Saturday, January 06, 2007

Grammar & Spelling

unschooling in action

People often ask how unschooling looks or how it happens. It may sound intriguing, but how DO kids learn things like grammar and spelling. Here are some examples of unschooling in action. If you have an example you would like to share, please send an email to goobmom23 AT yahoo DOT com.

My 10-year-old had been exchanging emails with a friend. They’d been on for much of the afternoon – apparently having a sort of running conversation through email.

My daughter mentioned that she always tries to write using capitals and periods in the correct places. She said, "I notice when my friend writes to me, she doesn't do that at all. She never uses capitals and she misspells a lot of stuff." I told her that I thought the girl was using a lot of "internet writing" which was really more of a new language that was evolving. She said, "Like LOL and OMG?" So we talked about that type of writing and what she thought about it. I admitted that I was probably a bit of a language snob. I've adopted some of it -- the smiley face and LOL most specifically, but I told her I still prefer the standard (pre-Internet) way of writing. She thought she did too. She said a lot of the shortcut writing is hard to read, hard to understand, and we discussed how it was a lot like learning a foreign language.

Then she told me that she thought the spell check on yahoo email worked better than the one on Microsoft Word. We pulled up Word and I showed her how she hadn't been using the full-blown spell check. She just right clicks on words the computer underlines in red as she is typing. I had her type three sentences, told her not to worry about the spelling, just to type them. The second sentence she typed entirely correct without help. That's why I had her type a third. I showed her the "spelling and grammar" check function then. It helped her correct a couple of words she struggled with. One of the things she had typed was “a elepant.” The spell/grammar tool suggested "an" instead, so we talked about the use of “a” vs. “an”. I can guarantee that the information stuck because I’ve seen her use a/an correctly since then. Oh, and she was tickled that she was so close to the correct spelling of elephant and told me that she knew the "ph" for "f" sound but had forgotten.

Then she asked me about something she had come across while working on a story she has been writing. She said that when she wrote, "Jake, me and Mom went to the store," the computer would correct her and suggest that "I" should be used. She asked if that was right because it sounded wrong to her. So I showed her that the way to figure it out was to say each individually... Jake went to the store, Me went to the store, Mom went to the store. She agreed immediately that "I went to the store" sounded better, but still felt that it sounded too stuffy when she used all three people going -- she wanted to use "me." We also talked about the ordering of the subjects in a sentence like this and what was grammatically correct compared to what was politely correct. (Jake, Mom and I...)

She asked if it was a style thing that you could do either way. I told her that this was a case where I would argue that it was not a style thing. However, I agreed that you can always decide to break a grammar rule if you want to, but that this was one I wouldn't break. Then we talked about using I as the subject of a sentence and me as the object. This got a little deeper and I'm not sure it was entirely clear to her, but she was satisfied for the time being.

THIS was such a satisfying experience. We really had some connecting time and it was so cool hearing her ask these questions and knowing how she is putting this knowledge to use. She is improving in leaps and bounds with her writing skills. She's asking the questions and getting the answers and putting it together in a way that makes sense to her.

I also got to read her story. It is now almost two pages long (single spaced) and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to watch something like this unfold. I’ve been typing stories as my kids dictate them for years. Each time I get to read what she has written, we discuss first if she wants my editing assistance or if she just wants me to read it for story. This time, it was just to read the story. It was wonderful. The coolest thing is that she loves the story, too, and she’s enjoying the process of writing it.

-Tracy S.

I was reading a book to the kids and the kids asked, "what's this?" and were pointing to a comma and "what's that?" and were pointing to an asterisk, so I got to explain what they were for and why. I was writing a story for Jade on the computer and she asked why I wrote it the way I did. Her story has lots of dialogue. So I explained what the quotes were for. The thing that was really cool to me is that her writing had such active voice. She has listened to so many books she just knows intuitively that a good story is very active. We've been having some fun with "spelling" sort of. Jade and I are playing lots of hangman. It's a game for her but it's helping her see patterns to words. Corbin plays along too but he goes to find words for me to guess.

- Samantha S.

Today in the car, my son, age 6, said, "Mom! That sign said zoo -- only it had one 'o' instead of two and the 'z' was sideways." We had to look at the sign again. It said, "No" as in "no parking on this side of street." I think perhaps he was just really hoping for a zoo trip.

-Tracy S.

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