Teaching Reading



It is vitally important that children be taught to read, and to read well. There is shocking evidence that 60 million individuals in the United States, or one-third of the entire population, cannot read. This high rate of illiteracy prevents individuals from reaching their full potential in life and in the job market. It is a frightening reality, especially for parents of school-age children. As a home educator, the teacher-parent may find that teaching reading is one of the most daunting tasks that takes place in a homeschool. It takes time to give children the building blocks necessary to teach them to read. For most children the ability to read does not happen overnight, but rather is a process that takes place in stages as they are offered tools for learning and time to internalize and apply what they have learned. This ability is the foundation of all future learning. It is possible that children can read and read extremely well!

It becomes the responsibility of the parent to teach their children to read. Some key elements in teaching reading:

  • Talk to the child a lot from birth and as they develop and grow. This provides the foundation of linguistic information. By listening, a child absorbs the language, accent, and grammar of those who surround him.
  • Preparation for reading starts at a very young age. Sensory stimulation is important. Whether it be in the form of a red, black, and white mobile that hangs over a child’s crib, or something as simple as turning a light off and on to stimulate the pupillary reflex, activities that encourage development assist in developing overall intelligence and ability. Geometric shapes and the contrast of black and white are some of the first visual items that an infant recognizes. Studies also show that crawling is very important for babies. An infant should be allowed to be on his stomach, on the floor, as much as possible. Crawling helps a child develop neurologically, and it is instrumental in the development of visual pathways to the brain. As children grow, other forms of physical activity, like swinging, climbing, bouncing, jumping, rolling, and gymnastics also assist in neurological development. The development of gross motor skills is vital for youngsters. Strong neural pathways assist the child in becoming a good reader.
  • Make sure that words are visible to children of all ages. Small words on a book are not always easy for a developing youngster, so care should be taken to provide opportunity for children to see words in large print and in bright colors. Expose children to written words in their daily life at an early age, just as you surround them with verbal information. Point out signs, words on cereal boxes, notes on the fridge, and so on. Make them aware that words exist and that they are a valuable part of life.
  • Read to your child, starting from infancy. Books can be either commercial or those that you write yourself (large, colorful words). Make reading a daily routine. This establishes value and importance on the task. This example teaches your child what books are for. Read to them with enthusiasm, changing your voice to express the personality of each character in the book. Use your finger to underline the words as you read out loud, as this teaches the child that words flow in a certain pattern, going from left to right, and from top to bottom of the page. Read frequently and for as long as you keep a child’s attention. Reading is one of the foundations of an intelligent individual. Reading to your child is a key component in creating a good reader.
  • Tie together the importance of sounds (language) and reading (words) by teaching children phonics. Instead of teaching the alphabet, skip that task and instead teach the child the letter sounds. You can go with the same sequence of A, B, C. But, instead of saying the name of the letters, model the sounds of the words instead. If a letter has more than one sound, give them both in sequence. For example, say the sound for soft-sound A then long-sound A, then the sound for the letter B, and sound for soft-sound C and then long-sound C.  Continue through the alphabet. This is an activity that can be set to the music of a favorite song and it should be a routine that is established daily and from a young age. As children grow and you prepare them for more formal reading, the phonetic foundation will have been established. After the alphabet sounds are learned, move on to the more advanced phonograms and teach them with their phonics rules.
  • Encourage initial reading experiences using books that are phonetically based and have been written so that the child recognizes the phonograms learned. A phonics reading program such as this free, online reading resource helps the child flow naturally into putting sounds together into words, sentences, and paragraphs. Reading becomes a natural process with this approach.
  • Give the child opportunities each day to read out loud to you! Short periods of time throughout the day will be more productive than one longer period of time. For the best in productive learning, always quit the activity before your child is ready to quit! Diminished interest on the child’s part is never productive. The key to a pleasurable reading experience is to keep the child motivated and eager. Taking turns with the parent in reading a story is a great way to teach a child to read.
  • Pace the learning experience according to your child’s needs. If a child was interested in learning, and then you see a diminished interest, it is a cue that the child is experiencing boredom and that it is time to quicken the pace and teach him new concepts. Boredom can indicate that the child already knows the information. But, be aware that there are other reasons for boredom, making it clear that you need to keep in tune with your child and their needs. Boredom can also result when a child doesn’t understand the information being presented. It can also mean that your child sees no useful application for the information being taught. Thus, it is important to clarify concepts as you go along and to help the child see their importance and how it applies to daily life. Interest in a subject goes a long way in helping a child focus their attention.
  • Remember that all words a child is being taught to read should have meaning to him. If a child doesn’t know that Istanbul is the name of a city in Turkey, it will have no meaning to him. Explain the meaning of words they may not understand. Make reading meaningful. Start out with familiar words and move on from their. Words don’t have to be simple to be meaningful and read at an early age. If the child has a dog named Liberated, that becomes a good reading word even though it is not generally a word the beginning reader uses, because the child can associate the word with something that is meaningful to him. Introduce new words at a pace that prevents boredom but that does not overwhelm.
  • Games and drills can be fun for a child learning to read! Phonogram flashcards can be laid flat on a counter top with pennies, nickles, quarters, and dimes underneath. Take turns with the child in selecting a card and verbalizing the sound of the letter or letters being presented. If the sound given is correct, the child gets to keep the coin below the card. See who can collect the most money (teacher-parent, child, or sibling). If you don’t want to use actual money, school tokens could be made instead. Other games like Go-Fish, flashcard games, or pocket games can all be used in teaching phonics and/or sight-see words.  Reading game ideas can be found online if you have trouble coming up with ideas on your own.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Reading aloud to your child is as important as having your child read back to you. Read throughout the day, not just from books but from signs, packages, posters, and more. Make reading fun for both you and your child. Make reading a delight! Not only will you be creating happy memories with your child, but you will be establishing a foundation of learning that will serve your child well for years to come.

