June 2, 2010

Home School- Teaching Those Youngins to Read...

... It's not as hard as you might think!  

In a comment, at my post on Home School Kindergarten, Rachel said, "I am so curious about curriculum for non-teachers to help their little ones learn to read. I would love to work with Itty Bit on it, but am rather lost in choosing where to start."

Rachel, I bet you thought I would never get around to this post!  It has been a number of weeks but you were on my mind.  In fact, I wrote most of this the night you left your original comment but I was too tired to finish and it has been nagging away at me ever since.  

My absolutely favorite curriculum, I wouldn't recommend any other, for teaching reading is the Rod and Staff Bible and Nurture Series. It is a wonderful concise program written for Mennonite teachers. I bet you are saying, "Kat, I said I wanted one written for parents!"  What I liked best as a new home school mom who had no clue how to teach my child to read is that they assume the teacher doesn't know where to start.  Each step through the program, the teacher's manual walks you page by page, activity by activity through a script of pre-written and pre-planned lessons.  It explains the rules of phonics and how to teach them to your student.  And because of the way it is written, there is very little planning or preparation time on the part of the parent.   Best of all, it means you don't have to be a teacher to use it.

I have successfully taught 5 of my children to read with this program, including one with dyslexia and another who had speech issues early on.  It is intended to start with first grade, however I have used it younger by slowing it down considerably.  The curriculum spans through the elementary years but once my children have a firm grip on reading and phonics I usually set it aside and switch to Easy Grammar.  Typically, around third grade.

This curriculum encompasses multiple parts that can be used at different times or side by side to compliment each other.  I have done it both ways depending on the child and circumstances at the time.  Both ways have been effective.  

This approach combines phonics and sight reading so the child can start reading from lesson one and feel as if they are really mastering something as they build a foundation of phonics. Each lessons incorporates phonics, spelling, reading (sight words), printing, and simple Bible lessons.  A year's worth of material is divided into five units of thirty lessons.  There is a lot of work and activities in each lesson and I have found that dividing each into at least two sittings works better, particularly for boys who seem to have a much shorter attention span.

For each unit the complete program includes Bible readers, Reading workbooks, phonics workbooks, printing practice books and Bible worksheets.  The Readers start with simple words, that build into sentences, that build into stories and eventually incorporate paragraphs.  There is also a unit on poetry.  My family has always enjoyed these tremendously.  Although, there are some who don't care for them.  You will have to be the judge.  I will say clearly that if you want a program that does not incorporate the Bible than you need to seek elsewhere.  Every part of this program is God centered. 

There are nice helps available in the way of various flash cards that I have found a blessing over the years.  The motivated home schooler could easily make your own, but for the time and cost of card stock alone, I am glad I made the small investment.

I do  not always invest in teacher's manuals for the curriculum we use.  However, for the Bible Nurture and Reader Series, the teacher's manual is priceless.  As a matter of fact, I have just about worn my out.  After five children, it is currently rubber band together.

For my daughter with dyslexia, I divided each year up over two years because she needed to move very slowly. But she successfully learned to read (and LOVES reading and writing now) with this program. You do not have to order the whole deal at one time so you could just order the unit one components of grade one and see if you like it. I used the workbooks and the readers through grade two with each of my children. As they became accomplished readers, I did away with the workbooks and we just continued with the readers. I am a strong believer in not doing something without a purpose and the purpose of reading class, phonics and such is to learn to read so I saw no need to continue with busy work. My Emma really enjoyed the workbooks and continued with them through grade three because she wanted to. However, another strong belief I have is that if they enjoy it, and it makes school and learning fun, by all means let them!

One more word.  I have always dealt directly with Rod and Staff Publishers via the phone 1-606-522-4348.  In recent months, several readers have asked me about their website.  Others have told me of good experiences using this site.

I have not made purchases through this site but here is what I found when I checked it out.  This is a distributor of Rod and Staff not a website owned by the publisher themselves.  Normally, I would hesitate to recommend a site I have not had personal experience with but I will tell you this.  Their prices, shipping, sales, specials, discounts included are exactly the same as Rod and Staffs current pricing.  They also have a textbook buy back program, which is intriguing if you find something you don't care for or if you will not be keeping your books for younger children.

With all that said, I am going to go ahead and recommend you check out Milestone Ministries, an online supplier of Rod and Staff Books.   I would love to hear your feedback if you make a purchase. 

Rachel, I hope I have answered your questions.  As always, feel free to leave me a comment with more questions or if you need clarification.  I wish you and Itty Bit and wonderful journey of learning to read together.  Those are some of my favorite memories in all of our home school years.


  1. Oh my goodness! I am so thrilled that you put this post together! Itty Bit has shown such a desire to read books on his own and an honest evaluation from someone who has been there is priceless!

    This is exactly what I was hoping for (though admittedly, I thought you'd send me a one line email in response to my question, hee hee), and I am so grateful for your help.

    As a deaf person, it definitely will help me to be able to order the items online... I will let you know how the experience goes!

    I am so excited to start a God-centered program - especially because I didn't know one existed for itty bitty readers!

    Thank you, thank you!

    (And I adore your blog layout - so sweet!)

  2. Nice post! I have this button thingy on my blog, in one of the older posts. If you go under the label 'homeschooling', and you will find this button that I adore, that is for any homeschooler who wants it. Please take it!!

    God bless,

  3. i've seen rod and staff at various homeschooling functions. I'm most anxious about teaching 'reading', but will take it one step at a time :)
    thanks for sharing with us.

  4. P.S. we are using hooked on phonics right now. it's pre-k to 2nd grade. the kids are loving it so far, so that make it much easier.