Pronunciation Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead—it’s said like bed not bead—
And for goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not the moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dead and fear or bead and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose—
Just look them up—and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart—
Come, Come! I’ve hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!
But I had mastered it when I was five!

Author Unknown

Summer Journals

There is so much more to write about in the summer!

Writing in a journal is wonderful in the summer because there is often so much more to write about! Swimming, vacations, gardening, the county fair, church picnics, camping . . . all these topics give my children plenty of writing ideas for their daily journal entries. In the summer, when other schoolwork isn’t demanding, a chance to write is a nice interlude. I like to use the quiet time after lunch, when the littlest children take their naps, as a daily journal writing time for the other children (and myself). If your children have a full and busy summer schedule, this natural break in the day is restful and refreshing.

For kindergarten students, just a sentence or two on wide (5/8”) lined paper is sufficient. If your child has difficulty forming the letters correctly, you can write his sentence in yellow marker so that he can trace over the letters in a easy-to-hold fat pencil. If he can form his letters correctly most of the time, then just print his dictated sentence on scratch paper for him to copy onto his journal page.

As children develop, they will be gradually advance to creating their own sentences without your help in letter formation or spelling. I provide a spelling dictionary so my children can look up words on their own and thus be independent in writing their own journal entries by 6 or 7 years old. A spelling dic­tionary is simply a small booklet arranged alphabetically with a short list of words most commonly used by beginning writers. There is also room for your student to add other words he uses frequently. This tool can really help a young writer become quite self-reliant. You will always need to go back and help your child correct errors to make journal writing a good learning experience, but as they grow, those errors get less and less frequent. My older children use pencil or erasable pen to write their entries. Erasable pen makes them feel grown up but still allows for mistakes to be corrected.

The lines on the paper are important. Start a 4–5-year-old on early handwriting paper that has 5/8” high spaces and  a dotted half-line. By the time your child is 6 years old, he will be able to write on 5/8” without the dotted half-line. A 7-year-old can write on 1/2” lines. Around 8 years, your child will begin to write cursive rather than print his journal entry. By 10 years old, he can use standard 3/8” wide rule notebook paper. If you want to preserve your children’s writing for years to come, do not choose newsprint writing paper that will yellow and disintegrate before they reach adulthood.

I like to use paper that is blank on the top half of the page for my children under 10 years old, as they enjoy illustrating their writing every day. Older children can write on lined paper and insert blank pages for drawing whenever they want to. We keep our pages in 3-ring binders. I like my children to remove the page that they are writing on because they have better penmanship when they are not struggling to position their hand around the rings in the binder.

To preserve your summer journal, make the covers on cardstock, illustrating and often add their photo on the front cover. Then I take their journal to the print shop and have them bound with a comb or plastic spiral binding, which only costs a few dollars. I put a plastic sheet over the front cover before it is bound if there is a photo there. This makes a very nice book that the children love to show their grandparents when they come.

Even if you do no other schoolwork this summer, do keep those daily journal entries coming. It gives children a regular chance to express themselves, it sharpens and maintains their penmanship skills, it provides a record of their summer adventures, and it exercises their English, grammar and spelling!  A wonderful daily habit!

Spelling Clues

 

My daughter Louisa (15)

English is a beautiful language! It is the language of the Kings James Version of the Bible. It is the language of Shakespeare. Then, why—oh, why can’t we spell?

Over the years of teaching my 7 children to write, I wonder if perhaps I have seen nearly every misspelling known to man. Tomorrow, friends, though, a lot . . . these common words can be quite challenging. I don’t claim to any system of success, but I do know that giving kids a memory clue can help a great deal! Here are just a few of the clues I have discovered that help my kids spell better:

 

tomorrow
If you break this word down into the original two words—to morrow—it is a lot easier for kids to remember. I tell them, “We are looking to (towards) the morrow (next day).” Once you realize the meaning, you aren’t tempted to double the m which is the most common misspelling.


friend
I say, “A friend is a friend to the end”. Circle the word end within the word friend. Once a child sees the word end, that word is generally mastered.

