Why am I Writing this Blog?

I am very concerned about the growing level of illiteracy among our children. This blog is for parents who are homeschooling, parents whose children are falling behind at school and they don't know how to help them, teachers who would like to bounce ideas off an experienced teacher or get ideas to help student with problems. I will do everything in my power to help anyone in the areas of reading and writing.

In this blog I'll be using the original English spelling forms, so please make allowances if you're American or have been taught the American spelling form.

Please be understanding about the advertisements on the blog. It gives me the opportunity to earn a little to add to my pension.

Related links for teaching training, lesson plans and worksheets:

Fantastic Free Video series on how to teach handwriting:
by handwriting expert Nan Jay Barchowsky
by handwriting teacher Matt Nisjak

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: http://www.handwritingebooks.com/
101 sheets of lower case and 101 of upper case letters, plus a bonus book on numbers and another on words for $5.95 for the lot - A great bargain.

Information on Education and Homeschooling
EducationBug: Education Directory - articles, directory, newsletter and profiles on schools

Free Worksheets:
Eastside Literacy
First - Schools

Lined Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting For Kids

Making Handwriting Sheets:
Handwriting Worksheets
Ed Helper

Videos About Teaching Handwriting:
Teachers TV

Free Lessons and Ideas:
The Electric Company
First 55 Come Alive
Literacy, Families and Learning
ESL Partyland

Ed Helper - Spelling
Ed Helper - Reading Comprehension
Ed Helper - Vocabulary
First - School
Sites for Teachers
Sites for Parents
Clipart for Worksheets
The Teacher's Corner
Teaching Made Easier
School Express

Membership Sites:
Ed Helper
Reading A-Z
ELSIE: Reading 0-6

Inexpensive Handwriting Books
Staidens Homeschooling

Monday, June 16, 2008

What are Phonics?

Emma Hartnell-Baker is a guest blogger this week. Check out her website here

When is a good time to start teaching children to read?
A child begins learning at birth. Early experiences with spoken and written language set the stage for a child to become a successful reader. The more you talk, read and interact with your child, the better chance he has to become a good reader. A good time to start teaching your child about letters and sounds is when he begins to talk.

What is print awareness?
When a child learns about print and books and how they are used, this is called print awareness. He becomes familiar with the idea that the words he sees in print are related to the words he speaks. For example, words can be seen in books or on billboards.

What is alphabetic knowledge?
When a child begins knowing the names and shapes of letters this is called alphabetic knowledge.

What is phonological awareness?
When a child begins to understand that sentences are made up of words, and words have parts called syllables, he is beginning to develop phonological awareness which is the ability to learn about sounds of spoken language.

What is phonemic awareness?
When a child also understands that spoken words are made up of separate small sounds, he is developing phonemic awareness. These individual sounds in spoken language are called phonemes. For example, there are three phonemes (or sounds) in the word big, /b/, /i/, and /g/. (A letter between slash marks shows the sound that the letter represents, not the name of the letter).

What is phonics?
Phonics is when a reader learns to use letter/sound relationships to form words and is able to recognize words when he sees them.

What is blending?
Blending is when the reader puts together sounds to make words.

What is Segmentation?
When the child takes spoken words apart sound by sound.

What is phonics instruction?
Phonics instruction is when the instructor helps the beginning reader see the relationship between sounds of spoken language and letters of written language. Understanding these relationships gives the child a tool that he can use to recognize familiar words and figure out words he hasn't seen before.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More on Toxic Words

Here is a follow up on the entry by Guest Blogger, Carole Rule on Toxic Words. This is an enormously important subject when trying to teach your child. It takes strength of mind to change the way you react, but if you've chosen to help your child to succeed, you have that strength of mind.

Toxic words cut into the ego even when we use them on ourselves, so imagine how much worse it is on a child who looks up to you and wants to please you. I mentioned some of them in my last blog but there are others.

Let me list the words and how they cut.

'but' - negates what you just said, so even if it was praise, you have just taken it back or worse.

'if ' - presupposes you may not succeed, setting YOU up for failure be it a child or yourself.

'would have' - draws attention to what didn't happen, nullifying what did happen.

'should have' - not only draws attention but implies guilt because it didn't happen.

'could have' - tries to take credit for what didn't happen and ignore what did happen.

'try' - not only presupposes failure it gives permission to fail!

'might' - leaves options for the listener, not definitive answers.

'can't or don't' - forces focus on the opposite of what you want.

True stories:

A boy and his cousin were playing in the yard and climbing trees when a storm blew in. The aunt called out to her son "Don't fall!" while the boy's father yelled "Hang on!" The boy hung on tightly to the limb and was ok but the cousin fell and broke his arm because the brain first has to figure what is supposed to be done before it can interpret not to do it.

On a little league team there was a pop ball to an area of the field with the weakest player. Dad yelled at him "Don't drop it!" but the coach yelled "Catch it!" What do you think happened? Well luckily the coach was louder and closer and the kid caught the ball. They didn't win the game but think how proud that boy was that he actually caught the ball.


