We recently started our fifth (of sixth) school term for the 2013-2014 school year, meaning that we are a bit more than two-thirds of the way through our school year.
I've already written about our year's homeschool schedule (and also why I love it!), so I'll just briefly recap our schedule here:
1st term - 6 weeks (1 week break)
2nd term - 6 weeks (1 week break)
3rd term - 6 weeks (1 week break)
4th term - 6-8 weeks (4 week Christmas break)
5th term - 6 weeks (1 week break)
6th term - 6 weeks (6 week Summer break)
I absolutely adore having a schedule, and it's been a great blessing!
Now that we are two-thirds of the way through the year, it's easy to see that some things have changed from the way we planned them out for the year. That's just fine - home education is about adapting to individual and family needs, rather than rigidly adhering to previously-conceived plans.
Thus, I thought I'd do a short series telling you about how this year - first grade for our 7yo - has changed over these past seven months.
"What's Changed In Our Homeschool This Year" - Part 1 of 3 is....
We've ditched our phonics program!
Isn't that fun? Yup, it's back in its box on the curriculum shelf, and it's actually been there for a good four-plus months.
Was it because we found something better? Because we gave it up in disgust?
Nope, it's because the 7yo is reading fluently and doesn't need it any more!
*Throws wild party!*
This year we continued with Rocket Phonics, and were very pleased with it. However, a month or two in, I noticed that our 7yo was mysteriously reading words with letter combinations that I had not yet taught him. Weird, but okay. However, a month or two after that, he suddenly moved from "hesitant reader" to "completely fluent reader who didn't need the help of the phonics book any more" - wow!
It was fast. It was sudden. It was completely unexpected. And we were thrilled!
In the American public school system, going from non-reader to reader at age seven might be considered on the late side. And as a child, I taught myself to read independently before my fourth birthday. Thus, several years ago when our then-3yo showed no interest in reading, I was at the time quite alarmed.
But in reading book-upon-book-upon-book on home education, I learned an important fact (that is usually overlooked in institutionalized education) - reading is a developmental skill. It doesn't come at the same time for all children. It comes much later for most boys than it does for girls. And it usually comes much more easily and with less pain and frustration when it is allowed to emerge in its God-given time than when it is forced at earlier-and-earlier ages, as is currently happening in American schools.
Our son went from non-reader to reader almost overnight. I would state confidently that he is now several grade levels beyond where he would be expected to be in the public school system - whereas six months ago he probably would have been labeled as "behind." Seeing the reading skill emerge so quickly and spontaneously has given me much more confidence in trusting to a child's inborn timing rather than trying to force reading lessons at early ages (as I originally did with our son, to the frustration of both of us). When our next comes along, I will start reading lessons at age six (unless requested earlier, which I am glad to oblige), but I won't worry about forcing a child to read who isn't ready - and I can't wait to see the transition from non-reader to voracious-reader happen again.
So what has replaced phonics? Our 7yo is obviously not reading at an adult level, so practice is still needed. And in place of phonics, we have simply put reading aloud. Every morning I choose a book for us to read together, and we alternate reading either pages or sentences aloud. It's much more enjoyable than reading lists of words, and he is improving at a phenomenal rate. I am very pleased, and plan to continue this method indefinitely.
It's so much fun watching children make great leaps of ability as their minds put the pieces together. This year has seen similar big jumps in math ability, among others. They're never expected, but always fun.
I can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!