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Preschool Advice, Finger Knitting, Reading for 8 Year Olds

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, February 08, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 11 February 8, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Advice for a Former Teacher
Helpful Tips
-- Finger Knitting Project
Winning Website
-- www.WebMath.com
Reader Question
-- Reading for 8 Year Old Twins
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Advice to a Former Teacher on Choosing a "Preschool Curriculum"
(from 2 members of our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group)


"When your son learned to speak English... what curriculum did
you use? When he learned how to put on his clothes and go to
the potty all by himself, did you have some special materials
that you used to bring him up to speed?

I always think it is funny that we feel like we have to have some
fancy-schmancy thing to teach our kids. We teach them every day.
Don't buy curriculum or even bother writing something. Try just
'living' for a change. Throw away that old worn out teacher hat
and try just wearing your mommy hat... it is more than enough!
You had everything you needed before you got your teaching degree.


When you are cooking in the kitchen talk to your son about the
properties of water while you watch a pot boiling on the stove and
then make some macaroni and cheese.

When you go outside in the backyard to play, get down on your hands
and knees with your son and observe the wonderful exotic jungle
crawling around at your finger tips.

Get out a blank piece of paper (instead of a worksheet or coloring
book page) and draw together purely from your imagination.

Curl up on the couch, and read every book he pulls off the shelf
with cookies and milk -- and don't forget to use your best funny

And above all pull out the best book of all (the one that God
wrote, the Bible) and show him that knowledge isn't as important
as wisdom.

You will find that your precious son will love to learn and you
will love learning too. It is a lot more fun and productive
being a mommy than being a teacher."


And from another member:

"I, too, am a former public school teacher, and I must tell you
that my credentials were more of a hindrance than a help. By
the grace of God I was finally able to cast off my notions about
what school is supposed to look like, and He taught me what
natural learning is like. Your little boy is only 4. Let him
be a little boy. His lessons will be so much more meaningful if
you'll allow him to dig in the dirt, climb trees, catch bugs,
play with money, draw pictures, sing, play with building materials,
and so on. Read to him until your voice gives out. You can
include the little one in most of it. Please read one or more of
Dr. Raymond Moore's books about the serious dangers of starting
children on structured schoolwork too soon. By the time he's ready
to begin more formal instruction, he'll love learning so much you
won't be able to stop him. But if you start too soon, you could
cripple his learning abilities, and lose his heart. Then you might
spend the rest of his school years fighting with him to do his
assignments. The price is too great to pay."


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Neat Hand-made Valentine's Gift

"I LOVE teaching boys to knit. It is such an awesome way for
them to focus and they really love it. It also seems to calm
them down sometimes. I just uploaded a video of my son and I
doing really easy finger-knitted (also known as finger crochet)
Valentine's flowers. Okay, so he only agreed to appear in a
video about Valentine's flowers if I didn't show his FACE! But
it is a really nice instructional video. You can view it at
the link below."


-- Kristie (and Sunii) - HomeschoolingBOYS.com member

Kristie's blog: http://waldorfschoolonline.blogspot.com


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website


"OUTSTANDING -- it doesn't just solve, it explains. Not a lot --
but it explains. If nothing else, it may help those of us who
aren't math whizzes explain it better. Lots of categories."

-- Aardvark

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am homeschooling my twin sons who are 8 years old. They are
struggling to read. What programs can you reccommend to teach
reading skills? Thanks for your help!" -- Teresa

Our Readers' Responses

"Our son, also age 8, was a struggling reader. His reading has
recently improved dramatically. So hang in there. I must admit
that he wasn't interested in practicing until we started a simple
reward system. Whatever works for you. If they're not interested
or motivated, an incentive system can help tremendously.

I strongly recommend books by Ruth Beechick, as well as Jane
Healy's 'Your Child's Growing Mind'. You really don't need to
worry. They WILL learn to read. Just like potty training and
all the other things children learn, they just learn them at
different times.

