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. 

 

Recommendations:

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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by Sarah Collins, from Homeschool OT

 

Four years ago, my 7-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house when they created a club. The interesting thing about this club was that you had to read the rules. My son, though interested in reading, had amazing comprehension, but could not phonetically sound out the most simplistic sentence. In my gut, I knew something was holding him back, but getting to the root of his specific issue was the most important part.

 

Was it his difficulty regulating his sensory system, causing him difficulty to sit and attend long enough to grasp the concepts?

Was it his perception of the letters?

Was it his visual scanning?

Was it that our environment with a busy mom and other children homeschooling wasn’t giving him the 1:1 time he needed?

Was it simply that our curriculum was confusing?

 

As homeschool parents, we are the experts in our children. Similar to this situation, we often feel in our gut when something isn’t quite right. The next step is then finding the most cost effective and time efficient sources.

  1. Find the correct professional committed to working with you as a parent to provide resources and recommendations. This open communication promotes carryover into your homeschool. In our case, I started asking him questions when we would sit to read. How does your body feel? What do you see here? After probing over the next few weeks, he admitted that the words seemed to be moving on the page. So, the professional we sought out was a vision therapist committed to working with him and me to strengthen his eye musculature and address his retained primitive reflexes throughout our homeschool day.
  2. Educate yourself on the root cause- Instead of googling solutions, search to better understand the “why”-

Some of my favorite books are: 

    • The Whole Brained Child by Daniel Siegel
    • Interoception, How I Feel by Cara Kosinski
    • Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom
  1. Begin to address the root cause within your life and environment- You can read more about how we tailored our homeschool to fit his needs here.
    • We naturally target skills by incorporating more time outside. SPED homeschool and I talk about this more on this episode of Empowering Homeschool Conversations.
    • Many websites provide ideas for activities once we understand the root. SPED homeschool has a fantastic list here.
  1. Rest in knowing your child has a specific purpose. Sometimes these difficulties help to build compensatory strategies and life skills so much bigger and better than our vision for our children. Through this trial, my son’s observation skills and an appreciation for nature both grew substantially. He learned to scan his outdoor environment and then bring his attention to his paper. As a result, he draws what he sees with an attention to detail and desire to understand his world.

 

Sarah Collins, is the owner of Homeschool OT, with 10 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist plus 4 years as a homeschool mom.

 

 

 


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by Ashley Lindsey, SPED Homeschool Community Member

 

A new homeschool year was about to begin and my youngest, Landon, was about to start his kindergarten year. I enthusiastically prepared for this upcoming milestone by gathering all necessary components for a successful year: file folder games, arts and crafts projects, literature selections, the cutest most colorful math workbook, and the cornerstone of it all- the reading program that helped my oldest son blossom into a brilliant reader. We were set for our family’s learning adventure.

 

The year started out as expected. We colored our ABCs, snuggled and read, did more art projects than our refrigerator doors could hold, made erupting volcanoes, and explored forests. After learning to count to 100, Landon wanted to move on to count higher. He even started fractions and beginning multiplication sequences, thanks Odd Squad! The year was taking off better than I had ever hoped, and Landon was excelling at school. It was time to take out that magical reading curriculum- the one everyone on social media raved about- the one that turned my oldest son into a super-reader.  

 

“Mommy, the words are moving,” Landon informed me.

“Ashley, this is completely normal, especially for boys. Just put the reading program down for a few months and let him play,” a well-respected veteran homeschool mom of eight children told me. 

 

We continued our joy-filled school year. The boys had a solid four months of learning and playing before I broke out the trusty reading program again. Surely, Landon will have had enough time to just “be a boy,” so reading will come to him now. Our break was not as successful as I had hoped. He could not even string CVC words together. It was like watching gymnasts do somersaults. I consulted the curriculum company, who advised me to put the material down until next year.

