How Do I Teach My Child to Read?

Learning to read is a monumental milestone in a child’s life. Reading opens the doors to learn just about anything. How a child goes from looking at pictures to reading independently is a developmental and progressive process. So while all children need to learn how to read in order to thrive and survive in modern society, it isn’t a natural or necessarily linear process. Human beings are hard wired for speech while books and reading is a human invention. From the moment a child is born they are looking to their parents and those around them for linguistic input. Children quickly acquire speech over the next few years. Often, parents and caregivers assist children with this process by speaking directly to them with slower or more dramatic speech called parentese. This same type of speech will also assist a child in learning to read as they learn to distinguish various phonemes and break words down by syllable. The ability to do this is important and very often children who have difficulty learning to read and those with a diagnosis such as dyslexia often have difficulty distinguishing similar phonemes or other speech issues. Understanding the connection between early speech and reading may help parents and educators target potential reading difficulties earlier in the future.

My son learning the shapes and sounds of letters in English.

By the age of five or six, most children are able to begin a formal introduction into the world of reading. For some children this process may begin at four or seven and that’s ok. Most children have already been engaged with books and environmental print for years and have acquired a lot of background knowledge about books.

Reading is an arbitrary and complex activity. Children need to learn to distinguish seemingly random marks on a page to represent various sounds. That sound correspondence develops into letter recognition and the ability to learn the alphabet, and environmental print. Pointing out the sounds that go with letters is an important launching point. Having a child’s name on a wall, on their books and supplies and taking apart their name to talk about the letters and the sounds they make is a great beginning. Once your child is familiar with the letters in their name you can branch out to others in the family, mom begins with the /m/ sounds like mmm, “mmm”. Can you say that? Relatively quickly, your child will know the entire alphabet. Hang up environmental print in your home in the form of alphabet banners, labels and art with your child’s name on it to reinforce what they are learning. Point out street signs and billboards etc and the sounds those words begin with. Say things like,, “Oh look a stop sign. Stop sign begins with an sss sound.”

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Once a child knows the alphabet or even while they are beginning to recognize most of it, children can begin to sound out short CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words like the word “bat”. Tell your child to think of a stretchy snake while pulling apart the word to hear all of it’s parts. Say the word slowly, enunciating each sound. /B/ is the initial sound and then we look at the middle sound and say /a/ now let’s look at the ending sound /t/ and make that sound together. Now, the snake comes back together and say the word, “bat”. Once a child has the individual sounds they can move onto chunky monkey and look for chunks and blends in words to help them decode. Looking for word families within words is another strategy to get kids reading. I used Dog Man as a teaching tool with my son since every page is endless /an/ and /og/ word family lessons combined with tons of sight words. Once a child can recognize letters and environmental print they will begin to recognize sight words quickly and easily. Books like the Bob series, First Little Readers, and familiar series like Pete the Cat can help children quickly develop phonemic awareness and sight words.

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While phonemic awareness is a crucial part of learning to read the ultimate goal is for your child to be reading to learn and for pleasure. Comprehension plays a very important role. Comprehension has two types, literal and inferential. Literal understanding means exactly that. Inferential comprehension requires the child to use clues and prior knowledge to understand what is not explicitly stated. One way to establish prior knowledge is with a picture walk. Look through the book and talk about the cover, the illustrations and pictures to help the child develop familiarity and content knowledge within the story. To improve comprehension, discuss your child’s favorite part, the problem/conflict/resolution and retell the beginning, middle and end of the story (not all at the same time). However, the most important thing you can do to teach your child to read is to model this for them. Does your child see you reading books for pleasure as well as for information? Grab a cheesy thriller for the beach or keep a book or magazine in your bag at all times for those free moments where you can show your child that reading is important, fun and one day they will be a reader too.

I am available for literacy coaching for parents and private instruction for children learning to read.

Benefits of Raising Bilingual Children

My husband is from Chile and a native Spanish speaker. I can speak some Spanish but I’m definitely not comfortable using it on a daily basis. We want to raise our kids to be bilingual. How do we go about doing that?

