Sunday, January 4, 2009

Learning to Read

To a homeschooler, or to a parent for that matter, not much is as important to a kid's education as learning to read. After teaching Boyo to read (there were days I thought he'd never get it) I find that he reads pretty comfortably at a 3rd grade level. Not bad considering that he is 7.

With Boyo we did the systematic phonics approach. First the -at words (cat, bat, hat) then the -ag words (bag, tag, lag) and so on. Then we introduced some sight words (and, the, said). Then with the help of MCP phonics and Leapfrog videos, he made it. He is reading. After a while he even found a set of books that he really likes.

With Girlie the challenge has been different. Even though I started them at the same age, Girlie just wasn't getting phonics. So we stopped and I let her grow thinking that it was because she is more immature than her brother. Then this past September I tried again. She memorized the sight words with no problem, but even though she has known all her letters and letter sounds since she was 2, she just couldn't blend them to make words. Plus even when she got the pattern for the words (ie. all the -at words; cat, hat, fat) because of her speech she couldn't say the words differently enough that I wasn't sure that she wasn't just saying the same words over and over.

So we stopped again. We gave up on phonics. I thought since the public school system, in their infinite glory, did away with phonics in the early '80's, and since I was just one of an entire generation who learned to read without phonics, there had to be something out there that teaches whole language and not phonics as the basis of their reading program.

Well there is and there isn't. There is nothing I found for a homeschooler that doesn't use phonics as its basis other than just reading with your kid. Pointing out the words. Letting your kid guess the next word in the story. So that is what we did.

Then once Girlie had about 30 words that she just memorized, I found these wonderful readers.

Progressive Phonics has these readers that you download and print off. The first few of each set are FREE!!! But it gets even better! (sound like an infomercial) These are short rhyming stories that are each about a page long. The kid reads the big RED word and the parent reads all the other words. Well, that is the way they are suppose to be used, we adapted it a bit.

When Girlie reads a page, we highlight all the words on the page that she knows. It doesn't matter if they are red words or not. If she knows the word we highlight it. Then we read the page. It is sometimes surprising to her when she realizes that every word on the page is highlighted. We try to read a new page plus an old page every day. When we finish a book I see if she can read the entire book (the highlighted words) and I pay her $1.

Yes we bribe our kids. I figure their job if to learn and I get paid at my job so they should get bonus if they do really well at their job.

We have only used the Progressive Phonics since November but she is picking up reading so much faster than before. We added in MCP phonics and while it seems too easy (should have gotten B instead of A) I think it is a good review and might even be helping with her speech a bit since it forces her to sound out the words.

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