 

Once second grade hit, words were still flipping upside down for my son. My husband and I had him evaluated at the local school district. Finally, I will get a name for this mysterious condition and they can help him, or teach me how to help him. Landon went through the long hours of testing, exhausted and sad when he got home. A few weeks later the school district called me and explained that Landon has classic symptoms of dyslexia, however, since we have not worked on spelling yet, they could not give him a diagnosis and treat him. I explained to the diagnostician that our Orton-Gillingham reading curriculum specifically tells parents not to start the first level of spelling without completing the first level of reading first. She looked at me like I had two heads. 

 

I was a mom on a mission to find help for my son. Since the school district wasn’t an option, I reached out to several people who claimed to help dyslexics. 

 

“Oh yes, we are the best, and yes, Mrs. Lindsey, your son sounds like he has dyslexia. However, we are full and have no room for him. Please try back next year.”

When Landon started seeing black holes in the road while riding in the car, I got his vision checked. For sure, the optometrist will be able to tell me something. This is our pediatrician’s wife- she must be the best. 

“Mrs. Lindsey, your son has 20/20 vision. I checked his retinas and they look perfectly healthy. I am sorry I can’t help you. “

 

Completely deflated, I consulted social media groups. After all, I couldn’t have been the only desperate homeschool parent out there. My inquiry received many suggestions from empathetic parents. I took some of their advice: switched reading curriculum, tried colored overlays, used all the gadgets and books suggested, and most ridiculously, turned subtitles on his TV shows. Most of these efforts were unsuccessful, however Landon told me how much the TV subtitles were helping his reading. I noticed an improvement in his reading accuracy and fluency, but there was still more work to do. 

 

It was time to reevaluate my approach in homeschooling Landon.  My husband and I contemplated public school, but my husband quickly reminded me of the IEP meetings I sat through begging for services for my autistic students only to be refused. Landon would just fall through the cracks like most of my students did. That summer I took inventory of Landon’s strengths and created an individualized educational program where he could blossom and thrive. I had to unlearn most of my formal teacher training, I had to break down the walls of my educational platform built on checklists, essays, straight A’s, completing every workbook page, and every other facet of my perfectionistic self. I had to let go and let Landon lead the way. Not only did he soar in life and his education, but I also was able to relax and shed some of that tight skin held by false expectations. 

 

Over the years, other specialists who were happy to slap as many labels on him as we could afford has seen Landon.

 

We are a single income family so that well dried up quickly. When I was studying the Book of Proverbs and came upon Proverbs 16, the Lord gave me the gift of confidence and steadfast. Verse 16:9 says,

 

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.

I was trying to do God’s work all along but He already did the work, and perfectly so. I still have concerns about my son, but as time passes, my fears are replaced with awe. This child has flourished into an empathetic, fun child adorned with the love of God and a glowing confidence. His smile is contagious, and his humble confidence is admirable. He is a pro at basketball, has built his own gaming PC, is a walking encyclopedia of fun facts, and enjoys good books. I encourage weary parents to peel off those labels and take a holistic inventory of your child, including personality, talents, and gifts. We cannot ignore learning weaknesses, but we can learn how to teach our children to adapt with the plethora of resources available today. Home education can still be fun, exciting, and adventurous, no matter what the needs of your students are. Form an alliance with your child and, with patience, creativity, and insight, you will both be amazed.

 

Ashley Lindsey lives in Missouri with her husband and two teenage boys. When they lived in Texas, Ashley was a Special Education teacher. Once her oldest son started kindergarten, the family pulled him out and began their homeschool journey. Ashley has developed an educational approach for both of her children, meeting their individual needs and interests. The extra-abilities she specializes in are autism, Type 1 diabetes, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, visual impairment, gifted, and twice-exceptional. She believes everyone possesses unique abilities, and her goal is to build an educational platform based on those gifts while still challenging any weaknesses. 

If you would like to correspond with Ashley, her email is Ashley5707@gmail.com.