There are significant cognitive advantages as well as social benefits to raising and fostering bilingualism. Bilingual children naturally learn to decontextualize language earlier because it is part of the process of acquiring two languages simultaneously. The ability to deconstruct language is an important skill when learning to read. Children need to be able critically look at language in order to be able to pick up various features such as phonemes and letter shapes in order to learn to read well. Bilingualism literally translates into children who are better readers. A child with native like fluency can be a part of their native culture to a degree that someone who has lost their native language cannot. Bilingual children understand their own culture better and can better understand someone else’s. They can literally communicate with millions more people in a way that is much deeper and easier than using translation devices. Children who are raised in bilingual homes do not confuse the languages (a common myth) and it only improves cognitive development.

Father reading to his son in French. Both parents are only using French in the home because they know their daughter will learn English growing up in the U.S.
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The most effective way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. If your husband’s native language is Spanish then all of his communication with your child would be in Spanish while you would communicate in English. If you have a nanny or family members the child could engage with in Spanish that would be a huge support. For children with both parents or in single parent homes where the primary language is one other than English, parents should keep the home in the native language only. Get books and music in your native language and fully immerse your children in your language and culture as well as with your well developed linguistic prowess that you already possess as a native speaker. Your children will learn English growing up in an English dominant country and they will be submersed in English for most of their lives. The only threat to bilingualism is losing the family’s native language which is always a true loss linguistically and culturally. If you are concerned about your child not understanding a relative or teacher, you can let that go. Think about how your child learned English from you. Babies and children do not initially understand what we are saying, it takes time, engagement, repetition and practice.

A homeschool teenager who is using his bilingual skills to travel throughout South America.
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For monolingual families there are many options to becoming a bilingual family or raising bilingual children. Here is a list of suggestions: Travel, nannies and childcare in target language, travel, preschools and classes in target language, books, music, tv shows and films in the target language, travel, and find a family who would like help with English and trade your skill sets. There are many language schools that normally cater to native speakers from that country but welcome other families as well. On-line programs like Rosetta Stone can be very useful but nothing takes the place of in-person dialogue and learning or in person or on-line programs where your child can converse 1:1 or in a small group with a native speaking volunteer, student or instructor.

How do I know what curriculum to buy? I want to start planning but I don’t want to buy the wrong one and screw up my child forever. Help!

Thinking about buying a curriculum and you’re new to homeschooling? Stop right there and put down the curriculum. Remember the first rule of homeschooling. Homeschooling is not a recreation of school at home. Not that there’s anything wrong with using a curriculum, (some of my best friend’s use them) but why jump into one without a clear vision of what your child wants to learn and where they are right now developmentally?

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Homeschooling is a gift. Homeschooling is an opportunity to take risks and try things differently. Your kid hated multiplication in school after doing endless worksheets for months? How about giving direct instruction for ten minutes once a week and then reviewing multiples naturally while playing Pokemon Go or writing out multiples for a hopscotch game?

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Recently, I had spoken with a mom with a very common issue. She has a daughter who loves to read and she’s reading years above grade level yet she hates school. She hates school so much that her natural flame for learning has started to dim. Tragic! Put the curriculum back down! What does this girl need? She needs to reconnect with that love of learning by taking time to follow her passion and have room to take that study deeper. Take where your child is and go from there. Don’t worry about all of the checklists you think you need right now. You don’t need them right now and they’re all online on your state’s education website and easily accessible for a later date if you still want them. Take a moment to think of the bigger picture. What are your long and short term goals for your child? Do you want your child to be a flexible thinker? To be able to figure out solutions, to be brave learners? No-one ever wishes for their child to lose their love of learning. You have an opportunity to build on your child’s natural inclinations and passions as well as to discover new ones.

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The girl I have been telling you about loves to read Harry Potter. She’s eight so the checklists and curriculums out there that are targeted towards a third grader aren’t going to be just right for her. This is so common. Take Harry Potter and think about the endless possibilities. There’s a chance to dive deep into origin studies and their purpose and a deep dive into the Greek mythology that inspired the series, latin spells are a natural lead into studying Latin and learning about the science in the spells. The list of what you can do is as long as your imagination (or Pinterest.) What does your child love to do? What are your child’s goals for the new academic year?

