The learning to read process follows 6 steps.
Common Concerns/Questions When Teaching Your Child to Read
My child can blend a consonant and a vowel together (ex: ha, he, hi, ho hu), but when they go to read a word, they revert to sounding out each individual sound, h-a-t, instead of ha-t. Why are they doing this?
When sounding out a sentence, my child just read the word "bike" in the last sentence but when they get to it again, just a few words later, they don't remember it as "bike" and have to re-sound it out. They even do this with sight words they know! I think there's something wrong with them and maybe it's a learning disability or processing issue.
Why can my child sound out/read single words on a flashcard or written on paper, but when they are put into a sentence, they either cannot read it, or they meltdown?
My child cannot answer one question about something they JUST read.
This will be the case until your child is a fluent reader who no longer decodes words. Do not test your child's comprehension on words, sentences, and stories they are working hard to decode. Test comprehension on things that YOU read ALOUD. Read your child lots of good literature. Don't ask them questions, instead say, "Tell me about the story I just read." Or, "What's something you can remember about this story." You will be SHOCKED at the detail they can remember.
My child still cannot determine if a letter is b or d. I think they are dyslexic.
This is a common assumption about letter reversals in reading and writing, but it's the wrong conclusion to instantly jump to. There are many students with dyslexia who have never once struggled with b and d reversals. Letter reversals in reading and writing are not even considered a concern until after 3rd grade. Gently and calmly correct or guide.
All the other kids seem to be catching on to reading, but my child is not. What is wrong?
Chances are nothing is wrong! Reading is almost entirely developmental. You cannot speed it up any faster than your child's brain is ready to go. The more you force them, the more you grow a distaste in learning and a distaste for doing hard things. This does not mean you don't work through their lessons and require them to finish their work. It just means to do not add undo stress and anxiety if it is not clicking as fast as you want it to click.
Is reading hard? Yes. Absolutely. Affirm that for your child when they say things like that.
"You are right! This is a really hard thing, but you CAN do hard things." And it might just be the hardest thing on the planet, but keep a soft tone and a smile, especially when they are angry, melting down, or giving up. When you match his/her frustration with yours, or his/her anger with yours, you fuel the fire instead of putting it out.
If your child is still working really hard to decode and a lesson seems long, split it up! Do half of the reading, or half of the phonics lesson. Then move onto another subject and come back to it. Or, wait several hours and come back to finish the rest.
And remember, this too shall pass, and your child will be reading in no time!
If you hang around a classical school long enough, you will quickly hear what most perceive as odd, or even old and outdated words. It's also easy to assume that classical schools are just playing word games and dictionary games. But the words we use, why we use them, and what they mean matter greatly.
School Speak, Part 1: Virtue
This week, we are tackling Virtue. In classical schools, our students often hear the word "virtue." But what does it really mean and how should it practically display itself in the lives of our school community, our students, and our families? And how does it differ from value words?
People often assume that the words value and virtue are the same. Most words that you hear around typical schools are value words (commitment, honesty, kindness, loyalty, etc). Today, most students see these value words as subjective and ever-changing depending on the person or situation. In our current culture, value words are morally subjective. Even the word "value" sounds flimsy, as if it can't bear any weight. For example, you might hear the phrase "family values," which, in our culture, is extremely subjective.
Value words are largely behaviorally driven. They aren't a part of who a person is, but rather, something they do, that they can switch in and out of.
Virtue is a broader concept than we try to nail down with values. Virtue is not moral behavior. Virtue is one's disposition, one's typical reaction. It is the excellence of human nature, a joyous person! When someone is virtuous they are mature. They display the excellence of human nature.
Virtue= the good life; a full, flourishing, joyous life. The excellence of human nature.
So what does this practically look like?
There are four historic virtues
Temperance- often times, people naturally attribute temperance to the areas of food and alcohol. But it's not simply a matter of balance vs. moderation. Balance suggests neutrality- this is just as heavy as this, and therefore it's balanced, and therefore good. But, this is a weak measure. Temperance (or stated as moderation) is everything in its correct proportion. A modern day example of temperance might be getting a handle on your iphone or social media habits. Moderation- smartphones and social media in its correct proportion. Correct proportion does not automatically mean balanced. It would be unwise to assume that one's social media habits should always balance equally with their work habits. 8 hours in the work day, 8 hours of social media usage? That's balance. That is not everything in its correct proportion.
