Homeschool Guide to Teaching Reading

homeschool reading

As a homeschool mom, I think the scariest thing to teach my kindergarten children was always reading. Yet,  I love to see the light come on when they finally are able to read! The problem is… it’s getting to that point that really can be overwhelming. I am currently on my last and final version of teaching reading. (sniff,sniff) My youngest is in the process right now, and I have to admit she is definitely a challenge. So, I’m sharing with my homeschool friends… all of the wonderful “pointers” that I try to keep in mind as I take on this last reading challenge.

One thing to keep in mind as you teach reading is that it isn’t a skill unto itself. Reading is a culmination of many skills put together into a process. This is why teaching reading can be such a challenge. The research shows that the most flexible method and the method with the most long term benefits is to teach reading phonetically. The idea of phonics comes from the term “phoneme” which is the individual letter/sounds of our alphabet. The simplest skill in learning how to read. The overall idea of teaching phonics is to teach the basic sounds in conjunction with letter recognition, vowels and consonants, digraphs(consonant/vowel blends), special rules/sounds, sight words, and suffixes/prefixes.

I love Time4Learning’s reading pyramid. They have made the process of teaching reading phonetically very simple to understand with a  reading skill pyramid. I like to keep a copy of this handy to help me remember the foundational skills that are necessary.  I’ve heard many people complain about the phonics method they were taught. Some have even said that they cannot sound out words as adults because of it. To be honest, if they were taught phonics correctly, they would be able to sound out any word that was given to them. That is the beauty of teaching phonics. The phonetic method of reading gives a person the skills needed to decode any word at any level. The damaging methods such as the whole language approach or site word method teaches only a set of words and then the student learns these by rote memory. These methods are limiting and put the adult at a loss to decode/sound out new words that they encounter. There are some that use blended methods, and I believe that is probably the method that was used in those rare incidents where there are complaints.

To build the skills necessary to make fluent readers, the student must:

1)recognize individual sounds, sounds within words, and recognize the sound’s symbol

2)distinguish between first and last sounds and middle sounds

3)know and recognize all letters and their sounds, begin blending consonant/vowels, blending consonants with consonants,  begin “sounding out” words, and “decoding” to spell words

4)learn the various “sight words” – I know that this sounds akin to the whole language approach – However, there is a place for learning sight words. These are usually words that defy the “rules” and are pronounced with no rhyme or reason. ie. the, put, was, etc.

5) read, practice, read, and read! Read for smoothness and expression… read for comprehension… read for accuracy…the more they read – the better reader they become!

Should all Juniors Take the PSAT?


I just recently wrote an article on Homeschoolers and the PSAT for Let’s Homeschool High School. This article made me aware of several things. First, I wanted to share the info with my friends here at MomSCHOOL because there are some super benefits from taking the PSAT!

First of all some of you may be wondering what the PSAT is. In reality, it is called the PSAT/NMSQT – quite the mouthful- but it boils down to Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test was designed primarily as a preliminary or practice test for the SAT. It gives the students an idea of what types of questions will be asked, how the test is structured, and a way to practice without fear of doing poorly. The secondary purpose of this test is a qualifying test for the National Scholarship Program. This program is designed to commend high achieving students through connections with various scholarships.

Secondly, there are many benefits that homeschooled high schoolers can receive through the taking of this test. The PSAT website states that students who take the test in their Junior year will:

  • Qualify for scholarships by being automatically entered
  • Receive free information from colleges and universities that are interested in you
  • Receive access to My College Quick Start – which is a free college planning tool
  • Score higher on the SAT (on average) versus those who don’t take the PSAT

Finally, there is great news for homeschoolers. The College Board, makers of the PSAT, have made it possible for students to take the test at their local high school. Homeschoolers will simply need to contact their local school’s PSAT/NMSQT coordinator several months before the October test date. Typically they recommend contacting them in July prior to the student’s Junior year of high school, while taking the SAT test in the spring of the Junior year. Homeschooled students will need to know their state’s PSAT homeschool test code and enter it into the test. Other than that, it’s simply a task of taking the test and seeing if there are any areas to work on before taking the SAT/ACT.

Homeschool High School Credits

high school credit

This past year we had the opportunity to graduate our first homeschooler. Let’s just say it was AWESOME… but it was also a time of stress, worry, and doubt. This was something that we had never done before, and we were worried sick that we would mess up our daughter’s future.  We were stressed because though we had researched and found out everything that we could about homeschool high school records, we still had never done this before. I have to thank my friends at Let’s Homeschool High School for all the great information that truthfully made all the difference in the world. 