 

though-dough + rough-tough-enough
Though the dough
Is rough
and tough enough,
We’ll still have bread.

These crazy words are all spelled the same, but not pronounced the same. If you can teach your child the ough spelling, then this little chant will keep things straight.

 

igh
I teach this goofy letter combination by drawing a big eye around it:

Now these words are easier to spell and remember:
sigh, nigh, light, night, sight, fight, might, tight, right, fright, blight . . .

 

a lot, all right
These are both two words! Now, you have it! Don’t combine them into alot or alright. Those are misspelled!

 

together
We go to get her to be together.
to get her = together
Pronounce this word to your children and they’ll spell it right: to-get-her

 

separate
There’s a rat in separate. Can you see it?

Whenever you begin to write the word separate, say the little sentence and write a rat and you won’t misspell it!

 

here, there
Here and there are places. If you are not here, you are there. The word here is included in the word there. Once you can see the word here, it is easy to spell there!

 

Spelling Those Tricky Words

Spelling is just as important as doing your hair!

How’s that?

Well, it makes quite a first impression, whether on a job application or in a love letter.

Spelling is not something that we stop learning the day we graduate from high school, or college even. I am a good speller, and I like spelling, so just for fun I took a spelling test this morning. I discovered that I could not spell quite a few of the most commonly misspelled difficult words in the English language . . . which surprised me a bit. I thought I’d have it down by now!

Where to start? Students can make great spelling progress by learning these 12 tricky spelling combinations. These are among the most frequently used (and misused and misspelled) words in the English language. Just having these mastered will make quite a different in their daily writing!

1. Its / It’s

2. No / Know

3. Principal / Principle

4. Quite / Quiet

5. There / Their / They’re

6. To / Too/ Two

7. Through / Threw

8. Weather / Whether

9. Where / Wear

10. Which / Witch

11. Write / Right

12. Your / You’re

I have taught my kids to figure out these words with little memory clues. I’ll share some here with you:

Its / It’s

It’s is a contraction of the words it is. So, when confronted with which one to use, try to replace the word it’s (or its) with the words it is. If that sentence works, then make sure to use the it’s with the apostrophe. For example, “It’s five o’clock” can be also stated, “It is five o’clock”. But this sentence does not work: “The cat licked it is paws.”

Principal / Principle

The principal is a man who could be your pal. See the word pal in principal?

There / Their / They’re

There is a location, a place. You are either here or there. Can you see the word here in the word there? They’re is a contraction of the words they are. You can replace the word they’re with they are as a test to see if it works.

To / Too

Too many cookies is the phrase I use to help my children see the word too means additional, also or excess. You can draw chocolate chips in the letter o in the word too to help them remember!

Where / Wear

Where is another location or place word. When you ask the question, “where?”, you are either here or there. Look for the word here in the word.

Which / Witch

The witch that rides a broomstick has her broom in the middle of the word (the letter t).

Your / You’re

The word you’re is a contraction of the words you are. Teach your children to replace the word your/you’re in a sentence with you are and they can discern if it is a contraction or not.

Now, for contractions!

By the way, if you haven’t taught your children about contractions yet, that is a fun lesson! Using two index cards, write the separate words of the contraction, one per card like this:

can                 not

Have your child read the separate cards to you. Hold one card in each of your hands. Then show them how to make a crash of the two word cards (big appeal with boys) so they bend back and only show these letters:

can                 t

On a third card, draw a “comma-up-in-the-air” (apostrophe). Tell them the crash knocked out some letters and so you stick this mark right where the letters are missing to show they once were there.

can’t

Works with every contraction except won’t (will not).

Have fun with spelling today!

 

 

Punctuation Games

I’ve always found language arts workbooks dreadful. I know some children like doing them, but I love English and those workbooks seem to reduce a rich, lovely language to a dull, fill-in-the-blank exercise. I like to make things into a game.  So, when it comes to learning punctuation skills, I am all about learning them through an interactive game. Here’s how we learn the punctuation symbols and how to use them in my homeschool:

Punctuation Game

Get a stack of 3 x 5″ blank index cards and write a punctuation symbol on each card, including period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, hyphen, colon and so forth. If a child is old enough to write well, he should make his own set. You’ll need a stack too. They should look something like this:

Now, seat your children apart, facing you and not each other. For starters, just use the cards with the period, question mark and exclamation mark. Set others aside.

