by Kathleen Cotter Clayton from RightStart Math


Ahhhh. The holidays are almost here. This means you get to see your family, enjoy making meals and treats with your children, and you get time off from teaching. Then, you get to worry that they will not remember the math facts that you just taught them!

There is a wonderful solution right at your fingertips. Play math card games! These are games that the cousins or grandparents can play with your children. They take little prep time and can be taken wherever your family celebrates time together. I can guarantee that they will have loads of fun and never mind that they are keeping their facts fresh.

What kind of games am I talking about? Let me share three games with you; an easy one for the littles, a medium to hard one for those working on multiplication, and a fun game with fractions that everyone will enjoy.


Go to the Dump

The first game is called Go to the Dump. It is a Go Fish sort of game. Do you remember that game? It uses a deck of cards with numbers 1 through 9. We have a deck of cards for you here, but you certainly could just use a deck of regular playing cards without the 10s and face cards. Remind little ones that the aces are 1. Deal five cards to everyone and put the rest of the cards in the middle of the playing area face down. Then rather than looking for two matching numbers to make a pair, like the regular Go Fish game, look for two numbers that add up to 10 and are a match. 1 and 9,  2 and 8, 3 and 7, 4 and 6, and 5 and 5 are all pairs. 

Have the players check their hands for pairs. If matches are found, lay them down on the table side by side. This makes it easy to check players’ work and makes shuffling super easy after the game. Then one player will ask the person on their left for a card to match one in their hand. If they have the card, they give it to the first player and the first player gets to ask for another card. If, or when,  the requested card is not available, the second player says,“Go to the dump” and the first player takes a card from the stock. Their turn is now over, even if they received a match. 

The second player now asks the person on their left for a card. Play continues all around the circle. If someone matches all their cards and has no more in hand, they take five more cards from the stock. Play continues until all the cards have been matched.

This is a game that younger children like a lot. It’s a game that we parents can play with just a few brain cells involved. And the kids are working on the important facts of 10, while having fun!


Multiples Solitaire

This next game is for those working on their multiplication facts: Multiples Solitaire. A certain amount of strategy is needed to win this solitaire game. It will provide practice for four sets, say 1s, 2s, 4s, and 8s. Use the first ten multiples of each set; so that’d be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 4, 8, 12, 16…. You get what I’m talking about. We have a deck of multiplication cards here. Or you could grab a stack of index cards and make your own sets.

By the way, if you use sets that are multiples of each other, like 2, 4, & 8, or 3, 6, & 9, there will be more “duplicate” cards and more opportunities for winning.

Start by shuffling the cards together and lay them face up in fans of three. The last fan will have only one card. The point of the game is to collect the four sets in order, taking the cards from the fans. But only the top card of a fan may be collected.

Columns are started with the lowest number of a set (1, 2, 4, and 8 in my example) as they become available. The top card of a fan, the 32-card, for example, may be moved to another fan if it immediately precedes (in a multiples set) the card it is being moved to, the 36-card. Because 32 and 36 are consecutive multiples of 4, the 32-card can be moved to free up the card underneath. A group of cards may be moved, provided they are all consecutive multiples of a set used. In the game shown above, the 28 and 24 may be moved to the 32, freeing up the 6.

Also, the last card of a multiple’s column may also be moved to another column. This gives flexibility to help win the game. If no cards can be played, pick up the fanned cards, shuffle, and lay the cards again in fans of three. 

This is a great game to help your child work on their multiples. Because this is a solitaire game, you don’t have to be involved. Or, if you want to play the game together, become a team and work to beat the cards with as few reshuffles as possible. Or maybe work to be the fastest team in the family!


Fraction War

Finally, let’s take a peek at a fraction game: Fraction War. Did you play the game of war for as a child? It feels like I played this game for days on end! 

This is a two-player game. For beginners, I recommend the following cards in a deck of 34 cards: three each of 3⁄4, 3⁄8, 5⁄8, 7⁄8; four of 1⁄8; five each of 1 and 1⁄4; and eight of 1⁄2. Again, we have a fraction deck of cards for you, or you can pull out the index cards again and make your own.

