Sunday, July 31, 2011

Teaching Character - Part 1

Below are two "Must Haves" for teaching character to your family - and yourself. I have used these two books at least 4 or 5 times each week. I study them and refer to them over and over. I have read them to my children regularly. I know of no other resource even close to these two books. (Have I said it strongly enough?) These are important.

Available Here
I call this "The Blue Book". Character traits are explained in detail using Scripture and notable quotes. The pictures are beautiful. The evaluation analysis at the end of each trait listing is thorough and brutally honest. We would do a section at a time with me reading it out loud. We would save the evaluation section for the end and use those questions to generate discussion - and prayer needs - as well as seeing how we measured up and where we needed to improve. We concentrated on one character trait each month.

Available Here
I call this "The Green Book". It is not as detailed and in depth and does not use Sripture, but this is where I get the *hook* to help my children visualize the character trait being studied. We learn the 5 "I Wills" for each trait. That gives us a means of understanding what that trait looks like in action. We also get ideas of things we can do in our family to practice that trait.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Teaching Reading

People have written books on how to teach reading. College students take an entire class on how to teach the subject. Lifelong careers are based around it as well. What can I hope to contribute in one puny blog post? - not much, but I can give my testimony of how our family has walked this path to literacy.

It is my amateur opinion that one never actually "teaches" a student to read. You facilitate a means to help that student figure it out for him/herself. And to make it even more interesting we never really know when that reading "light bulb" will turn on. Some children learn the decoding as young as 2 or 3 years old; some much older. It is not uncommon for that "much older" to reach 10 or 12 years old. The only book that I feel ever really helped me understand the process is called Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore.

In our home we kept learning to read fairly simple and never had the bells and whistles type of curriculum materials one can find on the market today. My basic tool was simply the little (quite beat up looking) book pictured above: A Handbook for Reading from the ABeka publishers. We just read a page at a time until it was mastered, then went to the next page. Total time spent on phonics: 3-5 minutes on 3 or 4 days a week.
As the child mastered a goodly amount of lessons in the phonics book, I liked to add in books from the McGuffey Reader series. We never did all the lessons in all the levels, but we did quite a bit of them. They reinforced our basic phonics rules, and they used fat, juicy words like "hath" and "glorious". The McGuffey Readers teach character, respect, and include God and his creation as a normal part of life. The children do not get bored with the stories, and it lends itself to some interesting discussions on their level.

During this process of learning to read it is very important for your child's vocabulary to grow at a significantly faster rate than their ability to read. By the time my children were 4 or 5 years old we were regularly reading beginner chapter books. Our fist chapter book has traditionally been The Boxcar Children. We moved on to favorites like Mr. Popper's Penguins and Dr. Doolittle in short order. In fact we often had 2 or 3 books at a time that I would read out loud to my children. Usually a chapter book, a nonfiction book, and a bedtime book were all peculating at their given time of day. It is very (VERY) important that you read out loud to your children every day. This is even more important if you have a late-blooming reader. (I will have a testimony about this in an upcoming post.)

So there you have it ~ in one blog post how I teach my children to read.