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Linda’s Little Earlybird

Linda has two little boys, has always dreamed of
homeschooling but she’s brand new to the Guild Method. So she flew to
California this summer so that Sara and I could help her shape her the lessons.
Her oldest son, Zach, was ripe for Kindergarten and so was she!

Back home, when school days arrived, she was ready and so
pictures of little boys water coloring apple trees, little fingers writing
words in salt, little paint brushes encoding CVC words in tempera on butcher
paper in the bright sunshine, and little minds constructing giant floor puzzles
delighted my email inbox. SO cute! Linda's BoysSure, there were tiny kinks to adjust here and there, but
the transition to school days was a beautiful thing in Linda’s little Ohio Guild.

But we all know what’s coming, right? The very first one of those
best-laid-plans days. So here we are,
nearing October. And a different kind of email was grimacing in my inbox, “…it
turned out to be a super frustrating experience…Grrr.” It seems Zach recognized
that he was face-to-face with a pencil-to-paper challenge and he took an about

I smiled, “There it is…!”

 Linda was super excited to begin our Fall Discovery Guide with her son. I still am. I am super excited for
her rocky beginning because it tells her precisely where Zach is strong and
where Zach is weak. Now the trick is to slowly strengthen him so he sees the
uphill climb as an adventure.

Our Earlybird Discovery Guides are recommended for a range
of Kindergarten and lower level primary (grades 1 and 2) children who are in
the process of acquiring foundational decoding and encoding skills, but not yet
reading and writing independently. What this means is that the material must be
approached with the child’s ability in mind. The important thing at this stage
of academic development is to challenge the child to press into work that
requires discipline without crushing the marvelous innate passion for learning.

Here are the tips I
offered Linda—Easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Pace important work over 5 days.

Tackle the writing in
15-minute increments. Shrink some of the responsibility for writing, but not
the problem solving and idea making.


Read the story.

Have Zach draw the characters and to describe their
personality traits—how they think, act, feel. Capture three “trait” words from
his stream of communication and write them out so he can copy them into his
guide. Give him 15 minutes to do the copy work. 


Work on the vocabulary matching exercises together. Then,
read the sentences with the missing words and have Zach choose between two of
the vocabulary words to complete the sentences. Write the words that complete
each sentence for Zach to copy during his 15-minute “Important Work” time.


Read the story again, this time stopping periodically for
Zach to tell you what is about to happen.

Work with Zach to complete the comprehension sentences from
the Word Bank. Write the words that complete each sentence for Zach to copy
during his 15-minute “Important Work” time. 


No reading today… unless, that is, Zach asks you to read the
story again!

Today, for the sentences in the Comprehension section that
are to be completed with original phrases—dependent clauses—let Zach dictate
while you inscribe. That’s right, NO writing for Zach! As you complete each
sentence, write slowly, and say each word aloud as if you are sounding out
letter that forms the word. In doing so you will be modeling the art of
encoding language.


Have Zach re-tell the story in his own words. Then, read the
creative writing prompt for the Writing Exercise. Pass the Earlybird Guide to
Zach and let him “draw” his story with colored pencils. When he is done
drawing, let him dictate a two or three sentence to you. Inscribe his ideas…NO writing
for Zach!   

2. Think Longitude.

As Zach becomes more comfortable with writing—and this
will take time, think longitude—allow him to take over bits and pieces of the
writing you are doing for him.

3. Reach for the Stars!

Create a Star Chart and a prize box filled with
dollar-store trinkets. For every ten stars, Zach gets to go shopping. Here,
Linda came up with the terrific idea to use beans in a jar, clink clink clink,
what boy would not love this noise? Thanks Linda!


There’s a phrase I’ve learned to grip tightly over the
years. Recently, my dear friend, Christian, added a quirky little “whoa,
horsie” sass to the phrase. This made me chuckle, “Yes!” The phrase is
“stagger, tortoise.” Now you try it. That’s right. Now, say it again, only
louder, “S-t-a-g-g-e-r, tortoise!” 


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