Assigning Chores and Making Them Interesting

Family chores are tasks that contribute to keeping a household running smoothly. They are duties that the whole family participates in, not just mom, dad, or children. Certain tasks may always belong to specific individuals in the family, but the others can be divided up and traded off to make things more interesting for everyone. When working with children, it is important to remember that they are best motivated with mom or dad working with them. This doesn’t mean that the parents are doing the children’s chores, but rather that everyone has a designated time when they are all doing their assigned chores.

Some chores are automatic and should be done routinely every day. When waking up in the morning, children can get dressed, comb their hair, make their bed, tidy their room, put their dirty clothes in the laundry room, feed the pets, and set the table for breakfast. When required routinely, these tasks become habit and over time they will happen automatically. In our family, the rule was that pets always get fed before humans. This included the sheep, pony, turkey, and chickens!

Other tasks may not be so routine. If there is more than one child in the family, it is more interesting to trade off, especially if there are some jobs that are not as desirable as others. Some of the techniques we used in our family for allotting chores included the following:

  1. Write down all the tasks that need done on individual slips of paper. Take turns pulling a chore out of a hat, going back and forth until all the chores are selected.
  2. Make a list of chores that need done. Take turns having the children choose which chores they would like to sign up for. Use a different colored marker for each child and highlight those items they chose. This gives them a sense of empowerment, as they get to choose their chores. It’s true that these are the same chores that could simply be assigned.
  3. Sign up for some chores and that are traded off weekly with another family member. For example, empty the dishwasher for one week, and for the next week fill it. Empty the wastebaskets in the house one week, and the next week sweep the kitchen floor. Some chores won’t be as desirable as others, but the child knows that once the week is up, they get a break the next week while another family member does the task.
  4. Allow for something interesting to happen while a chore is being done. Folding laundry while watching a nature DVD turns the task into a family event.
  5. Occasionally make a game out of household chores. Hide a surprise under objects that the child can find when dusting the furniture. A nickel under a vase, a stick of sugarless gum behind a picture frame, or a coupon for a cookie from mom all provide incentive and challenge.
  6. If the house has become cluttered, set the oven timer for five minutes and have everyone pick things up and put them away, counting how many objects they cared for. Have a reward for the person that put the most things away. The reward may simply be that mom or dad will do their next assigned chore.
  7. Another technique for a cluttered house is to give each person the task of putting away 20 things. This is conducted like a race, seeing who can put away 20 things fastest.
  8. Teach children to put away things as they complete a project. Toys, craft supplies, and school books used should be put away before they move on to another activity. After a meal, have each family member take their dirty dishes to the sink. It helps if they are asked to each choose three or four things on the table and carry them to the kitchen as well.
  9. Make a chore chart. Give children a sticker for completing each chore. At the end of the week, count their stickers. Have a reward system where the children receive a prize for achieving their goal. Stickers are not given for chores done in a complaining manner, even if the chore was eventually completed.
  10. Chores work best if done on a consistent schedule. Our family found that the time between breakfast and starting school activities for the day worked best. Generally an hour is enough time to allot for daily family chores.

