How do you homeschool--this week's topic is phonics/reading : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I thought I'd start a new series of threads for homeschool wannabes and beginners. Here's the place to put your ideas, tips, and what works for you, to help others get started. If you are recommending specific curriculum, try to include addresses, phone #s, and/or websites.

I thought we'd start with phonics and reading, because it is so basic--if a child reads well, he can learn a lot more on his own than a parent could ever teach him.

I start by going through A Beka's 'Handbook for Reading' (, one page at a time. The book starts with short vowel sounds and single consonant sounds, then progresses through long vowel sounds and blends (bl, st, pr, etc.). Next are the diphthongs (ou, sh, th, etc.) Toward the end of the book are tion, ough, etc. By the time you finish, the child has learned just about every sound there is in the English language. The book also teaches dividing into syllables, reading with expression, etc. I got the teacher's manual, which gives tips and ideas in the sidebars, but you could easily use just the student book and use that.

We spend 15 minutes at a time at the beginning, and gradually add an extra 5 minutes as the child gets more proficient. 25-30 minutes at a time is usually the maximum; some children are better with less. Sometimes if a child just isn't 'getting it', we back off and don't do any phonics at all for a couple of days. I have been amazed to see how much better they do after the short break.

Once a child has gotten about halfway through the book, we start getting easy readers from the library. I am a "whole book" sort of person--instead of using traditional readers with parts of books in them (say, a chapter from 'Charlotte's Web'), I'd rather have the child read the whole book. Also, I like to have them read the stories as originally written instead of an 'adapted' version. There are a few exceptions to this rule; I really like Helen Taylor's 'Little Pilgrim's Progress' as a way of introducing John Bunyan's classic to young readers.

I am not real big on written book reports, but occasionally (3-4 times a year) I have them write something that they've learned from a book. I may have them "argue" with the book if they find something they disagree with. Also, I have them tell me what they're reading about. Usually, they do this on their own; I don't have to ask for an oral report. I like to keep track of what they're reading so that I know that they are balanced in their reading (not too much science fiction, for example).

When the children get into jr. high and high school, I like to have them study literature in a more formal way. For this, I like to use A Beka's literature series for 7th grade and up. Some parents make up their own courses of study, but I would wonder if I am "missing something", and am not good at the study of, say, English literature.

That's it for me; what are your ideas?

-- Cathy N. (, January 07, 2002


I also really like Abeka's Handbook for Reading(the Blue-back Speller), and I recommend their manuscript Writing with Phonics books to go along with it. Child will write the sounds/words on the days they study them.

My children use a variety of texts until they reach high school, then do correspondence work with Harcourt. They are very reasonably priced and offer an accredited degree that can be used to apply for college.

-- mary (, January 07, 2002.

I admire you all so much for home schooling your children. That was not an option when my children were small but if I had small children now, I would most definitely home school. Keep up the good work!

-- barb in Ky. (, January 07, 2002.

What age (or stage of development) do you consider "right" for starting a child? I do have the Handbook for Reading and intend to use it (with my granddaughter) but she is only 3. Although she's extremely quick and has a awesome memory, I don't know if I should start her in the Handbook yet. So far I just spend time going over the letters of the alphabet, and working on numbers. I homeschooled my daughters for several years but they were all in 6th grade or more, I've never homeschooled one from the very beginning so am a little unsure of myself here. Any pointers on how to tell when each child is "ready"?

-- Lenette (, January 07, 2002.

We also use Abeka. Letters came quick with John Michael but we couldn't seem to get the blends! So I found a new program(at a yard sale for $10.00!!!) called-"Home Run Reading". It has tapes and workbooks that they do with the tape. It has been a godsend so far. Blends and sounds have finally clicked. I also suppliment anything we do with household or homestead chores. To day I printed up a really simple recipe, he read it and measured everything and made it himself (today was bannana-orange milk smoothie). I also started him young. I did not have anything set in stone, but I broke everything down to his terms and I asked lots of questions. It is never to young to start their little minds processing!!God Bless

-- Micheale from SE Kansas (, January 07, 2002.

I just want to point out that phonics (as good as it is) does NOT work for all children. My oldest son had a severe speech problem as a child and I took him to be tested for it. We had already been homeschooling my daughter for some time and had begun working with him on reading. I had already tried phonics and it just did not work! When I had him tested at our local college one of the first things the woman told me was that he would not be able to learn to read by using phonics. It seems he had some kind of a processing problem in his brain where he just was not hearing certain sounds (not to mention he was in such a hurry when talking that he tended to drop the last half of many words). He eventually grew out of it but in the meantime I was able to teach him and subsequestly several other of my children by using the old Dick and Jane "sight" readers. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying phonics is bad, just that some children do much better aand don't get so frustrated if you teach them to read by sight. One thing you learn real fast when you homeschool is that each child is definitely different! I envy those families that are able to use the same program or books for all their children. Mine are just too different!

-- Deena in GA (, January 08, 2002.

Deena, you made a good point. I should mention that A Beka is REAL BIG on phonics, to the point that they use almost NO sight words. This was not working really well with my seven year old boy. We struggled with phonics (though we still use it), but he learned more from learning to read his Sunday school memory verses each week. He has no trouble now with "whosoever" and "everlasting", etc., but struggles with "shout" and "grow". Some kids learn to read whole words much more easily than dividing them up by their phonics sounds.

-- Cathy N. (, January 08, 2002.

Deena, I understand that. I have taught three and we used three different reading programs. Our youngest has Down Syndrome and we are using the sight method and phonics. I am using a book titled "Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome", which is a great book for anyone wanting to teach the sight method. It can be ordered from Woodbine House, 6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, Md 20817. 1-800-843-7323. I'm not sure of the current price but I believe I paid around $20.00 for copy.

-- Terry - NW Ohio (, January 08, 2002.

We tend to do a lot of "relaxed" schooling or unschooling, and we've found two games that really helped my two youngest children learn their letters/sounds.

The first: We'd ask "What would happen if there were no letter "B"? and the children would answer, there would be no butter, or boards, etc. etc. As they got older, we'd work on words that had b as a letter other than the first.

We also play alphabet charades. One person acts out a simple one- word clue, and the other players have to a) guess the word and b) tell the letter it starts with. As they get older, you can play spelling charades as well : )

We have one less than enthusiastic reader, and these games made all the difference in the world as far as getting him interested and involved.

-- Kristin, in La. (, February 23, 2002.

The San Jose Mercury News used to carry a learn to read feature where they had the phonics and you looked for similar words in the paper. I assume it was a syndicated feature, so other newspapers may carry it as well.

When I was in school we used both phonics and Dick and Jane. I have a set of the McGuffey readers too that I'm thinking of using.

-- GT (, February 23, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