The biggest worry that most homeschool parents have is understanding the basic requirements over “credits.” Truthfully every state might have a slightly different take on this subject but overall the credits and their assignments are pretty much the same. One of the biggest questions asked is “How much credit do we assign for a particular course?” The idea behind this goes way back to how “credits” first began to be used. Which takes us all the way back the “Carnegie Unit.”  In the early days of high school and college there was not a “standardized” way to figure what a student had accomplished during his high school years. This brought about the use of the credit or Carnegie Unit. This was developed so that colleges across the country could at a glance see that students had studied the accepted amount of time for each particular course. So, the fundamental guideline here was TIME.

This brings us now to the question of how much time equals a credit? Well, typically 120-180 hours of coursework equals one credit and 60-80 hours equals a half credit. That will help many homeschoolers who give credit for work experience or volunteering. You can simply keep track of the hours spent, and log the credits accordingly.

However, if you are working through a regular school course who has the time to track every hour you spend studying? The easier way here is to understand if you have a one year course it usually equals one highschool credit. Conversely, if you have a one semester course it will equal a half credit. This would also go hand in hand with dual enrollment at community colleges. If your student completes a one semester course through a college, this would translate as one highschool credit.

Sure, it can get pretty tricky. Let me share a great infographic that my friend Kerry has made to make simple this idea of homeschool high school credit equivalencies. If you have encountered any other types of high school courses that are difficult to translate into credit please share your experience with us!

Using a Combination of Block Scheduling and Traditional Scheduling for Homeschool

homeschool schedulingMaking a Homeschool Schedule

One of my most popular posts on this blog is about block scheduling. It rather surprises me, but I realize that everyone is trying to find the best way to organize their homeschool day and block scheduling is often the most feasible option for homeschooling several ages/grades. However, over the years I have begun to realize that for our homeschool a mixture of styles and schedules is usually the best fit. So, with almost everything we do in our homeschool – it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Our Homeschool Schedule

Our schedule this year is a combination of traditional scheduling and block scheduling. For example, at the beginning of our day we start with a traditional schedule. We begin with Bible time as well as our “WonderTime” devotionals from the Good News Club that my kiddos are part. We spend about half an hour on Bible, and since my Middle School twins are working with ABEKA videos this year, I am able to teach to only my two youngest and so I am teaching through the ABEKA flash a card series. While I teach they color a coordinating color sheet that supports what the lesson is teaching.

We then move on to Language Arts. Since this was a pivotal year for our youngest I wanted to really work hard in this area. We are using Saxon 1 phonics, which is a pretty intensive curriculum. It takes us about 40 minutes to go through all of the learning and worksheets each day. My third grade daughter is using Grammar Made Easy which is really amazing. She is picking out prepositional phrases subject and verb phrases already.

We spend about 20-30 minutes on reading – I can get a few things done during this time.

Next comes math or numbers as my youngest calls it. We spend about 30 minutes on this and are using Saxon for both first and third grades. It is also a very intensive curriculum, and we could actually spend alot more time on this curriculum. However, my girls are very intuitive when it comes to numbers and we are able to work through these lessons rather quickly

Finally, we do a handwriting workbook. This usually takes the girls about 15 minutes at the most to complete.

Our Block Schedule

After we’ve gone through these traditionally scheduled courses, we move on to our block scheduled courses. Here we have our history, science, art, and creative writing. I have basically scheduled these four to happen each day of the week with science occurring twice each week. We use Time Traveler’s History, Apologia Science, my own art, and Don’t Forget to Write as well as “Rip the Page” for our creative writing.

Remember that homeschooling is all about fitting your child and your family with the right style of schooling. Whatever works for your family is what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to get “out of the box.” Homeschooling is truly all about freedom to educate according to your needs.

Five Tips for Competing in the National Spelling Bee!

spellinig bee

Sure, we’ve all heard of the National Spelling Bee, also referred to as the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee because of it’s sponsor. This spelling bee has been around since the 1920′s and was started in order to “help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives”(from the official website). Over the years, this spelling bee has helped encourage and motivate thousands of youngsters develop their spelling and vocabulary skills. The Scripps’ National Spelling Bee starts with the individual schools, co-ops, and homeschool organizations across the country at a local spelling bee. These spelling bees then feed a state competition which in turn allows the winner to go on to the National Spelling Bee.

The growth of homeschooling has also seen a rise of contestants in the National Spelling Bee. An article titled “Homeschoolers Lead Spelling Bee” claimed that 10% of the finalists were, in fact, homeschoolers. That is amazing! I am sure the percentage would be even greater if more homeschoolers knew how easy it was to register! It really is quite simple and doesn’t take much time at all…

spelling bee1

1) Find a participating homeschool co-op or association that is already registered with the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee. If you aren’t sure you can search of list of registered schools and homeschool organizations to see if one in your local area is listed.
2) If you cannot find a participating organization, you can register as an individual. There is a fee that you will pay, but it includes the cost for all spelling bees as well as the complete spelling list to study for your grade.
3) Make sure you register before the deadline – as of now… they are still taking registrations but it is their “late period.”
4) Once you’ve completed your registration process the rest is fun… you’ll get your list of study words and be able to get started. You can even join their Spelling Bee Word Club for a small fee. This membership will give you weekly emails as well as words of the day.
5) It’s fun to start a spelling club with the other members of your local group. You can get together and have mini – practice spelling bees to help you get acclimated to how the real thing will go.