Age appropriate chores can be assigned from toddler years until a child leaves home. They help to establish habits of good home management, and the child will reap rewards for a lifetime! Useful work is a strong component in educating the whole child.

Planning a Preschool Curriculum

It’s natural for parents to have role models, someone who is an expert in a field or who has experienced something before us and shares their experience with others. These mentors are important in helping us as we experience things in life that are new to us. During my children’s early years, Dr. Kay Kuzma was one of my role models. I loved her enthusiastic and positive outlook. Always positive, her energy and knowledge were contagious! I read all her books and listened to as many of her audio presentations as I could find.

Recently I found my copy of her book, Living with God’s Kids. As I scanned its pages again, I was immediately transported back in time, a time when my children were young and when we were starting our homeschool journey. The words of Dr. Kuzma reminded me of the role model she was to me.

When it comes to teaching preschool children, she believes that they learn best through play. Having freedom to choose the activities that they enjoy the most and being able to spend lots of time outdoors are two of her core values. She also believes that children can be guided and given activities that will help them with their development. Giving them daily home duties, lessons from nature, and reading Bible stories rounds out their early childhood days. Play, chores, nature study, and Bible stories established the core of her preschool curriculum. Knowing that Dr. Kuzma has a Ph.D. in early childhood education, yet chose to teach her own children by such a natural method, encouraged me to focus my homeschool curriculum on the core values that she felt were most important.

Here is an example of the preschool schedule that Dr. Kuzma prepared for her children.

  • She wrote down the things she wanted her children to learn during the year.
  • Then she printed each activity that would help her children learn these things on a 3 x 5 card.
  • She thought up about 10 things she wanted the children to learn about on the first day.
  • Each day after that she thought of several more things to add to the list.
  • An example of a day’s list looked like this: 1) go to the library and get 25 books; 2) clean room; 3) learn telephone number; 4) make bird feeder; 5) fold clothes; 6) make a picture book and tell stories about each picture; 7) learn A, B, and C on the piano; 8) listen to a story about honesty; 9) make granola; 10) practice roller skating.
  • Each day the children would sort through the cards and choose which activity they wanted to do that day.
  • Cards for some activities that happened daily (like cleaning their room) were left in the pile each day.
  • The activities that were a one-time deal were put in a special box after the children signed the back of the card.
  • If the children were not interested in anything on any of the cards, she would ask them what they would like to have added, and then she would write up their ideas on new cards for them to choose from.

The cards are only a jumping off point and should not limit learning. Every effort should be made throughout the day to use teachable moments as they happen. Common sense and taking advantage of things that happen in life should be utilized.

Dr. Kuzma says that she got most of her ideas for activities by listening to the children express what they wanted to do or what they wanted to learn about. Other ideas came from children’s activity books that she had in her personal library. This method of preschool learning motivates children because it is truly one that follows the interest of the children being taught.

I found it encouraging that this method of instruction allows children to learn purposefully, but without forcing them into early, structured education. Instead of workbooks and copy work, her children were allowed to grow and develop naturally, learning about daily life at their mother’s knee. Dr. Kuzma’s approach allowed her to listen to the needs of her children and to establish routines and activities that expanded her children’s world and allowed them to learn much more than if they had been confined to a workbook each day.

She ends her comments on preschool education with this sentence: “If I can do it, you can!” Now, go take on the day!

[Information from Living with God’s Kids, by Dr. Kay Kuzma, chapter 4]

Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart

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“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children,” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

These words clearly instruct that God’s word should be committed to memory and passed on from generation to generation. Committing portions of scripture to memory is vital in retaining knowledge of the scriptures. Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8 share that prosperity and success in life come from scripture memorization, as it creates familiarity with God’s word and causes the learner to meditate upon the principles of God which promote these things.

