Missing in Action Blogwise

I am sorry for my absence – I found out I was pregnant a month ago – and at the end of last week, discovered that I would not be holding this baby in my arms in this life.

To make this is a newsworthy article and of benefit to others, I wanted to be sure that all you lovely mothers who have experienced the loss of a baby know about this site:

The Church of the Holy Innocents

At this site, you can name your baby and have him or her placed in the Book of Life and be comforted by the fact that a candle remains lit for all of our babies that we have had to entrust to God’s care and will hopefully meet heaven.

Teaching Reading to the Challenging Student

I do not have an official label of dyslexia for any of my children. But, with my first, we spent many hours and went through many programs trying to find one that could teach my son how to read. I finally went through the training to become a certified Reading Reflex tutor and we used the program successfully. But, I had many difficulties – the primary problems included pacing. I never quite knew when to move him along or how fast to push. Fluency was another issue. Reading Reflex was clear that children need to read to develop fluency and strongly encourage picking material a bit below reading level to work on fluency. No other guidelines were offered. Thankfully I stumbled upon a fluency program that was very easy to implement in a homeschool setting and was very affordable compared to school based programs (plus they almost all required an outside trained tutor to administer) and it is called Great Leaps. I will come back to the program in a subsequent post and describe why students need to work on fluency and why Great Leaps does such a good job.

Back to the topic of this post – reading. So, I was able to successfully teach my next three children. In fact, my fourth required very little instruction from me. As a tangent, I believe that most children are hard wired to learn how to read – so whatever program you use, they will make their way through and end up successful readers (perhaps not great spellers though). For a smaller percentage of children, a more detailed program is required to teach phonics. You can go the Orton Gillingham route – it is tried and true and very thorough. But, it is not a program you can just walk into and use. And, it is very expensive. Most parents opt to hire a tutor to implement it with their child.

Programs like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Alphaphonics, Pathways and all the rest present phonics in a sequential method. The problem is that they do not offer strategies for children that simply cannot blend the sounds together or do not hear the difference in sounds. So, I have another child, my fifth, who when he encountered the word “cat”, deftly produced the sounds “ccccc” “aaaaa” “ttttt” – and never could say the word cat.

Reading Reflex addressed this issue by teaching activities for phonemic awareness. Unfortunately, it was not easy to find a flow through the program. I stumbled back upon AeBeCeDarian a month ago. I had looked into it five years ago, and chose to go with another program that I had sold several years ago believing that somehow I must be a much better teacher :-)

What makes AeBeCeDarian so much more user friendly is that the entire program is basically scripted out for you. It is reasonably priced at around $55 / level (level A does have 2 parts), and the student book is affordable for subsequent students. The company provides a PDF file that has the placement test.

You can use this method to teach all of your readers – the ones that get it will move quickly through the program, the ones that need the extra help will receive it. Fluency and handwriting instructions are included. It is multi sensory using letter tiles to build words. Turtle talk and People talk are used for sounding out words. Phonemic awareness exercises are scripted into the program.

We have only used the program for two weeks and I am quite pleased with how it is laid out. I can see using this with the rest of my children because it is not burdensome or difficult to understand. You do not need to read a manual to start.

The first set of words include sat, top and map. The child has the three letter tiles for sat and a blank page with three lines. The teacher reads from the left page as she moves her finger under each of the blank lines using the script provided. The student moves the tiles to the correct space saying the sound as he moves them. Then the teacher demonstrates the tap and say method where she taps each sound and says the sound, and then says the word in “people talk” as she drags her finger under the word. These are called sound puzzles in Reading Reflex.

The fluency exercises are in the student book. A page of letters that the student has been working on are presented, along with a grid at the bottom to record the date and number correct. Clear goals are given as to when to move on and the student is timed for 20 seconds. Another page has the words and follows the same directions. You do not move on until the child has a sufficient fluency to indicate that automaticity has been achieved. In order to read and actually understand the content, a child needs to be fluent – he needs to not think about what each letter represents. By the time a non-fluent child has finished decoding a passage as opposed to reading a passage, most often he will not remember what he has read. That is why he can encounter the word “cat”, sound it out and say it, and then a sentence later, encounter the same word and again must decode it.

By the end of A1, a child will have word cards for zip, jet, fib, yes, pen, wet, bet and will, spill, flag, drum and fell as well as chin, chop, rich, duck, cash, and black. 79 words all together are presented.

Please visit this post at a later date as I share how my son has progressed.

mater et magistra magazine

I had the privilege of developing the website with Margot Davidson from Hillside Education on her newest endeavor – mater et magistra magazine. She has taken over management of the old magazine, Heart and Mind, and has renamed it and added new contributors while keeping many favorite old ones including Laura Berquist from Mother of Divine Grace.

It’s exciting to see the wonderful tradition being passed on – first issue will be out in July.

A number of articles and a few unit studies from the old magazine are available for free including one on Pope John Paul II and one on Catholic Missions.