Here is what Ruth Beechick writes about late readers in her
'Homeschool Answer Book':

'It may help to know that there is much research to show that a
good average age for boys to start reading is 7 1/2. Many chil-
dren are now starting later than that and doing very well academi-
cally. Children begin reading at later-than-average ages for many
reasons, including slower physiological or neurological develop-
ment. In all these cases nothing is gained by trying too hard to
speed up the reading development. That just discourages a child,
damages his self-confidence, and take the joy out of reading.

Now what has worked for us:
* Do lots of research about phonics programs first. The worst
homeschooling purchase we made was buying 'Hooked on Phonics' way
too early before doing any research. We never used it. We later
only used the Readers that came with it. But it certainly wasn't
worth the cost.
* We love the series of Explode the Code Primers (Get Ready for
the Code, Get Set, and Go) and later their workbooks (books 1-8)
- available from most suppliers, including Amazon. I am a big
believer in the success of these workbooks. They're fun and
simple, and they do a great job of reinforcing and reviewing.
We try to do 1-2 pages of the workbooks daily.
* We add in some fun readers that are appropriate to the level
where the child is. The Bob Books (most bookstores and libraries
carry them) and Modern Curriculum Press's Phonics Practice
Readers from Rainbow Resource catalog (expensive, but I like
them because they're systematic and organized) have worked well
for us, as well as some other readers. We try to read one practice
reader daily after the child has finished Book 1 in the Explode
the Code (ETC) workbooks. Now, ds spends lots and lots of time
going through more and more difficult readers. He's almost at
the chapter book stage.
* We also got 'Happy Phonics' - from the Love to Learn catalog
- excellent - http://www.lovetolearn.net - Happy Phonics is a
game-based phonics program that your child may like. Using games
are not mandatory, but they certainly do make learning fun! And
I always believe in making learning fun as much as possible. Our
son enjoyed these games and they helped.
* I am rather wary of very expensive phonics programs with all
the bells and whistles. To me, reading is a question of timing
and readiness. I really don't think it's any particular, specific
program that's the secret. I truly believe that it is the timing.
The child needs to be ready.

Somewhere between age 5 and 7 most children are developmentally
ready to read. Before that, you're really looking at advanced
children and children who naturally have a proclivity toward
reading. A friend of mine who has her master's degree in reading
instruction told me that she remembers reading this study while
doing her graduate work that showed that trying to teach children
to read before the mental age of 5 1/2 (and of course some reach
that mental age at 4, while others at 7) can actually frustrate
their progress in reading because they are simply not ready to
handle it!

For some children, reading takes longer than for others. Don't
feel pressured to keep up with someone else on this point. If your
child is not ready, don't rush just because you need to keep up
with the rest of the world. I've rushed some things I shouldn't
have because of this pressure, at the expense of my child, more
so the older one." -- Negin in Grenada


"The 'curriculum' I would recommend is called 'read, read, and
read some more'. Actually, it isn't a real curriculum. It is
the advice that I received over and over again when my son was
struggling with reading. Just read, read, read to them. Lots
of boys don't really click with reading till they are 12 or some-
times even older. Unless your sons have other problems I wouldn't
worry about it. It is hard to be patient -- (especially in my case
where my son was in Bible classes and the other kids could read so
much better than he could). They will 'get it' when they are ready
and not a moment before! You can buy tons of helpful books and
curriculums, but until they are ready it just isn't going to happen.
So that my son did not get behind in other areas where reading is
required (science, history, etc.), I would read the material to him
and then he would answer the questions to me orally. He had a good
retention this way and when he finally got the hang of reading he
wasn't behind in these subjects. Just be patient; enjoy the quiet,
snuggle time with your sons. Someday in the future they will look
back on it as a special time in their lives." -- Martha in Indiana


