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Opinions On My Observations in LA


amandajh
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We have, in past years, tried to use a more CM type style for language arts. There has not been much real instruction in grammar or writing in our curriculum, and no review of anything previously learned.

 

I have a 10 yr old daughter who LOVES to write and is very creative, but her sentence structure and grammar are just not good at all. She wrote a 5 page book of poems during quiet time yesterday. She will write and illustrate entire books on her own for fun. Her brother has begun doing it too because she makes it look so GREAT! He also has issues with grammar and mechanics.

I have searched high and low for a GREAT writing curriculum to help them. Suddenly it dawned on me that all of the things I wanted them to learn from a writing curriculum should be taught in their grammar/language curriculum! I was looking at the samples on the CLE site and came to this conclusion when I saw all of the topics that they cover.

 

Would you all say that I am right in thinking that you can evaluate your child's grammar/language curriculum by looking at their writing? If this is true then we are going to have to make some major changes because both of my children need help in capitalization, commas, verb tenses, punctuation, paragraphs, complete sentences, etc., etc.

 

So I'm thinking, if they have a great foundation in grammar, then they should be better able to uses their creativity and be decent writers. They are both really good at coming up with things to write about, it is just the mechanics that they have issues with.

 

Thus, something like CLE LA + writing across their curriculum should work together really well.

 

Am I thinking correctly about all of this?

 

Oh, they are in 3rd and 4th grades btw.

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I don't get this big dichotomy you're creating between CM methods and learning grammar. CM encourages dictation to work on spelling and mechanics, don't they? Copywork? You may or may not get any carryover from a formal, workbooky curriculum into their everyday stuff. The best method is a balance: some instruction, lots of real-life application.

 

Additionally, writing across the curriculum just means narrations, another very CM-thing. Seems to me you should go back and reclaim your roots. I'm not trying to be harsh here. I'm just saying we all sort of drift and get focused on one thing and realize we're out of balance. Doesn't mean you have to ditch CM and swing hard to CLE, hehe. It just means you need to reread your CM stuff and figure out methods to work on grammar, spelling, and writing in ways that will probably sit better with your style. If you've liked CM methods up to this point, you probably won't like a hard change.

 

Have you looked at the workbooks from Queen Homeschool? They have a LA series that is more CM in flavor.

 

I'm fine with workbooks btw, however I've it's really easy for the concepts to go in one eyeball and out the other. For us dictation (which just HAPPENS to be a very CM as well as WTM concept) has been very good. Also the more brain-tingling workbooks like Punctuation Puzzlers have been fun and effective. We've done workbooks on editing that were helpful at getting dd to think about and notice her own errors. The grammar and conventions integration into Writing Tales is particularly good. With your ages, you might like to start with WT1 and do both of them together. Love, love, love WT.

 

I totally agree some direct instruction might help carry over to their work. I just think if you look you can find materials that fit your style (which you said is CM).

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I am not sure what our style is...LOL. We are using PLL and ILL this year and used Queens workbooks last year. I used FLL1 & 2 with my oldest and then Queens and ILL. My youngest has used the same except he is in PLL this year instead of ILL.

They love these books for language and have begged me not to switch them to something else. So I guess CM is THEIR style. Or they are afraid I will choose something harder than what they are doing (that's what happened with math, but now they are learning so much more with our new math curriculum)

I just do not want to short change them in any way. I was just pondering the fact that since the CM way was the only way we knew, and they were having problems, that maybe we should try something different. I am open minded and appreciate opinions.

 

Can anyone tell me how something like PLL and ILL can be better than a spiral workbook type program for LA? I do know that ILL has inspired my daughter in many ways by introducing her to poetry and art. How can I know what exactly to do and be confident about it?

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Can anyone tell me how something like PLL and ILL can be better than a spiral workbook type program for LA? I do know that ILL has inspired my daughter in many ways by introducing her to poetry and art. How can I know what exactly to do and be confident about it?

 

I will tell you the main difference.

 

Most grammar curricula mainly focus on terms and labeling sentences. PLL and ILL focus mainly on application and usage.

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Do you know CLE will send you sample light units for FREE? Yup. So basically you could just get one or two books and try them, see what happens. At under $2.50 a book, you could decide for yourself.

 

How to decide? Dart board. In reality, it's just experience. You do it a while, make some mistakes.

 

You're making the assumption that if you had done CLE (or something similar) all along, your kids WOULDN'T be making these types of mistakes. That's not necessarily true. Some kids just need more practice than others. Rather than throwing out what has been WORKING for you, I would add in a touch of something to shore up their weak areas and give them more practice. You say you like CM, but have you read any books on CM? Since the poetry, narration, etc. seem to appeal to your dc, might be a good place to start. It would give you more ideas in the flavor of what you're already doing. There are several good books on CM methodology. They might even be at your local library.

