How I'm Teaching My Daughter to Read (After Several Curriculum Attempts) - Sarah Mae
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How I’m Teaching My Daughter to Read (After Several Curriculum Attempts)

I am a curriculum junkie.

My thinking is that if I just have the right curriculum, I’ll follow through with it and my children will be smart, and I’ll have been a good teacher. But I’m pretty much a curriculum failure. That’s the downside. The upside is that I’ve learned a few things about teaching my children, and they involve little more than a library card, a notebook, and a pen.

The focus on education in our house right now is reading. My oldest is six and half years old and she still isn’t reading fluently, even though we’ve done reading curriculum since she was four. Here’s the part where I feel like a big homeschooling failure. We’ve never completed a reading curriculum, and let’s see, we’ve tried:


The philosphy behind Teach Your Child to Read and Spell (TATRAS) is fantastic, and by far my favorite way of teaching my child to read. It teaches using vertical phonics, which is all about decoding words so that your child not only learns to read, but also to spell. For example, when you learn the letter “a”, you learn all the sounds that the “a” makes. Love love love this. Unfortunately, the layout of this curriculum was confusing to me. I need to be able to have things simple: turn the page, do this, do that, bada-bing, bada-boom. I also tried starting this program when my girl was four. That probably wasn’t a great idea.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

We made it to lesson 87 and the lessons weren’t stickin. Neither of us enjoyed this program, and I especially didn’t like that decoding or rules weren’t taught-I want my children to understand the English language, not just be able to read. However, I know many people love this program. In fact, my mentor Sally Clarkson used it with her children.

Phonics Museum

Since we started with 100 Easy Lessons, my daughter was in a strange reading phase where certain things were too easy, but decoding was difficult. This curriculum is beautiful, and I love the art focus, but it was just too much for me. My daughter loved it, but that’s mainly because it involved crafts, and she loves crafts.

All About Reading

I wish I would have started my daughter on this program from the beginning. It’s simple, fun, easy for me and my daughter, and explains how we use language (why do we use a “k” instead of a “c”). At this point, however, I just use this curriculum as a guide.

Since I’ve experienced four different reading programs, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about teaching my daughter to read and what works for us.

What I’ve Learned About Reading Curriculum

I have found reading curriculum to be way more intense/complicated/busy than what is required to teach a child (my child) to read. I understand curriculum developers want to make it fun, but it just makes the process more difficult and time-consuming (unless you like that sort of thing – many people do, I don’t).

How I’m Teaching My Daughter To Read

I go to the library and check out books appropriate for my daughters reading level (what I know she can read with help). I look through the first book, write down the words I know she’ll have a hard time with and words where I can teach her a rule (“when you see ie together, you say “e”). Then write in my notebook the rules and the words I want her to learn. Once I’ve done that, I ask her to come for her reading lesson. We go over my notebook of words and sounds, and then I hand her the library book and tell her I’ve prepared her to read it. She reads, and we work on fluency. Then she’s done. Once she completes reading 10 books she earns a prize.

That’s it, that’s her reading curriculum. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

We don’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on reading lessons, but she will have to read me the book again in the evening, and of course, I read to her.

Eventually, we will use curriculum again for reading. For my other children, we’ll just go straight for the notebook and pen.

Love, SM

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  • Chelsey

    I have also tried many curriculums for my son and I still feel like he is not getting it! I love your idea of using your notes in the notebook as your “lesson” for that particular book. I think I will start doing that in addition to some other things we are doing. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah Mae

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  • Sarah Beals

    Check out the Bob Books. They are silly little books (at the library) but I taught two of my reluctant readers to read using these. Eaaasy for mom and child.

    • Koxch

      They are fun we have the collection and my 8yr old reads then all the time.

    • Sarah Mae

      Yes, I’ve heard good things about those BOB books!

  • Koxch

    Hi Sarah, sound ls like me.  I have two completely different learners (is that a word) both girls soon to be 8 and 6.  My 8yr old is very easy, focused, goal oriented learner (she does not get it from me at all).  My 6yr old is a slow learner.  This past year I learned that it is not the curriculum that I think will work for her or the latest “Phonics” or “Reading” lessons but what she enjoys.  She enjoys Explore the Code and believe it or not she is actually reading 3 letter words and knows the first sound of all her vowels and we are slowly working on the consonants.  It is hard homeschooling our kids because for me I think (at times) that I am doing more harm than good.
    Thanks for your post.

    • Sarah Mae

      I struggle with that same sentiment-that I’m doing more harm than good. But I’m going to persevere, taking it one faith-step at a time!

  • Tracey

    Sarah, I have four Dyslexic sons. We homeschool our two youngest children and my youngest has always struggled in reading. I found the very same thing about curriculums. We can be sucked into them thinking they are going to be the quick fix or if we follow them completely they will take care of everything. I have learned since that it isn’t so much about the “program” as it is about the “method” in which they learn and we need to find out just “how ” they might learn it best ( which is where the methods come in). I have one suggestion for you that helped me very much. AbeCedarian Reading Progam~ ( ah yes, yet another program) but this one is  a research based phono graphix approach. There is a yahoo group where you can post your questions and get help from the author Dr. Michael Bend himself and also his moderators who all have significant training in PG.  It helped my son SO much. They don’t worry over rules, since many of our English language have rules that are always broken and is very inconsistent. The lessons are short with daily reading out loud and quiet reading as well. ~ I found for my son that having him read out loud to me helped show me where the work needed to be ( he read books that were at his level or challenging – no more than five wrong on a page) and for quiet reading he would read a grade below his level to build fluency and automaticity ~ he now read well and is at grade level from being three years behind. I owe much of it to the help, support and training from PG and this reading program. ~ I hope this encourages you~  Peace.

    • Sarah Mae

      It does, thank you!

  • Christin

    AMEN!!! We have never used a phonics curriculum. I teach my kids the sounds of the letters then teach them how to mesh them together to form words. (I use the “say it fast” from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons). And I read to them a lot.
    My 4 year old learned to read by him listening to me teach my (then 5) now 6 year old. Bonus!
    Totally agree phonics curricula are over complicated. I use “reading” workbooks to help enforce the phonics and help strengthen reading, but very loosely.

    • Sarah Mae

      Thank you for sharing this Christin! I love the bonus! 

  • Stacey

    We used 100 easy lessons but altered each time it was used. I’m a big proponent of making the curriculum fit the child, not the child fit the curriculum.

    • Sarah Mae

      I like that!

  • Pam Leding

    Excellent! I so agree!!

  • Wendy

    I did it a similar way as you.  When she was ready to read- at about 5 yo, I bought the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy lessons.  Hated it.  So instead of dropping more money on another curriculum, I made flash cards for the letters of the alphabet and each day she learned 1 or 2. As soon as she knew a vowel or two and a consonant or two, I made words, like at sat bat, etc…  I would get a Dr. Suess book, and every time we came across a word I knew she could read- I would point and she would read that word when I got to it.   Then once she had a handle on 20-50 words we made cards with those words on them and built sentences.  This went on until she was reading pretty well, then we started the Explode the Code series for great phonics lessons.  She is 8 yo now and a wonderful reader.  She loves her readers we get from Christian Light Publications.   Very interesting stories and on her level.  We are now adding McGuffey readers in and various living history and science books. 

  • elizaosborn

    Imagine the struggles she’d have in a traditional school, and how frustrating it would be for her.  We too started 100 Easy Lessons (I’d heard great things about it), when she was 5 1/2, but none of it stuck. So we started doing the easy Five in a Row books together — just me reading most of a line, and her reading the remainder, switching back and forth with each other, when she turned 6. She still struggled for a few months…and then we took about 5 weeks off of the intensive “schooling” because of travel, holidays, and illness — and when we came back to it, she was a reading monster. Books were still a part of our lives in that time, and reading is essential to playing on the iPad, etc, so the learning was still happening but without the pressure to perform.

