Look It Up!

Teaching my children to read at a very young age was to the greatest advantage of all Dictionaryinvolved. It made my job as a teacher that much easier and helped my children to develop an immense vocabulary.

If there is one frustration associated with starting out so early, it is a limited vocabulary on the part of the reader. Children can become discouraged if they are reading words they do not understand.

Our family’s solution to this problem was to ensure that plenty of dictionary, thesaurus, and idiom books were on hand.  If we didn’t know a word, we looked it up!

Our children were taught, first by example and then by practice, to look up all words they were unfamiliar with. If there was a phrase they weren’t sure about, we brought out the idiom books and learned from whence it derived and its meaning.

By now this practice has become second nature. They are frequently seen looking up various topics, attempting to gain a better understanding.

While I would like to own a large collection of encyclopedias for them to use as well, that is neither practical in regards to space or finances. This is where the wonderful world of Google comes in.

Under parental supervision, our children are occasionally found to be looking up detailed information regarding such topics as world history, persons of interest, or the feeding habits of rolly pollies (no kidding).

Given the amount of time our children spend both reading and increasing their vocabulary, it ought to come as no surprise that our children use some of the most amusing expressions.

I clearly remember when my littlest girl was about five. She had just finished an activity and was asked how she liked it. “I found it particularly astounding,” she replied. Really! What five-year old talks like that?

At times they still catch us off guard, using terminology we didn’t think they had developed yet, causing us to chuckle. It is a blessing to see them take such an interest in the usage of words and practice it whole heartedly.

I have no regrets in implementing this practice within our homeschooling routine. Our children are growing by leaps and bounds, stretching their minds and expanding their horizons.

Do your children surprise you with their mastery of vocabulary?


27 thoughts on “Look It Up!

    • No problem! We like to use Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms. There are several others we have checked out from the library, but this one does just fine for us. It helps the kids better understand such things as “one in the hand is worth more than two in the bush” or “a stitch in time saves nine”.


  1. Haha, my 5 year old son often surprises me. He’s very verbal and always has been. I’ve started to encourage him not to use words he doesn’t understand until he DOES understand them. You can only imagine why THAT conversation began! 😉 He likes big words, which I find fun.


  2. My dad taught me that if you can read with comprehension – you can teach yourself to do anything! And so I have – sewing, knitting, crocheting, canning, gardening, plant propagation, organization. . .all self taught from books.

    To emphasize what you have written, I believe reading good literature is the ONLY way to develop a good, working vocabulary. Reading and memorizing spelling and vocabulary lists will do much in the writing skills department, but will not enlarge the imagery of the writer unless they are familiar with the words in usage.

    When my kids were young – we had a “read aloud” time every night. In the beginning – I did all the reading – in a very dramatic fashion. (I like to include sound effects) Afghans would be clutched up to their eyes during the excited reading of “Redwall,” by Brian Jacques. Eventually, the oldest would read too – and I was able to sit back and visualize the battles taking place. So much better than the tripe on TV, and I never had trouble getting them ready for bed, so that we could have “story time.” Not your ordinary story time, granted, but then, home school families are not ordinary families – are they? 🙂


    • What a beautiful example! That is exactly how our children learned. They had reading lessons, but story time is an essential part of our day. My husband and I do the voices, sound effects, and mood as much as possible. Our girls now do the same for their brother, my oldest having gotten down the voice of Mickey Mouse perfectly!

      I think your dad is absolutely correct, anything can be learned from reading a book and applying that knowledge. Good literature is the best way to not only increase your vocabulary, but to increase in wisdom.


      • I did the same thing with the Bible Flash-A Cards from a Beka. My adult children, to this day, refer to my rendition of Jonah and the Whale! LOL The pictures are so gorgeous – it wasn’t hard to make Bible time their favorite part of school. They published a John the Baptist set after my last one finished high school – and I still ordered it and we read it!

        But the thing I am most grateful for – they are doctrinally sound. Praise God.