Keep the cards face down and divide them evenly between the two players. The goal is to capture all the cards from your friend. Each player takes the top card from their stack and lays it face up in the middle of the table. The player whose card is greater takes both cards. Here is a chart that can be used to help the players determine the larger fraction.

If the players turn over the same cards, it’s a war! When this happens, which will be relatively frequently, both players place a card from their stack face down on top of their first card, then another card face up. The player who has the highest card now takes all six cards. Again, the goal is to get all the cards from your friend. Now, go!


We also have the Fraction War game as an app, if you might be experiencing some travel time. We also have the Go to the Dump game as an app, which we renamed as Go to Ten.


These game ideas are brought to you by RightStart Math, where we have so many more games for you and yours. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness, joy, and math games!


Kathleen Cotter Clayton is the daughter of Dr. Joan A. Cotter, author and creator of the RightStart™ Mathematics program. She was one of the first children to grow up under the Activities for Learning principles. Kathleen has a degree in Home Economics from the University of Minnesota and has two Masters Degrees from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Kathleen and her husband Steve have six adult children and six wonderful grandchildren.

Kathleen is currently responsible for program development support, marketing, sales, and general management. She travels all across the US and Canada, sharing the RightStart mission of helping children understand, apply, and enjoy mathematics. She is currently supporting/teaching an online class with a group of middle-school students and is developing the new RightStart Tutoring series. In her spare time, Kathleen designs and sews quilts and is re-learning how to unicycle.

You may contact Kathleen Cotter Clayton via email at,  by calling 888-272-3291 or writing to her at 321 Hill Street, Hazelton ND 58544.





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By Janet Giel-Romo, M.Ed. from Austin & Lily


Teaching a child about customs and traditions can be daunting, especially when that child struggles cognitively. If you are looking for a simple resource to share about Thanksgiving day with a very young child or a child with a cognitive delay, here are some resources you can use for a very simple Thanksgiving unit study.


Thanksgiving Unit Study Resources

Start with these free unit planning sheets

Thanksgiving Lesson Plan


 Use this free ebook to teach about Thanksgiving day


Add in these interactive worksheets to help solidify various facts about Thanksgiving

 Thanksgiving Worksheets


Finally, play this fun game with your child to test what they learned about Thanksgiving


To find more unit studies and resources like these, visit our website, Austin & Lily.


Janet Giel-Romo Ed.D. holds a doctorate in education leadership focused on intellectual disabilities and has a Master’s is in Language Acquisition (ELL). Her passion has been understanding and meeting the needs of at-risk learners. She has over 25 years of experience teaching middle, high school, and university levels. Janet has an 18-year-old daughter with Down syndrome and is passionate about her well-being. Janet writes curriculum, provides training, and is a consultant.




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By Dr. Rebecka Spencer from Cherish Children Ministries


I was reading an article recently about George Washington Carver and how he asked the Lord to help him know all about the peanut. Then, Carver used his God-given gift of science-based understanding to separate the parts of the peanut, thus producing hundreds of uses for the peanut.  



Separating Attributes from Activities

I have discovered this same concept can be applied when working with my dyslexic kids. When I will acknowledge in all I do with my children that they are His creation, then using the wisdom and knowledge I have been given helps me direct them to their purposes and calling in life.



Separating Potential from Labels

Dyslexic kids have many, many strengths. In fact, I think dyslexia of as an island of weakness surrounded by a sea of strengths. When we can bridge the gap, the results can be more than we ever thought possible. Some of the greatest success stories are those of people with dyslexia. 



Separating Family Members from Statistical Groups

Dyslexia tends to run in families. Most of us have at least one person in our family that is dyslexic. As for mine, my mother, my father-in- law, and two of my three children are dyslexic. 



Separating Personal Strengths from Weaknesses

Providing dyslexic kids with authentic life experiences is part of what I get to do, both in my home and with the children for whom I provide therapy. One thing I have learned through my home life and work is that the kitchen is a great place to help dyslexic children learn their strengths and weaknesses and find their own “peanut” extractions.



Separating Creativity from Criticism

Dyslexic kids can do very well in the kitchen. Changing and manipulating recipes is fun for them and when they decide to take a chance, they want it to be remarkable. 



