Learning to read opens the door to a host of tools and adventures for every child. However, the value of reading is often evaluated differently for the home schooled child than it is for the traditionally-schooled child. Traditionally-schooled children are regularly tested on their reading ability because traditional professional astrologer for personal chart reading methods rely heavily on a child’s reading ability as a way for children to learn other subject matter. As a matter of fact, teaching reading is so important to the traditionally-schooled child that such children rarely achieve academic success without first mastering basic reading skills.
Early Reading Skills vs. Developmental Readiness
The reading picture has evolved somewhat differently for the home schooled child. Home schooled children have advantages that make the development of reading skills less pressing than they are for traditionally-schooled children. As a matter of fact, some home schooling experts insist that there is no need to worry about forcing the development of reading skills in home schooled children and that many home schooled children don’t master reading until several years after the traditionally-schooled child. Many home schooling educators believe that teaching reading is something that happens naturally.
The primary reason why home schooled children may not require early mastery of reading skills is because they are taught in different ways than traditionally-schooled children. The traditionally-schooled child must adhere to a set standard designed to ensure that all children develop at the relatively same pace. Teaching dozens of children the same material requires that those children be at the same basic level of preparation. A public school teacher faced with teaching ten, twenty, or even thirty children at varying learning stages is likely to be unsuccessful at such an endeavor. Ensuring that children learn certain skills by a certain age simply makes teaching large groups of students more efficient.
Maria Montessori and Teaching Reading
The work of Maria Montessori changed the face of teaching reading and opened the door to a new home schooling movement. Dr. Montessori uprooted traditional teaching theories by presenting research that children learn at varying rates and that hands-on activities enable children to learn better and more completely than traditional rote memorization teaching techniques. Her work in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s also proved that mixing multiple learning levels in the same classroom actually benefits children rather than hindering them. Children, regardless of age, learn from each other. Older children inadvertently teach younger children. And, younger children give older children the opportunity to learn by doing. However, because of the somewhat individualized teaching present within the Montessori classroom, employing this method within the public school environment is not always feasible. More about Dr. Montessori’s work can be found at www.montessori.edu.
Intentionally or unintentionally, home schooling is rather Montessori-like in the practical application of home schooling teaching methods. Like Maria Montessori’s theories, home schooling emphasizes the individual learning style of the student over the need to teach certain skills by a certain age. The child who is a weak reader might be verbally advanced, and vice versa, meaning that the home school teaching partner plays on each child’s strengths to teach each individual child. This format is far easier to implement within the home schooling environment than it is in the traditional school setting.
Standardized Assessments Encourage Early Reading Skills
The drive toward assessing student progress has invaded what was once a rather freestyle home schooling environment. Students nationwide are now expected to perform at certain levels based on age and academic grade. And, although standardized assessments are good indicators of overall performance, they are somewhat stifling to home schooling enthusiasts and fail to consider the different learning styles and speeds of individual learners. In essence, standardized assessments, which are now required of many home schooled children, are ultimately forcing home schooling educators to ensure that their students learn academic skills at roughly the same rate as traditionally-schooled children. This means that teaching reading has become more important within the home school format.
Many educators, home schooling and traditional, abhor standardized testing. Still, it looks like it’s here to stay, at least for the moment. And, for the home schooled child to meet the expected standards and to stay on track, that child has to have mastered certain skills, especially reading, by a relatively early age. In situations where standardized testing is an important assessment tool, children who fail to develop early reading skills are likely to be incorrectly assessed. And, an incorrect assessment is dangerous to both the child and the home schooling program. For this reason, it’s important for home schooling educators to emphasize reading skills as a learning tool and that they emphasize teaching reading.
Reading as More Than Merely a Skill
Teaching reading to children as early as possible does not have to be a perceived slight to the home schooling tradition. Although, like Maria Montessori, many home schooling educators take issue with forcing children to learn any skill before they are developmentally ready, there is no research that indicates that teaching children to read early harms their future development in any way. So, disregarding the obvious difficulties associated with teaching children skills that they may not be prepared to learn, early reading development probably still is a worthwhile endeavor.