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Proactive/Reactive Homeschoolers, Reading Help Suggestions

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 8 January 29, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.




Guest Article
-- What Kind of Homeschooler Are You?
Winning Website
-- Tomkins Family Printouts
Reader Question
-- 12 Year Old with Reading Problems
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

What Kind of Homeschooler Are You?
-- by Barbara Frank

It's interesting how people categorize themselves. When I began
homeschooling, there were homeschoolers. Before long, they morphed
into two groups: Christian homeschoolers and secular homeschoolers.
Over the years we’ve seen a transition into homeschoolers defining
themselves by their method of homeschooling: traditional, unschooler,
Charlotte Mason method, etc.

I’ve never looked at it that way. I see homeschoolers as falling
into two camps: proactive and reactive. And I think the motivation
and gifts that each brings to the table can surely help the other.

Proactive homeschoolers start when their children are young, and
maybe even before they're born. These are people who are fascinated
by the idea of homeschooling. Maybe they were bored in school when
they were children, or maybe they’re just the kind of people who
would rather do something themselves than trust others to do it.
They tend to prefer homeopathy, growing their own food, sewing
their own clothes, or simply raising their own kids instead of
putting them into daycare before the hospital bill for the birth
arrives in the mailbox.

Reactive homeschoolers may never have thought about homeschooling
until long after they became parents, and only then because their
child’s needs were not being met in school, or there was a bullying
situation that became impossible, or their child had trouble learning
the way the teacher insisted they learn. They chose homeschooling
because they were unhappy with the other options.

These two groups, proactive and reactive homeschoolers, may seem
poles apart, and often they are. But when they get to know each
other, they often find that they can help each other out.

For example, the proactive homeschooler has often never sent a child
to school. On those days when exhaustion hits and they start thinking
sending the child to school would be a lot easier, their reactive
homeschooling friends can tell them a few stories about what school
is really like. There’s nothing like a little reality to bring you
around. People like me, who never sent a child to school until one
went off to college, are often stunned by the reality of what's going
on in the schools today.

(In my own newsletter, I usually include a recent news story about
something outrageous happening in a school. I do this so that we
naïve proactive homeschoolers are reminded about what's going on
there, because we don’t know. I call it the 'What Our Kids Are
Missing Out On Dept.' because we need to be aware of just what's
happening in schools. Quite frankly, these stories shock me as much
as they shock some of my readers. Call it negative reinforcement if
you wish, but it works.)

Proactive homeschoolers have the ability to return this favor to
their reactive homeschooling friends. Often, reactive homeschoolers
pulled a child out of school rather quickly, before they had a chance
to learn about the many ways to educate a child at home. Proactive
homeschoolers tend to have more experience with this, and can share
resources and materials with their friends. They can help them
navigate this new path and save them a lot of trouble 'reinventing
the wheel' of homeschooling.

Instead of viewing other homeschoolers as those using a different
method, we can look at them as being proactive or reactive home-
schoolers. We all fall into one of those two groups, and each is
the perfect helper to the other.

We need to have a cooperative spirit with other homeschoolers instead
of feeling different from them, because the assault on homeschooling
freedoms continues. As Benjamin Franklin famously said upon signing
the Declaration of Independence, 'We must, indeed, all hang together,
or assuredly we shall all hang separately'.


Copyright 2009 Barbara Frank/Cardamom Publishers

Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth children
ages 15-25, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of "Life Prep
for Homeschooled Teenagers", "The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to
Homeschooling", and "Homeschooling Your Teenagers". You'll find her on
the Web at www.cardamompublishers.com and http://barbarafrankonline.com


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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Winning Website

Tomkins Family –http://www.geocities.com/makeca3/

This family has developed several neat printouts for you to use
with kids K–2 to teach math skills, typing, and spelling. I
especially like the activity calendars!

-- Cindy, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a 12 year old student who is working on a first grade level
with most of the difficulties being in reading. He takes like 20
minutes to read a simple sentence. I am looking for a curriculum to
homeschool him. Can you help me with any information?" -- Susan B.

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi, Susan -- I’d say you should go for a FIAR / Montessori kind
of approach. Something that is not so structured and that can
provide him with some room to develop other skills. You should
remember that he might just start to think that he's 'dumb' (ugly
term) and then give up trying to overcome his problem. Should this
be the case, you won't be able to assist him in developing his
skills -- not because of you lacking the competence, but because
he decided to believe that he can't do it.

My advice to you: Build your program around your child and accom-
modate his problem by supporting it via your skills. In other words,
do some reading with him, and let him do reading lessons, but don't
focus on that. In the FIAR program, you do activities to learn
concepts and skills, and I’d say that this will boost his self-esteem
and support your efforts in return -- www.fiarhq.com

You can also try a product called audiblox ( www.audiblox2000.com ).
This is a wonderful tool to assist you in 'training' his brain to
read, etc. It is not so expensive as well.

