Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in reading (4)


Learning tools: reading

Reading as a skill is hot button topic. Back in the days when we were shopping for schools, before we decided to homeschool, it seemed that every preshool in twon was advertising their success in early reading training. Where kindergarten used to be about learning your letters, today it's about hard core reading drills. In many programs kids are expected to be independent readers before they enter the first grade. The push for early reading skill development is strong.

I think reading is one of the most important skills a child can master. Just thnk of all the doors that open up for a child who is reading on his own, a child who can seek his own information and follow his own dreams and desires. But it's because of this that there is so much pressure placed on educators and kids surrounding the reading topic, and the stress has drained it of enjoyment. Flashcards, computer programs, audio programs, workbooks, easy readers, high demands, outrageous expectations...when the most important tools we have are simply a library card, and patience.

Where my unschooling plans have failed in other subjects, they have succeeded with flying colors here. Reading is a huge passtime in our house; we are readers ourselves and have created a culture of reading in our home. We read to Calvin many books, many times a day, beginning on day one before we were even home from the hospital. Instead of toys he has always had only books on the shelves in his room. When he showed an interest in reading I provided him with a selection of the Bob books and lots of my time, but I also also got him started on keeping a journal, with which I credit much of his reading success. Calvin is now an advanced independent reader who sees reading the way other kids see video games or TV, and my biggest job now is to make sure he has lots of quality reading material available to him, the operative word being quality.

So what does reading education look like in our house? What are our greatest tools?

Books, of course. Lots and lots of books. But where do we get them and how do we pick them? Library checkouts—as soon as he had memorized his home phone and address and could write that information legibly I took him to the library to get his own card, and that card gets a workout. But we also hit up used book sales, particularly library used book sales.

And it looks like reading together and out loud. It looks like journal keeping, and illustrating. It looks like listening to books while illustrating them ourselves.

It looks like a life revolving around reading.


The Bob Books

Reading is something we've done an extra lot of as of late. Of course we always read a lot, but the difference is that now about half of that reading is being done by Calvin himself. At this point he is now reading a variety of books we have in the house, mostly the easy readers of yesteryear, like Hop on Pop, by Dr. Suess, or Snow, by P.D. Eastman, but before he started working his way through the longer books we started with books intended to teach reading and phonics. It was on a trip to the library a couple of weeks ago that he first asked to bring home a set of phonics books and I spent some times perusing the collection there, only to be disappointed by the number of books more interested in selling a branded character (like Clifford, Bob the Builder, or Thomas) than teaching the skill of reading, but there was one collection that was entirely devoid of that commercial culture so we brought it home. Turns out we were pretty happy with that selection. The Bob Books we had (and clearly we didn't try all of them) were a good workout for the new reader and even had somewhat interesting stories. I'm sure I was slightly drugged by the joy of watching my son discover reading, but these books were actually enjoyable for both Calvin and for me. Win win.



I have long been opposed to teaching reading at young ages. I think I have previously expounded the virtues of waiting to teach that skill, and my goal was to have Calvin reading around the age of six. I should know by now, however, that my son has his own ideas about learning (I still remember carefully researching all the important theories on potty training only to have him wake up one day completely potty trained all by himself). So I guess I can't say I'm surprised that at the library last week Calvin asked to check out a collection of phonics books, then at home proceeded to work his way through them methodically and voraciously, with little help from me. In the short span of a weekend he mastered all the words in the first set of Bob phonics books we brought home and is proudly asking for more.  Homeschooling is nothing if not exciting, being full of misdirections, u-turns, and somtimes complete transportations. I may have intended to save reading for another couple of years, but Calvin had other ideas.



I haven't blogged about our general activities in a while, but that's not to say that we haven't been busy. I am dedicated to a life of routine, though equally as dedicated to breaking out of it. It's both comforting and pacing to have at least a few landmarks along our daily road; there isn't a day of the week that we don't read and play the piano, for instance. And there are other things that I am careful to squeeze in at least a  minimum of times over any given week, and this month we've added journaling to that list.

Honestly I've never been very good at keeping a journal. I love to write and am continually thinking in terms of journaling, but rarely do my thoughts ever make it onto paper. I believe that writing is an empowering activity, though, and it has always been our plan to involve Calvin in the blog as soon as he grasps the art of reading and writing. With the advent of school for everyone else, and months of cold, indoor days upon us, I decided to get us started on actually keeping journals.

The rule is that we write at least three days a week. I am keeping a reading journal, writing about the books I am reading, and Calvin is keeping more of a daily activity journal recorded in a combination of writing and drawing/coloring. I think he's pretty excited about the endeavor and his writing (both the actual writing and his ability to sound out words) is already maturing with the increased practice. And maybe, just maybe, as a team we'll be able to stick to this writing resolution. It's something I've always wanted to do.