Explain the differences in how a sentence sounds when it ends with each of these punctuation marks. For example, read this sentence:
Mary bakes bread.
Show the card with the period symbol on it and explain that this sentence ends with a period. You can hear ending punctuation. A sentence ending in a period sounds even and somewhat monotone.

Now read this sentence, with inflection:
Is Mary baking bread?
Show the card with the question mark and ask your students to listen for the lilt at the end of the sentence. You can hear the question mark.

Now read this with excitement:
Mary is burning the bread!
Hold up the exclamation point card. Ask the students how they can tell the sentence needs an exclamation point.

Now it is time to play the game:

Mom reads a sentence, and the kids simultaneously hold up the correct card, high in the air, facing Mom. It works best if they cannot see each other’s cards. Mom takes a look at their cards and then holds up her correct card. Everyone whose card matches Mom’s correct card gets a token (bean, button, paper clip, whatever). After everyone has played to their fill, count up tokens and see who is the winner. The winner now gets to make up the sentences.

Here’s some sentences to get you started. You’ll think of more fun sentences to use as you go along. You read the sentence, Mom, and then hold up the appropriate punctuation card.

1. Ouch! I stubbed my toe!

2. Today is Tuesday.

3. I love to go to the beach!

4. Are you sleeping?

5. The paper is on the table.

6. Are you finished yet?

7. It’s my birthday!

8. When is dinner?

9. I don’t know.

10. I hope we have ice cream!

After several rounds of this game, add additional punctuation mark cards, and explain their use to your children. A quick round at the beginning of school time will make your children practically geniuses when it comes to punctuating a sentence. You can increase the difficulty quickly by requiring them to hold up 2 cards per sentence.

Try this:
Add the hyphen mark, which is used in words that are linked together, specifically numbers, such as thirty-four. Also use a hyphen to join words that act together to describe the noun, such as one-way street, well-known person, chocolate-covered raisins, when the describing words come right before a noun.

I am twenty-one today!
Hold up first the hyphen card and then the exclamation point card.

Are you eating a raspberry-filled doughnut?
Use a hyphen and a question mark.

How about this one (say it with drama!)
The thief stole my gold-plated statue!
Use a hyphen and exclamation point.

To your punctuation success!

 

Grammar Excitement

Now, I know “excitement” may not be how you describe the subject of grammar, but your kids will think this instant, silly game is plenty of fun, and they’ll get good at knowing their parts of speech too!

Ready?

Set?

First, teach or review that a “noun” is a person, place or thing. Have your children look around the room and find nouns. If you can touch it, it is a noun. If you count it, it is a noun. If you can go there, it is a noun.

Next, teach or review the concept that a “verb” is an action word. Anything you can do is a verb. That would mean hopping, running, swimming, dancing, playing, typing, etc. There are also words for just existing or being and they are verbs too! Is, am, are, be, were, being, was, are all verbs.

Now, for the game!

Have the children stand up and raise their hand. A hand is a thing. The word hand is a noun. So whenever you say a word that is a noun, the children are supposed to raise their hand up.

Now have the children hop. Verbs are action words: hopping, swimming, dancing, running, etc. Tell the children to hop on one foot whenever you say a word that is a verb.

Start easy by just saying random words:

apple (noun—children should raise a hand up)
dancing    (verb—children should hop)
balloon    (noun—children should raise a hand up)
cookie     (noun) . . . continue
whistled (verb)
pet     (noun)
Disneyland (noun)
book     (noun)
slid     (verb)
slither    (verb)
hamburger (noun)
Japan     (noun)
slime     (noun)
sneezed    (verb)
jiggled    (verb)
. . .etc.

Be careful when saying verbs to state them in their -ing form (dancing rather than dance) or in a past tense form (danced instead of dance). The reason is that many verbs are also nouns. A dance could be a noun. Dancing and danced are verbs.

