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Fabulous Family Friday–First of the 3Rs

Friday, July 9th, 2010



First, I want to thank you all for praying for my dear friend’s 5 year old daughter who had spinal meningitis–PRAISE the LORD it was viral!  She is home and doing well–better and better each day!



I know you’ve all heard of the “3Rs”–Readin’, wRitin’ and aRithmatic.  (Not good for spelling, but I guess it works! LOL!)


I have another “acronym” use for the 3Rs–Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!  ;)


(That’s Relationship with God, Relationship with your husband, and Relationship with your children!)


So today, I’m going to address the first R on the academic side–or should we call it, First R (a)?!



First the “Readin” R.



Teaching your child to read can be one of the most rewarding things in life! 


Teaching your child to read can be one of the most frustrating things in life!



It all depends on your motivation and your approach!  Are you teaching them out of fear of state standards?  What your mother (or neighbor) thinks?  Because all your homeschooling friends are?  Because they’re “supposed to” know how to read by age 6?  (I’m sure it’s stated somewhere in Scripture….maybe one of our pastor friend’s favorite book of 2 Hezekiah! ;) )


Why do we teach our children to read?   I mean, really?  


  • So they can function in society
  • So they can eventually learn independently, requiring less of mama’s oversight
  •  So they can read and learn God’s Word


All of those are really good reasons, but of course you know the third one is the most important.   If you teach your child to read at 6 (or 3 or 10 or whatever) and they function well and successfully in society, but they don’t pick up the Scriptures and read them and allow God to speak to them through Them…..then what good was teaching them to read?

We “reward” the children when they learn to read by buying them a nice Bible with their name imprinted on it.   I buy a large print Bible, making it easier for beginner reading eyes to read.   So far, only one of the 4 older girls has bought a different Bible than the one she started with–and that was after 7 years!

Each little girl excitedly asks, “When will I get my Bible?!”    We usually give it to them for their birthday or Christmas, whichever comes next after they learn to read.    No, they probably can’t understand every word, but they are quite proud to have a Bible of their own to do copywork out of and to read for “quiet time”!

I will confess that so far, 5 of my 7 girls have been later bloomers in reading.   I was worried about the first late bloomer, and one day I thought, “Isn’t this why I homeschool?  To be able to allow them to learn at their pace?”

I relaxed a little and backed off being so intense.  By 8 1/2 she was reading, and by 11 I had to pry her nose out of books!   I remember one season I actually had to limit her reading!!! 

Now, what was I worried about?  :D

I realize there are sometimes issues that make it hard to learn to read and I am not qualified to advise about that. 

So what did I use? 

I started with Writing Road to Reading.  Very thorough.  Very intense.  After 6 weeks, Jessica and I were both tired of it!    I then used a “method” I had heard at a homeschooling conference.   I use the word “method” loosely!  There was no curriculum, no books.  If you have something that has the basic phonics rules in it, that will do.

The lady sharing this used Matthew 5 to teach her child reading.  No kidding!  I started doing that with Jessica, and she delightedly said, “Mommy, I like this so much better than when you stand at the chalkboard and say, ‘old’!”

You take the first part of Matthew 5:1:  “And seeing the multitudes….”

And.  You would help your child sound this out (obviously, you have taught the sounds by now.  Maybe just to these letters plus a few).    Now have your child add a “b”.  Baaaannnnnd.   “h”  Haaaannnnnnd.   Even have them try the ones that don’t make words.  “j” Jannnnnnd.

You get the idea!

You’d teach that in a short word, the vowel usually makes it’s “short” sound. 

You might only do that for one day or several, depending on your child.  Then the next time, drop the “d” at the end and do it all over again!

ban, can, Dan (could quick point out we make “mama letters” for names!), fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van.

Next time, take off the n and put the d back on.  You’re off!

bad, dad (or Dad!), fad, had, lad, mad, pad, sad

Next go to “see”–the first syllable in “seeing”.  You could even spend a “lesson” or two on syllables, having your child clap the names in your family.  Don’t quiz them on it or make a big deal about it.  Have fun!

