For many homeschoolers, teaching our children to read is often one of the first homeschooling challenges we face. Some of us start off with excitement, while some approach it with apprehension and dread. When I reflect back on how I taught my kids to read, I’m able to identify a few key mistakes I made, as well as a few things that helped created a solid foundation.
The good news is that I now have a teen and tween who LOVE to read! They are confident readers who are able to successfully gather information through reading in order to learn anything they want. And they both enjoy reading for pleasure, which truly warms my heart!
“If I can teach her how to read, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to teach her anything.”
This was my primary thought as I sat wondering if I had what it took to homeschool. And oh boy, was I about to dive headfirst into a huge life lesson!
Over the years, I’ve often reflected on how I taught my kids to read.
This experience taught me so much about homeschooling. About the way I wanted our homeschooling experience to feel. About the type of relationships, I wanted to cultivate with my children.
It established a foundation we’ve continued to build on year after year.
Armed with the idea that if I could teach my daughter how to read, I could homeschool successfully, I proceeded with gusto!
The odds appeared to be in my favor. My husband and I had been reading to our daughter since birth. She was bright and precocious. Our home was filled with a variety of books. I was an avid reader.
Frankly, we seemed destined for reading success!
Luckily, I had a couple of dear friends who had started homeschooling a few months beforehand. They were both using a well-known, tried and trusted reading guide and having great success. I figured what worked for them would obviously work for me, and so I purchased the book and we enthusiastically got started.
Except that after several lessons I realized things weren’t going well at all.
First of all, the layout and overall “feel” of the book didn’t mesh well with our personalities. Everything was black and white. Where were the colors? The pictures?
My daughter didn’t look forward to our lessons together. She wasn’t retaining anything we covered. I was frustrated. She was uninterested.
But I persisted.
After all, this book received rave reviews. I had friends that were using it with great success and singing its praises.
So I put my head down and we continued to limp along. Without excitement, motivation, or confidence.
Nothing went according to plan and I started questioning my ability to teach, and therefore to homeschool, altogether.
Instead of considering a different reading program, I concluded that I must be doing something wrong. Instead of opting to take a break, I white-knuckled my way through every single lesson.
The only conclusion I reached was that I was failing.
That somehow I wasn’t equipped to teach my daughter how to read.
And while I felt really sad about this initially, I ultimately decided it was time to toss the reading program to the side and start from scratch.
My instinct was telling me that it wasn’t the right program for us.
My daughter still seemed excited about learning to read, we just needed to find a new method.
I also realized that at five years old, she was still really
After doing a bit of research, I felt drawn to using Hooked on Phonics. It looked like a good fit for my daughter’s personality as well as my teaching style.
Each lesson involved watching part of a DVD and then using the accompanying workbook. From start to finish, each lesson took about 20 minutes. All I had to do was follow the guide. It was so simple.
And there was color! Pictures and stickers! Hooray!
Note: I realize I’ve just dated myself by referring to a DVD! Currently, Hooked on Phonics includes a digital membership, an optional Learn to Read
We used Hooked on Phonics with great success for about a year, completing the Kindergarten and 1st grade sets.
Once my daughter had a solid basic reading foundation, we started incorporating the BOB books.
Our whole family loved these books! The books start out by using a few simple sounds so that emerging readers are able to read a story by themselves, from start to finish. The stories are fun, whimsical, and entertaining.
But do you know the one thing I truly believe was most important to our reading success?
Having books easily accessible.
We have filled our home with books.
Board books, early readers, chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, old and new, library books, and audiobooks.
They sit on our bookshelves, lounge on our couch, snuggle up in bed, and eat breakfast with us.
We taken them on errands, road trips, and airplanes.
We discuss them, recommend them, and give them to friends and family as gifts.
So looking back to the start of our learning to read adventure, where did I go wrong?
For starters, I looked at the success of a couple of other homeschooling friends, and mistakenly assumed that what worked for them would work for us.
What works for “everyone else” might not work for YOU!
I had also bought into an arbitrary time schedule which made me feel like I needed to have my daughter reading by a certain age and stage. This resulted in unnecessary stress for both of us.
There is no one-size-fits-all time schedule.
And finally, I silenced my intuition. The whisper which was telling me that we’d be better served
Listen to your intuition.
The great thing about doing something “wrong” or making mistakes, is that we have the opportunity to try again and choose a different option. What a wonderful way to try something new, to experiment, and to
What did I do to make it right?
I got clear on our goal.
Turns out my #1 goal in teaching my kids to read, has always been enjoyment.
When all is said and done, I want my kids to enjoy reading.
Whether it’s science fiction, sports trivia, or comic books, my hope is that they find material throughout their lives that they truly enjoy. And I’ve always been adamant that audiobooks TOTALLY COUNT as reading!
Sure, I am doing all I can to provide my children with the tools necessary to become confident and proficient readers. And of course, we challenge ourselves with content that will hopefully grow our skills and outlook, but ultimately, our goal is to raise joyful readers.
We chose a different path.
I gave our original program a fair shot, but chose a different path when it became clear that it wasn’t working.
Notice, we didn’t give up.
We evaluated, researched, took a break, then chose a different program with the goal of arriving at the same destination.
Everything feels different when the approach is relaxed.
Instead of continuing to force, rush, and grit our teeth, we reevaluated. We decided to take our time, incorporate more fun, and trust our process.
Relaxing made a huge difference.
And when the time came for me to teach my son to read, I took the lessons I’d learned with my daughter, and proceeded with joy. For the most part, Hooked on Phonics and BOB books continued to be the framework of our instruction, but we reassessed and tweaked as needed.
How I taught my kids to read transformed into nurturing a lifelong love of books. And what a fulfilling adventure it’s been!