I could have called this post “The Scariest/Most Intimidating Part of Homeschooling” (or even of Parenting in general, since one can’t always rely on their school to get it right), and I don’t think I’d be exaggerating. If I were to list the single most important learning skill that I think the kids need to learn to be successful in life in our society as it stands now, it would be reading. Eff up here, and doom your child for the rest of their life.
…That last bit might be a tad exaggerated.
But either way, if you can read, you can learn just about anything you need to know in life (the need to practice for proficency afterwards is the second most important thing to learn). And so, here I am, avid reader, college graduate, veteran, lover of sharks and venomous creatures, open water swimming hobbyist–at least half way intelligent, not easily freaked out–and yet totally freaked out that I will doom my children.
Isn’t that the entire theme of parenting? If you aren’t concerned that you are doing it wrong, you probably are?
But I have found that its not that bad, if you have some sort of guide. And hopefully you started thinking about this reading business before they were even talking (not essential, but it supposedly makes it easier) I strongly recommend a guide (there are tons of books and programs to choose from depending on the level of structure and detail that works for you) because there is actually tons of research indicating what methods are more effective, and a logical order to learning to read. What I don’t recommend is spending big money on fancy programs–you don’t need it.
Also, you might need a reward system. Reading isn’t always its own reward when you are starting out. Its hard. My kids love to be read to. Chickadee isn’t all that motivated on her own to do anything she finds difficult and Sharkbait couldn’t sit still if you glued him to the chair. So a reward system that works is essential for us. Anti-TV and health food purists would shudder, but I use Avatar: the Last Air Bender as a reward for Chickadee and M&Ms for Sharkbait. My motto (and I have so many)–sometimes bribery works!
Other materials we (sometimes) use:
Index cards and markers (don’t buy flashcards, make your own for cheaper!)
dry erase board and/or chalk board (and chalk and markers of course)
letter magnets, scrabble tiles, alphabet cards, etc
squishy bag, pudding finger paints, etc
primary journals for journaling and copywork
The kids like computer based stuff more than flash cards, so I use Google to make slideshows like this one
Read! Build! Write! Mats with scrabble blocks