Before we became official homeschoolers, I knew my son needed to learn to read. He was only four, but he wanted to read and was picking up some things on his own. I wanted him to have a good foundation. I wanted him to know phonics better than I did, but I was terrified I would mess him up for life by teaching him wrong!
All my life it had been made clear to me that you needed a degree to teach. I could not teach reading. I knew people who had done it, but I did not think I could. No way! I can teach kids to dance and sing, but read? I needed a professional.
One day a good friend brought me a book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She told me I could do it. I also checked out the first set of Bob Books from the library (at her suggestion), and we gave it a try. Within a month, my son had read through half the Easy Lessons book and two sets of Bob Books! I did it! This reading thing was easy.
A little over two years later, my daughter (at age four) wanted to learn to read. My son read at four, so I tried. We went back to 100 Easy Lessons, but it was a disaster–there were tears every day. She just wasn’t ready; the desire was there, but not the maturity. We stopped.
Six months later we tried again, and again there were tears. We had studied all the letters, and moved on with more advanced phonics and some sight words, so I thought she was ready for sure. Again, we stopped. After another six months we tried again, and again we had tears.
What was I doing wrong? She was almost six and yet was not anywhere near reading. (I learned that it is not abnormal for a child to learn to read as late as 8.)
I was ready to give up until I read Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching reading.The first book in her Original Homeschooling Series lays out the plan in a clear and easy-to-follow way. (Read the full plan here or start at page 199 if you have access to a print copy of her series.) I started to use that method, and we made progress. We continued with phonics workbooks to support her reading. Eventually the Charlotte Mason method became too cumbersome. I like open-and-go-type programs, and this method required me to find books and make cards of all the words on a page. It took more prep time than I had.
I went to my bookshelves and stood staring at everything I had. I decided to go back to the simple, tried and true method: McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers. The pictorial primer lays out a lesson similar to the Charlotte Mason method, but I did not need to prep for it. Each lesson builds on the next in slow steps. I am pairing that with the Explode the Code series for phonics, and we have made significant progress in a couple of months.
The most important lesson I learned through this season in our homeschool life is that my kids are different and I must adjust our lessons accordingly. What works for one child may not work for another. Finding a method that works for teacher and student may take some trial and error, but it is important to find the right match for everyone.
Don’t let one “failure” stop you. There is a method that will work for each child; sometimes it is the curriculum that makes the difference, but sometimes the child needs more time.
Some Practical Help
One of our problems was reading-readiness. How do you know if your child is ready to read? A few things to look for:
1. Interest. Does the child want to read?
2. Ability to rhyme. This ability is linked to the ability to decode word families. My daughter only started rhyming in the last six months.
3. Oral blending. Break a word down into sounds orally (/k/-/a/-/t/) and have the child tell you the word. If she can’t do it listening to you, she will struggle doing it completely on her own.
4. Left to right tracking. Another issue we had to overcome. The human brain is not born tracking from left to right; it takes everything in at once. Practice this skill by having your child match a pattern or series you lay out in blocks or letters, starting on the left.
There are others, but with my daughter, these were the big four we faced. She had #1 down (interest), so we kept working on the other three skills until she was comfortable with them; then lessons became easier.
If the task at hand has you scared you may ruin your child for life (you won’t!), many programs exist to help you teach reading. These are all products we have used with some success in our house.
All About Reading, Abeka, and Rod and Staff’s reading program have been recommended many times as well.
You can do it! You can teach your child!
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.