Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Numbers 8 and 7!

Sorry for such a long delay in posting these! I was getting swamped in real life and just had to tackle it!

8. Copywork and dictation are simple yet effective ways to teach writing.

When they are young, copywork and eventually dictation are great ways to get your children interested in and accomplished in writing. Copying small portions of works of literature that your children like or are interested in can really open up a whole world to them. They see, hear, and copy, correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure over and over.

When they are very young, don't push the writing too much because for some little ones, writing is sincerely a chore and their little hands have a difficult time doing it. I begin writing by having my children trace copywork I have printed out for them with my StartWrite software. I have used selections from Scripture, from favorite books or poems, catechism Q & A, or silly sentences that grab their attention. I watch them as they trace the letters making sure they are learning how to write correctly. When they have mastered their letters and are reading, we move onto more thorough selections for their copywork. I do use a grammar text later on, but for second and third grades I really like Daily Grams. Once they are writing well with copywork and can read thoroughly, I move into Rod & Staff English texts. Daily Grams gives the basics of grammar knowledge, and then Rod & Staff helps you to put it to use in your own writing.


A helpful trio of small, but important books, The Three R's, by Ruth Beechick, are very helpful and I highly recommend this for beginning homeschoolers! It will encourage you in the beginning of your journey and reassure you - yes, you can do it!

7. You can't force reading.

This is quite possibly my biggest message and the one that I see homeschool parents freaking out about the most. Between the two of us who spoke the other night, we have ten children. Out of those ten children, six are reading, five with fluency beyond their grade. Each and every one of them learned at a different rate. This cannot be stated enough.

I was reading a homeschooling board the other day and a mother posted that she had been trying to teach her five year-old to read for three years. Right there a red flag went up for me - five years old and learning for three years? She then went on to say that she realized that she had started too early and took a break and began again when her oldest turned five. She said they have been progressing very slowly and that they have reached a point where they are not progressing in combining the letters and the mother is frustrated and concerned that her daughter is stupid. I will be honest and say my heart broke for this child as I read this, but for many reasons. Some of which involve my own failings teaching my firstborn.

Many many children do not learn to read until they are late 6 or 7, and sometimes 8 or 9 depending on the child and their brain. This does NOT mean they are stupid. They are completely normal - for them. I no longer even start to teach my children formally to read until they are between five and six, and I will only start if I see a real ability to do so. One of my biggest fears was not being able to pass on a love of reading. Reading is central to so much of life and how else do we get to know our Lord? Reading is also the key to any future learning on a large scale.

Many new homeschooling moms really struggle in this area and face the very real fears of "will I fail to teach my child to read?" It is usually their first child and they are in a panic. I know because I lived it! I struggled when my firstborn was six and didn't read! What I learned and what I tried to impart was that she did and yours will learn, but it will only come in time. I used and love and highly recommend, Phonics Pathways, because it is systematic and thorough. Not only do you learn all the letter sounds and blends, and see how it all comes together, you also learn the WHY. I don’t know about you, but when I went to public school I was one of their guinea pigs who learned to read with the “Look Say” method. Guess what? I never really knew, until much later in my life and after some self-teaching, that there were such things as digraphs and diphthongs, or why the “a” says its name instead of its sounds in the word “game.” Phonics Pathways opened a lot of doors for me and for my children and I have used it successfully with three of my own children who are reading now.

These are some of the specific things we shared:

~When they are ages 2-5, expose them to letter sounds and letters all the time and call their attention to them (stop signs, point out letters in books, games, movies, CDs with letter sounds, etc.) When they have grasped the concept of letters and sounds connecting to them, start with “Trial Balloons” to see if they are ready to learn to put the puzzle pieces together. My son knew all the sounds and I could point to one and he would give me the name and sound. I thought, he might be ready! So, I gave it a whirl. I said, “What does F  A  T  say?” (I sounded out the letters, but did not blend them too closely to see if he could put them together in his head.) His response, “Football?” I smiled and knew he was just not ready yet. A month or so later, he was, and it had clicked. F  A  T  will never again say “football” to my now-reading son!

~You can’t force blending or combining. It will only “click” when their brains are ready for it to.

~Make learning available to them in small increments (15-20 minutes maximum), regularly, with no stress involved. Make it fun and easy with games, phonics magnetic tiles on the fridge, songs of the phonics sounds, DVDs, etc. There are tons of things like this out there and much available at the library.

~Not every child is learning delayed or learning disabled. Some are, but many are just late bloomers. More on this in number 5 on another day. Suffice it to say that if you have real concerns,
www.NATHHAN.com is the place to begin.

~ One of my friend’s children needed three complete phonics programs from start to finish, lots of time spent with mom in practice, and mom buying books at his level in his interests to do it. He can now read beyond his grade at age 9. She was patient and knew he would learn over time with effort and growth, and he did!

~Read to them a lot. Hearing stories, book tapes (again, library is a great source) and understanding that words are an opening to another world make that real.

~NO ANGER. Blending will happen when their brains are ready and not before. Your anger and frustration will not help, but can actually harm the situation. I know - I lived it. It humbles and saddens me to think that I got angry at my tiny six year-old firstborn because she was not blending when I thought she should. Oh, parents, love those little ones! Homeschooling and teaching our children is a part of life, not life itself.

Our children are special creations with their own needs, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They are precious, and any perceived weaknesses should be dealt with in love and patience. 


The rest of the series is found in the right sidebar.

For a great new resource that might help all you new or not-so-new homeschoolers discover the various methods of homeschooling, this book might be for you:



Brought to you by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!


sparrow said...

Love what you had to say about reading. My oldest three all learned easily before 5 1/2. This last kid - he's 6 1/2 and can barely keep the alphabet straight. I know he's not LD, just taking his own time. I can see that it's not clicking yet. He'll probably wake up one day and just know it all. :) I really appreciate the encouragement to let it happen naturally and make him feel smart and capable while we wait.

vibrantfaith said...

Just stopped in to say.. I enjoyed your blog.

Blessings on your day.


esperanzavallero said...

Sounds like a great meeting and I am sure that all the attendees were richer for having been there.

I so agree with what you say about making learning fun.

Children learn so much better when it interests them and is hands on.

Much better for a three year old to be making letters from play do and counting cheerios than writing in work books. Learning needs to be done line upon line, starting with motor coordination.



JenIG said...

look at your beautiful template! Are you hooked on John Waterhouse? I love most all of his stuff. Miss you!!

Sarah said...

Anne said you were interested in coming tomorrow night. I am setting up the schedule and need to know what time you could come. I do not have your number anymore; hopefully, you have mine lurking about somewhere! Call me if you read this!

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of the five year old who has been trying to teach her child to read for a long time.

Yes I feel sorry for my poor first born. I have apologized to her. I pray she will be all the stromger for having to put up with me. She knows I love herand I am proud of her. She is still willing to do short lessons. We skip a day now and then. I am much more patient with her and her younger siblings are getting a way better teacher.

I did consult with people about this before and they would make suggestions about how I should teach her, and they would sometimes also tell me that their child knows all the letters and the child is younger than mine!!!

I realize I have to review what I want my daughter to know and if she can't read it herself. I will read it to her!!

Thanks for your comments and thanks for caring.