 

Really though, just adding in a bit of daily editing practice (you have TONS of options for this) and some daily dictation or copywork would go a long way. We liked the Take 5 Minutes series of editing books very much, but there are other ones. Just search the board for editing. Many are available as pdf downloads from the publisher or from currclick. Then you take the pdf, print the page twice, cut into strips, and do a strip each day. I folded them and kept them in jars. Very fun! :)

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I see your point and agree. I am wrong to assume that if we had been doing a workbook type program that they would not make the same mistakes. My husband also reminded me that it is too much for me to ask of them at this age to write creatively and use proper punctuation, spelling, and capital letters all at the same time.

I had printed the diagnostic tests for CLE LA, but I think I need to hold off on making them take the tests.

 

I also agree that the exercises in PLL and ILL are much more practical. I guess what bothers me about these books is that I cannot see any organization or scope and sequence that tells me that all of our bases will be covered.

I guess I should not worry about when my 8 year old will learn about adverbs and be more concerned with his correct use of language. That is hard for me.

 

It still makes me nervous that if we follow this pattern (MFW LA suggestions) then they will not formally learn the parts of speech until 6th grade. They will not diagram until the 7th grade, and I will not really have an idea of what we have been learning.

 

I have read several CM books, and I love the majority of the method. I have just always had an uneasy feeling about the grammar part. I use and like copywork and dictation, living books, artist studies, and we keep nature journals. Grammar is just my hang up.

 

So to fix my uneasiness.....I need to supplement...oh, how I hate to try and fill holes that I am not sure need to be filled in the first place and have not idea how to fill them.

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I consider myself a CMer at ♥ too. We've implemented copywork, dictation, and narration across the board for several years now and I've seen the fruits.

 

However, I had that panicky feeling of having to teach my dc grammar the more conventional way and did so along side our CM method. Even so, they didn't start to retain it until about 5th grade. In essence, I've had the opposite experience... wishing I'd waited for formal grammar study.

 

My 2 cents. :)

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If it means anything, I don't think your concerns are unreasonable. You just have to work specifically on it to get there. Have you seen KISS grammar? It's free, covers grammar in context, and is gentle. There used to be a frequent poster Tami on the boards (there are several not, not this one, sniff) who was very CM who used Shurley I think. We also use Shurley. I'm with you preferring something more direct to PLL, etc. Everyone is different, and it's ok to diverge a bit from MFW there! There's no reason your kids shouldn't be able to identify an adverb. They cover adverbs in Shurley, Writing Tales, KISS, etc. When we do Shurley, we work through the sentences together on a lap whiteboard and then diagram one. Again, I see no reason why you can't do this now. Sure it's nice to have that logic-stage thinking kick in, but you can do it now.

 

There's always a difference between the work they do with thought and the writing they do on their own time. I've been chuckling watching email correspondence between my dd and her little friend. So there you're seeing what is really nailed and automatic, vs. what requires thought yet. That doesn't mean you can't teach them how, during schooltime, to turn on their "do I know this?" part of their brain and write more reflectively. I had to go through a stage with my dd where we specifically worked on this.

 

Did you look up any editing workbooks? They are lots of fun and would take little of your time to implement. You'd get big results from just a little effort.

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Re your hubby's comment that it's a lot to expect your kids to use good grammar/punctuation AND write creatively--I just wanted to make the comment that SWB agrees with this, but says the grammar et al comes first, then the creativity. Sounds like a little review/teaching of the grammar would be a great benefit for your kids, as they are ahead of the game in the creative dept. I could see CLE working really well for you.

 

You could always give them a lesson on what they need (one thing at a time), then have them edit a short section of their own writings, applying the lesson. A few months of this, and they will begin to absorb the needed changes. I wouldn't make them edit everything--it'll come in its own time, and I don't think you'd want to inhibit their creativity by demanding their writings be in "published/polished" form every single time. It's kind of like requiring analysis and a book report on every book you read, even those for pleasure--some is fine, too much makes reading a chore.

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There is nothing CMish about not covering mechanics or grammar. If you want a very CM approach, look at Simply Grammar; Karen Andreola pretty much duplicates CM's approach.

 

I use a very similar technique with my kids except we incorporate all instruction via their copywork.

 

I would start focusing on proper writing now. It is much harder to break bad habits than to form proper habits in the first place. (and I am not even meaning to pun CM here!! It is simply the truth!! ;))

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I know we need more instruction. I know I want a thorough program without so many gaps to try and fill. I am looking at 2 different programs and would like some feedback on each.

 

CLE + writing across our curriculum (using On Teaching Writing & Any Child Can Write for my guidance)

or

FLL & WWE + some writing across our curriculum

 

 

FLL seems more in line with what we are used to, but CLE will go all the way through high school if we choose to use it.

