It’s been a long time since I’ve linked up to What We’re Reading Wednesday, and I’ve missed sharing books with you. Fact is, I don’t read as much as I once did. That’s sad but true, and it’s the computer’s fault. Because it would be more accurate to say that I still read a lot, just articles and blogs instead of books. I read great articles and blogs, and I share them with my Facebook friends. But it’s not quite the same. So here’s a sampling of what I’ve read (relatively) recently that I thought it would be fun to share.
I got this one via Blogging for Books, and then took forever to read it. My fault, not the book’s, because it’s engaging, easy to read, and interesting. And there’s probably not much I can tell you about Paleo that you haven’t already heard, because I’m way behind the times. I will say this: people who complain about his ideas without having read the book . . . obviously haven’t read the book. 🙂 It’s far from being the had-core-you-must-eat-this-way-or-else diatribe people make it out to be. And a lot of it makes sense to me, even if I would never choose to eat that way full time.
I was given Teardrops That Tango to review by the author. This is a book that will get your attention from the first page. It tackles all kinds of rough situations: child abuse, suicide, mental illness. I know it sounds like a downer but it has a happy ending. It’s definitely painful to read, though, especially because you know it’s the true story of someone who has suffered a lot. But that’s not supposed to be the message you take away from it. Be aware that although it starts out like one it really isn’t a strict autobiography, but also combines resources for those going through rough times with inspiration and advice. It’s ambitious for sure and that can make it a bit uneven but it’s a story you won’t easily forget.
The above constitute comfort reading for me. Our whole family loves Star Trek. We have many, many Star Trek novels, which are some of our few books that survived the destruction of our home by fire four years ago. We’ve been watching one Star Trek episode each night for months now, and having made our way through TNG and TOS (yes, in that order!) we are now experiencing Deep Space Nine for the first time! Anyway, those first two books are sequels to the second-to-last TOS episode, which put me in the mood to read them; and having read them, I was in the mood to read more, and the next ones pictured are two of my favorites. If you like Star Trek, you will like these books.
And I just started the Grisha Trilogy this week, and I am already on the third book! Emily (grown up daughter) has been urging me to read these for awhile. Emily reads like I used to read. She keeps the library busy and she buys books too. Christmas and birthday lists are and always have been full of books. And of course it’s more fun if you can discuss what you read with someone else who’s read it too. I don’t know why I was so reluctant to start these. I think I was afraid they would be demanding or exhausting but they aren’t. The author has set her world in something resembling Russia in the 1800s and the familiarity makes it easier to immediately relate to. Obviously the story is engaging and interesting or I wouldn’t be reading it so fast. Whether I would recommend them I cannot say until I see how they end, and how the romance plot resolves.
Emily has already informed me what series she is going to make me read next, so I’ll have something else interesting to write about next time!
What are you reading? You can tell me in the comments! And for more reading suggestions, visit the other posts in the linkup!
It might seem a bit odd to review a book that was published almost 30 years ago and that I’ve read many times before. But having recently re-read Patience of a Saint by Father Andrew Greeley, who died in 2013, I wanted to talk about him and his writing.
In 1987 I wouldn’t have been able to understand or appreciate Father Greeley’s work. I’d read about him, of course–what Catholic hasn’t been horrified at the idea of a priest writing “racy novels” with actual sex scenes? (Such very mild and tasteful scenes, by the way.) I’m sure at the time, without having read any of his books, I disapproved. I’m sure I thought that a priest ought to have better things to do than write sexy novels. I’m sure I assumed it was notoriety the man was after.
Of course, Father Greeley, a sociologist as well as a priest, was doing other things too. In addition to his priestly duties, he was cranking out scores of non-fiction books in his field. But he considered his novels a ministry too, something that is obvious to me when I read them now. In his own words: “I wouldn’t say the world is my parish, but my readers are my parish. And especially the readers that write to me. They’re my parish.”