I'll pray for you." -- Marlize in South Africa


"We are using 'Recipe for Reading'. It is a multi-sensory phonics-based
program designed for children who are struggling. We have not been
using it very long, but we are already seeing excellent results
with it (after several years of a different phonics program with our
son). The program was recommended to me by our learning consultant,
who is a certified and practicing reading specialist." -- El in Canada


"I have had a similar experience with a step daughter. When we got
custody of her she was 9 and could not pass the entrance exams for
kindergarten level curriculum. She did not even know all of her
alphabet. She had spent five years in public school special education.
We had her tested by our local college and found she had no vision,
hearing, or processing problems.

Once you rule out a learning disorder or medical condition you can
evaluate him. The first thing to do is to figure out where he is now
in the basic skills: reading, writing, and math. There are many
different tests out there you can use -- ACE (School of Tomorrow)
has a free online test that we have used in the past. You can also
simply ask him to do a few sample assignments until you pinpoint
what grade level he is currently working in. The next thing is to
figure out how he learns. I have found one of the best ways to do
this is to play a variety of games, paying close attention to how
he processes the information and where his strengths and weaknesses
are. For example, we found our step daughter was an extremely visual
learner, and had an almost photographic memory. She also had next to
no capability of remembering more than one or two items in sequence,
especially if the information was presented verbally. This type of
information is important because it will show you the best ways to
teach him.

As to curriculum, all you can do is start where they are. This may
mean going all the way back to kindergarten level if necessary. Use
materials that meet their needs on an individual skill, so you may
use kindergarten level reading and second grade math, for example.
It's much better to err on the side of easier material and go through
it quickly; most kids who have a basic skill problem have missed
something important along the way. By going back to the beginning
you can find the holes in their education. What you choose as a
curriculum will depend on his learning style. I really like McRuffy
Press language arts and math. I also really like Evan-Moor's
materials, which are especially good for kids with reading problems
since the vocabulary is really well controlled -- they can do a
lot of it independently. You may have to make adaptations to the
materials to meet your son's needs, for example, we taught sight
reading while incorporating an adapted form of phonics (teaching to
read in phonetic blocks instead of individual sounds) to accomodate
our step daughter's memory issues. We also used a color coding
system where I used colored highlighters to break the words into
chunks or to designate silent letters or sight words.

Try to cut out as much busy work as possible and allow him to
progress at his own pace. You may find he will take several days
to learn one concept, then jump ahead and get two or three days'
worth in one day. Just keep teaching; remember that your goal is
not to get him to a certain grade level in a certain amount of
time, but rather to make progress from where he is now. Be prepared
to spend several hours a day with this student, just like you
would with a younger child who is just learning the basics.

Consider using audio or video to teach other subjects, like science
or history, and save him from struggling to read the material while
trying to absorb the information. Educational television, DVDs or
videos from the library, and audio books either from the library
or online, are great resources to improve world knowledge without
the limitations of reading level. I also turn on the close caption-
ing on the TV so it puts the text of what is being said on the
screen. The kids see the words and it helps reinforce their reading.

After two years of homeschooling my step daughter had progressed
to second grade reading, third grade math, and fourth grade in
world knowledge. The one-on-one, customized homeschool environment
did more in two years than public school special ed could do in
five." -- Charlotte, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelinklady/


"Several of my children have had reading difficulties. Look into
what Linda Mood Bell has to offer. Their materials helped my
children read fluently within a six month period. Their materials
are also expensive, but you won't have to purchase another
curriculum." -- Carol S.


"I've successfully tutored public school children with reading
problems. The best program I've found has been 'At Last a Reading
Program for Every Child' by Mary Pecci.


The book title really does describe the program and while there
is a chapter on remedial teaching for older children, I feel it
is best to start the program from scratch, as you would with a
young child. Work for mastery rather than merely completing the
curriculum. You can purchase new or find used copies online.

Visual testing may be helpful; our daughter has a vision tracking
problem that had her reading below grade level. While it took her
some time to catch-up, she now reads above her grade level, though
we are still working on comprhension. We couldn't afford therapy,
but some simple techniques helped her visually to focus on reading
material. Whatever path you decide to follow I exhort you to work
slowly with your student; work on his current level, rather than
what his age or grade level tells you he should be working on.

Focus on language arts; give your reading lesson and follow up
with reading practice. Also read aloud to your student (not the
same practice book) with him sitting next to you reading from
another easy reader. Use a ruler or index card to help him visually
see and focus on the line being read; use the eraser end of a pencil
or your finger to point to the words as you read them. Also read
challenging books to him, stopping periodically to ask him questions.
At the end of the reading session have him orally narrate what was
read. Practice writing using different mediums if he is also having
problems with writing. Don't forget copy work, but keep this also
on his reading level. Have him create his own stories, tape his
narration of his stories, and type them up for him using a large
font. Have him practice reading his own words. The techniques
described above can be used to teach all other subjects except math."
-- Judy A.


