My oldest, I've never worried about. She is an independent learner and lets be honest she was reading very well by the time we pulled her out of school, after her first grade year. My next child, was introduced to a public school preschool but had no other experience after that. She is the one that I quickly discovered that year could not handle our umbrella school's suggested first grade curriculum. It wasn't natural or gentle enough for her. I had to teach her to read from the beginning! I had no idea what I was doing. I was sticking to the suggested phonics program with workbook and phonogram cards her whole kindergarten year. It seemed like very slow progress or none at all really. Now, add my next child. He was considered a pre-k student needing to learn basics for the kindergarten year. I was starting to feel very inadequate at my task.
That fall I decided things needed to change. My approach had to be different or I was setting myself up for failure. I had read about CM before and enjoyed a few things that I was doing with the children already. I chose to read Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion. Her first few chapters were speaking to me. Especially, when she gets to how she taught her daughter to read! That made sense, finally. I let go off expectations and just began to try that approach with my daughter. I didn't worry about teaching her rules and following a phonics program. I kept the workbook because she enjoyed it, but I didn't stress over it. By the end of her first grade year we had moved from creating simple words and learning sight words to actually reading Frog and Toad books together.
I had also decided that fall that after our Advent break we would try a new approach to her schooling. That is when we switched to a very CM learning style for her and my son. I stop stressing about him filling in workbooks and just let him come along for the ride with his sister. We decided to follow a letter a week filled with picture books, cooking, nature study and art appreciation. That worked wonderfully for both of them. He enjoyed the alphabet and that was perfect. She was reading and learning in the most gentle way.
There is much I have learned to appreciate about how to approach the nine and under child and there is also such value that I have gained from reading Part V: Lessons As Instruments of Education. In the section on Reading the process is described and I had to just giggle when I got to this part:
"I wish some publisher would provide us with what we want - nursery rhymes, in good bold type, with boxes of loose words to match - a separate box, or division, for each page, so that the child may not be confused by having too many words to hunt amongst. The point is that he should see, and look at, the new word many times, so that its shape becomes impressed on his brain." pg 213If you continue to read about Tommy's lesson you can clearly see the description of how SCM Delightful Reading Kit approaches the task. I giggled because the kit is what I've been using since it came out earlier this year. I loved reading about the process two years ago and tried to do it myself, but had not read the original words from Charlotte and was still a little unclear on how to go about it. Don't let the price discourage you; you can certainly recreate this process yourself. I am a visual learner and seeing the kit, how it is set up, how it is to be used just made it easier for me; and I had four little ones that would get some use out of it. I would, however, encourage you to read about the process. I did just that this summer and my mind is just so clear on how to proceed. I remember enjoying the teacher's manual that comes with the kit and enjoying all the CM quotes at the moment, but just something about me reading it from Charlotte's book that just lit a light bulb, an aha moment. I also think that the fact that I've gone through this once is giving me some practice and just a little more confidence. I am enjoying this approach of beginning phonics combined with sight words using delightful reading. It is simple but effective. (please don't misunderstand, I'm sure there are wonderful phonics programs out there, this was just the best fit for us)
For my very young children, learning the alphabet is just to be fun and inviting. I won't say much here, but will refer you to a wonderful post on this. Bobby Jo has a four year old son and over at Where The Black Top Ends she's full of inspiration. My wheels are already turning on some projects ; )
As for my third grader, I've been asked if she continues to do a phonics program. Honestly, I don't think we have ever really followed one. When she reads to me I can see that there are rules she hasn't learned but that's o.k. We are covering them and with more practice she will get them. Big example I noticed this week: the sound of ph is f. She kept missing the word Pharaoh. For just a second (o.k. a lot more than that) I was second guessing myself as to whether she should have some type of program on her schedule. Then I referred to section VIII: Reading for Older Children:
"The attention of his teachers should be fixed on two points - that he acquires the habit of reading, and that he does not fall into slipshod habits of reading....This habit should be begun early; so soon as the child can read at all, he should read for himself, and to himself, history, legends, fairy tales, and other suitable matter...He should have practice, too, in reading aloud, for the most part, in the books he is using for his term's work." pg 226-227I have to admit this is what I have been doing with her for over a year now. I always have reading material that challenges her and she is to read aloud to me. This year I've included even more material that she is to read to herself. I'm very pleased with her progress. I'm convinced that the more reading she does the less necessary it is for us to be worried about the fact that we didn't follow a phonics program full of rules for her to remember. She is learning them as she goes and she is enjoying some wonderful books at the same time.
I don't feel any of the stress I did two years ago. I feel energized and so blessed to be taking this journey with my children. I am the best person for the task. The end goal for all of them is to read well. Once they are doing that, this will follow:
"Therefore, the selection of their first lesson-books is a matter of grave importance, because it rests with these to give children the idea that knowledge is supremely attractive and the reading is delightful. Once the habit of reading his lesson-books with delight is set up in a child, his education is - not completed, but - ensured.." pg 229