Anyone who reads Father Greeley will see that he loves Chicago, the Irish, and the Church. That doesn’t mean he won’t point out what he thinks their flaws are! And I don’t always agree with his perception of the Church’s flaws–I’m no authority on Chicago or the Irish! But always the love is there, and his conviction of the truth of the Church and of the power of the love of God to transform people’s lives.
Red Kane, a somewhat dissipated Chicago journalist, is a perfunctory Catholic when Patience of a Saint begins. A conversion experience comparable to St. Paul’s on the Road to Damascus propels him reluctantly into a reformation of his life which simultaneously delights and threatens his friends and family. He comes to realize that “if one party in a relationship undergoes a transformation, then the other party in that relationship must be transformed too,” and that this is scary for those around him who have grown comfortable with the roles they were used to playing.
In a climax that is foreshadowed throughout the novel, Red’s family decides he has had a nervous breakdown and they send for the men in the white coats. In the end, in what to me was a particularly moving passage, Red asks himself where he can go for help. “The answer was still obvious. The only institution in the world that could help him now was the Roman Catholic Church–the real Catholic Church. Send in the first team.”
I’ve read many–not all, by a long shot–of Father Greeley’s novels. He’s a good writer, not a great one. He does have what to me is crucial–the ability to anchor his novels firmly in a particular place and time. Chicago and its environs are intrinsic to his books. His characterization is terrific, his dialogue not so much, although to me in Patience of a Saint it rings most true. But most important is that his books are deeply Catholic, even the “sexy parts.” It’s a misunderstanding of and a disservice to Church teaching to claim that Catholicism believes sex is bad, or base, or dirty. Greeley’s novels elevate sexual love within marriage almost to a sacramental level–the ultimate act of self-giving that reflects God’s love for us.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Off the Shelf book review for Beacon Hill Press. Today I am happy to be sharing The Relationship Project by Bill Strom with you. As always, my views are my own, and the only compensation I received was the book itself!
When this book arrived, I was intrigued right away. I love the subtitle: Moving from “You and Me” to We. I enjoy books that offer insights on marriage, especially from a Christian worldview. And I like books that are interactive, which including “project” in the title seemed to imply.
I was imagining that this would be a book to read with my husband, something we could work on together. We both agree that a good relationship takes work and we are committed to working on ours! But here’s where the book was different from what I was expecting. And I learned that pretty quickly, in the preface in fact: ” . . . if you picked up this book to figure out how you can save your relationship, or fix a friend, put it down . . . the more important goal is to understand that we have our own heart work to do, our own self project.” That’s not to say that you couldn’t read this in tandem with a spouse, but the point–and it’s a good point in general, is it not?–is that you are to work on yourself, not on your partner!
That’s just the start of how this book is different from other relationship books you may have read, particularly if you’ve been reading mainly secular books. In those books, you’ll learn about contracts and commitments–and those are discussed in this book too–but the focus here is on covenant relationships, which are “motivated by unconditional love and grace . . . not driven by the pursuit of personal happiness.” It’s vocabulary I’d heard before, but here it is explained well and illustrated by clear examples.
The author shares from his own marriage, and the tone of the book is informal, making reading it a bit like listening to the good advice of a friend. The Relationship Project is full of examples–stories of real people, their relationships and struggles. There are illustrative quotations–and relationship stories–from Scripture as well. There are several self-assessments along the way–I love those! And there are questions for reflection. In short, this is a book that asks you not just to read it, but to engage with it.
Did you think I’d given up writing about my home-made homeschool curriculum? Think again! It’s just that I’ve been busy actually DOING homeschooling, as school began last week. And so far it is going pretty well. Today I want to write on our Reading curriculum.
I did have to order some new textbooks because some of mine were lost in the fire. That makes me really sad because a few of them had been around a long time–they were discarded textbooks from St. Joseph that they were giving away back when I was younger than Lorelei. It’s a sad commentary on . . . something . . . that Catholic textbooks are no longer used in Catholic schools. One of the best aspects of Catholic education is that the faith can be woven throughout the day and not confined to religion class. How much more true that would be if Catholic texts were still widely available!
