It looked so good, so well thought out and a thorough program. I purchased this vocabulary curriculum feeling it was a good solid product, a useful tool. I’d heard this company’s product praised far and wide in the homeschooling community. I’d avoided it for years as I was trying to avoid workbook based learning for my own personal distaste, due to too many workbook pages having been a part of my own public school education, which wanted short term recall of facts that were soon forgotten once the test was over and the next topic was moved on to. But I got to a point where I wished that more difficult vocabulary words were inside of my son’s brain, having not gotten there by reading good books, and figured an easy way for them to get there was to do short exercises in a workbook based program.
It turns out that the teaching methods of this workbook based vocabulary curriculum is exactly the opposite of what my son needs to be able to learn from it. The weirdest thing happens. He does the work. He does the work correctly and receives good grades. Yet he has learned nothing from the work. None of this information sticks. All that work was for naught. Well, on paper it looks good, for me to report that this child did all this work and we had goals and objectives and they were met. But nothing went into long-term memory. The fact that it was non-fun and the work was forced upon him is good to consider too, for it is one thing if a child does something fun and good and then nothing fantastic educationally come of it, at least they had the fun of doing. But in this case there is not even that.
This child of mine is a “very” right brained learner. To sit and passively read black ink on white pages and do workbook exercises like fill in the blank, true and false and matching exercises does nothing for him. Those things may test knowledge already learned but they do little to actually teach the content to him, unlike other kids whose learning styles are different, so reading words on the page and doing that kind of work somehow cements the content into their mind.
This child of mine also has a visual processing learning disorder, a neurological condition. A thing to know about people with an LD is that they only have so much “room” or “energy” to handle learning in a day. When that is tapped out, they are done for the day. No matter what else someone wants them to do, work that is pushed to be produced, or no matter how much something is studied, they are done and over with for the day. All that effort will be for naught. This son’s LD doesn’t directly affect his ability to learn from this vocabulary curriculum, but I think part of his challenge is the taxed brain itself.
Last year when my son began using this program it was a daily struggle. He put effort into it for a number of days spread out over a couple of months. He used it, took a break from it, revisited it, and did more work in it. I finally gave up and decided compared to all the rest of the things he was doing, this was a low priority. This curriculum covers a full grade of vocabulary.
Today I looked over it again. I’m not feeling very enthusiastic. My sentiment at the moment is “why bother?”
I asked a homeschooling mother who knows a lot about visual spatial learners (right brained learners) how vocabulary could be approached. She said with her child she uses a two pronged approach of some workbook curriculum work and the other half is vocabulary words picked from articles in The Wall Street Journal. They read the article and discuss it and research words the child does not know. To this end I spent time in the spring picking out WSJ articles that would be of interest to my son. I haven’t tried that method yet though.
Thinking about the right brained learning thing, or “visual spatial” learner thing, I have suggestions that I heard Dianne Craft talk about at a homeschooling conference in 2008. She suggested making 8x11 flash cards of the word in bright colors and with hand drawn images placed on top of the word and to associate the graphic with the word’s definition or to tell a story around the word, even a silly story, to cement the info in story format and with bright interesting visual images into the child’s mind. I have used that technique with spelling words (highlighting the mistake in the word in a different color) with success. I have not yet tried this for vocabulary words yet.
I’m feeling torn about vocabulary with my son. Here I have last year’s curriculum in hand. Should I abandon it as it is not working? This is last year’s grade level, should I use this or buy the next level up? Would this kind of work be good practice for taking standardized tests and for school assignments should the child land in middle school or high school—so perhaps I should force him to suffer through it? Should I use these lessons as a base for doing the Dianne Craft method of flash cards? Should we do two chapters a month and then use the other half of the month to read from WSJ article words?
When I started writing this the gist was supposed to be about deciding to quit the use of a curriculum and feeling alright with the decision to abandon it. But now that I’ve thought this out by writing about it I think perhaps a better use of our money would be to keep this curriculum and to modify its use by supplementing it with use of flash cards a la Dianne Craft’s method. I could use half of it, and then add in a second thing (the WSJ article idea).
I guess now the decision is to keep the curriculum and modify its use to customize it to match my unique child.
In case you’re wondering, the curriculum is Wordly Wise 3000 Book 6 second edition, by Kenneth Hodkinson (grade 6).
Answer Key for Teachers
Teacher Manual which I don’t own and didn’t know existed!
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