  3. My daughter is 5 and has always had a great vocabulary. The other day I overheard her telling her dad “the hematite is magnetized, how cool is that?” 🙂 She is a good reader but is in a phase where she doesn’t like to actually read. We figured out this is because she wants to be read to, and also she is a bit of a perfectionist and doesn’t like to have to sound things out. We have promised her that we will NEVER stop reading to her unless she wants us to and that she can read again when she is ready. We are really relaxed about the whole thing and she is comforted by that.


  4. We use scholastic idiom book as well. Their grandparents even enjoyed it. they borrowed it for awhile which made my children like it even more. My children have great vocabularies but are rarely eager to look up words, unless on my phone’s dictionary.


  5. How old we’re your children when they learnt to read? My three year old is just learning a few letters (she recognises 3 or 4 and can write an o) but we are only doing one letter at a time as it takes time for her to recognise each one 🙂 xx


    • I started my children at three and a half years old. They started with very basic lessons and gradually increased from there. My girls were fully reading on their own (chapter books) by the time they were half way through kindergarten. My son is not as fast paced, but he will be fully reading on his own by the end of this kindergarten year. He pretty much reads now, but not as fluently as he could, so we will continue working on it.


  6. If you would allow me to say, your children taught themselves to read–with your guidance. They were ready. And I’m only replying just in case you have readers who were like me and pushed also for early reading with no results, except to see just how mulish your child really can be! And how much patience you really have. I walked that line with my first, who did not read until second grade but is now a reading champ. My second daughter just seemed to spontaneously read. Can’t remember how it happened or when it happened. It’s like it was just always happening. Regardless, I think reading aloud for us has been momumental (and I really like the selections chosen in The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease), and don’t despair if you don’t have an early reader, just take the opportunity to read aloud more.


    • Oh, I would completely agree with you! I don’t think my children read at an early age because I am a stupendous teacher, but because they were ready and God is gracious!
      I will say I think there were several factors which contributed though.

      1. We read to our children from birth, so they grew up knowing books were an active part of their lives.
      2. Both my husband and I read voraciously. Seeing their parents’ love of books helped my children realize how special they are and essential to our lives.

      After some prayer, the Lord showed me some areas in which I could step things up for my son, but He also gave me peace in knowing he will read when he is ready. He has always enjoyed looking at books, but is now excited about reading on his own.
      Thank you for the encouragement!


  7. Your post brought to mind one of my little girl’s expressions when she was just 3 1/2 yrs. old. She took a nap and when she woke up, it was almost sunset. She cried out, “Evening is loading!” I guess that’s what you get when you have kid that uses computers and an IPod touch even before she turned 2.


  8. I had no idea Idiom dictionaries existed, how cool! I just put one on my Amazon homeschool wish list. My oldest has some room for improvement in her word choices and picking the exact word she actually means. It’s gotten better, but it’s definitely taken some intentional practice.


  9. This post reminds me of a Praying Mantis that lived with us for a while…The little guy would hang out on our picnic table out back for days… The kids wanted to learn more about it…So we allowed them to catch it and keep it in a bug container for a week…

    They Googled what they ate and drink…How to care for it…And what he needed in his house to live…We ended up buying live crickets at our local pet shop. And fed him 1 or 2 a day…We gave him leaves and a few small sticks…We also learned how it could get water…We cut a small piece of a new sponge and soaked it in water and put it in it’s house…

    They watched and enjoyed learning about our temporary pet eating and drinking…He was let go a week later…He still showed up on our picnic table but we left him alone…

    When they see anything else in nature that catches their interest…They immediately get out their books or ask to search the internet to learn more about it…

    Yes encyclopedias are expensive…I was lucky enough to get a small set of science ones at a local garage sell for $5,00…We too go to the library to use their collection of encyclopedias…

    Thanks for your post…I enjoyed reading your viewpoint and ideas…


  10. Pingback: Award-Winning Homeschooling Tips From Cristina Grau At AHomeschoolMom.com | Ultimate Vocabulary – Vocabulary Building Software

  11. Pingback: Award-Winning Homeschooling Tips From Cristina Grau At AHomeschoolMom.com | Ultimate Typing Software

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