“But the learning of the alphabet should be made a means of cultivating the child’s observation: he should be made to see what he looks at.” - CM 1/201
Here's how it began. As a baby/toddler my son had some letter toys. I sewed some big cloth ones; he had a wooden puzzle and ABC blocks. We hung his name on the wall in his room, and he began to recognize and learn those letters almost without prompting. It was like curiosity got the better of him, and he had his own interest in those ‘shapes’ that he was seeing repeatedly in the world around him. He would ask me, “What’s that letter, Mom?” I never drilled him with flashcards; we didn't watch alphabet DVDs. We learned the letters A, J, Q, K while playing card games. He knew D was for Dad, and M for Mom. and we read S-T-O-P every time we walked to the end of our road. Simple.
About halfway through the year, I could tell his interest was growing; he began to fill up piece after piece of scratch paper with E’s, P’s, and T’s etc. and explain how he was being a book writer. So, keeping it interest driven, we went a little further, and I started loosely doing a letter of the week lesson. This I kept very simple, practical and something that requires little to no prep! I didn't want to weekly find library books to go along with each letter, or remember to print off a coloring page, or spend time pulling together craft supplies for a cute pinterest letter project. I didn't even put the alphabet up on the wall.
The lessons flowed like a breeze until we hit 'Ss." I noticed frustration and that the fun seemed to be out of the lesson. So I completely backed off. I didnt even mention the letter lesson for a few weeks. We instead played games, and read together on the couch. Once while waiting in line, we drew S in the air. Once while finger painting we made S on the paper. Once while counting for fun, I drew on paper for him an S next to a 5 next to a 2 and we identified each one. After a while I pulled out the letter lesson (as above), just to test the waters and he wrote his Ss with not a worry! Now we're off again to finish up the rest of the alphabet.
My other goal during our lessons is for him to give focused mental effort for a short period of time, a gentle building up to first grade work. In the context of everyday life, the letters we are learning pop up quite often, of course. I love seeing how he's noticing. If I'm observant I can tell exactly what he already knows, and I don't have to quiz him over it in any way. I think Mason would describe it in her own lovely way, as a living idea that is forming its due relations.
- We made our own version of these language objects by raiding Grandma's craft cupboard and cake decorating supplies. I might make labels to go with them. I saw something similar on a bulletin board in a kindergarten room once.
- - I love these images of Nature's Alphabet (free printable.)
- My kids like this magnetic toy, though I wish the pronunciation was clearer.
So, for the pre-reading skills level, this is what we're doing, nothing elaborate. Next will come those very first reading lessons, which I am really looking forward to doing when he's ready! I hope to follow and document how we use Mason's method as outlined in Volume 1 and described well in this series of lovely blog entries. I am also liking this book for possible future phonics instruction.
“Reading presents itself first amongst the lessons to be used as instruments of education, although it is open to discussion whether the child should acquire the art unconsciously, from his infancy upwards, or whether the effort should be deferred until he is, say, six or seven, and then made with vigour.” - CM 1/200