"Possibly look into audiobooks. There are many at the local library
or from online sources. I have downloaded many from the library and
find that I can listen much better than sit down and read. I have
realized this after 47 years." -- Lucinda


"I absolutely love the Spalding Method! It uses phonograms. When my
son was in Kindergarten he was reading at 3rd grade level. Now he is
in 2nd grade and can read almost as well as me! It is easy to teach."
-- T.B.


"I highly recommend Progressive Phonics. This is an inexpensive
and effective program consisting of several reading books for
each level. The parent/teacher's part is scripted and tells you
how to introduce each new phonics concept. It's a read-together
program - the parent/teacher reads the words that are in black
and the child reads the red words. As the levels progress, the
child's words increase and the parent's words decrease. There
is a new phonics concept introduced with each book. The Advanced
level books cover punctuation, singular/plural words, and other
concepts. Along with the books there are handwriting worksheets,
flashcards and games. I used it very successfully with one of
my children. You can start at whatever level you feel your child
needs, and you can do the books as many times as you need to."


-- Maria M.


"I personally do not have any kids that struggle with reading,
but I can recommend a couple of possible resources.

If your child is struggling with sounding out the words (phonics),
you could provide some better groundwork. There are so many
programs out there, but you can get many resources for free.
This site is dedicated to phonics programs (many free):


It also has information on artificially induced dyslexia, reading
problems, and has many resources for older students.

I use www.starfall.com with my youngest daughter, but the site
may be a little childish for your 12 year old. Many curriculum
packages you will find will be geared for a younger age.

One thing I would not do is put pressure on your child. Pressure
to perform will dash any natural desire to learn to read, and will
create an aversion to read for pleasure. Lots of encouragement
and a relaxed environment has been the key for both of my girls.
Reading to your child will also help them to see the joy in written
language, and hearing you read can help with comprehension and
structure problems they might be having. Also, audiobooks (with
the written book alongside) are a great way to introduce sentence
and paragraph structure -- and comprehension.

I would really put aside any formal instruction (if you decide to
homeschool), and just focus on finding things that he enjoys. Maybe
a hobby or project. You can then slowly introduce instruction
in reading, and when they are more confident in that, you can
start working in other areas." -- Aadel in Kansas


"If your son is 12 and having such difficulty in reading, you need
to have him evaluated for a learning disability. Then seek out a
tutor that uses an Orton-Gillingham approach to teach him reading.
I personally tutor with The Wilson Program. Look for a tutor that
will work with you as you home educate.

You may contact HSLDA, if you are member, as they have a special
needs coordinator that can help you find testers and resources.
Also, your state home school organization should be able to help
you find testers, tutors, and resources to help you.

As far as curriculum, I would choose curriculum for whatever grade
level he should be in and then read everything for him. Do all of
his work orally. Do not give him first grade material unless he
has a significant developmental disability. He should be getting
all of his grade level academic material read to him. Books can
be read aloud. The public library has books on tape, or you can
download audio books off the computer. The inability to read does
not mean he can't learn, just that his learning has be done in a
different way. He should not have to read any of his academic
material. It should all be read to him until he is able to read
on his grade level." -- Renee


"I would recommend that you look at Joyce Herzog's products. She
has written a number of books and a reading program for children
with learning difficulties. The website address is:


You didn't indicate why your son is having issues with reading.
Has he had a professional learning evaluation? Often the best
thing to do is to find out exactly why the child is having problems
and then remediate from there." -- Jennifer


"Susan -- you might see if AVKO can help you. Their website is
www.avko.org .The founder was learning disabled himself, and
started this non-profit program to help students who struggle in
reading and spelling." -- Mary Beth

Answer our NEW Question

"I've got a question, and I'd love some feedback from more
experienced homeschoolers.

We live overseas, though we are currently stateside for a few
more weeks. Our oldest is 4, and I'm excited to start homeschooling
with her sometime in the next few years. This next year, I'm just
going to focus on learning to read in a very laid-back manner -
she's very excited about this, and is showing all the 'signs' that
she's ready to learn to read.

There's a good chance we won't be back in the States for two years.
This means it would help tremendously to pack *now* most everything
we'd need for homeschooling for the next few years. We can receive
mail, but it is very expensive - it's cheaper to pack extra suit-
cases for our flight.

Because we're limited in what we can take, I'm trying to streamline
our supplies as much as possible. There's just so much good stuff
out there! My question is this - What do you recommend we pack
and take with us for about ages 4-6? What's worthy of our precious
luggage space? Because there's so much good stuff online, what
resources would you recommend using instead of traditional curriculum?

Thanks! I really appreciate being given this chance to throw my
question out there." -- Tsh, www.SimpleMom.net


This is kind of like the "What would you take on a desert island"
question! How fun! Do you have suggestions for Tsh?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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