You can pick the silliest words you can think of and go faster and faster so that the children are racing to make their signals. This is lots of action, fun and laughs. When the children get good at this, slip in a few state of being verbs such as is, was, are, be, am. When they are no longer stumped by the “being verbs”, you can start telling them a story slowly, and let them figure out the nouns and verbs. For example, you could say this sentence and expect these signals:

“The pig gobbled his dinner.”
The
pig (noun—children should put their hand up)
gobbled (verb—children should be hopping)
his
dinner (noun—hand up).

“Charley was a large pig and he lived in a muddy pigpen.”
Charley (noun—hand up)
was (verb—hopping)
a
large
pig (noun—hand up)
and
he  (noun—hand up)
lived (verb—hopping)
in
a
muddy
pigpen (noun—hand up).

“Charley loved to eat apples.”
Charley (noun—hand up)
loved     (verb—hopping)
to
eat    (verb—childen should hop)
apples (noun—children should put their hand up).

You can add to the game by teaching a signal for proper nouns. Proper nouns are nouns that are capitalized and mean a certain, specific thing, such as Charley, Mr. Jones, or Disneyland rather than pig, man and amusement park, which are common nouns. Whenever a noun is proper, have your child bow in a proper way. So when you say the word, Charley, your child will not only have his hand up to signal a noun, but he will take a bow to signal a proper noun.

If you aren’t quick in thinking up sentences for your children to do the actions to, then read a simple children’s book aloud, sentence by sentence.

Your children can join right in to make up more signals as you learn more parts of speech. There are 8 parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, coordinating conjunctions, preposition, articles) so this doesn’t get too complicated to have fun with.

Who can resist grammar when it is just fun and games?!

 

Teaching an Older Child to Write

Question:

I have a 9th grade daughter that really struggles in writing. She does not like writing so it has always been a battle and I have not pushed it nearly enough. Now I find she is really behind in writing and I am feeling panicked because writing is so important to every other subject. Do you have any suggestions of how to help an older student learn to be a better writer? I really feel like I have failed her.

I do have your Journal and Language Arts program and will be using that with my 4th grade son soon. Should I use that to get my daughter started too?

Answer:

Yes, I would start your daughter on the Journal program too.  It is a great way to learn to write!  You can use a notebook with wide ruled paper (or have her type it on the computer, teaching her how to use the spell check feature).  Every day, have her write a journal entry of at least 3 paragraphs.  At first, do not comment on grammar, spelling, neatness, correctness. Just get her writing. She can write about anything she wants—no restrictions on topic or use of slang, etc.  You are just trying to get her writing.

So, for the first week, have her write her 3 daily paragraphs.  If this is too overwhelming, start with sentences—such as 5 sentences, and then move up your requirement every few days or week, until she is writing 3 paragraphs per day.  If she is totally stumped, get Kids Talk and have her choose a card to write about each day.  Note: this is not her private journal, which she will keep on her own. This is her “School Journal”.  She can choose any subject, but you have to be able to read it.

Once she is writing daily and it is going smoothly, then it is time to ease her into self-correcting. Start by teaching her the spell check feature on your computer—misspelled words are visible as the underlined words.  Teach her how to check the word using the spell check feature.  Have her copy and paste the corrected word onto a spelling list document. This spelling list should be studied daily, along with the new words being added to it daily from her writing.  On Friday, give her a spelling quiz.  Any misspelled words from the quiz go onto next week’s spelling document.  Have her print the corrected version, hole punch it, and store it in a binder.

If she is doing her writing by hand in a journal,  have her write in either pencil or erasable pen so it can be corrected, and when you check her work, put a little erasable tick mark in pencil at the beginning of the sentence that has a misspelled word, and let her try to figure which word it is.  Often she will say, “Oh, I thought that was misspelled” and identify the word.  Have her correct the word and add it to the spelling list as described above, and study for the Friday quiz.  A book I really recommend is How to Spell it, because no matter how the word is spelled, she will be able to find it in this handy book, and correct the spelling.

