Reading in the home school: What is the role of standardized testing?

Jan 11 22:42 2009 Michael Levy Print This Article

Parents, working as home schooling educators or with others who are home schooling providers, have a variety of tools at their disposal to encourage their child's early reading skills. This article describes some of these issues and tools available to these parents.

Reading opens the door to a host of tools and adventures for every child. However,Guest Posting the value of reading is often evaluated differently for the homeschooled child than it is for the traditionally-schooled child. Traditionally-schooled children are regularly tested on their reading ability because traditional teaching methods rely heavily on a child's reading ability as a way for children to learn other subject matter. As a matter of fact, teaching reading is so important to the traditionally-schooled child that such children rarely achieve academic success without first mastering basic reading skills.

Early Reading Skills vs. Developmental Readiness

The reading picture has evolved somewhat differently for the homeschooled child. Homeschooled children have advantages that make the development of reading skills less pressing than they are for traditionally-schooled children. As a matter of fact, some homeschooling experts insist that there is no need to worry about forcing the development of reading skills in homeschooled children and that many homeschooled children don't master reading until several years after the traditionally-schooled child. Many homeschooling educators believe that teaching reading is something that happens naturally.

The primary reason why homeschooled children may not require early mastery of reading skills is because they are taught in different ways than traditionally-schooled children. The traditionally-schooled child must adhere to a set standard designed to ensure that all children develop at the relatively same pace. Teaching dozens of children the same material requires that those children be at the same basic level of preparation. A public school teacher faced with teaching ten, twenty, or even thirty children at varying learning stages is likely to be unsuccessful at such an endeavor. Ensuring that children learn certain skills by a certain age simply makes teaching large groups of students more efficient.

Maria Montessori and Teaching Reading

The work of Maria Montessori changed the face of teaching reading and opened the door to a new homeschooling movement. Dr. Montessori uprooted traditional teaching theories by presenting research that children learn at varying rates and that hands-on activities enable children to learn better and more completely than traditional rote memorization teaching techniques. Her work in the late 1800's and early 1900's also proved that mixing multiple learning levels in the same classroom actually benefits children rather than hindering them. Children, regardless of age, learn from each other. Older children inadvertently teach younger children. And, younger children give older children the opportunity to learn by doing. However, because of the somewhat individualized teaching present within the Montessori classroom, employing this method within the public school environment is not always feasible. More about Dr. Montessori's work can be found at www.montessori.edu.

Intentionally or unintentionally, homeschooling is rather Montessori-like in the practical application of homeschooling teaching methods. Like Maria Montessori's theories, homeschooling emphasizes the individual learning style of the student over the need to teach certain skills by a certain age. The child who is a weak reader might be verbally advanced, and vice versa, meaning that the home school teaching partner plays on each child's strengths to teach each individual child. This format is far easier to implement within the homeschooling environment than it is in the traditional school setting.

Standardized Assessments Encourage Early Reading Skills

The drive toward assessing student progress has invaded what was once a rather freestyle homeschooling environment. Students nationwide are now expected to perform at certain levels based on age and academic grade. And, although standardized assessments are good indicators of overall performance, they are somewhat stifling to homeschooling enthusiasts and fail to consider the different learning styles and speeds of individual learners. In essence, standardized assessments, which are now required of many homeschooled children, are ultimately forcing homeschooling educators to ensure that their students learn academic skills at roughly the same rate as traditionally-schooled children. This means that teaching reading has become more important within the home school format.

Many educators, homeschooling and traditional, abhor standardized testing. Still, it looks like it's here to stay, at least for the moment. And, for the homeschooled child to meet the expected standards and to stay on track, that child has to have mastered certain skills, especially reading, by a relatively early age. In situations where standardized testing is an important assessment tool, children who fail to develop early reading skills are likely to be incorrectly assessed. And, an incorrect assessment is dangerous to both the child and the homeschooling program. For this reason, it's important for homeschooling educators to emphasize reading skills as a learning tool and that they emphasize teaching reading.

Reading as More Than Merely a Skill

Teaching reading to children as early as possible does not have to be a perceived slight to the homeschooling tradition. Although, like Maria Montessori, many homeschooling educators take issue with forcing children to learn any skill before they are developmentally ready, there is no research that indicates that teaching children to read early harms their future development in any way. So, other than the obvious difficulties of teaching children skills they may not be prepared to learn, early reading development might not be such a bad idea.

The benefits of reading are well-documented. Reading is fun, opens doors to new subjects and adventures, and helps prepare children to think critically and embrace information that is both educational and entertaining. Reading is so important to today's teaching methods that its importance spills over into the areas of mathematics, social studies, science, and more. The student who is interested in reading develops faster in many academic areas than students who are unprepared with basic reading skills.

Parents, working as homeschooling educators or with others who are homeschooling providers, have a variety of tools at their disposal to encourage their child's early reading skills. Some experts insist that the first ten years are crucial for reading development and that teaching reading and a love of reading before the age of ten sets the stage for a lifetime of reading enjoyment.  Many theories expound the belief that reading to young children helps them develop a love for reading. Young children then express a desire to read on their own, they then practice reading by doing, and subsequently read for their own satisfaction and/or pleasure. A child who has become a regular reader and who truly enjoys reading lives in a world that is forever enriched and expanded by this one simple tool -- reading.

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About Article Author

Michael Levy
Michael Levy

Michael Levy is a well-known teacher and university researcher who has published more than 250 articles about learning. His latest project is Reading Buddy 2.0, software for teaching children to learn to read basic English using the innovative syllabics methodology. Michael invites traditional and home school teachers to explore this new method.Claim your free copy of Reading Buddy 2.0.

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