Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Homeschooling Sounds


Raelee, our 5yo, is learning her sounds and is very keen to do so, even more keen than her sleep-deprived, 'can-I- have- a-break-yet?' mother!! I was hoping to have a year off in between finishing with our 17yo and starting with Raelee, but alas she is so ready and desperate to learn to read and count and add up and write, that it would be irresponsible of me to neglect her readiness.

So, I've been seeking the Lord about how and when to start with her. I have spent considerable time re-thinking how I taught the older girls to read, and whether the programs I used then were what I want to use again.

One night, I was awake in the wee hours, as I often am, and some ideas came to me about how to teach Raelee to read. Now, these ideas had been coming for a bit, during daylight hours, often when I was driving,or in the shower, or washing up. But, this time they were clearer and more definite, so the next morning I wrote down some notes, assuming, as I often do, that the Lord was giving me His counsel on the matter.

Psalm 16:7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

He often does this, though others might interpret these ideas and impressions as their own thought processes or something else. I prefer to believe that they come from Him, because He is very much interested in how I teach Raelee to read.

I also know that some of these ideas were new to me and therefore could not be my own thought processes. I also assumed, that because these ideas are coming now, then now is the best time to be teaching and that is certainly proving to be true.

So, what were these ideas? Firstly, to teach the 'a' sound that you hear in cat, then to teach a few of the most common consonant sounds, so that she will be able to read a few similar words, like bat, cat, pat, mat and hat. With that group of sounds learnt, we can also make such words as cap, map, cab, and tab.

We might play with those words a bit and learn some sight words, like 'that', 'at', 'a' and 'the'. I will then move on to the 'e' sound in pet, and review our consonants by learning to read such words as bet, pet, and met, and then teach l and g, so that we can make quite a few more words, like leg, peg, pet, get, tag, beg, bag, gag and lap.

I will then move on to the 'i' sound in pit, reviewing our consonants again with such words as lip, tip, big, pig, bib, bit and pit. And then we might introduce the 'll' sound/spelling at the end of words, and make such words as bill, pill, till, mill, bell, tell, and perhaps even the word 'all' and its mates - tall, ball, call, mall. It all sounds a bit tedious and mundane, I suppose, but I'm looking forward to seeing her put three sounds together and discovering that they make words that she is familiar with, and playing with a few tiles to see what other words she can make and discover.

It makes sense to do it this way, teaching the most commonly used sounds first, so they can use their sounds in real words and practise putting them together, rather than just teaching them in alphabetical order.

Of course, we could make some silly words like geg and bab and lal and tet, which are only silly because they don't exist, but still good sounding out exercises. I can understand where Dr Seuss has come up with his clever ideas for stories. I want to be careful not to push through this sounding out stage too quickly in my keenness, and hers, for her to read 'real' words.

Having received this counsel and having mused on it for a bit, I was pleasantly surprised to read, in the book, 'A Home Start to Reading', by well-known educator Ruth Beechick, that this is a very effective and more enjoyable way to teach a child to read, because they get to read real words earlier, and have something to hang the next sound on. It's also much less expensive than the many phonics/learn-to-read programs that are out there in the homeschool/education market. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with these programs, but I have found them to be quite tedious and boring and dry, at least the ones we've used, and the child either loses interest or becomes overwhelmed because they have so much to learn that is so foreign to them.

So, that is what we'll do. And perhaps we'll use some bits and pieces of our old phonics programs for reinforcement and writing practice, all of which are good and helpful, but I feel somewhat liberated and lighter in being able to do it this way and am now looking forward to the process of teaching and learning phonics, 4th time around!

So far, we've done the 'a' sound and the 'b' sound, and these are some pics of our learning journey.

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