 

Or.....does anyone do CLE and WWE? Would that be overload?

 

Oh, and how much review is there in FLL compared to CLE?

Edited by amandajh
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I would not worry about their free writing.

 

Do you help them correct their schoolwork writing?

 

Have you read SWB's The Complete Writer?

 

It is teaches writing in a very similar way to CM. It will explain in depth the "stages" that each child should be going through and where you are going. I think it would answer all your questions!

 

You could always start with R&S 3 grammar and do it with you dc orally. Honestly, I WOULD NOT transitions over to CLE if they are putting so much effort into writing on their own. I would be afraid it would cause them to hate writing.

 

CM advocates writing down narration's your dc tell you then YOU correcting the grammar, letting your dc study the dictation then dictating it back to them to write. In other words are you doing studied dictation? That is what your 4th grader should be doing. Your 3rd grader should be copying their corrected narration's and beginning to do some studied dictations.

 

I don't think SWB uses "studied" dictation, but I do know dictations are used extensively.

 

SWB does not advocate students do creative writing on their own at that young of an age. Your dh is right. They are too young to be putting it all together by themselves.

 

At your dc's ages, grammar and writing are two separate subjects. They are not ready to put their original writing and grammar together at the same time. That is for the logic stage. They will start putting it together in the 5th grade and should have it totally together by 8th grade (according to the strict ages of each stage...lol...which we all know are only guidelines:D).

Edited by Tabrett
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We use CLE and it has most definitely not quenched the writing desire of my little creative writer. Each child is going to be different, but my dd sounds a lot like yours...she was writing stories as soon as she learned the letter sounds. In fact, last night she was "translating" a story book she created at age 4 or so. She just spelled things out as they sounded back then, so cute.

 

Anyway, she still fills journals with creative stories. We do CLE as our main LA curriculum--I choose not to supplement spelling or penmanship as both have worked fine for us. However, I have added in WT1 because we plan to follow the progymnasmata (CW) path in writing. Occasionally we skip the writing portions of CLE if I feel we have or will adequately cover the topics in WT.

 

Because my dd is such a creative writer and I do want to foster that part of her, I also purchased the MCT Island level. She loves it, and we use it in a supplemental way. She was working a year ahead in CLE, so we took a break last year and worked on MCT for the last quarter. We just finished CLE 310 a couple of weeks ago so we are taking another break--around 6 wks (our schooling schedule is 6 wks on 1 wk off). After we've read through the components we will start back on our regular LA path (CLE + WT) and add in a sentence or two of Practice Island daily.

 

To many people this would seem like over-overkill :) but it works for us. Dd is learning, thriving and enjoys all of these materials.

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SWB does not advocate students do creative writing on their own at that young of an age. Your dh is right. They are too young to be putting it all together by themselves.

 

I thought SWB didn't advocate creative writing for school work. I personally don't think you should stop them from writing creatively, but wouldn't worry about correcting their grammar and punctuation mistakes. I know in my reading of CM methods, one mother was discussing written narrations and how instead of looking at what was written, rather having her child read the narration out loud to her mother. Often reading something we've written aloud can help us see mistakes me may have made. She then suggested that occasionally looking at a written narration and focusing on one or two problem areas.

 

It does sound like your children at a developmentally appropriate level. Are either of them doing written narrations yet? Maybe look into MCT Island level. You could have both children work through it with you.

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Yes, we have used these methods, but not the way SWB says to use them. SWB and CM have different approaches to using these, from what I can tell. After looking at the instructions in the WWE book samples online, I see how her instruction is a lot different from what we were doing in ILL or PLL. SWB does make more sense to me with the use of dictation and copywork in her workbooks.

 

About the creative writing thing.....with all of my reading in the CM method I have always read that they should not be writing for themselves until they have read enough good books, copied good sentences, and used dictation to help with grammar. I have also read that I should not let them write things that are incorrect (spelling, punctuation, etc.) because it will "stick" in their mind and they will always wonder which way is right. However, all of the CM suggestions for curriculum put off teaching grammar until the child is in 5th or sometimes even 7th grade. So, that is our problem. My kids want to write. If I limited them to just copying and summarizing, I feel like I would be taking away the fun for them. I am not going to tell my child, "No, you may not write a book for fun! You must copy something that someone else who is much smarter than you has written first."

However, I do not want them to write incorrectly for so long that it will be hard to fix later on. So......for my children, I believe a good grammar/writing instruction program is needed at this point.

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I thought SWB didn't advocate creative writing for school work. I personally don't think you should stop them from writing creatively, but wouldn't worry about correcting their grammar and punctuation mistakes. I know in my reading of CM methods, one mother was discussing written narrations and how instead of looking at what was written, rather having her child read the narration out loud to her mother. Often reading something we've written aloud can help us see mistakes me may have made. She then suggested that occasionally looking at a written narration and focusing on one or two problem areas.