 

 

 


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By Sarah Collins, OTR from Homeschool OT

 

In early 2017, my eight-year-old was hit directly in the eye with a Frisbee. He could see the Frisbee leave his friend’s hand, yet did not know that it was about to give him a swollen black-and-blue eye. This occurred around the same time that he asked me, “Mom, how do you read when the words are moving on the page?” As an occupational therapist, a specialist working with people to succeed in what they specifically want and need to do, I recognized that he clearly wasn’t able to be successful in his educational or social goals. It was time to seek help. 

 

As homeschoolers, our children’s education is individual. We can change the pace of study to fit the needs of our family; we have curriculum options that can be purchased or altered to fit needs; and we can adjust the environment for the best time and place to reach our children. However, building a team of people to work with us and our children can be beneficial. Sometimes we can build a team, which includes doctors and therapists, with a prescription from our pediatrician, yet when our child’s struggles are specifically affecting educational performance, an IEP can be warranted. In our case, I needed more specific information to further adjust our day and be his best teacher. We contacted our public school system and formally requested educational testing.  

 

After three full days of testing with an educational psychologist and school based occupational therapist, the diagnosis written on our son’s IEP was “reading delay, unspecified”. On a basic level, this meant that he was having difficulties and was behind the norms of his peers, although they identified no specific reason. The school outlined the need for testing accommodations, offered the option to dual enroll (homeschool while using public school services) for the Wilson Reading System instruction, and recommended OT one time per month. For us, the testing accommodations—a person reading standardized test questions to him—was the most important part. In order to receive accommodations for college entry exams, like the SAT or ACT, required proof of the accommodation need. Going through this process allowed us to document his need as early as second grade.  

 

In our son’s case, we declined the other opportunities because: The Wilson reading program is an Orton-Gillingham approach to reading that we felt we could provide with All About Spelling and All About Reading. I based this decision on my expertise in my child; many other families have chosen the Wilson reading program within the school system and thrived. In addition, now that we had the standardized test results and my being an occupational therapist and his mother, I could use the results to develop a program for his motor skills within my home and to build his own personal outside team—a vision therapist and hockey coach. Again, this was based on my expertise in my child and on his desired occupations. 

 

My son took part in primitive reflex integration at home and vision therapy through a private practice. While we were completing these therapies, we used only narration and my reading aloud at home, as well as focused on spelling rather than reading. He needed time to focus specifically on the underlying skills of visual scanning and convergence without the added pressure of recognizing and interpreting the written word. We carried over his vision therapy specific exercises and also set up our day to build on visual-motor skills. For example, we 1) spent a lot of time on nature hikes where I would identify something to find and he would scan the location to find the specific tree, leaf, or animal 2) set up his closet so his shirts were all hung up and he would scan left to right to locate his favorite shirt 3) make grocery store visits our weekly date where he would scan the shelves for the specific item I requested 4) track hockey pucks from a distance to close up.  

 

Now, four years later, my son will return to the public school to retest for an IEP. He is reading large print books with glasses, yet no longer requires glasses for his everyday activities. He recently made an advanced hockey team and has no difficulty following that tiny black puck at high speeds across the ice. Most importantly, his love of nature increased and his engagement in learning never suffered.

 

Using the school system for specific information to inform our homeschool program helped us to build the right team to support my son in what he needed and wanted to do. If you need insight from an occupational therapist on your next steps or on how to incorporate strategies throughout your day, please contact Homeschool OT for a consultation.

 

 

 

 

 


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 By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, SPED Homeschool Board Member, Curriculum PartnerConsultant Partner, and Therapy Partner 

 

Dyslexia is a malady that has perplexed parents, educators, and those diagnosed with it for years. Children think they are “not very smart” because they can’t read as well as their peers. Parents wonder if their child is even trying because they know they are smart. Educators have a classroom full of students and are unsure of how to help the child that is obviously bright but struggling to keep up with academic demands.

 

If you are looking for help for dyslexia in an internet search, you often find descriptions like these:

 

  1. One website gave this statistic:
  • Approximately 15% of people have dyslexia. 
  • This equates to over 30 million adults in the United States, about 6 million in the United Kingdom, and 3 million in Canada. Most don’t know they are dyslexic! 