Keep working on having her identify and correct her spelling for a few weeks.  If she is misspelling a large number of words, then just choose the most common words to correct.  Work at it gradually until she learns those words and can spell them correctly in her writing, and then move on to correcting more words.  Don’t overwhelm her. Nobody wants to write if they have to go back and correct every third word! Ten spelling words per week is plenty.

As soon as she adjusts to having her spelling corrected and to working on looking things up (before she misspells them), you can move on to the next step, which is getting her punctuation correct, and making sure she capitalizes words properly.  You can find the rules for punctuation in my Journal and Language Arts program.  I also recommend Writing in Style as a good overview.

Keep going with this, working through the mechanics of good writing, all via her daily writing (on her choice of topics).  Don’t worry about topic. My son spend an entire year writing about knights and medieval times and how to build catapults, and his writing still improved dramatically!  The topic doesn’t matter, and allowing them total freedom to choose a topic keeps their interest high.

When she is accustomed to daily writing, and is able to correct any errors you note when you check her daily writing, she is ready for a good writing program.   I like the Wordsmith series, starting with Wordsmith Apprentice.

Just ease into it, step by step, and you’ll soon see her writing improve dramatically, and maybe she’ll really enjoy it and want to write stories, poems and more.

You’re on your way!


 

Is it a "b" or a "d"?

Question:

My kids are having a hard time in reading and writing  lower case “b” and “d” and are always mixing them up.  How do you help kids keep this straight?

Answer:

I teach them “b”.  Leave “d” alone—it will take care of itself once they learn “b”.

Have your child say the word “ball” with you—and then you write a “b” so they see it and make the connection.  Pronounce “buh” (the phonic sounds of “b”) over and over.  Now, have your child reach up and touch your mouth when you dramatically enunciate “buh”.  You start with your lips tucked way into your mouth.  Run your child’s finger across the line your lips make when you are ready to say “buh”.  It is a definite line.  Write the line on the chalkboard in front of him.  Do it again, having him touch your mouth. Now have him write that line vertically on the chalkboard or paper.   That is the way a “b” always starts: with a line at the lips, and a line on paper.  (A “d” is written with the ball portion first, but don’t explain that—it just gets them confused. Just teach “b”).

When I taught “b”, I would watch my children silently writing and see them tucking their lips in to pronounce the ‘b” sound, and trace their finger over the line their lips make, and then write the stick line first on their paper. The rest comes more easily.  Saying “start at the top, down to the line, now up and around” can help walk a child through writing the letter “b”.   But knowing that memory clue of the line first, that matches the line on their mouths, seemed to help mine the most.

Once they totally master “b”, “d’ takes care of itself.  It’s just the opposite of “b”!

 

 

Natural Speller versus Has-to-Be-Taught

My children: Ammon, Julianna and Mark
Will the “natural speller” please stand up?

Having homeschooled 7 children, I eventually figured out that either kids come as “natural spellers” or they don’t. And if they don’t, you have to teach them to spell.

The natural speller can see the word in their head. You might see them writing it with their finger in the air when they are figuring out the spelling of a word. Spelling comes pretty easily to this child.

The “has-to-be-taught” speller is just as intelligent. In fact, spelling doesn’t have much to do with intelligence. As soon as the “has-to-be-taught” speller gets some memory clues or rules to go by, they can spell just as well as anyone. Of my 7 children, a few of them are natural spellers.

For the natural spellers, it is pretty much a waste of time to give them spelling lists, spelling tests, workbooks, or spelling activities. They will get it eventually, no matter what you inflict upon them. They can see the word in their mind’s eye and the more times they see it, read it or write it, the easier it gets. For a natural speller, I have found the best exercise is to correct their daily journal writing, and help them analyze a misspelled word. Once it is pointed out, they can practice that word—write it a few times each day perhaps. A memory clue is big help, such as pointing out the word end in the word friend (a friend is a friend to the end). Once they can see the right spelling, they generally do great at self-correction in the future.

Here are a few spelling clues to get you thinking:

here, hear
hear–you hear with your ear. See the word ear in hear.
here and there are places. You can see here in there.

together
Separate the word into syllables: to-get-her
If you are going somewhere together, you have “to get her” first.

tomorrow
Separate the word into syllables: to-morrow
The meaning is “on the morrow, or the next day”. Remembering that helps you not put an extra “m” in the word.

friend
How long will a friend stick with you?  to the end!  If you can see the word end in your friend, you spelled it correctly!