    She still dislikes writing as far as being taught is concerned. Since we’re somewhere between K and 1st, I’m not pushing penmanship now. I just want her to get comfortable with letter formation and understand the value of being able to write, so SHE wants to write better, for herself, not just for me. So…I pretty much took writing out of the curriculum. Just one tracing paper every few days. And what did she do? She starting writing for fun, every day. She writes letters to her friends at church, she writes notes to her family, she copies my notes to her and Bible verses for fun, she fills out spam forms we get in the mail. Writing is becoming valid in her mind, and that’s so important to me. Probably because I’m a freelance writer. 😉  

    So glad you found a way to connect!

  • Taylormc6

    I use Hooked on Phonics for my beginning readers, then I move on to Succeeding at Reading (which I love).  The Hooked on Phonics now has a dvd to help visualize each new blend/reading rule. This is great for my visual learners, especially my youngest who is deaf (has bilateral Cochlear Implants).

     I too am a curriculum junkie! I think it goes with the territory! :~) Last year I finally purged all of the books/textbooks (15 yrs. worth) I will not be using anymore which made my husband very happy (until I told him it just makes room for more lol). 😉 And it has!!

  • littleducklings

    We love our bob books.  We also use to help out with the basics.  I’ve taught one of my kids using starfall and am now working with two more.  morestarfall has a yearly membership, but it’s affordable and comes with worksheet generators.  We really love it.  With my 8 year old we’re using the McGuffey readers which have the word lists at the end of each lesson for us to go over.  It’s similar to what you mentioned doing, but with the word list already created.  We even use some of the words from the lists as our spelling list.

  • CrystalJ

    We use Teach Your Child to Read and really like it! It’s been slow going and I DON’T push it. We started it last August and are just on lesson 65. In the beginning it was tears from both of us! Once I relaxed and broke some of the lessons down myself, it really boosted his confidence! He still has a ways to go but we’re both enjoying it now and going at our own pace.

  • Stephanie’s Mommy Brain

    When my oldest was 3.5, I had several friends using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Their daughters, same age as my son, were reading! So I jumped on the band wagon. Several weeks of tears and lots of frustration later I put the book away. I learned my lesson that pushing my boys to do learn what others are learning is not a good idea.

    When he started K at 5 yrs I pulled 100 Lessons out again. He understood the concepts and learned but I hated the book. It was boring and just didn’t excite either of us to read. Thankfully he is a natural reader and his skills quickly took off.

    When my 2nd boy reached K I pulled out 100 Lessons again. I had paid good money for the book and felt switching would be a waste of money. We made it through about 20 lessons. Again, we were bored and frustrated by the curriculum. But this son was not a natural reader. So I went in search of something new – Explode the Code.

    We LOVE Explode the Code!! I use it to reinforce phonics and language arts skills for my oldest (now 3rd grade). My now 1st grader uses it to continue learning to read. And my preK5 daughter is using Before Explode the Code to learn the sounds letters make. My preK3 son is also using Before Explode the Code but that’s mainly just to keep him busy. 🙂

    Explode the Code is what works for us and I recommend it to everyone!

    • Sarah Mae

      I’ve heard great things about it!

      • Trina Holden

        I’m loving the Explode the Code books – although it’s a lot of seat work for my 5 year old. I’m just giving him a page a day. Keeps it fun

    • Rachel

      My youngest really excelled with Explode the Code. I like that it’s not intense. Just a a bit of a reinforcement. We’ve used for 3 years now.
      That said….
      To Sarah Mae: I  agree, knowing phonics rules is great- as a writer you can appreciate the importance of mastery. However, it takes a few years for the mechanics and rules to really stick. My eldest is in 3rd grade now, we still are working on phonics… and she reads at the 5th grade level. I’ll be praying that you’ll continue to cling to the courage you’ve found in your homeschooling adventures!

  • Brooke

    Don’t be too worried! I have had several ladies tell me that one of their children didn’t learn until 8 or 9 and then in a few months was reading like a pro.  Some children just can’t (or won’t) grasp the concept at an early age.  So far I have just taught one child to read- my son and he understood the basics of sounding it out at 4, but he LOVED letters, sounds and knew the alphabet  and sounds before age three. I do not expect all my children to be as easy as he is in the reading department! He is using Explode the Code books.

  • Audrey

    I am also a curriculum junkie. Of course, my oldest is only 4.5, so I’m just really prepared *snicker*. She is super smart, can recognize letters and write almost all of them (she is more interested in writing than reading). But out of all the workbooks and various curricula for preschoolers and kindergartners, a simple notebook and pen has been the most effective. She enjoys the workbooks (her “homework”), but I feel like they are just reinforcing what I teach her with the notebook and pen! She goes through more spiral kl hfnotebooks than I do. She carries them everywhere! And her

    • Audrey

      Ha! My phone wigged out. Her 2yo sister is learning from her, so we go through lots of notebooks! 🙂

      • Audrey

        Also, my Titus 2 mentor has four homeschooled children (youngest is 8) who all have different learning styles! She is a wealth of information, I am so blessed to have her in my life!

  • Deb

    My oldest son is dyslexic and after years of struggling with the public school system – I had researched a LOT of ‘methods’ for helping him.  So when I started schooling my younger two – I used “Reading Reflex” (you can get it from Amazon
    And it was a smashing success with both my kids – they are now 13 & 14 and LOVE to read. 

    I’m a big fan of finding what works for your kids – tweaking as needed.  THAT is the beauty of home-school, change what is broken (or BORING!)

    Blessings on the journey~

    • Tracey

       Deb,  Reading Reflex is a Phono Graphix approach which is what I suggested to Sara ie., Abecedarian Reading Program. It is based from author Carmen McGuiness’ book and research through Read America. It turned things completely around for us~ I so agree with you Deb. I love PG! 🙂 Peace

  • Julie

    We ended up doing the same thing for my now 9 year old–who is still a struggling reader.  My 2 older kids “got it” with our Explode the Code curriculum, but Luke didn’t get “the code” at all.  I just started finding books at his reading level and reading with him.  Once he got some confidence in himself, we went back and started teaching phonics more formally.  He is doing much better now.  Curious though….why do we use K instead of C sometimes?  My 7 year old just asked me that today!

  • Denelle

    My daughter’s in the 5th grade now (her name is Sarah Mae, by the way!) and is an avid, perhaps addicted, reader.  I worried because she was not reading independently until late into the second grade.  Her older brother was fluent by the end of kindergarten.  I did not use a curriculum with her — I just kept reading to her.  She loved books.  I figured she’d eventually get tired of waiting on me to read to her.  She did.  She started off much more slowly, spent much longer in the short chapter books than her brother, but eventually (4th grade or so) she just took off!  Now she reads the three-inch thick novels with no trouble.  She’s still not a good speller, however, but gets by.  The best advice anyone gave me was let her do it at her own speed, and keep reading classic, good books to her (Heidi was a favorite).  Thankfully we were at home, so there was no pressure or labels to deal with.  I am very grateful that no one ever told her, either explicitly or implicitly, that she was dumb because she couldn’t read like the other kids.  Hang in there!

  • Camille

    We are using 100 Lessons because it’s working. 🙂 I also signed up for a free trial of Reading Eggs and she really likes that (she’s 5 1/2).  In Ruth Beechick’s “3Rs”,  she talks about a reading study where they taught half of a group of 5 year olds to read. The other half just explored and did science/hands on projects but didn’t have any formal reading lessons.  By the 3rd grade … the science group was reading far better! 🙂 That really made me relax and realize that attempting to replicate public school at home is not why I’m homeschooling!

