What kind of place the world would be if everyone possessed advanced grammar skills? This sounds like quite a loaded question. In most classes at the beginning of the academic year, I meet students who did not study with me previously, and if I ask them what they know about grammar, their answer invariably showcases that they do not even have command of the most basic—the different parts of speech. Answers like 'a noun is a person, place, or thing' are ingrained and a trained automatic response that sounds like we are off to a good start, but that is mostly where grammar brilliance ends. A solid understanding of what grammar is, the benefits it holds, and why it even matters remain obscure to them. At this point I plant grammar seeds as an attainable skill with promise that those who dig in can expect abundant life-long growth and rich rewards.
Why students do not excel in grammar studies have many reasons, but Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development plays a cardinal role in this pursuit. I have experienced 'tiger parents' who expect junior to become a grammar god long before the student is in this proximal zone. Speeding though levels of a set curriculum without deep understanding has no value. You can train all you want but the rewards will not manifest other than a confusion of trying to remember what the part of speech for a certain word may be instead of knowing how it functions in its particular occupied spot in a sentence. Most curricula start by teaching 'parts of speech' in a set order with identifying, labeling, or fixing it. My approach eliminates erroneous thinking and focuses on reasoning.
I mentor and inspire learners to first read and understand the context, then think, followed by verbalizing how they understand what is happening. Practicing their reasoning skills in this manner sets them up for a deep love and solid understanding of the intricacies of grammar.
Past students who sat for the SAT, ACT and CLEP exams attain superior scores and attribute this to the way they were mentored. This is to always think critically because it is the foundational gateway to everything else. Grammar skills are easily attainable at any age. Knowing grammar transforms all thinking and communication regardless of form.
Study grammar perceptively
because it is the bedrock that facilitates concrete progress. At times it might feel like you are turning it upside down, but this is exactly what is required. Having command of grammar will change you life beyond just writing—it is a form of critical thinking!
June 16, 2023Photo by Karam Alani
When I talk to parents of prospective students or the learners themselves, they are most often not aware that approximately two-thirds of the English language consist of words that are derived from either Latin or Greek. The argument for studiousness in such activity is compelling.
Not knowing roots words can best be equated to walking in a forest shrouded in dense fog. You know there is beauty all around you, but you cannot fully appreciate it. Unless the fog dissipates the splendor of nature remains obscured. Think of root word study in exactly the same way. Being able to use words effectively impacts all forms of communication directly. Unambiguous discourse is the ultimate goal!
Being able to unravel meaning is paramount to understanding. Have you ever wondered how is it possible that participants in the Scripps Spelling Bee can clearly not know what a word means, yet they can spell it perfectly? It is by knowing their roots and affixes! Studying Latin and Greek roots are considered the holy grail of vocabulary. I dare you to study only one level available here and experience how the fog can lift and vanish. You owe this to yourself!
June 16, 2023Photo by Brandon Green
Little by little...one walks far!
This Peruvian proverb shaped our family's home school experience. At first, I scribbled it on a poster and pinned it our classroom wall. Over time this grew on all of us, and on occasions I would share it, when appropriate. Little did I know what the impact of these plain words would have on the trajectory of my family's lives. We all aspired to enhance our progress by 1% per day. This was a tall order, but the mere fact that everyone in the natal family shared the same vision for themselves made the difference. We all attained goals that at first, we did not believe we could reach.
During a trip to Peru, the actual wisdom of these words dawned on me. Walking the Andes, one cannot be in a rush because the physical incline of this giant could easily cost your life. Even native Llamas take it real slow, and every step calculated with laser focused precision! It was only when I stood on the edge of a precipice, looking back in time, that I connected the dots of our homeschooling journey.
No matter whether chose the same journey or not, every step you take each day counts—be that a reconnaissance into writing, painting, play the guitar, learning to fly, conquering math or anything else, take your learning journey serious and at your comfortable pace because all long-term results speak for itself.
Little by little, one walks far! —Peruvian Proverb
Reluctant and Eager Writers: Both Present a Challenge!
It was an honor to raise two lovely young men who
dwelled on the opposite sides of the willingness to write spectrum. As a home school mom, I learned much and am educated in aspects of writing that I could
not have ever contemplated in my life before I had children. Teaching our boys to write was literally like walking on eggs!