The main thing is to talk through the misspelled word with your child the first time you spot it. Just dissecting it is often enough to help a natural speller see and correct his mistake. When my son spelled rock as roc, I asked him to spell sock, clock, block, lock, etc. As he put the ck on the end of each word, he quickly recognized the pattern and fixed rock without another word from me.

You never know for sure which kids will be natural spellers, so I start all children off writing with the Spelling Dictionary by their side from about age 6 and up.  If they get in the habit of looking up words they are stumped on, instead of puzzling (and misspelling them), it seems to get them off to a better start.

As they grow, I switch over to How to Spell It. This was a wonderful discovery in my homeschool, because kids often can’t find a misspelled word in the dictionary, obviously, because a dictionary teaches definitions of words, not primarily how to spell them.  This handy book spells every word is a variety of ways with the correct spelling bolded in red, so you can find your word easily!

From day one of homeschool, I have my children keep a school journal.  This is an easy way to teach spelling, as they learn to spell right along with learning to write, and the spelling words are the words they use in their everyday conversation.

When it is time for some formal rules, I reach for Better Spelling in 30 Minutes a Day.  This book is great for older children who need some spelling help, or as a guidebook for you, as a teacher, to get the rules down so you can teach better. Workbook contains exercises that allow you to identify weak spelling areas and practice to improve them, tricks for spelling those commonly misspelled words, proofreading practice so you can learn to spot an error, and an answer key in the back of the book so you can check your answers as you go. Of course, you don’t have to spend 30 minutes a day, but I’m certain this book will improve your spelling even if you only spend a few minutes!

Good spelling is just about as important as brushed hair or a washed face. It is often the first impression we will make. In a day when email or texting is a common form of communication, spelling matters. Believe me, I have seen my share of misspelled job applications—and they are not very impressive. It’s worth it to teach our kids to spell!

 

Teaching Children to Write the Natural Way

My daughter Louisa has kept her school journals since she was 4 years old. What a treasure they are now! A whole childhood recorded.

I would like to share with you some of the things we’ve done in our homeschool that have really worked so well over the years. Teaching my children to write  has been a joy to teach, and any mother can easily do it without any expensive program.

I start when a child is very young—before he can even write his name—and we begin keeping a journal. I like the idea of this habit because it will help your child develop into an articulate thinker and writer.  And it is important, creating a history for generations to come.

I start by having my little child stand beside me while I type on the computer. I ask him to tell me about something, some event that has happened recently. It can be seeing a butterfly, or getting a bloody toe, or any thing significant or insignificant. At first, the going can be a bit rough, but as you practice this habit of writing as your child dictates to you, he will be on the lookout for ideas and will come to you and ask you to “write in his journal”.

So, you type while he talks. Keep it short (children can go on forever). I say something like, we are going to fill the page halfway, or set some other limit. I leave a blank half page at the top so he can illustrate his story when it is printed out. Of course, you don’t have to type it, you can write it out in handwriting (printed neatly, not cursive).

When you are able to teach your child to write his name (about age 4), he will have the motor skills to advance to the next step, which is tracing. Using very wide lined paper (5/8” spacing), have your child dictate one sentence that he’d like to tell about. You write the words in yellow marker (highlighters work well) or light colored pencil. It should be clear to see. Then you give him the job of tracing your very neatly lettered sentence using a dark colored marker or fat crayon or pencil. With this exercise comes the awareness that thoughts are put into words on paper using letters that he can make himself. At first, this is slow going, and if my child has a lot to say, I type out the rest, or write it in dark letters that he won’t have to trace. A sentence is plenty for the first while.

As you child advances in learning phonics—recognizing the letters and their sounds—and in his ability to write letters, you can leave some very easy words blank. For example, if you child dictates to you, “We have a cat.”, you could write in yellow marker, “We have a —.” leaving space for the word “cat”. As your child traces his sentence, he can sound out the word and fill in the easy word “cat”. Naturally, during this period of learning, he is going to be held back from long journal entries by the fact that the going is slow when you are learning to trace or write the letters yourself.