One day, while making an apple pie with my son, he wanted to add a little extra cinnamon, and I let him. Praises of satisfaction came from his family and friends as he shared the pie at our annual Pledge Dinner for the hybrid homeschool he attends. This encouragement had him wanting to bake, but not all received the same songs of praise. 



I’ll never forget the time he wanted to make the chocolate mayonnaise cake, which called for a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Since he wanted to use his creativity and add a little more cinnamon and a little less mayonnaise, the result was less than mouth savoring. His brothers let him know how it was not nearly as good as the last recipe he prepared, which led to tears and frustration for him. 



Dyslexic kids are very sensitive. They capitalize on the praise received, but when they receive negative feedback, it often stifles them from moving on and taking chances and transpires into other areas of their lives. 



Separating Forward Momentum from Failure

We also need to help our dyslexic children understand failure or lack of praise can help them gain momentum in areas of strength. But this transition of separating failure from forward momentum comes with time. There is not a certain age for this to occur, but taking the time together makes room for meaningful conversations, and what better way to do that than while cooking together in the kitchen?



Separating Hyper-focus from Fragile Expressions 

Hyper-focusing is one of the many strengths dyslexic kids have. When they can hyper-focus on the positive aspects of something we set them out to accomplish, such as baking a cake or specialty dish in the kitchen, the results can be that much like George Washington Carver. But we must remember these children are fragile. Encouragement is of utmost importance. 



Separating Reality from Recipes 

Visualization is one of the great strengths of dyslexics. Visualizing themselves by presenting their whipped-up work of art often yields in the endeavor’s reality. With the right dose of love and encouragement, they will thrive. Who knows? With the right real life learning experiences which have given opportunity for discovering their innate creative gifts, they may even land on the next greatest cooking show. 



Dr. Rebecka Spencer is a certified teacher, administrator, speaker, academic language therapist, Jesus follower,& MOM of a struggling learner! It was through the struggle where Cherish Children Ministries was born, a mission that seeks to liberate children with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and other spectrum disorders from the curriculum industry by equipping and empowering them with holistic education for success in who God The Creator made them to be is what we are all about. JEREMIAH 29:11




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By Peggy Ployhar, SPED Homeschool Founder & CEO


Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and one thing that may be high on your homeschool to-do list is teaching your children how to express gratitude. As is the experience of many parents of children who battle various life struggles, gratitude is typically something our children receive much more often than they give. For this reason, it is even more important to plan gratitude activities into our schedules. It is my prayer that some of the following activities will help you introduce gratitude, in interactive ways, this month.


1 – Make a Thankful Tree, courtesy of

2- Play Turkey Toss of Thankfulness, courtesy of I Can Teach My Child

3 – Dive into a Grateful Sensory Bin activity, courtesy of Little Bins Little Hands

4 – Go on a Gratitude in Nature Scavenger Hunt, courtesy of All Natural Adventures

5 – Play a game of Gratitude Pick-Up Sticks, courtesy of Teach Beside Me

6  – Jump through a few sets of Complementing HopScotch, courtesy of Carol Miller Counseling Essentials

7 – Encourage family harmony with Kindness Tokens, courtesy of What Do We Do All Day?

8 – Work on therapy goals while using this Gratitude Slide Deck, courtesy of the OT Toolbox

9 – Start a 30-Day Gratitude Challenge, courtesy of Hess Un-Academy

10 – Take part in a 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge, courtesy of Positively Present

11 – Use bibliotherapy for an Interactive Gratitude Discussion, courtesy of Meehan Mental Health

12 – Play a game of Gratitude Tic-Tac-Toe, courtesy of Paper Heart Family

13 – Create a Gratitude Pumpkin, courtesy of Out Upon the Waters

14 – Volunteer using one of these Give Back Activities, courtesy of Mama Smiles

15 – Download and use this Montessori Gratitude Curriculum, courtesy of Dream A World


Looking for more fall activities? Check out these additional 20 Adaptable Thanksgiving Homeschool Learning activities.


