Sunday, August 7, 2016

Big shakeup for 2nd grade language arts, and we've only just begun!

We've started our school year already (2nd, kindergarten, 2yo) and I'm already making some changes. What I had initially selected for some of our language arts wasn't going to work for me. It's a little early to say if the changes will be hits or misses, but here's hoping for the best!

Johnny finished All About Spelling level 1 at the end of 1st grade. When I closed the book, I just felt it wasn't time put to good use. Looking ahead at levels 2 and 3, I felt more of the same. He likely knew how to spell most of those words already, and I don't think I was using the program to its full potential. 

I was not looking forward to six more levels of AAS, plus doing the whole thing again with my girls. Such dread on my part so early on...something had to change. I know so many people love AAS. Actually love it. I am happy for them! 

Next up, I had looked at various options for writing, grammar, copywork, and the sort. I landed on Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease and thought I'd choose my own selections from books we were reading. I didn't get very far when I realized that choosing my own passages isn't so straightforward.  

On to my new choices:
For spelling, I briefly considered dropping it in favor of copywork and prepared dictation (Mason), but that just felt a little too scary for me right now. While my son is a strong reader, he still could use some work on unfamiliar, multi-syllabic words. Rather than take his time with it, he might choose to mumble through a word. No, let's not do that, k? Some additional phonics work and practice with complex words would help this kid. Natural Speller was a contender, but it looks like it would take a bit of prepwork on my part to make it work. 

I had already rejected using All About Reading level 1 with my kindergartner. AAR pre-reading was a flop for her, but at the same time I felt AAR1 would move too fast for her. The fluency pages would overwhelm, and I don't think she'd care for the workbook activities. Instead of going the AAR route with her, I had already opted for Logic of English Foundations.

So far, I am a big fan. I like how we're really exploring letter sounds and how we're forming them with our mouth and voice. We're taking a close look at the work our mouth does to differentiate say, a /f/ from a /th/ and a /v/ from a /TH/. For this child who has some speech articulation issues, this is a key point. I like the phonemic awareness activities, the segmenting and blending stuff, and surprisingly I like how handwriting is incorporated. It isn't a "oh, and yeah you should also do handwriting just because." Rather, it is a component in strengthening the ability to read and write, and is treated as such with LoE.

She really enjoyed listening to me segment words such as /h/ /o/ /p/ and then doing the action. It's a whole-body approach and just what this kid needs.

I also like how Foundations incorporates spelling as we go. 

While Logic of English takes an Orton-Gillingham approach with regard to phonics, the execution and implementation is quite different from AAR, AAS, and other programs I've seen. It's still really early in the lessons, but I'm optimistic.

So, my appreciation for what Foundations is trying to accomplish, plus reading Uncovering the Logic of English by Denise Eide (also author of the curriculum), let me to take another look at Logic of English Essentials.

In the past when I had taken a more cursory look at it, I thought Essentials wouldn't be a good fit for my son because I thought he already knew most of the content: I thought he could read well enough, spell well enough that it wouldn't be a worthwhile purchase. 

Well. Maybe the 1st edition would be less meaty, but after receiving Essentials 2nd edition, I can say with certainty that no, he doesn't know all within. 

What I like so far, and note these are unique to the 2nd edition:
  • Three levels of spelling. I gave him a placement test, and level A would be a confidence booster and perhaps a good way for him to get his feet wet with the LoE methods. Level B would be a good instructional level, and C will be a bit of a challenge. I like that I can do one level for a year and cycle back, doing levels B or C spelling within the same book. Or, I could have him do some spelling for level A or B, and then demonstrate how we'd analyze level C words myself, or do it together. AAS moved too slow for my liking. LoE will allow us to speed up or slow down as necessary.
  • Grammar as it pertains to our spelling and dictation words (I think? I need to double-check this. I think there are 3 levels within). I'm not sure if I will like and use the grammar instruction or go another route, but it's there if I want it.
  • Morphemes as vocab study. A few for level A, more for B, and lotsa lotsa for C. Studying prefixes, suffixes, roots for meaning and how to spell these. Seems worthwhile. AAS does this, but not until what, level 7?
  • How LoE treats the schwa sounds
  • LoE finger spelling technique (and also see this video). Denise Eide rightly points out that unless we tell a child how to spell a word for the first time, how in the world are they going to know how to spell it correctly? They might be able to come up with a phonetically correct version, but the finger spelling technique tells a child which phonogram to use (without saying letter names; you'd use the sounds of the phonogram/mention the rule in play). 
  • I like the types of activities (and games, even) that LoE will have us do to reinforce and learn new concepts.
  • LoE introduces 46 advanced phonograms, typically from words borrowed from other languages, that I haven't seen on scope & sequence lists for AAS. These are on top of the 70-whatever basic phonograms.
Also a factor was price. I already owned the complete AAS1 and the TMs for 2 and 3, and if I bought new, I'd still need to spend $200 for the remaining TMs and student packets that I didn't yet own. Woosh. I already had the LoE flash cards thanks to a great deal at Half Price Books, so buying volume 1 of Essentials wasn't a bad price. Volume 2 should come out in early 2017, and even factoring that in, I'd spend less on LoE stuff than I'd spend completing my AAS collection.

So. I sold my AAR and AAS stuff rather quickly on the used market, ordered and received Essentials, and we'll jump in this week. Check with me in a month or so to see how it's going. Oh, and he's already doing their Rhythm of Handwriting cursive instruction book with great results. Good attitude, reasonable output. 


Cutting to the chase, I'm getting to know more about the Brave Writer lifestyle and so far, I love it. My kids loved the first poetry tea we did. They hope it will become a weekly occurrence. I like what I've read and heard (via podcasts) on what Julie Bogart has to say about stages in writing and what we're trying to accomplish. It's a bit tricky at first to get a handle on what BW even is, but the emails, blog, podcasts and FB group helped me get up to speed quickly. It's not complicated, really.

So, I purchased Jot it Down! with my Ker and 2nd grader in mind. These are writing projects, and the purchase also comes with a brief overview of elements of the Brave Writer lifestyle and philosophy. I suspect these will be a hit.

I also grabbed A Quiver of Arrows to guide copywork, French dictation (basically, a bridge toward full dictation where the child is listening for certain words to fill in, rather than doing it all), discussion of certain literary elements, and a writing project for the month. We've already read some of the books in the pack, but I think that's ok. Maybe we won't re-read them in full, maybe we'll do the audio version as a refresh. 

There are other publishers that do a similar thing -- study grammar, mechanics and so on from literature. I mean, even WWE does that, though in a different way. I like BW's take on it, especially the literary element and doing an exercise with it ourselves. I hope this study is lots of fun. 

Note, BW products are markedly cheaper on Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op

(Was this post long enough? Should I have stretched it for a bit longer? kbye.)


  1. Well now I'm slightly envious of LoE! Wait! - I'm putting the blinders back on - and sticking with what I've got until a problem arises. Sounds like a wonderful resource for your family! Thanks for the link to finger spelling ... I might have to steal that concept!

    1. Yes, blinders! :D If it ain't broke...

      I do think the finger spelling technique is useful.

      Thanks for coming by!


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