You don’t need a separate reading curriculum. Discover how you can simplify reading requirements, help kids enjoy reading, and make language arts more fun.
I’m as guilty as the next homeschool mom. Every year I roam the aisles of homeschool conventions and browse the pages of catalogs dreaming about homeschool curriculum. Those bright and shiny packages seem to call my name as I wander the aisles.
You see, curriculum is AMAZING. Until it isn’t.
Sometimes we get so hung up on the idea of that open-and-go textbook or box curriculum that we fail to see its shortcomings. Can I tell you a secret? You don’t need a curriculum for every subject. This is especially true for reading.
Why You Don’t Need a Reading Curriculum
Reading is covered in other subjects
When your kids are learning how to read, your MAIN subject and focus should be reading. In fact, you might even want to get some great resources to help you teach your child how to read. But once your child has gotten past those easy readers like Bob Books, you can actually break away from the curriculum. Why?
In late elementary, middle, and high school, the reading required for other subjects such as science, history, and even Bible can get really intense. Having an additional textbook for this subject can frustrate even kids who LOVE to read, but it will overwhelm those who struggle.
I learned this lesson the hard way with my second child. Our reading curriculum was a fat textbook full of a collection of stories carefully curated by a very popular and well-respected company. But that was truly the problem. Reading was a weakness for my daughter, and she was overwhelmed with the amount that I was requiring since many other subjects also required her to read. When we broke free, everything changed. (More on what we used below.)
Kids thrive on bite-sized books rather than chunky anthologies
As a former classroom teacher, I was quick to ditch the anthology (large collection of stories in textbook form) for living books like picture book biographies and adventurous chapter books. Kids thrive on bite-sized pieces. I like to say that when you are teaching kids it’s best to break it down— not water it down.
Kids of any age can learn about obscure and fascinating fish or detailed facts about indigenous people groups as long as they have bite-sized portions of information. We don’t have to give them books that dumb down the topics. We just need to give them less information at one time. It’s incredible what kids can learn!
Living books are far more interesting than textbooks
That fat reading textbook I mentioned above almost caused BIG trouble in our homeschool. I didn’t realize how much it was frustrating my daughter because her older sister loved it! Thankfully, we switched to something else that I’ll share below. But first, I must admit that I didn’t give up so easily on our fat textbook reading curriculum.
A year or two later, I tried using it with my son. He was an early reader and didn’t struggle as much as his sister, but that curriculum was still a disaster. The textbooks were boring to him and he didn’t want to do his reading assignments. He much preferred the stack of books that he had picked up from the library. I found that he learned so much more from those living books found at the library than from the curriculum.
Charlotte Mason was right. Real living books are so much more powerful than a collection of stories in a textbook. Kids pick them up because they want to learn about a particular topic or adventure to an imaginary place. The things they can learn are limitless when it’s done in this format.
Students should get to choose what they read
Most parents struggle with the idea of allowing their children to read whatever they are interested in. We struggle because we weren’t allowed to do that. I spent 12 years in public school being told exactly what to read and when to read it. Perhaps you did too.
But the truth is, SOMEONE is always picking. There isn’t a standardized list of the required reading for ANY age level. Every year teachers pick what they think their students should read. They have to do that because they teach 25+ students per class period. It would be impossible to allow students to choose.
In our homeschools, we are free to choose what we want our kids to read. In some cases, there may be a book or two that you should pick for your kids. But in most cases, let them pick! When kids read about what they are most interested in, they fall in love with reading. They also often fall in love with topics they enjoy knowing about.
When kids are forced to read things they didn’t choose, they might enjoy it, but it’s more likely that they will only do it out of obligation! A true love for reading comes from a hunger to read more. Give your kids the opportunity to experience that!
One great way to have a healthy balance of books so your child is reading quality material— and not all cartoons— is to have a daily book box where they get to choose a few, and you get to choose a few. We would go to the library and pick out five books each to put in our “book basket”. Once they are all read, you can go back and choose again. If fact, sometimes my kids developed new interests just by swapping books with each other!
don’t be afraid to kick the reading curriculum to the curb. There’s a MUCH better option.
What You Can Use Instead of a Reading Curriculum
A reading curriculum should allow your kids to choose, use living books, and simplify the time needed for reading each day. Does such a thing exist?
When my daughter started struggling, I created a system that would allow her to do all of those things and STILL teach the literary elements she needed out of a reading curriculum. It’s called the reading journal. Originally developed for elementary grades, the reading journal allows students to pick their own books and then complete a short 10-15 minute lesson to reflect and show what they have learned. It works with picture books and chapter books. As long as your child can read fluently (not easy readers or Bob books), they can use it. We typically say it’s perfect from 2nd grade through 5th grade.
Is your student older? We’ve developed reading journals for middle school and high school too! They offer the same freedom to choose ANY book, even books they are reading for other subjects like history, science, and social studies. These reading journals include literary analysis and other important skills.
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.