If you get into the habit of watching what you say to yourself, maybe you will be better about toxic words to your child, so both of you will benefit. If you stop wondering what if or I should have, after making decisions, you will find you are less indecisive and will stop tearing your own ego down.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Super Teachers Needed

Explanation of the Two Major Approaches to Reading

The two best known approaches to teaching reading are the Phonics Approach and the Whole Language Approach. Below is an excellent article that clearly explains the origin and explanation of both. My writing it out for you would be a waste of time, so I've printed out the first paragraph and then, if you want to read more, just click on the link below.

While this is a well written article, the conclusion at which it arrives, is idealistic and unworkable. After all explanation of both approaches, it concludes that the teacher should aim to teach what the individual student requires from each approach. Keeping in mind that the teacher has, perhaps, thirty or more students in his/her class, that means thirty or more indivual lessons each day just for teaching reading and writing.

Of course the teacher could combine the students into groups so that each group needed approximately the same type of teaching, but even then there is the need to both plan and mark an inordinate number of lessons each day. This is just for reading and writing. What about time to teach the rest of the subjects? As you can see the end conclusion in this article would require an impossible amount of time and energy for any teacher, hence the need for super powers. However, do not despair, there is a way for you, as parents to help your child. I'll cover this in the next blog.


There have been, over the years, two general instructional approaches that have governed reading education. They have gone by many names, but today they are generally known as Phonics and Whole Language approaches. These approaches to reading instruction reflect very different underlying philosophies and stress very different skills.

The philosophy underlying the Whole Language approach is that reading is a natural process, much like learning to speak, and that children exposed to a great deal of authentic, connected text will naturally become literate without much in the way of explicit instruction in the rules and conventions of printed text.

The philosophy underlying the Phonics approach is quite different -- Phonics advocates argue that in order to learn to read, most children require a great deal of explicit instruction in the rules of printed text. Click here for the rest of the article.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Toxic Words


This blog entry is by Carole Rule, a guest blogger. She has her own blog called Your Handwriting Explained, which is a fascinating read if you're interested in analysing handwriting.

Most of us perpetuate thoughts and actions, without realizing it, by treating our children and others as we were treated growing up. Not to say this is always a bad thing, especially if we were raised in a nurturing family.

We have all heard that abuse engenders abuse and how many of us as teens have said, "When I have children I will never do that to my kids", only to find as a parent we do the same things mom and dad did. If this something is making them hold to a curfew, do chores, be responsible, well great! These things need to be learned and followed. But the parent that uses toxic words or goes overboard on punishments, even if it is just timeouts, is fostering that use in their child and this we don't want to pass on to future generations

Lets look at toxic words, just simple everyday words we all use but oh how they can poison a child's mind. Always...now stop and think about it, no one 'always' anything. It's just, at that moment in time you think of how often they do something they were told not to do and forget how often they do right. Next is never...again no one never listens, never follows instructions, never does things right or whatever you are chastizing them for. Stop to think. Do you 'always' or 'never' do things?

How about 'but'? Do you praise a child for something only to take it away by saying 'but'? But why can't you do that all the time? But why didn't you do that the first time? Only a three letter word and it can do so much damage. And, yes, I nearly said 'but' it can do so much damage. And remember would'a, could'a, should'a. We often say these things about something we messed up and yes, even then they are derogatory, but to a child would, could and should can cut the self-esteem down so very badly.

Worst of all, we don't mean to inflict damage to their ego, but in frustration, anger or the heat of the moment it happens. We speak out, without a thought of the message we are giving out to our children. And while we are on the subject think of your own ego. These same words are just as toxic to us and maybe, if we learn to use other words in their place, we won't be so quick to use them on the children.

When you want to say "You did great today 'but'" why not say "I'm really proud of what you did today" and leave it at that. Or how about "That was great! Do you remember just how you did that?" This will tell them you are proud of them and reinforce to remember just what made it so great.

As for yourself, if you mess up and especially if its not the first time, then tell yourself "I really need to slow down and do this the proper way next time, because I really do know how to do it."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Preparing Your Child to Read

Reading is the basic skill upon which all formal education depends. Children who are poor readers at the end of first grade, will find it extremely hard to acquire the reading skills they need, to successfully complete primary school.

These students must be identified early in their school career and given the intensive intervention they need. Any child who doesn't learn to read early and well, will not easily master other skills and knowledge and is unlikely to do well in school or in their future work.

You, however, play an important part in whether or not this may happen to your child. Reading to your son or daughter is the most important part of helping them become a reader. Teaching reading involves teaching children to love reading. The more fun your child has with books from an early age, the more interested they will be in becoming a reader when they reach school age .

Reading to your child also improves your child's emergent literacy skills including vocabulary, knowledge and print awareness - the understanding of how a book works. Reading to your child on a regular basis gives your pre-reader a jumpstart in learning to read. Continuing to read to your child even after they learn to read, helps improve their vocabulary and reading skills.

This time spent with your son or daughter regularly, can also be a wonderful bonding experience. So many times, in talking to friends and acquaintances about this, I hear of the impact the time spent with Mum or Dad reading stories, had on their early lives. They speak of it with fondness and most have continued the tradition with their own children.