Home education: How I am teaching my children to read.

Ronan is 8 now and if he was in school here he would be in year 3. If he was in school in America he would be in Grade 2. His read-to-mum book is detectives in Togas, and he is reading Treasure Island as his personal reading book. He is a strong reader, but a weak speller at the moment. He is working on his spelling and as he seems to be a fast learner in this area I am hoping we will have made some good progress fairly quickly.

detectives in Togas is a great read, but there are a couple of things he finds a bit challenging. The print is a bit small for him he says, but he is managing it reasonably well. The other challenge is some of the words are pretty big and require some explanation. This is fine as it is helping to expand his vocabulary.

He reads to me every week day. I really think having each of the children read every day is important.

Avila is 6 and would be in either year 1 here or Kindergarten across the pond. She is reading Pompeii, Buried Alive a Step Into Reading level 4 book. (The one review this book gets on Amazon UK says it is patronising. We haven’t found it that way but each to their own). Avila began reading much the same as Ronan and Heleyna using Starfall and ORT but by the time she was on stage 4 ORT I could see she needed more phonics so we moved to the McGuffey readers for a while. We returned to ORT and she moved through stages 4 to 10 without problems after that. I introduced other books as we went along such as the lovely Frog and Toad books and more of the Step Into Reading books picking carefully from among their stages 3 to 5.  I have arranged her next set of books so that there are ORT books stages 11 to 14 with SIR books level 5 and then she’ll move onto the 26 Fairmount Ave books by Tomie dePaola. She reads some Enid Blyton as her free reading time as well as some of the dePaola and other picture books we have.

Heleyna is 4 and would not be in school. She might be expected to be in nursery school and in the UK she would be starting school in September (despite the increasing body of research evidence that shows early institutionalisation of children is very detrimental to them). She has just started to learn to read. She is using movable letters to learn both the name and sound of the alphabet. She sings the alphabet song which is letter names. She is beginning to recognise more letters as we go along. I am using a few letters at a time for recognition rather than all 26 in one go. She is reading the books on STARFALL, starting with Zac the Rat. The books are decodable, so they are a good strong start for reading. We have used some of the pre-decodable books on more.starfall as well. [nb there is a subscription fee for more.starfall] alongside this she is using the Oxford Reading Tree books starting at 1+. We have also recently discovered OWL books from ORT which are free online readers. The ORT books are mixed whole word and decodable so beware if your child has dyslexia or requires a strongly phonics approach.

A note about reading schemes: I have realised that many schemes put and age or grade on their levels. I ignore them. Each child is different and any child at home has the massive advantage of one to one reading time.

I have been saddened to see discussion threads online where mothers (all the children are in school in these discussions) are worried that their child is unable to read. There seems to be a terribly ingrained view that teachers and schools are supposed to teach children to read and they can’t. They talk of getting the teacher’s back up if they buy reading books for their children or ask for the next level up. They talk of getting a tutor for after school for 6 year olds!!

Do not get trapped into this. Parents are the primary educators of children. You really do not need a tutor to teach a child of 6!

Historical note of useless information: St Jerome wrote to a mother struggling to teach her daughter to read and advised her to have a set of letters made from boxwood or ivory to use as a teaching aid. So it might be that movable letters were his invention.


2 responses to “Home education: How I am teaching my children to read.

  1. Scrabble tile letters are a really fun manipulative for helping kids with spelling. Using those tiles, for some reason, worked for my Kateri to help her understand that all words need vowels or some way to sneak in a vowel sound (as in using “y”) She insisted that “purple” was PrPl. Using the tiles seemed to help her focus on the sounds heard in the words she needed to spell.

  2. PS (very cool about St Jerome!)

    And Frog and Toad are family favorites!

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