The Best Reading Program for Home or Homeschool Is Structured Literacy

Reading & Phonics

Providing a nurturing, educational environment at home is a goal many parents share. An increasing number of families are choosing to homeschool their children, and not just for the traditional, religious reasons we’ve always seen. Since the early 2000s, research shows homeschooling has increased while traditional school enrolment has dropped across Canada, as parents opt for alternative and homeschooling that better fits their values, lifestyles and schedules

Most early childhood education programs translate easily to the home environment, and many children thrive in this familiar, relaxed environment. Customizing education to your child just makes sense, and homeschooling is the ultimate in individualized education. Homeschooling allows the child’s learning to be self-paced instead of according to grade expectations, and this is a fine setting for reading instruction at the child’s pace.

But this individualization raises another set of questions. How can you be sure your child is learning to read and write sufficiently that they’ll be prepared for future schooling, even if that time is high school or university? When higher-level concepts and subject area matter are introduced, will your child’s learning be impeded if their literacy skills aren’t advanced enough? And how might you know if a reading disability is present and professional help is needed?

Reading Doesn’t Happen “Naturally”

Unlike walking and talking, reading is a learned skill which must be taught and is not learned “naturally” by most people. All human beings will learn to walk or talk, barring a developmental or environmental impediment. “Spontaneous readers” are few and far between, bringing together the concept of decoding symbols (letters and phonemes) and the meanings of the symbols themselves. Most people need to be taught this “code” explicitly.

The scope, sequence and pace of instruction are all crucial to a child’s progress and reading success. While not every child will be ready to read at the same age or progress at the same rate, once reading and writing instruction begins it will typically progress steadily with structure and adequate practice.

Reading progress will depend on how early you start, the child’s level of interest, the child’s age, the context and pleasure, the amount of practice and, of course, the approach used.

Signs a Child Is Struggling with Reading

In the early elementary years, some children will very obviously struggle when reading and writing tasks are assigned. Aside from the most dramatic tantrums and acting out, kids may manifest physical symptoms of anxiety and strain, including headache, upset stomach and fatigue.

Avoidance and masking can be harder to spot. Children will learn to mask reading and decoding struggles with quite exceptional memory and creative skills. Often, it will seem a child “knows how to read” but suddenly stalls or seems to have lost their ability when a context, book, teacher or new expectation is presented.

Once learning has happened, it doesn’t simply go away. If a child’s reading seems to have stalled or reversed, we have likely misinterpreted their masking and memory strategies for real reading and decoding. This is a signpost that reading support might be needed.

Early Reading, Structured Literacy and Your Homeschool Reading Program

Whether you’re homeschooling or just hoping to implement some reading instruction and practise at home, you’ll want to see this!

Grab a coffee and join The Reading School Founder, Diane Duff, in conversation with Learn and Live Letter Homeschool as we discuss:

  • what reading progress and pace usually looks like
  • the signs of dyslexia and other reading-related learning disabilities
  • how structured literacy differs from outdated ‘leveled readers and workbooks’
  • how to seek help locally or online



What resources have you found most helpful in your homeschool reading curriculum or home reading practice? Share your favourites below!

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