Monday, March 28, 2011

Phonics vs. Whole Word Reading

In my quest to learn as much as possible about homeschooling, I've seen phonics and whole word (also: whole language, sight words) discussed several times. Nothing about it seems definitive, so I believe its safe to say that both methods have some good points, and using them in conjunction with one another seems to be the way to go. From what I can tell, my son's kindergarten class is doing just that, for which I am thankful. He has learned all the letter sounds and is now working on letter combination sounds, all the while adding a few new sights words each week (usually 5 or 6). This method has been very good for him, and he can now figure out new words on his own (with encouragement) during our nightly Bible reading.

The basics of the argument is this. Mature readers do not read by phonics, sounding out each word as they come across it. We read by whole word recognition, for the most part. If we happen across a word we don't know, then we may slow down to sound it out, but what I find I do is figure out the root of the word and what it means (based on similar words or context) and take a guess at it. This method has served me well since elementary school, but maybe that's not what everyone else does, LOL. Alternatively, young readers don't have all these word symbols stored up in their brains and have no starting point, other than knowing the letters themselves. In this case, I think it is well to teach the sound of the letters and their combinations, so they can decipher the code (read the word) for themselves as interest dictates. Some people are against teaching phonics because it slows down reading, or takes away the enjoyment of it. Other are staunchly opposed to whole word learning, saying the child will only ever be able to read words they have previously been exposed to, through memorization. While both have valid points, as usual, the middle ground is the most fruitful.

What brought this to the front of my mind today was the reading of Theodore Wade, Jr.'s book from the early 1980's entitled "The Home School Manual" (yes, the selection at our rural library leaves something to be desired). While extraordinarily outdated and making me laugh through the mention of records and tapes, and the absolute exclusion of computers, it is still interesting to read. I am now on the Teaching Reading chapter, and he includes an extensive list of words that are very common and do NOT follow phonetic rules. I thought I might make sure these are some of the first sight words to teach my son, if any of them aren't already covered this year in kindergarten. Here they are!

a, again, against, answer, beautiful, been, breakfast, buy, catch, choir, come, could, do, does, dumb, eye, friend, girl, gone, have, laugh, money, neighbor, none, of, once, one, only, ought, people, pretty, put, ready, said, says, sew, shoe, some, should, the, their, to, two, was, Wednesday, were, where, who, whose, women, would

Now read it again, pretending as I did that you only knew phonics and had to figure out what each word was. Eye-opening, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

House Rules and Chore Charts

I have recently had a couple of friends ask about our house rules, or what sort of behavior chart ideas I had. Here is some of what I do, below. What I would really like is the magnetic chore chart by Melissa and Doug - totally reusable and should last a really long time, and it comes with most common chores that a child would have.

I did a behavior chart for my DS and the foster kids last year, and it worked pretty well. I used it more as a checklist for getting ready because that was their struggles at the time. I just got a large sheet of paper (same as I do with house rules, about 11x17), and wrote each step of getting ready (can use for jobs/responsibilities/chores/behaviors you want to see) down the paper, and included a small drawing of the desired behavior (a comb, toothbrush, bed, clothes, etc) so he would understand it without me reading it every morning and evening. To the right I drew a grid with room for the stickers I was using and squeezed about 2 weeks worth on one sheet. I subdivided it into times of day - for instance I had Morning routine, After school routine and Evening routine. He got a sticker for each behavior he did without a reminder (started out getting one for just not complaining when he got a reminder, LOL) and when he reached a certain # of stickers, he got to choose a reward - something from dollar store, ice cream, a movie cuddling with me, whatever. You can use the same system for any positive things you want to see, but I don't see it working too well for punishing negative behaviors. So for that I use the House Rules.

This is hanging in the dining area next to the hallway, so its very central. I got together with DS (age 6) and asked him what HE thought the rules should be, and then added to it to get 10 altogether. I got his agreement on each one, how to word it, and read the corresponding verses to him. Each rule is numbered, kept short and followed by the "address" to an applicable Bible verse. At the bottom below the rules I put "Consequences" and listed the possible outcomes of not following the rules. Mine are Time out, Loss of privileges, Early bedtime, No screen time (for whatever length of time I see fit, usually a day or two at his age), Extra chores and No Allowance (he gets $2/week). For example, if he forgets to feed the dogs after school, I can take away 25 cents each time, not to exceed $1 any week. He agreed to that.
Here are the House Rules as I have them written. I used to look up matching verses. Each rule encompasses plenty of sub-rules so should cover about anything!

1. Love God. Exodus 20: 3,7 Love people. Luke 10:27
2. Speak nice words. Ephesians 4:29
3. Use kind touches. Philippians 2:3
4. Show respect. Proverbs 4:1
5. Obey parents. Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20, Exodus 20:12
6. Be responsible. Luke 16:11
7. Do chores. 1 Corinthians 4:12
8. Use indoor voices. Proverbs 15:1
9. No running inside. Colossians 3:12
10. Do not lie. 1 King 22:16

I tried to make them as positive as possible, not just don't do this, don't do that. I hope this helps someone in some way!

