Friday, December 2, 2011

Tools of Power

I have a love-hate relationship with the book, Home Learning Year by Year, by Rebecca Rupp. When I start to worry that my boys might be 'behind' in a subject compared to 'normal' kids, I pull the book out to see where we stand. Most of the time we ace this little test. But sometimes I find that we're not measuring up in one place or another. I have never been one to worry too much about where we are in comparison to others. I want the boys to follow their own learning path with only a few defined expectations at certain points along the way. However, once in awhile I find a goal in this book that makes me say, "Wow! Why haven't I taught that to the boys yet?" I found one this week.

I was casually flipping through chapter four where the grade two requirements are listed. I figured EM should have most of these mastered since we consider him to be a third grader. We chose that designation mostly for the testing requirement that Pennsylvania homeschoolers must meet.

Under the Language Arts heading in the book I found this one:

Obtain specific information from print materials. Second graders should be able to use structural features of the text-table of contents, chapter heading, index-to locate specific factual information.

I remembered how both JT and EM were having trouble finding certain snakes in a book they were using recently. When I suggested they "look it up in the back of the book" I was met by blank stares. At the time, I just filed it away as something to work on in the future. But now this book was telling me that even a second grader should know how to use the index, etc. Time to get serious!

Both boys are fairly capable of using a dictionary to find a word. And I don't mean online...I mean a REAL dictionary. They are also familiar with the thesaurus. So, I pulled out a wide variety of reference books from our shelves; atlases, dictionary, travel guide, encyclopedia, Bible commentary, concordance, a textbook and a non-fiction book with a glossary AND an index. We sat down together surrounded by a wealth of information. I explained how the table of contents works in most books. We looked at the way the encyclopedias had an entire book JUST for the index. We saw how the concordance was split into sections with both the Hebrew and the Greek words. I showed the boys the difference between a glossary and an index. Then I asked each of them to find something for me using these tools. When we were finished with our lesson, it was hard to drag them away from the awesome maps in the atlas. In fact, it was hard for ME to put them away. After all, who can resist a good map?

Of course, you may be thinking, "These kids are growing up with the entire World Wide Web at their fingertips. Why not just teach them to use Google?" Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's important to know how to use all available resources when we are searching for an answer. And you never know...some stormy night, when the power goes out, and their smart phone is missing, they might really need to know the capital of Guam...and then where will they be?

Silliness aside, as homeschoolers we often talk about how we want our children to 'learn how to learn'. Knowing how to use these tools of power is the first step on that journey.

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