  • Jessica Jensen

    Well, you just made that too simple! 

    We used Hooked on Phonics because we were fresh and new and hadn’t planned on homeschooling until we were kind of forced into it initially.  HOP was easily accessible and well known.  It worked ok for us to get started but it failed for my eldest after that and we used a little bit of Explode the Code for a while.  She likes rules, but there are so many exceptions that she gets really frustrated.  Time and patience and lots of reading seems to be the best thing for her right now.  My youngest, is one of those freaky wiz kids who after just learning her letter sounds, picked up books and started decoding and reading them on her own at age 4.  Even if my husband or I are reading aloud and pause, she’ll pipe right in with the next word thinking that perhaps we don’t know it.  Clearly, language is her gift. 

  • Joy

    For me, the key to teaching a child to read is waiting until they are ready.  And lots of reading aloud.  I haven’t even attempted to teach any of my children to read until they are 6 1/2, and they have all picked it up with little to no effort at this point.  I’ve used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with no difficulty.  We  usually only go to lesson 50 or so.  One child was reading after only about 20 lessons.  

    Another thing to remember is that all children are different.  My husband learned to read at age 4, with no formal teaching.  His mother just read to him all the time.  I didn’t learn to read until age 6 or 7, in 1st grade.  I have known other parents whose children are very intelligent, but they didn’t learn to read until 8 or 9.  Everyone is just different.  Some children will struggle more than others and it may come later, but that’s okay.

    The important thing is finding what works for you and your child, and not being bound to the timetables or expectations of others.  If what you’re doing is working well for you, go for it!  🙂

  • Jesus_saved_me87

    Thank you for writing about this. I am still thinking about homeschooling my children. I will be starting next year, if my decision is yes. I have been told about choosing the right curriculum, what works, what might not, and how it can consume money quite easily. My son also has trouble reading, but is in public school and they just tell you to work harder and dont give you the tools to help your child! I have no idea how to help him because I am not actively involved in his education. I have to confess that I am really scared about homeschooling. I will be starting with both of my kids. My son will be in 2nd grade and my daughter will be just beginning her school years. So in the end, I am leaving my decision up to God. He knows that certain circumstances will make my decision clear, but I also know that homeschooling seems like the best option for my children and I. Anyway, thank you for posting Sarah. I will be using your advice later on, I’m sure!

    • Sarah Mae

      The best homeschooling advice I can give is this:

      Be easy.

      Don’t push.

      Let your kids be kids. Education is an all-day thing, but workbooks and intentional sit-down type work does not need to be long-especially for little ones. 20 minutes a day for littles is enough. 

      And as Sally Clarkson says, just “read, read, read and they’ll be brilliant!” 🙂

  • Daughterofliberty

    Um, dare I say you’ve just been pushing her a bit early, and some kids just aren’t ready at that age. They are all different and she is probably feeling tremendous pressure because of your ‘failure’. It’s not
    That you’re doing a bad job. It’s that you need to be patient. Just a thought. I am gla you are finding something that works.

    • Sarah Mae

      I was totally pushing her too early! I’ve learned. 

  • Samantha M Gale

    This was a great article–I love that you tried so many methods.  I really wish I remember how I learned to read so I could share that.  I honestly don’t remember ever not being able to read. :/

  • Stephanie

    I thought I was the only junkie! We use (after a gazillion other resources) Alpha Phonics. You can either use Alpha Phonics or How to Tutor. They are nearly identical and are fabulous and cheap! Also we use the Bob Books since they are similar to what is taught in Alpha Phonics.

    • Jackie

      We used Alpha Phonics too and had great success!  I did use the pre-Explode the Code books with my son (Get Ready…, Get Set…, Go…) but that was more busy work than anything.  It really is all about finding what works for the child and for you.  

  • M. C.

    We did something similar with the notebook, but I used Mcguffey’s primer and 1st reader instead of library books.  By the time we started the 2nd reader, she was picking books off the shelf and reading for fun.  Including the KJV.  So we have taken a break from McGuffey’s and she reads to me on a regular basis.  

  • Lisa May

    How timely is this. My youngest is 6 1/2 and in Kindergarten. She is not reading very well either. I try not to compare my older children to her. It is so hard, because my son was half way through first grade by now and reading fluently. Thanks for this post!

  • Jessica Gourley

    Hey Sarah-
    I don’t usually comment, but I’m a public school teacher (primarily 1st and 2nd) and I don’t really know these curricula, but we teach by word families. It seems like your daughter would be ahead of our “beginning” ones, but it’s like -at vs. -ap with word cards and they sort…point out differences…hunt in books…etc. then they discern between short and long (cap vs. cape) and learn the rules. We do a program called Word Journeys by Kathy Ganske. The two books are about 70 bucks, I think. However, they’re doing HUGE things for my kids (especially my special-ed contingent) so maybe looking at the word families will just help her to get it more fluent. You don’t have to start with the short vowels, obviously, if your daughter is ahead of it. The biggest bang for our buck has been the kids who are great readers, but AWFUL spellers and are going back and filling in those gaps and becoming WAY more fluent!

    This may mean nothing and I may seem insane, but hopefully it helps. Word families have really helped my kids…and most of them don’t have awesome moms at home to help, let alone teach! 🙂 

    • Sarah Mae

      Friend, that is extremely helpful, thank you SO much! 

  • Trina Holden

    The best thing I’ve done for my kids is to continue to educate myself. I read Raymond and Dorothy Moore who encourage waiting till a child is ready. My son is practically teaching himself to read and I firmly believe it’s because we’ve just focused on having fun with letter recognition until his brain developed enough for it to ‘click’.

    I’m SO glad you’ve found something that works for you – that is the most important thing, and a message I’m glad you’re spreading.

  • bt.marsh

    The first thing I would say is 6 1/2 is still very young to expect a fluent reader.  I say this as an ex-teacher and a homeschool parent.  
    Funny – we are doing the opposite.  Having had three children learn to read without any curriculum or program, I am now resorting to some structure for my 4th child.  She is 6 and hardly reading.  I’m not worried at all (and I can almost guarantee that by the time you get to child number 3, you won’t be either 😉 ).  We are using a little bit of this and that: “All About Reading/Spelling” as a guide, Bob books, and Fitzroy readers (an Australian phonics program) and reading eggs on the computer. Mostly we use home-made methods, like you are doing.My first three learnt to read very early simply through natural methods.  We tried to make our home as literacy-rich as possible and then it largely did the work for us.  My fourth child is a completely different kettle of fish.  She just didn’t pick it up as quickly.  It is different also because my other three are older and needing my attention for their schoolwork more, so I don’t have as much time to sit and play games for hours like I did with the others.  There are so many lovely, relaxed ways of learning to read, and I agree that many programs make it way more complicated than it needs to be.  I think the key is a combination of the right timing, confidence, a lack of pressure, as well as lots of opportunities to practice.

    The “natural” methods that were the most effective and enjoyable for us were:

    -magnetic words on the fridge (“secret/silly messages” and questions would magically appear overnight for giggling children to read and reply in the morning)

    – LOADS of literacy games – board games, matching cards, memory, etc

    – pointing out words/phonics patterns in real life  – while shopping, driving etc

    – making games out of simple books – writing individual words from the book on slips of paper, playing recognition games with them  and reconstructing sentences, or making new (often silly) ones using the same words – this takes away the pressure of writing, which for some children is a deterrent.

