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Today I’m back to answering readers’ questions again. Teaching reading can be a scary thing with any homeschooling method, let alone unschooling, which prompts this next question…
– Now, for my big question: In your opinion, how do you continue unschooling your young children while still teaching them some of the basic necessities (reading, math, grammar)
That’s a great question. I really don’t know. 😉 I’m only half-joking here because this is only the third month I’ve actually been unschooling, although I do think I can help here since my method of teaching reading relaxed more and more as I continued to homeschool.
When I first started to homeschool, I went all out with every subject and got a book for EVERYTHING. It was so excited to imagine all of our glorious future days of sitting around the table having our own little school at home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite like that. My children soon- like, immediately- tired of completing book after book with no end in sight. And reading? Well, that became one of their most dreaded subjects because learning to read can be overwhelming enough without completing five worksheets for a four-page story.
Next, I ditched the reading workbooks and turned to Saxon readers. Everyday I would sit with London and read her they same story for one week. I would read it once, then she would attempt to read it. If you would go by school standards, London was a slow reader and would probably have been put in special education. This kept weighing on my mind as we were reading these books, and every time she would have a hard time reading something, I would get so frustrated because I love reading, and I just couldn’t grasp how hard it is for some children. I would get frustrated, and she would cry almost everyday. Until I read the book Learning All The Time by John Holt. He surmised that the best way to teach children to read is to let them teach themselves! This seemed almost too good to be true, but I was so frazzled over the whole situation that I decided to give it a try. I stopped making her read to me and only read to her when she asked me to. After a couple of weeks, she had taught herself how to read all those books she had been having trouble with because it was something she wanted to do, and the pressure from me was gone. I can’t recommend this book to you enough.
Another year rolled around, and it was Bailey’s turn to learn to read. You would think I would have learned from my mistakes, but no, those phonics books just looked too alluring, so I bought them for London, Bailey, and Luke, and I started going down the same path a different way. Instead of using readers, I forced phonics on them, which they LOATHED. Bailey was great at memorizing sight words but just couldn’t get the hang of sounding things out, so, before the frustration returned, we stopped the phonics books, and I just read to them- a lot. Bailey can now read books that I’ve never read to him before with words in it that he was never taught. He figured it out on his own. And you want to know why those phonics books didn’t help him? Apparently, he’s a whole language learner. If I would have made him continue his phonics lessons, it probably would have taken him longer to learn how to read.
One thing that I’ve learned in all this is that you have to go with the flow. Luke is five, and, so far, isn’t interested in reading at all. He likes to be read to, but right now that’s sufficient for him. Ireland is four, and she is the one asking me, “What’s that say?” “What letter is that?” “How do I spell Easter?” They’re two different kids and have two different learning styles. Am I worried? Not at this time. Children develop at different rates- they’re not robots. While Ireland may eventually surpass Luke in reading skills, Luke’s a mean skateboarder- something Ireland can’t do. And honestly, what does it really matter at what age a child starts to read? As far as I know, no one’s been turned down for a job because they were a late reader. When you’re all grown up, no one cares.
Reading isn’t essential for learning. If all you use is books, then, yes, it’s an asset, but don’t be discouraged if your child seems to be taking a while. Learning can happen in so many different ways- with or without reading. Look at babies. Their illiteracy certainly doesn’t seem to hinder them, does it?
Since standardized testing does begin in 3rd grade where I live, I do have a plan in place. I’ve heard so many great things about a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. While I haven’t personally used this book, I have heard nothing but good things about it from people I absolutely trust. In the event that one of my kids still needs help by 3rd grade, this is what I’ll be using. The lessons are short and sweet, and it’s easy on the parent, too.
I’ve spent a lot of time on reading, so I’ll keep grammar and math short and sweet. There are a lot of fun ways to teach grammar, such as Mad Libs. My children also like to write their own stories, so this is a great way to teach them about proofreading for grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation. In PA, homeschoolers are subject to standardized testing in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. This year Dillon is the only one who falls into that category, so today I just started having him complete Daily Grams: Guided Review Aiding Mastery Skills JR/SR High worksheets. These are really nice because they only take about five minutes, but they cover a wide variety of grammar and punctuation rules.
Math is something we still do everyday because I’m just not comfortable without a curriculum for this subject. I’ve recently gotten the Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred), Life of Fred Kidneys (INTERMEDIATE SERIES), Life of Fred Fractions to Pre-Algebra 5-Book Set : Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, and Pre-Algebra with Economics, and Life of Fred Advanced Algebra Expanded Edition. Devin is the only one who actually hasn’t tried these books yet, but everyone else loves it! These math books are literature based, so they make the subject much more interesting than the standard instruct and drill methods. This series also presents the subject matter in a comical way that my kids really enjoy. Perhaps the best thing about this series is that it presents math in real-life situations, so that the reader will actually know why he/she needs to know this stuff. I will point out that I don’t plan on formally introducing math until 3rd grade, unless one of them desires to learn it earlier.
I know I’ve been rather long-winded in this post, so let me just finish by saying that, in my experience, the best way to learn is to learn naturally without outside pressure. It’s that simple.
How have you taught your children to read?