Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Efficient Teaching Ideas for Busy Homeschooling Mothers Part One

I am going to share a couple of ideas with you. These are things I have done for many years with my own children.

Part One

I will describe how I taught my children some of their reading and writing skills, using 1800’s curriculum – The McGuffey Readers. I will first offer the “assignment” and then the “explanation.”

McGuffey Readers:


1. Read the lesson out loud.
2. Copy it (exactly) into a notebook.
3. Use the vocabulary words in a sentence.


1. I started Rachel (my oldest) on the 1st Reader. (I did not begin using the McGuffey’s until she already knew how to read.) We would go over lesson one. She had to read each sentence perfectly. I would show her the commas, periods, question marks, etc. I expected her to “pause” at a comma and change the tone of her voice for questions or at the end of a sentence. I had to read the sentence for her and then have her repeat what I said. This is how she learned to read very clearly. This is excellent for “speech” training.

I was able to quickly correct her if she got any words wrong. I could also explain definitions. This helped build her vocabulary and comprehension.

If she got any words wrong, or did not read the sentence correctly, I would (cheerfully, patiently and lovingly) teach it to her again. She was not allowed to move on to the next sentence until she got it right. But I encouraged her and praised her as we went, to help keep her motivated.

[This took anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the length of the lesson). I could work with her while nursing a baby, washing dishes, or sitting at the kitchen table sipping on tea. It happened at any time during the day or evening. There was no set time for reading to me.]

2. She had to copy the lesson into a notebook. I expected to see paragraph indentations, the use of margins, and a clear title and page number. I made sure she did not rush through this. She had to spell everything right (by looking at the lesson), use proper punctuation, etc. Her handwriting had to be very neat as well. This was how she learned to write and compose her own sentences. She was copying excellent literature and it was absorbing into her mind.

[She did this without my help, but I checked her work and corrected it when she finished. While she worked I may have been folding laundry, watching a movie or sitting on the couch resting.]

3. At the end of the lesson, there is a list of vocabulary words. I gave her a verbal spelling test. If she got any wrong, I would (neatly) write them down. She was expected to practice saying and writing them for the next day. She had to write those 10 or 20 times and say them as she wrote.

She also had to write sentences. She could only use one of the vocabulary words in each sentence. I told her to make them funny and interesting. I would not accept two word sentences (such as “Come back!”). I also wanted to be entertained. This helped her to be creative. She loved to see my reactions to what she came up with. (As she got older I had to make some rules, however. She was not allowed to write any swears or anything vulgar. –smiles)

We never, ever, ever went on to the next lesson until she did it perfectly. She had to read clearly, write neatly and spell all the words without looking. Once she mastered this, she was able to move on to the next lesson. There were times she had to do the same lesson every day for a week, but that was okay. She was learning and improving.

What subjects have we just covered with McGuffey? We have studied Speech; Reading; Vocabulary; Creative Writing; Penmanship; Spelling; and Grammar.

How long did it take? We managed to efficiently teach for only 15 to 30 minutes.

In Part Two I will explain how to teach your student to enjoy editing and proofreading. This will greatly help improve writing skills.

In Part Three I will explain how to develop fun writing ideas for your students. We will use nothing more than a notebook, pen and a dictionary.

In Part Four, I show you How to Teach Mental Math Skills.

Mrs. White


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Tristan said...

Thank you for this post. I am still reading and trying to decide how to use all the EES stuff. I think I like your way but my DD would probably revolt.

A question - was your oldest just fairly easygoing on needing to redo the writing it out part? That is really where I see my oldest rebelling. She does not like to write a long time, and rewrites can bring tears(part of it is how she holds her pencil I think - it makes her fingers hurt fairly quickly - we need to work on that). However, if I had her do rewrites the next day for round 2 of the lesson and just keep at it until she finished all 3 parts, it might work. Hmmm. Thinking about this.

Beth West said...

What good ideas!

Mrs. White said...

Tristan. There is no re-writing on the same day. She just had to try again, starting over the next day, as if she had never done the lesson at all. (A fresh start each day.)

When I corrected her work, I would use my pen and explain things like, where the Capital letter should have been, or where a comma was needed. But she didn't have to re-do her work.
We just went over the corrections verbally and with me marking her paper.

If she is easily frustrated, I wouldn't have her do it all at once (in one sitting). She could do Item 1 in the morning; Item 2 before lunch; and then Item 3 in the evening. Unless she was up to doing it at the same time, taking short breaks to play or have a snack.

Just take it at your own pace. You could break it up into three days (1 for each step) if that is better for your child. Do whatever works best in your situation.

The lessons in the 1st reader are very short and there are only a few vocabulary words, so it shouldn't take her too long to do the daily assignments. It gets progressively harder as she moves along. But take your time. It is important not to rush through the readers. The purpose is to master the skills, not necessarily to get them done.

Something to consider: There is nothing more important than learning to read and write. All other school work should be limited so the focus can be on Language arts. Otherwise, the child will be overly tired and overwhelmed.

For example: I had a student (not one of my children) who knew Science and names of many animals. She had an incredible memory from all the videos and lessons she had gone through in her homeschool. However, the child could not read or write at all. The time spent in school, in her case, should have had a heavier focus on reading and writing.

Susan said...

I agree that reading and writing are indeed the most important skills...once you have those mastered it is very easy to pick up facts and information by, you guessed it, reading and writing.

I'm looking forward to your post on editing and proofreading...this is a sticking point with my oldest.

Hillary (fellow Crew mate) said...

I love how you shared what you have done. It makes it seem so easy when I was wanting to make some long difficult thing neither of us liked. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I have used McGuffey for years and I love them. In fact I am on my third set!!

Michelle said...

Thank you for writing this post! I used McGuffey's for awhile and although I did some of what you did, I did not incorporate all which you did! You have included some great tips!

The Crazy Mom said...

Lovely as always!!!

Your biggest fan! :)

Kimberly @ RaisingOlives said...

Thank you for explaining this. I'm going to be using McGuffey with my children age 9 and younger beginning next week.

I think it will work perfectly with Madsen.

Again, thank you!!!

Amy Maze said...

Thanks so much for these practical ways to use McGuffey's. We're going to start using them with my *very* beginning reader once Christmas is over.

We already use Ray's Arithmetic! Great series, thanks for sharing!