Memorization takes discipline, and that can become tedious if not handled with some creative care. A teaching mom or dad can help speed along the process of memory work by building fun and interest into the process. In her book, Building Your Child’s Faith, Alice Chapin outlines some great techniques for accomplishing this. She recommends the following:

  • Set up contests between adults and kids. Offer fun prizes. Draw up a “contract.” For instance, if the kids memorize the verses more quickly than the adults, the adults will take out the trash for a week. But, if the adults memorize them first, the kids will do the supper cleanup for a week. Be sure to sign the contract to make it official!
  • Help little children learn by repetition. Review while rocking, bathing, and playing with them. Repeat while driving or waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Post current memory work on the refrigerator, closet door, or kitchen bulletin board. Or, stretch a “clothesline” and clothespin verses for the month to it.
  • Have memory charts. Award stickers, stars, or seals for each learned verse, prizes for every five stickers.
  • Purchase a scripture songbook, and sing Bible verses right into the minds of the family. Or make your own music for favorite verses.
  • Use flannel-graph letters or verse flashcards. Mix up letters and words, and take turns straightening them out.
  • Write the verse on a chalkboard. Take turns erasing one word at a time. Repeat the whole verse after each erasure.
  • Print different verses on 5×8 cards. Cut each card into pieces. Put the pieces for each verse in an envelope. Pass out the envelopes, and use a timer to see who can put the verse-puzzle together the most quickly. Have each member read his or her assembled verse.
  • Let the leader begin quoting a verse, stopping after every few words to ask another person to add the next four words, or two words, and so on. Have a stick of gum or a lollipop ready for the first person to identify where the verse is located.
  • Let the small children use magic markers to print the verse of the week on sheets of construction paper. Add stickers or magazine pictures and use for placemats at dinner.
  • Give each youngster an empty photo album with see-through plastic pages. Insert weekly memory cards for an individual record of verses learned and for easy private review.
  • Once in a while assign short scripture verses to be memorized by the following day. Celebrate completion of the assignment with a yummy treat.

~ This is a previously posted article ~

Warm, Responsive Parenting and Delayed Academics

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In our family, we chose to follow the Moore Formula approach to education. The focus on work, study, and service helped us keep a balance in our family life while presenting the value of learning to our children in every facet of our lives. I believe that the Moore approach, possibly more than any other, allows learning to become integral to the whole child and the complete family system. With this approach, education is not placed in a box. Instead, the entire world is open to the child in a way that most other types of educational systems cannot replicate.

Sometimes parents who choose to follow the Moore Formula find that they can feel like a fish swimming up the stream instead of going with the flow. That’s because they are thinking and teaching outside the norm. Our culture and the educational system are creating learning environments that take the parent out of the educational formula at an early age (preschool). One goal of the present public system of education is to do this at increasingly earlier ages. As homeschool parents, sometimes we forget that these are external, artificial pressures, and we take them upon ourselves.

Research shows that children whose parents practice delayed academics rather than early academics, catch up with and exceed peers who have been educated formally and starting at a young age. Not only are delayed-study children beneficiaries academically, but research shows that they exhibit more skills in inquiry and higher-level thinking than their traditionally educated peers. Traditionally “schooled” AND traditionally “schooled at home” children who are not taught by the work-service-study model of delayed academics that Dr. Moore promoted have been found to exhibit signs (across the board) of burnout by fourth grade. These are only a few examples of the excellence that results in children who receive an education with delayed academics.

School Can Wait is an example of a very well documented and highly researched book which proves Dr. Moore’s educational philosophy. This book is highly research oriented and the result of a $257,000 federal grant which documented the importance of unbroken continuity of parental attachment wherever possible, and the dangers of formal schooling until at least eight to ten. In it Dr. Moore states that:

“The preponderance of evidence indicates that the key role of a parent throughout the years of childhood is simply to be the kind of warm, responsive, and relatively consistent person to whom a child can safely become attached. Early development and learning are actively dependent on this relationship. Parents are chiefly responsible for a child’s early learning by their attitudes and responses to the child in frequent interactions,” (School Can Wait, p. 47).

The Moore Formula encourages warm, responsive parenting and a delay in formal academics until eight or ten years of age. It is a plan that has proven itself over and over again. It really does work!