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“TEACHING READING AT HOME”

When we first decided to homeschool, I felt intimidated about teaching my children to read. I am an avid reader. My husband is an avid reader. Both of us having university degrees in writing and the liberal arts. Our home is filled with hundreds of books and rich conversation. Why did I feel panicked about teaching reading? Of course, I knew how to read, but I couldn’t remember how I learned. Could I break it down well enough to teach my own children? Nine years later, with three––nearly four––fluent readers, I want to encourage parents of younger children: DON’T BE AFRAID.


What will you talk about? 

During this 60 minute live webinar, I hope to quell fear and doubt, and instead empower parents with tools and skills to help their young children learn and love to read. We’ll also end with time for questions and answers. I will discuss

  • our personal story of reading lessons across four different curriculums and temperaments
  • learning styles
  • developmental/environmental factors that affect reading
  • curriculum: is it necessary?
  • when to seek help
  • personal misunderstandings, discouragement, and frustration on the journey
  • finding a balanced and adapted approach
  • our favorite tools and resources
  • Q+A with audience

This webinar will not offer a didactic step-by-step curriculum, but it will provide many ideas, resources, and tools to implement in your own home.


Who is this for?

This webinar is for anyone

  • interested in helping their children learn to read.
  • feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with reading lessons.
  • curious about our personal journey, style, and methods.
  • beginning homeschooling.

I missed the live webinar. Can I still watch it? 

Yes! Click the link to purchase the recorded webinar.

$18

Notes : Once you have paid for the webinar in Paypal, you must click “return to merchant” at the bottom of the PayPal receipt in order to add your name and email and officially complete registration. Feel free to comment or email with any questions or feedback. Thank you for your support.

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If you were to walk in our home, you’d notice books of all sorts stacked in every room. You’d find them on shelves and tables, on nightstands and bedside floors, even a few in the kids’ beds. We are a household of readers, which may not be surprising considering Mark’s and my own love for words. From the beginning of our marriage we have read books to or alongside one another, at bedtime and on road trips and such, so when we had children, it was natural to establish a regular routine of reading with them, too. We read board books and picture books and chapter books. We read books aloud and together. We read books independently. We talk about books and write about books. And as our children have grown older, narrative characters and plots from books have often infused their pretend play with one another and with friends. It makes my heart smile, big time. We recently partnered with Amazon and their Kindle for Kids, so as it turns out we are now enjoying books in a new way in our home. I’ve always felt reticent about e-readers. I love paper books. But over the last few weeks, I’m understanding more of their benefit in our home, not as a replacement to printed books but as a partner to them. 

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While our three older children are now confident independent readers, my youngest is still growing as a beginning reader. She is a busy bee, always preferring movement to stillness, talking instead of quiet, doing instead of observing. She is so much fun and an excellent maker and doer––which I love about her––but sometimes she needs extra encouragement for the sort of activities that require focused, quiet concentration, like independent reading. As a parent, I want to help nurture this ability to quiet herself and concentrate, and so we practice a little each day, just enough to form a habit of it. As for loving reading, she’ll get there in her own time.

I have been surprised to see how the Kindle is helping hold Olive’s interest in more difficult reading. Perhaps the format is more approachable and engaging for her right now. I’m not exactly sure, but I’m going with it. Currently, she reads aloud a single book in her collection to me, A Bear Called Paddington, a book we’re both loving, and I let her choose from her collection which to read on her own, often something on a lower reading level. We have stacks of beginning readers at home, which are ideal for their brevity and familiar words, but while were were away, she kept trying to read Paddington on her own, as well as Tales from the Odyssey, both of which are more difficult reading for her still.

Naturally, the other kids are enjoying it, too––my middle two children especially––and we’re filling their collections with free books for Kindle through Amazon Prime to feed their appetites for books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tales from the Odyssey, and The Hobbit to name a few favorites. Amazon also offers a Kindle Unlimited subscription for all Kindles that I may look into at some point. It seems perfect for a family of avid readers.