 

It does sound like your children at a developmentally appropriate level. Are either of them doing written narrations yet? Maybe look into MCT Island level. You could have both children work through it with you.

 

I'm was referring to doing creative writing for school work.

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About the creative writing thing.....with all of my reading in the CM method I have always read that they should not be writing for themselves until they have read enough good books, copied good sentences, and used dictation to help with grammar. I have also read that I should not let them write things that are incorrect (spelling, punctuation, etc.) because it will "stick" in their mind and they will always wonder which way is right. However, all of the CM suggestions for curriculum put off teaching grammar until the child is in 5th or sometimes even 7th grade. So, that is our problem. My kids want to write. If I limited them to just copying and summarizing, I feel like I would be taking away the fun for them. I am not going to tell my child, "No, you may not write a book for fun! You must copy something that someone else who is much smarter than you has written first."

 

This is a very good question! I wonder if I were to ask this on some CM boards if we could get an answer. I would like to know the answer too because my dd, who is 7 and in 1st grade, tries to write and she spell EVERYTHING phonetically. I refuse to remove the pencil from her hand. I can't tell her how to spell everything or she would come to me constantly! I tell her it is wonderful and correct nothing in her personal writing.

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However, all of the CM suggestions for curriculum put off teaching grammar until the child is in 5th or sometimes even 7th grade. So, that is our problem.

 

It has been yrs since I have read CM books, so I guess I have forgotten this if that is what she wrote.

 

I used Simply Grammar with my oldest dd when she was in 2nd grade and she mastered every concept in there very.......simply. :lol: I sure as heck can't imagine that book as being appropriate for older than 3rd grade. (if it is intended for older kids, then my educational expectations are on a completely different wave length than Andreola's)

 

It is very easy to teach basic grammar via copywork and studied dictation (though I do not use dictation b/c after my oldest being such a horrid speller, I switched gears away from dictation.) I cannot imagine waiting until 6th grade to teach grammar and writing. I expect basic writing skills to be completely mastered before middle school and basic grammar skills are foundational to basic writing. :tongue_smilie:

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Personally I think it's worth trying. I stuck with straight CM methods until my oldest was at the end of 5th grade, and finally realized that my kids really needed more direct, incremental, step by step instruction. So, I switched methods and I do see it translating over to their writing, despite claims that it wouldn't. And when they do make mistakes, I can bring up what they've studied and they actually remember it and know how to apply what I'm saying instead of looking at me with that deer-in-the-headlights look as if I've never mentioned run-on sentences or comma placement before.

 

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak--I think CM has lots of great ideas for a language-rich education (I love copywork--still use it, dictation--still use it, narration--still use it, etc...). Keep reading great books to your kids and playing with language.

 

I've always felt the expectation that kids never be allowed to spell something incorrectly is not achievable though--at least not in this house! CM has some great ideas but they are not the only great teaching ideas out there. Keep what works & get rid of the rest, and don't be afraid to try something different. The worst that could happen is a year from now you decide it wasn't a good switch and you decide to try something CM again. For us, expanding into different types of methods was beneficial.

 

Merry :-)

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Personally I think it's worth trying. I stuck with straight CM methods until my oldest was at the end of 5th grade, and finally realized that my kids really needed more direct, incremental, step by step instruction. So, I switched methods and I do see it translating over to their writing, despite claims that it wouldn't. And when they do make mistakes, I can bring up what they've studied and they actually remember it and know how to apply what I'm saying instead of looking at me with that deer-in-the-headlights look as if I've never mentioned run-on sentences or comma placement before.

 

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak--I think CM has lots of great ideas for a language-rich education (I love copywork--still use it, dictation--still use it, narration--still use it, etc...). Keep reading great books to your kids and playing with language.

 

I've always felt the expectation that kids never be allowed to spell something incorrectly is not achievable though--at least not in this house! CM has some great ideas but they are not the only great teaching ideas out there. Keep what works & get rid of the rest, and don't be afraid to try something different. The worst that could happen is a year from now you decide it wasn't a good switch and you decide to try something CM again. For us, expanding into different types of methods was beneficial.

 

Merry :-)

 

 

Thank you for the encouragement. I needed it :) And, I agree that there are lots of great ideas in the CM method, but grammar and writing INSTRUCTION are needed at my house right now. So, I do not plan to throw out all of our CM things, just the PLL and ILL language books :D

My kids actually learned new things by taking the diagnostic tests for CLE LA yesterday! I think MFW, CLE Math & LA and Spelling Power will all be great choices for my children and the way they learn.

Thanks again for your help,

Amanda

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