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The Early Years - Phonics

>> Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching a child to learn to read is, IMHO, one of the most satisfying tasks of homeschooling. Watching understanding dawn on your student's face as they finally are able to read their first sentence, and then their first easy reader book, is beyond description. Especially if it's been a particularly long and arduous road getting there!

There are numerous, wonderful phonics programs out there. Some are quite simple in their approach, while others incorporate bells, whistles, and singing animals. Deciding which to use will depend a great deal on your child's learning style, your teaching methods, and how much money is in your bank account.

While phonics programs are wonderful tools, there are some very practical approaches to teaching reading that don't require any curriculum or packaged resources. The most basic of these is to look for reading opportunities throughout your day. When you're driving down the street, point out street signs and ask your child what letter sounds they see, or if they can sound out the words on their own. In the grocery store, pick up boxes of cereal or crackers and ask your student to identify the letters they are currently learning, or have already learned.

Homemade flash cards are another great way to teach or reinforce phonics. Start with a set of letter flash cards and play letter "Go Fish" with your child. Create a duplicate set of letter flash cards and play a "Concentration" or matching game. Or make up simple "Bingo" grids and using some macaroni or other "markers", play letter Bingo. Once you begin teaching letter blends, make up some blend flash cards and let your child build words with the cards. I remember my youngest child's excitement when he got to the place where he could build simple sentences using his flash cards. The ideas are endless!

Another good idea that used to elicit chuckles from folks who visited our home is to create "label" flash cards for the various items in your house. You can label your "couch", "chair", "bed", "table", "rug", and so on. Hand the cards to your child and let him/her sound out the word and place the label appropriately. Or perhaps mix up the cards and place the "chair" card on the rug, and the "couch" card on the table, etc... Let your student have fun correcting your "mistakes".

Once again, Dr. Beechick's Three R's booklet is full of very creative and practical ways to teach or reinforce basic reading skills. Definitely a "must have" for every homeschooler.

Enjoy the journey!

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The Early Years - Math

>> Friday, December 4, 2009

Let's face it, some kids are born with the math gene, and some just aren't. I personally missed out on that valuable piece of genetic material, but fortunately at least one of our children inherited his dad's ease with math.

So what does math learning look like in the elementary grades? Especially if mom isn't all that comfortable with the subject herself! Does 30 minutes of math mean sitting at the table doing a workbook for 30 minutes? Yikes! I sure hope not ...

If you have a workbook-loving student, then spend 15 minutes going over a worksheet together. Then close the book and move on to 15 more minutes with counting blocks, or math games (Mathtacular is a great choice!) on the computer. I remember teaching my younger students about pairs by having them match and fold socks. We learned simple addition and subtraction by setting the table ... counting out the forks, knives and spoons ... discussing how many we needed to take away if dad wasn't going to be home for dinner that evening. And baking is an awesome way to introduce simple fractions (and even get in a little Science at the same time!).

Have *FUN* learning math with your child. It doesn't have to be painful. If you'd like some additional practical ways to teach math without workbooks or textbooks, check out Ruth Beechick's Three R's Series.

More to come! ...

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The Early Years - Priorities

>> Thursday, December 3, 2009

I had the opportunity to chat via email with a new homeschooler the other day. She is educating a 6 year old and has a toddler and a newborn as well. Needless to say, she was feeling a bit frazzled!

Some practical thoughts that I shared with her were helpful to me when I walked in her shoes ...

The first thing I would concentrate on is to make a list of priorities. What academic skills do you most wish to focus on with your student? Personally ... phonics was at the top of my list for that age. If they can learn to read well, then all other subjects become that much easier. I would also work on some foundational math concepts. Everything else is "gravy"! Reading and Math ... just two subjects.

Plan to spend 20-30 minutes each day on math and 20-30 minutes each day on reading. A total of one hour of "formal" schooling. You may want to do math in the morning and reading in the afternoon ... you may want to do 15 minutes of math and then take a break and finish the final 15 minutes after the break. There are a multitude of ways to break it up, but these two subjects ... one hour per day ... would be my priority. Now that doesn't sound quite so overwhelming!

More to follow ...

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