Texas Home School Coalition Review
nyone who knows me
, or has ever set
foot inside my home, knows that I love books. Perhaps it’s
the bookshelves lining the walls, the hallways, and the in-
sides of the closets. Or maybe it’s the books stacked on the toilet tank,
on the floor, on the table, or on any other flat surface not otherwise
occupied. At any rate, I love to read and want my kids to enjoy reading
as much as I do.
What do you do when your children don’t necessarily enjoy reading?
What do you do when they struggle to learn to read—so much so that
you wonder if they ever will? Well, take it fromme, a momwho has been
there and is still there in the trenches: There is hope!
I have six sons and one precious daughter (who has Down syn-
drome). My second son, Luke, struggled to learn to read. Way back
when we first started home schooling, I didn’t know much about learn-
ing styles, and I didn’t know much about how young boys approach
learning—being a girl and all. After twenty-eight years of parenting and
twenty-two of home schooling, I know a little more now. Perhaps our
experiences will help some of you.
We dutifully began trying to teach Luke to read at age six,
using a sound, proven phonics approach. After all, we had
taught his older brother to read at six using the same pro-
gram. How hard could it be? Well, age six came and went
without Luke learning to read. Ages seven and eight came
and went, and at age nine we started to get worried.
What we did not realize at the time was that we were
missing (and therefore depriving Luke of) the greatest
benefit of home schooling: the ability to change what
we were doing to fit his needs. We were dangerously
close to duplicating the one-size-fits-all method of tra-
ditional schools. We were continuing to do the same
things we had been doing, with no results, foolishly ex-
pecting different outcomes.
Often my husband Chris would come home from
work to find Luke crying, me crying, or both of us crying.
It was not a pretty sight. So Chris asked me if there was
anything about school that Luke liked.
“Well,” I replied, “he likes it when I read aloud to him.”
So Chris decided that we would shelve everything else
and simply read aloud to Luke. Because my relationship with
Luke had begun to suffer from the frustrations of learning to
read, Chris recognized that the key issue was rebuilding the
relationship between mom and son. Academics were second-
ary at this point. I read aloud to Luke. Whatever he wanted to
read, I read. Wherever he wanted to read, we read. I read books
to Luke that were way above what a young boy would be able to
read, and he ate it up. The relationship between us began to mend.
The pressure was off, and he could enjoy the fruit of reading—even
though he was not the one doing the reading.
After about six months of this new school plan of simply reading
aloud, we tried again with the phonics, only this time we used a differ-
ent program—one that combined multi-sensory practice with explicit
phonetic instruction. It clicked with him, and he learned to read. (We
later learned he was slightly dyslexic and a very kinesthetic learner.) It
wasn’t long before he was up and running and reading on his own.
Now, don’t spread this around, but we let him read magazines about
BMX (bicycle motocross) racing because that was his hot button at the
time. Often we had to pre-read the magazines and take a Sharpie to
the potty words, and draw some extra clothing on some of the models
in the ads, but he read the magazines from cover to cover. The subject
matter interested him, so he was highly motivated to read. For the most
part, that’s why we read as adults—to find out about something that in-
terests us. Today, at age twenty-five, Luke still reads! Goal accomplished!
To be reading by adulthood has always been our goal for our kids. Let
me ask you this: When was the last time anyone asked you, as an adult,
when you learned to read? No one cares when you started. They care
if you currently read well enough to do your job properly, but beyond
that, no one cares. The only people who care when a child learns to read
are parents (whose kids are not reading when they think they should
be), grandparents (whose grandchildren are not reading when they
think they should be), and possibly a neighbor (who likes to compare
the academic prowess of their children to everyone else’s children). In
the grand scheme of life, when we began reading is a non-issue. When
we first began home schooling, a wise and more experienced couple
gave us this bit of advice: “Check your parental pride at the door.” This
advice was invaluable to us, as it saved us from completely alienating
our son by trying to force him to do something he was not yet ready or
able to do (just because our pride smarted).
Our fourth son reached the “teaching reading” age, and we learned
right away that he was severely dyslexic and also had an auditory processing
disorder. We figured we would be okay, knowing from experience that