Teach Your Child to Spell Badly in 100 Easy Lessons
What do you do with an 8 year old boy with an astounding vocabulary, an addiction to books, and a reading level far beyond his years? Why, you remediate him, of course!
Huh? Remediate him? Why does a strong reader need phonics, 3 years after he has learned to read? He’s got language arts down pat! Except, of course, when he doesn’t. When I taught my son David to read, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which is recommended by lots of homeschooling moms. 100 Easy Lessons claims to be phonics based, but it relies on shortcuts to get a kid reading quickly. The method is used in a lot of public schools, as well. (Hey, aren’t those schools turning out more and more illiterates every year? Look up in the sky! Is that a Cluebat? Don’t let it hit you, Mom!) By the 75th lesson in the book, my son was reading so well that we put the lessons away and called it good. Hooray, we have a reader!
However, he’s been having some trouble with spelling and writing, and after some research on phonics and reading disabilities, I’ve come to believe that his difficulties are due to having learned to read the way he did. It seems the shortcuts in this miraculous! method of teaching “reading” are actually teaching the child to guess what words he is seeing. This works just fine as far as the teacher can tell, until he needs to produce written work of his own. Then we suddenly have a “disabled” child on our hands.
David reads constantly. He can narrate back just about anything he reads, provided you don’t mind letting him stand on his silly-boy head while doing so, so I know that he really is getting the jist of the stories he reads. But that’s not enough. He needs to be able to pick up on the subtleties of the language presented to him, absorb vocabulary (which he seems to have been getting more from his wordy mother and father than from his books), and—most importantly—he needs to be able to write his own essays and stories. At this point, I’d just settle for seeing him write the words “the” and “you” correctly.
I keep bringing up David’s advanced vocabulary, not to brag, but because it is central to the reason I hadn’t caught on to his reading problem yet. Because he has a huge word bank to draw from for guessing, it has taken me a few years to figure out what is really going on in his head. I had been thinking that perhaps he’s dyslexic, or visually impaired in some way. But he has no trouble at all identifying letters or numbers, and can see quite well, so these things seem unlikely. He also can’t form his letters very well, because of some mixed dominance issues, so that confuses things even further. He’s right-handed, but left-eyed, –footed, and –eared. (Did you know you have an earedness, just like your handedness?) With a few easy exercises for brain integration, we’re seeing some resolution to these problems. But the reading/writing problem remains.
So, if it’s not dyslexia, what is it? Because of David’s difficulty with writing and the trouble he has constructing words from letters, I’ve been barking up the wrong tree in my efforts to “fix” the problem. I thought I had a learning disabled child, but I’m beginning to suspect that I’ve merely used a faulty method of teaching him to read. He’s just been smart enough to compensate for the failure so that I didn’t catch it right away.
I’m not certain that my theory is correct, so I’m going to spend this school year experimenting. I’ll be remediating David with phonics, using the method found at DonPotter.net and a little blue copy of Webster’s American Spelling Book. I just read through the Speller, and now my spelling is so good that I don’t even care what my spell-checker thinks of me anymore. I’ve always been a fair speller, but it was intuitive and memory-based, not phonetic. (If I keep this up, by the time I graduate my own kids, I’m going to have that world-class education I always dreamed of!) If David is still unable to write words and sentences properly at the end of this school year, I’ll find a professional to help us. I’m 85% certain that I’ve got this thing figured out, though, so I’ll save him the stress of an evaluation by trying this first.
I don’t know for sure that phonics can heal my son’s brain, but it can’t hurt, so that’s the plan. While I’m doing that, I’ll also be teaching my kindergartener real phonics, not using the faux-phonetic shortcuts found in 100 Easy Lessons. I’m sure that this method doesn’t do this to every child, but I’m beginning to believe that it could account for a lot of “dyslexia” amongst otherwise very bright students. I know that this book is highly recommended by several veteran homeschoolers—it’s why I picked it up—but I’d love to know if there have been similar experiences to ours in other homeschools.
Have any of you found yourselves having to reteach reading after using this method?