My younger son's writing journey is an inspiring story. He has severe myopia and is totally lost without his spectacles or contact lenses. A phonetic writer at age four and being able to read up-side down, he designed all kinds of machines, sketched them out complete with a 'bill of materials needed' in shopping list format—ready for the next trip to town. His interest in chemistry was well developed and after burning a 3ft diameter hole in our beloved living room carpet it was evident that he had hugely hot ambitions. The local pharmacist and staff placed him on a watch list list—no goods or transactions unless parents are present! The pharmacist, a wise man, alerted us to his discussions with our son, and the fact that he used the Internet for real research in making astonishing concoctions. This young man was an innovator, a designer, and a writer—the real deal!
During 2008 at a home school co-op writing class, the girl sitting next to the little innovator announced her intention of becoming an author. To this he replied, 'Interesting... I am one already!' He could outwrite and outwit all of his peers. As we know, writing is only desirable when others want to read your output. He sharpened his skills to the delight of others. When he enrolled in the Cambridge A-Levels program a year before going to university, his lecturer was suitably impressed with his prowess and advised him to continue in his masterful style. Weeks later at a parent evening, the teacher conveyed that there was little else that she could teach him. In her opinion his poetry output was most striking. I must confess to my insistence and inclusion of rigorous poetry memorization, analysis, and composition practices. This young man graduated college well before time. He remains an avid reader with communication skills is in a class of its own!
My older son was born with strabismus, a curious eye condition that causes double vision. Not knowing that he observed the world differently than anyone else, and which did not manifest until he attended the International School of Cape Town, Somerset West, I had no idea of the journey ahead of us. After three months of 'learning to read', he had memorized many pictures and the exact texts that matched every depiction. This skill is still serving him well as near photographic memory was his reward.
Looking back, the clues to his discomfort were so obvious. How could we have missed it? If you have not been exposed to such a bizarre situation, you will never know! There was nothing amiss with the grade of his vision, and he still boasts 20/20 today. This perfect result contributed to the immense difficulty of pinpointing the physical problem of seeing double, and how the brain ultimately interprets the visual input, however, hindsight shows that there were tell-tale signs.
Energetic with gusto for life, he had pronounced difficulties in some developmental areas. He could not catch a ball or hit one—no matter how slowly it was thrown or how massive the racquet was. My husband and I were perplexed about why he would express huge interest in some activities yet quickly depart from them while different undertakings seemed just fine. After careful analysis we realized that those which required a sharply focused vision such as catching/hitting a ball, reading, and writing all presented problems. He was unable to read or write. Selective avoidance was the name of his game. He could play video games comfortably when presented on a TV at distance, yet the computer screen presented a clear problem. All kinds of reasons for gravitating towards the first-mentioned as his preference always presented logically. Getting him to write anything was like pushing a lead-filled wheelbarrow uphill! It just did not happen. The reason for all of this was double vision. By his age the brain generally blinds the subordinate eye. He was lucky—both still worked but the physical offset prevented conversion.
Apart from his vision difficulty, he struggled with aspects of sensory integration. Jeans could not be tolerated, labels had to be removed from the inside of all clothing, wearing socks with seams was out of the question, and shoes were not even and option! These issues also manifested in what he ate. Food had to be crunchy in texture. Mushy foods were not even an option! As the years progressed, we adapted his environment so that it was optimal for him. Occupational-, physical therapy, and biokinetics positioned him to have a positive outlook on his surroundings. Auditory integration therapy helped with plugging developmental gaps due to hearing, prediction, and cognition inefficiencies.
After two precision eye surgeries, ingenious sensory interventions, and unfailing support from experienced experts, his hurdles were mostly overcome, and he could get started with reading and writing. By this time, he was a solid five and a half years behind his peers academically. Our focus turned to remedial strategies and interventions for dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dyslexia. Love, patience, and diligent practice closed the gaps. This was a far tougher journey than anticipated, but he was determined and made measurable progress. Constantly calibrating his environment, he built confidence in his own abilities and started to thrive.
As parents having to deal with this peculiar situation, we only discussed his diagnoses on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Looking back, I know today that this was wisdom beyond what we ourselves understood at the time. We were still based in South Africa and although expert assistance was available it was not as cutting edge as in other parts of the word. My husband travelled to the US on a regular basis, and we were blessed to have acquired books, therapies, and teaching aids that was not readily available in South Africa. Reflecting on what transpired, I know the results manifested due to him being a stubbornly determined student who have parents with equal traits. Miracles like this happen quite often. It goes by the name—STUDIOUSNESS.
Where did all of this leave me? Teaching!
My boys taught me how to best approach all kinds of writers. I use my first-hand gained and lived experience as well as expertise accumulated from tertiary-level study to teach others especially those facing similar predicaments to write well!
It's not to early to start
Teaching started very early, before Yatri was even born!
