Substantive Education

April Newsletter 2010

APRIL Newsletter

Grace Prep School

30750 Montgomery Ave., Nuevo, CA 92567


All of this information is also available at

Children learn grammar by listening to us speak.  Yes, at some point we teach them a few special names, like ‘noun’ and verb’, but for the most part kids absorb grammar.  (And the process of listening to a young child pick up some of the finer parts of language is one of the joys of parenting…don’t you just love all the creative, ‘incorrect’ usages they come up with.)  The point is, while we may need a few worksheets to perfect picking the verb out of a sentence, that is not where children gain their understanding.

We gain understanding as we ‘hear’ that certain word combinations just don’t sound right.  Before children are in school they realize that they shouldn’t yell, “Looked over there!”  Young children  may not understand that verbs have tense, but they know that sentence is wrong.   As time passes children pick up the speaking patterns of those around them.  This painless process allow us to transmit the grammar lessons our children need to learn.  Add in a year of solid grammar instruction in the later elementary school year and your kids should be prepared for high school work.

For me, teaching grammar was similar to potty training.  (Stick with me, the analogy is going somewhere.)  I never understood parents who obsessed over early potty training, spending inordinate amounts of time and effort to get their child to do something that in another year or so (more for those boys….) they could master in a week.  Okay, a week might be an exaggeration, but you get the point.  When we pay attention to our child and teach concepts when they are ready for them it’s not just easier, it avoids a great deal of frustration and failure.  This is true for potty training, and for academics.  Whether it’s reading, grammar, or long division, starting the instruction early can often backfire.  Children find, what could be a relatively simple process, to be long, laborious, and difficult…not because the subject matter is that complicated, but because they weren’t ready to tackle it yet.

Always, ALWAYS, keep in mind, you are teaching a child, not a curriculum.  Children do not develop on a nice. neat time-line.  It may seem that way as we look at the list of standards that our government has developed, but those standards and benchmarks are about some mythical sampling of children.  You have a unique person living with you.  Your little boy has his own set of strengths and ways of learning.  Children don’t learn in a neat upward curve, but in stops, starts, circles, and backward steps.  Minds and hearts can’t be forced into a one size fits all mold.  Isn’t this one of the reasons you chose to homeschool, so that you could provide an excellent, individualized education for your child.

So don’t fall into the trap of comparing what your child does with you at home, with what the neighbor child brings home for homework.  Because they are doing 5 worksheets on nouns doesn’t mean you need to.  Endless worksheets serve a purpose in school.  They provide busywork when the teacher needs to work with one group of children, they provide repetition which increases the odds that all 30 of the children will get the concept, and they provide proof that the standards are being met and children are learning. (Well, whether or not they prove that is a question for another time.)  BUT, you aren’t in a classroom.  You know your child.  You have the option of lingering for a while on a concept, of moving on, or of postponing a concepts introduction to a later date.

Teaching the abstract concept that, a ball is a noun, takes a great deal of work in 1st grade.  With enough reinforcements and worksheets you can get there, but why?  A short lesson in 4th grade would accomplish the same thing.  The point is, you have options.  I wanted my children to love learning and to master the necessary material to move on from high school to college.   I wanted them to feel successful in their schoolwork, not continually frustrated or bored.  In order to accomplish these goals I waited to introduce concepts until I was sure they were ready, and once a concept was mastered, we moved on.  I occasionally used worksheets for reinforcement or assessment, but I tried to make sure the exercises  served a purpose.

So, what exactly did we do?  In the early years we talked and read to our children ALOT.  I can’t overemphasize the point that this where children acquire their verbal and written skills.  We focused on helping them express themselves verbally, and we focused on developing a love for the written word.  I suspected that my active, easily bored boys would have balked at pages of worksheets, and I was far more concerned with developing their love of learning than diagramming a sentence.  (On the flip side, I know some girls who would love nothing more than to sit and fill our worksheets. They love watching the stack of completed work grow…if this is your child, follow their lead.)  As they began writing sentences they learned some basics; capitalize the first letter, put a period at the end etc.  In later elementary school we did a year of Easy Grammar (with a little Winston Grammar on the side.)  Then in Jr. High and High school they all studied Latin, which solidified their grammar knowledge.