“I want to homeschool but I’m feeling overwhelmed and I don’t know where to begin.” Know your state homeschooling laws and what is required on your part. They vary by state.

Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Here you can find the requirements you need direct from your state’s official government site. You do not need to join any organizations or even spend a dollar to begin.

Alaska

https://education.alaska.gov/alaskan_schools/schooloptions

Alabama

https://www.alsde.edu

Arizona

https://www.ade.az.gov/resources/hs.asp

California

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/homeschool.asp

Colorado

https://www.cde.state.co.us/choice/homeschool

Connecticut

https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Homeschooling/Homeschooling-in-Connecticut

Delaware

https://www.doe.k12.de.us/Page/3070

District of Columbia

https://osse.dc.gov/service/dc-homeschooling-program

Florida

http://www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/other-school-choice-options/home-edu/requirements.stml

Georgia

https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Pages/Home-Schools.aspx

Hawaii

http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/ParentsAndStudents/EnrollingInSchool/Choosingaschool/Pages/Homeschooling-FAQs.aspx

Idaho

https://www.sde.idaho.gov/school-choice/home-school/

Illinois

https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Homeschool.aspx

Indiana

https://www.doe.in.gov/school-improvement/home-school

Iowa

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=iowa+state+education+laws+homeschool&t=osx&ia=web

Kansas

https://www.homeschoolinginkansas.com/getting-started/legal/state-laws

Kentucky

https://education.ky.gov/federal/fed/Pages/Home-School.aspx

Louisiana

https://www.louisiana.gov/education/

Maine

https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/schoolops/homeinstruction

Maryland

http://marylandpublicschools.org/about/Pages/DSFSS/SSSP/HomeInstruct/index.aspx

Massachusetts

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-home-schooling

Michigan

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/home_schools_122555_7.pdf

Minnesota

https://education.mn.gov/MDE/fam/nphs/home/

Mississippi

https://www.mdek12.org/OCSA/HS

Missouri

https://dese.mo.gov/parents-students

Montana

http://opi.mt.gov/Search-Results?Search=homeschool

Nebraska

https://www.education.ne.gov/fos/exempt-schools/

New Hampshire

https://www.education.nh.gov

Nevada

http://www.doe.nv.gov/Homeschooling/

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 requires that “every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between six and 16 to ensure that such child regularly attends the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.”

https://www.state.nj.us/education/genfo/faq/faq_homeschool.htm

New Mexico

https://www.newmexico.gov/education/

New York

https://www.schools.nyc.gov/enrollment/enrollment-help/home-schooling

North Carolina

https://ncadmin.nc.gov/public/home-school-information/home-school-requirements-recommendations

North Dakota

https://www.nd.gov/dpi/parentscommunity/parents/home-education

Ohio

http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-Education-Options/Home-Schooling

Oklahoma

https://sde.ok.gov/home-school

Oregon

https://www.oregon.gov/ode/learning-options/HomeSchool/Pages/default.aspx

Pennsylvania

19/Pages/HomeSchool.aspxhttps://www.education.pa.gov/Schools/safeschools/emergencyplanning/COVID-19/Pages/HomeSchool.aspx

Rhode Island

https://www.ride.ri.gov/StudentsFamilies/EducationPrograms/HomeSchooling.aspx

South Carolina

https://ed.sc.gov/districts-schools/state-accountability/home-schooling/

South Dakota

https://doe.sd.gov/oatq/homeschooling.aspx

Tennessee

https://www.tn.gov/education/school-options/home-schooling-in-tn.html

Texas

https://tea.texas.gov/texas-schools/general-information/finding-a-school-for-your-child/home-schooling

Utah

https://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/homeschool

Vermont

https://education.vermont.gov/vermont-schools/school-operations/home-study

Virginia

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/families/private_home/index.shtml

Washington

https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/learning-alternatives/home-based-instruction

West Virginia

https://wvde.us

Wisconsin

https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/home-based

Wyoming

https://edu.wyoming.gov/beyond-the-classroom/college-career/scholarships/hathaway/homeschool/

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Math is All Around You

My son is calculating the number of kilometers he needs to walk in order to hatch a pokemon egg as well as converting the distance to miles mentally.