The next step, after the “fill-in-your-own-word” thing, is to sit down with your child and ask him to write as much as he can of his sentence. This is where you teach him that every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period. When he comes to a stumper, you write that word on a separate piece of paper so he can copy it. I never make my children look up words in a dictionary to discover their spelling at this point. We are trying to teach them how to write without too much discouragement. The slicker the process, the better for all.

Your child will stay at this level of writing until he is 6 or 7 years old, lengthening his journal entries from a few sentences to the front side of a page. At this point, I introduce a Spelling Dictionary and help him learn how to use it. If he comes to me needing the spelling of a word, I flip to it in the Spelling Dictionary for him and underline it. It doesn’t take long for a child to become independent in using it before asking for word spellings. But, there will still be some words you will need to write down for him to copy. Common ones can be written into his Spelling Dictionary.

The reason I don’t let my children “guess-spell” is that it forms a first impression of the spelling of the word, and if it is wrong, it can be hard to undo. I tell them that I would rather write the word for them to copy, then have them have to write it onto their spelling list because it is misspelled. We use pencil, or erasable pen, for journal writing. When their entry of the day is done, I go back with them and check over it, and have my student correct his errors. Misspelled words go on a spelling list, that they practice daily and test on Friday.

These journals they are creating will be the record they pass on to their children and grandchildren. They are a keepsake, a personal history, a book of remembrance, a treasure. We want them to be perfect. Each year, at the end of December, we take that year’s journal entries and have them spiral bound at the printer. This only costs $1 or so, and it creates a treasured book that my children are proud of. This makes their writing meaningful and makes them eager to do their best, day by day, year round. I give them 2 pieces of colored cardstock to make the front and back cover for their journal, and then the whole thing is bound together. You can add their photo to the cover and have it laminated or have a protective plastic overlay page put on the front cover. These are so precious that the printer admitted to me that he had to just pause and read a few entries!

All the while, the children are illustrating every journal entry. I encourage the use of crayon or colored pencils rather than markers, as they tend to disappear in a matter of years, particularly the washable ones. We have even used oil pastel chalks and watercolors for their journal illustrations. By the time a child is 8 years old, he has experimented in many art mediums and made hundreds of original creative drawings.

About 7 or 8 years old, I introduce the concept that each separate thought or idea gets a paragraph to itself. I teach them to indent each paragraph with 2 finger spaces. This is the beginning of paragraph writing. As I teach it, I remind my child to stop and think, “Is this a new idea? If it is, remember to indent!”. It is best to keep a close watch as this concept sinks it. Nobody likes to go back and erase and rewrite a whole sentence just to indent!

Around 8 years old, or whenever they express an interest and their manuscript printing is nice and neat, I teach them cursive. Then journal entries must contain at least one cursive sentence. As their skills improve, I require longer entries, and more of the writing to be done in cursive.

This process continues, writing daily in personal journals, until they hit the teen years and want a private journal. At this point, they often want a topic to write on, as their daily doings will be recorded in their own private journals. The book my daughter Julianna created called, All About Me, is a good writing tool for this age. This is a write-in workbook that gives interesting personal topics to write about. When the book is finished, your teenager will have their personal history written! Another useful resource is the card deck called Kids Talk. Each card presents a concept or incident along with thought questions. These can be just the flash of writing inspiration that your student might need.

As long as my children are writing, I continue to check spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Research has proven that children learn best in the context of their own writing. Rather than do workbook pages, I want them to learn to edit and correct their own work, learning in the process! If you are rusty on these skills, and fear that you cannot correct their work, there are good English handbooks such as Everything You Need to Know About English or Writer’s Express, that can help you out.

It has been amazing to me how this daily plugging away at journal writing accomplishes so many things: neat penmanship, English skills, mechanics of writing, plus drawing skills while recording a personal history, and making a treasured keepsake for now and for future generations. I’d say this is one of the best things we’ve done in our homeschool!
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Note: I organized this process into a program called K-5 Journal and Language Arts Program .