    -Reading books together and leaving out appropriate words for the child to read.

    – Anything that is silly or funny!  

    As an aside; in Finland, children do not officially start learning to read until they are 7, and they are one of the  most literate nations in the world.

    Enjoy your emergent readers!  It is such an amazing process.  How blessed are we that we get to witness it!

    • Sarah Mae

      I love hearing what you did-thank you SO much for sharing!

  • Stephanie (MomKaboodle)

    Ohhhh Sarah Mae ~ thank you for writing about this.  I, too, am a curriculum junkie.  I’ve done reviews for Marshall Publishing’s First Start Reading, Reading Eggs, and am now reviewing I See Sam….he likes all of these programs very much, but is still reluctant to read at 6.5.  I’ve been kicking myself lately b/c I haven’t been pushing him much lately to learn….but you reminded me here that he needs me to wait until he’s ready.  He LOVES being read to.  I think if I just keep doing that with him, that we’ll get there eventually.  Thanks for the much-needed reminder!

  • Elizabeth

    Ah, the joys of homeschooling and reading programs. My Mom always patched together curriculum for my brother and I. She wrote my Math book in the fourth or firth grade because nothing was working. Well done you, it’s so awesome that you know your daughter and what works for her. I’m sure the lessons will stick with her a very long time- and they’re much more than reading. 

  • Brooke McGlothlin

    We love My Father’s World. BUT, I agree that forcing a child to learn to read before they’re ready is not good. My son was ready, but I’m not so sure my 4 yo (little bro) will be at the same time. If he’s not, I’ll just continue reading to him and introducing things to him a little at a time. That’s the beauty of homeschooling…you can do what works for you and for them 🙂 Love that you’ve found your groove! 

    • Sarah Mae

      I haven’t completely found it, but I’m getting there. 😉

  • Tsh @

    Just wanted to throw out that we used The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for Tate, and it worked wonderfully. Nice and simple. Love everything Peace Hill Press publishes, pretty much.

    Hope you’re well, friend!

    • Sarah Mae

      Thanks Tsh, I’ll check that out! 🙂

    • Amy @

      I loved using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide with both of my younger kids. It is easy to follow and has lots of review. Most of the time you simply read the short lesson and do the oral exercises. Occasionally, there are cards to make out ahead of time that will be used for a game, etc., but they only take five minutes to put together.

      I used this book with my daughter after we had been using another program that I thought wasn’t working so great for her. I started at the beginning of Ordinary Parent’s Guide, but I moved quickly through the early lessons. It was totally fine that it wasn’t the first thing we tried.

      • Monica @ dailydwelling

        I, too, have used The Ordinary Parent’s Guide for all of my children. I have two six year olds, one is an avid reader. She’s making her way though all of the American Girls books and many others. She loves to read!! The other one is a bit slower, but she is progressing through the lessons well. We had to do a lot of reviewing with her and I’m seeing  alot of progress now. I’ve also started my little boy with this when he was four (he’s almost five now) and he is starting to read. We’re taking the lessons really slow and doing lots of review and I am surprised at how well he is doing!!

        I think this is an excellent resource!!! I don’t know how I would have taught my children to read without it. I’ll have to by a new one when my youngest is ready for it, because it is falling apart from being used so much!

        I agree with Tsh I love everything that Peace Hill Press puts out!

        • Suzi Jeremiah Fabry

          I do too Monica they are wonderful!!!

  • Rhondasuedevine

    My favorite reading source I used with all my children was a simple book called Alpha-Phonics pared with the Bob Readers and lots of reading of library books.  Worked like a charm!

    • Sarah Mae

      I keep hearing about this Alpha-Phonics…

  • Traci

    Great idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<3<3  You are so smart !

  • Shawna

    Thank you very much for this blog today!  It was very helpful and encouraging to read your struggles and your curriculum now as well as the many comments from other moms.  I taught kindergarten and loved teaching reading especially. Now at home with my 6 year old, I have been worried wondering what I am doing wrong.  I know that she would have been in the “average” group at school, but it is hard not to have high expectations for your own child (and for myself as teacher).  I take a little bit from everywhere and use the Sonlight curriculum for read a louds, which we all (4 year old boy included) have enjoyed.

  • Lisa

    Oh my, I am a curriculum junkie too! Glad to meet you.  I want to encourage you not to be so stressed about forcing her to read.  Drill phonics and read to her.  She will get it. 

    After homeschooling six I can tell you I have tried it all.  I have found  that a good phonics foundation is really what works.  Once they have the phonetic sounds down they can read anything. Have you tried Reading Pathways?  A few minutes a day, simple & easy.  I would also recommend check out their site. They have a Ready 2 Read curriculum that helps once your daughter gets the basic phonics skills down.Once she is ready for fluency I would suggest trying Victory Drills.  Hope this helps.Good Luck!

  • Carrie

    I taught the first (of 5) how to read and after that, it was all easy. He read to them. I read to them. They just sort of picked it up. One of the children was like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and I can’t remember a time when she didn’t read. I just know I didn’t teach her. She someone just soaked it in.

    In my case, the first one was the hardest.

  • Rebecca

    I’m not much more advanced than you. I have a 7 and a half year old who (as we found out later) is severely dyslexic and just now barely starting to decode sentences (he’s not very fluent yet). I’ve tried so many curricula and programs (in French since we live in France) in search of the perfect one  so that learning to read would be a breeze. Well, after trying a couple or so “perfect programs” with my second son (6 yo) I’ve learned one big lesson : all children are different and learn differently. I don’t think there is one perfect way that works with every child.

    My oldest needed systematic teaching and intensive phonics. I took him 4 months to grasp sound blending. He doesn’t come up with a word from the context, he will rather say something incoherent. (for example he read yesterday the word “morceau” “margo”)

    My second is much more intuitive. He’s a global learner. He either recognizes a word or he doesn’t but never says something that isn’t a word. He had no trouble understanding sound blending and phonics bores him to death and makes him go crazy (he’ll just say “I don’t know, this is too hard for me” and I can’t get anything out of him, although he is perfectly capable of decoding the syllables or words). He needs what he reads to have meaning and to be interesting to him. So I found these great books called “Puddle Lane books” (they’re old, but here is the idea behind them : The parent reads the story on the left page and then the child reads the simple text on the right page. He can sorta guess what is written but learns a ton without even noticing it. They’re are four levels and the part the child reads gets longer and longer. The same words are repeated often but the stories are fun and always different one from another. My second son loves them. He begs me to do reading time whereas he was very uncooperative when we were using learning to read curriculum.

    I know this way of doing would bot have worked with my oldest. You really have to figure out what works best for each child individually.

  • MamaGee

    ! have 8 children and we homeschool the oldest 6 so far. hey are all diffeernt. they all learn diffferently. Take your time, read her LOTS of books, and it will come. My eldest read fluently when he was 6. the next son – the penny didnt drop unti lhe was 11 – he is now 15 and at the same level as all hs other ‘schooled’ mates. Child #3 learnt to read when he was 9 and STILL doesnt enjoy reading. our 8 and 9 year olds learnt to read together 18 months ago using Jolly Phonics – they were the easiest by far! 🙂  the school system says they mudt read by age 6…however therir system is some what flawed if you see how many children are in reading recovery programs….dont push, it will come 🙂 xo

  • Vanessa

    I’m not a homeschooling mom or have any experience with teaching, but when my son entered Kindergarten we were shocked to discover that he was reading at a first grade level. 

    We didn’t use a curriculum or do a lot of extra practice or work with him.  All children are different with different talents, but after our experience I’m convinced that one of the best ways to teach children to read and help them enjoy reading is to read to them early and have lots of books available for them to look at. 