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We’ve spent more time in the car lately than usual, and last week, the kids and I quickly left town for several days on a family emergency. Without time to check the kids bags, I was grateful that Olive happened to grab the Kindle, even when she forgot a winter coat and boots. During different points, when the busy house called for a quiet hour or rest time, the kids rotated turns with it, even their cousins! As I’ve watched them with the Kindle for Kids this last week, I thought it might be helpful to note some of the features I am loving for my young readers, for any of you also new to the world of e-readers:

Simple Screen / I actually love the analog feel of the Kindle, the way it looks like a book page instead of a computer screen, and yet it’s still intuitive enough with a touch screen. For the kids, this seems like a perfect blend: technology without the distracting frills. It helps direct their attention toward reading.

Scalable text size / As an adult, I have forgotten how intimidating small text can be. Both of my girls love that they can enlarge the text size in chapter books. For more challenging books, increasing the text size helps Olive to focus on each word, rather than the page of text. I think it also helps her feel she is getting somewhere faster, since she can flip the page more often. Action-oriented. Wink. Wink.

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Create Individual Collections / As I’ve shared here before, we share most technology in our home, so I really appreciate that the Kindle for Kids allows me to create a specific collection for each of my children. We talk about the books they’re interested in reading and I inventory the content and double-check the reading level for the younger one. When my children want to read the same book (often!), I can put one book in more than one collection, although I only purchase the book once–just like our paper books. The collections give each of the kids a sense of independence and personal space with a shared Kindle.

Word Wise / When I read aloud to the kids and run across a more complex word, I’ll often pause and ask if any of them understands what it means. I also encourage them to circle new or unfamiliar words in their books during their independent reading, but more often, they simply skim over them. On the Kindle for Kids, you can turn on Word Wise for younger readers, which will add brief definitions in the margins to the more complex words on the page. If a child taps the word, it will expand to the full definition with examples and synonyms. These words are automatically filed on flashcards for you to review with your child when they’re done reading. I like to think of this as a reading assistant. Wink.

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Setting Time / I assign quiet rest time or reading time daily for my kids. For the older ones, they often read longer than I plan, but for the youngest, it helps cultivate the habit or being still and reading. The Kindle for Kids automatically includes a parental controls option, where I was able to set up Amazon FreeTime. The parent sets up a collection for the child(ren) and assigns a specific amount of daily reading time before they can exit. Each of my children is able to keep track of how long they’ve been reading or how long they have left right at the bottom of the page. For parents of struggling readers, this tool can be used to help track time and progress for other rewards or incentives, too.  

Password Protected Browsing / In order for children to leave the Free Time option, they have to have a parent password. So it prohibits my children from web browsing, which I love, as we don’t allow our children to browse the web on their own quite yet.

Two Year Damage Protection / Enough said.

Travels Easily / We don’t fly in planes often, but we do take road trips, run errands, and spend daily time outdoors. I love that this little thing can easily slide into someone’s bag, even my own.

Not just for the kids / Okay, so I made my own collection, too. Although I still prefer paper to screens––mostly because I like writing in my books––I love the convenience of the Kindle and imagine I’ll be borrowing it for myself from time to time.

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Learning to read can be really challenging for some children. On this journey, I’ve learned it’s best to adapt to the children’s time and pace. Reading isn’t just for one season of life. It’s for all of life. It’s a long game, and to cultivate anything for the long run means patience in the beginning. Cultivate the enjoyment of stories of words at home, and you’ll cultivate a hunger for books.


This post is sponsored by Amazon. All thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting this space, and the businesses that help keep it afloat. 

 

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Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

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spring herbs + tales of Benjamin Bunny

