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Reluctant Readers and Successful Homeschoolers

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, October 19, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 77                          October 19, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

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  Guest Article
  -- Help for the Reluctant Reader
  Resource Review
  -- Ordinary Parent's Guide
  Reader Question
  -- Famous Homeschoolers?
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Guest Article

  Help for The Struggling, Reluctant Reader
    by Max Elliot Anderson

  As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone
  today, I can anticipate the reaction. Their mouth drops open in
  disbelief, followed by a gasp. "You're kidding!" often follows.
  That's probably because I'm also the author of a number of action
  adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may
  be facing similar difficulties.

  Even as an adult, reading for enjoyment continues to be a problem
  for me. I find it ironic because my father has published over 70
  books. Several of these were children's books, and I never read
  any of them. I grew up in a family of seven children. We had avid
  readers, nominal readers, and me. Still, I managed to finish high
  school and graduated from college with a degree in psychology. But
  I have always been more interested in, or stimulated by, things
  visual. I do read in order to gather information, but not for

  I used to think that a reluctant reader was simply someone who hadn't
  found the right book yet. But the causes may go deeper than that. The
  word reluctant is defined as opposed in mind, unwilling, disinclined,
  struggling, or resisting.

  At the outset, it's important to understand our terms. Parents must
  be certain that, if facing a struggling, reluctant reader, there
  aren't any problems with vision, neurological issues, or other
  medical conditions that might hamper reading. These should be
  diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.
  Difficulty with vision is a big one. The transposing of letters or
  numbers may indicate a vision problem. You might notice that your
  child sees 14 when the actual number on the page is 41. The same
  can happen with small words. Does the child use a finger to keep
  his place on the page? I always did this as a child. Does he have
  a short attention span, or hold the book too close to his eyes?
  Does he have good posture while reading, or does he move his head
  from side to side during reading, rather than moving his eyes? This
  may indicate binocular trouble because both eyes aren't working
  together. Again, I suffer from this. One of my eyes sees distant
  objects better, while the other sees closer items with more clarity.
  A child with this problem may slouch in the chair, or turn his head
  to one side in order to favor the eye that can see the book best.

  In addition to vision, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit
  disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia,
  or other learning disabilities. It's only my opinion, but I think
  many of the hyperactivity problems, found more often in boys today,
  could be greatly mitigated by allowing them to run off much of that
  energy for an hour outside, or in some other physical activity.

  Based on my own background, I expected that reading difficulties
  came from what I had experienced. Readers would struggle because
  they were intimidated by large blocks of words on a page. Or they
  were likely to be more visual than linear, as I am. My research
  took me through nearly two hundred children's books. I found that
  some were just silly. Others seemed too unrealistic, while quite
  a few were simply slow and boring. I wanted exciting, realistic,
  and very visual things to be happening.

  Recently a study was released which noted that nearly 80 percent
  of children 6 and under read or are read to in an average day. But
  it went on to say that children spend an average of 49 minutes
  with books in that same average day, compared with 2 hours and 22
  minutes sitting in front of a television or computer screen.
  My research into reading difficulties began about eight years ago.
  I truly wanted to understand why it was that I grew up as a reluctant
  reader. I found some interesting patterns in several of the books
  I selected for research. In many cases they defied a person like
  me to get into them. The style was boring, the dialog was sometimes
  sparse, or when it was used, seemed too adult. As I looked around
  for books written especially for boys 8 – 13, I found The Hardy Boys
  and a few others.

  An attractive book to a reluctant reader is one that is larger in
  size than most.  The type in these books is also larger, with lots
  of white space, on high quality, bright, white paper, inviting even
  the most reluctant reader to come in, kick his shoes off, and stay
  for awhile.

  My work with reluctant readers often allows me to speak in schools.
  One of the first questions I like to ask is, 'Is there anyone here
  who doesn't like to read?' A few hands go up, and then others
  follow. There may be two or three girls who raise their hands, but
  predominantly it is the boys who respond.
  Next I ask, 'Why?'

  'Books are boring', one will say. Another suggests, 'They're too
  slow and nothing happens' or, 'I'd rather do other things'.

