Saturday, November 24, 2012

Homeschool Catch-up Post

Yes, we are still homeschooling. And no, we aren't planning to change it just yet. So lots of things are going on in our little school and lots of new stuff. The big news is that I'm now teaching M English reading. Phonics sounded too crazy for me, so instead I settled on a book called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and I absolutely love it (so far).

We've done just over 30 lessons and M reads! He reads words, sentences and even short stories. And he understands what he reads without relying on a picture. Besides, his reading is very smooth and he blends the sounds well (better than he does in Russian, actually). This book is so simple to use! It provides very clear step-by-step instructions for parents and there's like no prep time for the lessons.

I'm also greatly relieved that with the DISTAR method used in the book we don't need to worry about sight words. One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool was to avoid just this type of rote learning ever-present in alphabet songs, rote counting to ten and back and sight words.

I was a bit worried that starting English with him would interfere with his Russian reading especially since his progress was so uncertain. So far it doesn't look as if it does. There were a few times that he mixed up Russian and English sounds. But I realized that if I teach English first, then - math, then a longish (an hour or so) break before teaching Russian, it helped. Another thing that helped was reminding M which language we were practicing reading.

One of the totally unexpected things about introducing English reading was that it actually helped M blend sounds better when reading Russian. Now he almost never reads individual letters, but instead the entire syllables which makes for much faster reading and better comprehension.

Last time I was in NY, I picked up this reading workbook at the Russian store. It's for kids ages 5-6 and M is finding it pretty easy (we end up skipping some of the easier exercises). But the book cover says that it's for "gifted children". Hmm... maybe they are playing to the parents' vanity. I don't let this get to my head. For now we practice lots of two- and three-syllable words and play games that work on fluency and actually reading a word vs guessing it.

And, of course, we also do math. I set aside the RightStart book for now. He was doing very well with geometry, but not so good with number facts past 7. So I decided to back up a bit, work on very basic stuff, like adding by 1, number facts to 5, etc. It's a bit frustrating for sure. Especially since if I replace numbers with any other symbols, he gets it and adds and subtracts without any difficulty.

At the same time, M's been intensely interested in very big numbers - a million, a billion and a trillion. He keeps asking me to re-read the "How Much Is a Million" to him. But more about this one some other time.

Apart from the homeschool, he's been busy at his Jr First Lego League and also at home building vehicles and Star Wars scenes with Legos, making islands, helping Chris in the yard and playing with friends.


  1. Interestingly, I tried that book with Anna (granted, she was 2.5 at the time), but we both hated it. I taught her to read using method, and she just took off with it. And she also loves big numbers. She really liked "Big Numbers" book and poured over it for days.

    1. Honestly, I think the biggest reason I didn't go with phonics was that I was terrified of it. It seemed very complicated. I know many parents who used phonics and phonics-based computer games to teach their kids and love it. Isn't it funny how kids are fascinated with giant numbers?