Homeschooling 6-year-olds; Writing

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Diary writing is a wonderful way to teach writing skills with young children. The topic is relevant and interesting to them (all about themselves!!) and it provides a wonderful keepsake in the years to come. All aspects of spelling, grammar and punctuation etc. can be covered as the child writes and it includes copywork practice which I believe is essential for learning strong writing skills.

If you are not familiar with the concept of copywork and the reasoning behind it, the basic ideas is that children’s writing will best develop as they see excellent writing modelled. As they copy correct spelling, punctuation and other building blocks that successful writers use, they become familiar with these skills and are then able to put them into place in their own writing. (Google Charlotte Mason copywork for more information on this concept.)

The modern idea of children just “having a go” as they spell phonetically means that they are seeing incorrect “pictures” of wrong spelling, reinforcing these mistakes in their memory, rather than the correct spelling that they will see in copywork activities.

Once or twice a week I have my 6-year-olds draw a picture of a significant event that has occurred recently and then tell me about it. As they speak, I write down their words, leaving a line between each line of my writing. As I write, we discuss concepts such as:

  • punctuation; capital letters and full stops
  • spelling (I may have them tell me how to spell a sight word they are familiar with)
  • phonics (I might ask how to write the “sh” sound in a word for example)
  • descriptive words (is there a more interesting way to say “good?”)

Diary writing for children who are not yet forming letters correctly: 

Another way to use diary writing  that also works on reading skills and letter/word recognition is to have the child dictate a single sentence to you about the drawing they have made. You write the sentence into their diary book, leaving a full line blank between each line that you write and also write it a second time onto a separate strip of paper. The child then cuts the separate strip up into single words (word recognition is a concept in itself, as well as requiring scissor skills) which are then mixed around out of order. They must then match these words back up to the ones you have written on the page and glue them underneath, re-reading with your help to ensure it makes sense and is matched correctly.

For my son who struggles with fine motor control, pencil grips are a must. He also cannot copy the words underneath my writing, but traces over the top instead. I let him use good quality gel pens with a pencil grip at times because they make a nice dark line without much pressure being required and he likes them – anything to encourage writing!

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When young children are doing any kind of writing, correct pencil grip is important. The longer they practise writing with incorrect grip, the harder it is to correct later, just like any other habit. For those who struggle, a good quality pencil grip is a must. It should be very soft and molded to keep fingers in the correct place. Our favourite has flaps like wings that spread out over the top of the thumb and pointer finger, stopping children from sliding their fingers up and over the top of the pencil grip in a fist style. Be wary of purchasing cheaper brands. I did so this year, being very happy to find 5 grips in a packet for the same price of just one I had bought previously, however these turned out to be made of a much firmer rubber and the children do not find them comfortable to use.

Other writing activities that my year 1 homeschoolers participate in:

  • handwriting book. (Individual letter practice because learning to make letters the correct shape and starting at the right place is still important. Most children at this age are still making mistakes with this and again, we don’t want bad habits to form and have to be re-learnt later.)
  • copywork. (Bible verses, character related, good quality literature examples.)
  • finger strength building activities. (Plenty of time on activities that require fine-motor skills such as hand sewing, threading beads, Lego, playdough etc.)
  • free time to choose drawing and writing. (They have desks in their bedrooms well-stocked with a variety of papers, envelopes, notepads, drawing and writing tools that they have access to during room time after lunch each day. They are always drawing or writing notes, cards and letters to friends and family. My reluctant writer has spent anything up to 30 minutes a day for several weeks now filling every single line of an A5 notepad with squiggly lines – his “writing.” Nothing I could have set for him would ever have got him to spend this long using a pencil!)
  • writing in family birthday and thank you cards and letters to friends and relatives

 

That’s about it for writing in year one for us. With this foundation in place I know from experience that they will go on to successful writing in the future.

What do you do for writing in your homeschool?

 

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Homeschooling preschoolers – a new year begins.

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One more homeschool cupboard has been cleaned out and set up ready for the new year. Our 3 1/2 year old little man has joined the ranks with his older brothers and sisters to do “school” after breakfast each morning.

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Now I know how important it is at this age to keep school relaxed and enjoyable and not to focus on too much bookwork. Plenty of time for creative, open-ended and active play is an absolute necessity, along with character training as a firm foundation for all other skills. However… there is a place for teaching little boys to sit and concentrate on a task for a good length of time. For some this is more difficult than others but it can be done and dare I say it, must be done. You are doing your sons no favours if you do not teach them the self-control necessary to sit still and achieve a task that is set by someone else. Think ahead to a work or classroom situation – hard as it may be, they need this skill.

This training ideally starts early, with sit time in the highchair, mat time while you prepare dinner, playpen time as babies and all the other parent-directed periods that are so vital to a balanced routine. If you have had all these in place since babyhood then starting some kindergarten activities at the table will be a breeze. If not; it’s not too late – start now! Start small and build on it until it is easy for your little one to sit for a while and finish an activity that you set for them to do.

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I use a workbox system for my younger students and find it works well. It takes a little time to set up but pretty much runs itself once you are going, with change-overs only necessary every couple of weeks as skills are mastered or interest wanes with particular activities over time. We do “school” at home four days a week so there are 4 shelves of 2 boxes per day. The first box holds the “work” that is done with my supervision and the second box holds independent activities that are completed with some choice once the set tasks are done.

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We have already been working on basic counting skills and our little man is familiar with the alphabet and knows most of the sounds. To build on this, his work for the day will be a Montessori style maths counting tray followed by an initial sounds worksheet involving a little bit of writing practice.

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The counting trays all follow the same principle to keep it simple; place the numbers in order, then count out the correct number of objects. Pasta dinosaurs will drink at the watering hole, flowers fill the love heart dishes, coloured bead “food” is served at the number restaurant and coloured tiles line up above the bottle tops. All made with household objects for almost no cost and with visual and tactile appeal to a small person who needs to practise the same skill over and over and still be interested in the task at hand. They are also self-checking in that there is exactly the right number of objects to count and in some, like the plates and watering holes, the items can be matched to the dots to check if the right number has been counted out. (Check out the “Workjobs and Montessori Activities” category on the left for many more ideas for hands-on tray activities.)

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These initial sounds worksheets are so quick and simple but give that bookwork feel that my little kids love because it makes them think they are doing real school just like the big kids. They have to review the letter name and sound then say the name of each object slowly to see if it starts with the right sound. They circle the ones that do and cross out the ones that don’t before tracing the large letter in the middle a couple of times in varying colours. Just a little bit of pencil work to practice but nothing too taxing.

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The fun boxes hold activities that can be done without help but still have educational value. Fine motor skills, problem solving, language development and more are included here on a rotational basis.

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Monday has magnetic dressing dolls, playdough and letter stamps and our “Day and Night” puzzle that requires the children to match the silhouette or picture in the direction cards.

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Tuesday has finger puppets, regular cardboard puzzle and lacing beads. The large wooden lacing stick makes it easier for little fingers to put the beads on.

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Thursday’s workbox has another puzzle, magnetic pictures and magnetic white board and number lacing beads.

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The Friday box includes a puzzle plus magnetic alphabet letters and and magnetic whiteboard, along with some paper, scissors, glue, texts and Star Wars wrapping paper (saved from the Christmas presents) to create with.

Our little man was already asking to have a go at bits and pieces as I was putting these together so that’s a good sign. Keeping school toys out of the general rotation means that these are almost like new and he can’t wait to start.

Next up; the 6 year old twin’s cupboards. Year 1 here we come!