Talkin’ School – Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Handwriting

What important subjects to go over today!  Besides math, I was most nervous about reading and writing because I hadn’t ever taught a child how to read before.  Sure, we worked and worked with our oldest at home with lots of early reading books but we felt that the main task of reading was left to his teacher at school.  Since #2 is starting his school career with homeschooling, teaching him how to read loomed large ahead of me.  Now that we’re near the end of the year, I have to say “Success!”.  It’s really not that hard!!!  If you’re worried about teaching this subject as a new home school teacher, I want to reassure you that YOU CAN DO IT.  I realized that if you can teach a child to eat at the table, tie his shoes, and potty train – you can teach him to read!  Here’s what we used:

Kindergarten Reading

Kindergarten Reading ProgramThe Reading Lesson Book by Michael Levin, MD and Charan Langton, MS is wonderful.  Little people can begin reading very simple words within just a few pages.  This phonics program features large text with adorable pictures that really engage my son into the words/sentences/paragraphs that he is reading.  At first, I was a little confused about symbols over some of the vowels later in the book.  They are to signify that you give that vowel a different sound than the one that they first learned to associate with it.  I thought the symbols would be confusing to my son but as they were introduced, I saw how much they helped him sound the new words correctly.  Also, the symbols are dropped after a bit as the child begins to recognize the words on his own.  This program has made teaching my son how to read unbelievably easy.  We only read through one page a day – and that’s it.  There have been a few times that he struggled more than usual on a page so we’d repeat it the next day with much more success but mostly he reads a new page every day.  I definitely recommend this program for your early reader!

Second Grade Reading

We didn’t use a reading program for my oldest son since he knows how to read pretty well at this point.  We made sure to get to the library often and give him plenty of options to read.  Here’s a small list of some of his favorite books and series for reading time:

The Boxcar Children Mysteries

Matilda

The Tintin series

Helping Hands Reading to Learn

Magic Treehouse

Language Lessons

Language Arts Curriculum ReviewLanguage Lessons for the Very Young 2 and Language Lessons for Little Ones 2 by Sandi Queen are very nice language arts books.  They cover all sorts of language essentials such as punctuation, poetry, grammar, narration, capitalization, and picture study.  The program brings in other arts with the poetry and full-color pictures of famous artwork for you to discuss with your child.  This is another very quick lesson for both of my boys but I think they get a lot out of it.  #1 can do most of the lessons himself and #2 works well on his own after quick direction on what he should do each lesson.  We enjoy these books and will continue to use them throughout the boys’ early elementary years.

Spelling

Spelling curriculum reviewSince #2 is still just learning to read, we’re not working on spelling until next year.  We ended up using two spelling curricula this year.  The one we started with might work great with some kids but not with mine.  We began the year using Sequential Spelling by Don McCabe.  I was excited by the idea of it where your child learns better spelling by writing down words in a word family that are dictated by the teacher.  I thought it made a lot of sense to teach children how to spell correctly by starting with a base word and slowly adding to it to make the larger, complex words.  We used this program for the first few months of the year and #1 seemed to do well on it.  Until the first couple of tests showed that he just wasn’t retaining much of what we’d gone over.  I was a little upset by how long it takes to get to the first test so you don’t really know if there’s even a problem until you’ve gone through 40 lessons.  This program might work for a lot of children so you might want to look into it but it just wasn’t working for us.

Spelling Curriculum ReviewWe switched to All About Spelling by All About Learning Press when my friend recommended it for my son’s needs.  (Thanks Anna!)  This program focuses on the rules of spelling and teaching kids the why to help them sound out new words.  We ended up starting at Level 1 just to give him the solid background in the curriculum before moving into his proper grade level 2.

This subject is probably my oldest’s biggest struggle.  It doesn’t come easy but I think this program is his best bet.  I’ve seen some improvement with this and we’ll be sticking with it.

Handwriting

Handwriting Curriculum ReviewWe switched this program halfway through also.  We began with A Reason for Writing by Carol Ann Retzer in both the Kindergarten and Second grade.  I chose this curriculum because I loved the idea that the boys would be writing bible verses and would get to color a special sheet with neat designs along with their best handwriting.  I was a bit disappointed with how little my boys cared to do their handwriting each day.  They dragged their feet more and more and began complaining about the monotony.  I didn’t think the 2nd grade book (level B) was too bad but I did think that the kindergarten book lacked variety.  Mostly he wrote one letter for each lesson and then colored an animal that begins with that letter.  He’s not big on coloring though so that might have had a bit to do with his lack of interest.  I like the idea of this course but ultimately, it just wasn’t a good fit for us.

Handwriting Curriculum review
This comes with an intro to cursive book that we’ll do over the summer before beginning his 3rd grade cursive handwriting program.

We ended up switching to Handwriting Without Tears by Jan Olsen and it’s been such a breath of fresh air.  Both kids love doing handwriting now and I’ve seen an improvement in them both.  They just do one page a day and then we’re done and moving on with our day.  I’m a big fan of Handwriting Without Tears!

Writing

Again, this is only something my 2nd grader really works on.  We’ll introduce more writing for my little guy next year in first grade.

Writing Curriculum ReviewOur writing curriculum this year was Evan-Moor’s Daily 6-Trait Writing.  It was basic, thorough, and overall, it was just fine.  He did one worksheet a day and learned about choosing good ideas, good writing organization, word choice, sentence fluency, and choosing a voice.  It definitely wasn’t overwhelming and he seemed to do well with it.  Even though this curriculum has been fine for us this year, I might be switching to a different writing course next year.  I’ll tell you about it on Friday.

journalI’ve also had both of the boys doing journals periodically.  It’s been fun to see how they both like looking back through them and reading what they’ve written.  The 2nd grade journal prompts that we used the most were from here.  Our favorite kindergarten prompts are from here and here.

What language arts programs have worked for you?

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