Math is all around you. The ability to teach and include math into your daily life with your children is surprisingly easy.

From the age of ten I was a competitive runner and a natural consequence was comprehending distance and spatial awareness, rate and speed per mile or quarter mile. I learned to quickly convert miles to kilometers or in the reverse, height and angle from watching and studying pole vaulters. I no longer struggled with fractions since I could think about how a mile was divided up and quickly figure it out. As an adult, I was easily able to travel and use kilometers and those skills translated to ease with converting money and understanding various linguistics features of various languages that helped me immensely while having students from all around the world and during my time teaching in China.

My nine year old’s current obsession is Pokemon Go. In order to evolve eggs a player has to walk a certain number of kilometers for each. Often, multiple eggs are hatching so he has to constantly convert to miles to know how much more he needs to walk or bike. He needs to understand place value and decimal points in order to make these calculations quickly and easily. Initially, it took awhile to do the conversions but he didn’t balk at continuing to practice his skill since it was necessary for the success of his game.

A couple of months ago, when we were quarantined at home, we would set up ramps and obstacles like our recycling bins that came in various heights. We would discuss the angles of the ramps, his speed, what would increase or decrease his speed or height and the physics of gravity and force. Physics and geometry are naturally embedded into children’s lives and we just need to give them the vocabulary and language of math to apply to what they are learning through play.

You are already teaching and supporting your child’s math development unintentionally when you teach them to use their legs to swing higher, playing legos, planning a garden, teach them to use proportion when drawing, running at a track or up a hill and sprinting down or cooking just to name a few.

What part of your child’s life seems just right for a math study?

How am I going to homeschool my kid when homework is a daily reenactment of WWII?

Did you enjoy homework when you were in elementary school? I didn’t have homework in the early grades when I had attended school because educators were free to follow best practices back then. Kids were free to learn while they were at school and continue to learn after school with one of the best learning vehicles, play. Kids played and ran and walked and did things like discovering important facts about the world around them by interacting with it. It wasn’t that tough to make it through a school day because when you weren’t in school there was lots of running around and independent play. That’s homeschool. Lots of time for children to use their physicality in order to learn about themselves and the world around them. Homeschooling means NOT sitting for six hours a day followed by sitting in the car or on a bus then sitting at home for dinner, homework and bed. My butt is numb just thinking about all that sitting. When learning isn’t confined to school walls children are free to move their bodies and give their brains the energy it needs. Parents can find the natural rhythm to their family’s day and naturally incorporate lessons during times when their child isn’t exhausted and overstimulated. A six hour school day followed by play for 30 minutes or a structured activity followed by dinner and homework when a kid is six and goes to bed by eight would make anyone rebel. A significant amount of the school day is spent transitioning to and from classes, teachers setting up and providing instruction to various groups, cleaning up, forming lines and that’s a nonissue for homeschooling. You get time back. It’s a secret hidden gift. My 9 year old is finished with all of his academic work within a two hour time period spread out throughout the day. However, he is constantly learning whether through play, sports or the arts and because he has the time to just freely read, he does. When a child that has more free time during the day, it results in more time to learn.

Homeschooling is not a re-creation of school at home. Homeschooling is whatever you make it. It should resemble what is true and important to your child and your family. My daughter loves wolves. When I first began working on writing non-fiction books with her, I told her we were going to do this awesome wolf study. We were going to do a ton of research on wolves including going to a few wolf sanctuaries and rescues and use everything she learned to write her very own non fiction book. She didn’t fight me on it. She jumped up and down with excitement. The focus isn’t on the drudgery of forcing a six year old to learn to talk about text and the features non-fiction books share but on the OMG insert your favorite emoji, I’m going to go see wolves, like for real, in person! When you look at the big picture versus the little details of what needs to be taught even the most resisted subjects can transform into passions.

“I can’t help my kid with math. I was terrible in math in school.”

