I’m about 14 years removed from those first major homeschooling fears…(I forget how much they once consumed me!)
Will everyone think we’re weird?
Will my kids be “socialized”?
Is this a viable, sound educational option for our family?
Am I about to ruin my kids?
Am I crazy?
So after jumping through those first mental hurdles and shifting the paradigm of what I had envisioned for my life (Homeschool Mom never once crossed my mind)–I began to think logistics! It was time to apply everything I had learned about teaching other people’s kids and actually teach my own sweet little people…
My first order of business: Teach Them to READ! And what exactly is the best way to teach reading at home?
Teaching Your Child to Read at Home–YOU can do it!
First of all–if you have any concerns about whether or not you can actually teach your child to read–let them go, Sweet Friend! Don’t listen to any voices of self-doubt in your mind! Truth: It is a big job and great responsibility–But it is not rocket science! And what a joy and privilege (BLESSING) to witness this skill develop in your child–truly a highlight of my life! Because I’m a former 2nd grade teacher, I’ve never questioned my ability to teach my own kids to read. In all honesty, that’s probably the only true advantage former teachers have in homeschooling–confidence. If you are struggling with confidence–please take heart! God will equip you for this work He’s called you to–Trust Him, and cast your cares on Him! You can do it, and you will do it with grace and excellence! No one knows and loves your beautiful, messy, amazing, unique kids like you do–the individual attention you are able to provide is priceless.
My Top 5 Strategies to Teach Reading (No Matter What Curriculum You Are Using)!
I am currently teaching my fourth child to read and have used the same curriculum each time around! I’m sure there are more glamorous, trendy, or popular choices–but I’ve used Saxon Phonics K with all four kids (I definitely got my money’s worth–plus, you know the saying–“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”). Choosing a reading curriculum is probably a post for another day…For now, I want to share with you 5 techniques to help you successfully teach reading, regardless of the curriculum you choose! My hope is that these strategies will increase your teaching confidence and add more joy to your reading/phonics lessons!
1. Don’t Linger…Keep the Lesson Moving!!
My phonics lessons are structured in a repetitive pattern. For example, everyday we start with a quick alphabet review. It then moves to a phonemic or phonological awareness activity (which are fancy terms for working with sounds–identifying and manipulating individual sounds in words, rhyming, working with syllables, etc…). After those activities, we do some flash cards of letters and sounds we’ve learned. And finally, we focus on new learning…Whew!
The trick to getting it all done without a meltdown is to keep the lesson moving! Don’t linger! Your child will undoubtedly struggle with something within 2 seconds of starting the lesson (or any given part of the lesson). It may be tempting to stop everything and get caught up in their mistakes…For Example:
“No, Honey…You know this. It’s L, M, N, O, P… NOT Minnow, Minnow, P…” (Cue the self-doubt–you are obviously failing because the child cannot even get through the alphabet). At this point you may be tempted to spend the next 10 minutes drilling, practicing, and going mad crazy over the ABCs. Don’t go down that rabbit hole! Just gently say the letters correctly and move on!
“What sound do you hear at the end of man?”
“Pan rhymes with man–awesome! But can you tell me the very last sound you hear in man?”
Cue tears welling up in child’s eyes…And CUT! Abort mission! Leave the “sound game” immediately, or substitute the day’s scheduled sound activity with a few rhyming words (or another sound game they will succeed with, like “Now let’s think of words that start with t!”) Don’t give your child time to throw a pity-party (as moms, we get invited to all the pity parties)! Stay positive and move on!
Moral of the story…Don’t try to teach 100 mini-lessons in the middle of your main reading lesson–you don’t have time for that, your child doesn’t have the attention for that, and you both will be exhausted! Focus on getting to the main objective of the lesson–don’t linger on their mistakes (someday they will actually stop calling the letter s, the letter c–homeschooling is a journey of everyday miracles)!
2. Affirm Their Attempts
They are trying! We want to keep encouraging the hard work, the thinking, and the reading strategies our kids are naturally using!
Some things I like to say…
“I can tell you’re really thinking about this!”
“I like how you are thinking about this!”
“You are really focusing and working hard–that is GREAT! That’s how we get better!”
