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If you don't use a program for vocabulary or reading comprehension, come here a moment


mathmarm
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We love the idea of an oral-language and picture book based language arts program for elementary, but have NO idea how to implement it. The effort it takes to keep up with teaching new words from random picture books seems huge. And that's intimidating.

I need back-up.

 

Our plan so far is:

 

Read books according to "topical themes" and expand vocabulary categorically by reading and discussing that subject. So, if we are reading on skeletons, then we read 3-7 books on bones, skeletons, etc and would use words like: marrow, joint, calcium, ligament, flexible, inflexible, durable, sturdy, fracture, fragment, etc...

while discussing the pictures and subject, even if those words aren't included in the text and to get Jr. to use those words in speech. Maybe do a craft or a game with those words

 

Intentionally use "advanced" adjectives and encourage Jr. to do the same.

So instead of saying "big" say large, huge, enormous, gigantic, etc

 

But that doesn't seem "enough". I can't see how to do "topical themes" outside of non-fiction. Teaching LA well from fiction seems ridiculously hard. There is no way to predict what kind of books you'll wind up reading and there are SO MANY words....

 

How do you experienced HSers who don't use curriculum do this with literature?

 

ETA: I meant fiction, not "non-fiction"

 

 

Edited by mathmarm
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I'm on mobile do I can't see junior's age if it's in your signature. I'm guessing little?

 

My 6yo reads a real picture book to me daily. He likes to talk about the storyline as we go. If he really likes it we'll read the same book a few days in a row. He works through a geography book every day too, and we'll start by backing up to very briefly review previous material before going forward. I read a nonfiction book to him for science and we discuss it. I may review what it takes to be a mammal while we're reading about mammals. This is all on the fly and not planned out. DS/6 also listens to a history story and discusses how it relates to the previous stories.

 

It doesn't really look that different with my 8yo, but she does more on her own and discusses it with me later.

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I want to be a "easy, laid back" teacher. I do. That's the sort of environment I want to create for Jr. to learn in and I can do it with math.

 

Math is my thing so I know how to guide freestyle, teach on the fly and gauge his progress in it.

We use manipulatives, living books and life and he is blossoming mathematically.

 

I would like to be able to do the same thing for language arts, but I can't see it. 

 

ugh...

 

 

 

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Siri is my friend for this, especially since DD's reading is primarily independent of me. She can tell Siri "define _____" and gets a definition. I assume the same would work with an Alexa device.

 

If you're using high quality picture books, the vocabulary will be there without you needing to go out of your way. We skipped over the most intro level of nonfiction picture books and went straight to ones that used precise terminology, so the vocab is there for those, too.

 

We do now use a vocab program because DD is intensely language-focused and requests it. She learns far more from her casual reading than she does from the program.

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We've never used any sort of vocab program, but we are voracious readers (read aloud, independent readers, audio books).  I am astounded daily by the vocabulary of my kids, especially my oldest who uses words correctly that seem totally out of place in a "typical" 9yo vocabulary.  

 

There are interesting studies showing how language is acquired.  Just coming across the word in context 10 or so times is usually enough to cement its meaning to a child, no need for anything else.  For foreign language, a student needs more exposure because they struggle more with context clues.  But reading, just reading, is still an extremely efficient way to pick up vocab both in native and foreign languages.  

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I'm on mobile do I can't see junior's age if it's in your signature. I'm guessing little?

 

My 6yo reads a real picture book to me daily. He likes to talk about the storyline as we go. If he really likes it we'll read the same book a few days in a row. He works through a geography book every day too, and we'll start by backing up to very briefly review previous material before going forward. I read a nonfiction book to him for science and we discuss it. I may review what it takes to be a mammal while we're reading about mammals. This is all on the fly and not planned out. DS/6 also listens to a history story and discusses how it relates to the previous stories.

 

It doesn't really look that different with my 8yo, but she does more on her own and discusses it with me later.