Okay, so “see” makes the “long e” sound.  Here we go again!

bee, Dee (if you know anyone with that name!), fee, Lee, wee (vocab–tell them it means small!)

Obviously some harder ones you won’t do.  And if they say, “Oh, nee!” you can explain that’s a special one that they’ll learn later.  Commend them for a good try!

Next is “ing”.   You got it!

king, ping, ring, sing, wing

“The” would teach the “th” sound and that vowels at the end of a word say their name (or you could save that for “he” later in the verse!).

“Multitudes” has the CVC as well as the CVCV patterns.  If that is Greek to you, I mean:

Consonant-short Vowel-Consonant (mul) such as “can” or “red”  and

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Vowel  (tude) such as “cane” or “rope”.

You can have fun teaching “silent e” and change words just by adding “e”!  (Or the “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking” rule).

can/cane; man/mane; pet/Pete; rob/robe…..

If that is hard to think through or follow, then the next easiest thing for me, and one I also used, was Ruth Beechik’s simple but wonderful (as anything by her is!) “The 3R Series“.   The “readin'” one is “A Home Start in Reading” (although I’d buy all three!).  And here is a review by Cathy Duffy.  (Although I would disagree that they need extra “learning activities” to learn–mine didn’t always need that!)

Here is Cathy’s review of The 3R Series.

Even if you choose to use something more traditional, please read Mrs. Beechik’s A Home Start in Reading to demystify the whole process of reading for you!

Now maybe you need something YET a little more….structured.  (That word is used sparingly around here…..LOL!)  When Anna was learning to read  my dad was falling and ending up at the hospital all the time, had surgery, ended up in a nursing home….so I needed something very simple.  I went with a book that has mixed reviews, but we ended up liking it!  Teach a Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.     Here again is Mrs. Duffy’s review. 

As she states, many people are hesitant because of the distorted alphabet.   But I will tell you that it did not phase Anna.  She took off reading, maybe had a few times I had to remind her of blends (like “sh” and “ch”), but overall did not have any issues with it.  Another criticism of 100 Easy Lessons is that the stories are silly.  Well, I didn’t find any of them bad, and yes, sometimes they were really off the wall, but the kids liked them!  It is scripted and easy to pretty much look over in a day and use the next.  I did NOT repeat everything as often as the book said, unless a child was having a huge problem with something.  Plenty of review built in!

Now Bekah and Charissa didn’t care for it as much, so I invested in something I had been wanting to check out for awhile.  Happy Phonics  from Love to Learn.

I confess we do not do the Explode the Code workbooks with it.  I had a post, “Happy Phonics, Happy Mama!”  awhile back about how we do Happy Phonics.   We ? Happy Phonics!

I would go with the regular set and pay shipping–there is an e-book option, but you get ALL of it already on cardstock for basically the same price!   For busy mamas, it’s worth the extra few $$!

I have taught Rebekah mainly this way, and Charissa is learning.  I’m reinforcing phonics with Anna to help with spelling–she loves it, too!   Noah and Isaiah want to do it with me, too–but I keep it very low-key for them, as I explain in my other post.

Happy Phonics is where we’ll stay, I believe!  And no, I don’t foresee doing the bookwork of Explode the Code–although of all the workbooks out there, I would recommend that series.   Here is Cathy’s review of Explode the Code–one of her Top 100 Picks!

One last resource I would like to recommend, although it is not something you “take out of a box and do”, is Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books by Mark B. Thogmartin. 

I had one daughter that did not learn the traditional “phonics first” way.  That’s why I love Mr. Thogmartin’s book!  He says it’s not phonics or whole-word but both.  Children really do use both ways to learn, and some lean more heavily on one than the other.  The same daughter learns piano the same way–none of this right hand, then the left hand, then put them together.  It’s put them together from the start!   But that’s the way she learns.

I am editing this to say that the free copy on the internet is not by permission of Mr. Thogmartin and Mrs. Gallagher.  He graciously commented below that he has rewritten his book and it is now available at Teach a Child to Read.  My apologies to Mr. Thogmartin, as I didn’t know he was rewriting his excellent book and that the “free” ones were without his permission! 