Often reading mistakes can actually highlight a comprehension strength! Here’s what I mean:
My little guy has been reading one of his leveled early reader books. It reads “An ant got Pat.” He reads, “An ant bites Pat.” When I have him go back to the word “got,” he gets upset and feels frustrated that he “messed up.” I explain that I love how he picked a word that makes sense! Good readers think about whether or not the words make sense!
As they begin reading, teach your kids to self-check: Does the word look right, sound right, and make sense? Often kids will use at least one of those basic strategies! We can celebrate the small steps!
3. Offer Choices
This technique helps with tip #1–keep the lesson moving! When your child gets stuck–offer choices. Let’s say you’re working through some flash cards and suddenly there is a pause. Before this pause turns into discouragement and tears, offer choices. “Is it the letter P or M?” “Is this the word ‘the’ or ‘was’?” 99% of the time your little clue will lead to the right answer, and all will be well in the world again! No drama, no judgement. Just a quick little choice and you are moving on!
4. Use Shared Reading Experiences to Introduce Sight Words
Shared reading is a little different from a typical read-aloud experience. In shared reading, you will be reading a book above your child’s reading level–but they are participating in the reading. I like to work this into our daily rhythm, completely separate from our formal reading instruction. It can be done with any book you’re reading aloud to your child. They need to be sitting beside you, allowing them to easily follow along. While you are reading, your finger is under the words–stop when you get to a sight word you want them to practice. Right now, my kindergartener is reading the word “a” and “I” in our evening bedtime read-aloud. He is learning to follow along–and gets so mad if I accidentally read his words (oops)! Choose whatever words your child needs practice with and build up over time! This is a simple, low-stress, integrated way to practice sight words in context–you both will love the time spent in a good book!
5. Take a Picture Walk Through New Books
If you are using leveled readers, easy readers, or stories that are connected to your phonics curriculum (and even as you transition out of formal phonics instruction), you will want to gently introduce a new book before handing it over for your child’s first read through. We want to activate all the prior learning in their minds so they are ready to tackle the new book with success. I think of it as planting vocabulary seeds…
Here’s an example:
Before giving my son his next leveled reader, I glance through it. I can see he will be reading the word “limp,” and the story is about a boy named Tom. So we go through the pictures–talking about Tom and I begin dropping words that he will read in the story (so sneaky)!
“This story is about a boy named Tom. What is he wearing? Skates–yes!…(turn the page) Oh No! Poor, Tom! Looks like Tom hit a pot!…(turn the page) Who is helping Tom? A man!.. Now Tom has a limp! (turn the page) Tom looks hot from his walk home…(turn the page)… I think Tom’s mom gave him a pop, she must have felt bad he got hurt!”
I was able to introduce lots of words: Tom, hit, pot, limp, man, hot, and pop. My son’s mind was prepared to encounter those words and read the story with greater success, confidence, and comprehension. You can take this strategy and apply it to any book your kids are trying to read independently with your support (sometimes referred to as guided reading).
Simple Teaching Techniques = Success
When it comes to teaching, I find that I’m most likely to implement the simple things. And eventually, those simple things become part of our daily life and homeschool rhythm. I hope my top 5 reading techniques give you confidence as you do the important work of teaching your child to read. Start by implementing one or two ideas a week–before long it will be second nature! What a privilege to teach our children these foundational skills! Don’t let teaching your child how to read be a homeschooling fear–you’ve got this!
Please comment or email me anytime if you have questions about reading instruction! And feel free to share any games or books that you love using with your emerging reader! Don’t miss my free printable alphabet copywork–great practice for reading and writing letters!
Follow me on Pinterest–I’ve got a board dedicated to ideas and games for kids learning to read!
P.S. I recently discovered an amazing reading tool: Homer–Kids Learn to Read App!! The program provides quality, individualized reading instruction that truly engages my kids! I decided to try the free 30 day trial–and was really impressed. The stories are all tailored to my son’s interests, the phonetic instruction compliments what we are learning, and writing skills are seamlessly integrated…Honestly, I’ve been so excited about finding this app!! I love hearing my son sounding out the words–and they have a recording feature that encourages comprehension and language skills! I’m sharing screen shots to give you a better idea of how it works!! More great news–Homer is generously offering my readers 38% Off An Annual Subscription!