If you’ve ever participated in a Scripp’s National Spelling Bee – please share your experience!

Homeschool Curriculum Review – Saxon Phonics 1

We started using the Saxon phonics program this year for our first grader. It has been different from what we are used to for first grade (ABEKA). However, there are alot of good things I can say about it.

Pros – First of all it is a VERY comprehensive style of curriculum. The teachers spiral bound edition is about 3 inches thick. LOL! Each day’s work is spelled out for the teacher. It even includes verbal cues (what to say). So, for the beginning homeschooler it would be perfect to get your feet wet. It introduces letters to the first grader gradually. Each day it reviews the letters that were introduced previously and then builds on those concepts. Using the phonetic approach students are introduced to letters and learn to read all at the same time. This is definitely a new approach for me. I am used to introducing all of the alphabet one at a time – building on their sounds – and then building on consonant blends until you have words. My daughter was struggling at first, it seemed a bit too much. However, now she seems to be doing fine. I would suggest purchasing the Teaching Tools to accompany the worktext. There is a ton of great resources in this little box, and it allows us to play games and make the phonics time more interesting. She especially loves to make words out of the little letter cards that are included.

Cons – The curriculum is quite comprehensive as I mentioned before. It takes quite a while each day to cover everything that is included in the teacher’s manual. It takes us about an hour. With that in mind, there are many days that my first grader gets frustrated and tired. I usually try to break up the monotony with a “game” using the letter cards. There are alot of games that are listed in the teacher’s manual which does make it easier. The resources tools have a ton of flashcards, books, and game pieces that have to be separated and put together. This is quite time consuming.

All in all I would have to rate this curriculum very high. Though I think that ABEKA does have the reading process a little more streamlined. This curriculum if followed completely will give your beginning reader a VERY solid foundation in phonics. I believe this curriculum is great and will definitely not be a negative in our learning experience. However, with 5 other children being homeschooled – it isn’t easy to spend an entire hour on one subject. If you have plenty of time and no rush… this curriculum is perfect!

Carnival of Homeschooling – Fall is in the Air!

homeschool life

 As I’m sitting down to put together this October 15th Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, I glance out my window and see the beginning signs of fall. The leaves on the trees around my home are turning those beautiful … Continue reading

What is Your Favorite Method of Homeschooling?

Simple Tips for Teaching Homeschool Science

I love teaching my children science, especially when we do it right. It can be the most exciting part of  our day! You see, that’s the key – science is simply a study of life and the things around us. You can’t simply do science out of textbook and be done with it! There is just sooo much more! Here are a few tips to help you get your science study off the ground and out of the text books…

1) Use the classroom around you… life, nature, etc. It’s unbelievable what you can learn on a simple nature walk. In fact, this past week we took one and discovered a rare type of aphid called the boogie woogie aphid… turns out it lives only on beech trees and waves(dances) when it senses someone near.

2) Remember that children learn through play. It’s absolutely necessary for them to have time to explore and discover. Their play is learning and their learning should be play. Amazing how they learn when they are doing something fun and interesting!

3) The scientific method stems from questioning… so let learning stem from a child’s natural inquisitiveness. As you discover and explore the world around you let them ask questions, and even teach them how to apply the scientific method to their inquiries. Children are known for using the word “why”, and for good reason!

4) I love having guide books on hand for reference. There have been so many times when we have seen an amazing bird, or animal species that we have run home and tried to find in our guide books. If you can’t find it there… there is always google! We love some of the books like The Kingfisher I Wonder Why Encyclopedia, The Usborne Science Encyclopedia, Birds of Georgia, Trees of the U.S., and Look Inside the Human Body.

5) We use a textbook or online science curriculum simply as a jumping off point. In fact, we love the Apologia series. We will usually read our daily selection together and then go explore or test our theories about what we read. I love getting my kids outside. There is so much room for the imagination when you are out of doors!

Make sure you check out our other articles on homeschooling science – Making Homeschool Science More Fun than Play

Been Hopping? Here’s a few homeschool blog hops I’ve hopped on…

I like the Enchanted Homeschooling Mom’s Thoughtful Spot Blog Hop… There are several really great posts here to check out!

Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop
We also shared on Love2Learn2Day’s blog hop Math Monday!

I also really love this one… Scripture and a Snapshot! Take a picture and then make sure you have a scripture in your blog post for that day! Love it!!

Scripture and Snapshot

Here ‘s one that is just adorable… Salt Tree… beautiful posts to check out on her most recent blog hop/linky party!!