It’s every homeschooling mother’s worst nightmare to find that her child is struggling to learn to read. She begins to feel like a failure. She wonders if the public schools would have better resources. She wonders if she taught something wrong. She fears that her child may have a serious health problem.
Another problem families sometimes face is that curriculum doesn’t perfectly fit where their children are in abilities. For a short time, they feel trapped between levels and don’t know what to do.
Let’s talk about what to do for children who are struggling to learn to read.
Check Your Teaching Methods
Just in case, let’s take a peek at your teaching methods. If you find a problem here, it will be very easy to fix! 🙂
- If you’re a Homeschooling Torah member, have you thoroughly read the introduction to the phonics or Word Power lessons you’re using. There are many good tips for you there!
- Are you consistently doing phonics every school day?
- Try to have your daily reading, writing, and spelling lessons at the same time and place each day. The room should be orderly, uncluttered, and without too many distractions. A predictable daily routine has been shown to create a state of mind that is conducive to learning.
- Have your child face in the same direction each day, working at a comfortable table. This will help orient your child in space and in the awareness of left-right directionality.
Check Your Child’s Abilities
- Is your child really ready to learn to read? Check out these signs of reading readiness.
- Could your child have a real learning disability? Some reading problems are really an indication of a brain injury. Check out our blog post on learning problems for more information.
- Here is a website with an extensive list of speech and reading resources.
Having a child read directly from the Bible, daily, without any other phonics instruction (besides help on the spot to sound out or decode a word) has been proven to help with brain injuries.
- Try Single Syllable Words, a small book that lists all the verses that contain only one-syllable words. It can make a nice reader for your child.
- Check out Elizabeth Brown’s Phonics Page website.
Give Your Child Time
If your child is showing any signs of difficulty with the level you’re using, we strongly recommend backing up a level. Yes, it will be ridiculously easy for him. No, it doesn’t mean that he is dumb or will never graduate from high school! It simply means that his brain needs time to practice what he has already learned, until it becomes second nature to him.
Sometimes it really does no good to rush things. Children all develop at different rates, and they don’t develop as steadily as curriculum makes it appear. All curriculum is generic; we are writing an ideal checklist of things to learn. However, our children’s brains don’t learn at the same pace as the scope and sequence. Some weeks, your child will learn very quickly. Then he will seem to hit a plateau where it appears he is learning nothing. Sometimes, because of sickness, days off school, or stress, he can actually appear to regress.
It’s no big deal! Our materials are not graded, and there is no rush. Go slower! Go back! Take time off of learning new materials.
And what should you do in the meantime? Should you just skip reading altogether?
No, we recommend that you continue to practice what you have already learned together.
- Once a day, review all the sounds your child has learned so far.
- For children who know most of the sounds in Level 1 but need practice before continuing to Level 2, have them read small portions per day of Webster’s 1824 American Spelling Book, pp. 15-38. They should read the words aloud to you, reading both across a row and down a column.
- Correct any speech problems by having the child repeat problem words carefully and clearly. You may wish to have him look in a mirror as he says the word.
- Give his handwriting time to catch up with his reading ability. If you’re a member of Homeschooling Torah, see our weekly copywork suggestions, or see our remedial cursive course.
- Dictate 5 words per day from Webster for your child to write.
- Have your child practice his reading on fun books. Make it easier by having him read a page, then you read the next page, and back and forth until he tires. Then you can finish reading the book aloud. Pay attention to what page you’re on when he wears out, and note if his endurance increases over the weeks.
- When you catch your child reading anything on his own, with emotions such as laughter because he is involved with the story, you know success is close at hand!
After a month or two, pull out the curriculum again, using it consistently for a week or two. Then evaluate. Is your child ready to continue, or do you need to wait a bit longer?
As always, feel free to email us if you need more specific help!