Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How I Teach My Kids to Read

 When I started homeschooling Primus in Kindergarten, I felt overwhelmed and clueless about what curriculum I should use.  The only exception was that I knew without a doubt that I needed to find Distar to teach my daughter to read. (Also known as Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.)

I didn't gain my conviction about Distar by reading the research or reviews, but because I had seen it in action first hand all the years that I volunteered in Mrs. Bhatti's Kindergarten class.  I knew that this was a program that had been around for decades and worked.  I also appreciated the fact that it is totally scripted for me, is a step-by-step phonics approach, and each lesson takes only about 15 minutes.

I was very pleased to learn that it was available in a format specifically designed for parents to do one-on-one with their child.  The first thing I did when it arrived was to tear out every page and put it in a binder to make it easier to use one page at a time.

The method claims that it is great for young children (your child doesn't even need to know all the letter names before starting!) as young as 3 and a half. This fits perfectly with my philosophy about learning to read: teach your kid to read as soon as you can and then the whole world is open to them; they'll be able to learn anything!

Primus was almost five and a half and very bright and she zoomed through the first half of the book, doing a couple lessons each day.  I started Secundus when she was about three, I think, but stopped not long after because her speech issues were making it hard.  We started again slowly when she was four and she did really well.  Tertius is now four and starting his last year of "preschool" before Kindergarten and I am excited to start him out with it.  I've been working all summer preparing.

One downside to this book is that the parent's script and the things the student is supposed to read are on the same page.  That makes it really hard to work with a wiggly child who would rather lie down and hold the page over her head or jump up and down. I knew Tertius especially would need to be able to hold his own word cards so he can focus on one at a time while I can still have my script in front of me.  

This project has taken me hours and hours to complete, but I am confident that it will pay off!  (I later found these are available for purchase here but I still would have made my own cards because I could not find it available through any of my school's approved vendors and I like the color coding.)

As you can see, I've color-coded everything to keep them organized.  I've also written on the back of each card which lesson number they're used in.

 For the letter sounds I cut 9X12 pieces of construction paper into 16 pieces.  For the words I cut the construction paper into 12 pieces each.

I also laminated them with clear contact paper for extra durability.  But only the front sides because, dang!, that was a lot of cards!

I also made copies of each of the stories and put them in a separate binder.  The shorter stories are laminated and the ones that take up a full page are in sheet protectors.

Starting with lesson #74 the program transitions from the weird look of Distar into a normal font.  At this point, instead of making individual word cards, I kept each block of practice words together like they appear in the book. These are stored in the sheet protector with the associated story.

It is so fun to watch the kids start to master reading and be excited to show off their new ability to daddy!  School starts on Monday and I can't wait to start this new journey with my boy!


  1. OK, you sold me! I'll buy the Distar book. :)