Friday, January 13, 2012

The Meat: Remediating a 'Good' Reader

Words from the
fourth grade
dolch word list

In my last post I promised to tell you how we remediated our son's reading, but first I think an explanation of 'remediating' is in order.  In this case, it means teaching him skills I felt he already should have known.  These skills were taught as though it was the first time through- expectations for progress were put completely on hold until he completed the program. 

Unlike our daughter, our son was a public schooled student from K through part of 3rd grade, so he had plenty of time to learn their methods.  With the exception of really horrible handwriting, he was an A student through the school system.  It came as quite a shock when he came home and I realized how many pieces were missing from his education.  Both he and I were incredibly frustrated by what seems like a waste of his time in the public school system.  Your experience may be different.

With regard to reading, the issues were varied and seemed unconnected at first: he could read above grade level, but he hated it with a passion and would cry when asked.  His comprehension with fiction was incredibly poor (an example: after reading a sentence like this, "The girl in the red bathing suit went to the pool.", he would get caught up in the color of the bathing suit and forget the rest of the sentence.), although it seemed decent with non-fiction.  He would replace words while reading (saying "hopping" instead of "hoping") and changing the entire context of what he was reading.  He hated recounting stories of any sort because he couldn't remember what he had read, even if he had just read it, and even if the reading assignment was short.

The Meat: Teaching Reading

Today I thought I would change it up a bit and talk about one of the issues we faced as homeschoolers.  Reading has been one of our biggest challenges- not because it has been difficult for the kids to learn, but simply because it is one of the most important skills we need.  I am not content to have kids with an acceptable level of reading skill, I really want my kids to read easily, understand well, and find reading enjoyable. 

For my daughter, reading was a struggle.  Our local public school did some form of teaching involving whole language, but the real translation was this: if you can't learn with sight words, you'll never learn phonics (kids are expected to pick up phonics on their own).  Our daughter was a sight-words failure.

I began working with my daughter before we became homeschoolers, in the spring of her Kindergarten year (when I became aware of the problem).  You might think we were missing the boat here, but truthfully I didn't realize she was repeating the sent-home readers by memory.  I assumed incorrectly that she was reading.  However, after the teacher communicated her concerns to me, I began a 'test' of sorts, and the horrid truth came out: my daughter did not know all her letter sounds.  She did not know to read words from left to right (therefore confusing 'of' and 'for', and similar words, constantly).  She did not have any idea how to sound out words.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Dark Side of Homeschooling

(this blog has been written with kids who were previously in public school in mind.  I have no experience with kids who were homeschooled from the beginning, and do not know how that process works for parents or for children.)

   There is a very famous homeschooling woman who has become something of a guru for the community.  She has written bestsellers, has a website, has a forum dedicated to her methods.  I have read some of it, listened to her lectures and taken notes, and use some of her principles in my homeschooling.  But I can't stand her.

Why, you are asking, why?  Because if you listen to her, you will get the same impression you get from a thousand homeschooling books: smiling happy families, smiling happy kids, smiling happy parents.  The kids love it, these things all exclaim, all you have to do is pull your kids out of public school and you, too, can live your dreams!  This particular expert answers questions about what to do if your kids don't want to 'do school' with a line like: I have no idea.  MY kids, she says, would never refuse.

It sets new homeschoolers up with the idea that once you've met the legalities of homeschooling, once you've picked out beautiful curriculum and sharpened all your pencils, everything will be perfect.  The truth is.. well, maybe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

World: meet Homeschooling

You've heard it: ugh those homeschoolers!  Their kids will be badly socialized!  The parents CAN'T POSSIBLY teach them the skills they would learn in public school!  And.. at the heart of it.. WHAT ARE THOSE PARENTS THINKING??

So is this just stuff homeschooling families whine about, but really doesn't happen?  Is this just some over-inflated sense of being shunted aside by non-conformist families?  Sadly, no.

Why We Homeschool

Yesterday my husband stated, "99% of all homeschoolers are religious."

With that opening, I thought I would start off this blog by explaining how we became homeschoolers, and why this is the right journey for our family.  We are entirely secular, no religious under or over tones implied. 

Looking back, the journey was odd, full of interesting moments when the seeds for homeschooling were planted in my reluctant mind.  At one of my son's baby shot appointments, a nurse sarcastically asked me if I was planning to homeschool.  She wasn't being nice, let alone factual, but there it was.. the first time anyone had mentioned anything about homeschooling to me.

The final pushes were an odd combination of a growing worry about the true purpose of public education, a few months of research to write a paper about why I would want to be a teacher (and by the end of it certainty that I would never be one after all), and actual issues within the school system for our own children.