Phonics Fun

alphabats

Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.

Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.

Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.

Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.

Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…

 

This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.

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Play-station beats Dyslexia

lbp

My middle son, Motor-biker, who is 14, has struggled with quite severe dyslexia for years. I know I have mentioned it several times here.

We had tried all sorts of reading schemes and books and resources and we weren’t getting anywhere. In fact, I was at the point of tearing my hair out with frustration and just about ready to throw in the towel.

But a remarkable thing has happened over the Christmas holiday – having unrestrained time on the Play-station, particularly playing the creative game ‘Little Big Planet‘ which has a fair amount of text, he has had a breakthrough.

I can hardly believe that I am saying it, but he is now – all of a sudden really – reading!

I am really just astounded at his rapid progress, and so relieved! I really felt that we had reached an impasse and that there was no way to carry on learning at home. I am so glad I was wrong!

One of the neat things about Little Big Planet is that you can create your own levels, and part of creating things is tagging them with text, and the text interface has a suggestion box which is really helpful for learning spellings and the shape of words.

So far, it hasn’t helped Baba Zonee, 12, quite so obviously; but from what I understand, this may be due to having a different type of dyslexia from his brother (he also has dysgraphia, and physical difficulty with fine motor control). But even though Baba Zonee is still struggling, I am beginning to see slow improvement, so I am really encouraged, one that learning at home with dyslexia is possible, and that learning with unschooling (which means natural life learning with little or no interference) is sometimes the best way.

Stuff we’re using

1teddyrow

October isn’t over but since I never know when I will have enough energy to get on the laptop, I thought I would write an update now.

There are lots of things we’re struggling with at the moment, lots of things we would like to do but haven’t been able. So instead of dwelling on the negative, I’ll let you know what we have done, and what we are currently enjoying.

In English, we’re currently going through Galore Park’s “So You Want to Learn Junior English” Book 2. We don’t bother with writing as it slows the boys down, we just go through it orally. Sometimes, when there’s a point of grammar that they need to see, I’ll write it up on the whiteboard. We’re also using Jolly Grammar books 1 and 2 for spelling (the grammar worksheets are variable. I like that they’re photocopiable, but we only bother copying the good ones.)

For literature, we’ve been listening to The Railway Children by E. Nesbit and read by Virginia Leishman, which we downloaded from Audible. I decided to join as a member and pay monthly as it works out quite a good deal. This particular book would have cost quite a bit more as an individual purchase.

For History, we have been enjoying the Librivox reading of Our Island Story. I have already read this book twice to the children over the years, and it is a family favourite. Having somebody else read it aloud is obviously really helpful in our situation. We finished the Middle Ages with another film, just for fun: “Les Visiteurs” which is a French comedy about a noble and his servant who are mistakenly thrown forwards in time by a wizard. Very silly but lots of fun. At the moment we’re going through the reign of Elizabeth I.

For Geography, all we are managing at the moment is a daily page from “You Too Can Change the World”  by Spragget and Johnstone which is a children’s version of Operation World (there is also another version for older children, Window on the World). Each page gives a basic introduction to a country or ethnic group and lists points for prayer. One country that has captured the children’s imagination is North Korea, so we may look more deeply at some point. I do also have an old KS3 Geography series by Collins educational consisting of 3 books (United Kingdom, Europe and The World) but haven’t started that yet. When we do, I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

We went out once with the new HE Teens group to the cinema to see the Martian. I’m not sure to what extent that can be counted as educational! (Again, when I’m more well we might follow it up with some real science!) But everyone enjoyed it and I’m hoping that eventually the group will become a bit more active. Being so isolated makes it difficult to connect with other teens.

We have dabbled a bit with Shakespeare over the last year – usually I read the story in one of the story books for younger children, then again in something more complex like Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and then rather than struggling through the text, we find a good film version before going any more deeply, and then only if it’s enjoyable – the last thing I want to do is put them off. So this term we are looking at Henry V and we watched Kenneth Brannagh’s version with a star-studded cast including a very young Christian Bale!

For Science, we’re still going through Apologia’s Botany, minus most of the experiments. We may go through the experiments another time when I’m more well, as a fun way of revision.

That’s pretty much it. Field trips at the moment are reduced to one trip to the library every week plus their evening activities which, at the moment, consist of Drama, Scouts, Bellringing and Local Radio.

Over to You:

What are you doing this month? How do you manage illness and disability with home education?

Picture Book Reading Challenge

I’ve just heard about this lovely challenge: to read 300 picture books to your children, in a year.

Since we are starting in February, our allocation is reduced to 275.

It’s only ’11 books per fortnight’, so that seems fairly manageable.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2013/12/31/picture-book-reading-challenge-2014/

I used to have pages on Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing (back when we had internet 3 years ago!) So I will check them out again when I have a chance.

Of course, since my children are older, I may have to include books other than picture books. I have been aiming for one book weekly, but life has just been whizzing by too fast to actually manage to fit that much reading in.

We keep trying though! (We’re currently still reading “The Avion My Uncle Flew”)

I think perhaps a trip to the library is in order! 🙂