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Vocab is the Key - Issue 156
June 18, 2010
Hi there! ....

This week we continue with our creative projects focus. One of the most important things with creative projects is that we give our children the opportunity to explore ideas and discover things for themselves. Nomi had an idea this week and I let her go ahead and make it. She came back to me and said – this isn’t working. I asked her why. She had a few good thoughts. Then she looked at me and said, “You knew that would happen, didn’t you?” I was sprung but she understood why I hadn’t forewarned her that it simply was not going to work. She had to discover that for herself and learn from it. This is what being creative is all about. We cannot rob our children of discovering and understanding things for themselves.

Live life with your kids!

If you are an Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.

Vocabulary is the Key

When we set out to teach and train our children we need to recognise that our children are made up of different spheres: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual/moral, social and practical. We need to know how we are going to address each sphere if we are to educate the whole child.

As Peter and I look at our children, at their strengths and weakness, they reflect Peter’s and my strengths and weaknesses. This is the case in every one of those spheres but today I wanted to talk the area of academics (the mental or intellectual side of life.) Since I am home with the children all day the children are stronger in the areas that I am strongest in, and they are weakest in the areas I most struggle with: Math, Science, Geography to name a few.

Though I am week in these areas I cannot afford to ignore them as I plan lessons for my children. There are two aspects to teaching my children academics.

  1. Planned, intentional lessons generally from a book or DVD
  2. Lessons that get taught from life (they may be intentional or incidental).

One of the keys to teaching my children from life - when we rise up, walk and sit down - is understanding the vocabulary of each subject and this has helped me with the subjects that I have struggled with.

Each subject of our life has a unique vocabulary attached. Those who are Christian often speak Christianese – words and phrases that refer to our common, shared experience as a Christian. Those who have not experienced that are often left not getting the whole conversation. Business people talk a lingo that a stay at home mum can often feel isolated from. Since I’ve married Peter I’ve become familiar with the vocab of a farmer, a cattleman, a vet and a pilot. He has become familiar with the words of a scrapbooker and craft-lover.

I have discovered that each subject matter that we want to teach has a vocab and if I can get my head around that vocab, or at least familiar with it, I start to see lessons to share with my children all around me. Lessons that I can share without a book in front of me, lessons I can share with my children when we are rising, walking and sitting down, that is, when we are living life together.

For example

Bible: When I understand God’s word myself I am able to pass that onto my children. This is the heart of Deut 6:6-7a And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart – you shall teach them diligently to your children. (NKJV)(emphasis mine)

Character: When I understand that the character trait of Attentiveness includes aspects of making eye contact, asking appropriate questions, not fidgeting, not distracting others then I am able not only to instruct my children in the value of attentiveness but I can correct and encourage along the way. I can see examples of it in their life, in my life, and in the stories that we read in books or see on DVD.

Now it is the same with the more academic areas. As I’ve said I struggle with science, math and geography.

I never knew that Math was about mapping skills, telling the time and reading a calendar or schedule, designing and making things, collecting and interpreting information. Math is about money, time, guessing, seeing patterns and sequences, solving problems, measuring and comparing, symmetry, balance and order (and so much more). I actually use math when I’m taking a chance (a math word) of putting my washing on the outdoor clothesline in the Wet season. When we share the biscuits, when we set the table, when we start dressmaking, when we measure rainfall, when we plan our holidays we are using math. When I started to see the vocab of math being more than adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing I could enhance my children’s understanding of math concepts regardless of what we were doing.

The same has happened for me with Geography. I thought geography was about maps and to be honest maps don’t really interest me. But if my goal is to understand the world God has created for us then geography is a part of this. Geography isn’t just about maps and knowing where countries are – it is about land shapes and formations, how rivers, lakes and oceans work together, it is about mountains and rainfall, it is about people groups and how they interact with their land, it is about industry from the land, it is about how the land has changed and what has caused that, it is about finding directions, time zones, different habitats and climates.

When I’m confronted with the idea that I need to teach my children about geography I feel inadequate and I avoid the topic all together or feel very stressed about it. But when I look at the scope of all those topics that are covered under geography things start to look different – I know a little about those things. We talk about the sun rising in the east, we talk about finding directions from the stars. These things get discussed lots when we are camping. Actually camping is a great opportunity to talk about land formations and the cause and effect of things on the world around us. This is geography.

I remember when Pete was taking me to his family home, to meet his parents for the first time. We drove all day and Peter explained the countryside to me. He was passionate – I was in love so I listened!! He talked about erosion and how to stop it. He talked about how different trees grew in different soils. He talked about climate challenges. He talked and I learnt. Though I am still not as passionate about geography (the land around us) as Peter I do know a little – at least enough to introduce the concept and then we can go dig deeper. Once I understand the vocab I catch opportunities to talk about these things as we read books, watch movies, see the news, drive into town, walk out on our farm.

Understanding vocab helps me direct conversation and discovery with my children. I may know nothing more than a snippet of information but if I find that snippet interesting then I can encourage my children to dig deeper and we will all learn a whole lot more.

How to find the Vocab?

  • Picture books - I just love picture books and you can find good (not dumbed down) picture books on math, geography, science, history, and even punctuation (Language Arts)!
  • Education Standards/Scope and Sequences - though I am hesitant about using such resources (because of the pressure they put on us to learn things or teach things at certain ages) they do help us see the breadth of a topic – and this is a part of seeing the relevant language.
  • Talk to people who are in the know – just like Peter knows geography and has broadened my understanding – find people like that around you. Ask the question – What is “geography” (insert your topic) about? What do you love about “geography”? What are the key ideas to “geography”?

So is there a subject that scares you? I encourage you to go and find the vocab – expand your understanding. As you become familiar with the vocab alone you will find times that come up in your family life that you will be able to teach or inspire your children. Our children don’t learn just from planned lessons from books - in fact they may well learn more from those times that you just bring up a topic because you’ve seen a connection with what is happening in life and the vocab of an academic topic.

Helpful Articles from Lifestyle-Homeschool
Discipleship Scope and Sequence

Discipleship and Curriculum

Blog Updates this week
A rough Sketch of our Day A key to keeping control on crazy days

Today was not ……. We need to see what did happen in our day instead of focusing on what didn’t

Creating our own Scope and Sequence Resources I’ve used to build Study courses.

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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