 

  1. Mayo Clinic states: “Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding)…”

 

  1. Yale University suggests: “In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader…”

 

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says, “Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.”

 

A Bit of Dyslexia History

The individual that first identified dyslexia, Samuel Orton, had a much broader list of symptoms for people with this condition. He said they have some or a combination of these characteristics: 

  • balance issues
  • eye tracking and convergence challenges
  • lack of typical coordination
  • cross dominance (using the opposite eye or ear from the dominant handedness)
  • poor phonemic awareness
  • struggles to spell correctly

 

The numbers of those struggling with this condition are staggering. The current educational system in the United States only offers programs to compensate for symptoms and a long reading remediation process focused on phonics for the challenges of children with dyslexia. For adults with dyslexia, there are few options besides living with it and doing the best you can. That sounds quite bleak to me. 

 

From a NeuroDevelopmental (ND) perspective, the question about all these dyslexic symptoms is 2-fold:

 

  • WHAT is allowing all of the atypical struggles to exist?
  • Why has the original group of symptoms found by Samuel Orton been reduced to a phonetic approach? 

 

In other words, why are all but one of the factors first discovered by Mr. Orton considered in the treatment of dyslexia? Neurodevelopmentalists know that human function is controlled by the brain. How that brain is organized and the developmental steps that have taken place for that individual make all the difference in the functional outcomes. Our experience with individuals labeled with or suspected of dyslexia has been very different than the traditional view of doing a 2-year intensive phonics program and then living with any residual struggle and merely coping and compensating for a lifetime. 

 

The ND approach looks at the whole child to see what might be causing the glitches in function. 

  • Are the eyes not working in tandem so that letters on a page are overlapping and barely distinguishable? 
  • Is the central detail vision not working optimally so small words, parts of words, or punctuation seem to disappear. 
  • Is the auditory short-term memory poorly developed to cause problems with using phonics? The child just can’t seem to hold all the pieces together to get the word out promptly. 
  • Is it that the lower levels of the brain are not organized to enable a fluid flow of information from one hemisphere of the brain to the other?  
  • Is information being stored in the wrong part of the brain causing the individual to have an inconsistent recall?  
  • Or is it a combination of several of the above? 

 

This is very frustrating for everyone! The mom thinks the child has the concept or information just to find the child is unable to retrieve it the next day. The child doesn’t understand why the information isn’t coming out as mom expects. 

 

If you would like to see some of the symptoms we have frequently encountered when working with individuals with dyslexia and the possible root causes from a NeuroDevelopmental point of view, click here 

 

Our experience shows that if the root cause is addressed through equipping the parents with knowledge of the right type of brain stimulation, the children come up an average of a year or more  in math and reading in just four months. This is a far cry from most experiences of getting further and further behind each year. Parents are the key to this change! You don’t have to load your family in the car and drive across town for some expensive therapy. The NeuroDevelopmental Approach can be added to your home school with incredibly positive results. 

For more information and the opportunity for a free consultation, visit  www.BrainSprints.com

 

 

 

 

 


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Jenny Bailey, SPED Homeschool Partner Tales from Mother Earth

 

Many times as a parent, I have made up stories with my children. Invariably, all of mine have been about animals. We help them, or they start talking to us and magically allow us to enter their world. The best stories are the ones that have the power to connect with our emotions – and those are the ones we tend to remember. I believe there is something magical in the process of storytelling, especially for children. If you choose a wonderful topic that piques their curiosity, a child will literally lean in closer to listen more intently to your every word and, right there at that moment, you have the potential to change the world!

 

Storytelling has the power to communicate, engage, and connect people. Every culture has its own stories that are entertainment, education, and cultural preservation. Many of our myths, fables, and the fairy-tales we know today once began as a humble story that has been passed down through generations and retold countless times. With our imaginations, stories can be fact or fiction, and sometimes the two can collide.