a small lesson about finding God in the ordinariness

the medicinal properties of garlic and honey

Burke, bathed in light on his 11th birthday

a brief study in early sports medicine, illustration and copywork

busy hands, doodling and practicing cursive

Olive, at sunset on her 7th birthday

 The Martian and a welcome break from Latin

endless amounts of time scraping paint

afternoon read-a-loud, led by Burke

focused, independent math work

an owlet resting just over our shoulders during dinner

Olive’s introduction to Jenny Wren and The Burgess Bird Book for Children

practicing compound probability

sleepy morning reading practice

regular fires in the backyard again

more images #cloisteredaway_homeschooling

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The quietness of this space and the fact that I am writing about March in mid-April speaks loudly to the busyness here the last several weeks. March is rarely quiet in our home, as Spring’s arrival brings much energy and many TO DOs. We celebrated our two March babies at the beginning of the month with simple family dinners, desserts, and balloons. On a whim, we opted to stay home for spring break this year and re-paint the house instead. With combined efforts, we estimated the scraping, repairing, and painting to take an upwards of two or three weeks–ha! Four weeks later, we’re still in the scraping phase. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the time it takes to scrape paint. The children are helping with the work (when appropriate), and since this project stretches beyond their typical responsibilities, we decided to pay them for a bit of it, offering them a different sort of education in business, budget, and economy. We hope to empower each of them with entrepreneurial spirit and also the wisdom how to manage such things.

In terms of our studies, I have felt the need for more focus and steadfastness in light of all the chaos of our environment, part of the other reason for quietness here. These sort of large home projects tend to distract me, diverting my attention and sending our school days spinning in disorder. For now, I’m learning how not to chase rabbits. March is a climatic point in our academic year. Enthusiasm begins to wane and the lessons somehow become more concentrated with newness and complexity. It’s easy to look for distractions, whether in home projects or online work. Instead, I have sensed this clear need to nurture order and routine with the kids, holding firmer boundaries of time. Looking back, I’m grateful for the levels of peace and focus it brought to our home, even in so much undone-ness.

The kids and I have been reading journey narratives aloud together: Pilgrim’s Progressfirst thing in the morning with poems just after breakfast, and The Wingfeather Saga, at the end of the day just before bedtime. Although this wasn’t initially intentional, I love that we are experiencing the journey of an individual in one and the journey of a family in the other. They’ve offered such great fodder and rhetoric for our daily living about choosing the difficult and straight path, about individual and family identity, about purpose. I highly recommend both for older children (and adults). Although these beginning/closing reading periods do require a discipline of sorts, they are so grounding for our routine, a soft beginning and end to the day together. On a side-note, when my children seem more quarrelsome or nit-picky with one another, reading aloud can also be a balm of sorts, a practical way of calming and bonding them. So can play time outdoors.

As for specific studies in March, Olive and I still mostly focused on her reading fluency. Each week, she had one practice story or nursery rhyme, which we used for spelling and reading often taken from Reading Lessons Through Literature. She also practiced a bit of math daily, which seems almost intuitive for her, and she’s quickly moved ahead. She loves numbers. We also began The Burgess Bird Book together at the end of the month, aiming to read a chapter a few times a week. She copies a sentence from it or from another picture book we’ve read aloud 2-3 times a week. The rest of the time she plays, mostly pretend and often outdoors in a fort she a Blythe made in our bamboo.

Blythe and Burke finished their study of Galen (a physician to four Roman emperors) and the beginnings of Western medicine this month, and we loved learning so many new things about the origins of medicine, from how travel and education impacted Galen’s learning, to how he studied the body in an era before autopsies were permissible, and so much more. We’ve been loosely using Beautiful Feet’s History of Science study for their science/history this year, and although we’re moving slowly through it, we love it! They’re also both practicing grammar and writing with their independent reading three-four time a week (My Side of the Mountain and Heidi for Burke in March; The Secret Garden for Blythe in March and April), which I feel more disciplined about for them as I’m walking through Latin studies with Liam now. As a short encouragement, a firmer grasp of language early on opens so many more doors to understanding language later.

Liam, Burke, and Blythe are both closing another level in math, and I’m beginning to take a bit of time for quick review a couple of times a week, feeling out for soft spots or holes in concepts. We use Saxon books, which although admittedly a bit boring, thoroughly spiral through concepts again and again to build a stronger foundation. Math is an area in which I feel the least intuitive and I wanted to make sure they really know it well.  At the back of levels 5/4 and up is a “supplemental practice” which is great for the purpose of review. On a side note, unless you have a child who loves worksheets, I recommend a different curriculum for the little years (grade 3 and younger), something more playful and artistic like Waldorf or Montessori methods. By levels 5/4 (4th grade math), my children have been ready to transition and learn more discipline about book work.

