Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Studying Grammar

I am happy to tell you that after some hard work encouraging rhythm and discipline, the children and I are now contentedly working at a wonderfully relaxed yet productive pace. We're spending a little less time on schoolwork in this lovely mild weather than we likely will in the heat of summer or the dead cold of winter, but four days a week we sit down for essentials--two different math works for each girl, handwriting for each girl, reading for Sydney, and grammar for Willow--and then work a couple of "extras"--a documentary on George Washington, dissecting our daylilies, working on our mixed-media postcard swap, etc.--into the fun of the rest of our days.

Yes, I said it: Willow studies grammar.

*stepping up onto the soapbox*

Grammar is the structure of language. You may talk and write however you wish, and if you're understood then you've practiced good communication, but to write or talk well you must understand, and you must use, the correct structure. I want my children to write and talk very well, and I also want them to enjoy learning languages. As a reader of many languages, myself (though not a writer or speaker of them!), I know that understanding grammar makes learning languages so much easier. If they internalize the structure of language, then my children will always find it easier to speak and write well, and to learn to do the same in another language.

*stepping down from the soapbox*

For grammar, we first go to KISS Grammar. KISS Grammar is a fabulous (and free!) set of downloadable grammar workbooks for children that are in Microsoft Word format, and thus are editable. The writer also teaches freshman comp at Penn State, and I used to teach freshman comp, too, and so I feel like we are probably on the same page about what young adults need to know to be successful writers and critical thinkers, and (more frustratingly) what they tend to actually NOT know from their conventional schooling. I also like KISS Grammar because its sentences pull from living books--for instance, the first few worksheets in the Grade 2 book use Bunny Rabbit's Diary, which is a public domain book and therefore a free Kindle download, so Will read the entire book first--and LOVED it!--before she started the worksheets, giving her a more sophisticated context for the grammar work that she was asked to do.

So far, Will has needed more practice for each skill than is offered in KISS Grammar, so after she does all the worksheets pertaining to a particular skill from that workbook, I search online for other worksheets that cover that same skill or a logical extension of it (in the image below, for instance, I'm having Willow apply her newfound ability to identify the subject and verb in a sentence to differentiating between complete and incomplete sentences)--

--or I write my own worksheets for her, or I make it into her daily copywork, then have her do her identification work using her copied sentences. I also use the worksheets covering that skill from the Level 1 KISS grammar books written for higher grades, which explore the same topic using more sophisticated language. Willow definitely gets frustrated when learning a new grammar skill--the kid is really used to having academic challenges come easily to her, and she can get mad when she doesn't understand something right away--but she and I both love it when all of a sudden all the work pays off and the skill she's been working so hard at finally clicks for her:

There's no need to move on to another skill until I feel that Willow has really internalized the one that she's working on because, just like math, I want her to understand what she's doing, and why, rather than simply memorizing what to do by rote.

Just wait until I show you her baby sentence diagrams! They're stinkin' adorable.

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