    We started reading to our oldest when he was around 8 months old.  We have always kept a bookcase with children’s books in the living room and as soon as our children could walk, we noticed that they would go to the bookcase, pick out a book, and sit on the floor to look at it.

    I also highly recommend purchasing the letter and number fridge magnets.  My oldest loved making words on the fridge with the letters and would often ask me, “mom how do you spell….”   He would find the letters while I spelled the word for him.  We would often do this while I was washing dishes or baking…I was happy that he was occupied while I was able to get things done and he thought it was a great game.

    We feel that incorporating reading and spelling into our daily lives really made all the difference.

  • Kendal Rich

    Reading was my biggest fear when it came to homeschooling.  My daughter is 7 and in first grade and this year has gone considerably better than last year.  Reading has clicked and it is now not a struggle.  We use Horizons and we love it!  Getting her to read everyday is a huge help and really a must.  She reads Frog and Toad, Little Bear and she loves to read the Dr. Seuss books.  Don’t worry, she’ll get it!!  I honestly thought my Evie would never read.  God has equipped our little ones to learn so we don’t have to have the perfect curriculum or be the perfect teacher. 🙂

  • Amber

    Sarah Mae – I love this! I tend to be a curriculum junkie too! I recently have also realized how I make schooling in general more complicated than what it needs to be. As modern-day homeschoolers, we have SO many resources right at the click of a computer mouse. So how in the world did the early homeschoolers every survive?? 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

  • Busymomof10

    This was very interesting for me, as I have been through a variety of programs after teaching ten children how to read.  I recently had success with my youngest and wrote about my experience here: 

    One of the things that interests me is that my children have learned to read at such different ages — between the ages of 5 and 9!!!   I thought my next to last child would never learn to read!  Finally, I had to switch to a totally different approach with him!  You can read about it at the link above, if you are interested.

    Glad you found what works for you and your daughter! 

  • Lacinda

    I used Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons with my 2 older children, and yes, they’d hit a slump — for us it hit around lesson 60. When that happened, I went back 30 lessons, or even more, to where they were comfortable. That helped a lot, and the second time through was much better. They are both great readers now. We use All About Spelling too which gives a good understanding of how words are built.
    I love hearing what has and hasnt worked for people. I’ve been hearing a lot about All About Reading lately!

  • Amy

    So glad to know there are other curriculum junkies out there…you think there would be a 12-step program for us, but they just keep sending us invitations to curriculum fairs…geez!  I’ve taught 2 daughters to read using Reading Made Easy by Valerie Bendt, and I loved it.  It was very easy, “turn the page and do this” type lessons, and they really “got” it.  I have another one coming up that I plan to use it with, but this one’s a boy…so, it could be TOTALLY different.  They all learn so differently.  I love what you’re doing with yours.

    • Sarah Mae

      We do need a 12 step program! I’m already gearing up for the curriculum fair coming here in May! Haha!

  • Heidi Seawell

    Just found your blog via MSM & I love it- and I am thoroughly enjoying dumping my frumps for pumps  this month 😉 
    I used to teach in a public school, and this is exactly how we taught reading. Level appropriate books, with guided instruction about the reading “rules” as we went, because that way students could really see that rule in context! Good job!

  • Kristine McGuire

    Sounds like you’ve hit upon a great solution. When my kids were young and I was homeschooling them, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Worked great with my older daughter, not so much with my younger. I discovered how different children learn in a variety of ways. Giving my kids a chance to read (billboards, magazines, cereal boxes) as well as informal lessons coupled with reading to them daily is what I settled upon. Great post! Makes me wish my kids were young again so I could go back to homeschooling. Even though I eventually had to put my kids in public school, homeschooling was a great experience for all of us. It helped my daughters become life-long learners and that in itself is a very good thing.

  • Dana

    Hi!  I started my 4 year old daughter in Kindergarten with ABEKA.  I love the way they build, so it’s learn, review, add to what you’ve learned, review some more.  I’m sure most are like this.   Lacey was reading by the end of her first semester in Kindergarten.  They have wonderful flash cards to begin with and in 1st grade, charts to review the sounds and then add to 🙂  At 5, she sits in her room and reads during her spare time.  The reason I went with ABEKA at all was because I was familiar with it, as my 2 older girls had grown up with it in the Christian school they attended before we started homeschooling.

  • Sarah Schaller

    We used A Beka. I like how it teaches them to read sounds in simple easy steps that help them feel accomplished. Plus, we use the little rules/rhymes “when two vowels go walking…” etc. I understand that to a lot of homeschool moms this may seem so “school-y” so to speak! 🙂 But it worked well for mine so that’s why we used it. I love the perspective that there doesn’t have to be rules and regulations about how to teach your children. One of joys of homeschooling! Thanks!

  • Mirinda Dawe

    My son is 7 now (Jan) and he’s always been home schooled and we’ve used multiple curriculums for reading, with no success. I also quit the curriculum ride a year ago, seeing nothing was really working. We also started suspected something was wrong because of different things he exhibits (no short term memory while reading was a biggie) and he was just tested through the school system and through a private tester we paid: dyslexia, moderate to severe. We felt that was coming but what a shock still! As a homeschooling mama I am overwhelmed with the curriculum issue because it is WAY important at this point. We have people telling us to use this, use that….but as a mama- learning disabled child or not- you have to do what is best for YOUR child. So great post- and I think what you are doing with her is awesome. 

  • Rebekah

    I am currently using Abeka’s Handbook for Reading. I too like a direct, not too many activities, approach to all our. I have the teacher books that go along with Abeka’s program, but I take only the basics and leave the rest. I have been VERY pleased with it. My oldest is 7, doing second grade work. I’ve also started my four year old with the basics of learning letter sounds, but only because he’s expressing an interest. I only spend 5-10 minutes with him going over the sounds.

    Have you heard of or read “How to Tutor” by Samuel L. Blumenfeld? It’s an excellent resource for the first three years, and in fact, I know of many who have chosen to use this book alone for this time of learning to read.

  • Harriet Yoder

    What your article and most of the comments add is that homeschooling is about teaching each individual and unique child in the way that works best for that child.

    Sometimes I think it is trial and error, but if you don’t use a particular book because it wasn’t working, you can always try it with another child or find a friend whose child might love it.

  • Naomi

    My children are much older now and are avid readers. I used Horizons with all my children when they started learning how to read. Its a fun, easy program that I worked through at the pace of each child’s learning ability. I wanted to see them be excited about it so each child was approached to his learning style without changing curriculum. It worked for us. I believe we do as needed to teach our children. If what you have set up is working, them continue on! You may have designed a new curriculum. 😉 Be encouraged if what you’re doing now is productive. Reading, and teaching it, should be fun not a chore.

  • Tyrean

    Sounds like a good way to learn! I love homeschooling because we can use our skills to fit our child’s needs and skill set. We used a combo of books, letter tiles, and paper plates to learn how to read, and learn the alphabet. The Bob books were helpful for starters, and we used easy readers much like you are too. Our letter tiles were magnets that sat on a magnetic board, and we could use them to make word ladders. Cat to hat to rat to mat to bat to sat and so on. The paper plate alphabet came from a book about reaching active kids, and it was a huge help to us since my oldest needed to move every moment when she was 6. We printed alphabet letters on paper plates, and then she could jump from plate to plate to learn the alphabet or to spell/sound out simple words. We also liked using sidewalk chalk and playing letter hop.