Liam moved into a weekly Challenge A class with Classical Conversations in January, an unplanned move for our family, one which merits a blog post all of its own. This spring he’s been working through sketching and memorizing systems of the body, memorizing and sketching the geography of the Eastern hemisphere, learning logical fallacies, writing persuasive papers, translating Latin verbs and nouns, and beginning pre-Algebra. It’s a lot of work, but he loves it–even though sometimes he doesn’t want to do it. He is still twelve after all. Wink.

Here’s the books we read in March. I included a list of our favorite picture books (mostly Blythe and Olive) we read aloud too.

MARCH BOOKS

Liam| Crispin: The Cross of Lead | The Wingfeather Saga: The Warden and the Wolf King | The Martian | The Fallacy Detective 

Burke | My Side of the Mountain | Galen | Heidi | Calvin and Hobbes

Blythe Galen | The Secret Garden | Ivy and Bean #6Aesop’s Fables | The Picture History of Great Inventors

Olive | Little Bear stories | Burgess Bird Book for Children (RA) | various beginning readers  

Picture Books We Loved | Ike’s Incredible Ink | Sorry! | Good dog, Carl | The Curious Garden | Miss Rumphius | Island Boy 

Family Read-a-loud | Prince Caspian (audiobook) | The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness | Pilgrim’s Progress 

Myself | All the Light We Cannot See | Teaching From Rest | New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 | Simple Matters

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Rest and be thankful. ― William Wordsworth

Sometimes I think about the early days of our family, when we’d harness babies to our bodies and walk without aim, just to be together. To be. Sometimes we used words and held hands. Sometimes we walked in silence, our footsteps in sync. Although our walks have since become louder, I love them just the same. Walking aimlessly, together.

fall berries / Saturday morning crafts / studying leaves / shadow play / afternoon light / reading / a football and a walking stick / Sunday morning bike ride / something new / weekend walking / outdoor dinner with friends / a hot chocolate picnic

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indoor bball

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We’ve moved into this new year like a sleep-deprived mother moves out of bed — slowly, bed-head and all. Although Mark did remove the Christmas tree to the fire pit area of our backyard, our ornaments and other accouterments lie waiting in piles to be nestled back in the attic until next November.  I’ll get to it soon. For now, we’ve started our school routine again, practicing having an agenda for the day beyond brushing your teeth and getting dressed and playing (because it takes practice, you know). We’ve had several days of cold, gloomy winter weather and heavy rain the last two — which I will never complain about after experiencing a year + of drought — so we’ve been spending more time indoors this week than usual. Here’s us lately:

1. bundling up in warm layers (Mark refers to this one as my “lumberjack”)

2. smothering the kitchen table with school work and projects again

3. reading in our beds

4. venturing (even in the rain) to our farmer’s market

5. enjoying the simple life (but also swooning over Swedish farmhouses)

6. playing ENDLESS amounts of indoor basketball in the boys’ room (thanks to a Christmas gift from Jordan + Christa)

7. waking up to “say cheese!”

I ♥ the 80s. At least the modern throwback to the 80s.

The boys asked me the other day in what year I was born, and when I responded, “the end of 1978” they both in unison mockingly exclaimed, “whoaaaaaa! Did you know Leonardo DaVinci?”  At that moment I realized, regardless of memorizing an extensive histororical timeline, the boys think everything prior to 2000 is on the same relative plane — old. “No. The end of the 20th century, NOT the Renaissance period.” They just laughed. Although I was young during the 80s decade (and probably making the same jokes to my mom about her age), I was old enough to remember the waved bangs, the big hair bands, bright neons and layered colors, and the Talking Heads. Aside from David Byrne, I never thought I’d look back.  Until now that is. Apparently, I loved that decade more than I thought, and here’s some ways I’m enjoying the 80s in the 21st century:

+ wearing tight-rolled mint cords

+ listening to Wild Nothing’s newest album Nocturne

+ reading The Marriage Plot (think Victorian novel set in the 1980s — begins with lyrics from the Talking Heads)

All I’m missing is the high side ponytail and my walkman; two things not happening anytime soon. Cheers to repeating history trends!

{this moment}: A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. (inspired by soulemama)