Teaching Your Homeschooler to Read: Creating a Homeschool Curriculum
Homeschooling presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to customize the literacy learning experience according to your child's specific needs and pace. As you build your language arts program around your child’s strengths and needs, many wonderful curricula and resources can help along the way.
As a will share tips for teaching reading in a homeschool setting. I will also discuss ways to support your reader if they are struggling. Additionally, I will highlight some available homeschool curriculum options and resources.
Can You Teach Your Child to Read in a Homeschool Setting?
Yes, you can teach your child to read in a homeschool setting! Homeschooling often provides a flexible and individualized setting where parents can tailor instruction to their child’s specific needs, style, and reading level. It does not matter if your child is an emergent reader, or if you are starting your homeschooling journey with an older child.
A quality homeschooling program allows for one-on-one attention and support, and the opportunity to explore and shift teaching methods to best suit your child at any grade level (from pre-K to high school).
If you have decided to homeschool your child, and are beginning your literacy instruction, consider the following ideas to ensure you have the proper foundation for reading success.
How to Choose a Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum
As you look for a literacy program that will best serve your child’s needs, consider the following areas:
Systematic & Explicit
Look for a curriculum that is both systematic and explicit in its delivery of phonics instruction. The instruction should progress from easier to harder skills, with lessons following a predictable scope and sequence.
For instance, a good literacy curriculum should start with teaching letters and sounds, then progressively move to phonics decoding, and gradually to orthographic mapping. Consider programs that champion reading comprehension as part of the Simple View of Reading (Farrell, L., Hunter, M., Davidson, M., & Osenga, T., 2019).
Additionally, it is essential to look for programs that review previously taught materials and have easy-to-follow lesson plans.
Find a language arts program that is research-based and values the science of teaching reading (IMSE, 2021). Consider programs (for early readers) that provide strong phonological awareness instruction, phonics instruction, differentiation, and a multi-sensory approach to teaching reading.
When evaluating language arts programs, it's important to assess the consistency of instruction and practice presented. Observe the scope and sequence, assessments, placement tests, individual lesson formats, delivery, as well as instructions/directions.
Availability and Quality of Materials
When assessing a reading program, review the availability and quality of materials included. This may include items such as manipulatives, workbooks, reading texts, reading printables, and worksheets.
Look for a program that offers flexibility within its scope and sequence. While consistency and predictable progression are important, the option to differentiate to cater to the unique learning needs of your child is desirable. Consider if the curriculum provides the amount of flexibility you feel comfortable with.
Popular Homeschool Reading Curricula Examples
There are many resources available to design your homeschool curriculum and reading lesson plans. Here are some of the best homeschool reading curricula for readers of different ages and reading levels.
- Saxon Reading or programs built around the Orton-Gillingham approach are all good places to start as you consider language arts curriculum options.
- Logic of English offers free literacy resources to learn spelling, reading, and writing skills.
- The Good and The Beautiful is a Christian homeschool curriculum company that focuses on phonics, reading, spelling, and writing.
- The Wilson Reading System is a highly-structured program focused on helping struggling readers thrive and prepare for higher education.
- Saxon Phonics is an early reading curriculum for K–2 students meant to teach phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency.
Tips for Homeschool Reading Instruction
Once you have picked a curriculum that you feel best suits you and your child’s reading/literacy style and needs, consider the following tips to strengthen your homeschool reading program.
Establish a Strong Foundation
If you are working with a young child, begin to lay a strong foundation of phonemic awareness early. Work to help your child play with language, begin to understand the alphabetic principle, and build phonics skills. Finding a language arts curriculum to assist your teaching with a strong focus on phonemic awareness and phonics instruction will be helpful.
Set Reachable Goals
Teaching your child how to read is a gradual process that requires time and patience. A good way to boost a learner’s motivation and acknowledge their achievements is setting reading goals.
When creating goals, collaborate with your child as you pick reading skills to focus on. Then, work to divide each goal into doable tasks and set reasonable time frames for accomplishing them. Revisit your goals frequently and make changes when needed.
As your child progresses towards improving their reading skills and goals, tracking their growth can be a helpful tool. Tracking progress allows the learner to self-reflect on their growth and achievements over time and can serve as motivation to continue making progress. By monitoring progress step-by-step, learners can celebrate their successes and acknowledge progress.
Encourage Independent Reading
Encourage your child to read independently outside of their designated reading instructional time. Studies have shown that independent reading can improve their reading skills and reading comprehension. Including independent reading as part of your homeschool reading curriculum is crucial.
Giving your child the freedom to choose their reading materials for independent reading time (around subjects they find engaging) can be a great way to motivate learners, increase reading ability, and strengthen reading comprehension.
Literacy experts suggest that students who have the freedom to choose their independent reading material are more motivated, read more frequently, and exhibit greater proficiency in language and literacy (Krashen1993).
Take the time to read aloud to your child. Reading aloud can introduce students to exciting books they may not be able to read independently. It also builds a routine and shared love of reading, creates memorable moments away from technology and interruption, and strengthens reading and listening skills.
In addition, vocabulary skills are stronger for children who are read aloud to by parents and teachers regularly (Duursma, 2008). Research indicates that a child's exposure to language has a direct correlation with their language development and reading abilities.
The more words they are exposed to in their language environment, the more likely they are to become proficient readers (PBS, 2014).
Maximize Read-World Experiences
Any opportunity to include your reader in authentic literacy experiences will provide extra avenues for practicing their reading skills, help them to feel positive about the reading contributions they are making, and can powerfully engage children.
