Friday, August 7, 2009

Rethinking Reading

I'm always rethinking some aspect of our homeschool, trying to figure out the best way for the moment to make everything work. Life is always changing, so we are always adjusting. My most recent Rethink was inspired by this post at Homeschooling in the Rose Garden.
Poor Miah is my first-born; she gets the most pressure in life and in learning. I wanted to really focus on her reading this year. I set up a shelf of books for her to tackle. We continued with daily phonics and copywork. I required her to read to me for twenty minutes every day. She began bravely. She ended in tears. And I thought, "Come on! Your SEVEN! Why can't you read?!!" Then I read the above post. It's a good thing I can rethink.
I had to just stop. I was completely unable to touch the reading thing for a couple days. First of all, I had to take in the big picture and realize that Miah is actually reading. Otherwise, what has she been doing for those twenty minutes a day when we sat together on the couch with books? Well, she was reading. Books.
And I had to figure out how a mother can spend six months NOT teaching reading when her child is almost eight and can't read. And then how that child can just pick up a book and start reading a few days after her eighth birthday. How does this happen? I asked Val, because obviously she was doing something right. And she told me, "Just let it go." Let it go!! Reading is important! My job is to teach her and train her, and I just can't NOT teach her to read! If she can't read, then I'M a failure! (Hmm. . .is this about Miah or is this about me?) And she said, "If you have to do something, let her do some Montessori activities."
So after a few days of not requiring her to read anything, I prepared some activities and tentatively offered them to Miah. Would you believe that she LOVED them? She went from tears and "headaches" to "This is so fun! I really like this! Will you make me some more?"
What really made the difference? First of all, my attitude has completely changed. I am no longer hovering over her every word, sighing, and rubbing my face over the mistakes and the sounding-out (yes, I can really be that bad.) Secondly, the reading activities don't allow her to become worn out from long reading sessions. She can really make them however long she wants, but she always finishes a whole activity. Thirdly, the ball is now in her court. She can choose what she wants do to, although I do ask her to choose something. She can correct herself or ask for help if she wants it. I can go about some other business and listen from a distance if I feel the need.
I have also given her an "I Can Read List". Whenever she is able to read a book well, it goes on the list. When the list reaches the bottom of the page, she gets to pick out any dessert she wants, we'll make it together and enjoy it together. In the mornings, I tell her she can choose a Montessori activity or she can read a book. She usually chooses Montessori, but sometimes she decides to read a book. I don't sit down with her but listen as I'm cleaning or something. And she is doing so much better. Sight words have always been particularly frustrating for her, but yesterday I heard her reading words like "could" without even hesitating. The girl is reading books. And for the most part there have been no tears or complaining. (There was one incident with "rub-a-dub-dub". The hyphens totally threw her, and she dissolved.)
One more thing I'm trying to do is to read more fun easy stories, like Dr. Seuss, to the kids
So thank God for bloggy friends and a mother with a masters in education - she helped me out too. She gave me some ideas and asked the right questions.

The Montessori Activities

I printed off several of the free language materials from Montessori For Everyone. I cut them out and glue them to cardstock to make them more durable.
I also made a few of my own. Miah really likes the command cards, so I've made up several of those. I try to incorporate words I know she needs to work on as well as easy words so she doesn't get frustrated or too tired with it.

I made this game a while back, but I want to update it with words she needs work on. Roll the die. Whichever color you land on is the color word card you pick up. Then look through the picture cards of that color to find the matching picture. You can spread the picture cards out on the table to make it a little easier.

This one is just matching the word to the picture. To make any of the activities self-correcting, write matching numbers on corresponding pieces. For example, write a 1 on the back of the word "moon" and a 1 on the back of the picture of the moon. (Click on the picture to see it up close.)

More Montessori links can be found in the right-hand sidebar under "Montessori Blogs and Links."
Also check out Jojoebi's recent post on Montessori Links.

Soon, I'll tell you how I'm rethinking math . . .

". . . the less [the mother] says the better; and as for the quantity of educational work to be got through, it is the fable of the anxious pendulum over again: it is true there are countless 'ticks' to be ticked, but there will always be a second of time to tick in, and no more than a single tick is to be delivered in any given second." -Charlotte Mason


  1. You're a fantastic mom and it will definitely come with all that you are doing. I wanted to tell you that my girls favorite books to start with were Dick and Jane. They have a hardcover book with probably 30 stories in it that get harder as you go and Greta just loved that. Ella felt accomplished after she started reading Go Dog Go. Just throwing some fun ones out there...

  2. Nice post about reading! It's good for other mums to read about your experience. I also made some reading games. You can watch them on my blog and click on categorie "Sprachen". (If you don't understand italian or german, please use google translator.)
    I'm waiting for your math rethinking :)
    Wish you a nice weekend!


    Such a timely reminder! And yes, it is often the oldest child that gets it in the neck!!!! I will keep this in mind. Thank you.

  4. Kristin - Miah does like Dick and Jane. A lot of times, we'll use something and then forget about it for a while. Thanks for reminding me.

    Sybille - I like you reading games. Did you print them off from somewhere? I really like the triangle game and the animal story cards.

    Annicles - Ha ha! I thought I was showing myself to be the opposite!

  5. I'm so glad to read helps me as I really begin all of this! Thank you for sharing! Can't wait to see what you are doing with Math!


  6. I found many ideas in different blogs or books. The game "trasure hunt" (8 june 09) was a german idea, I wrote all the sentences in italian and made the pictures. It's like a computer game: you must decide in wich direction the story has to go on.

  7. What a great little game! My little one is just learning his ABC's. I bet I could modify this game with letter & words somehow.

    I will check out your links (you have so many really good ones!)

  8. Hi Sarah,
    Just 2 books that might furhter inspire...

    "First language lessons"
    Jessie Wise

    "the book whisperer"
    Donalyn Miller.

    I don't know if this can help any?
    The first one is for 1st grade and up
    the second one is for 6th grade and up.
    I found both of these very helpful.

  9. Similar to the way I felt, and sometimes still feel with Rylan. Those poor guinea pig first- borns. We used a lot of montessori inspired cards last year- picture and words to match. It helped a lot.

  10. Thank you for this post; it really helps me gain perspective. It's frustrating to hear so many people say their 4yo's can read without ever being taught just because they've been read to. I know this happens, but not to everybody, of course. I'm bookmarking this post for later. Thank you, again.

  11. Great job! Try playing a board game called, Er-u-di-tion! Our award winning game incorporates over 300 sight words and the letters of the alphabet and their basic phonic sounds in an enjoyable, engaging activity, providing both teachers and parents with a useful tool.

    The game takes emergent readers on a fun adventure through literacy land complete with common landmarks and street signs. They earn a bonus roll after correctly identifying a game card. The first player to reach the library is the winner!

  12. I saved Little House in the Big Woods for my girls to read on their own. I wanted so much for it to be one of our read-alouds (which we still have even now that they are ten; that reading-together time is so precious to us all). But I remembered the pull Little House had on my imagination, and I hoped it would tug on theirs and keep them reading. It did. They never stopped. They have told me many times since that the young readers didn't have ideas that interested them as much as books that were at a higher reading level. They really were interested in the story and characters. They needed those things to make reading worth their while. (Otherwise, it was more fun to have mama snuggled up reading the really compelling books to them.)

    You're doing the right thing. Shift and try until you shift to the magic.

  13. What a wonderful post! I came here looking for an update on how she was doing. :) You are such an amazing mom Sarah. Glad to inspire.

    Love Val