How to Create Your Homeschool Reading Program

A good reading program is the basis of a good homeschool curriculum. So how should you begin designing your reading program and what do you need to know?

Review the National Standards for homeschool reading but do not expect to find solutions or structured guidance from the Standards. And maybe that is a good thing, so that you are not pushed towards one methodology of reading instruction.

Reading is a core subject. That means that the state’s education department has standards and curriculum information available that you should review. Find your state in the US Department of Education site.

What are the National Standards for Homeschool Reading?

  1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  4. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  5. Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

The standards concern what children should learn but not HOW they should learn to read. Furthermore, note that the Standards drive home the fact that reading is not a skill learned in the first few years of schools and then put aside. It is an ongoing activity and group of skills that should be continuously developed.

How Should You Teach Reading in Your Homeschool?

Research shows that different children learn in different ways. WHile once, reading instruction was a one-size fits all approach in the school system, today it is understood more and more that some children can not learn to read successfully with the standard approach. That does not mean they can’t learn to read. It means the instruction needs to be adapted to their needs. When that is done correctly, usually, the child can become as fluent a reader as his classmates.
Some of us choose to homeschool for precisely this reason. We want to be able to adapt the teaching methodology to the student and the the reverse, as tends to happen in public schools. So of course some students can never reach their potential if the instruction method does not fit them.
There are two types of reading instruction used in schools today: the Phonics Approach and the Whole Language Approach

Phonics is a method for teaching reading by teaching how to connect the sounds of spoken language with letters or groups of letters and then teaching the student to blend the sounds of letters together to produce pronunciations of unknown words. Phonics is a method for decoding words, which is where many struggling readers get hung up. The recommended age to start phonics is at the age of 5 or 6.

The whole language approach to teaching reading strongly contrasts with the phonics methodology. The emphasis is on identifying words using context and focusing only a little on the sounds. There still exists intense debate about which approach is “right”.
Research has proven that phonics instruction improves children’s ability to identify words but that phonics instruction should occur in conjunction with opportunities to identify words in sentences and texts.

We suggest you also become familiar with the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading. Orton-Gillingham is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.
It is synonymous with Multisensory reading instruction involving constant interaction between the teacher and the student and the simultaneous use of multiple sensory input channels reinforcing each other for optimal learning. Using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements, all language skills taught are reinforced by having the student listen, speak, read and write. For example, a dyslexic learner is taught to see the letter A, say its name and sound and write it in the air – all at the same time. The approach requires intense instruction and this could be one of the reasons it is not readily adopted by public schools. Multisensory learning is is known to enhance memory and retrieval.
In the case that a child is struggling to learn to read, employing the Orton-Gillingham approach can make the difference in turning them from a struggling reader to a fluent reader and within a relatively short period of time. This is why it is often used in learning disabled settings. But it should not be limited to children who are labeled as LD or dyslexic!

What to buy for your Homeschool Reading Program?
You may want to consider using a software reading program, phonics worksheets, a graded reader program, or other tools to guide your taching and provide structure to your reading program. In addition, ensure that your child has access to a range of reading materials and can experience your enthusiasm for reading. Visit the library, order a subscription to a magazine, read aloud together . . . It’s much more challenging today with all of the digital stimulation most children grow up with but it is worth the effort.

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