kitchen table math, the sequel: help desk - usage & mechanics

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

help desk - usage & mechanics

C's ACT PLAN scores came back. He's at the 96th percentile in reading, 79th in usage/mechanics.

C. taught himself to read in Kindergarten. One day we were meeting with his Kindergarten teacher, being told that he was at risk for dyslexia because his handwriting was so bad (true: bad handwriting is a flag); two weeks later he was reading. On his own.

By the end of the following summer he was years above grade level in reading comprehension, and he stayed there.* Never once was he assigned a book at his reading level, not until he went to Hogwarts. He's a sophomore now, reading The Scarlett Letter.

Too bad he didn't teach himself mechanics & usage.

Or handwriting. His handwriting is still lousy, in spite of my brief efforts to remediate his handwriting** before I had to devote full-time to reteaching math.

Speaking of math, he's at the 79th percentile on that.

Basically, he's at the top of the country in the subject he taught himself, 20 points lower in the subjects handled by his school.

He's got his own personal Achievement Gap.

help desk

So what do you think?

I need a workbook/textbook to start drilling usage & mechanics. For math, I'm thinking a daily dose of ALEKS.

Which reminds me: I have to finish up my ALEKS geometry course and then get back to Algebra 1, the course with 333 individual topics.

Any advice?

* Whether he would have stayed there without MegaWords, I can't say.
* Handwriting Now by Barbara Getty - terrific


Anonymous said...

RE: Aleks

I believe they recommend two hours per week. I think it's a great system, especially for solid readers.

RE: Handwriting

Mine is awful and always has been. I'm a lefty so my early education consisted of being harassed into right handed paper slant by threats with one of those wooden pointers with the little rubber tip on it. By the time I lost my fear of the pointer I had no style. It flops from forward slanting letters to backward slant and it's a mishmash of printing in block, lower case and cursive. I think my biggest problem is that my brain gets ahead of my fingers and when I try to keep up I go all sloppy.

The only time I print with any consistancy is when I'm on the whiteboard or easel and I know someone is watching. Maybe that's a training tip, eh?

RE: the student teacher ratio of 1:1

It doesn't get any better than that does it? I feel like the primary goal of any course should be to prepare the student to be able to extend their knowledge on their own. C has already done that with one course. Maybe he should be surrounded by materials that could empower him to do the same with the others.

I taught myself how to make furniture by playing in the sawdust produced by my father and grandfather. Environment has great power.

Dee in MI said...

I've used Zaner Bloser for myself and my son. I used it to remediate my own awful handwriting before I started homeschooling, and my son has used it from the beginning.

They have middle school "Self-Instruction" workbooks. I used the adult workbook, and it helped a lot.

Dee in MI said...

Oh, and for grammar - I used Warriner's in middle school myself, and it's awesome. You can get a used copy pretty cheap. Pick up "The Complete Course" or any course numbered 3 or higher. There are plenty of exercises, and it's a reference he can keep a long time.

Independent George said...

Have you ever read letters handwritten from the 18th & 19th centuries? I'm always struck by how beautiful and readable the handwriting is. It isn't a natural skill - it has to be taught, and drilled. I've steadily improved my handwriting since my high school days, but it's still nowhere near the level I'm aiming for.

I can be legible when I concentrate, but my 'natural' writing is godawful. The problem is, I write so infrequently that I just don't have the practice I used to get.

Jo Anne C said...

The K-12 program uses the following books for grammar.

5th grade used Exercises in English, Millenium Ed., Level E

6th grade uses B K English Language handbook, Grade 6, Barrett Kendall Publishing

N has used GUM books from 1st through 3rd grade, but the amount of rigor was minimal. In 4th grade the grammar books disappeared from the private school. It was at this point we decided to home school.

When we started 5th grade with the K-12 program the grammar was tough I had to read over the explanations on many items several times until it clicked in my head and then I was able to convey the ideas to Nathan. I don't know if just purchasing the work book (listed above) will be sufficient as the K-12 program includes their own work book with explanations (scripts) that further explain the lessons. This frankly saved my bacon, as the workbook by itself seemed too short on explanations. The K-12 book gave many explanations and work sheets to help master concepts.

I must admit even though I was a whiz at diagramming sentences in Jr. High, the K-12 program seems to be surpassing the level of grammar my public schooling provided.

The 6th grade program is good, it is building on the fundamentals learned in the 5th grade program. It is a pretty complete text and the K-12 supplied teachers guide is mostly used for checking his answers. If N had not used the 5th grade program from K-12 he would be struggling in the 6th grade program.

I am thankful that N catches on quickly, he has surpassed my level of expertise in grammar as he has managed to remember all the terms, I would be in a difficult position homeschooling grammar if he didn't.

Happy Thanksgiving!

farmwifetwo said...

How about starting at the beginning with "Handwriting without tears", also use paper with the dots in the middle. We have also found that sometimes writing is neater than printing. Spaces end up all over printing, but writing forces them to attach all the letters.

I'm still in the primary grades for Math and prefer Saxon math at this time.

The classical learning method also has english books, I have one of the early grammar books we still need to use. I refuse to buy more books until we use the one's we have :). Also, Pioneer Woman has a Homeschooling section on her blog and Mrs G who writes for her, has some excellent ideas for teaching and materials. It's worth a look. It's my next stop when I'm in need of more materials.

Liz Ditz said...

1. Handwriting -- oh, jeez. To begin with, it is a physical skill (like skiing or tennis or even playing an instrument). I'm with FW2 -- you might have to go back to the beginning with pencil grip, correct posture & letter formation. It's tedious & takes time, but even 10 minutes a day practicing correct letter formation will pay off.

2. Mechanics -- found this which looks interesting.

Personalized editing checklist
What you must teach so students can use it

The most useful editing checklist is one that is specific to the grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors a student habitually makes. But even a personalized checklist is no value unless a student knows how to use it for editing sentences in his or her own work.

Editing is detail work. Experienced writers may be able to edit a manuscript in one pass. Student writers have to develop that ability by single-error grammar corrections in repeated passes through the manuscript.

Using a single-error correction strategy is much more effective at producing error-free prose than any other grammar exercise students could do.

Sara R said...

One program often recommended on the Well Trained Mind bulletin boards is Christian Light Education Language Arts. According to the reviews (I've never used the program myself), these give a rigorous approach to grammar and mechanics with a lot of review. It is in a workbook format, which is nice. They can be done independently, which is important for afterschooling. It is important to take the placement test before choosing a level, because students usually start in this program below grade level.

I've used First Language Lessons level 4 with my 4th grader, but this isn't an independent program, so it's difficult to afterschool.

lgm said...

For math, I'd use targeted practice. Dolciani and Brown is my supplemental preference as it does cumulative review and it's dovetailing well with the way my district is doing NYS Int. Algebra I. So far it's filled in every single concept the instructor has omitted with the exception of the operations by table. The JMAP project has resources for that as well as other concepts:

Anonymous said...

Handwriting: Without a doubt, Italic for legibility.

Grammar: Grammar and usage are EASY. They should not be made difficult by overly complicated programs! Do Analytical Grammar and be done with it forever.

Mathematics: Singapore's NEM is fabulous, but he'll be able to do Harold Jacobs on his own. You can also try VideoText, which isn't bad.

Anonymous said...

BTW, it's not CLE that's so popular on WTM--it's Rod and Staff. Skip it. Get Analytical Grammar. He doesn't need to do grammar every day until high school to build his character. He just needs to learn proper usage.

My kid's in the 99.9%ile in every measurable subject, and he's disabled. FWIW. My suggestions aren't just blowing smoke.