Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It doesn't matter how they learn it...

just that they do learn it.

It just keeps happening: people asking me if something we do "counts" as school. I related the story of the swimming lessons ("does this count as PE?") before. But even homeschooling moms do it.

The topic was spelling. Spelling comes up a lot, even at the playground. I related that I have a "natural speller" in my house, so I don't use a spelling curriculum or program for her. And I got that oh-so-familiar "you have two heads" look.

"You don't teach her spelling?"

"No. She doesn't need it."

"But... don't you need to teach spelling?"

"No. She doesn't have any trouble spelling. Sometimes she asks for a spelling test, so I grab a book she's reading and pull words from that. She mostly gets them right. If she gets something wrong, she learns it and doesn't get it wrong again."

"But does that count?"

I don't know how to answer that. How can it not "count?" The objective of a spelling program is to teach someone to spell. If the person knows how to spell... what is the purpose of trying to teach her to spell? My other child has a lot of trouble with spelling, so we do use some spelling curriculum.

It's the same thing with vocabulary.

"What do you use for vocab?"

"Nothing. We just read."


"We read, and when unfamiliar words come up we talk about them, or if the kids come across a word they don't know in their reading, they ask [I have to admit they don't use the dictionary much right now] and we talk about it."

"But don't you have to teach vocabulary?"

You might think that my kids have very limited vocabularies, given that I don't teach it as a subject. But they don't. They have very strong and varied vocabularies, if I do say so myself. This is their best area when it comes to their standardized tests; they always score very high. (Which is a good thing, because they don't always do so great on punctuation. That does not come naturally to them. Guess what? I do teach them grammar and punctuation.) This is simply a result of all of our reading. And, I think, not talking down to them when they were little. We always used "hard words" and explained them, rather than always using simpler words.

If a child learns to build furniture in Grandpa's garage rather than shop class, does it still count? Only if the chair doesn't fall apart when he sits in it, I guess. If a child learns to sew or cook at home, rather than home ec class (does that even exist anymore?), does it still count? Only if there are no wardrobe malfunctions or cases of food poisoning.

It's the same with "school subjects." If I start reading to my kids from our history book (having history class, so to speak), and one of my kids starts telling me what I'm about to tell him, or fills in more information than the book gives about the event or person, does that knowledge, acquired through the child's personal reading on an interesting topic, count? Does it count if he learned it by watching a documentary? Or how about from talking to someone knowledgeable on the topic, say at a museum or over the dinner table?

Kids can learn in all sorts of places and in many different ways. As long as they learn the skill, or internalize the information, or make the connections, it counts - because they know it, and that's the goal. Isn't it?


SmallWorld at Home said...

Definitely the goal, yep! You make me feel better. My friends crack up when I say we do spelling about 4 times each year. But I get out the spelling power and start with them (the younger 2), and then realize that really, they can spell quite well. And get better all the time, without spelling tests.

Now if only math came so naturally...

~*~The Family~*~ said...

Do you think you could go national with this message so everyone can quit asking homeschoolers this question?! Your explantion is excellent.

Jeanette said...

Thank you thank you thank you.

I agree-go national with this.

This has been our first homeschooling year and of course, I thought I had to "teach" every subject. And we tried spelling. And they were bored to tears.

Now when we have writing assignments I take note of misspelled words and have them correct them.

I think people get too caught up in the "school" mentality.

DADvocate said...

Over the course of my life, my vocabulary grew more from reading than any "vocabulary" lessons. I began keeping a dictionary handy to learn words in books I read. I still do and keep it right next to the computer to use while blogging.

Marbel said...

Sarah, math doesn't come so naturally here either...

DADvocate, keeping a dictionary close at hand is a lost art. I use an online dictionary frequently now. But I should get my kids going on that a little more.

Family, Jeanette, thanks for your kind words!

Birdie said...

So true!

Mrs. C said...

LOL It works the other way, too!!

We HAVE to have a "class" on how to tie shoes! And Elf is nearly nine!

As hard as we're working, I'm counting that puppy.

Rana said...

We are learning to write by writing letters to family and pen pals. It makes it much more interesting when you have a purpose for what you are doing. Great post!