I used to believe I was terrible in math as well. My belief was rooted erroneously in a single block of experiences while struggling to learn to add and subtract fractions in fourth grade. I clearly remember my fourth grade teacher, Miss Winton patiently explaining how to add fractions but my fear of making a mistake was louder than her words and all I felt was math anxiety and dread by the time the unit was done. From that point on, I believed I was “bad at math” and I held onto to that belief throughout college and graduate school. I managed to avoid higher level math classes and actively avoided knowing if the beliefs I had at nine years old really had any validity.

Then I began teaching in NYC and had many students from China and Japan in my classes. Most of my students from China had at least a couple of years of formal education in their native country. I began to notice the differences in math ability wasn’t due to a lack of inherent cognitive ability in me but in how these students and their parents approached math as a fun challenge versus a dreaded series of worksheets and exercises. Then, I was invited by a former student’s parent to teach and run a full immersion English language summer camp in the outskirts of Beijing and got an education in why my students from China did so well at math. Perspective. Their cultural perspective towards math was acceptance. They accepted that math can be hard and it is supposed to be challenging at times. They were taught that if they didn’t understand a concept then try a different method or strategy or break the process down to smaller manageable step. I just needed to try a different method. Why hadn’t I done this before? I didn’t believe I was “good” at math and that limited me more than any difficult math concept could. Once I had changed my mindset, I found myself curious as to what else I was missing. I started talking to people who loved math and majored or minored in it and started to see that math isn’t a separate subject but all around us in nature, the sciences, art, architecture, music, in everything. I changed how I thought about math and that resulted in a change in how I understood and taught math. I stopped feeling tense any time I had to attend a math workshop and instead became excited to learn and make those concepts accessible for my students. I was very lucky to discover and change my beliefs before having kids. My kids see the beauty in math and love the challenge, whether it’s finding symmetry in nature or drawing the Fibonacci code expressed in a flower to taking on the challenging of competing in MathCounts, a competitive math team for middle schoolers, or listening to the patterns in a song.

Once I changed my perspective, my world opened up and I no longer avoided certain areas of study because of my math phobia. I began to do things like learning to code and building a website. Our beliefs and our perspective shape our world. Do you believe you’re “bad at math?” Do you follow recipes or cook, maintain a garden, play an instrument or admire the beauty of a single flower? Yes? Then you too love math even if you weren’t aware of it.

Are you feeling overwhelmed about homeschooling?

Are you thinking about homeschooling or have you decided to take that leap but are completely overwhelmed about what to do next? I was terrified when I first decided to try homeschooling with my oldest when she was in kindergarten. There was something in me telling me I could figure it out and I know that you can too. Here are a couple of things that helped me manage those initial doubts.

To begin, I needed to identify what my fears were in order to address them. The idea of homeschooling my children was initially so overwhelming that I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I was making a terrible mistake . How will they get into college? What if I miss a crucial skill area? I decided to step back and reframe my thoughts based on what was true. Could my children return to public school at any time? Yes, my children could enter public school at any time. How will I keep myself from becoming burnt out? I quickly learned to stop thinking about the next twelve years and focus on one year at a time. So now, I take each year as a single unit and reevaluate each spring with my children about what they would like to do the following year and only then commit to a plan for the following academic year.

My second large fear was my children not having ample opportunities to be around other children during the “school” day. Have you ever not noticed something until you needed it and then you start noticing it everywhere? Once I had started homeschooling, I quickly discovered that there is a large local homeschooling community and there are homeschoolers everywhere. I found homeschool co-ops and classes, meet ups and playdates in the local museums, science centers, martial arts centers, ice skating, music programs, math team, robotics club, forest school, on farms, in parks and in people’s homes and yards. There was a large community just waiting for us with open arms and now I welcome you. Big hugs, you got this.

About me

Welcome,

I’m Candice and I am so happy and honored to have you visit my site.

I’m a homeschooling mom and home education consultant, instructor, tutor and mother. I have an MS in Education and 15 years of teaching experience as well as 7 years of homeschooling both of my children. I would love to share what I have learned over the years to help your children thrive academically and create an environment that is conducive to non-stop learning based on your child and your family.

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