I have used the same tired, old, hand-me-down phonics curriculum for each one of my children. Remember those old infomercials about Hooked-on-Phonics from the early 90’s? Yes, the same ones you now run across in the thrift stores for $2? That’s what I use. Just when I think I should really look into a new phonics curriculum with some bells and whistles (and pages that are actually still connected to the book. Ahem.), I remember how easy it has been to teach my first four children to read…and I squelch my curriculum addiction.
I try to wait until I see some signs of reading readiness in the child, whether that be around age five or much later. Here are a few things I look for:
- Ability to sit still for more than .2 seconds.
- Interest: “What does that say, Mama?” “Is this how you make an ‘S,’ Mama?” (Writing readiness is so closely connected to reading readiness.)
- An interest in listening to longer, more complicated books, especially with less pictures.
- Pretending to read by looking at pictures for clues.
Once I see these signs I begin to work through our old phonics book, which begins with the sounds of the alphabet, followed by consonant blends, suffixes and prefixes, and finally vowel blends.
We work about 15 or 20 minutes per day, less if he is fidgety and more if he is interested and doing well. The important thing is consistency, not the amount of time spent.
I don’t let him get too frustrated. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to push, but usually kids are more successful when they gain confidence. I have even backed up in the phonics book before in order to help the child gain some confidence again if I see he’s hit a road block.
Some of my children are fantastic writers and some are more challenged by writing, but this method has proved to be a fit for everyone:
The child begins with copywork. There are many copywork books you can purchase, or you can just assign a copywork passage from something the child is reading. When the child is just beginning to write, he copies a short sentence. The most important thing to remember is to assign copywork from good literature.
As the child gets older he is gradually assigned more and more complicated passages to copy, and always from good literature.
Finally, somewhere around age 12 and beyond, the child is required to do dictations: Mom reads a passage to the child and he must write it. When he’s finished, the dictation is checked for mistakes and corrected.
The point of copywork and dictation is not necessarily handwriting practice, but an exercise in learning good writing mechanics: grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ruth Beechick recommends copying the same passage each day for four days then using the same passage as a dictation exercise on the fifth day.
Narration is merely “telling” what happened in a story. Even a three year old can do an informal narration of a story they’ve heard or an event that has happened to them. Narration is great for so many things; even just simple communication practice.
If children are required to tell back to you what they have read, they retain much more information than if they are merely answering “comprehension questions”. Narration requires that more attention be paid to what the child is reading (or listening to). As the children get older, I require written narrations of material they are reading, be it fiction or non.
Narration helps me to know exactly what my child is understanding. Narration replaces lots of textbooks as well. We can invest instead in great literature and living books for them to narrate from!
I have discovered that teaching reading and writing to my children in this way has eliminated a lot of unnecessary stress in our homeschool, not to mention the cost of extra textbooks. This method has served us well–yep, even for those sometimes hard-to-teach- boys.
Happy Homeschooling, Mama!
Written by Bambi Moore. Bambi is an ordinary, homeschooling mom to ten children. She enjoys spending her time learning about reformed theology, the doctrines of grace, and solid biblical truth.