But the Internet being the marvel that it is, I managed to find what I was looking for: fourth grade Catholic Readers from the 1940s and 50s. I have a mixture of New Cathedral Readers and Faith and Freedom Readers, and I have a few secular readers I’ve collected over the years as well that we can use if we finish the ones we have.
Right now we are reading New Times and Places, and Lorelei is enjoying the stories, most of which teach Catholicism by showing Catholic people doing Catholic things in the course of their regular lives. Most days of the week somewhere in the middle of our school day I just tell her to start reading and after about 30 minutes I tell her to stop, and then she tells me about the stories, which she is always eager to do.
As you can see, there is nothing NEW about this book. But that’s why I like it.
I love the old-fashioned pictures, the innocence, the simple piety of these books. I love that Lorelei is learning about living the faith even as she does her reading lesson, but in an organic way, not a preachy way.
On Fridays, we switch gears and I have her read and do some exercises from a workbook I bought somewhere, which includes short segments on Guinness Book of World Record Winners. I just thought that looked fun. 🙂
When she finishes this first reader, she already has a chapter book picked out to read. I’m going to have her read that and then do a book report. Then we will start on the next reader. And we will just keep going until we run out of year.
Jake and William were not confident readers, so I started them in the third reader, and we would take turns reading aloud to each other. Lorelei, like Teddy, is fine to read on her own at grade level, and I expect we will move into 5th grade readers later in the year. The problem with Lorelei is that she’s not that into reading. She likes to read once she gets started, but unlike Emily (and me) it’s not the first thing she thinks of when she has free time–that would be t.v. That’s why it’s important to me to make extended and interesting reading part of our curriculum this year, and why I’m going to concentrate for now on READING, not talking about it, or answering questions about it, or doing lessons based on it.
[Update: Reading continues to be a less-than-favored pastime for Lorelei. We spent most of last year reading chapter books instead of readers, because she expressed enthusiasm about a series of books and I wanted to encourage that.]
I’m a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, to Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.
Let’s talk books today. I don’t know how I would go about making a list of my five favorite books ever, so instead I will call this Five Favorite Books that have changed my life. And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s really not.
1. Humanae Vitae
If you are Catholic, this book should need no explanation. It SHOULDN’T. But sadly it probably does.
This is the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which confirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control. But it doesn’t just condemn; it also explains, and does so beautifully.
Of course I grew up knowing that the Church was against contraception. But in spite of 12 years of Catholic school, no one ever once explained WHY. I went into college thinking that this was just some sort of old-fashioned and unimportant idea that I should feel free to ignore.
Then I took a Christian marriage class at Georgetown and read this book, and my life was changed. And the change went deeper than just my understanding of this one issue; it also affected my relationship to the Church. Because it was in reading this that I realized that Church teachings have explanations, that they aren’t just pronouncements from on high. I decided right then that before ever disagreeing with the Church, even in matters of conscience, we must first read and reflect on its teachings.
2. Let’s Have Healthy Children
When I found out I was pregnant with Emily, the first thing I did was go to the library and look for books to check out. This was in the first batch, but I soon bought my own copy and annotated it heavily. Adelle Davis’s findings remain a topic for debate today, but I remain convinced that the regimen of vitamins that I took while pregnant and breastfeeding are responsible for my children’s vibrant good health.
When my kids were babies I introduced foods to them the way Davis suggested too. I have continued to believe that nutrition is the key to good health even when I didn’t always follow Davis’s guidelines. The effect of the dietary changes I have recently made on my health confirms this belief!
3. Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
Besides the practical advice Sheila Kippley provides on breastfeeding, her stance on mother/baby togetherness formed the way I parented my children. I didn’t know then what attachment parenting was, but Kippley told me that babies should be fed on demand, that nursing wasn’t just about food, that extended nursing was normal, and that mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated.
Before I read this book I thought of breastfeeding as something you did to give a baby a good start before weaning to the bottle at six months or so. I would never have imagined myself nursing children until three or four years of age, and I wouldn’t have understood the parenting aspects of breastfeeding that go far beyond nutrition and shaped my mothering as well as my children.
