Laura’s Homeschool Christian (2001) Interview

in Blabber, Philosophy

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If you paste it into Word, it’s 32 pages LONG!  Anyway, HERE’s the link for the QA session.  The other one, which preceded it, is less practical and more theoretical.  If you are in that mood, it’s great.

I have cut and pasted a few excerpts that I found particularly helpful.  All of the bolding is mine.

When the History Reading is Too Difficult

To understand the following question, you need this sentence from the previous:

Laura Berquist: Though this may sound strange, the hardest time I ever had in history was when I tried to have all the children do the same thing. It was hard work adapting the class material to the different stages, and I had to be involved in the class presentation because I had to have a class.

She goes on to explain that her children did most of the work on their own.

Pat: I’m struggling to get it all in with six kids at home. I was considering teaching history from the same time period to all of them. After reading your answer above, I’m wondering if this will not be so great for the younger children. My older children don’t read well. 

Laura Berquist: Why not group them into two groups, and do American history with the younger group, mostly read alouds of personalities, with the fifth grader doing some extra reading on his own – maybe even the Pioneers and Patriots book.

Then do ancient history with the older two. You can do some reading aloud here, too, if you need to. You can also do some hands on things that wouldn’t require you, except to get started, and some easier books that even a poor reader could read on his own. Because a number of curricula offer ancient history for younger grades (even the “Land of Our Lady” series), there are materials that have a lower reading level in mind.

If there is, make sure there is room for more of that, even at the expense of other things. Though you’ll have two groups this way, instead of one, I think you’ll find it easier, because the matter is more suitable. (This is why the other sentence is necessary.  She found keeping her kids together, in too wide an age range, complicated it.  Having two groups, as she describes with the evening reading in Teaching Tips, simplified it.  Do group them, but in a way that keeps you from having to adapt the curriculum with in that group.)

Balancing Your Reading Material: History vs Literature

Donna: We are enjoying using your 4th grade history reading list in DYOCC along with the syllabus recommendations. However, I’m finding that if my son reads several books for each time period that he does not have much time for other literature reading. Should I cut back on his history reading and include more of the ‘good’ books as shared at the Kolbe or Angelicum Academy websites? Which would benefit him more….a wide base of historical books or a more varied reading of books of literary value?

Laura Berquist: It depends on the particular child. For most of my children I instituted one hour of “directed reading time” each day in which the child read books other than history. If he wanted to go on and read longer he was, of course, welcome to do so.

This reading was in addition to the history reading mentioned in my syllabi. History reading was part of school, the literature reading was part of life. I found that the children (4 out of 6) could do both kinds of reading without any trouble.

However, the other two children were different. One of them just loved history. That’s what she wanted to read, morning, noon, and night. So I let her – for the most part. I did insist on a certain number of classics, but she read far more history than anyone else.

The other of these two was not an eager reader. Asking him to read literature on top of history was just not possible. He would stop reading entirely and stare into space. So for him, I cut back on the history reading, picking out only what I really thought he needed to make the history come alive (and I picked the books I thought he would like best). Then I inserted classic children’s literature in place of the history books I took out.

Building Reading Stamina

Beth: How much time should a child be reading outside of the subjects each day?

Laura Berquist: Of course, how much directed reading time one has for a particular child is going to depend in some measure on that child. However, the general guideline is that any child should be reading for a minimum of 1 hour per day. That’s usually in addition to any history reading.

However, as I have often said, with a particular child who is a resistant reader that may not be practical. I have one child who could not do an hour of reading in addition to school work when he was younger. So we worked up to it.

Our plan was something like this. He read, aloud, for five minutes after breakfast, lunch and dinner. When that was easy, which didn’t take long, we moved it to ten minutes after breakfast, ten minutes after lunch, and ten minutes after dinner. Five of these minutes were reading aloud, and five were sustained silent reading. When that became easy, we moved to 15, 15 and 15 minute periods. So, by that time, he was reading 45 minutes a day.

At that point we moved to 20, 20, and 20 and then to two half hour periods. After a while it was easy to move to an hour. This is now a moot point, because he reads all the time. But I think it was good that we worked on it.

I think you should look at the children you are working with and think of a plan that will move them to an hour of directed reading each day. Start where they are and work to that goal.

Resistant Writers

Sonja: In the grammar stage, you advise spending time on copying and dictation. Can you give some advice on how to deal with a boy (7 years old) who hates to use a pencil. It seems my children have a lot of difficulty in writing neatly and I’ve been attributing it to late muscle development but it could also be laziness.

Laura Berquist: I can relate to this problem because I have had it myself. One of my boys hates to write. It’s not the composition that he hates, it’s the physical act of writing.

There are two things to do. One is make sure that your son puts pencil on paper every day. Not for long periods, but for enough time to help his muscles develop. I had my son copy one word a day for six weeks, when he was the age of your son. That’s all he could do (and still have a pleasant frame of mind), but it did give him some needed practice. I had him copy my “Bible one-liners”; the first day he did “Let”, the second “us”, the third “go”, the fourth “to”, etc, until he had “Let us go to the house of the Lord”.

I had him copy the sentence directly under my own handwritten version of it, so that he could play the game of trying to make it look exactly like my writing. Then he would show Daddy and ask him if he could tell whose writing was whose. That way my son was very careful with his letter formation.

And if they can’t copy it all on one day, we spread out the copying assignment over more days.

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