 

When we at Tales from Mother Earth formed our collective conservation venture, we were in no doubt of the power of storytelling and the fact that it would play a huge part in our concept and vision. Right from our initial discussions, we wanted our stories narrated by Mother Earth and every story had to have a conservation message in it, complete with bulleted action points for the reader to follow and implement. We wanted our stories to be realistic, reach children’s hearts, and share the wonders and vulnerabilities of nature. Our mission was to reconnect children with nature and empower them to help the animal or insect we featured in our story, thus cementing their own special relationship with the wild through their experience.

 

When we connect with nature, there is a multitude of benefits for us both physically and mentally. For children, these benefits increase even further as their levels of confidence, creativity, well-being, curiosity, and happiness rise dramatically. Through engaging with nature and exploring the environment with our senses, a life-long love of learning can be sparked into action and amazing things can develop. 

 

Sadly, children throughout the world seem to be experiencing a great disconnect with nature. The research suggests that each generation is having less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one. Professor Michael Reiss (UCL Institute of Education) believes that “We owe it to all young people to reverse this trend – for their sakes, for our sakes and for nature’s sake.” 

 

Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and ecological activist also touched on this in a recent interview for The Observer, January 2021, where she stated that in her opinion, ‘Children today have less time for that because they are fascinated by iPhones, laptops and video games. Also, many more children grow up in cities, surrounded by concrete. The important thing is to get them into nature – the younger the better.’

 

Thinking of my own experiences with my children, it’s true that fascination with technology is a constant battle, but I believe there has to be a balanced approach to this, where you can make time for both pursuits. Today, children seem to be growing up very fast. Childhood, and the innocence that comes with it, is only there for a short period of time. It’s within that brief window of early years development where we hope to engage a child’s imagination and wonder with our storytelling – reconnecting them with nature.

 

Simply put, we believe that if children can experience nature and open their eyes and learn about the beauty and abundance that is just outside, they will love and appreciate it more. Then, they will also want to protect what they cherish. We also believe that once the connection is made, it would be very hard to break. So, it’s our mission to ‘re-wild’ children.

 

For us as parents and guardians, we can also become involved in the action. We can show our children and lead by example. By doing so, we can also feel empowered as we help and assist our wildlife that is in trouble and clearly needs our help. Perhaps through the experience of witnessing a child’s wonder of the natural world, we as adults can renew our relationship with it and learn to love and appreciate it even more. 

 

At TfME, we are aiming to perpetuate more of these moments for children and adults alike. Through stories that highlight the plight of our wildlife, we aim to ignite the conservationist in all of us – especially children.  

 

Phoebe the Bee is the first story in the ‘Tales from the Countryside’ series that aims to raise awareness among the young about the current threats our wildlife face from erosion of natural habitat, climate change, and plastic pollution. Told from Mother Earth’s viewpoint and narrated by her on the CD, this is an educational tale about a worker bee whose courage and determination help save the hive when her natural environment is threatened. We share a fictional tale about a real issue as bees are in steep decline across the world. It’s about reconnecting and empowering children with the natural world in a positive way. By providing guidance and conservation action tips, we encourage readers to get involved and help the featured animal or insect directly. Also, we’ve added many different age-related stimuli to the contents so that over time as a child’s understanding and abilities grow, their engagement is maintained with a fun, interactive, and rewarding experience. 

 

At Tales from Mother Earth, we believe that, through collaborations with like-minded individuals and organizations, lasting change can occur that can benefit everyone. We are working hard to re-wild children through storytelling as a means of educating the next generation. While being on this journey, I have the privilege to chat with many professionals in the areas of conservation and psychology. Time and time again, I’m reminded that we must reach the children in order to change the future.

 

I believe there has never been a more important time to connect children with nature than right now. In these troubled times, we need to re-wild childhood and give many children the opportunity to explore the outside. 

 

Some people say that ‘happiness is seeing a bee on the flower you planted’, but that for a child is momentous – and that is the connection we are aiming to create. By doing this, we hope to reach out to many more youngsters so they too can experience hours of fun, reading, listening, and engaging with Phoebe’s story, while learning how to help our bees!

