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Question: I have been teaching my children to read for about three years now. I started way too early and took a break and started again when my oldest turned 5. I let the 4yo choose whether she wanted to do lessons, but I decided the older one had to do at least a little bit everyday whether she wants to or not. So we have been progressing slowly. However, we have reached a point (again) where it seems we are not getting anywhere. She is learning new letters but not progressing in combining them. She keeps pausing between letters and has to sound each letter out individually and then return to reading the whole word. When reading a short sentence she forgets the first word by the time she reaches the last word and can't read the sentence because she has to re sound the first word, then the next one etc. So she can't read a three word sentence. I feel like yelling at her and sometimes do. Then with numbers we have a similar situation where she knows a number one second, then doesn't recognize it the next second. She can count one minute then mixes the numbers up the next minute. Is she just not ready yet? Will she be ready?

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question!  It sounds as though you and your daughter are becoming frustrated, and I hope that I can alleviate some of that frustration.  As parent and teacher, you know your daughter's strengths and limitations.   From what you have said, she seems to be at a very normal stage of development.  I would like to take a brief step back, and assess your developmental concerns with your daughter.  In addition, I would like to briefly address the academic development of the average five year old.   

At this age, it is quite common for the child to draw and say two or three words when describing something.  It is also quite natural for the child to use only some of the words when reading and writing.  For instance, the child might say "The dog ran down", instead of "The dog ran down the hill."  Also at this stage, the child will sometimes use the first letter of each consonant to form a sentence.  For example, the child might write, "MIPLAOTS?" instead of "May I play outside?" While you as the teacher, can help your child learn how to read and write correctly, it is a very normal process in a five year old's development to only use a few words at a time.  Also, letter and number recognition is something that develops over time.  Hence, it is very common for children to skip numbers and letters when they are reciting them.  You can tell that your daughter is ready to move on, when she knows her numbers and letters consistently and without hesitation.  Exposure to many books, writing, and fun exploration in their natural environment will help your daughter learn more, so that she can express herself more clearly and accurately.   

When I had my first real job, I first had to be trained.  I know that I made countless mistakes during the training process.  Even after I had been working there for more than two years, I still made mistakes.  Therefore the same can apply to children in their learning process.  As you know, we can't expect perfection from them when they are learning.   When the child's overall performance is average, or even ahead of the game, there is no need to worry.  The beauty about homeschooling and with CHC's materials, is that you can set the pace, and slow things down or speed up, according to your child's needs.   

I would also like to add that young children also learn by what can be called 'partner learning'.  By this I mean that children need an example set for them.  They need consistency and repeated exposure in everyday life, not only during school time, to help them learn, and with homeschooling you can do this.  Saying it with her, or echoing, helps her hear and remember.  For instance, as you walk down the stairs, you can count the steps aloud, as you go up and down.  Saying it aloud with your child, helps her remember the numbers.  Reading aloud with her, helps her hear the inflection in your voice, recognize simple words, and she learns through your example.  Studies have proven that the more senses children use when learning, the more they remember, and the longer they retain the information. 

Finally, I will add that children, even from an early age, have the unique ability to read the adult's emotions.  For instance, if you are frustrated with her, she can feel that emotion, and become frustrated, herself.  Therefore, you as the teacher and parent, have the ability to set the tone in her environment, which will help her be more relaxed and less frustrated with her schoolwork.

My recommendation is that you take a little break from schooling, maybe slow down with any workbooks you may be using.  You don't have to stop it entirely, but could gently incorporate learning by reading books to her, letting her choose books that she wants to read, practice letter and number recognition in a fun way.  Perhaps if she likes art, you could incorporate drawing and painting numbers and letters.  It would be a good idea also to learn shapes, sizes, and sorting.  The reading, letter and number recognition will come with time and practice.  I don't know what reading programs you have tried, but you could try using Little Stories for Little Folks, which is available through CHC's website (, carefully following the gentle progression of letter and sound recognition, then blends, then words, then sentences as directed in the Teacher's Guide.   

God bless you and your family and good luck!

Laura Nicholson

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