Let me preface this post by saying that it was the hardest of the three parts to write. I’m enjoying the fruits of the high school years. I am most passionate about the middle school years. I love the baby years. But the elementary years (somewhere between age five to eight or nine) are scary to me. I have seen 3 children go through this stage and the fourth is in the middle of it now . Each child in this stage develops at a different pace. By middle school they even out to a great extent, but until then there can be great differences. Of my children, the first and second read by age five and the third and fourth by the age of eight. The first and third were early walkers and writers, and the second and fourth were late walkers and writers. My approach was about the same, but they were made and responded differently.
“I don’t see what the difference is in a home setting whether the child reads at six or at eight. They still learn to read.”
Okay, that was my confident speech that I give myself often. Here’s the truth. I stress myself all the time about the little ones.
“Am I laying down the foundation that they need? Am I failing them? Am I too relaxed? Why aren’t they getting it yet? Why are they behind the other kids their ages?”
I’ve used a relaxed approach with all four kids. My 15 year old amazes me. My 12 year old has turned the corner and is becoming independent in his learning. My 10 year old finally picked up chapter books this year. I have one child left to watch through this time. It is still scary, but not as scary as it was the first couple of times through. They do appear to be behind for the first few years, but they catch up and excel later. I have to trust the process.
So what do I teach and what materials do I use?
Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons— I love this book. By the 13th lesson the child can read a three word story with an illustration, and they are so proud of themselves. It is simple but works. We never get through the whole book before they drop it for real books. That is the ultimate goal anyway. I want to help them fall in love with books.
Writing: Assuming my child already knows how to form each letter on paper, these are ways I have found helpful in practicing writing naturally.
Have them copy from books, poems, songs that they love. They can write letters to siblings and friends. Set up mailboxes for them to play games that include writing. Have them take orders for dinner and write them down. There are so many ways to employ writing skills in everyday life.
I write for them sometimes too. I let them dictate a story to me and I write it out. They love reading their story in writing, and it makes them want to do more.
Math: I usually buy a workbook for them around age seven. I buy the cheap $10 books because I know we will only do bits and pieces of it. I try to find hands on options when I can. I have a paper clock that I use to teach time. I teach measuring in the kitchen while baking cupcakes or when measuring how tall they have grown. I teach adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, even fractions with candy. I use the workbooks to keep an eye on where they should be, but it is definitely no big deal if we don’t use it if it is not what works. Sometimes what works are computer games and tablet apps. Our favorites are Jump Start, Reader Rabbit, and Math Missions.
Other: They are also learning Bible from church and from talking about it as it comes up at home, science and social studies as we experience them in a natural setting, through good books, and through television programs like Wild Kratts and Liberty Kids.
I followed my own convictions in teaching them for a while before I found a name that defined what I was already doing. Charlotte Mason advocates a gentle approach to learning, and it really does work.