We do similarly and this is working (some) for his receptive vocabulary, but I just worry that it isn't "enough". I don't see the same growth in his spoken vocabulary that I do in his math skills.

 

I know how to add to or flesh out math with games or discussion, but I can't seem to do the same with language arts.

 

I just feel out of my depth--especially since we would like to do his LA this way long term, but...I can't see it.

 

I would love to hear from someone who has done "freestyle" or "living" language arts long term. Is there a guide or manual that can be recommended to get us parents more comfortable with this style of teaching?

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My kid is 6.  He's too young for a formal program.  We read a lot, discuss a lot.  I stretch vocabulary by reading aloud literature at a higher level than he reads to himself.  As he comes across new words in his reading they're not exactly new - he's heard most of them before.

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We've never used any sort of vocab program, but we are voracious readers (read aloud, independent readers, audio books).  I am astounded daily by the vocabulary of my kids, especially my oldest who uses words correctly that seem totally out of place in a "typical" 9yo vocabulary.  

 

There are interesting studies showing how language is acquired.  Just coming across the word in context 10 or so times is usually enough to cement its meaning to a child, no need for anything else.  For foreign language, a student needs more exposure because they struggle more with context clues.  But reading, just reading, is still an extremely efficient way to pick up vocab both in native and foreign languages.  

I guess that I will just try and hold out then. Maybe this approach will grow on me if I can just relax my Type A long enough.

 

Watching how his math skills are growing, I really feel that this is a great way to fantastic language skills and abilities, but man, my nerves. I can't stop over thinking language arts stuff. Math feels natural, but not language arts.

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Reading is one of the best ways to learn vocabulary.  But, my DD8 is a reluctant reader and my DD6 has a severe speech delay.  So, it's tough to get lots and lots of reading in for us.

 

SO, I am just doing "word of the day."  Just, very relaxed, no assessment or anything.  Basically, I pick a word, write the word and definition on our white board.  I read the word, have each of them say it, then I read the definition and have them repeat it.  I keep the definition very short and basic.  Like for asteroid, the definition was "a big rock in space."  Gets the point across but easy for DD6 to copy, easy for both to understand.  We talk about it a little bit...like yesterday the word was island-land with water all around it.  So, we looked at our map of the US and found a couple of islands. 

 

Anyway, after that, I have them draw a picture of it.  We are keeping them in a folder so they can go back to them. 

 

For me the purpose of this isn't that the girls learn the specific word, though that does happen sometimes.  So there's no assessment of it or anything.  It's ONLY for exposure.  I just grabbed a list of 2nd grade words from the internet and started at it.  Takes about 5 to 10 minutes with both girls, because DD6 needs lots of guidance on copying the definition (she is only in Kindy and has other delays.)  They like it because it's quick and easy, they get to color, and for DD8, it's "low risk."  There's no way for her to get it wrong. 

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Fwiw, my high schoolers were raised the same way. They did get a vocab program for awhile but it never lasted long. Reading good literature and later on studying a language made the vocab books soooo redundant. And tedious. We never actually finished any of them. (Well, we nearly finished English From the Roots Up, but it was sort of our gateway drug to studying Latin.)

 

Both my teens went on to thrive in Great Book lit courses in 9th grade. They list Homer and Austen among their favorite authors.

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We're the lots-of-books type (some do more audiobooks than read on their own). We've never done a vocab-only program, but we have supplemented with a reading comprehension program (McCall-Crabbs) once they are in 2nd-4th grade and reading fluently (which is where that happens in my house). I'm definitely in the read a lot of good books camp.

 

My oldest has done very well on the English/Reading portions of the ACT even though her writing skills are dismal. (Her test scores make people think she can write well. She can read & comprehend well! She's enjoyed finding new words for a Copia journal this year (10th grade) in her online class. She finds many of them in her reading material.

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We read and narrate. For the little ones, just learning, we read smaller sections, or sometimes I would (randomly) narrate. If I thought a word was beyond them I would insert a synonym after it.

