Much of our home school day is devoted to reading. We do other things but the big emphasis is on reading. It is a fundamental and it deserves the amount of time I devote to it.
Before I started schooling the boys my biggest fear was reading. When I first started my education degree I was a reading specialist. After two semesters I gave that up to go do something more exciting…be a middle school science teacher! The idea of being the person responsible for teaching my boys the most very basic skill for all future education was daunting.
I think I am on my 4th reading program and we don’t just do one program exclusively. I kind of pick and choose from each program and mash them all together. I am always searching for reading ideas because I have two VERY different readers.
First I have Dean. Dean just reads. He has a fantastic and extensive word memory bank. He learns words by looking at the whole word and memorizing the word. I have lost track of the number of words he does know and he is always surprising me by reading a new word that I usually think is WAY beyond him. After months of struggling with phonics, he suddenly gets it. He understands word chunking and flows through words effortlessly. He is becoming a fluid reader and I think it won’t be long before he is reading silently and independently. Reading with him is only a struggle if he is having a bad focus day…meaning he is distracted and not really looking at all the letters in a word.
Then I have Emory. Oh my sweet baby boy…reading is not easy for him. Last year, when I first started phonics with him it became immediately obvious that his motor planning issue with speech is really a motor planning problem with language…but spoken and read. He knows the sounds letters make. He knows his letters. But when you start to put those things together….those missing connectors in his brain give him fits. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t try. He is very diligent and he works hard to make those groups of letters into words. He finally gets phonics and is able to sound out words. He is getting better with chunking. His sight word knowledge is slowly growing. But he knows that reading is easier for Dean and it frustrates him greatly.
Sometime last year we started doing reading separately. Dean was faster and wanted to move ahead so, it just kind of happened. But it was great because suddenly the competition between them dropped and reading became easier and less of a fight. Now, we read completely separately…with a door shut, most of the time. Emory freezes if he thinks Dean is watching him. Dean also knows all the words and, wanting to help, blurts the word out before Emory. That pisses Emory off. Then the frustration builds and the tears start. Dean on the other hand wants Emory to watch him read. I always encourage this because I think the more Emory sees reading and hears reading the better he will be for it.
We have been struggling with scheduling so far this year. We have more to do during the school day this year and life is conspiring against me lately. We are in week 4 of school and only the 1st week was a full 5 days of learning. This doesn’t work well when you are supposed to introduce 10 new words on Monday, do activities with those words, then give a spelling test on Thursday. So this week I gave it up. The idea of a test is way stressful for both of them at this point and stress kind of diminishes reading.
So….I decided that right now….the goal is word exposure. Each week we will have our 10 words. We will do the activities. We will read each of the words in isolation each day. They read the words in their readers each day. We sound out the words as needed. I help with the words as needed. I think exposure grows familiarity and familiarity grows brain connections and eventually reading ability increases. I have already seen benefits from the change this week. I am less stressed that we are “getting behind” and that seems to help the boys be a bit more calm.
I once worked with an amazing science teacher who had many more years experience than me. I was in my 3rd year of teaching and she taught me many things. The thing that was most important was her philosophy of teaching science. It was her personal goal to expose children to as many different ideas and experiences as possible. At that time, most kids entered 6th grade with very little science knowledge or experience. She was determined to provide that. It shaped how I taught science after that. And it is now shaping how I teach the boys.
Today when we were reading together Emory was struggling to get a word out. I sat quietly and patiently…waiting. He asked me to wait. He told me that he knew the word and that he could read it. A few seconds later he read the word and continued on. He needs wait time. He needs time for the two sides of his brain to connect. I can give him that. By giving him that wait time he grows and becomes more confident.
Just one more reason that I feel so good about our choice to school them at home.