Peggy Ployhar, SPED Homeschool Founder & CEO, is a leader in the homeschooling community and popular speaker on home educating students with learning challenges. After working as a special needs consultant for both the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) and the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), Peggy founded SPED Homeschool in 2017. Peggy also hosts the popular live broadcast and podcast, Empowering Homeschool Conversations, a weekly talk show where her guests address relevant issues related to homeschooling for unique learners. Plus, on the side, she is a professional aerial silks performer and instructor at her other business, Eternal Aerial Arts LLC.





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by The SPED Homeschool Team


We surveyed the SPED Homeschool team and asked them to share how they used technology to teach in their homeschools over the years and here is what they shared regarding their favorite resource, tools, and how they worked best for their students.


Most Loved Tech Teaching Resources

Teaching with technology evolved over our 19 years of homeschooling, mostly because when we started our homeschooling journey the internet was new and much of the educational software back then was either very expensive or was a glorified game with some learning embedded into it. Needless to say, a lot has changed in 19 years. Here are some of the tech resources we loved the most during our homeschooling journey:

  • The 101 Series – A video-based high school curriculum program
  • Mark Kisler on YouTube – 3D drawing videos for kids
  • Zoom sessions with private tutors for French instruction
  • Khan Academy Math – As supplemental instruction videos for book curriculum
  • Audible – We have had the monthly subscription for years and used it most for listening to books that related to our unit studies or literature-based studies over the years
  • Homeschool History from Notgrass – Supplemental content to accompany just about any history you are studying in your homeschool
  • Homeschool with MindCraft – An inexpensive and fun learning option we tried a few times during our homeschooling journey

Peggy Ployhar 


Homeschool Tech Tools

In our homeschool, we use technology in a variety of ways. We have always used educational games and videos, but now include more curriculum online as well. Also, technology serves as a tool to support weaknesses and allow strengths to come through.

  • Scribeasy is a fun way to get my kids engaged in writing  
  • is free, and offers videos and games through early elementary school level
  • Voice to text and predictive text are available through Word, Google Docs, and Pages on iPad to allow my son to write short stories without frustration
  • Khan Academy Kids has fun educational games and videos for preschool and elementary age (also free) 
  • ABC Mouse for Preschool through First Grade
  • Adventure Academy is the next step from ABC Mouse (ages 8-12)  
  • IKnowIt is math practice or remediation 
  • Ascend Math has math fact flashcard practice (free) 
  • Journey Homeschool Academy has had great Science classes (Astronomy, Biology and new this year is Earth Science) 
  • Udemy has on demand classes on a variety of subjects for all ages 
  • Kindle Reader from Amazon to share books over zoom or just on the computer/tablet
  • Vooks is a great digital book resource for younger kids 
  • Audiobooks for the car for longer trips into town (CD, overdrive/Libby, or downloaded from other sources)
  • Digital versions of textbooks/workbooks to share over zoom with tutors, or share on the computer together
  • Touchscreen laptops to be able to “write” on the computer screen or tablet when working with online tutors, especially for math tutoring

Amy Vickery


Favorite Tech Learning Programs

We were pretty old school and didn’t use a lot of technology. We used a game on the computer to teach typing skills. But the one program that I used, and absolutely loved, to teach our younger two to read was Headsprout. It was an amazing program that took them from just knowing the letters of the alphabet to a second-grade reading level. The girls loved it and it took a lot of pressure off of me. 

Janice Peshek 


Making Tech Work for the Needs of Your Learner

Technology has been useful to “sneak” in learning with my daughter. I would add apps on my daughter’s pad that matched her learning goals. There were apps that matched her handwriting curriculum (Learning without Tears) , math (Touch Math), reading curriculum (All About Reading). Using the app made it more interactive for her and she requested the learning apps even on the weekends and when school was over. 

Another way we have used technology was using audiobooks to listen to chapter books. On the days where there needed to be more, I would add a YouTube video so that my visual learners could see the learning. Now there is more ability to meet with therapists over zoom since COVID. 

Still another great resource is Boom Cards-Boom Learning, which oftentimes can be free. I have found these cards most helpful when sickness hits because we can use them in place of therapy. 