 

Oh and for my dyslexic/late reader we used audio books. I had to be more careful with him. For a while I would preread, and choose 2-5 words he might not know, we would discuss those before he read/listened. (I couldn't do more than 5, he just couldn't handle more.)

 

Remember we can pick up a lot of words by context. Also keep in mind that our passive vocabulary is larger than our active vocabulary.

 

Sent from my XT1526 using Tapatalk

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We don’t do a formal vocabulary program, but we do read a ton of books aloud.  All said and done, my kids are read to by me or my husband for about 2 hours a day.  They are always welcome to stop us and ask for the definition of a word.  My 10 year old always has a dictionary nearby so she can look up unfamiliar words while reading.  Reading (or hearing) words in context seems to be the best way to teach vocabulary in our household.  All of my kids have a pretty advanced vocabulary, particularly my 8 year old who is my most avid reader.  She recently used the words “delirious†and “exhilarating†in a simple writing assignment.

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We don't do formal vocabulary or comprehension. We do read a lot! We always have audiobooks going in the car, we read the Bible daily, we have read alouds, and read picture books. We read a variety too, they are memorizing poetry and bible verses. I think it makes a huge difference. All three of my children have excellent vocabulary. I am conscious of asking them if they know what unfamiliar words mean and define them if they don't.

 

I will say that my oldest (9) has more natural ability in languages. My 7 year old is more math minded, but does have a good vocabulary. My 4 year old, who is no where near reading, probably uses the best variety of vocabulary. He consistently uses words correctly that we had no idea he even knew. Recently he told the server, "Those mini-corndogs were phenomenal!" He is read to throughout the day by all of the family and the read alouds we listen to tend to be geared toward his brother and sister. His vocabulary is definitely bigger than his siblings vocabulary at the same ages.

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I do use the MCT vocab books as part of the program, because they are nice. I don't use anything for vocabulary before that (late 3rd grade) and haven't had any problems.

 

I don't do comprehension, that just always feels like double handling to me! Read, narrate, done lol. I can tell from the narration/discussion if they've comprehended anything...

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Julie Bogart from Brave Writer talks about writing that program and all the pieces because it finally clicked with her that some people need the guidance to language arts the same way that she uses FlyLady for home management. Here's where she writes about that: http://www.bravewriter.com/program/brave-writer-lifestyle/

 

There are a lot of pieces in the "Brave Writer Lifestyle". Perhaps reading through that information will help you see how lots of little bits coalesce into a full program?

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We don't use formal comprehension or vocabulary.  I think most vocab programs are a waste of time if your home is language rich - reading, writing, quality films, discussions, etc.  We read a variety of living books across the curriculum, my daughter narrates (oral or written - she's going on 9, so she's old enough to have some written narrations in there), and that's comprehension.  We use copy work every single day.  We memorize poetry and have a weekly poetry tea time.  I don't follow Brave Writer, but I know Julie Bogart includes many of these practices.  Also, before narrating or starting to learn a new poem, I check for vocabulary words my daughter may not know and make sure she knows the correct pronunciation and meaning before we read.

 

Anything more than this, especially at the elementary level, seems like far too much.  I do include a real spelling program - Apples and Pears - because she needs it and because it uses dictation and copy work.  We only do it four days a week and for only about 10 minutes.  I also use a real grammar program - FLL 1 and 2 and now Part 1 of Simply Grammar.  We've also read and greatly enjoyed Grammar Land.  Grammar happens twice a week for five to ten minutes.  I only use these because they feel very informal - I do it all orally, it's laid back with no pressure, and it's just enough exposure that she won't be totally at sea when we do a more formal grammar program later on.

 

Cottage Press has some very gentle elementary materials that use narration, copy work, dictation, etc, that may interest you if you want something a little more pulled together.  And, as a PP mentioned, Brave Writer has lots of resources, too.

