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Home Education Magazine

January-February 2001 - Articles

Questions and Answers - Laura Weldon

Reading and Finding a Balance


My nine-year-old daughter seems to fit the label of kinesthetic. I've always thought of this as more of a boy thing. She will sit quietly and listen to me read aloud, but I think very little of it really sinks in. Getting her to read for herself is also difficult. She is a fairly decent reader, but she says she understands something better if someone shows her how to do it. I know this is fairly common, but how can I fit some reading into her life? I've tried interesting websites where there is a lot of interactive stuff, but her interest usually flags after one visit. Any suggestions? - Lisa Richards

? "My nine-year old is a kinesthetic whole body learner. Not only does she learn better by doing, she learns better if her whole body is motion. Although she is an excellent reader, she still prefers me to read aloud many books. When I read, she does not sit quietly and listen, she is in the middle of the room acting out all the parts as I read them. Schools encourage children to "sit still, be quiet, and listen." Based on what I've read (and what I've seen with my own child) I believe that these instructions are counter-productive. Kinesthetic learners expend so much energy on keeping still, they have none left for listening. If you have encouraged your daughter to sit quietly while you read, consider reversing those instructions and start playfully acting out what you are reading. Show her with your body how you think a character in the book walks or what their facial expressions are like. Let her know it's okay to get up and act out the parts or interrupt the story to show you how something looks. Assure yourself that it's okay! Becoming more involved with the story will naturally encourage her to want to hear more and absorb more.

As for trying to fit more reading into her life, the question I ask you to ponder is: "Which do I want her to be doing, reading or learning?" Your daughter has figured out how she learns best, and it's not by reading. Instead of looking for ways to encourage her to read more, you may find it more productive to search for a variety of hands-on learning projects for her.

Some people can learn how to program the VCR by reading the instruction book. Others, even if they can read, pick up how to do it from a quick demonstration. Sometimes people who would fit in the second group don't know how they learn, so they will spend a few frustrating minutes trying to figure out the instruction book... then give up. Don't we all know people who have never figured out how to program the VCR? Isn't it wonderful that your daughter already knows how she learns best?" - Gina Rozon La Ronge, Saskatchewan

? "In response to Lisa Richard's dilemma, I too, have a kinesthetic daughter who WAS a reluctant reader. We started homeschooling in 6th grade when she was almost 10 and she was a very poor reader. It seems she was put in the "dumb" (as she put it) reading group in public school and therefore lost all interest in even trying, and it does take practice to read well, obviously. I racked my brains to find a way to encourage reading and this one worked great! You know how kids are ALWAYS trying to find an excuse to stay up later. I made a deal with her that she could turn her lights off at her normal 8:30 bedtime, OR she could read until 9:00. I didn't make any big deal about it, her choice. Well, of course she chose to stay up and once she started reading all the really cool books she had in her room, she became quite a little bookworm, for her! She is now a straight A, 15 year old, 10th grader. Not bad from a kid who did poorly in public school, barely able to read, multiply or divide going into 6th grade!" - Rene' Armstrong

? "Whatever you do, don't express your concerns about her reading (or any other abilities) in front of her. Kids take to heart what their parents think of them, even things they overhear you say. I have a friend who is anxious and says in front of her daughter things like, "She's just getting farther and farther behind," and "Maybe you'll never learn." She doesn't know the damage she is doing. One of our jobs is to give our kids a quiet confidence that their abilities are growing daily." - Concerned friend

? "Kinesthetic learners truly need to participate in their learning. Your daughter may take in more of what she reads if she has had some hands-on experience with the subject matter first and the reading supplements that interest. My son enjoyed watching the PBS show "The 1900 House" (about a modern family who lived for 3 months as people did in London in 1900) and visiting a local house from that era which is set up as a museum. He was then open to reading more about the period. You could also plan projects together that will require research (reading!) to complete, such as constructing a pyramid or sewing an authentic Colonial outfit. My son responds best to projects, field trips and videos for the bulk of his learning, with reading helping to fill in the gaps." - Cathy Munson-Klein

? "Think of the subjects you love most. You probably weren't pushed in that direction. Children get immersed in learning that means a great deal to them. My son doesn't read as much as I'd like, but he is a capable reader. Whether he is building a rabbit hutch, deciding what kind of martial arts to take lessons in or gathering spelunking information he looks up his own books in the library, his own research online and learns as much as he can on the subject. He never was drawn to storybooks. He likes real-life, valuable facts that he can use. In fact, for birthdays he now asks for hands-on reference type books. He is growing towards being the man he wants to be, and my pushing in different directions wouldn't have helped his journey." - Linden Wells

? "I have a question: why sit quietly to read? I mean, just because "sustained silent reading" is popular in the schools right now, so what? Maybe her house is calmer than mine, but with a 4-year-old who lives here, a 14-year-old who regularly visits, and 23 music students in and out, I read on the run. Her daughter might like to read on an exercise bike, while jumping on a trampoline, or standing in line at the grocery. Or she could read to her while she walks around the room, does a puzzle, or plays with toys. Some kids can't just do one thing. It's so much effort to sit still, they completely miss the words. If I didn't read while mixing things in the kitchen, I would never get the newspaper read! We have books all over our house, including a stack next to each toilet, one on the stairmaster, and a jumble of them in the car. So her daughter never sits still to read. So what? I homeschool precisely because I don't want to do it the school's way!" - Brie Leonard, Fort Lewis, WA

? "I have seen it over and over with my six children. One day reading just clicks for them. Reading is so precious to me that I never ever forced learning it on my children. They saw their parents and older siblings read with great pleasure all the time, discussing ideas from books and articles over dinner and of course we all take piles of books out of the library every week. But what made it click was different for each of them. One began really reading on his own with Calvin and Hobbes comic books, another with early reader mysteries, and I have one right now working his way through the Magic Tree House series. My daughter went from sounding out words directly to the James Herriot veterinary books.

