Monday, July 26, 2010

Curriculum woes...and Reflections from a Linguist Mama

So, I have fallen prey to obsessing about homeschool curriculum and have changed my mind numerous times about what we will do this year for 1st grade.  I decided several months ago that I wanted something with a teacher's manual that had daily lessons planned with activities so that I didn't need to do that work, since Kindergarten this past year was a smorgasbord of different books and I felt unorganized the whole year!  So, it seems that My Father's World is exactly what I am looking for!  BUT, what MFW program best fits my son?

He is reading and writing very well, so it seems to me that MFW 1st grade spends so much time on phonics instruction that it would be a waste.  That's why I ordered the "Adventures in My Father's World" program, for 2nd-3rd graders, or 1st graders who are reading and writing well.  THEN, I panicked thinking, wait, I never actually taught Davin phonics, he just started reading on his own when he was 3 years old, so maybe the MFW 1st grade program would be good to give him a solid phonics instruction.  SO, I ordered MFW 1st grade as well.

Then, I start thinking back to when Davin was 2 and all of the things we did to learn the alphabet, like the Leap Frog alphabet fridge magnets, reading countless books with the alphabet, puzzles, pointing to words as I read them.  Then when he knew the alphabet and all the sounds that each letter made, I would say words to him and break down the words into phonemes, the smallest unit of sound in a word, like saying "buh-ah-tuh" for the word "bat".  For instance, if we were reading a book and there was a picture of a cat I would say something like "Point to the c-a-t", saying the word phonetically.  Soon, Davin caught on very quickly and could break down words phonetically himself, like telling me that bike has three sounds in it: "buh-I-kuh".  Another thing I would also do was ask him what sound  was at the beginning or end of a word, like "What sound do you hear at the end of the word "car"?   Then, I did lots of reading to him, and pointing to words as I said them.  I would often say some words phonetically as I read (not all, of course, because that gets old quickly!), just every once in a while.

And before I knew it, he was reading!  Anyways, this was all done informally, just living and learning, not sitting him down to have his phonics lesson.  In fact, I didn't realize until NOW that I did in fact instruct him in phonics.  I didn't realize this because none of it was drudgery.  All of this was FUN for Davin, and I just followed his lead with cues from him on what he was mature enough to comprehend.  If he wasn't understanding something, no big deal, I just waited to introduce it again when he was ready.  Okay, this was was somewhat embarrassing that I didn't realize I was teaching phonics, coming from a mama with a Bachelor's in Linguistics.  I guess with that background, it is no surprise that I found reading and phonics so much fun!  I have since learned that I was employing a rather old technique of phonics instruction: 1st is ear training (saying words phonetically to the child), 2nd is tongue training (having the child tell you what sound he hears first and last in words), 3rd is eye training (associating sounds with symbols in words).  This is the method in old primers such as "Word Mastery: A Course in Phonics for the First Three Grades" by Florence Akin, published in 1913.  There's a free download of it on this page: under "Download free phonics programs.  I always knew I was an old-fashioned gal :)

Okay, so....I still have the dilemma, 1st grade or Adventures?  I mean, I know he's reading and writing and spelling well, and apparently has had some phonics instruction, BUT he's still only 6 years old.  I want school to be FUN for him and fear that if we skip 1st grade, he will miss out....besides, I can save "Adventures" for next year :)  Also, it will give us more time for other things like maybe a musical instrument, tae-kwan-do, Latin, etc.

Whew.....typing this really helps me sort out my thoughts.  I'm sorry for anyone reading this, as it was mostly just to get a rein on my rambling thoughts and finally sort things out.

The MFW 1st grade will arrive tomorrow, so I think we'll try a few days and make a final decision then....

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