Alta read stories to him, sang songs, and played classical music while he was still developing in her womb. Fifteen months later, Kahlil started his educational journey on the same path. Their education was exceptional and fun! There were no boundaries or limits to what the subject had to be for any particular day.
Today, Yatri is studying at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University to become an Aerospace Engineer. He wants to help save the human species by designing ships to take us out there! Kahlil is at Florida’s youngest high-tech school, Florida Polytechnic University, where he is mastering his understanding of our world as an exceptional Data Scientist, specializing in Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning!
Originally posted on June 3, 2020
Selecting Konos™, a character-based curriculum, enabled our family to find other families like us through their networking opportunities, regardless of where we lived. The practical style of learning accommodated our ADHD boys with a life of exploration and attainment that was well beyond our initial expectations. Bored never entered the vocabulary because there was always a venture to be had. The boys' innate curiosity and sense of awe were stimulated, and they acted upon it at every turn. Rich and free experiences in nature while living and traveling in Africa and her islands, positioned both boys for a life of learning and adventure.
Upon moving to the USA in 2010, our family settled in Texas for a year. We seamlessly connected with other KONOS™ homeschool families. During this time, the boys and I continued the writing journey we started in a co-op in South Africa, using the Institute in Excellence Writing™ (IEW) materials. We completed that core curriculum and other best-of-breed programs with profound results. Having studied Latin, some classics, elements of writing, much math, formal logic, and critical thinking skills, both young men moved forward to pursue rigorous academic disciplines and careers. They mentored their peers who were somewhat ill-prepared for college level writing challenges with remarkable success. The older is an Aerospace Engineer that graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the younger is a Data Scientist after graduating from Florida Polytechnic University.
As a proponent of keeping the HOME in homeschooling, I encourage parents to focus on helping their child discover their passion. Benefits from choosing a curriculum centered on the acquisition of first-hand experiences and real discovery helped us in raising two independent thinkers who have empathy and compassion. The non-competitive environment they were afforded eliminated fear and uncertainty, allowing for optimal learning experiences. Our family was truly blessed by the community and support from our fellow KONOS™ families no matter where we found ourselves.
Enjoy the pictures. This is a glimpse into the hands-on discovery, farm day picnics, field trips, and glorious travels.
Starting Out and Looking back
Looking back on the past twenty-five years, I have an enormous sense of
gratitude for the 180° turn my life took. Homeschooling our two extremely
active boys taught me a host of skills I would not have acquired otherwise.
When the boys were born, I owned a custom software development business. It
soon became evident that raising two boys and running this enterprise at the
same time were impossible balls to juggle! The decision to just focus on the
boys was greatly accelerated by an unfortunate event that compelled us to leave
our Gauteng home.
A Big Move
Our family moved to the Western Cape Province via Elands Bay. This minute fishing village is situated on the spectacular rugged west coast of South Africa. We spent just over a year in this pristine environment. Our family's arrival augmented the population from twenty-three to twenty-seven! Some of our best memories include long walks on endless rock-pool dotted abundant-with-life beaches, a whale rescue, red-tide lobster walkouts, and witnessing several daring ocean rescues and recoveries. Some villagers had interesting stories to tell about how their forbears washed up on shore after being shipwrecked in past centuries. My personal favorite remains the gossip of how one of the oldest inhabitants was the first on the scene of an aircraft accident that supposedly carried a haul of diamonds, destined for the British monarchy. Predictably, the cargo vanished into thin air!
Our next destination was the foothills of the majestic Hottentot-Holland Mountain range. We lived in rural Stellenbosch, headquarters of the South African wine industry and fine-cultured living. By this time, we had two years learning the KONOS™ way, a character-based curriculum. In the immediate vicinity, we found solace with like-minded families who were all using the same. Our co-op group continually varied in size, depending on which character traits were studied. All the families embraced the five D’s philosophy of KONOS™: Do, Discover, Dramatize, Dialogue, and Drill. Co-operative classes were planned, prepared, and hosted at homes, on a local farm, or public venues. Field trips and monthly picnics were planned as to enhance the experience and the material at hand. Our family was richly endowed with many travels throughout Africa and her stunning islands. Homeschooling our sons have blessed and educated us far beyond what we could have imagined at the outset.
A Giant Leap Across the Atlantic!
An expatriate, US based career opportunity was presented to my husband, and we migrated to the USA where this journey continued. Finding like-minded homeschoolers were at times a challenge. Both boys pursued their interest and seamlessly integrated into tertiary education and beyond. Their homeschool education included much associative learning and practical skills. They both graduated from university with top-level accolades.May 29, 2018