Justice- giving to each person their due, not just fairness. Sometimes that means giving an A to someone who does better work and a C to someone who does less quality work. We give each other what we are due, for example, respect and love. Paying taxes is a form of justice. Moderating punishment to crime and moderating rewards to the performance. That is justice. Justice is a reflection of reality.
Courage-there are two types of courage: active courage and passive courage. Active courage is rushing into battle. Running into the chaos. It's saying, "I may be scared, but I'm going to do it anyway." Passive courage is standing your ground. Passive courage says, "I'm not leaving my post. I'm going to stand guard and do the good. I am going to stay where I am and say no. I am not going to run." In a nutshell, C.S. Lewis says courage is every virtue at its pressing point. It takes courage to be temperant when you don't want to be.
Prudence (Practical Wisdom)- Prudence is the virtue needed to balance all of the other virtues. It is misunderstood as not being a prude or not being easily deceived. But that is not prudence. Prudence is practical wisdom, and it is the master virtue. It distinguishes humans from animals. We don't just act. We reflect on our actions. Like courage, there are two forms of prudence: passive prudence and active prudence. Passive prudence is the practical wisdom needed to know what to do with the stimuli that come one's way. A job opportunity presents itself, what should one do? Work life, family life, church life is pressing in on every side, asking for your commitments and your time. What should one do? How does one decide what to say no to and what to say yes to? Active prudence is proactively making plans, planning your life. It's planning and goal setting, and charting a course, with wisdom. It's knowing what to do and making a plan to do it, rather than just sitting by and letting life happen to you.
So when we talk about virtues at school and in the home, what are aiming for? Virtue is about ourselves, others, and our orientation towards Gods and the universe. It's comprehensive. We are aiming for a deep, long-term disposition, a typical reaction of a person's heart and mind. It starts with small actions, that build to a habit, and then a character trait.
We are aiming to model and pursue virtue so that our students and children do so as well. We are forming into them habits, loves, affections, and orientations that simply just become a part of who they are. These things don't shift and change like value behaviors, they simply become a part of who our students are.
What does this practically look like in the school and the family?
School: The worst questions you can ask your students after they jump in the car after a school day is, "Did you have a fun? Did you have a good time? What grade did you get on your math test?" These kinds of questions subconsciously tell our students that in order for school to be good, right, and beautiful, it must be "fun." That if something isn't fun, or over the top exciting that it must not be worthwhile. It also tells our students that learning is about grades and outward measures, rather than cultivating a love of learning and a growing ability to process how to learn things. What we value, we celebrate. Ask questions that show what you celebrate.
Instead, ask your child virtue questions: How were you courageous today? Maybe they were nervous about sharing their writing paper with the class, but they did it anyway. Maybe they saw another student being unkind to someone, and they displayed active courage. They ran INTO the chaos, defending the weak, and stood up for what was right. How were you temperant today? How did you show everything in its proper proportion? Maybe your student took the teacher's 10 minutes of free time and spent some of it hanging out and chatting with friends, but then took the last few minutes to get started on their math homework.
Family: As a family, at dinner, driving in the car, etc., make virtue dialogue a normal part of your family life. Maybe you see that your family has some big issues with moderation- everything in its correct proportion. Maybe you start conversations about where a lack of moderation might be seen in your family. Give them easy examples to understand the virtue. Balance means an equal amount. Do you think it would be wise or healthy to eat as much candy as you do vegetables and protein? Do you think it's wise or healthy to watch as much television as you do reading or completing schoolwork? Of course not. But is it bad to eat candy, or completely terrible to watch television? No. Everything in its correct proportion. Many adults have never been directly taught these things as children and were left trying to navigate the virtue of temperance as young adults and failed miserably.
What about prudence? Practical wisdom. Do you and your spouse sit down and plan out your week, or your next few months? Do your children see you practicing this? Do you make it a priority to plan a date night every week? Do you talk to your kids about why you chose the educational path you did? That in all these things you are planning your life. You are injecting practical wisdom into life. You are planning for life, instead of just simply letting it happen to you.
