Just by speaking, we learn vocabulary. By reading, we naturally learn it all the more.
Grandma overheard her granddaughter refer to her coccyx getting hurt on the sled hill (not conventional nine year old terminology, but she has a medical dad). We speak, they learn.
I don’t teach vocabulary. But I am a word geek. I have the Webster’s dictionary podcast and listen to the word of the day and its roots. Some of them I’ll never use, but my subconscious will be pricked: there is a better word for that, so I look it up.
Instead, we read. A lot.
By far, this has a huge impact on their vocabularies (and their ability to recognize and spell those words), because reading dramatically enhances vocabulary. Even when they don’t look up a word, they can see that word in context.
I have stacks of books that I’d like them to work through, less than a half hour each day. But they have assigned reading.
For science and history, a solid portion of their time is built on reading. When they were younger, I read to them. Now they find a quiet place after lunch and we all sit together and read quietly alone.
And I have learned I have to pause and explain vocabulary, even when I don’t want to be interrupted.
Early in homeschooling, when our kids were little, we sat around the kitchen table ready to enjoy dinner, when someone asked a question, I would get them to be quiet so I could hear about my husband’s day. Then it dawned on me that I had the responsibility to answer all their questions: if I didn’t answer their questions, who would?
Not long later, we’d talk world economics, politics, chess strategy moves, my husband’s obstetrical cases (names not disclosed), plans for our future trips…anything was up for discussion.
Kids can understand anything, if they want to.
There have been times I have sent the kids to a dictionary to search for a word’s meaning. But never do I assume that they can’t try to make out the meaning by its context. We adults do this all the time. We don’t set the newspaper down to check our online dictionaries. We just read and try to figure it out or go on.
Children can understand anything; anything can be taught to a child.
No, every child doesn’t want to understand every concept. But if they want to learn a concept, they are capable. It simply takes a little effort to simplify.
In an educational experiment, one fellow left a computer in an Indian village where kids weren’t English fluent, no computer exposure and they figured out that technology quickly. (TedEdX)
This has been an eye-opener for me too. I didn’t attend a prestigious private school, so Latin was all Greek to me!
Now that we’ve worked through nearly an entire book, I can see why many suggest working through Greek and Latin roots…they are the prefixes and suffixes of a lot of our English language. You’ll always know that…means… Constellations names are built from these roots too. Word roots are the basis of solid spelling and vocabulary.
Now, the kids overhear a movie character referred to with a Latin phrase and can correct them. They can read Latin on the American dollar bill and the signposts on university entrances. Now, my nineteen year old is studying Latin in university! (Now that did surprise me.)
We create stories out of cut outs from words clipped from magazines.
Cut challenging words from magazines and throw them into a glass. Have the kids write a story from one word. Add a second word to the next sentence and so on. For extra fun, have each kiddo take turns writing a wacky story.
So much fun learning vocabulary.
“Do not speak unless you can improve upon silence.”