 

Every storybook we create will allow the readers to be involved and help the character in the tale. We want children to understand and appreciate that one person really can make a difference. By taking simple steps in conservation to help wildlife, their re-wilding journey can begin.

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., M ND, SPED Homeschool Partner and  Board Vice-Chair

This month, we have featured articles about Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, for homeschool students. But what if your child still struggles with achieving goals? Do you think your child is capable of meeting their goals but he or she may have a mental block for retaining information? Maybe your child can say all the letter sounds but struggles to put them together when reading. Or does your child still struggle with handwriting goals? An INP may be your missing link to success.

So, what is in INP, and what is the difference between an IEP and an INP? An INP is an Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan. NeuroDevelopment (ND) has to do with the brain’s development in three strategic areas of input (getting information accurately into the child’s brain) through the auditory, visual, and tactile channels. We all process information through our senses of hearing, sight, and touch. The brain’s three areas of development for output are language, fine motor, and mobility (ability to move body parts in space, including coordination). To respond to our environment, our brains help us speak, write, and move. Why is this important? The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory. The IEP focuses only on output, or specific performed ability, as the goal. The INP focuses on stimulating the brain to make the goal more easily achievable.

Let me give you an example. If the educational goal is to increase handwriting skills, the traditional approach is to have the student practice writing with specific verbal instruction or a visual example. But, what if the tactile pathway from the brain to the fingers is immature? What if the fingers are not getting the correct feedback from the brain to make the letters well? Or, what if the central detail vision is not fully developed or the eye-tracking and convergence are off, and the visual images are distorted as they are writing? All the practice in the world is not going to overcome these areas of incorrect information from the brain to help the handwriting.

Instead of focusing on the child’s performance, the emphasis should be the root cause(s) of the deficit. Here is where an INP can be very helpful. Allow me to give you an example from my own experience homeschooling my daughter that was developmentally-delayed. On my homeschool IEP, I had the goal of her reading phonetically past CVC words. Of course, a step toward that goal, in my mind, was the mastery of all the phonograms that make up larger words. We used a phonics program with 70 cards representing the sound(s) of each phonogram. My daughter mastered all the cards, even the phonogram with six sounds! But, she was rarely able to hold the sounds together to read beyond three-letter CVC words. 

The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory..”

After getting her INP from a NeuroDevelopmentalist, I understood the additional developmental issues that held her back from reading with phonics. The first issue was her low auditory processing ability. Her processing (short-term memory) was so slow that it prevented the retention of the sounds to make a word after the laborious pronouncing of each phonogram. The second issue that caused reading to be a struggle was my daughter’s central vision had not developed well and, because of this, she kept skipping lines, words, or parts of words. Her INP addressed these areas of neurodevelopmental need. Her plan included eye-tracking activities, specific activities for developing the central vision, and lots of practice for her auditory short-term memory. By adding this input, along with other short, brain-stimulating sessions, she was able to read longer words, which would have been the goal on an IEP but able to be achieved through an INP. 

If you are interested in finding out if an INP (Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan) is right for your situation, call for a free personalized consultation  with a NeuroDevelopmental Specialist. Or, to see if low auditory or visual processing is an issue for your child, go to www.BrainSprints.com and scroll down to “Tools” to get the free processing test kits.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist & SPED Homeschool Board Member

Teaching methods have come and gone, been expanded, and even more defined through specific curriculum. Some are geared toward specific learning styles and, since humans are all unique, it is good to have various means to get information into young brains. What if I told you about three small ways to make a big difference in your child’s education?

 

Why consider a Brain-Based Approach to learning?

