How to homeschool your struggling reader? That million-dollar question mystified and frustrated me and my little ones until I discovered the following:
1. Good readers are not necessarily good spellers and visa versa!
Reading requires decoding skills while spelling requires encoding skills. With no less than six possible phonograms to represent the long e sound (e as in be, ee as in bee, ei as in receive, ea as in bead, ie as in yield, and ey as in key), how is a child to sort out which to choose when spelling a new word? Since dyslexia is one of our homeschool challenges, we use the Barton Reading & Spelling Program. At first review, it may seem cost-prohibitive, but it is the only program that has worked for us. My two older girls are almost ready to begin Level 5 (levels do not correspond to grade levels).
2. A child’s reading level does not have to interfere with other learning.
Dealing with dyslexia in the family taught me early on that reading level does not have to impact learning in other subject areas. In The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, Bill Foss correctly points out: “There are three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading (Kindle Locations 119-120)” Why does the school system focus on eye reading only? If a child cannot read the story problems on her math sheet, then why not read them to her? After all, math class is all about learning math concepts – not reading – and greatly reduces her frustration level as well as yours. Another suggestion is to use a curriculum that has a supplemental audio and/or video so that the child can work more independently. We spend one-hour+ road trips listening to the Mystery of History audio CDs. The next day, we locate the historical events we learned about on our wall timeline. This multi-sensory approach helps the content stick.
3. Reading skills can be learned in more ways than formally practicing reading.
It seems that my children learn more about reading when it is an ancillary activity. For example, making homemade chocolate chip cookies is an all-time favorite in our home, but it requires reading the recipe. Helping Daddy put together a desk is great fun, but it requires following a set of directions. Lately, I have noticed how many times my children have asked about a word on a sign. Such moments are (and I am coining a new catch phrase here) educational windfall. Mine the moment to expand their knowledge.
Another idea is to consider a magazine subscription based on your child’s interests. Since my three girls love animals, we purchased a subscription to Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr (not an affiliate link). The girls spend hours flipping through new and old issues. I keep them in a small basket in our homeschooling room. I think they know more about the animal kingdom than I do.
4. Begin formal instruction only when your child is ready to learn.
I recently read an article from Cambridge University that suggested postponing formal education based on “studies [that] have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not [emphasis added] improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the child who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension that those children who had started later.” Instead of formal lessons at such a tender age, let children learn through play and life experiences.
5. Include nonsense words in your formal reading lessons.
What’s all the hype about nonsense words? The other day, my oldest daughter and I were working our way through a Barton lesson. The word was difficult, but she said different Had she guessed correctly, I would have assumed that she read the word correctly. Nonsense words remove the possibility of guessing; either the child knows how to break down the word into syllables or not. Click here to read a great post by Reading Horizons on the importance of teaching nonsense words.
6. Create an inviting learning environment.
In a homeschooling family, learning takes place just about anywhere. I really like the 10 Homeschool Learning Centers at Hodgepodge posted by Tricia Hodges. Involve your kids in organizing and decorating their learning space.
In our own homeschooling journey, I created a fun way for my daughter to practice dividing closed-two syllable words. Perhaps it will help you and your little one as well.