The result…the boys all love to read; they love to write.  They didn’t just survive at college, they excelled there.  No doubt I could have hammered home a few more comma rules, but I’m not sorry I chose to place my emphasis where I did.    So yes, grammar and punctuation rules are important, our children should learn them, but don’t get so caught up in teaching rules and filing out worksheets, that you forget the big picture.



Watch your email (or the website). Soon I will be starting some free online courses. The first one will be a basic homeschooling course with lessons delivered to your email box. You will be able to register online (or have a friend who wants more info. Register). I’m planning to have them started by summer.


In an effort to get out time sensitive information in the most practical manner possible, we have decided to start a ‘Text Tree’. It is frequently impossible to reach people by phone, yet it seems just about everyone reads their texts…so If you wish to get field trip, or parent meeting reminders via text you can join the ‘text tree’. I don’t want to send out Texts to people who don’t want to receive them, so you will need to add your name and cell number to the list…you won’t automatically be added just because we have your cell number in our records. I will also be starting a Grace Prep Twitter account…so if you twitter, you can get updates there as well.


Friday, April 23rd

So, what is desk day? This is the brain child of several of our elementary school students. The want to decorate their table space at Friday classes to resemble their desk at home…or their ideal desk. I’m guessing this means a desk pad, pencil holder, framed photos or something similar. As this will be our first attempt at ‘desk day’ we shall see. So get you inner interior decorator going and plan the ideal desk space.

Just a heads up…Grossology will be at the Discovery Science Center from May 29th – Sept. 12th.

April Field Trip

Orange Railway Museum

Thursday April 15th

Cost: Dependent upon our numbers…probably $5 to $7. This will include train rides. (Make sure you are on the ‘text tree’ or check your email for final information.

We NEED 30 students. This is the train museum in Perris. It’s really a fun place for all ages. They have a lot of historical information for the older kids, and trains are always a hit with the younger crowd. The plan is to start our tour at 10, but the details are subject to change until I call with a final count after our meeting.

For those with older students who are really into trains, the museum also operates a program that teaches high school kids how to run the trains. They said many have graduated from the program and then gone on to work for the various transportation companies. Just a thought.

Perris Depot

We will picnic at the museum after the tour and then head over the newly restored Perris Depot to learn about the early settlers here in Perris.



If you would be interested please sign up. We can carpool. Many people get a hotel for the weekend, but it is close enough to drive out, or we could just go all day Saturday. The seminars are very well done, and it is great fun to shop the convention floor.

The Convention is July 16-18 in Pasadena. There is a teen conference that is going on at the same time. It’s not a cheap option…but I have always found it very worthwhile. Here is the financial info.

Pre-registration Rates

Save $13 by pre-registering by June 18, 2010

CHEA Member Non-Member
Saturday only $77.00 $107.00
Sunday only $77.00 $107.00
Both days $92.00 $122.00
Additional Family Member** $20.00 $20.00
Saturday only – Teen Convention $27.00 $29.00
Sunday only – Teen Convention $27.00 $29.00
Both days – Teen Convention $37.00 $39.00
Saturday only – Children’s Convention $40.00 $40.00
Sunday only – Children’s Convention $40.00 $40.00
Both days – Children’s Convention $80.00 $80.00


In recent years there have been more legal challenges to both homeschooling and parental rights. There are several organizations in California which work to protect those rights. If you would wish to be added to the mailing lists to receive updates on these issues, or you would like to join their phone trees here is the information. The phone trees are used to alert homeschoolers when a particularly troublesome piece of legislation is being considered…you are then given information to use to contact your representatives to voice your opinion. This method has protected our rights repeatedly in the past. I’d encourage each of you to stay informed and support these groups. (They are also a more reliable source on information than many internet or blogging sites which can be alarmist and contain mis-information.

Private and Home Educators of California

Legal-Legislative Update

To be on the email list you can sign up at


P.O. Box 2009

Norwalk, CA 90651-2009

or go to


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: