Learning to Alphabetize

One of the smartest women I know once said to me that she didn’t see any point in teaching children to alphabetize in this computer age. She had heard something and it sounded good to her at the time.

Alphabetizing to me is one of those skills like cursive, which at first hand seems no longer important, but actually, has greater use than first appears. We probably use it more often than we realize because we take it for granted. I don’t think a specific target age is necessary, but somewhere they should be learning it.

Incidentally, I am also old fashioned enough to believe in teachingchildren the names of the alphabet as one of the first steps in learning how to read. The letter A is the letter A, all the time. The sound ‘a’ sometimes look like a (father), sometimes ah (Ahmed) or Aw (flaw, paw), and sometimes o (Bob). I don’t teach the names of other things by their function, but by the name by which they are commonly understood. Holding off on the names of the letters and teaching their sounds first seems unnecessarily confusing, and much more involved than first teaching the names of the tools for literacy, and then teaching the various sounds and combinations you can create with those tools, such as “a and w together say aw, as in saw, flaw, awful, and b and e together

At least with the notion that we don’t need to know the letters but only their sounds to begin reading, eventually the children do learn the names of the letters. But I feel like not teaching them letter order is an unnecessary encumbrance. Alphabetizing is something kids should be able to do. Not knowing this skill, like cursive, cuts them off from part of the past- old books and papers are stored and sorted alphabetically, as are ephemera at history museums and other old collections.

Knowing abc order is also useful if you organize papers of any sort, or want to organize your own books alpha by author, of if you want to look something up in the index of a paper book (such as using a cookbook to find a recipe, or looking up a reference in a history book Perhaps you want to work part or volunter time at your library. Maybe you wish to help a teacher put together packets of information for students or organize materials- probably, they are stored alphabetically. Maybe you want to quickly find a new canned vegetable or spice at the grocery store (where they are organized alphabetically). Possibly you’ve been asked to hang up the personalized name key-chains at the local gift shop (or you want to find your name)- they will be alphabetical order. Suppose you need to file dental x-rays at your job, or insurance claims. Many are computerized, but I still my doctor carrying around medical charts with my name on them, and these are filed alphabetically.

I am sure I could come up with a dozen more uses without too much straing on my foggy brain. Having been convince by my sterling logic because of course you are, what next?

It does require more than just knowing the alphabet- that gets you so far as organizing alpha by letter, but it doesn’t help much when it is time to sort the Dickens from the Dixons, not to mention Dickman, Dickerson, and Dickey.

Teach them first to put words in order based on the first letter- this is simple. Use spice names, author’s last names, the names of political figures, the ames of fish or butterfly species, or some favourite foods. It’s not that important what. It’s important thye get used to doing this. Maybe pick ten words a day and work on it for five minutes or less.

Next teach them that if the first letter is the same, then they alphabetize with a group of words where the first letter is the same by looking at the second letter. Here are some sample words to make it easy for you (just cut them apart and then have the student put them in order):

1. Some African countries:
Cape Verde

2. Some flowers
Flamingo Flower
Foxtail Fern
Fuji Mums

3. More flowers
Goat’s Beard
Guersney Lily

4. Random critters
Clown Fish

Go to a library and look at how the fiction is arranged, or pull out an old, actual dictionary and flip through the pages finding a few more examples.
Look in the index of a few books, look up some specific words by the first letter.

When they are comfortable with this, teach them what to do if the first two letters are the same (you look at the third letter), and put this list in alphabetical order:

5. The longest rivers in the Philippines
Cagayan River
Rio Grande de Mindanao
Agusan River
Pulangi River
Pampanga River
Agno River
Abra River
Abulog River
Chico River
Davao River

6. Some rivers on the main island of Luzon in the Philippines:
Abra River
Abulog River
Agno River
Angat River
Apayao River
Balili River
Bay River
Bicol River
Libmanan River
Naga River
Yabu River
Mangayawan River

7. Some vegetables
Patty pans
Pinto beans
Purple Salsify

8. More vegetables

Bamboo shoots/Bamboo sprouts
Banana squash
Basil/Sweet basil
Belgian endive
Broccolini/Baby broccoli
Brussels sprout
Bitter leaf
Bitter melon
Black-eyed peas
Bok choy

This resource might be useful: https://www.superteacherworksheets.com/alphabetical-order.html

Make your own by looking up a few words in the index of any book your student is reading that has such an animal.

Or copy a few words from a dictionary.

A list of African countries in alphabetical order


Practice filling in the blanks on a short group of letters like this:

l, m, n, __, p

h,__, j, k

q, r, s, __

c, __, e, f

q, r, _, t

b, __, d

(make your own)

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K-drama, I’m Psycho and It’s Okay

I watched the last episod just a few minutes ago, and It’s my new favourite all time K-drama. It’s so cool.

You don’t forget the bad memories, you overcome them, and you don’t erase them, you paint over them with something better.

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I have a robot or machine to vacuum, to wash clothes, to dry clothes, to grate cheese, chop onions, mix bread or cookie dough, to heat water, cook rice, perk my coffee, keep it warm, and one to wash and dry my dishes.

Why is it so hard to put the dishes in the machine that washes and dries them, and then take  them out again?

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Educating Your Children (and Yourself)

In this time of Covid and Quarantines, lockdowns and uncertainty about if or when schools will open and under what conditions, many people who never thought they would are now considering homeschooling.

When looking for a curriculum, for ideas on what to do with your children, I would suggest first considering the following idea as a principle and guideline. It’s part of an introduction to a British geography book written, the author says, without regard to government standards. She encourages those using the book to keep in mind:

“… it is no waste of time, even as regards examination results, to wake a child’s interest and make learning an affair of the mind as well as of the memory. This is what has been aimed at in these chapters. If they fail in that they fail altogether “

Your goal is not to slavishly follow the government standards for your state as though education is a finicky process which can only be accomplished by strictly following a recipe concocted by a committee of bureaucrats who have never met your child and know nothing of your family.  I realize this idea of veering outside those lines is a terrifying process. We want the best for our kids. We do not wish to ruin their lives forever by making the wrong educational choices this year. You are worried that if we don’t teach suffixes and prefixes at the right time, when the schools open up and your put your kids back in, they won’t be prepared.

You will not ruin their lives forever by making the wrong educational choices in any given year, and most especially not during this topsy turvy time whenever everybody is stressed and experiencing the same wild uncertainties.  If and when schools reopen and you do send your kids back, the educators know that they are getting back a large group of students who have had disparate educational experiences during shut downs. They will be having to play catch-up regardless of your personal choice.  And even if that is not so, ‘to awaken a child’s interest and make learning an affair of the mind as well as the memory’ is a remarkable gift and accomplishment. Any human being with that awakened mind and interest will be able to make the best of the environment they find themselves in.   In regards to exams and standards, it is remarkable how well a human being with an awakened mind and interest goes about learning all sorts of things inadvertently, accidentally, through wide reading, outside play, conversations with elders, and opportunities to observe the world around us. It is even more remarkable how quickly they manage to fill in the gaps for themselves when they notice something missing in their understanding.


So relax a little. Take a few deep, deep  breaths.

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Eclectic collection of links and news

Somebody asked me about multicultural or diversity in picture study (a Charlotte Mason practice). Those interested in the topic might like this.


I’m sharing the above because I like clever, innovative, hacks that people come up with.  I am not posting to have an argument about whether or not schools should reopen (I don’t have an opinion), teachers need to do this stuff (not interested in discussing it), whose fault anything is about this, just how dystopian are we anyway, etc.  I realize that kids might poke holes in it with their pencils, write rude words with permanent markers and otherwise make it pain.  But this could also be used in Sunday school classrooms or afterschool tutoring services, or just during flu season in general and most I thought it was clever of the teacher, but I can’t find the original.

The WAPO settled with the minor child, Nicholas Sandmann, whom they lied about and defamed and generally threw to the wolves over a few lies and misrepresentations without checking any actual facts.  Sometime later I’ll maybe tell you what I really thing of national media doing this kind of garbage to some teenage kids who are not remotely celebrities and should not have been targeted at all, let alone doxed.

Bernell Trammell (also sometimes spelled Tremmel, but that may be a typo)- a colourful Rastafarian street preacher, Trump supporter, and bookstore owner in Milwaukee was shot dead in front of his shop this last week.  As of now, there is no word on who or why.  Of course people wonder about the Trump support. More about him here, including an interview he did the day of his death: https://thegoddegree.com/2020/07/23/who-shot-the-ras-did-ras-bernels-support-for-donald-trump-lead-to-his-untimely-death/

Retracted Covid papers– around 2 dozen.


Steele’s primary sub-source worked for leftist think-tank and RussiaGate hoax pusher Brookings Institute.  Read it all.  Think about how much energy, time, attention, and financial resources this particular witch-hunt and fake narrative has been sucking from us all, like a voratious vampire, for the last four years.  It’s infuriating.


Lemon and Cuomo cannot tell the difference between an IQ test and an accuity test- a simple sort of thing that helps detect a decline in mental agility, problem solving skills.  They mock Trump about it and then almost immediately Lemon can’t tell the difference between a rhino and a hippo sillhouette (he says it’s because he’s looking at it backward. But he wasn’t, he had the paper face up and then flipped it over to talk about it while showing it to Cuomo). It’s pathetically silly, but it’s their rules.


Why the ‘burbs matter.


Lot of interesting headlines and news links here.

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