Thursday, June 04, 2009

A discovery - teaching reading with the Bible!

We had such a blessed time at the Wisconsin CHEA homeschool conference last weekend! Meeting and talking with so many parents, who are really seeking the Lord's direction for their families, was exhilarating and encouraging. We had some long-longed-for fellowship with some of our good friends, too! Several Klein family members volunteered to do sessions, so we had to do some strategic planning, but the Lord helped us to keep track of everyone. I know we'll post pictures later...

Years ago, Joanna was saying all the letter sounds in the alphabet and when she got to d, she said, "I'm not allowed to say that one," much to the chagrin of Uncle Eddie. The d says "duh", and Joanna (a very compliant child) was allowed to say the sound, but not the expression, though it really comes to mind for the topic of this blog entry. Don't tell Uncle Eddie!

Teaching reading with the Bible, of course, is about as old as the Bible. But in the past year, we have pursued this more fully, and it has been a wonderful experience. Here is a little of our story thus far...

Yesterday, Sammy and I (Mommy) were on the lawn swing doing his Bible reading. Sammy is our 11th child, and for his reading, we have taken the final plunge in teaching reading from the Bible. I think he saw a couple of Bob Books (phonics readers) when we first started, but we disposed of them early on. Not phonics, just phonics readers.

Anyway, reading is much more than just learning letter sounds. Children are learning language from their earliest days, bit by bit. We have noticed more and more, as we have had more children, signs that they are understanding us earlier than we previously realized. For example, Joshie (number o-one-three, as we like to say) from before 8 months old UNDERSTOOD "no"! This may not be news to some alert parents, but for us, it was amazing. But more about that later, Lord willing.

Through the years, as the Lord has shown us the importance of intentionally teaching our children the Bible (especially, but not limited to, morning and evening devotions), we have noticed our younger children absorbing (memorizing) Bible verses. Hmmm. During our morning devotions, when we focus on memorizing together, the younger children, who do not always appear to participate, still learn and memorize. In fact, they can "lead" the family in calling out verses with Daddy (which the rest of us echo back, until we know it by heart). Many homeschoolers are familiar with this ability in young children, and use it for all kinds of information such as math facts, Latin conjugations, states and capitols, etc. But doesn't it seem like God had a higher purpose for this ability?

So, prior to reading lessons, our children are taking in a many Bible verses...just from hearing it read and recited.

In addition, when we start "school," we begin with Bible reading. We read and re-read familiar Bible stories (Jonah, Noah, creation, the birth of Jesus, the resurrection, etc.). It doesn't take long before these are largely memorized. No flash cards or flannelgraph, just reading (and discussing as needed). Even from age 3, Gideon was able to fill in the blanks while we were reading through the whole book of Jonah! We simply had no concept that this was possible or even desirable with our oldest children. We thought you were supposed to use children's "Bibles"!!

So, with Sammy, we simply started introducing letter sounds to simpler words or syllables. We kind of followed the pattern of most phonics programs: single consonants and short vowels. For sight words, we just picked out some words that followed no typical rule. By working on familiar stories, Sammy was familiar with what words would pop up, and learned to associate the letters (and their sound) with the words. It's really no different from using Spanish songs to help remember pronunciation (or conjugations).

With phonics readers, our children would ALWAYS look at the pictures and then make a total guess as to the sentence, with no regard for the words, letters, or even number of words on the page. I always had to cover the picture, or they would start guessing.

With the Bible, there are occasional guesses (for example, a word that also starts with the same letter). We chalk that up to laziness at the beginning. A reminder to "sound it out" gets him on track.

Starting with passages that Sammy already knows is helpful, because he can put together what the letters are actually are with the word. For example, Sammy asked "Is the P in Psalm silent? Because it's supposed to say 'salm'."

Sammy has a notebook in which we occasionally write down word families (should, could, would or might, sight, light). We used that daily in the beginning, and he sometimes would say, "I need to write that on my -ight list" or whatever.

I am greatly abbreviating all the adventures we've had with that, but now we have moved on to something he has not memorized: the gospel of Matthew. Starts with genealogies! They are great, because he can use all the phonics he's got, and how can you go wrong? I notice that when a new peculiarity emerges (Spanish is such a wonderful language!), I just mention that in this instance, the letter(s) say ____. And we go on. WHEN HE IS ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH A PASSAGE, this just gets programmed into his brain. Well, you know, it's just like learning the irregularities with spoken English -- it doesn't require a curriculum.

For writing, he is mostly doing copywork (for letters to people), but he is branching into shopping or packing lists, like the list he made for Sarah's 16th birthday. Making lists is such a fun thing. He loves to sound things out and write things, but still needs a good deal of help.

Some reasons why we are really enjoying teaching reading from the Bible:

1. It's a natural, because the child is familiar with it from their earliest days, uses it daily, has portions memorized, enjoys having his own copy, equates it with being BIG, and will need it all his life long.
2. Furthermore, because its natural and in use in the home, reading comprehension seems to be faster, because they know its SUPPOSED to mean something! In reading Matthew, Sammy asks questions that reveal he is not merely decoding words. It just seems to be the perfect book for reading -- no doubt!
3. There are no pictures to confuse.
4. It helps them to participate more in family Bible reading and church meetings.
5. It requires no accessories to purchase and so is very PORTABLE! Today, we will work at the laundromat!
6. It doesn't drop children off at a certain "grade level".
7. It has real meaning -- this is not typical of phonics readers.
8. It is so interesting! A true story, starting with the beginning of the whole world!
9. It's the most important book ever written. We really love "bringing the little children to Jesus" in this way.

Well, there are some observations from where we are so far. We are very thankful for what the Lord is teaching us through all our children.


Jennifer said...

Hi Debbie!

I thought you might be interested to hear of our experiences with our children reading and memorizing the Bible. We are currently reading through the Bible and are in 1 Kings, but before this we picked out certain passages and Psalms, and we read and re-read them every night. It wasn't soon after wards that our children were reciting the verses back with us. I'll be honest and say that they memorized them much faster than I did!

We go back over those passages and verses every so often, to keep them fresh in everyone's mind. To date, the children have Psalms 1, 2, 23, and 24 memorized. As well as John 1:1-18 and 1 Cor 13 memorized. Our children are 8, 6, 4.5, 3, and 17 months. The 3 older children are the ones who know them, but even our 3 year old can recited parts of each passage. It's never to soon or too young to start!

Jennifer Dewing

Debbie said...

Thanks Jennifer! That is so neat to hear! We sure wish we had started as early as you all did, but its encouraging to see progress as seeds are planted.

Love, Debbie