  • Tammy_Skipper

    I am not sure if this has already been mentioned in the comments but I wanted to say a couple things. One, good for you for doing what works for the two of you, whether or not it’s a printed curriculum. Two, you may find each child is different. The process of going through all these may help you recognize which one works best for your other children. Our son was reading books like Harry Potter by 1st/2nd grade, but our daughter didn’t read easily until age 8 or 9. Now that they are teens, our daughter is the one who has a desire to write and our son has better focus on technical and mathematical subjects. I wish I could go back to myself when she was 5 and we were struggling through that reading curriculum and say, “It’s ok. She will read. She will love it. Your success as a mom is not dependent on this book.”

  • Jess

    Wow! You’ve tried so many things in so little time! Glad you’ve found something that works for both of you. That can be a struggle in itself. Sometimes I’m more bored than she is! We love Hooked on Phonics. It’s about 10 minutes a day. My daughter is 5 and half way through second grade reading. She’s a smarty but we’re not talking genius level. It’s just a matter of fact method. I was reading something else about two different phonics approaches and it made a lot of sense. There’s the 100 easy lessons approach and then the Hooked on Phonics approach. Sounds like you prefer the HOP ( ie says e).
    I tell my kids all the time that if they can read they can know anything they want to know.

  • Melissa W

    We used 100 Easy Lessons with my son (Kindergarten) , he wasn’t fond of it but did learn to read, until the paragraphs became too long (lesson 70 or so)  and he just gave up because he was so overwhelmed. Then, in frustration I found Time4Learning as a means of teaching him phonics and working with him to overcome his new found reading standstill.  My son has flourished and I’ve learned all about phonics since I had never learned phonics as a child. Presently, my son loves Time4learning (1 year later) and we go to the Library and grab books for him to read aloud. Nothing elaborate for this 1st grader  but it seems to work …. for today!

  • Catherine

    I agree with so many of the comments here! My 7 year old is slowly and surely progressing, but it’s hard not to compare with other children, especially those at school. I heard somewhere that those people who learn to read at a very young age often ‘speed read’ everything when they’re older and find it hard to really concentrate on a book. That’s me! So I feel that the best thing to do is just go at her own pace. I’m using Explode the Code (and she loves the funny pictures) and the British ‘Peter and Jane’ books, which I think are great – they only gradually introduce new words, and they’re interesting stories – not at all ‘twaddly’.

  • Jessica Blood

    I found that the main reason my kids did not read early is because I forced it down their throats before they were ready.
    I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, along with Explode the code books A,B,&C. After that was finished I then started them in Adventures to Phonics by Christian Liberty Press.
    We would have to make our oldest read everyday, she hated it and so did we.
    But the summer between her 3rd grade year and her 4th grade year I started wrapping up books and leaving them in the mail box from a secret friend. I used the Little House on the Praire series along with a note, she could not fiqure out how her secret friend knew when she was finished with  one book to send the next one. Ever since then she has loved reading and  she checks out 6-8 books every week at the library and finishes them with in 4-5 days.

    • Tara Jacobs

      I absolutely love the idea of wrapping up the books. That’s so much fun!
      I think it’s all about keeping it fun with programs like this and what you suggested.
      – Tara

  • Laura @ Green Legacy Farm

    My sister-in-law sent me this link because it sounds almsot exactly like what I’ve gone through with my daughter, who is 7 1/2.  We tried Spell to Write and Read (disaster), 100 Easy Lessons (I had the same issues with it), probably a couple others, and settled on All About Reading/Spelling.  Right now, I’m handing her a reader and having her write down words she doesn’t know.  I write them on notecards, we go over them, then we read a bit.   So thanks for sharing – it’s encouraging to find someone else who has gone through similar struggles! 

  • Heather Anderson

    Teaching reading can be overwhelming.  I love phonics and your summary.  Something I would highly recommend would be to take some training from Wanda Sensari.  She trained with Ramalda Spalding and the Writing Road to Reading – a very similar method as used by Tatras.  Writing Road to Reading can be very complicated but Wanda simplified it and did what you would have liked with TATRAS – what to do every day.  It is also not as complicated as Phonics Museum.  Her seminars are excellent for just getting going.  ( I have used her method with six of my seven children.)  But the bottom line is, do what works for you.

  • tdbradbury

    I know everyone is throwing their own suggestions into the ring here already, but I do have one little suggestion too. My son just started his “kindergarten” year of homeschooling this past fall, 2011. When we started the first week of September, he still couldn’t recognize his upper and lowercase alphabet letters. He was 5, turning six in January. I worked with him plenty, but we just struggled. I was scared to death to start homeschooling him, not knowing if “I” could teach “him”. I ordered “My Father’s World” as our curriculum. Woah. I had no idea how intense that curriculum was. My son couldn’t even sit still for more then 7 minutes, there was no way we were going to get through that curriculum. I stumbled across “A Well-Trained Mind” on a different blog, bought it and started reading it. While I was doing that all my son’s “lessons” consisted of was using the upper and lower case letter cards that came with the “My Father’s World” curriculum. I would just show them to him one at a time, over and over, until he finally could recognize them independently. That took us almost six weeks.

    I decided to follow the suggestion in the “A Well-Trained Mind” book and purchase their “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”. When I finally received the book, I was nervous about the lessons. No pictures, just cut and dry. The lessons are very specific and super simple. All you need is the book, index cards and a pen or marker. Seriously. That was a relief to me because I hated all the prep work behind the various other curriculums. The “Guide” even told you exactly what to say. I didn’t know how my son would handle the lessons since he was only able to sit still for about 10 minutes now. It ended up working perfectly! The lessons were very simple, basic, and only took about 10 minutes to do! As we continued on his attention span continued to stretch out slowly but surely. The lessons get one to two minutes longer over time.

    I hope you’ll check out the “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”. It’s absolutely worth the $20, and it covers all the aspects of learning to read in the most clear and concise way I’ve found. No frills, no wastes of time, no busy work. Just honest learning to read properly.

  • Jenn

    Have you tried the Orton-Gillingham Method? I’m a reading teacher by trade, and the traditional phonics-based Orton-Gillingham Method is by far the best I’ve ever used for both encoding and decoding!

  • Rachael

    My 5 year old son doesn’t want to do anything that isn’t fun. So we have been using Happy Phonics, and it was been a lot of fun. He is not reading, but can sound out CVC words and is learning some of the blend sounds now. Happy Phonics teaches them all the sounds through games and he has loved all of them so far.
    I do love the paper and pen idea though, so simple and easy. We might give that a try next 🙂

  • Alice

    I purchase a lot of curriculum as well.  I’m learning that these homeschool companies are really great at marketing.  They make me think I need everything!  Therefore, I avoid the fairs like the plague.

    My 1st child learned to read by age 4.  He knew all uppercase, lowercase & sounds by age 2yrs 2mo.  My 2nd child is still struggling at 5 1/2 with most of that.  We are finally breaking ground with the preschool version of Explode the Code.  It is horribly repetative for me but she is retaining it and loving it to pieces.  She gets overwhelmed & discouraged if we move on too fast so this program is great.  Before this program she knew her letters & sounds one day and then the next she didn’t.  3rd child is more like the 1st so I’m not sure what I’ll use.

    I’ve tried a lot of programs for reading including the 100 lessons, abeka, houghton mifflin, etc.  Nothing worked for the 5 year old until we got the McGuffey Readers.  I purchased the revised because I didn’t know about the originals. Both of my kids (kinder & 2nd) love these and beg for their time to read. They are short & keep them interested. I use a white board in a similar way that you use the notebook.

    It’s a humbling experience & I’m learning to embrace their strengths & differences, then pray for sanity in the meantime.

    Sounds like you are a doer & a fixer like me so don’t forget to stop & listen to His answers.  They’re always better than mine!