My recent tech addition is having my daughter practice her spelling words and text them to family members. Picking what parts of technology work for your family is key.

Dawn Spence


Using Tech as Needed for Homeschooling

When I started homeschooling over 20 years ago, tech was not a big thing so we didn’t use it a lot except for classes I absolutely couldn’t teach, like art (thank you, Mark Kistler – see link above). We did, however, use it all the time to look up answers to questions that came up. It was more of a research tool than a teaching tool until late middle school and then high school. We did high school history online for two years using only

The iPad came out when my daughter was just starting school. We bought one immediately so she could use it for communication since she is nonverbal. I was amazed at how much knowledge she demonstrated using a device that she couldn’t otherwise communicate. In the early years, I added a lot of learning games and she loved those. Now it is primarily a communication device.

For a time, I taught Computer Science online for other students. This was a great format because each week, the students would run their programs so we could see and evaluate them. This was not as easy to do in a regular classroom.

Technology has been great for us on an as-needed basis.

Stephanie Buckwalter


To learn more about the SPED Homeschool team and what they do to ensure you have access to quality resources and training through our website, YouTube channel, newsletter and more, visit our team page.



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by Janet Romo from Autin & Lily


The best way to think about the value of homeschooling visuals is to reflect on the role they play for us in learning and remembering. 


Everyday Use of Visuals

 For example, I can tell you all about Maui, which is where my oldest daughter and her family live. I have been there many times and have explored the island. If you want to know about hiking, I can picture a hike I took to a waterfall and start remembering details. 

Similarly, if I ask you where the milk is located in the grocery store you frequent, you will picture the store and how to get to the dairy department. In both cases, the visuals were stored in your memory from having seen them before, and you could pull up these images to assist you in discussing the topics. 

But, visualizing can get tricky if you are hearing or reading about something you aren’t familiar with? 


Using Visuals for Reading Comprehension

For example, imagine a house that is mentioned in a book. A good reader brings up a mental image of a house. Then, the author adds more to the description, such as side entrance, mansion, Victorian, shutters, and sweeping front driveway. The reader now needs to refine his mental image of a house to picture the house in the story versus a house in general. To do that, the reader needs to understand the vocabulary used, and then use their working memory to create a visual by adding the features of the house so they can file that information. Then, hang on to the visual and continue reading the story. 

See how hard this is? You can see how a lot of what reading comprehension requires is cognitively out of range for some people who struggle with a learning disability. Not being able to visualize effectively causes a lack of comprehension. But, using visuals strategically can make a big difference. Visuals can be accommodations that support learning. 


Using Visual Aids for Specific Instruction

4th graders in Arizona learn about the Grand Canyon. As a parent or teacher, you want to think about the take-aways you want your student(s) to understand about the topic. 

For example, using my Grand Canyon book, I want students to know: 

  • the Grand Canyon is in Arizona
  • the Colorado River is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  • people go rafting on the Colorado River
  • the Canyon has been home to Native Americans for a long time
  • tourists like to visit the canyon, and some tourists rent mules to ride in the canyon. 

To teach this unit effectively, so that my daughter understands and remembers this information, I need to have a visual for each concept I want her to know. 


For example, this picture shows Lily that the Colorado River is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I would spend time studying this picture with her. I would go over information and ask questions. I would ask her to point at the Colorado River, then, ask what it is called, where it is, etc. 

Colorado river

This photo shows what rafting on the Colorado River looks like. 

This picture provides the student with an image of what hiking the canyon looks like. 

hiking in the Grand Canyon

This image helps understand the concept of tourists visiting the Grand Canyon. 

Grand Canyon tourists


Here is a video of my son working with Lily using our Grand Canyon book. It provides a good example of the role photographs play in information understandable. Some students with an intellectual disability cannot drum up a mental image of something new, like the Grand Canyon, but they can learn many things when the proper pictures are in place. 


Janet holds a doctorate in education leadership focused on intellectual disabilities. Her passion has been understanding and meeting the needs of at-risk learners. She is certified in Arizona in the areas of social studies, reading, middle school, English as a Second Language, and cross-categorical special education. Janet has over 25 years of experience teaching at the middle school, high school, and university levels. She is currently homeschooling her 20-year-old daughter, Lily. 



