• How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Kids Who Are Struggling Readers
    homeschool basics,  language arts,  reading

    HOW TO TEACH KIDS TO READ & tips for struggling readers

    I’ve been asked many times how to teach kids to read, especially since I shared how we teach language arts without a curriculum and I finally got around to making a video about it.

    I didn’t want to just leave it at how I taught my kids to read, I also wanted to share some tips for helping kids who are struggling readers or are taking longer to learn to read.

    I taught each of my kids the same way and one caught on quicker than the other.

    That being said, there have been a few things we’ve done with our struggling reader that have drastically improved his reading ability.

    Recently he went from struggling with his reading to reading words I didn’t even know he knew and faster than I even realized.

    I hope this information and these tips work for your family!


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers





    Check out Beautiful Minutiae’s video on a similar topic.


    A little flashback on my each of my kids learning to read:


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers


    How to Teach Kids to Read and Tips for Struggling Readers

  • When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?
    language arts,  reading

    Phonics vs Whole Language When Teaching Reading

    I honestly have no idea how I learned to read. I don’t know who taught me or what kind of process they used but I know that I have been a voracious reader since I was young.

    Since reading is such a big part of my life I want my kids to love reading as well.

    I truly feel blessed to have taught/be teaching both of my kids to read.

    So many people have told me that teaching their kids to read is one thing that scares them away from homeschooling, they just don’t know how to do it. To be honest, I didn’t either!


    When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?


    People often assume since I was educated as a teacher that means I know how to teach kids to read, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s just say, nothing I learned in university has helped me with homeschooling. (Other than realizing that the school system is not where I wanted my kids to be.)

    When it was time for Raeca to start learning to read I picked up the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I had come across it somewhere on the interwebs and since it was only $15 it seemed like a no-brainer. I’ve always maintained that this book is boring but it works. While this post may contradict that a bit, I guess now I would say the book is dry but it does teach phonics.

    I used the book for both of my kids, with Raeca we did about 80 of the 100 lessons before she was reading on her own and I’ve done about 65 lessons with Ephraim and we are taking a break from TYCTR, we may come back to it but at this point he needed some supplementary reading.

    Before I go any further, let me just mention that Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a phonics based approach to reading. And I feel like I’ve now learned that just teaching phonics is enough for some kids but some kids need more.

    But at the beginning I did not really know about different ways of teaching reading apart from phonics so that’s why I went with a phonics based approach.


    When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?



    It wasn’t until I read Reading Magic that I learned about whole language teaching. Even then, it wasn’t until a few years after reading the book for the first time and a few months after reading it a second that I really felt like I grasped what whole language teaching was.

    I assumed that every child had to be taught to read through teaching phonics. And while I still do think that phonics is important to know, it wasn’t until Ephraim hit a bit of a wall with the phonics based approach that I began to consider something else.



    It took me quite a while to realize that Ephraim had hit a wall with phonics. I assumed he just needed more practice but it was frustrating to hear him sound out every single word, especially when he had just read that exact word four words ago.

    I started to notice that he was still sounding out words like “it” and “is” but was catching on to the bigger, sight words, first with said, then little, etc.

    I thought those short words would click after continuing through TYCTR but it just wasn’t happening, that’s when I knew we needed to do something different.


    When teaching your child to read- should you use phonics or a whole language approach?



    Since Ephraim knew the phonics basics I was good with pretty much throwing it out the window. It’s the whole idea of knowing the rules and then breaking them. He knew how to sound things out and now he just needed to stop sounding everything out.

    To help with that we entered the land of Elephant and Piggie.

    Thank you, Mo Willms, for making our reading so much more fun! These books are silly, have quite a few pages but not very many words on a page and are repetitive enough for practice but not so much so that they become boring. He really is the modern day Dr. Seuss (who we also love).



    The part where Elephant and Piggie books are different than Dr. Seuss is there are some big, non-phonics in each books, the Elephant’s name is Gerald after all. #phonicsnightmare

    To help keep the flow and fluency and keep discouragement to a minimum I generally jump in when a new “big” word is introduced or if there are words that are a current struggle.

    I thought it might be helpful to take you along while Ephraim read an Elephant and Piggie book to give an idea of how much sounding out is being done and how much I help. The book he’s reading in this video he had read one other time so he knew what was happening but he didn’t have it all memorized – that’s the sweet spot when learning to read.

