September 4, 2011

This Year's Curriculum: Reading Made Easy

Our language arts program for this day is not over yet. Even though we do a rule a day (Max’s choice) and reading together from the Elson readers (Zak and TJ’s choice) I decided we still need some practical detailed re-work in the basics in phonic reading instruction. So I picked Reading Made Easy and Reading Reflex to help me do this.

Reading Made Easy will be a wonderful review of lots of information we have covered in the past two years and allow me time one-to-one with each of my boys to give them personal encouragement and hone little errors to perfection. There is a great review of it at The Old School House.

I began phonics instruction with Max when he was 3 yrs. old using the free online program provided by Starfall. Max learned all the letters and their sounds very quickly. Following that I was given Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Max and I finished that book with lots of pain and tears along the way. Max understood a lot and read well, but the inconsistency of English was frustrating and discouraging to him. To help him sort out and make some sense of the English code I found Don Potters site and began doing Blend Phonics because it stuck to using words and exercises that were all decodable. But the decoding decoding decoding was boring and Max though he finished the lessons for Blend Phonics did not like it, and he was still frustrated and unsuccessful with reading. Zak and TJ joined us part of the year with blend phonics but they were only 4 yrs old at the time (Max was six) and I felt it was unwise to push them into it. So thus far all the boys knew their letter sounds and could blend sounds together, but none of them had much success with reading on the whole. Last year we used the McGuffey Primer using a Charlotte Mason method of reading, and we learned a poem, Land of Story Books by Robert Louis Stevenson using CM the method too. This gave the boys a break from just decoding but they were still interacting with words and letters and they learned quite a lot. At the end of the year they were reading more fluently, recognizing more sight words, and writing well, but they still don’t really feel confident to just pick up a book at any level and read it.

I am also using Reading Reflex by Carmen McGuinness. This book will provide fun hands on playing around with patterns in the English language we can do all together. It does not focus on learning rules which really frustrates my oldest son Max, but instead, sorts English by sounds finding letter pictures that make each sound. There is a wonderful review of Reading Reflex over at the Old School House Magazine that I found helpful.

I plan to mainly progress through Reading Made Easy (we began on lesson # 17) so there is a clear path forward and a logical progression of thought, and intersperse the activities from Reading Reflex as they compliment the RME lessons. The lessons are short and I have been able to work with each boy individually in about ½ hour. While I work with the one by him self the other two are occupied with copywork at their desks.

So this lesson completes our intentional language arts instruction for the day, but narration and copywork the other components our language arts curriculum are ongoing and less intentional. You never know when you will be seeing it, but it is always there in history, art, music, science, and bible. They are the skills we use when we digest the good ideas from life all around us.

The core (bible, language arts, math, history) of our curriculum is now under our belt we have electives left to complete. They are by far the best part of the day. Some days, we call them “backwards days” we begin at the end of the schedule and go back through the day backwards. We usually do this on the last day of the week because we love those subjects so much.

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