Although I have an older copy of his book, I may just spring for this revised version!

Do you know what I like about most of these “methods”?  They don’t require a lot of drill and kill.   And they can be done snuggling together on the couch!  (Well, Happy Phonics is more on the floor! ;) )

And you know me–anything that builds relationships is TOP on my priority list!

I hope something here is helpful to you, and let me tell you that there really is no great mystery or perfect curriculum.  Sometimes you just need to allow time.   But when they”take off”, it is the most thrilling thing to me!!!

Happy teaching, happy reading and happy snuggling!  :-D




Fabulous Family Friday–Barn School?!

Friday, June 4th, 2010




Before I tell you about the title (I’m sure you are quite curious!) I wanted to share a wonderful child training tool–I think of it as “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” brought down to where the rubber meets the road!

I think I have reviewed this resource before on my blog, but I thought it fitting, since starting the Fabulous Family Friday posts, to do it again!

It is “Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman.   The first section is entitled “Reaching the Heart of Your Child”.  There are definitely some concrete ideas in here, but I love it that it starts with the heart.  After all, that is where it ALL starts, even for us as God’s children!

There is an additional resource that is great for using as you train your children, using Scripture.  Ginger also produces this, and it’s called “Wise Words for Moms“.   It’s in a calendar format, so you can hang it on the wall, or just open it for use.   

Ginger also has a website with some other good materials, although these are the only two I personally own.     (Just click on her name for her website.)

I especially think you younger mamas would love this book, but you know, we older ones can keep it fresh by reviewing and remember what’s most important in life–






So what is barn school, anyway?!



Several years ago, when we first started giving music lessons, most of our students were homeschooled.  So while one member of a family was having a lesson, the siblings would play with my girls outside.  The barn is always a fun place to play!  


My daughters decided to make a “town” in the barn, and named it “Butterfly” in honor of the wooden Monarchs that perch on the barn (made by a friend’s father). 




Each girl had a “house” area that was hers.  They used whatever old boards (and some not-so-old!) to section off their areas.  Then they added their “shops”.   Of course, all the students and their siblings wanted to participate!   So each one had their “shop”.     The currency was acorns!  


Your first visit to Butterfly, you could gather a can full of acorns to spend.  After that, you had to come up with your own business!


Two brothers of a student were very resourceful–they were the “water works”.  They would deliver water to your residence or business, and even to the barn loft!   They had quite an ingenious method of pulleys to get it up to the loft so they didn’t have to run up and down the stairs all the time!   Of course, if you lived or worked on the loft, you paid a bit extra for this service!   For an extra fee, they would dump your yucky water! ;)


They had all the amenities a small town could offer:






Grocery Store


Tea Room




Several restaurants


Sign shop


Post Office


UPS (that was one daughter swinging on the barn swing and throwing your “package” into your area!)


Trash Removal


Town “Garage” (for all the bikes!)


Various interesting shops (one daughter made butterflies out of colored paper clips!)


Even a Visitors Center!



Lots of fun!  But did they learn anything?




The library consisted of books bought by the bag at our library sale, as well as revolving racks and the vinyl cushions they used to use for story hour!   We also bought several drawers of the old card catalog system, and the “librarian” just turned the cards around and wrote down what we had!  She also made cards so you could “check out” books.  We even had old encyclopedias out there!  (They’re actually still floating around on the property…..)


The museum keeper also catalogued all the interesting artifacts (one being a tooth that a goat lost!). 


All the shopkeepers had to keep track of what they sold and their inventory, and of course the banker had to keep records!


They decided that there would be no “school” in Butterfly–all students would be homeschooled there!  


Once they had a bank robbery!!!  One student’s brother grabbed the “vault” (an old suitcase) and took off!   He was apprehended and caught.   The “residents” first were going to put him in the chicken house, but no one wanted to stand guard!  So they then brought him to the judge (me) and put in jail (sitting in the living room with me while I taught his sister–not his idea of a great time!).   We never did have a jail–that was the one and only crime!  ;)


 (Not the bank robber!  Just showing a picture of the swing!)

