Monday, December 07, 2009

Phonics Test

Many new homeschoolers are rabid phonics advocates. I sure was! Teaching our children to read the right way was one of the biggest motivations for our beginning to homeschool.

It's understandable that we are so insistent on the superiority of phonics. The look-say method of teaching reading will work pretty well in an individualized, print-rich environment, with plenty of one-on-one teaching. But who knows that? Who tests it? For classrooms full of kids, phonics is a better method. And classrooms full of kids is where we get our data. Therefore, conservative mommies are horrified by the abysmal reading abilities of so many young people and determine that they will teach their children a better way!

So what happens when your child can't learn phonics?

Jane has posted various places in the past about Patrick's struggle in learning to read. Jane and I have tried to help mommas chill out when they bemoan the fact that their children aren't learning phonics. It's okay, we say. They will learn to read. Keep plugging away, even if you have to give up on the phonics and try The Evil Insidious Liberal Plot of {gasp!} "Look-Say" reading.

Okay, so Maggie couldn't learn phonics. Our main method of reading instruction was a motley conglomeration of reading comic strips aloud to her (and likewise, answering endless questions about "What's this word?" as she read Garfield to herself in later years) AND a "spiral" of memory work. She didn't have a good enough memory to recite her Learn-By-Heart of the week, and she didn't read well enough to read the verse and the hymn. But she could quasi-read and quasi-recite. So I wrote out the memory work each week in large print, hung it on the dining room wall, and used that. The neophyte reading skills gave a nudge to her memory work, and what she couldn't read was nudged along by the bits she had begun to memorize. That's totally look-say for reading instruction.

And so,
we come to the funniest part of last week's academic testing with the psychiatrist. Maggie scored above her grade level in only one subject area. Phonics! They gave her nonsense words that she had to sound out according to phonics rules, and she scored at late-12th-grade level.

I was stunned. And pleased.

If that ain't proof that we can chill a bit over our rabid love of phonics, I don't know what is.

1 comment:

  1. Ironically enough, Patrick is now awesome at phonics, too. :)