"I always started my children out with 'Teach Your Child to Read
in 100 Easy Lessons' by Siegfried Engelmann -- and then, after
completing that program, moved into 'Phonics for Spelling and
Reading' by Bonnie Dettmer. We also used Pathway Readers from
the Rod and Staff company to supplement Dettmer's program. They
are all excellent readers, and I'm certain the phonics-based
foundation from Englemann's book and Dettmer's program is what
solidified this. Hope this is helpful." -- Kathy in CA


"Hi Teresa -- I have found a program called Headsprout. It is
an online phonics/reading program. My son LOVES it because of
the interaction he gets with the computer and the games they
have with it. I hope this helps you some." -- Jen


"Teresa -- My child is dyslexic and so I did a ton of research.
She has always read at grade level, but not to her abilities if
that makes sense. The approach proven to work best with those
who struggle is the Orton-Gillinham approach. Many people have
provided it for teachers and tutors, but my favorite is Susan
Barton's version. http://www.dys-add.com/teach.html

There is a ton of information on her site, too. Some of the top
schools use the Wilson version of it. You could spend lots of
money testing for reading difficulties, or just do what they do
when they discover them. Timing is essential. The earlier you
start, the better. Why not go to the best there is? I guess
testing would be beneficial if you are looking for a label to
research and to help you understand any other reasons there may
be difficulties. For instance, some people have auditory proces-
sing disorders and so that affects their reading and spelling.

Also, the book 'Overcoming Dyslexia' by Sally Shawitz would
probably be more helpful than many experts. It's more updated
than anything available.

I don't mean to assume the worst, but even if there isn't a real
problem with the kids, why not go to the best? This method turns
reading into a logical thing, like math. I wish I had been taught
this way. It's down right fun." -- Heidi


"I highly recommend 'Progressive Phonics'. These are inexpensive
(about $20 for all of the levels, and the first few are free).
The only thing that may or may not be a problem for you is they
are books you print yourself from .pdf files. I have been using
them with my first grader with wonderful success.


Each book that you print covers both 'sight words' and one phonics
concept, like a short vowel sound in the beginning level, or a
letter blend in one of the more difficult levels; so the material
is spread out and covered in little bits, and not thrown all at
once at the student. There are handwriting worksheets, puzzles,
a memory game and flash cards you can print to go along with each
book. The last book covers syllables and punctuation. They
suggest you read through each book more than one time until your
child has mastered the concepts being taught and, as homeschool-
ers, this is no problem for us.

When you begin a book, and throughout the book when you introduce
a new phonics rule or anything new, there are instructions given
on how to explain it to your child, so it is very easy to use.
Their web site is extremely informative in that it tells exactly
what words will be studied in what book. These books are colorful
and the rhyming stories are silly and fun - at least to my child.
Again, I can't recommend this program highly enough!"


"We used 'Phonics for Reading and Spelling' by Bonnie L. Dettmer,
I didn't do the spelling until the 2nd grade year, however.

We also used 'Go for the Code' (primer to 'Explode the Code')
workbook Series. It starts with learning the sound for each
letter and how to write the letters and goes on to the phonograms
and blending with each level. This series also has 1/2 levels
between each level if extra practice is needed.

We used the Pathway readers once they learned the phonograms --
and lots of library books (easy readers). For their 'free' reading
selections, I let them choose below their reading level if it is
of interest. I have read that this can help with their reading
speed and interest in reading. For school time, they read from a
reader at their level. We also do read-alouds with books from the
library. We check out 3-4 copies of the same book and everyone
follows along or just listens. Audio books can also help.

We also played the Phonics game once a week." -- Cindy

Answer our NEW Question

"I have 2 kids and my older daughter doesn't get enough exercise.
I homeschool both of them. My daughter is 16 years old and I am
disabled -- I walk with crutches. I walk the mall almost every
day with both of my kids but I don't think this is enough. My
daughter takes two classes outside of the home so she is very
busy with schoolwork. If you have any suggestions on how to fit
in more exercise and what kind of exercise we could do, that would
be great." -- Bonita


Do you have exercise suggestions for Bonita?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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