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By Sarah Collins, MSOT OTR/L from Homeschool OT


As an Occupational Therapist consulting with homeschool families, one of the top questions asked is, “Do I force my child to write?” The answer depends on the child and is not as simple as a yes or no. Here are the top three considerations when helping families to make this decision between handwriting and assistive technology.


1. What type of learner is the child? 

Kinesthetic learners need movement to help encode information. They wiggle frequently, often benefit from manipulatives in math, and their attention often follows their hands. Writing can provide the kinesthetic component to reinforce learning. In contrast, visual learners do well with typing because they can see information on the computer screen. Auditory learners do great with talk to text or even Google read and write. The VARK questionnaire can help families determine the specific learning style.


2. What is the environment of the homeschool? 

The environment considers posture for writing, length of time available for writing assignments, how many kids are present, even positioning of the paper. Often, with decreased distractions and a proper seated position, we can help a child be successful with writing so they can fall back on this skill when needed in the future.


3. For what types of assignments is handwriting needed? 

Typically, in our culture, the amount of handwriting needed peaks in late elementary school when kids are learning to write papers and need the speed of their writing to keep up with their thoughts. After this, writing is typically only used for note taking and then even less frequently for jotting reminders. Beginning around this middle school, my recommendations change from building the skills needed for handwriting, to accommodating for learning styles within adaptive strategies.


For more specific information on any of these considerations, please contact HomeschoolOT for a consultation for your homeschool. 


Sarah Collins, MSOT, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with a background in both pediatrics and home health, and a homeschooling parent. Sarah was first introduced to homeschooling in 2016 while working as an OT in a client’s home; she was amazed at the learning atmosphere and opportunities within the home. Now as an OT homeschooling her own family, she noticed that parents, though experts on their own children, were invariably asking the same questions and needed resources. As a result, Collins Academy Therapy Services aka HomeschoolOT was established with the dual purpose of educating parents on how to create homeschools specifically designed for students’ needs and training occupational therapists to best serve the homeschool community, together guiding children towards their specific purpose in life. You can find Sarah on line at on Instagram at and in the Facebook group she moderates at



  • American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework (4th ed.). American Occupational Therapy.
  • Flemming, N. Mills, C. (1992) Not another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection. Improve the Academy. 11.
  • Haswell, Joanna, “A Close Look at Learning Styles” (2017). Honors Senior Capstone Projects. 23.
  • Sarma, S., Yoguinto, L. (2020). Grasp. Massachusetts Instit




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by Deede Hinckley Cauley (M. Ed., LPC) from the Real Reading Company


There are many ways that beginning readers and writers can learn foundational skills that can make a world of difference. Early learners need access to many hands-on materials and quality books. I will highlight three techniques that are important to early learners.


Hand and Eye Coordination 

Reading and especially writing requires hand eye coordination. Reading and writing accurately in English is a left-to-right activity. There are dozens of activities to build this skill. 

  • Providing building blocks with individual letters and numbers on them. 
  • Chatting about one letter at a time using plastic, wooden, or magnetic letters (or blocks) will build an understanding of alphabet letters and numbers. 
  • Taking a plastic letter ‘S’ and throwing it into the bathtub while hissing like a snake “ssss, sssnake” introduces the letter ‘S’ and its sound. 
  • Coloring an image of an apple and saying the short-vowel-a sound introduces the sound of the letter ‘A’. Coloring the letter ‘A’ provides the hand eye coordination needed. Actually, coloring in general is a step in the right direction. 
  • Making a snake with Play-Doh can introduce the letter ‘S’ while practicing the hand eye coordination of rolling the Play-Doh. Be creative as letters and numbers are slowly introduced. 
  • Singing the alphabet song is always a good way to ensure the individual letters are learned as well.