ALL of this took place with hardly ANY input from me!   I did not “make” them do anything.  I suggested, that’s all.   My oldest daughter decided to do a little “newspaper”, handwritten!   I told her about the newsletter template on Microsoft Works, and she figured it out and started cranking out quite the production!    She had an ongoing story as well as cute quotes….just think what she could do now!  Oh!  She IS!   It’s called Seven Sisters blog!  LOL!


That year was not a good year “schoolwise”.  I had had three miscarriages within 9 months, off my feet nearly a month each for two of them.  Not much planned school went on.  At the end of the “schoolyear”, I was reading my daughter’s “newspaper” and her story, and said, “Lord, who taught her to write?!  I didn’t!”  And that is when He spoke to my heart Isaiah 54:13 


“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”


We had a family reunion later in the fall after this “Barn School Year”.  As I was giving a tour of the girls’ “town”, some of my husband’s aunts were telling me what curriculum their daughters were using to homeschool, and one asked me what curriculum I used.  I waved my hand around and said with a smile, “THIS is my curriculum!”   :)


At first they were a bit surprised, but as I explained all the learning that was going on there, they thought it was really neat!





I know sometimes we need to guide and have a plan, but I also know that sometimes….no, a LOT of the time–life happens and you can’t do your well-laid plans.  Is the time a loss?  Are you in danger of being “behind”?


Well, no!   I don’t believe in being “behind” anymore.  As long as you are:


Being faithful


Not using it as an excuse to do nothing


Putting first things first (“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…”)


Focusing on relationships


Providing an atmosphere of learning



Then I believe you are where God wants you to be, and He will see to your children’s education.



I had found an interesting book through a school called “Sudbury Valley” in Massachusetts.   Sudbury Valley is basically an “Unschooling School”!   Here is the Wikipedia description.  I am not saying that I agree 100% with all they do, and it is not a Christian based school, but I thought it interesting that this school has been in existence for over 40 years now, and has proven out over and over that having a curriculum and schedule does not equate success, and having freedom in learning does not equate chaos. 


I was able to get the book, “Free at Last“, from the library.   It was an interesting read!   One boy, “deschooling”, spent two years just fishing!  But the detail and intensity he used to pursue fishing transferred later to computers.  


Even if you’re not planning on being an unschooler, or even a “relaxed schooler”, I really think this would free you from thinking, “Oh, Johnny doesn’t know how to read yet!”  or “Susie can’t tell the difference between a noun and a verb!” or how about “Joan’s highschoolers are doing algebra and I know Mary isn’t ready for that.  I guess I’ll have to catch her up!”


I personally do think the children need a little guidance, and I do not necessarily think the kids ought to have a democratic vote in a family! :)   But there’s something to be said for going with the flow of their interests vs. trying to fit them into a curriculum.


Too many times we think it all depends on us doing the right thing–having the right schedule, using the right curriculum, following the right requirements, training our children just so…..but I’m going to let you in on a secret:



NOTHING depends on you



It all depends on YOU depending upon HIM!


The place you need to seek guidance is on your face before the Creator of those beautiful children.   This way takes more time.  More of you.  More interaction (you know–relationships!)  


But this way brings joy, peace, love….harmony, and faith—faith in your Abba Father Who cares for your children more than even you do!    Yes, even their education! 


Be open.  What you hear from Him might go against all you’ve ever thought about education.   But if you really believe He’s spoken, and you have your husband’s blessing, you can be sure you are in His will and you will be amazed at what your children learn.  And even if they don’t learn all the things you thought they should in 4th grade (or 6th or 9th), they will have learned what the Lord wanted them to learn.   You will find these experiences breed a love of learning that you couldn’t stop if you wanted to!



And someday, you’ll have some graduated and wonder how they learned some things…..and then you’ll remember….



Oh, yes!  The Lord taught them!





(Head over to the girls’ blog and see the new thing they’re doing–a cute “Behind the Scenes” video!)


(Special thanks to Anna for her beautiful flower pictures!)