  'Like what?' I'll ask.

  The answers always include watching television, playing video
  games, and spending time on the computer. This is interesting
  since research by others arrives at the same conclusions.

  For the purpose of exploring reluctant or struggling readers, let's
  say that you've had your child tested, and we can rule out vision
  or medical problems. What is your next step toward getting him
  interested in reading?

  This suggestion may seem odd at first, but parents, teachers, and
  librarians are reporting that they've found success by starting
  with audio books. In some cases, these are used while also holding
  a copy of the same book. A child is able to both see and hear the
  words at the same time, and practice following along.

  Don't be afraid to select a book that is below grade level. You
  may also want to experiment with comic books or graphic novels.
  The most important objective is to find something he's interested
  in and wants to read about. This could include the sports page
  in your local newspaper, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for
  Kids, Ranger Rick, Highlights, and others.

  Some have found success by using electronic readers like Kindle
  from Amazon.  Your child is already comfortable with a computer
  or video games.  This e-reader allows him to change the font, make
  it larger, change colors, and even look up words in some cases.
  It's easy for parents to forget the power they have over their
  children's behavior. If your child avoids reading in every way
  possible - choosing video games, or the computer, over reading,
  you might set those activities aside as rewards. You can say,
  'After you've read for thirty minutes, or an hour,' for example,
  'then you may spend time doing those other things.'

  Read aloud with your child, and make sure he sees you model that
  reading is important in your life. This has added influence if
  the dad is involved.

  Get rid of distractions. Again, in my case, I find it difficult to
  concentrate if there are other noises around. This is compounded
  if there are lyrics in a song on the radio or stereo, voices coming
  from the TV, or from nearby conversations. Set up a quiet, comfortable
  reading place. Above all, make reading fun.

  Have your child try reading to a dog, a cat, a doll, or some other
  stuffed animal. In this way, children aren't intimidated or judged
  by an adult. At the same time, you can monitor their progress.
  Also look for high interest, low vocabulary books called Hi-Lo.
  Not only is it important for books to be constructed in order to
  be more user friendly for struggling readers, there should be lots
  of humor, dialog, and heart-pounding action and adventure, plus
  chapters ending with a cliffhanger.
  Anytime I'm asked if reading is really all that important, I give
  several reasons why it is -- and add that readers are the leaders
  others follow.

  Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling, reluctant reader.
  Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures,
  videos, and television commercials, he brings the same visual
  excitement and heart-pounding action to his adventure and mystery
  stories, written especially for tween boys. Both boys and girls
  have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an
  exciting movie.

  Books For Boys Blog
  Author's Web Site


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


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      Resource Review

  Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
  Author:  Jessie Wise
  For more information or to order:  www.peacehillpress.com

  If you're looking for a thorough, affordable phonics curriculum,
  you need to take a look at the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching
  Reading.  Fully scripted lessons and little prep time make this
  program a busy mom's dream.  Lessons are a short 15 - 20 minutes
  and don't require writing, so even a child as young as 4 who is
  eager to read can learn with mom's help.

  Lessons begin with basic letter sounds, and move to sentences and
  eventually stories.  There are simple games for reinforcement that
  require minimal supplies and prep time.  As they progress through
  the course, students learn phonics rules and word families.  

  The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is not a flashy or
  colorful program.  It relies on clear explanations, constant review
  and instant feedback as the student works through the lesson with
  the parent/teacher.  Teaching tips are plentiful, and families can
  proceed at their own pace, making sure the young reader is getting
  the sounds, blends and sight words, before moving on.  Of course, as
  with any program, success will depend on consistency and especially
  on a child's readiness.
  -- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "We are struggling with a teenager who has decided that public
  school is the path to success in the 'real world'.  According to
  him, it is a perfected system to which homeschool methods could
  never compare.  As you might imagine, we strongly disagree.  Some
  of our efforts to convince him seem to be helping a bit.  He is
  still doing well in all of his homeschool studies.  I recently
  decided we were going to take some time researching successful
  people who have been homeschooled.  I can think of a few, but I
  thought I would ask who all of you would include on this list.
  Any other tips or ideas would also really be helpful." -- Betsy