Using Everyday Activities 

Use everyday activities that match your young learner’s interests. For example: 

  • Choosing to receive their help when you mix up Jell-O and Pudding. The act of stirring is a chance to continue to practice the hand eye coordination required for reading and writing. 
  • Bouncing a ball, rolling it back and forth, playing catch with a soft toy, jumping up and down,is, believe it or not, one-step closer to the ability to blend letters into words. 
  • Learning to write the letters and to pronounce the letters is an early step to reading and writing. Drawing, coloring, chatting about, and laughing while riding in a car; also contribute to these skills. “The letter ‘T’ makes the ‘T’ sound, and what do we see that starts with the ‘T’ sound?” One might see a ‘tree’ or ‘tent’ or ‘tar’ on the road. 
  • Learning is enhanced by colorful and pleasant videos that introduce the letters of the alphabet as well.


Read, Read, Read

It is also important to read, read, read, to your young learner. Read silly stories, happy stories, restful stories, stories with a message, poetry, nursery rhymes are very important for learning concepts. “Jack and Jill went UP a hill. Jack came tumbling DOWN.” 


Relax and use everyday moments and activities to build the skills needed for life. If learning is engaging and fundamental, your early learners will have the basic skills they need to be successful.


Deede Hinckley Cauley (M. Ed., LPC) is the author and creator of the phenomenally successful Reading and Spelling Pure & Simple series (RSPS) and C.E.O. of the Real Reading Company (RRC). For nearly forty years her heart for struggling readers has led her to research, focus on what works, and teach reading and spelling to children, teens, and adults. Her experience included a teaching career that started in 1972 and provided her an opportunity to experience instruction at nearly every level (university, junior college, high school, middle school, and elementary). In the I980’s she became a charter member and officer of a local adult learn-to-read organization, and she had the privilege of homeschooling her son for several years.





Did you know that there are five skills your child should master before you begin formal reading instruction? These reading readiness skills are so important, that we call them The Big Five Skills.


Although much of your child’s learning comes naturally as he plays and experiences life, there are some skills, like reading, that must eventually be taught. That may feel a little scary, but if you’ve taught your child how to pick up their toys or put on his socks, you can teach your child to read too!


In this post, you’ll learn about the skills for reading readiness, and you’ll discover over twenty fun ways you can help your preschooler or kindergartner develop in these areas. Let’s dig in!


5 Critical Skills for Reading Readiness


Print Awareness

Print awareness is the understanding that the print on a page represents words that have meaning and are related to spoken language.


To develop this skill:

  • Help your child learn how to hold a book correctly.
  • As you read books together, emphasize the fact that you’re reading from front to back and from left to right. Let your child turn the pages.
  • As your child helps you in the kitchen, point out the names on the food boxes and cans and the ingredients as you read your recipe.
  • Point out and read road signs and store signs as you travel in the car.


Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge enables a child to recognize the letters of the alphabet and to know the names and sounds of each.


To develop this skill:


Phonological Awareness

It is a big term, but it is really quite basic. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify the various letter sounds in spoken words.


To develop this skill:

  • Read lots of nursery rhymes and rhyming picture books together. Encourage your child to anticipate rhyme as you read together.
  • Play clapping and rhyming games like Miss Mary Mack and Pat-a-Cake.
  • Sing silly songs by changing the first sound in some of the words. For example sing, “Bingle bells, bingle bells, bingle all the bay,” or “If you’re chappy and you chow it, chap your chands.”
  • Play games that encourage children to identify words that begin with a specific letter sound. For example, say, “I spy with my little eye a color that starts with /r/.”


Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of words heard and relate to them‌. A child with good listening comprehension has a wide vocabulary and a growing understanding of the world around them.


To develop this skill:

  • Read aloud to your children daily. Read books that are in line with your child’s interests so they realize that there is a benefit to learning to read.
  • Encourage even young children to interact with books.
  • Attend story time at the library.
  • Let your child see you enjoying books.
  • Make read-aloud time an enjoyable shared time. Here are some picture book lists to get you started.


Motivation to Read

Motivation to read is a child’s eagerness and willingness to read.


To encourage your child:

  • Read both fiction and nonfiction books to your child.
  • As you read, ask open-ended questions. For example, ask “What do you think is going to happen when we turn the page?” or “Why did the boy go outside?”
  • Use everyday life experiences to build your child’s vocabulary.
  • Encourage imaginative play and storytelling.


