I can’t say that word without thinking of “O Brother, Where Are Thou” and how they say it as OB’STACK’els. But I digress.
Obstacles are a part of life, and most certainly, a part of homeschooling. There is almost an unwritten guarantee that your child will dislike and struggle with either math or reading. (Or if not one of those, writing.) In our house we’ve run up against all three. Princess had some difficulty grasping math, Drama Queen had trouble learning to read, and now they both take issue with writing. Now, however, the issue isn’t that they *can’t* write, as much as it is that they *think* they can’t. Ah, but that’s an obstacle in and of itself!
THINKING that one CAN’T do something is a common obstacle, and an important one to overcome. In fact, it played a part in Drama Queen’s early trouble with reading and once I proved to her (with simple word family flash cards) that she indeed *could* read, her reading proficiency took off! So for the past two weeks we’ve been tackling this particular obstacle, and we’ve been focusing on writing.
As was the case with Drama Queen’s reading resistance, I decided to step back and make writing very simple, break it down and show the girls what they *CAN* do. I knew that Drama Queen could write a complete paragraph if she tried, and I knew that Princess could write an entire essay if she put her mind to it. So for Drama Queen, I went online and found a “hamburger paragraph” template. I know there are issues with teaching hamburger paragraphs, but I believe the main issue is not progressing beyond them. For the purpose of our exercise, it worked WONDERFULLY. After some initial resistance, Drama Queen wrote a full, complete paragraph, I proofread it, and she rewrote it with the corrected spelling and punctuation. Her second hamburger paragraph went SO smoothly.. she finished it before I even knew she started! Princess’ first writing assignment was a creative one, but her second one was an essay (and that’s where the mental brakes start kicking in–screeech! “I can’t do this!”) To help Princess with this process, I printed out an essay outline model, and then I directed her to an online essay generator at readwritethink.org that walks the student through the process of creating an essay. The process was so painless, she didn’t argue when she was done, but printed out the essay map she’d created and immediately used that type up a first draft. Success!!
Sometimes overcoming obstacles is a little more complicated and difficult, but sometimes it’s just a matter of having the right tools–and the confidence to tackle them. Part of our jobs as parents is to teach our children how to conquer challenges and to rise to the challenge with a good effort – because they really can do most things when they set their minds to it. (Not all, of course, but most!)
Speaking of challenges..
Phonics are often another challenge. And I’m often asked how I teach my children to read, and whether or not I use phonics to do it.
YES. I do use phonics. I believe reading is both a knowledge of how letters work together to make sounds (phonics) and remembering what they look like and recognizing them without sounding them out (sight reading – this also applies to “weird” words like “two.”) When learning to read new words a good knowledge of phonics can help make the process easier and less painless. And if you’ve ever observed a child learning to read, you know how they naturally begin relying on their memory, which is obviously a natural progression – how many adults do you know that sound out all of their words while they are reading? ;0) So reading takes both.
On the other hand, I am not the super phonics police. We don’t memorize and recite the rules, we don’t use the rules for copywork — my kids probably can’t recite any “rules” to you because I also like to keep reading relaxed and natural and fun. Reading should be enjoyable, and that begins at an early age, even before the child can read. = )
So how “DO” we do phonics?
- We have some simple phonics flash cards.
- We use the free Progressive Phonics ebooks.
- We practice word families with handwriting practice or making our own family cards (hat, rat, bat, cat, etc.)
- We use the phonic knowledge we’re studying with repetitive readers such as The Dick and Jane Treasury or The McGuffey Readers and as we read we sound out new words, we apply what we know, we learn NEW sounds if we come upon new words, we learn to recognize words we’ve already sounded out, etc.
And that’s pretty much it. With my oldest child she took to it pretty easy and we learned as we read through the stories. When we came to something she didn’t know, I taught it to her in the moment. With my second child, she needed a bit of help so we studied word families for a bit of a confidence boost and reading finally clicked. However much each child needs, we hang out there, we don’t stress out about it, until the child is ready to move on.
So obstacles and phonics. What obstacles do you face in your homeschool process? Is phonics one of them?