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "Betsy -- I understand your desire to shield your son from the
  public high school environment.  Do you know exactly what it is
  that the high school has that your son is looking for?  For my
  older children, we found ways to combine community college
  classes (when they turned 16) with our home studies, and sought
  cooperative study groups (co-ops) for more interesting subjects,
  like art or science.  He may be asking for something he doesn't
  understand.  If you could get him to list the specific things he
  would have at school he doesn't have now, or get him to outline
  what he thinks his schedule might look like if he were at school
  all day, it might help you pick up on needs he may have.  Home
  education gives us a lot of freedom to educate in whatever way
  we choose, but it doesn't all have to be done at home.  As my
  children get older I try to compromise when they ask for things
  that interest them and won't damage them or their education.  I
  have had to be more flexible, and more firm, with my children
  when they are young adults than when they were toddlers!" -- Anne


  "Wow, that's easy!  Many successful people in the past have been
  homeschooled, and I'll get to them.  How about starting with more
  recent, highly successful and easily recognizable people? 
  The Jonas Brothers are homeschooled, so were the Hansons from a
  few years back.  In fact, you can probably say that nearly every
  'child star' that has ever been alive was homeschooled.  They
  generally don't attend public school but are tutored by someone
  in a homeschool environment. 
  If your child is interested in sports, have they ever heard of
  Tim Tebow?  He's currently playing football for the University of
  Florida and will likely be a first round NFL pick after he graduates.
  Venus and Serena Williams, widely recognized as two of the best
  professional tennis players in the world, were also homeschooled.
  Katie Hoff, Olympic swimmer, was also homeschooled. 
  But that may not be what your child is interested in.  How about
  considering people in the artistic field?  Akiane Kramarik is a famous
  child prodigy, artist and poet, 15 years old, and a homeschooler.
  Not sure who she is?  Visit her website at http://www.akiane.com/
  Leonardo DaVinci, Claude Monet, and Grandma Moses, all famous painters,
  are also in the homeschooled category. 
  Has your child read the 'Eragon' series by Christopher Paolini?
  Christopher was a homeschooled student when he wrote that book.
  Has he heard of Helen Keller, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, or
  Mark Twain?  Yep -- all of them were homeschooled.  How about George
  Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln?  They were all
  home educated as well, as were Alexander Graham Bell, Orville and
  Wilbur Wright, and Thomas Edison.  Do you need more?  So were Sandra
  Day O'Connor, first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, and Robin Lee
  Graham, the first teenager to circumnavigate the globe solo. 
  What about people who see the value in homeschooling?  Lisa Welchel,
  'Blair' from the TV series 'Facts of Life', homeschools her children,
  as do singers Twila Paris, Michael Card, and Garth Brooks.  Actors
  Chuck Norris, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and John Travolta also
  Maybe this will help your child realize that you can homeschool and
  lead a productive, even successful life, in the eyes of the world.
  However, what they become is more important than what they do.  And
  that is the biggest benefit I can see to homeschooling." -- Mara


  "Here is a short, but distinguished list of home schooled 'successes'.
  I hope this gives you a little fuel for your discussion with your son.
  Dakota Fanning - child movie actress - home schooled
  Danny Woodhead - NCAA leading rusher
  Alyssa Buecker - won 1st place at KAN Film Festival at age 13, then
  attended Johnson County Community College
  Todd Lodwick - 4 time Winter Olympian skier, 143 World Cup events
  LeAnne Rimes - debut album 'Blue' at age 13, sold 37 million albums
  by age 24
  Venus and Serena Williams - sisters, pro tennis players, BOTH ranked
  World's #1 Female Player
  Christopher Paolini - began writing first volume of the 'Inheritance'
  trilogy, Eragon, at age 15 AFTER completing a home school high school
  curriculum at age 15.
  -- and the most impressive one I've found so far...
  Erik Demaine - Associate Professor of Computer Science at MIT.  He
  entered Dalhousie University at age 12, received a Bachelor's degree at
  age 14, winner of the MacArthur Fellowship Award (aka: the Genius Award)
  I also know that the military is actively recruiting home schooled kids
  because they adjust better to military life due to the fact that home
  schoolers, as a rule, are more motivated and self-driven.
  Colleges and universities are actively recruiting home schooled kids
  because they are more apt to study and work harder than 'regular' kids.
  Homeschoolers are also less likely to party throughout their college
  careers.  That doesn't mean they don't get to have fun (this directed
  to your son), but they tend to graduate with higher GPAs.
  Professional Human Resource Officers (at big corporations) have the
  tendency to hire more home schooled kids because they have a stronger
  motivation to succeed and are self-motivated and self-driven.  Nobody
  wants to hire an albatross!
  I hope this information helps you impress on him that homeschooling
  is the better way to go.  If not, maybe you could let him attend
  'regular' school for a semester so he can experience it for himself
  and make his own informed decision." -- Kathrine E.