This book also changed my life because it turned me into a breastfeeding advocate, which led me to develop online friendships with like-minded people that endure to this day, after our breastfeeding days are done.
4. Childbirth without Fear
I never did have the all-natural childbirth I dreamed of when I first read this book, although I got closer each time. Still, this book changed my life by influencing the way I viewed childbirth, by encouraging me to be skeptical of all interventions into this natural process, by leading me to read further (Painless Childbirth; Thank You, Dr. Lamaze; The Experience of Childbirth; Open Season), to take Bradley and Lamaze classes, and to become an advocate for myself in this area. This book set me along the road that led to two successful VBACs after three C-sections. It led me to connect with others who felt the same way who were a support for me and taught me so much. And it contributed to my attitude toward medical intervention in general, because it became clear to me that doctors can be life-savers but that we have a responsibility to learn about our own health and advocate for ourselves, not just blindly follow medical advice “because doctor said so.”
5. Kids Are Worth It!
If you’ve read this book, and you know me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s she talking about? She doesn’t parent her kids anything like what this book says!” And you’d be correct. But we all need something to aspire to, right? I know that this is the best parenting book I’ve ever read because I keep coming back to it and quoting from it. I don’t disagree with one word in it and I only wish I’d read it before I had so many kids and was already overwhelmed and making every possible mistake!
Still, even when I don’t follow the principles of this book, I can see where I’ve gone wrong and why, and that’s something, isn’t it? There’s always hope. And especially as my kids have gotten older I take comfort and advice from this: “Is it life-threatening? Is it morally threatening? Is it unhealthy?” That’s helped me pick my battles. Now that William is 13 I probably should re-read the teenage section of this book and see how I can improve this time around. 🙂
That’s it for this week. If there are any books that have changed YOUR life, I wish you’d tell me about them in the comments!
Participating in What We’re Reading Wednesday has shown me how boring I am. Every week the other contributors post reviews of intellectual or inspirational reads, and I just keep on reading the same old stuff. Which is why I skipped last week, because I figured y’all were tired of hearing about Patricia Cornwell.
So to spice things up a bit, this week I will tell you what I SHOULD be reading, and if all goes according to plan in a few weeks I should be able to tell you a little more about the books below.
OK, y’all, I have zero interest in reading this book. But Nelson DeMille is a favorite of my next-door-neighbor, who runs the book club, so this is what we are reading for Monday. It’s about a million pages long, and I haven’t started it yet. But that doesn’t matter because this is a cool book club and if I don’t read it I’ll look it up in Wikipedia or something so I can throw out a few intelligent-sounding comments before I drink too many glasses of wine. Seriously, we’ve already read one of his books, and I didn’t hate it; it’s just not my cup of tea. But no one liked the one book I’ve had us read so far, so I will just be good and quiet and do what I am told.
I just got this one in the mail from Beacon Hill Press. I’m an official Off-the-Shelf blogger for them, which means I get free books to write reviews about. I have 90 days to read and write, but will probably try to do it this week. I’m excited about this one!
I’m really excited to read and review this one, since I have three adult children in various stages of launching. This is another Beacon Hill Press offering.
Everybody has been talking about this Paleo thing for awhile now. So I’m excited to read this and to see how its advice conforms with the changes I’ve already made to my diet. I’m getting my copy of this through Blogging for Books, a new venture for me.
Finally, here is what I am ACTUALLY reading. 🙂 I continue to make my way through Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series, in chronological order. Having read them all and knowing what comes later adds another layer to the experience. Without giving anything away, this one in particular, which largely focuses on Kay’s grief over the gruesome murder of her lover, Benton Wesley, is hard to see in the same light now that I know the eventual resolution of this story arc.
Reading about Scarpetta always puts me in the mood for good food, since she is an Italian gourmet cook. I had meant to check out the following for awhile, and had one of those late-night Amazon moments, found they were cheap, and now they are on their way to me.
