Thursday, December 8, 2016

Introducing A New Reader

I sometimes get asked about readers and those children that are in their prime learning to read stage. One question that often arises is that of, 'how do I introduce a new reader to my child'. This is by no means intended to be the only way, it is simply what I have found that works for us here.

I am now onto our third and final child that is just about at the stage of reading early chapter books and my time as a homeschool mum introducing early readers to my kids will be over.

Step 1

So you have brand new beginning reader on your hands. Maybe they know all of their alphabet sounds and possibly can sound out a few simple words and so you feel it is time to make a start on introducing readers to your child.

"Readers are most often a set of books that children (and their reading mentors) utilise to work their way through the sounding out of simple words and letter combinations, slowly and systematically progressing them into more detailed texts."

Most readers at this stage will have a focus, it may be a short vowel sound in the middle of what is known as a CVC word (vowel consanant vowel). So could be something like 'dig' where the focus of the book is to practice words with the short vowel sound 'i'.

This step in the process is to introduce the new sound, in the lower level readers it is most always a single letter sound but will progress into letter combinations, such as blends, like ch, ck, sh and then onto longer combinations of letters that make a single sound.

For example here in this particular reader titled 'Mark and Mars' the new sound is made up of the letter combination 'ar'.

We will read the title together, talk about the sound combination and try and come up with some other words that might use that sound all before we even open the book.

Step 2

I read the story. Yes, I read it from cover to cover, not my child. Let's face it the whole point of introducing a reader like this to a child is because they don't know the new sounds that are going to be presented. If they could already read the words why would we bother even introducing the reader. However, because they don't know the sounds it can make for an anxiety driven time trying to focus on what they've recently learned in earlier readers, sounding out words that may be familiar to them and then also trying to add in the brand new sound in a series of words that they most likely have never come across before. Let's not forget that at the same time they are trying to read for comprehension. Put all of this together and many young children simply do not cope.

So together we cuddle on the couch and I read. That way we both to get to enjoy the story (the stories generally get better as the readers progress in levels), we get to know the story and we understand the premise behind the text. We will have a brief chat to check for comprehension at the end of the story.

Step 3

We go back through the story looking for the words that contain our new sound, which in this book is 'ar'. We spend time sounding out those words and saying them out loud to ensure we have the correct sounds coming out. This is often a time for lots of giggles, especially with letter/sound combinations that may be a little different.

That's basically all we do on the first days introduction of a new reader. We always have a couple of books that are at a lower reading level which we use to help build fluency and practice recently learned sounds. So now is the time the child reads those out loud.

Step 4

This step happens the following day. We remind ourselves of the story and the new sound that we are on the lookout for.

Then it's time to begin reading. As you can see from this particular reader we are at the stage of having several short sentences on each page. So that my new reader is not overwhelmed we take turns. Sentence by sentence. That way he can focus on what he needs to focus on, he hears me reading and modelling with every new sentence and he isn't overwhelmed with the length of each page and in turn the entire book. We continue in this turn taking fashion for the remainder of the book. Then it's time for fluency reading with some lower level readers.

Step 5

This step happens the next day. Step 5 in essence is exactly the same as step 4, however we swap. If I went first in step 4, then he goes first in step 5.

Step 6

Step 6 happens the following day. By now we are on our fourth day of reading with this new book so the story line and the new words are mostly becoming quite familiar. Sometimes this is a slower process depending on the particular sound combinations.

Here we read an entire page each, but still taking turns until we've come to the end of the book.

Step 7

Day five into our new reader. This particular step is when I need to assess how things are going with the book and the new sounds. If he has picked things up with relative ease today will be the day that he reads the entire reader out loud and it will then get added to the fluency pile. If it was a little tricky we will complete step 6 again, but swapping with who goes first, so we are reading different pages.

Depending on the book, the sounds that were introduced and the child we spend somewhere around a full week on a new reader. This can be easily shortened or lengthened in time depending on how much progress is being made.

Step 8

It's time to start all over again with a new reader. And really, it is as simple as that.

I am not a qualified reading instructor. I am simply a mum in her eleventh year of educating her kids at home and this is a process that, through trial and error, I have found, works for us.

If you are struggling with introducing new readers to your child, I encourage you to give something like this a try. Be sure to let me know please if it helps in anyway.

Happy Homeschooling,

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

On Saying Goodbye To A Very Dear Friend

So I’ve been somewhat absent for a time. In fact it appears as though I just fell off the face of the earth. Most of you know that I don’t normally share deeply personal aspects of my life here on the blog, except when I have had major life changing moments, like this one

For some reason when those moments strike I always feel compelled to write and so here I sit writing yet again.

These past few months have seen me walking yet another big life changing path, one that I never chose to walk, one that chose me.

Today was the final stage of an ordeal that I never wish upon anyone. Today, in front of all her family and friends I said goodbye forever to my homeschooling best friend.

We’ve been by each other’s side for close to ten years. I have never known homeschooling without her. She has been my partner in crime, my teacher buddy (my Miss T), my confidante, my counsellor, my book buddy and my late night chatting (texting) about rubbish tv and without a doubt one of the dearest most treasured friendships I have ever known.

Nine days ago my friend left her earthly body as it could no longer go on. The cancer inside her was simply far too big a beast for her to fight. But fight she did, for nearly three years she has done everything imaginable to beat it. This included leaving her family behind and heading to the other side of the world for treatment. Whilst all of these things gave her more time, they simply weren’t enough and in the end there was nothing anyone could do except ensure she was comfortable and well loved.

