needed-improvement was her penmanship. We only picked out one sentence from each of her narrations to use as copy work to go along with her picture narration. I felt this was just the right length to model good grammatical sentence structure and work on penmanship as well. Well, let’s just say her penmanship is wayyyy under par. I thought maybe this was just a hurrying-through-my-work sort of thing when I see it in her everyday play writing, but now I am having second thoughts. I also thought as she got older some of it would work itself out naturally, especially with her being a girl and having the desire for the pretty cursive handwriting. Again, I was wrong. I didn’t want to bombard her with over-criticism so we worked on putting her finger between words to properly space them and I think I will come back next week with some excersizes to address the neatness issue. Maybe it’s time to invest in an actual cursive program for her. Anyone out there using a good one that isn’t too hard for a first grader to use?

With Gabe, age 9, we needed to cover narration versus plagerism this week. I picked narration as part of his project work hoping that because it was based in books he already loved to read the narration would come more naturally. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. He basically wanted to stay immersed in his math books, not because he was working on something challenging but because he wanted to avoid narrations. I called him on it and he admitted it and said this invention stuff was just beginning to feel too much like history. All of the sudden the books weren’t interesting anymore. So we, again, went over how to do a narration. Then I had him just bite the bullet and sit down to do the task at hand whether he felt like it or not. He did a great job but I had a nagging suspicion as he kept glancing back towards the book that he was actually copying the information. I had just read an article on plagerism in the new edition of Old Schoolhouse Magazine and had thought how we had really not ever discussed it before. So, on my suspicion, I checked his work and found I was right. After praising how well he did at staying on task and finding all the information asked of him, I asked him if he knew what plagerism was and we practiced, much to his disappointment, how to redo his narration without copying. We discussed how this was why mommy required narrations so that his brain could constantly be exercised in coming up with his own sentences because that is a very hard task to master, even for adults.

So even though the work we did was not high in volume, I felt we definitely made up for it in quality by learning some very important skills this week.

Unschooling Fun ~ lots and lots of fun Valentine’s card making going on here! Again, see sidebar for the great free vintage clip art sites! Even the hubby got involved and made some really cool paper heart airplanes. He is so talented!

Onto mommy’s unschooling fun ~

Making PDF’s: mommy is learning how to convert word documents into pdf files (oh how I love them!) and how to upload them to the blog world so that I, too, may share and give back to this wonderful online community! Here is my first conversion I tried. It is the worksheet I made up to go with Lily’s Mission Addition project.  So please click on it and leave me a comment on if it does or does not work!

Mission Addition Worksheet

Also, I’ve been researching point and shoot cameras versus DSLR’s. I really (stressing the really) want a DSLR camera! I long to take my photography to the next level and get that great bokeh (fancy word for depth of field, wide aperature, cool-looking blurs – see how I’m learning?). So far I’ve come up with that, though DSLR’s have really come down in price, they still might not be quite in my budget yet. Maybe I am asking the impossible but, a challenge to you dear readers, who out there has a point and shoot camera that they love that takes pictures similar to a DSLR? I am all ears, my friends!

Linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Unschoolers @

A Dryer Sheet Anyone!!!

I simply must tell you all about the latest discovery in our house. As anyone with toddlers know, sharing doesn’t come easy. At school time, for the toddlers, that means sharing a dry-erase eraser to wipe down the Kumon letter and number flashcards (which can be found here). I’d heard a tip a while back about using recycled dryer sheets. Who doesn’t have plenty of these?

So yesterday we tried it…and LOVED it! My kids thought it was magic. The same chemistry that pulls electricity from your clothing, pulls the dry-erase right off the board/flashcard/book. And – what my kids thought was the coolest part – when you lift up the cloth, NO marker is anywhere to be seen. Not only did this satisfy all the kids attention spans for a while, it also eased up on the fighting over the eraser. Now they just fight over who has what letter!

And where to store these little treasures? Why, in a empty, recycled tissue box of course!

Have a fun day everyone. May your day be filled with a little bit of ordinary magic!

Homeschool Freebie ~ The Voice of Spring

The Voice of Spring Copywork Book

I’m so excited to be able to tell you about the Homeschool Freebie of the Day today! As our weather is heating up to the high forties, as the birds are singing again in the air, as I can finally see the blades of grass under the dingy slushy ice snow piles, as I am rushing to put seed orders in, and as I am ever so anxious to pull on my garden boots, this little gem came along. It is a copywork booklet of spring poems and verses. From Wordsworth to Robert Louis Stevenson to the Bible;  from singing birds to the first appearance of daffodils to daydreaming on a breezy day there is a little of everything for everyone, whether old or young. It is done in Zaner style manuscript and can be used as a complete grammar unit (as in Ruth Beechik’s whole language learning ~ post coming soon!) or as individual handwriting lessons as a sunny day calls for or use as a complimentary pairing to outside nature walks and sketching work. It is another little nugget of hope on a cloudy, dreary day!

Here is the link: Homeschool Freebie of the Day

It is only for today only so hurry fast to download your copy! Here is what they have to say about it:

Copying the Poems: The Voice of Spring (PDF ebook) – From Bogart Family Resources comes today’s resource, this neat handwriting copybook that includes the complete text of three well-known poems and four scripture passages that focus the heart and mind on the new life that springs forth from God’s creation each Spring. 25 full lessons in 77 pages, making preparing copywork lessons a breeze – just hit print, and you’re good to go!