I’m not a huge cookbook person–I cook mostly out of my head–but I’m going to enjoy these because the first weaves in a story about the characters and the second showcases recipes that are actually mentioned in the books.
For more of what people are reading, check out the linkup at Housewife Spice!
[UPDATE: I never did read some of these.]
. . . so it stands to reason that I would be excited about teaching Lorelei English this year. And I’m especially excited about this:
This book is sort of vintage and sort of not. What do I mean? Well, it’s a reprint of a book that was published in 1962. I would rather have an actual copy from 1962, but those are harder to find and more expensive.
The Voyages in English series is a relic of the golden era of Catholic education. The textbooks my kids used in their parochial schools were devoid of religion, except, of course, for their religion books. Not so in the 60s and earlier, when English texts and readers presented our faith alongside academic concepts.
But I wouldn’t pick a textbook just for that. This series is acknowledged as an excellent one. This will be my first time using the fourth grade book. For William and Teddy, I used a third grade book because I couldn’t find the fourth grade book at that time, and it was plenty advanced for fourth grade, believe me! Sadly, it was lost in the fire. Jake did pages from my own third grade English workbook, which was from a different, but still Catholic, series. I also used to have the eighth grade grammar book, which I used for homeschooling Jake in seventh grade. That book was AMAZING. There were grammar concepts in there I had never even heard of. Jake and I both love grammar so we thoroughly enjoyed that book.
Besides the Catholic content, this book is full of old-fashioned concepts like courtesy and citizenship. While the presentation may seem a little dated, the concepts aren’t–or at least they shouldn’t be. And explaining “vintage” ideas to Lorelei will make English a mini-history lesson as well.
The first chapter is called Fun with Our Pets, and it begins: “St. Francis of Assisi was a friend to all the animals and the birds. They raised his thoughts to God, who was their Father as well as his Father.” I love that! One of the first things Lorelei will learn in this chapter is how to write a letter correctly. I’m not sure that’s something they teach in schools anymore, but we are going to do it, and we are going to write actual letters to people and mail them! [Update: Once or twice, anyway.]
Chapter Two, Adventures in Bookland, starts thus: “All of us have many friends . . . There are also other friends whose companionship means much to us–the books that we read.” Isn’t that awesome? This is where we start learning how to write good paragraphs.
I won’t go crazy and tell you about every single chapter but there’s one that focuses on courtesy, and boy does Lorelei need that after a steady summer diet of the brats on the Disney Channel.
Anyway, I’m excited. And I’m going to teach her how to diagram sentences too. 🙂 [Update: Maybe this year.]
I’m a day late to the party, and it wasn’t because I was busy reading. I only wish.
I told you last week that I was reading this for book club:
I started this the night before our meeting, and it’s almost 500 pages, so I couldn’t pay as close attention as I should have, but that’s okay because that’s four hours of my life I will never get back.
Maybe I’m not being fair because the one member of our group who picked the book and is into tech stuff really liked it, and it’s won awards, but I was turned off in the first chapter when the main character was called a “roll model.” This would be the main character whose name is, I kid you not, Hiro Protagonist. Anyway, this book is about a futuristic society in which everything is a franchise, even countries, and there are lots of those. There are no laws anymore, and people live in their own sovereign nations called burbclaves where peace is enforced by private security. Those who can spend most of their time in the virtual reality Metaverse. No doubt the Metaverse was cool and cutting edge in 1992 when this was published, but the author’s minute descriptions of it are boring to a modern reader. To give the guy credit, he coined the word avatar, but we all know what that means at this point. In my opinion, this book peaked in the first chapter, which was actually pretty cool.
Other than that, I am still on my Patricia Cornwell kick, and am about to finish this:
Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books grow increasingly long and convoluted over the years, and I like her earlier ones, like this one, the best. I’m not sure why I enjoy this kind of thing so much–I think it might have started with Quincy, which I watched religiously and which inspired in me the brief ambition to be a forensic pathologist. My first Cornwell book was Body Farm, which I read because of the local connection (Knoxville is the home of the REAL Body Farm). I found that I liked her writing and the mysteries, but really the key to these books is the characterization. And now after so many years of reading these books, Scarpetta and co. seem like old friends to me.
