Imagine learning a new language. In a way, learning to read is much the same. Children are being introduced to an alien concept. They must master a series of symbols (the alphabet) both visually as well as phonetically. Soon after being introduced to the 26 symbols of the English alphabet they must learn the myriad rules associated to the manipulation of those symbols, precepts that both dictate how words are disassembled as well as how they are created. Reading a word requires a child to disassemble the symbols, dividing a chunk of letters into syllables and using rules to decode the sounds made (or silenced!). To write (and more importantly spell) a child is forced to create words using the very same knowledge. After using Reading Horizons Discovery-At-Home with my son I am continually amazed at how this program provides parents with the skills we need to help our emergent writers use proper grammar and spelling by simply reminding them of their previous lessons.
Reading Horizons provides an introduction to basic grammatical principles via fifteen “Reference Lessons.” They are provided as a natural supplement to the overall program. Vocabulary development and spelling are an integral part of the Reading Horizons program. The use of “nonsense words” throughout the program allow parents to informally assess a child’s phonetic knowledge – giving parents an opportunity to see their children using the skills learned in the program. When a child is asked to spell the nonsense word blig, he knows he must use the blend (bl-), he hears the short /i/ and the consonant ending /g/. Whether a real word or a nonsense word he must use the same toolbox of spelling skills he might utilize if asked to spell twig! I will be honest with you…when I was teaching my son to read, I was not thinking of any of these concepts. I was simply reading my Teacher’s Manual each evening, preparing for the following day's lesson. However, this fall I discovered just how much he learned from using Discovery-At-Home.
One day this past September my son wrote a short story about a lizard. “Sam Lizard” was a tale about a lonely lizard who found a friend. Although the story was only one page, I was thrilled. I did not coax him to write it. I did not nag him to finish it. He simply wrote a story. Recognizing his frustrations handwriting such a long story, I asked him if he would like me to show him how to use the computer and how to use our word processing program. Soon he was writing another story, “Olaf One Hand,” an adventure about a barbarian. It wasn’t until almost January of this year that he wrote the multi-page story, “Olhart’s Revenge.” While he was writing it, neither my husband nor I was permitted to read “Olhart’s Revenge” but when I was finally permitted to see it, I was astounded by its breadth and depth. In only his third story, my fourth grader included copious descriptive text (lots of impressive adjectives!), wonderfully descriptive dialogue, and proper punctuation. It was a wonderful story. So wonderful, in fact, I encouraged him to enter an international writing competition for dyslexic writers. And for the next week we worked each day to format his manuscript and correct his spelling errors (spelling can be rather vexing for dyslexic writers). When we sat down to edit, I began by highlighting every misspelled word. Sitting alongside my son I pointed to each word and he sat at the keyboard correcting them in his manuscript. Many words he self-corrected before we discussed them – noting bashfully, “I was in a hurry. I know how that word is spelled,” or more confidently, “Oh wait, I know this…it’s done, not dun.” For many words I simply had to walk him through some of his Discovery-At-Home lessons backwards. Some of the longer words we discussed in terms of syllables and Decoding Skills, others required a hint (This word includes a silent e!), but within no time he had edited his entire manuscript and it was in the mail on its way to the judges for the Karina Eide Dyslexic Young Writers & Courage & Compassion Awards. In March he received a Special Recognition Award for “Olhart’s Revenge.” As a parent I could not have been more proud. Reading Horizons Discovery-At-Home deserves much of the credit for his triumph. By taking advantage of the free Parent Phonics Training offered online I was able to learn the methods used in the program. Sharing this method with my son provided him with not only the literacy tools required to read and write effectively, but more importantly the program nurtured his passion to pursue both! I cannot thank Reading Horizons enough and I encourage parents of emerging readers to trust Discovery-At-Home to provide you with the tools to teach your child to read.
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.