The Early Years - Phonics

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Teaching a child to learn to read is, IMHO, one of the most satisfying tasks of homeschooling. Watching understanding dawn on your student's face as they finally are able to read their first sentence, and then their first easy reader book, is beyond description. Especially if it's been a particularly long and arduous road getting there!

There are numerous, wonderful phonics programs out there. Some are quite simple in their approach, while others incorporate bells, whistles, and singing animals. Deciding which to use will depend a great deal on your child's learning style, your teaching methods, and how much money is in your bank account.

While phonics programs are wonderful tools, there are some very practical approaches to teaching reading that don't require any curriculum or packaged resources. The most basic of these is to look for reading opportunities throughout your day. When you're driving down the street, point out street signs and ask your child what letter sounds they see, or if they can sound out the words on their own. In the grocery store, pick up boxes of cereal or crackers and ask your student to identify the letters they are currently learning, or have already learned.

Homemade flash cards are another great way to teach or reinforce phonics. Start with a set of letter flash cards and play letter "Go Fish" with your child. Create a duplicate set of letter flash cards and play a "Concentration" or matching game. Or make up simple "Bingo" grids and using some macaroni or other "markers", play letter Bingo. Once you begin teaching letter blends, make up some blend flash cards and let your child build words with the cards. I remember my youngest child's excitement when he got to the place where he could build simple sentences using his flash cards. The ideas are endless!

Another good idea that used to elicit chuckles from folks who visited our home is to create "label" flash cards for the various items in your house. You can label your "couch", "chair", "bed", "table", "rug", and so on. Hand the cards to your child and let him/her sound out the word and place the label appropriately. Or perhaps mix up the cards and place the "chair" card on the rug, and the "couch" card on the table, etc... Let your student have fun correcting your "mistakes".

Once again, Dr. Beechick's Three R's booklet is full of very creative and practical ways to teach or reinforce basic reading skills. Definitely a "must have" for every homeschooler.

Enjoy the journey!

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