I was recently directed (by Preschoolers and Peace) to an article called 10 Things To Do With Your Child Before Age 10. If you've never read it (and have young children), I highly encourage you to do so! It talks a bit about Classical education in general and then focuses in on the early grammar stage (what they consider to be before age 10). It says that the early grammar stage is all about laying a firm foundation for the more formal academics that will follow.
The article goes on to list 10 areas that should be focused on with young children and specifics about each area. I was so inspired by this article! We do most of what the article recommends (to some degree or another), but I want to take a closer look at each of the 10 areas and sort of evaluate how we are doing . My goal is going to be to cover one area a week for the next 10 weeks, writing about how we are doing in that area and then setting any goals necessary to improve in it. Then, after I go through all the areas I will revisit them one at a time to report on how we have done on our goals.
You can get this "10 things..." article plus SO much more information in the book Teaching the Trivium from the good people at Trivium Pursuit.
The first area is Reading and Writing.
The article says that you should teach your child to read at some point before age 10. It stresses the importance of a phonics based method of teaching. Teaching a child how to read phonetically gives them the tools they need to read on their own. It may seem like more work at the beginning (learning all the sounds of the letters and letter combinations, memorizing a few rules, etc.), but once that is down, a child can figure out new words without assistance. This is so liberating for the child! In essence, that is the goal of a Classical education..."to liberate them from the drudgery of task-performance and to make them independent scholars."
First, of course, a child needs to learn to recognize all of the letters and how to write them. With Trevor, I began when he was two, teaching a letter a week. Mostly this was just recognition, but I would also say the sound the letter makes. By the end of the year he knew all of his letters and their sounds. Then when he was three, I began teaching him to write each letter (one a day). We used tracing pages for practice and then he would try to write it on his own using a wipe-off board. At this point, I was also teaching him sounds of letter combinations. We us The Writing Road to Reading as our guide, so I followed the order of teaching phonograms from there.
The article recommends having your child make an English Language Notebook. They recommend having a three-ring binder that the child can add to as they learn. This notebook would have pages dedicated to each letter. Your child could find things in a magazine that start with a certain letter and glue them onto that letters page (ex. a bear, ball, and boy for the B page). Then when they start writing, have them add their practice page for each letter behind the picture page for the corresponding letter.
I did not do this with Trevor, but I think it's a great idea! We had lots of loose sheets that I store in a folder, but I love the idea of keeping it organized in a binder for your child to look through. I will definitely be doing this starting in the fall with Mackenzie.
The Writing Road to Reading suggests having each child keep a writing notebook, so that is what I currently have for Trevor. In one half of the book I write all the words he has learned (I add a few each week from the list in the book). If your child is older and can write clearly, they should do this themselves, but because Trevor is so young I write them out so they can be very clear for him to practice reading. In the other half of the book the child practices writing the words and phonograms they have learned. Most every day I will 'quiz' Trevor by reading a few words of phonograms that he has learned and he will try to write them himself. It is really neat to look through the book and see his progression in writing and spelling over the year!
The last thing suggested in the article under Reading and Writing is copywork. This has been a staple in our schooling this year, so I was happy to see it there! We started this once Trevor knew how to write each letter. The point of copywork is to have your child practice their writing by perfectly replicating good sentences. The article states that "Copywork is a good way to practice handwriting skills, re-enforce phonics instruction, introduce grammar and proper sentence structure, and lay a foundation for creative writing at a later age."
Currently Trevor does copywork that I have made to go along with what he reads in his McGuffey's Eclectic Primer. If that is something you could benefit from, you can learn more about it here. Before he started reading in the primer, I made some Good Books Copywork to go along with the words he was learning to write/read. Really, you can have your child copy anything! Choose what is important to you and write it out to have them copy! Next year I want to expand what I have Trevor copy to include Bible verses, poetry, literature, quotes, etc. I will have to think more on the specifics of that, but that will be a goal for next year.
The article states that your child should do reading and copywork each day. This may sound like a lot, but it really only has to be a few minutes of each to reap great results! Trevor reads one lesson in the McGuffey Primer each day (a few simple sentences) and does one copywork page (usually two short sentences) and reviews words in his writing notebook. I'm sure this will look different as the years go on, but the basics are the same in this early grammar stage.
Goals to work on:
- Start an English Language Notebook for Mackenzie.
- Expand sources of copywork for Trevor.
- Compile Trevor's work into a binder instead of being loose in a file folder.
Happy Reading and Writing!