This is the second installment in a series of articles about homeschooling preschool and early elementary school – sometimes referred to as the early years. Click here to read the first article in this series.
What did we do instead?
I read to my boys as much as possible. At least an hour per day. We read widely – fiction, nonfiction, nature, science, math, history, poetry, sociology, biography, memoir. Mostly picture books. All living books that were entertaining for both my children and me.
We went out into nature often, investing in high quality gear for all types of weather. We talked about what we saw. We observed quietly. They ran and jumped and climbed. I tried to say yes as often as possible.
We cooked, baked and assembled food together. I taught my boys to cut fruit and vegetables for dinner as well as their own snacks. I tried to give them as much independence as possible. We enjoyed ourselves and experimented in the kitchen while listening to music, enjoying audiobooks and dancing along the way.
I focused on my own growth as an educator. I referenced reputable book lists like Honey For A Child’s Heart, The Read Aloud Handbook, Beautiful Feet Books, Read Aloud Revival, Sonlight and Ambleside Online. I joined Read Aloud Revival Membership and later the Homeschool Alliance. I participated in the master classes, read books and asked questions.
When my children gave up naps around the age of 5, we bought them a CD player and iPod Nano. I signed up for an Audible subscription and requested audiobooks from the library. My children have adored spending their afternoon quiet times listening to audiobooks while playing LEGO. Oftentimes re-listening to the same stories over and over as they play. Many of them books that Allan and I have read aloud to them.
To get back to how Matthew learned to read, I read to him a lot, answered his questions about words and continued to follow his lead, as we had done in Kindergarten. A couple times per week I would pull out a BOB Book and he would begrudgingly sound out each word. Sometimes stopping before completing the book, as he grew fatigued.
A few months later we participated in the Read Aloud Revival 31 day reading challenge. We gave the boys a small surprise every weekend of the month to incentivize them to read daily. These were mostly activities that we would have already done as a family, like going out for pizza, ice cream or donuts, buying a new book at the bookstore, a surprise outing to a new library or smoothies at the Natural Foods store.
We completed the challenge again in February, printing off a calendar and continuing to read aloud every day.
At the beginning of the month, Mathew was painstakingly sounding out the simplest of BOB Books and by the end of the month he was reading Frog and Toad books. I would strew books and he would choose the books that he wanted to read daily. Sometimes he would read books to me, oftentimes he would read to Allan in the evenings and other times he would “read” board books that he had memorized while cuddled up with Luke. I didn’t care what he read, simply that he was reading.
I did not time him to ensure that he was reading for 10 minutes each day. If he read, it counted. We used fun new stickers that he picked out to mark the days that he read. He could “read twice” to make up for days that we may have inadvertently missed because we were away from home on adventures and too tired when we returned.
We made reading fun and enjoyable. He had an end goal in mind and small, incremental incentives to keep him going when things got hard or he didn’t feel like reading. This incentive system is much like what is suggested to adults when we are trying to hit a goal.
This is how I am now teaching Luke to read. He has picked up the letter sounds by the osmosis of a language rich environment and a few Leap Frog toys we have been gifted (like fridge letter magnets). He wants to read because the rest of us are readers. We cuddle up a few times per week and he reads me a BOB book. We work on the same BOB book until he can read it proficiently (I let him lead this and he determines when to move on).
The struggle to trust the process and your own intuition can be extremely challenging. At times it’s hard to hold back my own excitement about the next step and instead be in the present moment. Making the mindset shift is challenging and even when I think I have things under control, doubts or anxieties will creep in. In a future post, I plan to write more about my own mindset shift including the tools and resources that have helped me along the way.
Tell me, what other questions do you have about teaching your child to read? What is your biggest struggle? What have you learned from the process?
Enjoying this series? Click here to read all of the articles.