One thing that has become a habit with my newer readers, they ask me to read "next" to them. That means we sit together on the couch, often joined by a nursing baby, and I'd read one of my books silently while my child reads next to me in companionable silence. I am near enough to pronounce hard words pointed out by a little hand. I don't let them get frustrated by making them struggle to sound out words. I read once that children need to see a word an average of 20 times before they recognize it on their own.

My older children are all avid readers. I pretend I don't notice their lights on way past bedtime because I know they are deep inside a story, my favorite place to be too." - L. W.

Finding a Balance

I'm just starting out on my quest to be a homeschooling mom. My oldest child just now turned four, but has already been to Thursday school and has a great desire to learn! I think now would be a great time to start her out with the basics (which she started in Thursday school). I have already gotten some stuff to work with her on her alphabet and numbers, which she loves. My questions would be, how do I find a good curriculum for her age out of ALL the stuff that's out there? How much is too much, for her age? How much time should I spend with her each day? I know that I am capable of teaching her, but don't want to push her too hard, too fast. - Heather Barnhart

? "I'll pass on the advice someone gave me when my children were small... The best gift you can give your child is another year of childhood. Relax! Enjoy! Explore! Adopt a 'child directed learning' style (no curriculum). Everyone will benefit." - Debbie (Homeschooling my twin daughters, 3rd Grade)

? "My first advice is NOT to use a curriculum for a 4 year old - no matter how advanced or delayed. The letter indicated that the child was a normally inquisitive 4-year-old. Use the child's interests to investigate the world around, including reading and being read to, drawing, singing, and physical activities. Write down his/her story written on any topic. Visit the library often, if possible. Walk around your neighborhood. Visit older relatives (or nursing homes) to give a larger worldview to your child. Unit studies - not necessarily formally composed or pursued - are perfect for this age. The world is the classroom and the parent is the facilitator (not the teacher). As my son told me several years ago, "Mom, you can't teach anybody anything. They have to learn it." - J.D., St. Louis

? "I just wanted to respond to Heather's question. I spent a year selecting learning materials for my soon to be 4 year old son, and have found, that he seems to learn extremely well with the Sing, Spell, Read and Write. It works with repetition, which they all seem to need. Also it went well with the A Beka curriculum we were using with his sister 6, which is excellent for advancing reading young! A Beka lacks in history and science later in years, but for early on, it seems to have worked best for us." - Melinda

? "I am in the exact situation. My son just turned 4. Many of the "experienced" homeschool Moms give me kind of a crazy look when I tell them that we've already started home schooling. But in our minds we've been home schooling him since he was born! We even joined a local homeschool organization, but found very little for kids this age.

We have chosen to not buy a standard curriculum. I have purchased countless pre-school workbooks for him. Mostly it's activities like identifying letters & numbers, & practice writing letters & numbers. I ask him daily if he wants to do them. Sometimes he says yes, sometimes no. When we do them, I limit it to a time frame before he starts getting frustrated--I figure that's him letting me know I'm pushing too hard. When we don't work in them, I make a concerted effort to play a learning game with him (card games like Go Fish & War are great math practice) or read some extra books or something that is fun, but still educational. You'll know when you've pushed your child far enough by the signals they give you...just like you knew when they were learning to walk, eat solid foods, etc. You didn't worry about pushing then, because it was natural. I believe that all education will come naturally like those early things, because of your child's earnest desire to learn. So my advice is to stay away from all those structured curriculums & go with your heart--your child will lead you in exactly the right direction for her own special needs." - Kelly Schaefer

? "At this age the child need to have fun and it should not become a grind or that spark that you now see will soon fade. Also stay away from a workbook heavy preschool curriculum and look at something like Hands on Homeschooling (site can be picked up on any search engine) and also, the best does not always cost the most." - Wendy

? "You certainly don't want to do much formal schoolwork with a four year old, but if she initiates it, just do what she finds fun. I'm leaning toward the Charlotte Mason method, which includes lots of reading aloud, using real books instead of texts, copying good literature for writing at the younger ages, oral narration and lots of nature study. It's a good one for you to check out now, while you have time to research. A good starting place is . Another is . A wonderful site to check out for general info on homeschooling is You don't have to be a Christian to get a lot of use out of this one. It has many pages of links to sites that will help you find information on teaching many different subjects." - Lisa Richards

? "I think the best learning tool for children is PLAY! Child's play may look unorganized and chaotic to adults but it isn't. Play has a very important role in our child's life. The best advice I have received is to follow my child's lead. If you want some direction in your week the best book I have found for gently guiding children through play is Treasured Time With Your Toddler: A Monthly Guide to Activities by Jan Brennan. This book helped enrich our day with songs, nursery rhymes, and finger plays as well as simple crafts, recipes, games and a list of suggested books to check out at the library. Jan Brennan has another book of activities with older children as well.

I think at 4 years old, you need not be very formal in academics. Instead focus on playing and enjoying each other's company. Any time you spend with your child, whether sorting socks, eating lunch, playing or reading a story is invaluable. Children learn a lot from us by simply being with us. You are capable of teaching your 4-year-old simply by being a parent. You are wise to be cautious in not wanting to push her too hard too fast. Follow your daughter's lead and remember the value of play!" - Pauline

2000 Home Education Magazine

January-February 2001 Issue

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