I've been using Teach Your Child to Raad in 100 Easy Lessons
by Siegfried Engelmann with Jonas, and I've really loved it. I'm surprised that I like it, honestly, because it's very structured. It tells you exactly what to do, even has a verbatim script of how to explain something or give instructions. I would have thought that would be awkward, but I love it. I don't have to think about how to explain a concept, or spend any time planning a lesson, or trip over my words over-explaining something simple. I can focus all of my attention on watching Jonas, making sure he's tracking along and doing well. I'm thinking about him, not about my own words.
From the introduction:
"Typically, the [teachers] attended either to the content they presented or to the behavior of the children they were trying to teach. When they attended to the behavior, they frequently became verbose, repetitive, and often bumbled. When they talked too much (which they frequently did), their delivery suffered because their pacing became poor. The children became confused and lost interest....[With a script] the teacher could now concentrate primarily on delivering the content, not on trying to create it or design ways to 'get it across.' "
Um, are they hiding in my pantry? I do that, and I'm only teaching one child.
Does this mean I do better with a prescribed, structured curriculum? So far I've been in the Official Homeschool Winging It Philosophy. Maybe I should rethink that.
I love the way the material is broken down into quick easy lessons. They take about 12-15 minutes, including a brief writing practice at the end. On my own, I try to do way too much in a single lesson. My last school experience was medical school, and so I have some learning to do about the preschool pace. Each lesson feels very doable to Jonas, with small incremental changes in content. There is always something new or slightly more difficult, but it's a small enough chunk that it feels very manageable to him. He enjoys the lessons and is proud of what he's learning. He's never yet felt overwhelmed.
I also like the order sounds are presented. The most reliable and common letters are presented first. (By reliable, I mean that the letter always makes the same sound, like M or S, and unlike C or G.) Vowels are given phonetic symbols, like the line above long E, that are gradually phased out. 'th' is presented as a sound, as if it were a separate letter. So at lesson 22, Jonas is very comfortable with about 11 letters, but they are very common letters that can make up lots of words and even short stories. X and Q can wait until lesson 74.
If I had tried this a year ago, he would not have been ready. I'm sure some kids are, but not the J-Man. Even last summer and early fall, he would get very frustrated when we practiced writing. He started avoiding it altogether. Part of that may have been his age, and I'm sure my teaching approach was too intense for him. This book slows me down, in a good way. After he got so frustrated, I put reading aside, and didn't even ask him to write his name for a few months. Then we started this program in the spring, and now he's loving it. He asks to write. He always asks how words are spelled, and tries to read everything he sees.
I aim for a lesson a day, but fall very very short of that. We're on lesson 22, and we've been doing this maybe 2 months. If we reach a point where he plateaus and starts to get frustrated, we can take a break. I won't force him. But so far, so good.
I love hearing from other homeschool mamas about what they're doing. What's working? What's not?