If you came here looking for that one perfect curriculum, I’m sorry. Straight up, the point of all of this is that it doesn’t really matter which curriculum you use. Or don’t use. Just don’t be afraid to teach your child to read. I know that teaching a child to read is intimidating for parents today. After all, in our modern society, so many children are currently not learning to read. This is a tragedy. For generations, my family has made sure that our children knew how to read. Reading is a heritage that is passed down from parent to child, and I feel very blessed to have continued that with my own children.
I taught many children to read when I taught public school, and I used the curricula that I was forced to use to teach them. I’m very concerned that public schools today are not producing literate students. Those in charge of making educational decisions for the rest of our society keep promising that they’re making changes for the better. Instead, we have things moving in the wrong direction. Our public schools are meddled with by people who have never met us or our children. The reforms consistently fail. The reformers never seem to blame their own standards or methods. Instead, they readily blame schools, parents, teachers, and students, saying their standards and methods weren’t implemented correctly, or that it’s due to a lack of funding.
Curricula and politicians both seem big on promises, but when it comes to results, you’re on your own.
Really, curricula don’t usually make wild promises. Neither do most politicians, if you listen closely. Instead, we read promises into them because of our own preconceived ideas and expectations.
But we don’t need curricula or politicians to be involved in teaching our children to read.
“Curriculum materials are less important than we tend to think. They do not make or break your homeschool — unless you try to use too much. That might break a few things.” A Biblical Home Education
Our society puts so much effort into choosing the “perfect” curriculum! Have you ever seen another homeschool mom start asking about curriculum?
The conversation often goes something like this:
Mom1: “We are not seeing progress with X Curriculum. What else should I try?”
Mom2: “Oh, that didn’t work for us, either, and neither did Y, but Z was great. As soon as we did Z, it worked!”
Mom3: “Yes, Z, Z’s the one!”
Mom4: “Keep trying until you find one that works!”
My question is always this: How do you know that the curriculum made the difference? How do you know it wasn’t just that your child finally got the concept because he or she was finally developmentally ready? I’m far from the first to question this.
This logical fallacy of Post hoc ergo propter hoc is so common that, well….it’s a well-known logical fallacy. It’s what you’re doing when you assume that one thing caused another just because they happened sequentially.
I’m not telling you not to switch curriculum. There are lots of great reasons to switch curriculum. Maybe you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, maybe you’d like to try something else, maybe you did some research and you want to switch to a different philosophy of learning, or maybe your child really does have a learning disability and would do best with a certain program. Maybe you just want to make your life easier so you can plan less.
So switch, if you want to switch. But don’t switch because you think there is some magical curriculum out that that will solve all problems and turn your child into a different student, or you into a different teacher.
Does it blow your mind if I say you don’t need a curriculum to teach reading?
For a moment, try to step out of our common perspective of living in a society where almost everyone goes to school and uses a curriculum to learn how to read.
Then think about how the eighteenth century gave us nearly universal literacy. Everyone in American in the 18th century wasn’t allowed to learn to read, just so we’re clear on that, but among those who were allowed to learn how to read, almost everybody learned.
McGuffey’s Reader didn’t come out until 1836. And that was just the start. It took a long time before people started developing extensive reading curricula.
So….here we have history showing us that we had nearly universal literacy BEFORE we had a book designed to teach reading. And if you’ve ever taken a look at a McGuffey reader, it’s not anything like a “reading curriculum” that we’d see published today. It’s just words that children sound out.
“Using phonics sounds to read words and stories works better than memorizing phonics rules. Just tell children the sounds and dispense with rules.” How Not To Teach Writing, by Ruth Beechick
People learned to read just fine before reading curricula were invented. I’m not telling you to skip reading curricula entirely…I’m just telling you to use it judiciously, and understand that people have been reading for far longer than modern reading curricula have been in existence.
Barring a learning disability, your child will learn to read when he or she is developmentally ready.
If your child is struggling, and young, don’t push it. There are very good arguments for why, when it comes to education, it might be Better Late Than Early.
“Blending skills is one of those things you cannot hurry in children. You can’t sternly shake your finger at Johnny or promise him cake if he gets it right. All you can do is give him opportunities to learn it, and one day you will see he is beginning to catch on.” A Home Start in Reading
American public schools have taken to requiring the teaching of reading skills in younger and younger grades. It hasn’t worked, has it? It results in stressed out teachers and frustrated children. I saw it over and over during the years I taught school. I still talk often with stressed out teachers and scared parents. The frustrating part for me is that it doesn’t need to be like this.
In my next post, I’ll be back with A Simple Plan to Teach Reading.