Notes From Yesterday’s “Hiring a Tutor” post:

*Private tutor: If you are in the market for a good tutor, consider a homeschooling mother who has well-educated teens and tweens (who have never gone to school). These moms often make the very best private tutors. Why? Because they have been doing that very job of “private tutor” for ten years or more. They have likely had different types of learners. They have had to trouble shoot for a variety of problems. They have had to find things that work, knowing that next year a struggling learner would be back in their classroom again (not move on to the next teacher)!

**Being sure the tutor uses a good phonics program: I am going to talk in detail about phonics programs for those parents who want to help their students learn to read (or finish learning to read) this summer in a day or two. However, for your purposes here, if you are hiring a tutor to help your child learn to read, you will want to be sure that the tutor uses a phonics-based, word-family approach to decoding. This means the following:

a. The tutor does not use a sight word approach (trying to help your child memorize long lists of unrelated words, like a “teach your baby to read” program does). Any good reading teacher will include sight words as part of the instruction, but a good reading program is phonics based, relying on sight words only when a word does not have any or has very few phonetic elements (the word “you,” for example).

b. The tutor does not use a ladder letter approach. Think “Little House on the Prairie” or “Waltons” here. It looked sweet in that one room schoolhouse to see kids all lined up chanting, “baaah, beh, bihh, bohh, buhhh, etc.; however, ba does not say bahhh…it says bay; be does not say behhh, it says bee (be); etc. That approach often works for initial reading instruction, but has to be abandoned for spelling a year or two later—and a new approach has to be learned. Start your reader out with an approach that uses word families (“at”—he can read “bat,” “cat,” “fat,” “hat,” “mat,” “pat,” “sat,” “rat,” and much more immediately)—and will carry over to learning to spell. Again, I will make recommendations in upcoming days.

***Other reading skills while learning to read? Fill in the blank exercises and answering questions following a passage of material will not teach your child to decode words. In our home, in the first couple of years of school, we focus on the hard work of learning to sound out words and reading everything placed before our children. Comprehension is taught via discussion, reading aloud, audio materials, and more. Early readers do not have much to comprehend. Word calling (decoding) and comprehending material are two different skills. At first, reading comprehension is not the most important thing. Learning to read is. (And yes, I know, if a person does not comprehend, it doesn’t matter what he can sound out. And yes, that is true. However, there is a skill order here. Comprehension can be worked on in other avenues while the child focuses on word calling until he is fluent.)

****Readers—if you are going to be helping your child with beginning reading or hiring a tutor this summer, please stay with us! I want to explain in detail about readers for this age child—and readers can truly make a huge difference in your child’s reading development.

Thanks for joining us…I won’t leave you hanging here…more help to come. Thanks! PP 365.

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