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Language Arts

Homeschool Reading

Homeschool reading is a very important part of any homeschool curriculum. Reading is essential in all aspects of life. Find ways to incorporate reading skills into your home school lessons and help your children learn to read well and love reading.

Essential for many jobs, many duties of citizenship, and the enjoyment of many pastimes and hobbies, reading is considered one of the most central and important of the educational subject areas. As a core subject, it is likely that reading will be one of the areas about which your state’s Department of Education has some guidance. Checking for state standards and curriculum information and meeting your state’s literacy consultant are two good ways to start off preparing to teach homeschool reading. If you haven’t yet visited your state’s Department of Education website, you can check here - - to find it.

The National Standards and Homeschool Reading

It’s also important to be aware of and understand the The National Standards for Reading, which are a part of the International Reading Association/National Council of Teacher’s of English Standards for the English Language Arts. These standards can be downloaded from:

Five of the standards are key for reading:

  • Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

The national standards are helpful in that they remind us that students should read a variety of genres of printed and digital texts from a variety of times, cultures, and subject areas; have a wide selection of strategies to draw on in making meaning; and be able to use reading materials for a variety of purposes. But although these standards let you know what your student should be able to do by the time his or her schooling is over, it does not provide you with the path to get there.

How to Teach Homeschool Reading

It is likely that a reading program of some sort may be helpful to you at some stage of reading, to help you ensure that your child has a well-rounded and sound grounding in the areas that the standards discuss. In making your choices, you should be guided by your child and how he or she learns.

Also, as you choose materials for your beginning reader, you are likely to hear about two different approaches, one called the Phonics approach and the other called the Whole Language approach. A lot of rhetoric flies around about these methods, but here’s the key thing to understand:

Alphabets represent sounds. The English alphabet, therefore, is a written representation of spoken English. And the sound- symbol relationships are what is taught in phonics.

But reading isn’t just about recognizing words, and phonics can get caught up in the minutiae of single letters. Whole language addresses the broader aspects of language like print conventions (English books are read left to right and top to bottom and front to back) and language that appears all over our world outside of books, and the other skills and strategies besides phonics that we use to make meaning while reading. So what’s actually needed is some of both.

Since English draws its vocabulary from a wide variety of other languages, its orthography is not consistent. The sound /f/, for example, can be spelled f or ff or ph. And some of the most often used words have a spelling that is difficult to relate to their sound. These oft-used words that are difficult to decode with phonics are called sight words. Many sight words are function words like articles, conjunctions, helping verbs, and prepositions. One example of a standard grouping of sight words are the Dolch Sight Word Lists, which you can find here:

Don’t forget to consider libraries, bookmobiles, and the Internet as you make your plans for your homeschool reading program. Each of these locations is likely to provide a wide array of useful and interesting reading activities that you can incorporate into your instruction.