  • musiklady

    I’m so thankful to read your post.  This is how I taught my daughter to read, mainly because she was ready before I was.  But I have always felt guilty that we didn’t make sure she learned all of the phonics rules in a certain order.  So, I’ve been forcing my son to go through a phonics curriculum in which each lesson is much too involved.  So, we do 1/3 to 1/2 of the lesson at a time.  Since it’s a library book, perhaps I just won’t renew it and will go back to the way my daughter learned. 

  • Breezy Brookshire

    I love this idea, Sarah! This will definitely be going into my homeschooling notebook for my future children!!

    Growing up around different curriculum and going to homeschool conventions, I know there is Something for Everyone. But for me, the most simple, handwritten ways ended up being the most effective. And at the beginning I didn’t completely understand the “whys” of the English language, but learning a little of Latin later on helped tremendously. But don’t think about Latin right now!!

  • Rachel @ finding joy

    Excellent post, Sarah Mae. I’ve discovered, after teaching five children (and starting on the sixth) that there is not one curriculum that works for all of them. Not one! However, I do agree with your assessment of All About Reading. My fifth (and now the sixth) are using that program and for them reading has been easier. It’s a delightful mix of rules, worksheets, etc…and it keeps them engaged and eager.
    I am so glad you “figured” out what works for your daughter. It sounds wonderful and I think I’ll adopt that notebook approach as well. Great idea!Be blessed!Rachel

  • sara jane

    We have TONS of easy readers at home already! DUH! Why didn’t I think of using them in this simple, easy way?  Makes me want to recheck out all the Henry and Mudges from the library and go thru them with my kindergartner this way.  

    I chuckle when I think of all those REAL Deut 6 mommas rolling over in their graves and wanting to shout to us “y’all need to chill out a little and keep TELLING the story to them…”

    Thank you for your posts! SUCH encouragement is derived from keeping’-it-real words from fellow moms in the trenches 🙂

  • Lisa Petrik

    I didn’t read all the previous comments, but my son LOVED The Reading Lesson I’m with you on the “simple and straight-forward” approach and this fit the bill perfectly. As a first time homeschooler myself, I understand the frustration of trial and error! Glad you are finding a way that works for you. Keep going…your daughter will eventually learn everything she needs to learn, at her own pace.

  • Mandy S

    We were struggling at 6 years old, too…We started using Language Lessons for Little Ones….LOVE it!  My son has really made a lot of progress this year! He is now reading the Early Readers Bible…which he loves….he is on page 275 and can look back over the year to see how much he has read…a big confidence booster!

  • Bowmania

    Thank you so much for this! My 7 yr old isn’t reading fluently yet. I get nervous because he is 7! My oldest son picked up on reading no problem. Right now we are working at a slow pace.
    Reading all of the comments I am encouraged!

    THANK YOU!!!

  • Jaime

    We also used The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.  In many ways, it’s set up similarly to what you’ve done on your own.  I first heard about it on Pioneer Woman’s website, and decided to check it out.  It’s perfect – simple, no bells and whistles, but it works!

  • Da2hillsmom

    i use Phonics Pathways with my kids and love it. we go over a page a day and then read  a book that is easy for them to read. Then we read a page of Reading Pathways which helps with fluency through reading pyramids, my kids like it. I like it, it is easy, little prep and they are reading. age 7 and 5.

  • Alainna

    It sounds like you have had quite the journey!  I want to reiterate what others have said about each child learning a different way and a different time.  By 3rd grade it should even out with all children learning to read at different times.   
    As a teacher, my advice is to pick books that are easy for your daughter-below her instructional reading level to improve/work on her fluency.  But, of course, keep doing what you are doing what works well for your daughter.  Just keep encouraging her and you sound like you are a great teacher & mom!
    A really good book that I love is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.   

  • Emma Hartnell-Baker

     I really worry when parents say they wait until the child is ready. Have you seen the statistics- do you know how difficult it is for a child with poor phonemic awareness to learn to read and spell without really good intervention- before they switch off because they cant do it- around 6 or 7?? Did you know that some US prisons actually use year 3 and 4 reading scroes to predict future intake?
    We must sit up and take action.

    Brain research shows us how we can change the brains of children with poor reading and spelling skills – and this means developing phonemic awareness (the parts you use when spelling) with systematic phonics teaching and that you must start early (at least by 5) These three things- if done properly – will ensure that every child is reading and spelling by six.

    We show parents how to do this for free because most Australian schools arent teaching in ways that will help every child. 46% of Australian adults cant follow a cooking recipe.

    The approach is to help children identify speech sounds – the main focus- what is the speech sound at beginning, middle, end of words- can you manipulate them- how many are there etc- and to teach them the pic that represents them- ie speech sound pics.   So when they say the word ‘train; they can hear that there are 4 speech sounds- and know that the sound pics that represent them  are t+r+ai+n. In simple terms, if letters sitting together make a new speech sound its called a sound pic. So ‘sh’ is a sound pic, but ‘tr’ is not.

    If you start with letters- eg it as mentioned in this article that the child learns that ‘a’ ‘makes’ different sounds. It should be the other way around. What are the sounds in our speech- and how are they reprsented.  So the ‘a’ (letter name) sound in speech can be represented by ay, ai, a-e etc. The letter a actually only represents one speech sound- as in cat.  

    The great thing about our approach is that although you systematically introduce sound pics you can build up the child’s knowledge alongside their own natural language develoment, and interests. Because we have speech sound clouds on the wall to represent every speech sound in the english language we can keep adding to them even though we just put one in each to start off with- the one we will start with. So if we start with the sound pic ‘f’ in the speech sound cloud that will have all the sound pics for the ‘fff’ sound in our words, and the child is called Phoebe we just add ‘ph’ as she has already identified the ‘f’ sound- and this is just another speech sound pic.

    Please join our facebook page ‘Read Australia’ for free info, videos, resources and updates.

    (The Reading Whisperer)


    • Elizabeth

      I am not trying to be rude, but the letter “a” alone makes three sounds, not one: short a (as in Apple or cat), long ā (as in grape or snake) and ä (as in wash and walls). Then, there are other phonograms with a in them to learn such as ai, ar, au, augh, aw, and ay.

  • Need A Nap2

    We have used Phonics Pathways.  Our oldest sailed right through it when we started her (?age 5 or 6, I can’t remember, probably 5 1/2).  We liked it because it gives spelling rules and grammar helps but she’s not the best speller so the rules didn’t stick.  🙂  Our 2nd oldest took forever to “take off” in Phonics Pathways but once she did she really took off and is great at spelling.  Our 6 year old son is the sticky one, he’s just now starting to really blend the letters, so I think Phonics Pathways is working but it has taken a long time.  I like how it starts with short vowel sounds b/c those are more prominent for the younger age to grasp and start reading (in my opinion).  Our 4th will probably be starting this fall, we’ll see!  (3 girls and one boy if you were wondering)

  • Rachel Ramey

    You are so right about TATRAS!  It’s what we use, and we love it, but the layout is AWFUL  I don’t know why they make such a simple program look so complicated.

  • Exemptat10

    It sounds to me like your daughter is right brained like my oldest daughter. We were both crying while teaching her to read. We also went through many programs.  You might try using color with her words or lessons, tracing the words in color. Diane Craft at has some great helps for kids that are right brained  in learning reading and understanding how their brains work. She was a great help to us. Our daughter is now 13 and lovesss to read!

  • Leslie Katz

    There are some pretty simple books. I agree with you that entire curricula can be overwhelming. Personally, I can’t keep track of little pieces of things.

    I taught my daughter with the Lippincott Basic Reading series (1963). They are extremely out of print, but Don Potter has the phonics part online:
    I kept her on those and she’s reading through Reader 2-1 at the moment.

