For the moment we’ve taken our house off the market. That means that instead of using homeschooling as a stop-gap for my Kindergartner we will be finishing out the year. This alters my plans a little bit. I don’t really think there is too much that should be required of Kindergartners besides letter knowledge and number knowledge, but I know that’s not how the world works. Kindergartners need to learn how to read, or I think, they will be behind in their first grade classes. I also think my daughter, although she is on the younger side for her age group with a late summer birthday is completely ready to learn how to read.
The Reading Lesson
We are continuing with The Reading Lesson. I think this is a great book. It has a lot of white space and easy to read letters. It gets kids comfortable with reading. Although I wanted to bang my head into the wall until Lesson 5, I highly recommend it. But, I will warn you. The beginning is not easy-going. And, I think a lot of it is that the very beginning of reading is not easy. It is just a slog. It is a lot of new information for the kids. A lot of things are going on. Letters have names, but their names are not their sounds (not all the time!), certain words have two letters, some have three. Some are easy to say, some are not. It is a lot for a kid to process and they look at this page full of letters and words and they balk. Some kids might rise to the challenge, I had one of those, but some run away. They don’t want to work hard (or that hard!) and they don’t want to make mistakes and be wrong. There is nothing like learning to read to make you comfortable with mistakes.
But, we have just passed the halfway mark on The Reading Lesson. We started just getting my daughter’s feet wet before school got out late last spring. We did a little bit over the summer, but not a lot. In retrospect, we probably should have just not done anything until the school year started, because we weren’t very consistent over the summer. We hit a rough patch at the beginning of the year where she literally refused to do anything. We sat on the couch, I set the 15 minute timer, and she looked out the window. (I tried not to strangle her!) I don’t know what happened exactly, but gradually she started reading the words.
The Star Sticker Trick
Before I continue, let me say, I adopted a star sticker policy. Every line she reads, whether it was one word or a whole sentence, she gets a star. The first day I came up with it, I thought I was a genius. But, she didn’t read a single word that day. However, the next day she sat on the couch and excitedly told me she was getting a star for every line. Then, she started reading. And, she hasn’t stopped. We’ve burned through star stickers, but it has been totally worth it and the best idea I’ve ever had.
At about Lesson 8, I added in the book Phonics Pathways. The Reading Lesson is great, but I don’t think it should be used as a complete stand-alone program. I added Phonics Pathways at the perfect time. She had gotten the hang of reading and now was sounding out words like a pro. Phonics Pathways started at the beginning with the very easy and straightforward short vowel sounds. This let me add the new curriculum, but in a way that made it seem doable and easy. (Also, there are games, which she loved.)
Phonics Pathways is a much more back to basics curriculum. The focus is on really mastering the subject and it is a program designed to teach reading to not only first timers, but also remedial students, and adults. It is a very comprehensive program that expects children to be fully reading before they finish with it. But, the basics bit of it is very helpful. There aren’t many words to sound out on each page and the book even encourages you to do just a little every day. At this point (pg. 57) we are doing one page a day. It is a pace that works well for us.
I will add that I have four children. The first is a voracious reader, but not the greatest speller. My middle two were taught using Phonics Pathways and they have always excelled at the school spelling bee. One of them was the runner-up and the other scored third. There are a lot of spelling hints in this book, many that I had never seen before.
So that’s where we are…
Right now Phonics Pathways and the Reading Lesson are what is working for us. I think they will see us through the end of Kindergarten, and, most importantly, into reading chapter books. In the end, what I am hoping to accomplish with my reading curriculum is a love for reading.