In my previous post, I shared how Reading Horizons provides a strong literacy foundation, which has resulted in my son’s blossoming love of reading and eventual desire to write personal letters, journal entries and creative stories. Today, I will tell you more…
The Discovery-at-Home program is available in a variety of formats, ranging from direct instructor guided materials (for the offline learner), software (for the online learner) or, a combination bundle! I primarily used the Discovery-at-Home instructor materials to teach my son to read, but we utilized the online software to reinforce the concepts presented in each lesson – remember they can be used together or independent from one another.
Whether using the instructor guided materials or the software, students are taught lessons in spelling, sentence structure, dialogue, and vocabulary. Some of these lessons are clear, others are subtle. From the start of the program students are provided with daily opportunities to read interesting material that not only keeps their attention (regardless of the child’s gender!), but also reinforces what has most recently been learned. You won’t slog through weeks of mundane, Fat cat sat on a mat, sentence structure in this program. Discovery-at-Home materials do not insult your child’s intelligence, or your own (as the instructor). Instead, the materials empower you both!
When I first started using the instructor materials and taught Benjamin the unique hand gestures associated with dictating a word (to be practiced on the white board), we were both a bit uncomfortable with the process. It was unlike anything I'd been taught in my teacher training in college and to him, it seemed a bit silly and theatrical. But...it works. Within a week he was reading! Working together, Benjamin’s kinesthetic movements stealthily taught him to actively listen, acknowledge, participate (i.e. mark/prove) and literally, connect with every word he learned to spell. Those connections were made permanent in his brain every time he repeated the motions. Eventually, the motions became unnecessary. The theories related to marking words and proving words replaced the physical dictation process and organically, he began focusing more on his identification of elements within each word. He was naturally decoding words and using those same skills to construct (or, spell) personally significant words.
Unlike many programs, Discovery-at-Home provides reading and writing opportunities from the beginning – simultaneously. Subtle lessons in learning to spell are infused in every new lesson. I won’t lie. My fourth grader misspells words, but with little to no help from me, he rapidly self-corrects when he stops a moment to recall the lessons he learned from Reading Horizons. In fact, yesterday he was searching the internet for a tutorial on "How to Build a Retaining Wall." He said he wasn’t sure how to spell retaining. I said, “Well, it’s a little tough because it includes a silent i.” He thought a moment and replied, “And I bet it makes the letter a long, doesn’t it?” Wow! What an extraordinary example of recalling elements from a Phonetic Skills lesson (decoding words with adjacent vowels), don’t you think?
Remember me mentioning the practice reading materials? I wasn’t kidding. There is absolutely no boring nonsensical storytelling in the Discovery-at-Home materials. In fact, much of the practice material is non-fiction and quite interesting (not to mention, educational). Plus, the Discovery-at-Home method of introducing those often difficult-to-decode words (often called "sight words") allows students to engage in meaningful reading from the start -- whether a child is 5-years-old or 8-years-old when she begins reading with Discovery-at-Home, she will be provided with interesting material that holds her interest and immediately begins building a foundation that provides her with the opportunity to glean correct sentence structure, dialoque, and storytelling elements simply by practicing the most recent set of skills learned in each lesson!
When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia (age 8), I was heartbroken. You see, he is a storyteller by nature. Whether describing something he heard in an audiobook or learned on a documentary, he loves sharing a tale. I had always imagined him one day writing his stories down on paper. When my husband and I received his diagnosis letter from a pediatric neuropsychologist and I read the words developmental dyslexia, I felt disheartened. Admittedly, I was rather ignorant, too. I assumed this meant he would never enjoy reading or writing. We were already using Reading Horizons materials and he was showing reading progress, but I just couldn't imagine he would ever enjoy reading for pleasure or wish to sit down and write an original story. It seemed too lofty an ideal.
In my final post, I will share a story about Discovery-at-Home and how the program and its materials provided my son with the skills necessary to not only write an original story (with absolutely no prompting from me!), but also submitted it to an international writing competition for dyslexic writers.
Jessica Allen is an unschool mom who enjoys exploring the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband and ten-year-old son, a budding historian. She shares their experiences on her blog, Cattails and Cobwebs. When she isn’t lying on the damp earth photographing millipedes, she is quietly starting a revolution, tirelessly reminding her fellow homeschoolers it really is possible to meet the state requirements while nurturing their children’s unique passions. Her most recent essay, Frozen in Freedom, about her family's transition to unschooling after her diagnosis with breast cancer, was published in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of Home Education Magazine.