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Formal vocab study came with studying Latin which we started in 3rd grade and later in their spelling books as they progressed from phonics based spelling to more vocab work (middle school.) Any of the WTM suggested spelling books are going to progress into this.  We used Rod and Staff.  Before that, we did do definitions in science and sometimes from SOTW. And we looked up words in the dictionary as we read. And our English book had us look up definitions in it, etc. That plus just a lot of good reading is all that was needed. Nothing special. WTM walks you through how to study each subject. And they don't use lit guides or vocab books in the early grades. 

 

 

 

 

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Let me ask you this: how has your child learned words so far? Probably from you and your husband talking to him and from you reading aloud to him, through audio books, conversations with others, and life experience. Your child will also learn new words as he reads.

 

These are the BEST ways to teach vocabulary. Here's an article on How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary which discusses this more (it also includes how All About Reading teaches vocabulary, but there are lots of tips you can glean, even if you don't use that program.)

 

You're on exactly the right track with wanting to explain words your child doesn't know, using them in your daily speech (not dumbing down your language for your child but instead restating words or phrases that your child doesn't know--I also do this as I read aloud, the same way many children's books will restate a word that might be unfamiliar). You can challenge your child to use a new word sometime that day, and praise him when he uses it in his speech.

 

If you are really interested in skeletons, sure, go out and get a bunch of library books on skeletons, but if not, there's no need to make every new word into a project. It's not the last time he'll hear or read the word skeleton. Focus on things you are interested in and create a language-rich home where you read aloud a lot. Vocabulary doesn't have to be like math--it's definitely more fluid.

 

I read aloud to my kids all through school, including high school. I had intentions of doing a more formal vocabulary program (studying Greek and Latin Roots--we did some in All About Spelling, but I had intended to do more), but I never got to that point. My kids' vocabulary always tested extremely high on standardized tests. They aren't afraid to ask what an unknown word means, and we still have fun learning new words together (and if I don't know a word, I ask them too--we have a culture of learning words in our family). Just have fun and enjoy great books together, enjoy conversations with your kids, enjoy learning. Your kids will learn thousands of words this way, and will be on a great path for life-long learning.

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Ditto the others' posts. Just reading lots and lots of good books. Lots of RA and audiobooks too. Much that is over their actual reading level when they were younger. Read and discuss. Oral narration is a fabulous comprehension tool for many kids. 

 

Latin also adds a big vocab booster. 

Edited by ScoutTN
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I think I recall from your posts that you need to have more... structure sometimes. It seems like you're able to accept the idea that winging it with reading comprehension and vocab is enough for the majority of kids - certainly the majority of neurotypical or gifted kids. You just don't trust yourself to do it "right."

 

But you can make little mental checklists for yourself to do with books, even at this age. Like, what if you just said to yourself, or even put in whatever planner you keep, spend 10 minutes talking about a picture book we just read 2x a week (and, obviously, as your oldest grows up, the amount of discussion and so forth increases). You can even make a list of basic questions about stories to get you rolling. Things like "Who was your favorite character?" and "What did you think of the ending?" and "Who was the hero?" and "What would you do if you were in that situation?" Just really general stuff.

 

And you can also get games that encourage words and talking. Things like Dix It (where you caption a picture) and Story Cubes (where you tell stories) are great for that. And there are informal word games you can play as well - like The Minister's Cat or Twenty Questions. You can make a list of those as well. And can put it in a checklist in a planner if you want to - played three word games this week. And there are specific games for word roots and so forth as well that might be good in a couple of years.

 

And you can also make a little more formal things people who feel more comfortable winging language arts do less formally. Like, say, make a vocabulary wall with new words and pin them up and draw pictures and put one new word up every Monday. Or get a word a day calendar. Or start a vocabulary journal and have your kids put in a new word once a week. Again, some people find doing this sort of thing natural... but you can make rules for it and still keep it light as long as it's not you must add three words every day sort of a thing.

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I want to be a "easy, laid back" teacher. I do. That's the sort of environment I want to create for Jr. to learn in and I can do it with math.

