Yesterday, we discussed Charlotte’s Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six. I already pointed out that a number of these goals can be accomplished through Circle Time. The question is, is there anything outside of Circle Time to be done? I would give this question a resounding yes.
I really don’t do a lot of formal lessons with my children. I believe there is time enough for that starting at age 6 or 6.5, when my children are required by law to be “in school.” I figure that, on average, I work with my preschoolers an hour each day, and that is including our 30-45 minutes of Circle Time.
The only other thing outside of Circle Time that I consistently do with them is … reading lessons.
My number one “academic” goal for my little ones is that they read well by age seven. (This is my goal even though I know they may not all reach it.)
The Details of Reading Lessons
I don’t have a set age at which I begin reading lessons. My rule of thumb, which has served me well thus far, is that we begin when a child asks to learn. So far this has happened at age 3, age almost-5, and age 3.5. I think three is really young for reading lessons, but so far I have had two three-year-olds who were insistent.
Let me tell you now that it is much easier to teach a five-year-old to read than it is to teach a three-year-old to read, even if that five-year-old is “average” and the three-year-old “bright.” Some of these things are simply an issue of brain development, and I don’t know that I’d require reading lessons of a child who was hesitant until age 6.
One of the things on Charlotte’s Formidable List is “to read.” Both of my girls have asked to learn to read, and so they both receive reading lessons three to four times per week. Lessons for the just-turned-four-year-old last about 10 minutes, while lessons for the almost-six-year-old are closer to 15. (The extra five minutes are due to the amount of review practice.)
If you are interested in teaching reading, you can see my phonics curriculum, Teaching Reading with Bob Books. As a disclaimer, this is not the CM method of teaching reading, but it has the method I have used forever and I’m not in the mood to learn new tricks right now, though I suppose I do try and incorporate a bit of her approach along the way. All that to say, it is not the only way to teach reading, but it is possibly one of the cheapest!
The Importance of Reading in AmblesideOnline
AmblesideOnline is full of rich literature. The reason why my goal is to have a child reading well by age seven is that the goal in AmblesideOnline is to have a child reading his own material (for the most part) by around age nine or ten. These are not easy books. This is why, whenever my children are ready, we jump on reading lessons. I have noticed by observing other mothers using this curriculum that it is really hard to have a struggling reader because the curriculum is almost entirely reading.
Geography? Reading. History? Reading. Literature? Reading.
You get the point.
I’m not saying the curriculum is impossible for non-readers. It’s not, and I adore the work of Paula Flint of Flint Academy, where this rich literary heritage is offered to the least of these — the disabled, the dyslexic, and the badly behaving. I think it is completely in line with Charlotte’s thinking to give children a full, living education, whether or not they can read.
We can also do ourselves some favors, and teach the children to read.
That’s all I’m saying.
If we fill their minds with beautiful thoughts during Circle Time, and then spend a handful of minutes in unlocking the door to reading, we will find we are well on our way to being prepared for AmblesideOnline Year One.
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