Well, for starters, the realization that the brain controls everything you do would point to the importance of such an approach. If the brain is well-organized and information flows freely to all parts of the body without any sensory interference, the chances of concentrated learning go up significantly. If the individual’s short-term auditory and visual memory is humming along on all cylinders, that makes learning easier as well. If information goes into long-term memory in a way that can be easily retrieved with none of the “but you knew this yesterday” drama, the learning cycle is complete. The question is, how do we get from where we are with learning inefficiencies that make most traditional methodologies challenging for both student and teacher to that complete learning cycle outlined above? The answer lies in The NeuroDevelopmental (ND) Approach.  

In a nutshell, The ND Approach focuses on using the brain’s extraordinary ability to change and grow – plasticity (find out more about Brain Plasticity at this link). By giving the brain specific stimulation or input, it responds by building brain pathways to create better overall function. The central theme of this methodology is to use the Three Keys to Input to attain better coordination, improve sensory feedback to the brain, increase short-term memory, and ensure information is stored efficiently for future use.

 

These Three Keys are Frequency (F), Intensity (I), and Duration (D) – FID

Frequency is the number of times the individual is exposed to the same stimulation/information. Intensity is how strong the stimulation is given. Duration is short periods of time one or more times a day and then over a period of days, weeks, or months. 

What would the Three Keys look like practically in a subject area? Let’s take math computation, for instance. This is an area where we are often in a hurry for the student to be independent. Teaching is really inputting information to the students until mastery is achieved. Typically, we use techniques that are “output-based” like worksheets, speed drills, and flashcards with no answer on them. Where do we think the child will get the answer when we hold up a card with 4+5 on it? We don’t even think much about it. It is just what we do. This output method often reinforces the wrong answers and makes it even harder to master the new concept. An example of FID in math computation is when a new concept is presented, you do 3-5 problems (F) demonstrating how to do the problem. This takes very little time (D) since you are proficient in that skill. The interaction is positive, short, and pressure-free for the student (I). After the initial day or two of input in this way, it is recommended that you do 50% of the math lesson (every other problem) to keep this FID technique going. 

Brain Sprints created the  Rapid Recall System. This is the best Brain-Based Teaching technique where the student sees, hears, says, and writes five math facts 14 times a day (F) and it only takes 6 minutes (D). There are special sound effects to add intensity (I) to the listening sessions. Children that have had trouble remembering their math facts in the past now have them mastered. 

Do you think you don’t have time to sit with your child every day for math? Let me ask you how much time do you spend checking the paper, marking, re-explaining, and dealing with frustration? Trust me, you have time if you rearrange your approach.

 

Three Keys to Input for Reading

Another example of FID for reading proficiency is input instead of output with phonograms. Use the phonogram cards as input cards instead of asking the student what the sound is. Pick 5 cards; hold one up at a time and say the sound; mix the order of the cards and repeat this input for 1 minute. Repeat this process twice a day for about a week. Voila! Sounds are known. If this is not the case, you have to look deeper into the brain function.  The questions would be: 

    • Is there a vision challenge?
    • Is information being stored in the wrong place and can’t be retrieved easily?
    • Does short-term memory need to be improved?
    • Is the brain disorganized?

Once the child knows all the sounds, if there are issues with using phonics, like holding all the phonograms together to be able to decode a word easily, you will want to check on the auditory processing (short-term memory). Good auditory processing is the essential prerequisite to being able to read with a phonics approach. This topic is too lengthy to enter into here, but you can learn more about this important skill with this short video: Auditory Processing  

An individual’s sensory system is an important part of being able to pay attention and not be distracted or in some cases completely overloaded with hypersensitivities. If your child is not receiving sensory information well, you can get facts about the impact and some solutions from these videos from Brain Coach Tips on YouTube.  It Is Not That Loud! (Hyper auditory); It’s Just a Sock  (tactile oversensitivity)

The Brain-Based Teaching known as Brain Sprints NeuroDevelopmental Approach has proven effective with children with all types of labels – Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Down, Sensory Integration Disorder. You understand more when you realize that the brain controls everything you do and when there are glitches, it just makes sense to get to the root of the issue in the brain. If you would like some guidance about where to start using a Brain-Based Approach, schedule your Free Consultation or visit  www.BrainSprints.com for more information.