When a person develops into a person of virtue, it goes much deeper than value words- than behavior driven actions of "sharing toys," and "being obedient." It becomes a deep part of their character, of their disposition, of who they are, and how they typically react and respond to life.
What we shine a light on will grow. When we keep putting virtue in front our students and children, we begin to see more of it. They become actions, then habits, and then a character trait.
One of the first assumptions I hear from parents who are just beginning the discovery of classical education is, "Well, what about STEM programs? Isn't classical education weak in math and science?" In a digital age, where less and less emphasis is placed on reading, books, beautiful artwork, and the eloquent and persuasive nature of the written and spoken word, it's natural that the thing that appears to stick out about classical education most is its emphasis on language arts and history. While it is true that classical education has deep roots in history, literature, languages, and the arts, it absolutely has competitive math and science programs.
Our assumptions about what compartmentalized programs (such as STEM) really mean or accomplish is actually the issue, not the false assumption that classical education is weak in math and science.
The world is full of complex problems- cures for cancer, disease research, solar inventions, and the endless complex problems in software and technological advancements. The answer to solving these problems is not emphasizing math and science. Yes, math and science are important, but compartmentalized math and science programs will not lead the way for innovation and advancement.
Innovation experts and consultants stress repeatedly that innovation isn't a matter of subject knowledge. It's about thinking in flexible, integrative, and multidisciplinary ways, across many fields and types of knowledge. It's about being able to synthesize and integrate different perspectives and models; of understanding and taking into account different human, cultural and economic needs, desires, values, and factors and, from all that, glimpsing a new way forward that nobody else managed to see.
And that, leads us to why classical education is the best way to educate students in the fields of math and science, ultimately leading to math/science innovation and advancement.
Classical education teaches students how to learn. Traditional education teaches students what to learn. Traditional schooling stresses passing tests, retaining compartmentalized information in the form of disjointed classes, and simply putting the information back out in testing formats.
Classical education teaches students to integrate fields of knowledge, to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, within all subject matters. Therefore, what is being taught in one subject area absolutely matters to what is being taught in another, and students must learn to see those connections. Classical education purposefully and consistently connects academic disciplines and forces students to make bridges in their knowledge. This is the greatest difference between classical education and traditional education.
Producing students who are innovators is not simply about providing "better" quality and quantity in our math and science programs. Instead, it's about re-thinking how we educate students overall.
It's a matter of restructuring how we approach and teach all our subjects, from the liberal arts to math, science and engineering. It means focusing as much on teaching how to combine those fields of knowledge and how to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, as we do on the subject matter itself.
STEM is a marketing tool more than anything. Jobs in the "STEM" field actually require resilient, problem solving thinkers, which is what classical education seeks to produce. STEM programs are simply compartmentalizing math and science. True entrepreneurs and science/math advancement happens when connections are made. Traditional, disjointed approaches to math and science don’t make connections. If you can’t make connections, think, and apply, you can't make math and science advancements.
Out of all the job fields, the science and math fields are quickly changing with every single year. Attempting to teach to this in compartmentalized programs like STEM is counterproductive, just like teaching to a test is counterproductive. If we are seeking to produce students who are learning and memorizing math and science in STEM programs that will become quickly obsolete by the time they are going to get a job or attend college, it is useless. Students need the flexibility to think differently, to make connections across all academic disciplines, and they need the resiliency to know they can tackle any tough thing that comes their way. This is how true advancement in the math and science fields happen, and this is the backbone of classical education.
How do you know your child is getting the best education for math and science advancement? Give them a classical education that teaches them to think, and to deeply and effectively collaborate and make connections. So while we absolutely believe our math and science courses are important, we believe our ability to produce thinkers who can apply, make multi-disciplinary connections, and therefore become innovators, is the most important type of education we can give students.
Here at the Academy, our school uses one of the top gifted math programs in preparations for our higher-level high school mathematics courses. Our teachers go through extensive math training and are committed to fostering math language and math thinkers in our students. Our math curriculum doesn't let students get away with memorizing algorithms and using tips and tricks to solve problems. Students have to think the problems through, use multi-disciplinary knowledge, and think through what is really going on in order to solve problems. This is mathematical thinking and this provides a solid foundation on which to grow and prepare the way for math and science advancement.