    Through the Phonics Barrier is probably at your library and uses an approach very close to what you describe.

    Alpha Phonics is very simple.

  • Rachel

    What a great idea! I began working with my 5 year old on reading and he has picked it up pretty easily, but still needs some work. I had planned on using a phonics program with him this fall when we start kindergarten, but when I flip through the various lessons I feel like it would be boring for him. Your idea is wonderful, it would help him on those days when reading isn’t clicking as much due to too many words he doesn’t know yet & don’t fit with the rules he knows.

  • LavaidaVandelia

    “hopefully” someone else has pointed this out,
    but when you see “ie” together you actually say either “i” (long i- when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking) as in lie
    or “a” (long a) as in “neighbor” or “sleigh”
    There are a few words where “ie” says “e”, but those are not as common- like “fiefdom” and “liege”.

    • sarah

      Or piece, shriek, chief, fierce, brief, priest, grief, pierce, thief, etc… I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of at the moment. Is “e” the only pronunciation of the letter combination “ie”? No. Did the author make an error in her article? No. She was just giving an example one thing she has told her children. I’m sure she has ALSO explained other pronunciations to them. How rude and pretentious of you to offer such a needless and smug “correction”.

      Also, “hopefully” you realize that “ei” is a different letter combination. I am also “hopeful” you realize how strange and unnecessary it was for you to place hopefully in quotation marks. (I used them to be sarcastic btw) I suggest that you do a quick Internet search on when it’s appropriate to use quotation marks, so you can use them properly in the future. Using them incorrectly makes your “I’m so smart” comments look even sillier. (Note that the “ie” combination in sillier sounds like “e”)

  • LavaidaVandelia

    Sorry, I hit send too soon. I wanted to add, that reading fluently is an acquired skill, and having a 6, 7, or even 8 year old who isn’t fluent, really isn’t unusual.
    It is more important that children like to read, enjoy the gaining of knowledge from the reading, and feel good about reading. With much reading, the fluency will come. Reading aloud always helps, and babies, dogs, and cats can make great audiences for a beginning reader. They may not be quite as attentive as a stuffed animal, but generally the feedback is better.
    hope this helps!

  • Angie Hixon

    Why would you eventually return to a curriculum if you don’t need it? If it’s as simple as you just explained, which sounds amazing to me, would it just be for something to do? I don’t want to be any more caught in the curriculum trap than I already am. It’s all so confusing and I just want it to be simple, so I enjoy it more and they do too. I would love to know what would be your motivation to returning to choosing and purchasing curriculum again.

  • Angie Hixon

    I also just noticed this is 2 years old…still, it was on Facebook, the title must have been aimed at my eyeballs, and now I still need to know. Plus, since it has been 2 years, what have or do you do differently? Please and thank you!!

  • RebekahW

    I know this is an old thread here, but I’m a desperate mama looking for a copy of the TATRAS curriculum to teach my daughter with. It seems to be out of print. I’m just wondering if you, or anyone else reading this, know of a source for TATRAS, or if anyone out there is willing to sell me an old used copy?

    • MrsGrammyAmy

      If you’re still looking for TATRAS, I may have two copies and could sell you one. I used it with my children and have used it to teach several others to read. It’s a wonderful, organic method for the right kind of learner. I don’t think it’s the one best thing for everyone and it does not teach spelling. I currently use a blend of TATRAS for reading and SWR for spelling. I am about to teach my first dyslexic student and am considering switching to AAR or Barton. I’d love to discuss TATRAS with you if you’re still interested!

  • Russel Fugal

    I really like your notebook method, it is similar in motivation and personalization to my daughter’s reading practice. I can sympathize with your several curriculum attempts. We have Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I don’t use it. I worked out new systems of instruction that I was sure would hold her interest. They didn’t. I am not yet sure if the final practice which she led me to, which was extraordinarily powerful, has universal appeal to children.

    My daughter is reading above a 6th grade level. She progressed from not reading to a 2nd grade reading level in a few months’ time when she was 3 years old. In only three years she has read over 300 books and 32,000 pages. She just started the 1st Grade. My son is 4 and has developmental dyslexia. He is learning to read just like his sister did.

    I just followed my daughter’s direction. Her biggest interest is books. I never taught her to read any more than I taught her to speak. I did encourage her and help her practice frustration free reading.

    I currently only have a sample size of one and a fraction, and no metrics quantifying the progression, but I do have insanely promising results, and recent scientific literature explains why this would work so well. I have learned some compelling universal lessons of reading.

    I am now writing a book, starting a study of 10 children, and developing an App for children and for competition in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE

    I would love to write a guest post on my story and on the topic. I am starting to blog on this at

  • Tara Jacobs

    Hey Sarah, thanks for this post. As a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher turned homeschool mama I know how important learning to read is. I
    would recommend that people really take action on the tips that you listed in your post.

    Honestly, reading is the most important educational life skill that a child can have. Not being able to read stunts educational development and confidence in so many ways. Before I “retired” from teaching to
    homeschool parents would frequently ask for help on teaching their children to read. I recommended this program it’s the best that I’ve ever found. The videos that show the
    improvement of children’s reading ability with the program over time should make any parent hopeful that teaching your child to be a strong reader is something that CAN and WILL happen.

  • Heather

    After 3 curriculums
    I like The Reading Lesson
    Its teach your child to read in 20 lessons…mix of phonics & sight
    You don’t have to do a full lesson at once
    Its now starting to click
    And my guy is in 1st grade

  • aubrey carey

    I know this is an old post..but my 8 year old is reading, (books like the Flat Stanley series) but still asks me to spell out/sound oit words for him a LOT. So id like to try something like this simple method. But…where do i find the “rules” and tricks for phonics/reading? I know i learned them but I am not a teacher by trade and dont remember the cute little sayings and “rules”.

  • Robert Holcomb

    I researched many different reading methods the past few years. Any can work if the child is motivated to learn. I wrote a book that supplements most teaching programs. You can download it for free.
    Have fun educating your little angel; you will be pulling your hair out when they become a teenager 😉

  • Eric Sepulveda

    Excellent article, I would like to also share this program I used to teach my daughter to read and it worked excellently now she’s reading by herself at 3 and a half.

  • chris james

    Well it is an effort giving task for all parents to teach their kids. Some advance ideas have came where teacher will teach online to all adults. They will receive education according to their flexibility and comfort.

  • Holly G

    Interesting read, but I was confused by “100 Lessons doesn’t teach decoding”. Literally all they teach is decoding. Learn the letter sound, learn to blend, decode the word, string into sentences, string into paragraphs. I don’t think any one program is necessarily the best, but yeah…just didn’t get that. I used to teach 2nd grade and have been to hours and hours of workshops on teaching decoding. I taught both of my kids to decode with 100 Lessons simply because in the homeschool environment, 100 Lessons seems to condense everything I would normally do in the classroom down to something that is easy to implement with one child snuggled up in bed with you, which is exactly how I was already spending my time reading with them. We never finished the whole book either time only because by the time we got to like Lesson 70, we incorporated other reading materials just because they were capable of reading more by then (like BOB books and Biscuit) and they didn’t seem to need more time with 100 Lessons. Things were clicking without it by then and they just moved forward through practice after learning the basic skills from 100 Lessons. My oldest son reads anything…many books for adults (as long as the content is not too mature) and everything else. He learned the periodic table and details about each element completely on his own just by picking up random Chemistry books at the library and reading them and he is 10 years old (in other words…very competent with higher level reading skills). My younger son is 7 and reads at a third grade level (just one year ahead…but ahead).

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