Consider having your child help write grocery lists, send a letter to grandparents, read baking directions, design signs for their hideouts, build something that requires them to follow a set of instructions or any other real-world literacy activities that arise.
Take A Deep Dive
The best homeschool practice often allows for individualized instruction and discovery, capitalize on this by giving your learner the chance to delve deeper into topics that interest them. Foster their passion for the subject matter by creating writing and reading opportunities that are engaging and meaningful.
Consider incorporating interactive literacy experiences that align with their interests and preferred subjects. Finding ways to incorporate literacy experiences with the subject matters that interest them most can be a great way to help young readers become more invested in learning.
Teaching Struggling or Dyslexic Readers in a Homeschool Setting
If you are working to create a supportive literacy environment for your struggling reader, consider the following effective tips for homeschooling a struggling reader or child with dyslexia or other learning disabilities that make reading harder.
Use Structured Language Arts Programs
Research suggests using programs like the Orton-Gillingham approach or Wilson Reading System can be a great fit for dyslexic or struggling readers as they provide supportive systematic and explicit phonics instruction with repeated exposure and practice to support learning (Harrison, 2022).
Consider language arts programs and curriculum options that follow this blueprint when choosing a program that best serves your struggling learner.
Accommodate and Modify
Modifying and accommodating your instruction to best match your child’s learning style is a powerful way to best support struggling readers.
For example, you might break a 15 min. lesson into 3 separate 5-minute lessons to better fit your child’s attention span, or provide extra opportunities to reinforce and review ideas presented in a daily lesson that your child is struggling to understand.
Consider modifying a lesson to use a multi-sensory approach. You could reteach a lesson using a multi-sensory approach, give your child more time to complete an assignment or shorten a reading passage. Modifications and accommodations can be helpful ways to tailor instruction to meet your struggling learner’s needs best.
Use Assistive Technology
If you have a child who is struggling, it may be helpful to incorporate assistive technology into their learning. Providing opportunities to listen to texts through audiobooks as an occasional alternative to reading aloud, using text-to-speech software to support prewriting and drafting activities, or games that reinforce phonics skills can be nice additions when used judicially.
The use of tech in this manner may even relieve frustration or fatigue for the struggling reader (Dawson, 2018). While the use of tech can be a nice addition to your curriculum, don’t let technology take the place of reading and writing or good instruction.
Occasionally incorporating these tools can be a good option for reducing frustration and providing variety and access for your struggling reader.
Reach Out To Other Homeschool Families
As a homeschooling mom, you don't have to go it alone. There are various programs, free homeschool tools, and support groups available to connect you with other homeschooling parents.
Sharing your experiences and seeking advice can be invaluable as you embark on this journey with your child. From discussing reading instruction, ideas, or reading lessons to sharing both struggles and successes, these circles can be a great resource for homeschooling moms.
Find a Homeschool Reading Specialist
If you find that your struggling or dyslexic reader needs additional support, it may be beneficial to reach out to a reading specialist or specialized tutor. A reading specialist can provide valuable ideas and insights regarding reading difficulties your child may be experiencing.
Collaborating with a specialist has the potential to make a meaningful difference for your learner. Reading Specialists are often equipped to assess your child’s reading and to give you more in-depth information about their strengths and weaknesses. They can often provide valuable information about reading and literacy issues as you progress with your homeschool reading instruction.
Getting Started with a Homeschool Curriculum for Reading
As a parent, helping your child build their literacy skills and teaching them how to read can be a fulfilling and attainable task.
Homeschooling offers a flexible and personalized approach to education, allowing you to tailor your teaching to your child's learning style and needs. Keeping in mind that every child is different, it's essential to be patient and adaptable and to celebrate your child’s achievements throughout their reading journey.
By using effective strategies, selecting an appropriate language arts curriculum, creating a supportive atmosphere, and seeking help for your struggling reader when needed, you can aid in the development of your child's reading abilities and cultivate a lifelong love of reading.
For more tips on helping your child learn to read at home, check out: 10 Ideas To Improve Your Child's Reading Skills.
Duursma, Elisabeth & Augustyn, Marilyn & Zuckerman, B. (2008). Reading aloud to children: The evidence. Archives of disease in childhood. 93. 554-7. 10.1136/adc.2006.106336.
Dawson, K., & Antonenko, P., (2018). Assistive Technologies to Support Students With Dyslexia. Teaching Exceptional Children. 51. 004005991879402. 10.1177/0040059918794027.
Farrell, L., Hunter, M., Davidson, M., & Osenga, T. (2019) The Simple View of Reading. Reading Rockets. https://www.readingrockets.org/article/simple-view-reading
Harrison, C. (2022, December 15). Multi-Sensory Instruction: Moving Beyond the Sand Tray. The Dyslexia Classroom. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://www.thedyslexiaclassroom.com/blog/multi-sensory-instruction-moving-beyond-the-sand-tray
Krashen, S. (1993). The Power of Reading. Englewood, Col.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
Ordetx, K. (2021). What is the Science of Reading? IMSE - Journal. https://journal.imse.com/what-is-the-science-of-reading/
(2014, June 24). I is for infant: Reading aloud to young children benefits brain development. PBS. Retrieved June 30, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/infant-reading-aloud-young-children-benefits-brain-development
Popular Homeschool Curricula:
Logic Of English: https://www.logicofenglish.com/?gad=1
The Good and The Beautiful: https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/
The Wilson Reading System: https://www.wilsonlanguage.com/programs/wilson-reading-system/
Saxon Phonics: https://www.hmhco.com/programs/saxon-phonics-and-spelling
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