One of the most intimidating skills a homeschool parent can face is teaching your child how to read!
Let me share a secret with you--even though I taught in an elementary classroom for ten years and had a Masters in Reading Education, the thought of teaching my own children how to read was terrifying. Unfortunately, for most homeschoolers, it is often a period filled with self-doubt and anxiousness, but it doesn’t have to be! After teaching my first child how to read, I felt like I could teach ANYTHING in any grade from there on out. Plus, it turns out that teaching my children to read was one of the absolute highlights of our homeschooling journey. This series of posts will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to embrace teaching your child to read!
Phonics vs. Whole Language
One of the first things to realize is that reading curriculums typically fall into one of two camps--phonics or whole language. Understanding what these methods are can help you create a reading program that will set your child up for success!
This method of reading teaches children that letters and groups of letters (like “th”) are associated with a specific sound. A child will look at a word and break it apart into individual letters, match the sound to the letter, and then blend it together to read or say the word. This is known as decoding or sounding out words. As the child practices decoding, he/she will become faster and eventually eliminate the sounding-out phase because it becomes automatic in their brain. The benefits of phonics are children are often better spellers and more fluent readers. Another advantage of phonics is that children can decode almost any word they encounter once they have learned the sounds associated with letters.
This approach focuses on teaching children whole words and the fact that language works together to create meaning. It involves memorizing high-frequency words and reading text that is repetitive and predictable. If a child doesn’t know a word, he/she is encouraged to use context clues like other words in the sentence, pictures, or their prior knowledge to figure it out. One of the benefits of whole language is that it encourages a child to use a variety of strategies to figure out text, which can develop stronger comprehension skills. It also promotes using reading and writing for everyday purposes.
Which is best for your child?
For most children, a mixture of the two methods will provide the most successful program! A phonics-based program with sight words and context clue strategies added in will create a balanced approach. If memorization is easy for your learner, you might consider leaning towards a whole language approach with some phonics incorporated in so that when your child comes to challenging words, they have the basic skills to sound them out.
Remember, each child is different! You might need to develop different plans for your different children. In the next post, we will share our most valuable reading tips, tricks, and strategies to help you navigate through this season of homeschooling. Teaching your child to read might seem intimidating, but it truly is one of the most rewarding times of your child’s education!