    I do wish I would have angled the camera down a bit more for this video so you could see the book as he was reading. Sorry about that. #learning


    I would love to hear how you approach reading, do you gravitate more towards phonics or whole language? Have you noticed a difference from one child to the other?



  • Free Printable Sight Word Flashcards
    free printables,  reading

    Free Printable Sight Word Cards

    Teaching my son to read has been an completely different experience than teaching my daughter. It is so much less frustrating in some ways and more frustrating in others. Pretty much exactly like parenting.

    One thing Ephraim has needed a lot more practice with than Raeca is sight words.

    I recently had a short but really eye opening conversation with a teacher friend who used to teach grade one. He mentioned that the biggest factor he has seen play a role in reading is memory. According to him, kids with a better memory learn to read quicker.


    Free Printable Sight Word Flashcards


    This comment on memory was a huge light bulb moment for me. Raeca’s memory has always been AMAZING. She will remember things I forget, I often tell her to remind me of things. Ephraim on the other hand . . . his memory is not as great at this point. Raeca only needed to see non-phonetic words a few times before she knew what they were, while Ephraim still sounds out phonetic words he has seen numerous times.

    This is definitely a matter of kids having different gifts and as a result Ephraim just needs to work harder at learning to read than Raeca did. So for him, sight word flashcards are helpful, the more he sees them the more they will stick in his memory.


    Free Printable Sight Word Flashcards - from the Dolch sight word list


    I created these sight word cards awhile ago as a freebie before one of our homeschool bundle sales and meant to put them up here afterwards but as a result of my not-always-great memory, it’s taken me awhile to get to it. It wasn’t until I made the video walk through of our homeschool cart that I remembered.

    I hope you can make use of the flashcards!


    You can download the free flash cards by signing up for my free subscriber library:


    check to confirm



  • The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Homeschool
    books,  reading,  real homeschool stories

    The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Home

    We are big into audiobooks in our home and I get a lot of questions about it. About a year ago I wrote a post about How to Incorporate Audiobooks into Your Homeschool Day but we’ve amped up our listening since then so I figured it was time to go big and share The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks with Kids.

    You definitely don’t need to do everything we do or even do things how we do them but I wanted to share our experience in order to help out my fellow homeschoolers.

    First off, let’s start with why I am so keen on audiobooks!






    I’ve admitted this many times, I can read a good picture book really well but I struggle with reading chapter books aloud. While I am working on this by reading some of the easier chapter books aloud I didn’t want this struggle of mine to affect the number and quality of books we listen to.


    Want to listen to more audiobooks with your kids? Here is a great guide with lots of tips on how and when to listen to audiobooks with kids!



    I really enjoy productivity and appreciate that our minds can be busy listening to a story while our hands are busy doing something else. Ideas on what this can be to follow . . .



    Back to my issues with productivity but I find reading aloud takes me such a long time, so I’ve gotten in the habit of speeding up our books. This depends on the narrator but I find we usually put our family audiobooks on to 1.2x speed. If you have headphones on it’s easier to listen at a faster speed, I usually listen at 2x for my own books and my daughter listens between 1.4x and 1.8x depending on the book. It’s also something that needs to be done gradually, you can’t just go from always listening at regular 1x speed and then jump up to 2x, you need to hit the speeds in between first or else it sounds way too fast.


    Want to listen to more audiobooks with your kids? Here is a great guide with lots of tips on how and when to listen to audiobooks with kids!



    If you know that audiobooks are amazing and something you need to incorporate into your homeschool, I bet you are wondering about the best ways to listen to these great books. The good news is, the majority of the ways we listen to audiobooks are completely free!

    The first two apps we use for free via our library, the third one is free online and only the fourth and fifth ones do you need to pay for (but I’ve got some tips for you to get some of them for free or super cheap).



    I love this app because we can have up to ten books out at a time. With three of us listening to audiobooks quite heavily we actually use two library cards which bumps us up to 20 books at a time! Plus, they are automatically returned when they are due so we never have to worry about late fees or trying to remember when to bring them back. If your library has access to Overdrive they will only have a limited number of copy of each book so some times you have to put a hold on a book and wait awhile for your turn.

    Side note: I just heard about the app Libby. I thought it was another app but as far as I can tell it is Overdrive but looks nicer? I’ll update here when I’ve used it more and know more about it!



    Another great app our library uses! Our local library limits us to three books a month which is not usually enough for us from this app since they have a different selection than the Overdrive app (it’s where we are listening to the Christian Heroes Then and Now Series). The good thing about Hoopla though is that there are no waiting lists! If you find a book you want to read or listen to you can do so immediately.