  "I remember when I was a teenager telling my parents that I thought
  socialism would cure the world's ills.  My parents were not thrilled
  with my ideas at the time and I definitely do not believe in socialism
  as a panacea now.  As I am sure you are aware, the teen years are a
  time of exploration and discovery; a time to make decisions about
  identity and beliefs.  I don't know your entire situation from one
  paragraph, but I wouldn't press too hard to change his mind as he may
  come around on his own.  Maybe he should spend a few days in a public
  high school or take one class there and see what it is really like.
  I would definitely keep your child in prayer -- maybe give him some
  opportunities to safely see what life on the 'other side' is like --
  and see what happens." -- Jennifer


  "Someone forwarded this list to me awhile ago:
  Ten Famous Homeschooled People
  1. Agatha Christie. Agatha was a painfully shy girl, so her mom
  homeschooled her even though her two older siblings attended private
  2. Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia, but her family moved to
  China when she was just three months old. She was homeschooled by a
  Confucian scholar and learned English as a second language from her mom.

  3. Alexander Graham Bell was homeschooled by his mother until he was
  about 10. It was at this point that she started to go deaf and didn't
  feel she could properly educate him any more. Her deafness inspired
  Bell to study acoustics and sound later in life.

  4. If Thomas Edison was around today, he would probably be diagnosed
  with ADD – he left public school after only three months because his
  mind wouldn't stop wandering. His mom homeschooled him after that,
  and he credited her with the success of his education: 'My mother
  was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt
  I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.'

  5. Ansel Adams was homeschooled at the age of 12 after his 'wild
  laughter and undisguised contempt for the inept ramblings of his
  teachers' disrupted the classroom. His father took on his education
  from that point forward.

  6. Robert Frost hated school so much he would get physically ill at
  the thought of going. He was homeschooled until his high school years.

  7. Woodrow Wilson studied under his dad, one of the founders of the
  Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). He didn't
  learn to read until he was about 12. He took a few classes at a school
  in Augusta, Georgia, to supplement his father's teachings, and ended
  up spending a year at Davidson College before transferring to Princeton.

  8. Mozart was educated by his dad as the Mozart family toured Europe
  from 1763-1766.

  9. Laura Ingalls Wilder was homeschooled until her parents finally
  settled in De Smet in what was then Dakota Territory. She started
  teaching school herself when she was only 15 years old.

  10. Louisa May Alcott studied mostly with her dad, but had a few
  lessons from family friends Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson
  and Nathaniel Hawthorne."

  -- Kathy M.


  "Betsy -- There are a lot of famous people who were homeschooled.
  Just to give you an example of a few -- Thomas Edison, George
  Washington, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, and George Patton.  My favorite
  is Beatrice Potter, because she has been quoted to say, 'Thank
  goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some
  of the originality.'

  There are many links on the internet to find famous people who were
  homeschooled.  In fact, you can make this an assignment for him to
  look up himself.  Good luck!" -- Michelle

     Answer our NEW Question

  "Hi, Everyone -- I was wondering if there are any free sites out
  there to test your child's IQ and give an explanation of what the
  numbers actually mean?" -- Bonita

  Do you have some guidance for Bonita?

  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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