Overview: Not all children learn to read in the same way or at the same age. Learn how to make teaching your child to read more enjoyable and less stressful.
If you are a beginning homeschool parent, you are probably eager to get started. You see how much your children enjoy learning and savor watching the light bulb moments as your kids grasp new concepts. If you are homeschooling your kids from the very beginning, however, there is one common fear which grips many of our hearts:
“Will I be able to teach my child to read?”
I have to admit – I also struggled with these fears. We began homeschooling my oldest son when he was 2 years old! We were living in a large city at the time and my husband and I knew there was no way we would feel comfortable sending our children to the public school there. We decided to try teaching our son preschool level material to basically dip our toes in the waters of homeschooling. We didn’t want to commit to something we weren’t sure we could successfully accomplish.
The preschool years were filled with many happy memories. We had so much fun with all of the hands-on activities. Schoolwork was fun for him! My son enthusiastically clung to learning and teaching was a joy. We felt confident moving forward and committing to homeschooling our son through the school-aged years.
As our oldest son entered his kindergarten and first-grade years, however, school started to change. In addition to hands-on activities, there was an increasing number of papers to fill out. And we also started the process of teaching our son to read. I remember how terrified I was that I would “mess him up” by not teaching him correctly.
I asked many veteran homeschool moms the question, “What if he never learns to read?” I remember them all smiling at me and telling me that he would learn. But that was still my biggest fear. I know how important reading is to everything else in our child’s education and I didn’t want to blow it.
Fortunately, reading came very naturally to our first son. We went through various phonics programs and within a short period of time, he was reading and reading well. He sped through the different levels of reading books and by the time he was in 2nd grade, he was reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Phew, I had done it. I had taught my son to read. My confidence soared!
Will He Also Learn to Read?
When our second son got to the age where we were teaching him to read, however, he didn’t take to reading anywhere near as well as our first son had. In fact, he really seemed to struggle with reading. We used some of the same phonics programs with him – and branched off to try different programs as well – but he just wasn’t progressing at the rate I thought he should. I used to listen to him read aloud Amelia Bedelia and Mr. Putter and Tabby level books for what seemed like forever. This son had a hard time keeping his place in the book, so I would use my finger to point to each word until he was able to sound it out properly.
I remember going to the library and searching frantically through the shelves for MORE books which were at the level my son could handle. It was a very frustrating time. I racked my brain trying to figure out why this son was struggling so hard when my first son had breezed through the entire process.
Reading continued to be a struggle for him until he got about halfway through his third-grade year. He was having a difficult time transitioning from Henry and Mudge type readers to chapter books such as The Magic Treehouse series. Then, all of a sudden, something clicked inside his brain. After having resisted reading any type of chapter book for several weeks, he suddenly flew through the Magic Treehouse books.
We haven’t looked back since. In the second half of his third-grade year, he read more than 120 books on his own. These were various books such as biographies from the Childhood of Famous Americans series all the way up to Young Adult books like the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was such a giant leap forward for him, after having struggled for so long, that I still shake my head in amazement when I think about it.
Here are some lessons I learned from going through all of this:
1 – Kids learn at different paces.
Just because they grow up in the same home and have the same parents, they are not the same. They will learn at different rates. Don’t push your children. When they are ready, they will leap forward and surprise you with how quickly they catch up.
2 – Kids learn in different ways.
Relax and continue to try different methods with each child until you find one which works for them. Just because something worked for their older siblings doesn’t mean it will work for them. Sell the old stuff on eBay and move on. By the way, some children will require outside help due to having dyslexia or other learning difficulties. If you’ve tried lots of different methods and your child is still struggling, don’t hesitate to get them the help that they need.
3 – Don’t panic.
The more pressure you put on your child to perform, the longer the process may take. Try to be calm and patient and the process will be more enjoyable for both you and your child.
4 – Don’t move forward too quickly.
Sometimes you need to stay at the same level or even move backward a little in order to build up your child’s confidence. If you find your child is struggling, go back to books which he can easily read. Let him stay there for a while before you try pressing ahead again. That may be just what your child needs in order to move forward later.
They will learn to read. People used to teach their children to read by using the only book they had in the house – a King James Bible. With all of the various phonics programs on the market today, there is something out there which will work for your child!
If you have questions, ask. There are plenty of veteran homeschool parents out there who would love to answer your questions. Don’t ever feel like you are the only one facing a certain situation. Don’t be embarrassed. We need to be honest with each other and help each other out when things don’t seem to be going as they should.
Fast forward to today, when my son is about to enter 5th grade and he is a voracious reader. All that time that I worried about his reading skills, I was putting myself and my son under unnecessary stress. Your child will learn to read, compute math problems, spell or whatever other skill with which your child may struggle. Take a deep breath and press on. Someday you will be amazed at your child’s progress as well.
Question: Did any of your children struggle with learning how to read? Do you have any tips you could share with other parents? Please leave a comment below.