    The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Homeschool



    We may have gone through the majority of the audiobooks our library has . . . so our current favorite resource for listening to books is Scribd! It’s like Netflix for books! We have listened to so many great books that our library did not have available to us. If you want your first two months free you can get that here.



    Prior to using the library apps we used the website Librivox a lot more, it’s been awhile since we’ve used it now but there are some great books to listen to for free on the site. Librivox uses volunteers to read books that are in the public domain so if you are looking for classics, chances are it will be there! Narrators can be hit and miss but we’ve always enjoyed Kara Shallenberg.



    If we can’t access an audiobook we want from any of these sites I will consider purchasing it from Audible. There aren’t many books we re-listen to so for that reason I prefer to not buy them. If I do buy one off of Audible I make sure I don’t pay more than $5. The Green Ember was a book I kept waiting for our library to get and they never did so I bought it on Audible when it was on sale for a few dollars.

    The nice thing about Audible is, if you haven’t already done their free trial you can get some books for free! Or, you can just buy the discounted books when you find them and you don’t need a subscription. Plus, sometimes if you already have the ebook you can get the audiobook for just $0.99!



    We also use Epic Books at times to listen to books. They have a pretty good selection of picture books which kids can listen to and look at the pictures at the same time. They also have some audiobooks for older kids but not as much selection for audiobooks for older kids as the other apps I’ve previously mentioned. Epic does come with a monthly subscription but they often have deals for you to get the first month free. I would definitely recommend looking into Epic and seeing if it’s something you want to incorporate into your audiobook arsenal.


    The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Homeschool



    Now that I’ve shared our favorite sites/apps for audiobooks let’s get into when to listen to them! We listen to a few of books a month by implementing the following methods.

    Actually before I get into this list I should just mention that we usually have one audiobook on the go that we are listening to together as a family (minus my husband who is usually at work while we are listening) and then the kids and I also have individual books we listen to. We listen via this bluetooth speaker.

    For individual listening I use my phone and headphones and the kids have old tablets and headphones. I’m looking into getting us all bluetooth headphones so we can walk around more but first we have to do a little saving, I’m still using the headphones that came with an old phone I bought six years ago, it’s about time I got some new ones.


    Want to listen to more audiobooks with your kids? Here is a great guide with lots of tips on how and when to listen to audiobooks with kids!



    This is my favorite one, because I may have one child who is a bit of a chatterbox. Listening to books at meals began as a way to get her to actually eat her food instead of just talking through the entire meal but quickly turned into something we enjoyed. For about a year we only listened at lunch time (20-30 minutes a day) but over the past few weeks we’ve started listening at breakfast too. Often we will be so into a book we will sit at the table for awhile after eating or my daughter will pull out a paper to draw on, which brings me to the next one . . .



    There are so many things a person could do while listening to a book: drawing, coloring, playing Lego, driving cars (as long as there aren’t too many car noises 😉 ), making perler bead creations, etc. Anything that is fairly mindless could be done at the same time. I have a list of more than thirty ideas of things you can do while listening coming out soon!



    This is usually more of an individual thing in our house, where we have headphones on and do some kind of cleaning while listening. I like to listen while doing the dishes, folding laundry or sweeping. The kids usually listening while cleaning up their rooms and all those clothes at somehow end up on their floor. Cleaning can be a struggle but listening to something at the same time makes it more enjoyable for me and eliminates the complaining from my kids (except if their headphones get tangled as they walk around). 🙂


    The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Homeschool



    If we are going to be in the car for more than five minutes we’ll put our current book on to listen to. When we are on road trips we can listen to hours worth of audio but it’s amazing how much we can get through on a day when we are just running errands, five minutes here and ten minutes there adds up!

    Sometimes on road trips the kids will listen to their individual books as well. It makes the vehicle so quiet and Jared and I can actually have a conversation without kids inserting their two cents every few seconds. It’s pretty much like a road trip date.



    This started not too long ago because my daughter usually reads for an hour before bed but my son isn’t quite reading yet and he was getting sick of looking at the same books over and over again, so he started listening before bed and it has made that time of day less of a struggle and has helped to settle him down before bed.

    Those are our main listening times, if you have other times you listen to audiobooks, I would love to hear them!


    If you need some audiobook recommendations, you can check out my list of best audiobooks for young children, audiobooks for grade one and audiobooks for grade two.

    The Ultimate Guide to Using Audiobooks in Your Homeschool