And now back to work. If you’d like more book reviews/recommendations, check out the rest of the linkup at HousewifeSpice!
Have you looked at your kid’s math book lately? Besides being outrageously large and heavy, you’ll find that’s it’s colorful and has photographs on almost every page! Also little boxes with things like “fun math facts” in them. It makes my head swim to look in these books. Sometimes it’s hard to find the math.
Contrast this with a really old math book, if you can find one. I have some vintage ones that I’ve picked up here and there. They are tiny–small enough to fit in a coat pocket. But that doesn’t stop them from being full of really hard math.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I open a math book all I need to see are rows of math problems. (Well, a little explanation is nice, too.) When I was a kid, our math books were somewhat larger and more colorful than the vintage kind, but smaller and less distracting than those of today. I would have been happy to use the series we used most of the way through grade school for homeschooling, as I have reused other books from my own school days, but you don’t get to keep your math book.
When I began homeschooling, I kept reading about something called the Saxon math program that homeschoolers all seemed to love. So that’s what I got and used for Teddy and Jake, and I will be using the same thing for Lorelei.
Besides being full of math problems and devoid of color photography, the Saxon series also just does a good job at teaching math. Subtitled “an incremental development,” the series starts each new lesson by reviewing what you’ve learned in the lesson just before. Concepts build on concepts, and nothing is forgotten from lack of use. Each set of exercises is preceded by a clear explanation with examples, so you can work through it and teach it to your kid (and perhaps remember how to do it yourself if you’ve happened to forget!).
You can buy the Saxon series direct from the manufacturer, or you can do what I did and get it on eBay way cheaper. Now, you won’t get a workbook or a teacher’s manual or manipulatives if you do it that way, but I do homeschooling on the cheap. It’s a drag not to have an answer key, although not such a big deal for me since I’m pretty sure I can still handle fourth grade math.
So is the approach effective? Does it work? I homeschooled my big boys for fourth grade, then sent them back to St. Joseph School. Well, Jake was close to failing math in third grade. He had no problem with the Saxon method. I sat with him and wrote the problems for him because he has dysgraphia and he’d make a mess and get all frustrated before it was even time to start solving the problem.
When he took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills later in the year, he was ahead of his grade level. Math never became his favorite subject, but he never struggled too much with grade school math again.
Teddy is basically a math genius. He was already a year ahead when we started, and I think we got part of the way into a second book. He went on to complete Algebra I AND Geometry before he even started high school.
Math isn’t Lorelei’s favorite subject, but she doesn’t have any particular problem with it. I’m looking forward to using this book to help her become even more confident in her math skills. And we get to do fractions! I love fractions. [edit: Lorelei does NOT love fractions. Or math of any kind. I still love the Saxon series, but have had to resort to other means to get her past the mental block she has set up for herself.]
Since school time seems to be rushing ever closer and there’s nothing I can do to stop that, I thought I might get myself in the mood for homeschooling Lorelei (and get my head on straight before we get started) by writing some posts about the curriculum we are going to be using.
You won’t find this curriculum on the internet or in a catalogue or at a homeschooling conference because I made it up myself. I am still making it up, in fact. To me, that is one of the best parts of homeschooling.
Today, let’s talk about spelling.
Now, if I can consider myself an authority on anything, it would have to be spelling. There was a time in my life–a time that stretched over several years–when spelling was the only thing anyone thought about when they heard my name and pretty much the only thing people I didn’t know well ever wanted to talk to me about. I won the Knoxville City Spelling Bee five times, the first time when I was just eight years old, and I came in 9th in the National Spelling Bee when I was 13. From my own experience, and from observing my kids, and seeing trends in teaching spelling come and go, I’ve reached some conclusions about spelling ability in general and about the best way to teach kids to spell.