I found the most awesome site related to this topic! Its and has just about everything you can imagine, plus tips and articles about what chores are reasonable for what age, how to get good behavior, how to parent, etc. Check it out!

**Update 2**
I have redone the rules again, even though nothing is wrong with these. :)  See them at Updated House Rules.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The new way to blog - give stuff away!

Every time I visit a homeschooling or stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) website, it seems there is a promotion of some sort going on. Young mommies, suddenly bereft of their previous income, are constantly searching for a way to earn money from home. Or maybe money isn't the real issue, but a lack of feeling like a "real" contributor to the family. So, they turn to the internet, homemade crafts, or other cottage industries to help the family out financially and to fulfill a personal need of their own.

Many enjoy blogging as a job, where they will analyze baby and children's products in exchange for keeping said products for themselves. What appears to be a HUGE new trend is for these companies to offer an additional product to the blogger to give away, following certain guidelines. They have totally tapped into what social networking advertising is all about! I entered several of these contests before I realized I don't really want to "like", "follow" and "friend" all these bloggers and their sponsors' Facebook and Twitter accounts. However, if this sounds like a good time to you, I can tell you to go to and wile away the hours of your day!

Of course, this new social networking sweepstakes idea isn't the only way to make money (or earn stuff) blogging. There are traditional online ads, easily lined up via Google and other large companies. You could also sell your own ads to local business, if you blog is of local interest. You could build up the following on your blog, then sell it - but I'm thinking that may not pay off for a long time.

While I enjoy writing in my blog as time allows, I really have no desire to monetize it in any of those ways. I just want my voice to be heard "out there" and to enjoy the process of writing a good piece now and then. That being said, I would be amiss to pass up the opportunity to share the home business in which I am currently working.

I have been a customer of a fabulous health and wellness company for several years, and this particular company promotes its products through "network marketing". This means I earn money each time I help someone else open their own account! I've been working it as I have time. I'm what you would call "Level 1" - telling people about it on occasion. However, I have recently enrolled a non-profit entity and this could make me very busy for a while so I am gearing up to be a Level 2 or maybe even 3 for a few weeks or months - whatever it takes to make this a successful fundraiser for them.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Time on My Hands

Its been over a month since the foster kids left, and while I'm more used to the general quiet, I'm not sure I like it. Don't get me wrong, I need moments of quiet every day, but days of quiet does actually get old! So what have I been doing with the time on my hands?

Reading. I've explored all the eReaders out there that have apps for the iPhone and tried to read something on each. My favorite is Kobo, and there list of free books is almost as extensive as Amazon's Kindle freebies. I like Kobo better than Kindle or iBooks because it makes a game out of reading - I get "rewards" for reading at different times of the day, completing a number of books, or downloading new ones. Silly, but fun :) I can also post my "activity" to Facebook which is cool, although I'm pretty sure no one really cares what book I just finished reading, LOL. I'm also in a beta-testing group for a new ePublisher, which is lots of fun and means more free books. In addition to electronic books, I have been trying to get through my 2 foot high stack of magazines, and a few "real" books. My latest "real" read is "The Homeschooling Handbook" by Mary Griffith.

The "Handbook" claims to be what every person should read before homeschooling, and I agree that it has a lot of useful information, covering all the who, what, when, where and why's of homeschooling. It talks of the different methods and doesn't leave out any part of the structured to unschooled spectrum. So, if you are considering homeschooling as I am, I recommend you pick this up.

What?! you may be saying. YOU want to homeschool?? Well, yes, I think I want to give it a shot. Hubby is on board with looking into more details - cost, mostly, because he is a financial planner for a living. I'm more curious about how an actual day would go, and while that is covered in the book, nothing is the same as seeing it done. Luckily, I have some friends locally who have been doing this a number of years so I am planning on crashing their houses before making a final decision.

Why?! Many reasons - political, religious, and developmental, plus my son is already tired of school halfway through kindergarten. He hasn't had any bad experiences, its just the way that school is. Too much sitting, not enough play is what he said. I like his teachers and have no problem with them, but he is already doing such repetitive stuff that I have no doubt boredom is already part of the reason he "just doesn't like it". Basically, I don't want his natural curiosity and love for learning to be snuffed out before he turns 7. Or ever.

As we look into this further, I may describe to you the political and religious reasons, but to me they are just reinforcing reasons, not the main point. For now, I'm keeping an open mind and seeing where God leads us. And really hoping that some more foster kids come my way soon...although no calls means less children taken from their parents, and that is usually a good thing.