 

 

 


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Sonlight Curriculum SPED Homeschool Partner

If you took a poll of special needs families, you would likely find one thread that is common among every single family: flexibility. Because flexibility is so critical when raising special needs children, choosing a literature-based homeschool—the most flexible of the curriculum-based approaches—makes so much sense.

 

1. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Environment

With a literature-based education, days are more organic. Rather than forcing our children to sit still at a desk for long periods of schoolwork, we can allow them to draw, build with blocks, or stretch out on the couch while they learn. 

When my oldest son was young, he struggled with dysgraphia, and we worked with an occupational therapist for quite some time. He hated writing, but he quickly learned that he loved to draw while I read aloud. This gave him the flexibility to work on his fine motor skills without really noticing that he was improving his fine motor muscles. Now, ten years later, you’d never know the struggles we had early on. I attribute our Sonlight Read-Alouds to his tremendous success in overcoming dysgraphia. 

Literature-based learning also lends itself to flexibility in our surroundings. It’s really easy to take our reading outside on nice days, and small changes like this can really help our sensory craving children to thrive. We’ve read on the grass, in the swing, on a tree, and in the car. Anywhere that you can take a book becomes a classroom when you use a literature-based curriculum.

 

2. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Format

Because much of the education in literature-based learning stems from discussion, we can teach subjects like science and history without paper and pencil, making those subjects more stress-free for those children who despise paperwork. While most people may be accustomed to worksheets and tests, a literature-based curriculum can set you free from the hum-drum of paper-based practice and assessment. 

For example, Sonlight contains very little testing. With a literature-based program, children show their understanding of a subject through narration—repeating back what they learned in the reading. My children and I have

  • learned geography by mapping the places we read about
  • learned science through reading living books and doing fun experiments
  • learned history through fictional accounts of true events

This type of education spells success for children who strongly dislike or struggle with paper and pencil work.

 

3. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Learning Styles

  • Does your child love to write? Then have them take notes or doodle while you read.
  • Does your child hate to write? Have them build with blocks or learn to sew while you read. 

With a literature-based curriculum, you aren’t trying to stuff your child into a box. Instead, you give them the flexibility to be themselves. This is of the utmost importance with special needs children. They need the flexibility to learn in the way that is best for them without any stigma, and this is exactly the freedom that  a literature-based curriculum offers.

 

4. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Choice

Literature-based learning is so beautiful because of the choices available to you. Take Sonlight for example. In the elementary years, you have three to four choices of topics of study, so you are able to pursue your child’s interests in selecting each year’s program. What sounds more interesting? World history or US history? You can choose!

Choice can mean the difference between your child buying-in or checking-out on their education. Give your special needs child a reason to buy-in to their education by sitting down with the  Sonlight catalog and helping you choose the curriculum for the year.

 

5. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Schedule

There’s nothing quite as overwhelming as feeling that you are behind. Special needs families are especially aware of this constant pressure to keep up in the midst of fluctuating moods, non-stop doctor and therapy appointments, and the basic hum of life’s requirements.

With a literature-based curriculum, being behind really isn’t a problem. First of all, you’ll likely find yourself slightly ahead of schedule because of what I call, “One More Chapter Affliction.” This affliction affects probably 90% of all literature-based students. Symptoms include continually asking to read “just one more chapter, please.” This seems to be pretty much incurable and is usually characterized by a collective groan once the adult reading has worn out their voice and ended the read-aloud for the day. I tease, but in all seriousness, we love reading aloud so much that being behind schedule never worried me.

Also, when you have a literature-based curriculum, it doesn’t feel so much like doing school. So you can save a book for the summer or for bedtime reading, and catch up without pressure. You could just school all year by stretching out the curriculum over 12 months instead of 9. Or you have the freedom to skip a book all together without ruining the flow of the overall curriculum. 

I believe that a literature-based education offers the most flexibility and the most organic learning experience of all the homeschool approaches. Both of these qualities make a literature-based education a great option for special needs children.

 

 

 


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