Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vocab Words-To Teach or Not to Teach?

I recently read an article written by a homeschooling mom, of whom I respect, that approaches teaching vocabulary words to her children differently than myself. In her article she explained that she doesn't agree in giving children a vocabulary list each week. She states that from her own childhood experience they were useless. She claims she didn't retain any of the words she learned as a child and from that experience she will not teach her children the same way in which she was taught. I do not agree with that. I am not teaching my children out of my good or bad experiences. I am teaching them what is good and right and best for them by following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I taught in a way that was different from my own childhood's bad experiences I would just be putting my bad experiences on my children. They are different from me and learn differently than I do. I cannot assume that what did not work for me will not work for them. We must rely on the Holy Spirit not only in our spiritual walk, but in every area of our lives. I believe we have a grand responsibility in educating our children, too weighty for me to bear alone. I lean on the Holy Spirit to guide me as I lead my children.

She states, "Finally, I came to the conclusion that vocabulary lessons done in the traditional way are unnecessary and do not accomplish the desired result of broadening a child’s vocabulary." She came up with her own 'curriculum' for teaching Vocabulary- it is below:

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary:

-Read great books.
-use big words throughout your day.
-Define the words you use as you speak.
-Reward them for using big words.
-Teach your children how to use a dictionary.
-Teach your children how to use a Thesaurus.

Number 1: "Read great books"
Okay, I have two points to make here: 1) Shouldn't be be doing that anyway? and 2) Provide us a list of great books for all the ages of my children that have 'big words.'  I love to read and my children love to read, but does that mean that I cannot challenge them more with a separate vocabulary list to go along with that? I remember as a child when reading a book and coming across a word I didn't know I would simply skip over it. I didn't stop and look up it's meaning. I didn't ask an adult for help. I just kept reading. I kind of think that's what many children do. Some times they may pick up the words meaning through it's usage in the sentence, but if not, well then, they are not learning 'big words.'

Number 2:
Use big words throughout your day.
Seriously? Is this advice practical for all moms? What if you are a mom that doesn't use 'big words?" What if you are pregnant or sick for a long period of time and feel brain dead? Are my children's education to really go no further than what comes out of my mouth? I'm being completely serious. There have been more days than I can count where I have been tired, sick, or simply brain dead and if my children's vocabulary rested on my shoulders they would be in a very sad state. In those sick times I have been so ecstatic that I could open a book and work with my children on new words. We go over the words, talk about the words, put them in sentences, and test them on those words. Will they remember it all? No, probably not all of the words, but if I teach with the philosophy, "Well, they are not going to remember this anyway." Why teach history or science? Why take the time to explain anything? They are not going to remember it anyway. I certainly don't remember everything I learned as a child, but somewhere in my brain it's stored away and as I re-read an old history lesson it builds on what I have already known.

Number 3:
Define the words you use.
Okay, that's great advice, but again shouldn't we be doing that anyway? Don't we want our children to understand the words we are articulating? Can't we add to their education? Can't we challenge them to learn 'big words?' I think we can.

Number 4:
Reward them for using big words.
I think when a child studies hard and achieves a good grade on a test there is a reward in accomplishing what they set out to do- to learn something new and do it well. There is a reward in working hard and doing well, a sense of satisfaction for a job well done- I would not want to rob them of that. I remember in my second year of high school we were given ten or so vocabulary words a week. At the end of the year we were given a cumulative test! I studied and studied for weeks! When the final grades were given out the teacher announced that she had never had a student receive a 99% on her vocabulary test, but that year she had. She then called MY name to come up and receive my test back. That was an extremely proud moment for me.

Number 5 & 6:
Yes, we need to teach our children to use a dictionary and thesaurus, but left to themselves children won't. Again, it comes back to relying on me to provide a vocabulary list for my children when the work has already been done for us. There are list made for the different ages and stages of learning.

I'm sorry, but I really think this idea of not teaching vocabulary is just not right. (Now, if you have a child that cannot do the work or you believe God has steered your family from having a vocabulary list than ignore all I have said). Otherwise, we should be doing all that we can to expose our children to learn new things. Who's to say, "They won't remember it?" Maybe one child won't, but another will. I love hearing my kids using their new words or even perk up when they hear me use a word they know and explain it to me. Listen, I am not trying to be overly critical or mean I just feel that as homeschooling moms we have an opportunity to offer so much more to our children. Why deprive them of that?  Why not use half a vocabulary list if you feel learning twenty words a week is too much? Why not try and work it in some other way. For example: We have the children write down their spelling and vocabulary list on index cards (along with their Spanish words and memory verses) and after dinner my husband uses the cards in a game. He'll say the word and look to see who can spell it or define it. This game allows my husband to be involved in a enjoyable way in his children's education. The children love even love to be paired up girls vs. boys. There are many ways to introduce words to our children, but to not actively try is more of a deficit to our children than a help.

So, I say 'teach' them vocabulary words and enjoy seeing them get excited about feeling grown up!

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