I mailed off achievement test scores for three of my kids today, along with my letter of intent to homeschool four of them in the upcoming school year. That’s always such a good feeling of accomplishment, especially if I get it all in the mail before the mandated deadline. I rarely write about the knitty gritty of homeschooling at our house, but I have in the past. I wrote a post about the way we homeschool about two years ago, and reading it this evening I see that it’s outdated in some ways already (I haven’t used a spreadsheet in over a year.) That’s the nature of homeschooling. We are always changing and our plans likewise evolve. The biggest challenge I have had outside of figuring out how to “get it all done” has been teaching reading, and specifically teaching Gabriel to read. I wrote about that two years ago as well, when I detailed his first grade plan. I truly underestimated just how challenging it would be to teach a child who speaks American English as a third language (Gabe was about seven years old when he joined our family.) Two years later we are making progress, but it has been hard for him, and I have to confess, hard for me. (I rely heavily on my knitting during our lessons. Knitting while teaching helps me tremendously with patience.)
Larkspur is technically beginning first grade this year. As far as academics go, that means that I will begin giving her regular math and reading lessons. I realized as we dabbled in reading over the past year, that I needed something new that better meets both my needs and Larkspur’s in the reading department. Lessons at our house happen around the kitchen table and are rarely completed without interruption. I don’t have the time to devote to a plan such as the one that I used with Gabriel at this level. I also don’t have the mental staying power. I realized a couple of months ago that what I wanted and needed was a scripted reading program, and one that wouldn’t require a bunch of planning and preparing on my part. I also knew that if it didn’t appeal to me, that I wouldn’t use it. (I can’t handle bright and obnoxious.) A close friend had been telling me about a programshe was using to teach spelling and reading to her daughter, and the more she talked about it, the more I thought it might work for us. I called the support line at All About Learning with about a million questions about both All About Spelling and All About Reading before I ordered their programs, and was very pleased with the help I received. The poor guy must have been stuck on the phone with me for half an hour or more as I described my kids’ extra special needs. I decided to try both All About Reading and All About Spelling and have been using them for over a month now, which is more than enough time for me to be able to tell if a program is going to work for us. I plan to use All About Spelling later this year with Larkspur when she begins to write more, and I’m using it with Gabriel who struggles with spelling (American English has nearly four times the vowel sounds as Liberian English and that is a big deal.)
I am using All About Reading with Larkspur now (Gabe is beyond this beginning reading program at this point.) She is enjoying it, and is making progress. Right now it takes us about two days of lesson time to get through one lesson, and that is a great pace for her attention span. She absolutely loves the readers that are part of the program. In the past couple of weeks, she has pulled her reader from the shelf and chosen to read on her own on lots of occasions. She reads and rereads the stories. That is a big deal. She hasn’t been motivated to do that with other readers. I think the thoughtful illustrations are a big part of the appeal. They make her feel like she is reading real stories, despite their simplicity.
(and a little sidenote–I made these shorts for Lark a couple of weeks ago by modifying my quick and easy standby pattern from Carefree Clothes for Girls.)
(and another note: Lark finished knitting her hat-well, I finished the last few rounds for her-and she must have decided to keep it because she is proudly wearing it regularly despite the fact that our temperature has been in the 90s.)
Both All about Reading and All About Spelling are multi sensory programs that rely on flash cards for quick review, and also magnetic letter tiles that are used in a way similar to how we use our moveable alphabet. I store everything in an old shoe polish box.
Beatrix is proving to be an early learner and while I typically don’t start at her age (she will be four in November) she wants reading lessons too. I think this is how it goes when you have a house full of children. The younger children naturally want to do what the older ones are doing.
She is satisfied with working on her letter sounds using Montessori style sandpaper letters that I made myself many years ago using templates from this book. (We are still following the same simple preschool plans too.)
I am so glad that I decided to try All About Reading with Larkspur. I feel like I am really accomplishing my goals with her, and she is pleased as well. She keeps asking when she will be able to get her own library card since she is reading now. I am also very excited about the possibility of All About Spelling being the key to unlocking the English language for Gabriel so that he starts making more progress with reading along with spelling.
I joined the All About Learning affiliate program because their materials are really working for us and I figure if I am going to talk about something anyway, I may as well sign on for the possibility of making a little money. I added their button to my sidebar as well, but that may not last. It’s a little bright.
p.s. Keats took most of the photos in this post–the ones that I am in.