Reading and the Homeschool

Reader Question: I have a daughter that is Tommy’s age and was wondering what kind of books he was reading either on his own or reading to you? Also does he like to read quietly on his own?  Our 8 year old is our oldest and for some reason reading is MY most challenging subject. I always feel like I’m not doing enough.

People are often kind of shocked by the idea that children can be successfully educated in a homeschool environment.  One of the most common misconceptions I hear, after the high degree of patience I must possess, is that I must be highly educated myself in order to teach the children what they know, the assumption being that I must always know the subject before passing it on.  Nothing could be further from reality.  I consider my role, after a certain point, to be that of a learning facilitator.  That is, my job is to find them the materials and resources they need in order to acquire the knowledge they desire in any given subject area.  Basically, I have become an excellent picker of books, and they have become excellent readers of books.

I focus the vast majority of my educating efforts on my youngest children.  They need a strong foundation in the most basic skills in math and language in order to succeed in their future studies.  They need to be good readers, and they need to enjoy it.  And that’s what I tell people: I don’t have to know anything at all about whatever they will learn in the future; I just have to teach them to read and then provide them with good books.

There are lots of different reading programs to choose from, and they’ll all get the job done.  I like the Little Angel Readers, because the content is encouragingly Catholic and the stories are amusing.  We’ve been using it for several children now, and I still look forward to the farm stories at the end of first reader.  They crack me up!  There’s a teaching guide that works on some other less obvious skills, too, so it’s a nice resource.  After that, the child just needs practice!  My favorite series of books for early readers is the I Can Read series.  There are lots of amazing authors and illustrators, classic and modern, and stories range from the absurdly funny to science and history.  The levels seem to refer more to the length than to difficulty of vocabulary, and children really prefer shorter stories while they’re still building fluency.  It’s hard to read in the beginning!

True Story: I remember receiving the Winnie the Pooh series in a slipcase for Christmas when I was in second grade.  I read the whole thing, and I was so proud of myself, but I had spent so much effort on the actual decoding of the words that I really didn’t remember any part of the story at all!

So, young new readers really need shorter, easy-to-decode stories to help them develop fluency and confidence.

Some of my children have taken to reading like fish to water, and some have really struggled to enjoy it.  In that case, I start looking for a “hook”.  These books aren’t necessarily edifying, and they aren’t necessarily something I’d choose for the family library, but it’s more important that the child love to read than that they are only exposed to the very highest quality in literature.  One enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Another loved the Beezus and Ramona booksKate DiCamilla had her day in the sun, too. Avi’s Poppy series was loved, along with Sarah, Plain and Tall, and my boys have preferred non-fiction titles.  Some kids like the Magic Tree House books.  These books are all of varying quality, but they are mostly series, which seems to be important.  If the child builds a connection with a character, a series allows her to maintain that relationship and continue to build her fluency, and that’s something we really need going forward!  So basically, I’m telling you to do whatever you have to do to make your child fall in love with books.  Short term sacrifices for long term gains, and all that.

There are many excellent series for children to read as their skills grow: Away Goes Sally and The Happy Little Family are sweet; The Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia are classics; The Chronicles of Prydain and The Dark Is Rising Sequence are wonderful fantasy; The Giver series is set in an intriguing dystopian world; Crispin is a Middle Ages adventure tale.  Great series abound, and a child would be hard pressed to exhaust them all.  Then again, if he does – mission accomplished.

I hesitate to recommend anything based on age, though.  Children can vary so widely in the ages at which they acquire skills.  I’ve had a child reading well by six and a child who wasn’t really reading until nine.  You just have to stay tuned in to your child, and push maybe a little bit, so that her skills are always improving, but mostly just let her develop a love of books.

Once a child is hooked on reading, we, as learning facilitators, can start using independent reading materials as their primary source of knowledge, and then we can sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors… or teach the next child to read.  😉

That’s probably long enough for today.  Later in the week, I’ll tell you a few other tricks I use to make my children think reading is a treat.  🙂

2 Comment

  1. Thanks for some new-to-me recommendations!

  2. Alisha Brewer says: Reply

    Thank you so much for your wonderful post to answer my question. We have read a lot of books from the I Can Read Series and my daughter really likes them. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions for other books to read. If you have the time and feel like doing another post on homeschool how about one on what you do for math and history. We have always Catholic Heritage Curricula materials(kindergarten thru 2nd grade) and I am finally confident enough to branch out and piece things together. Thank you again for all your wonderful knowledge.

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