 

Math is my thing so I know how to guide freestyle, teach on the fly and gauge his progress in it.

We use manipulatives, living books and life and he is blossoming mathematically.

 

I would like to be able to do the same thing for language arts, but I can't see it. 

 

ugh...

You might find it reassuring to do some standardized testing. There's usually a vocabulary component in the testing, and it would give you a sense of where they fall relative to their peers.

 

It also sounds like you're kind of conflicted internally on your teaching methods. You're saying easy and laid back, but the way you teach math is exploratory, engaging, and thought provoking, the total inverse of non-chalance. It sounds like you, as Farrar says, like structure. You like having a list, a plan, and knowing you're accomplishing it. It's just that for math you're knowledgeable enough that you have the list IN YOUR HEAD and are pretty confident you can assess and gauge progress. 

 

So that's why you would do standardized testing, to give you a way to gauge things that aren't your speciality area. I happen to have vocabulary scores on my ds, because we've had it done several times. He has a 99th percentile vocabulary. Like, literally, it's astonishing. And I don't do ANY of the things you're saying. He listens to an average of 3 hours a day of audiobooks, and a lot of them will be adult things or at least well-written. End result, astonishing vocabulary. 

 

Since vocabulary *is* fundamental to comprehension, I'm with you that it's valuable. However it seems like you're fighting your own gut on how to get there. The things you're describing are components in a well done science curriculum. You don't need to write it yourself or be stressed. Buy BJU or Nancy Larson or something similar, and those things will be there. They're just components of good teaching! 

 

If you look at the key words for your style that I was suggesting (exploratory, thought provoking, etc.), I think you'd find them in really well-done curriculum. Good curriculum starts with questions, investigates, gets them to think. It would give you structure. It's what you're realizing is MISSING in just picking up picture books. Now I'm all for non-fiction and picture books! We go to Zoo Days (which are taught like that, with questions, investigations, etc.) and we supplement with picture books. But to recreate all that yourself, what a pain.

 

I'd encourage you to do some introspection so you can see your real style, your real values, and put words to them, and then dig deeper to make choices that fit those words. I think there's a lot that's *popular* right now or a buzzword that doesn't necessarily reflect GOOD TEACHING. Just because something is popular in the homeschool movement doesn't mean it's well done or catches our vision. You've got to be yourself. You may need to diverge from what the masses are doing and be really different and find a different mix to achieve your very special, very worthwhile goals. It's part of gaining your confidence as a teacher and lowering this anxiety.

 

I remember points of that kind of anxiety too. For me, I have to go away from other voices. For you, maybe some introspection. Think in terms of regret. What things will you regret if they DON'T get done in your time with your kids? That's how you determine what you should REALLY be worrying about. Some things are just like worrying about doing a good job. I'm like that. I make lists too, hehe. And I used to say, about my ds who is pretty complex, well I just want to do a good job. Well now I know that I probably am doing a good job but that there are a lot of DIFFERENT good jobs I could do. I could do a good job and give him THIS gift of a certain emphasis or THAT gift of a certain emphasis. No matter what, I did a good job! But I get to pick the emphasis, the special gift, the angle of approach.

 

So be true to yourself and introspective, find the words for that. 

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Mathmarm, from what I can tell, Jr. is 3 or maybe a young 4.

 

Seriously, it's not worth trying to find a road at this point.

 

I had great plans. You know the Ivy Kids boxes?  I was making similar for my own kid to use "later".  Then we hooked up with Wee Folk Art and did that once a week, which he loved.  My plan got left to the wayside.  So did many other ideas I had.  It was better, and simpler, to create a loose guidance structure (I want to introduce you to _____) and also respect his wishes on what he wanted to learn.  He wanted to know about space: I took him to astronomy club, the planetarium, showed him where the books were at the library, got him constellation cards and a star chart.  He wanted to know about electricity: I gave him access to plenty of ways to learn about that.  I wanted him to know about nature and living things, so make sure he has access to all things of that sort.