I used to think that if you were smart, and read a lot, you’d automatically be a good speller. I still think that’s mostly true, but I’ve known plenty of very smart people–some of them my own kids–who still make spelling errors. Maybe not many compared to the general population, but they still make them. I can spell words I’ve never seen before, and my ability to spell carries over into other languages I’ve studied, leading me to believe that there’s something about being an excellent speller that you are either born with or you’re not.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to spell most words you will need in life, though. (Well, maybe some people really can’t, but I think most people can .) So what is the best way to teach spelling?
Here’s one way that is stupid. The teachers at my kids’ school attended a conference and learned about this method–the latest most exciting thing EVER which they stopped using after putting all my kids through it–called “Johnny Can Spell.” This was based on teaching kids spelling “rules” which the teachers held up on cards and made the kids chant until they had them all memorized by rote.
How many things are wrong with this method? Well, for one, English is notorious for having few rules and for breaking the ones it does have. I used to take great pleasure in finding exceptions to each of these rules when the kids would tell them to me. I remember one of the rules was “English words never end in i.” It took me only a second to come up with “ski.” My kid told the teacher and her response was that “ski” is not an English word. Well, not originally, but it is now. We don’t speak Old English these days.
The only rule they gave us when I was learning to spell was “i before e except after c,” which is a nice rule of thumb but STILL has exceptions, even if you add “or when sounded like A as in neighbor or weigh.” (weird, leisure) And even if every single one of these rules was 100% accurate all the time, who spells like that? Who has the time?
So in my homeschool, we go back to the way I was taught to spell, the way my parents were taught to spell. I found this little gem of a book originally at my friend’s antique shop. I lost it when the house burned down but was lucky enough to find it on Amazon so I could use it for Lorelei. It’s the book they were using in the 1940s in Knox County, and in my opinion they should have kept right on using it.
It’s a thin little book–each lesson takes only two pages!–and yet there is enough material in here for an entire school year.
Each lesson starts with a little story showing the words in context. So on the first day of the week you read the story and find the words.
Then you copy the words in your spelling notebook. You can write a story with the words, or use them in sentences. I used to love this assignment as a child. It was so fun making up sentences, and I loved trying to make them into a story even when that was not part of the assignment. Lorelei is burned out on sentence writing, because there were so many rules attached to this assignment when she attended school (at least five word sentences, can’t begin with articles, must use all “third grade” words) that she would get frustrated. I’m looking forward to helping her learn to enjoy writing and being creative.
On Tuesday, there are a set of exercises to do with the words. These vary. Sometimes you look some of them up in the dictionary, or you might divide them into syllables, or talk about their root words. There’s lots of variety.
On Wednesday, you take a practice test. If you miss any words, you write them down correctly in your notebook.
On Thursday, you practice the words you missed. The book provides clear guidelines for how to study the words: “Look at the hard word and say it softly; look at the word and say each letter; close your eyes and try to see each letter of the word without looking at it; look at the word and copy it; write the word three times without looking at your book.” Some people might think this is boring. I think it’s a lot better than copying words on the computer in different fancy fonts. or writing each letter in a different color, or making the words into a train. Believe me, when Lorelei was doing those things last year the last thing she was thinking about was the actual words and how to spell them.
There are also Review Words from the earlier chapters to look over on Thursday, and extra words to learn if you have time.
On Friday, you take the final test, which includes the Review Words. If you miss any, you are supposed to keep a record of these and study them in your spare time. Chances are they may come back in the form of Review Words in a later chapter. Plus at the end of each six week unit, you spend a week reviewing all the words you’ve learned, following basically the same pattern outlined above.
And that’s it. Basic and simple, and it works as well or better than any method of teaching spelling, without unnecessary bells or whistles.
Does anyone disagree? Have you found other more effective ways of teaching spelling? Tell me in the comments!
[Update: Rather tellingly, there is very little to update except that I was happily able to find the next book in this series, which incorporates grades 5-8, and we continue to use this method. Lorelei is not a model homeschooler, but she appreciates the routine this method provides, and her spelling has steadily improved.]