Everyone keeps saying what a beautiful service it was today and I have spent all afternoon trying to reflect on all that took place there today. However, the reality of the situation hit me hard sitting there this morning. Today I couldn’t go busy myself with a job that needed doing (I had no patient to care for, no hospital appointments to attend). Today I had to immerse myself in the fact that Miss T is simply not away on extended leave, she truly is not returning to us on this earth, ever again.

All of the beautiful words spoken and sung about my friend were all just a little too much for me to bear and it took every ounce of my being to not completely lose myself there today. Consequently I don’t really remember anything much about the service.

I wrote a poem, after she passed and I did stand to deliver it but even that is a blur and so I will write it down once more and send it out into the universe where I know that my dear Miss T can hear it.

When She Walked In
Today I weep
For my friend
I hold so dear.
For goodbye I must say
To our earthly friendship here.

She was taken from me
Far too soon, with much life left to live
Her years here so few
There was still so much she wanted to do

She was always there
Through thick and thin
My life became much brighter
When she walked in

Many a day we’ve spent together
Talking and laughing
No matter the weather

This past year
Has seen us shed many a tear
But by her side I vowed to stand
Always loving her, holding her hand

Whilst things today are pretty tough
And the future ahead looks a little rough
I know that when I look to the moon
We will always have each other in sight
And one day, in time
Everything really will be alright

So now the time comes for me to get on with my life, get back to normal, to find a new kind of normal, without my dear, dear friend.   

For I know her all too well enough that if she could visit me for even just a moment, the first thing she would say to me is to live, to live a life she would proud of, a life I am proud of. To go on and face each day with an open, joyous heart, making the best of all that I am blessed with and giving all of me to those that are a part of my world.

In all moments of our life there is the good and there is not so good, but even in the not so good moments there is always, absolutely always, something positive and valuable to take away from it. 

Miss T has been one of the few people in my life that has loved me unconditionally and that, no one can ever take from me. 

Love truly is what makes the world go round, love truly is at the centre of everything and to love unconditionally is an amazing gift to possess and one that I will continue to strive for day in and day out.

Until we meet again my beautiful friend, I will hold you in my heart and I will love you forever xxx

In saying all that I really don't know when I will get back to my blog. Right now I have very little desire to write about homeschooling, but I am sure, in time, when it feels right, I will jump back in.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Essentials Skills Advantage ~ Review

For the past few weeks my younger kids have been brushing up on their math, phonics and spelling skills using the online Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage.

What Is Essential Skills Advantage

ESA is an online platform for children in grades K - 6. It houses more than 14,000 activities across the subject areas of English, Math, Science and Geography. ESA is a supplementary program rather than a full curriculum, making it suitable to sit alongside any curriculum products you may be using.

The ESA program has been developed by a team of experienced teachers with the aim of covering all of the 'essential skills' a child requires to succeed at their specific grade level.

The platform is bright, colourful and engaging but does not have any unnecessary distractions on the screen.

We have access to the Complete Home Learning Suite, which gives us the flexibility to choose from all of the subject areas across all of the grade levels. This is perfect for a child that may be a bit all over the place because they can work in grade 3 Math and then grade 2 English all at the same time.

How We Used The Program

With two children using the program we've been all over it so to speak. What I have loved the most is the ease in which we can choose the subject area or the grade and then jump between them.

We often found ourselves in three different grade levels all in one morning. My youngest loves looking at the reporting area and seeing the green bar rising, showing him how much he has completed in a certain area.

Whilst there are no lessons in the program as they assume prior learning it really is a simple way to practice spelling, phonics or even math facts.

Each level also has a story time component where the child reads the story out loud and then completes a series of comprehension activities all based on the story. Each story progresses in length and difficulty as you move through the grades.

The story component has been a great way to add in yet more read aloud time for my daughter, which she really needs right now. If a tricky word appears, in most cases she can click on the word and have it read aloud to her.

What We Didn't Like

Honestly I'm having a hard time coming up with something I don't like about the program. Once you realise that there are no lessons here only review work then it really is very easy to navigate and use.

On the odd occasion my kids have complained a little about some repetitiveness in the activities, but overall they are both more than happy to use this program.

The one area where I did notice something was that in the spelling activities. The program always lets you know the focus words and then the child proceeds to work on the activities, however the focus words always sit right up along the top of the screen. If the child clues into that they can easily just copy the words needed for their activities rather than having to try and remember them.

What We Did Like

This is a really simple program to navigate, there are no levels or lessons to complete before moving on. Once you click into a Subject and then the appropriate Grade Level you can see all of the activities available to you. From there you can easily choose what you would like to complete on any given day.

The flexibility of the program, the fact that it is purely review and that I can easily check in on the reporting area to see how the kids are going are all bonuses here.

Looking Ahead

Will we continue using the ESA program, absolutely we will for all of the reasons I have listed above.

Further Details

You can get started with Essential Skills Advantage for as little as 7.99USD a month. Visit the pricing page on their website for more details.

Want to know more, check out ESA across your favourite social media channels

Twitter: @SkillsAdvantage
Google +:

Pin This So You Don't Forget It!

I hope you found this review helpful. If you would like to see further reviews of the ESA program, from members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, please visit this link.

Happy Homeschooling,

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