 

If I ever want to address non-fiction concepts in literature I look up topics in the A To Zoo reference manual at the library. 

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Deconstructing Penguins might be a helpful read.

 

We used adult language in conversation and did read alouds until they decided reading was faster.

 

Conversation, story telling, presentation and listening are all part of la. Do the puppet plays, get onto the stage, sell things, play store, have dinner guests and have an oral serial story going ( you make up a part of a story,next guy adds, and so on).

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We do similarly and this is working (some) for his receptive vocabulary, but I just worry that it isn't "enough". I don't see the same growth in his spoken vocabulary that I do in his math skills.

 

I know it can be frustrating, but kids aren't little machines. You aren't going to get a corresponding amount of output equivalent to your input. ;)

 

Like everyone else has said, do a lot of reading aloud and talking and his vocabulary will steadily grow. You can't force things if he's not ready to make huge vocabulary leaps yet.

 

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We have never used a vocab curriculum. Reading plenty of books and listening to audiobooks (and listening to adults carry on conversations) was entirely sufficient to develop an extensive vocabulary. Especially audiobooks, because kids can listen to audio well above their reading level - we could really observe the additions to the vocabulary.

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Deconstructing Penguins might be a helpful read.

 

We used adult language in conversation and did read alouds until they decided reading was faster.

 

Conversation, story telling, presentation and listening are all part of la. Do the puppet plays, get onto the stage, sell things, play store, have dinner guests and have an oral serial story going ( you make up a part of a story,next guy adds, and so on).

 

Yes, I think it is important to use adult language with kids!  I've been talking to my kids like little adults since day one.  I remember my mom laughing at me because I didn't "baby talk" when my oldest was a toddler.  But it is good for kids to hear complex words in context and in everyday conversation.  They seem to pick it up more quickly. 

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So, if we are reading on skeletons, then we read 3-7 books on bones, skeletons, etc and would use words like: marrow, joint, calcium, ligament, flexible, inflexible, durable, sturdy, fracture, fragment, etc...

 

Given the enormous number of words in the English language, I think the key is not to get hung up on kids memorizing the meaning of EVERY word they will every encounter, but choosing the words that are going to be the most useful to them in the near future (because my brain at the least seems quick to prune specialized vocabulary I don't use or read in favor of the things I do encounter and require).

 

What I try to do before a read-aloud, which might appeal to you, is first make sure there aren't too many unfamiliar words. I highlight or underline or make a mental note of any words my kids might be unfamiliar with and make sure I can quickly define them without slowing us down too much, if the context doesn't make the meaning apparent. If there are too many words they won't understand, I need to choose a simpler book (unless, say, it's a picture book that makes the meanings quite evident in context) if I want them to understand a specific concept or story. (Of course, I don't always care about their comprehension and am more interested in just reading beautiful literature to them, and that's good too...although of course my kids are now in the habit of interrupting me to ask for definitions of unknown words, for which it is good for me to be prepared, since I am terrible at defining words on the fly.)

 

Afterward, I can look at the words I've highlighted and defined and make it a challenge for us to use them over the course of a day or days by keeping them on the fridge. The great thing is that often, as soon as you choose a great word, you will begin seeing it and hearing it everywhere. (Unless maybe it's "ligament," ha.)

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Like many posters above, we just read good books and discuss, and DS is exposed to high calibre conversation and argument because he's around adults who get thrills from such. :)

 

He also absorbs a lot of language listening to audiobooks a few hours a day. He gets variety of vocabulary and repetition of new terms, with no repetitive teaching required of me: win!

 

You can get plenty of children's fiction free at librivox. Pick a time of day to make audiobooks part of your daily rhythm, if you need that structure. You could print off some themed colouring pages if you want to make a project of it. Or just call it a snuggly story time and listen together.

 

What fiction have you and your LO enjoyed thus far? Maybe folks can make you some new recommendations to explore.

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