Friday, February 12, 2010

It's a Labyrinth of Highways Out There

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If there is one main thing I have not enjoyed about homeschooling, it is the teaching of reading. As a high school teacher, my students, in theory, all come to me with a general knowledge of reading and writing. But this starting at the beginning of the whole journey is a tough thing.

Alex was so easy. I taught her that words with one vowel say their short sound, and words with two vowels say their long sound. She was reading within a couple of weeks. I patted myself on the back and told myself what an awesome teacher I am. Then along came my boys.

If you've been following our homeschool journey for any length of time, you know I've taken my boys--one in particular, though the other one usually ends up along for the ride--down many different roads to reading. There was Bribery Ave., Reading Chart Ct. (Bribery Ave. and Reading Chart Ct. intersect at the ice cream shoppe, in case you were wondering), Nagging Blvd., You-Know-What?-Just-Do-What-You-Want-and-See-If-I-Care Ln. Thankfully, when we go down that last one, it's only for a few fleeting seconds in my mind before we make a u-turn. Don't get me wrong, I've done some actual reading training with them, but even those methods change a lot because none seem to be working.

We began with Abeka because that is what I was familiar with, and I liked the idea of the special sounds and all of the phonics training. Alex liked it because she is a workbook girl. Michael, on the other hand, was only discouraged by the tediousness of it. So I tried just teaching basic phonics without all of the laborious circling of special sounds and marking of vowels. And again, don't get me wrong, he has made leaps and bounds of improvement in reading, closing the miles to fluent reading. But his speed limit is achingly slow, and I notice that one of his major problems is that he lacks confidence. He will say "I can't" before he even takes a look at what I'm asking him to read. He's the little old grandpa driver who can barely see over the wheel and who puts his blinker on but won't move over even when there is a space 10 car lengths long. I know he needs something.

I bought something. And I received it from Amazon in record time and ordered the day before I saw the notice on their website warning that shipments would be slow due to the snowstorm, so if that's not a street sign saying "Start NOW", I don't know what is. I purchased Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading. I bought it for several reasons: It's tried and true in its effectiveness; it's been used for decades; it's phonics based; and if Michael does have some type of disability besides Apathy, reviews say this is the program for him. I did not purchase it because it's easy to understand and implement, and I knew from review upon review that this would indeed be a difficult program to wade through.

Unfortunately, googling "implementing WRTR" is not producing many how-to websites, but I'm committed (and may have to be committed once I begin my second read-through). I know there are other programs out there like Senseri's spelling program which use the theories and some of the methods behind WRTR; however, I don't want to spend more money. I've got this, I'm beginning to understand it, I'm going to go for it.

So Monday we begin our Writing Road to Reading. We're going to begin by learning the 70 phonograms, most of which the three oldest already know since they know the sounds of the 26 letters, and many of the phonograms are the same as Abeka's special sounds; there just aren't as many of them. After we master all 70, we will dive into the 29 spelling rules and the Ayre's spelling lists Spalding provides. We will be sound and word detectives and hopefully make substantial progress toward our destination: Fluent Reading.

I'm going to have Alex go through this as well. She learned to read so quickly and so well that in my naivete, I all but abandoned phonics instruction with her. As a result, she does not spell well. Hopefully, this will help her improve in that area.

I'm putting finishing touches on the packing, and we're heading out on our new road on Monday. I'm driving, though I'm sure there will be a lot of backseat driving from the oldest passenger. Spalding is our GPS, and hopefully we won't hear too many rude "recalculating" comments emanating from The Writing Road to Reading. If you see us cruise by, please wave!


Teacher Mommy said...

I would NOT want to be dealing with that part of teaching! It's frustrating enough when I have teens who can barely read what I have...

CrossView said...

I had to laugh! I, too, thought what an exceptional teacher I must be since my 20-yr old was reading at 4. Four years old. BEFORE she started Kindergarten. Then I had my non-reader. BAHAHAHAHA!

But she has made such progress that I finally realized that it wasn't my teaching methods that worked - or didn't work. And in the case of my youngest, she just needed a reason to want to. =/

But she still struggles with spelling, though she has made much progress.

Dan said...

I was happy to discover your blog today. I was unable to find a contact link. I hope it's OK that I'm contacting you through a public comment. I've developed an educational program for Windows called SpellQuizzer that helps children learn their spelling and vocabulary words without the battle that parents often have getting them to sit down and write them out while the parents dictate to them. The parent enters the child's spelling words into the software making a sound recording of each word. Then the software helps the child practice his or her words. It really helped my children with their weekly spelling lists.

I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Treasured Chapters. If you are interested in hosting a giveaway of a SpellQuizzer license I'd be happy to supply a free license to the winner. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at and a community site where SpellQuizzer users can share their spelling lists with one another ( Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you very much!

Dan Hite
TedCo Software

Bunch of Barrons said...

I haven't started homeschooling yet, but that's the route we want to take. I'm nervous just thinking about trying to teach someone to read. It's a big job! :) Thanks for this info...I'll keep this in mind. Hope it works well for y'all!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Kathleen! Wanna know my secret to teaching my boy how to read? Get ready for this....I assigned it to his big sister as a chore. :o)

I'm a genius!!

Not? Ok. But Em really did teach J how to read. I really don't remember how she did it, though. Wanna borrow her? Sometimes they do listen to others better, ya know? *wink*

tsinclair said...

It seems that teaching someone to read is either very easy or very hard.
The easy ones require practically no curriculum and the hard ones make us spend small fortunes trying a myriad of ideas. I can speak on the latter from experience.
I am hoping that you have a very pleasant trip. :-)

Mr. Stupid said...

Well, I didn't get much homeschooling. It would always end up in frustration.
I was always thrown into my brother's room for him to take care of me. Troubled times! hehe

dclouser said...

Go for it! I'm anxious to see how it works. Sounds like a good program. It's interesting to read the comments and see how this subject hits a nerve with so many. I admire you for keeping on trying new tools until you find the winner!

Courtney said...

We used Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Senseri, (she based her program off of Writing Road) but more as a spelling program than as a reading program. I had to read through the teacher's guide about 4 times before I understood what I was supposed to do! We used it for about 3 years til I had to stop because it was taking me 45 minutes per child everyday, and I didn't have that much one on one time just for spelling. I bought it originally for the 70 phonogram flash cards and I still use them even though we don't use the program anymore. I hope this works for him!

Cheryl said...

I completely agree. When my eldest first started reading I was so proud, both of him and myself. I taught him to read :) So cool.