Determine if Your Child Is Ready to Read

Have you been working to help your child develop these important pre-reading skills? If so, it’s very possible that your child is ready to begin formal reading instruction. But if you’re not sure whether your child is ready, complete this checklist to measure your child’s reading readiness:


After completing this checklist, you’ll be able to identify the pre-reading skills that your child still needs to work on. The All About Reading Pre-reading program makes it easy to fill in the gaps and get your child ready to read. Is your child already ready to read? If so, All About Reading Level 1 is the perfect starting point!


One Final Note

I’m a firm believer in letting kids be kids and not pushing academics too early. I also know from extensive experience that most kids don’t develop reading readiness skills on their own. The All About Reading Pre-reading program strikes a good balance. In about 15 minutes per day, depending on your child’s attention span and abilities, this easy-to-use curriculum helps children develop all five of the Big Five Skills. The program includes crafts, rhyming and word games, alphabet charts, and lots of playful activities. If you’ve never met Ziggy, you’re in for a treat!


Most of a young child’s day should be filled with play, real-life activities, and physical exploration. Add in just a touch of daily intentional instruction in these five reading readiness areas, and your child will have an enormous advantage when the time comes for them to read.


Marie Rippel is the founder and curriculum developer behind All About Learning Press. At All About Learning Press, we offer effective, fun, and affordable reading and spelling programs to help your student become a proficient reader and speller for life. All About Reading and All About Spelling are easy to teach and easy to learn. We guarantee it!



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By Jennifer Orr from Eyewords


Learning to read is not a privilege but a basic and essential human right. In Canada, provincial inquiries and in the US, state and national panels have reviewed public education systems and found that we have been failing students, particularly those with reading disabilities such as dyslexia, and many others, by not using evidence-based approaches to teaching students to read. 



Now tasked with the challenge of how to address systemic issues and change the way we approach reading instruction. Here are some key recommendations.


Curriculum and instruction – Using research based explicit and systematic instruction that includes phonemic awareness, phonics and teaches letter-sound correspondence is critical to support learners as they decode and spell words.


Early screening – It is necessary to use evidence based screening assessments to screen students who may be at risk for reading difficulties as young as 3 or 4 years old and continue throughout the first few years of school.


Reading intervention – Reading inventions need to be available to ALL students who need them and be evidence-based. 


Accommodations – Accommodations or modifications should not replace teaching students to read and should be timely, consistent, effective and supported in the classroom. 


Professional assessment – Professional assessments need to meet the needs of diverse learners e.g. racially, linguistically, identity, socio-economically while also being timely, and based on clear criteria.



Shifting Instruction:

Considering the above recommendations, we become more capable of shifting reading instruction in a direction that works. This graphic outlines what practices are “less effective” and “more effective” for our learners.



The Science of Reading:

The Science of Reading is the name of the body of research that combines several disciplines to give a more thorough understanding of what is involved in the reading process. Similarly, structured literacy is a term coined by the International Dyslexia Association, IDA, that refers to evidence-based programs and approaches for teaching literacy. Whatever you choose to call the approach, the fundamental base of these programs comes from evidence-based, systematic approaches to direct phonics instruction.


What makes the Science of Reading the most effective approach? It takes what we know about reading from all the disciplines and recognizes the value of multisensory instruction to create meaning and context for vocabulary, and considers what we know about the learners in front of us. It isn’t a one-size fits all approach; rather, it recognizes that assessment is key to determining what each individual learner needs and what instruction or interventions are most helpful. Having a plan sets the Science of Reading apart. It does not rely on children picking up literacy skills, but is a structured approach with a predictable sequence of skills that build on one another.


As an educator who talks to other educators, this was the missing piece in literacy instruction and many are thirsty for more. Here at Eyewords, we have some freebies that can help you get started.


Check out the free products below you can find on the SPED Homeschool Free Downloads page to get started with an effective, evidence-based program that can be your first step towards reading success.

  • Top 10 Multisensory Sight Words Cards
  • Top 10 High-Frequency Words Orthographic Mapping
  • Multisensory-Orthographic Printable Worksheet

….and more





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