For months our school days ended with tears, shouting, and incomplete assignment checklists. At first, I didn’t even know that reading was the culprit of all this. All I knew was that I couldn’t handle it anymore. But once I figured it out, I was on a mission to find a better homeschool reading curriculum option for us.
Perhaps you’ve been there in your homeschool. It’s a scary place to be, mostly because as moms (ahem…and women) we like for things to be under control. We like to be able to predict what is going to happen and we like getting those boxes checked off before the end of the day. But sometimes homeschool doesn’t go like that.
For my family, homeschool WASN’T going according to plan. It was just one kid, but she was loud enough to rock the whole ship and we couldn’t bail enough water to keep ourselves from feeling like we were sinking. In the most unlikely of places, the problem finally became obvious. It was reading.
My sweet child was struggling with the reading program we had purchased for that year. Although the other kids loved it, it was throwing everything off for her and I needed a quick intervention. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to switch the curriculum we were using. It was expensive and it was good. PLUS, it was producing great results for the other kids.
I tried for some time to reason with myself, but kept missing the point. Sure it might be great for the other kids and it might be the most excellent curriculum money can buy, but none of that matters if it’s not working for my child. Especially if it’s a daily battle to even get her to open the book, much less learn anything from it.
I knew the answer at this point (4th grade) was to get her reading things that she would at least partially enjoy. If reading was already difficult for her, I was exacerbating the problem by making the subject matter irrelevant or uninteresting. And as a homeschool mom, I had the freedom to make a change. So I did.
We set aside the great reading program and she started reading a mystery series called Scripture Sleuth (picked by her). She read a new chapter each day and recorded what she learned in a journal. The result was even better than I had expected.
She loved the new “curriculum.” Suddenly her checklists were complete not just in reading, but in all of the other subjects that had suddenly gotten “impossible” for her. And the best part? She knew that I really cared. She saw that I wasn’t here to force her to do things, but to help her get through the hard parts of life.
I tell you this story because I want to empower you, too. I want you to feel free to get out of the box that we often believe is the only real way to homeschool. And I know it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright hard. And scary. But we can give our kids an amazing educational experience despite our own shortcomings and fears, I promise.
How to Make Your Own Homeschool Reading Curriculum
Before I start, let me give you the disclaimer that this is NOT a reading curriculum design that will teach your child how to read. I am assuming you are past that stage. Once your child can read enough words to truly read the directions for most assignments (typically around 2nd-3rd grade), it’s time to focus on building reading skills such as fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.
Many parents skip this stage. They sell the old reading books to moms with younger kids and hand their child a thick novel, calling it a day. I don’t advise this. Children still need practice with essential reading skills throughout all of elementary school. After that point, most children can take courses that combine reading with other subjects. Don’t skip to that level before it’s time!
Step 1:: Determine your child’s likes
Yes, we are starting with what your child likes. I think this is the most important factor in choosing what your child will read. Trust me, this is the beauty of homeschooling and it’s vital to establishing a healthy love for learning. There are so many great books out there. Why not read what you enjoy?
I encourage my children to make a list of all the things they would love to read about. I let them doodle or draw on the list, as well as use words. I typically do this over multiple days. I will keep the list on the counter or the fridge and encourage them to add things to the list when they ask a question about something or show an interest.
Step 2:: Determine the amount of time you have
Before I start choosing the exact book list we will use, I like to look at the factors that will determine how many books we will cover. Here are just a few questions to answer: How many school days do we have planned? How many days of reading each week? How many books do we want to cover? How many chapter books vs. shorter books will we include?
At this stage, we just want a general idea. Books can be added or cut later.
Step 3:: Find your books
Now for the fun part. With the first 2 steps in mind, it’s time to collect the books you need for the year. Personally, I buy everything. I prefer not to worry about the library having the right book when I’m ready or someone else placing it on hold, forcing us to return it before we’ve finished. That being said, the library is a great resource, especially if you are on a limited budget.
If you plan to purchase items, look for local used book stores, thrift stores, and even go to the used section on Amazon. I’ve gotten many amazing books for little more than the cost of shipping.
Step 4:: Loosely assign the books to your schedule
Now that you have picked your books, go through and assign them to your schedule. You can put them in order based on what you want your child to read first or you can simply assign a chapter book per month. My Rachel really prefers short books and she likes to choose, so I don’t always assign an order. If I don’t need them in a specific order, why not allow her the choice? We simply keep them in her book box until she is ready.
Step 5:: Find resources to supplement your books
This is usually the hardest part of the whole set-up, but it doesn’t have to be. Most classics have resources already developed all over the internet. All you need to do is search the title of your book and “printable.” I prefer to search in Pinterest, but if that comes up empty, I will go to Google.
I have several favorite sites such as HomeschoolShare. But honestly, as much as I like doing lapbooks and unit studies for the books we read, it’s more than our schedule can handle. So now we have a reading journal where we are able to respond each day to what we have read. I dusted off my M. Ed. in reading/curriculum and created a journal that she could use with any book she chose.
In fact, I created 28 unique lessons that focus on vocabulary, word study, comprehension, and higher-level thinking skills like compare/contrast. She will use each set of lessons 6 times, providing just enough practice without too much monotony.
Rachel helped me develop the pages and I’m super excited to tell you that we made it into a printable form to share with you, too!
I hope you read this post and thought, "Wow, that sounds simple." I promise it really IS SIMPLE! And the best part? You can take a child who is floundering and uninterested in learning and transform him/her into someone who can't wait to open that book!
So how about you? Have you tried to make your own reading curriculum? What resources have you enjoyed?