Beginning Homeschooling with Reading
by Ann Bowers
It’s September (or any month you decide to begin homeschooling) and you’ve researched curriculum, decided on your educational philosophy, started collecting ideas, prepared a place in your home that will serve as a schoolroom, and convinced your children that home schooling will be FUN! But, where do you start, on the first day and in the first week?
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!
Probably, it’s best to start with the 3Rs – reading, riting, and ritmatic, as we used to say in the U.S. That is, start with reading, writing, and mathematics. You can add all the rest: social science, science, the arts, physical education, music, etc. as you go along.
Beginning Homeschooling with Reading
To begin with reading, you need to find out at which level your child is reading. To do this, get a grade level reader or ask the local librarian to provide a book written at your child’s grade level (or age level). Sit down with your child, alone. Ask him/her to read the book to you. When he gets stuck on a word, wait for a few seconds, if he doesn’t come up with it, tell him what it is and let him go on reading. If he/she can read 95% of the words (not counting the ones you told him/her) on five pages, this book is at his/her “independent reading level.” That means that the book is fairly easy and the child can read it by himself. If he/she can read 90% of the words on five pages, the book is perfect for his/her first reader. This is the “instructional level.” This is the book you will use to start teaching the child reading. If the child reads 85% or fewer words on five pages, the book is too hard to use for instruction at this time; you should try a book that is geared for one grade lower. If the child reads 90% of the words, try having him/her read a book for one grade higher. Keep trying until you find a book at which the child can read 90% of the words without help. If your child cannot read yet, we’ll cover that in the next article.
Once you have the correct book, have your child read a few pages at a time to you. Note the words missed. Teach these words to the child (more on that in the next paragraph). Ask the child questions about what has been read. Be prepared that kindergarten, first, and second graders (ages 5-8) may have nary a clue about what they read. They concentrate so hard on how to read the words that often the meaning escapes them. You must help them build “comprehension.” (More on that in the coming articles.) Older children need to improve comprehension and learn higher level thinking skills, such as sequencing, inference, and so forth.
Teaching Reading Words
Many educators continue to debate this; I am not one of them. It is my belief, based on 10 years of teaching 1st grade, that children do not learn to read without phonics (i.e.; learning the sounds that letters make and how to blend them into words). Of course, some words are irregular (such as “they” and have to be memorized; these are called sight words).
So, when your child can’t read a word, make a note of it. After each few pages (or each story or chapter), teach the words the child does not know. Be sure to reread the story after teaching the words. To teach a word, go through it, sound by sound, with your child, helping him/her to get the sounds correct. Then, help the child blend the sounds together to make the word. For example:
Hat You review with the child the sounds of h
, a (as in apple) and t.
(That’s the sounds, not the letter names.)
Then you help the child blend them into the word: huh, ah, tuh. Repeat them, faster and faster until they become hat.
You can also focus on particular sounds in stand-alone lessons, for example, teaching the kn
sound and the words in which it is most often found. Worksheets are often are part of these lessons.
If a word is irregular (i.e.; the sounds are different from the spellings), the child must learn it by memorization. Keep 3” by 5” cards on hand (lots of them) to print the words on, in large letters. You can play games with these to help the child learn the words. (We’ll cover those later.)
In the next few articles, we’ll discuss reading comprehension, teaching the very first steps in reading, and how to begin teaching writing and mathematics.
Bio for Ann Bowers
Ann Bowers has been an elementary school teacher, in kindergarten through 8th grade, for 20 years. She was a Bilingual Education Grant Project Coordinator for seven years and a school principal for seven. She has a B.A. in English, an M.A. in Education, and holds California Life Teaching Credentials and specialist credentials in Remedial Reading and Teaching English as a Second Language. She is retired and has started a second career as a freelance writer.
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