Teaching Academic Basics
Certain guiding principles and practices contribute to success in teaching basic academics.
How To Teach Reading
The value and importance of reading makes teaching our children to read a top priority. As we assume responsibility for this area of our children's education, we need information about how to proceed effectively to ensure their success.
The best way to make sure our children will be good readers is to start very early motivating and preparing them to read. This is accomplished as we read to them every day and as we gently but steadily expose them to the concept that letters represent specific sounds.
The more months or years we engage in these simple but vital activities, the easier it will be for our children to read when we begin actual reading instruction.
The phonetic nature of our alphabet makes phonics the obvious choice of teaching methods.
After our children have learned the sounds associated with each letter and each special grouping of letters (e.g., th, tion), they learn how these sounds (called phonemes) blend together to form syllables and words. They can then read (or decode) words they have never seen before. With plenty of practice and a little guidance, they become fluent readers.
Even children with learning problems can learn to read. Your love and personal attention combined with extra patience and practice can help your child overcome dyslexia, which simply means "trouble with words." (Special resources are available to help you in this area.)
When reading is taught through a logical, step-by-step presentation of phonics, comprehension grows and develops naturally. Understanding is enhanced by oral reading and discussion in the early stages.
After reading fluency has been reached by your child, reading for meaning in school subject areas as well as for enjoyment in free time helps your child add to his comprehension skills. (Back Issues: Nov./Dec. '95; Sept./Oct. '98)
How To Teach Writing
Becoming proficient in the four forms of writing prepares a student to communicate well in both formal and informal settings throughout his life. These skills give him new ways to share his life with others.
1. Descriptive Writing. A student must first learn to write complete, accurately punctuated sentences, then spend time writing brief paragraphs that describe people, places, things, and actions.
Description is the first of four basic kinds of writing. A child can develop his writing content and style while mastering mechanical skills such as capitalizing proper names and using commas through descriptive writing.
2. Narrative Writing. As your child's skill increases with description, have him add stories about events in his life to letters or journals.
3. Informative Writing or exposition. Students learn to give helpful information about things they know how to do and things they learn. This can include research papers, science projects, recipes.
4. Persuasive Writing. Finally, help your older children to write gracious, thoughtful pieces from a biblical perspective, explaining the reasons for their positions on controversial issues. Help them write in a way that honors and pleases the Lord God. (Back Issues: Feb./Mar. '93; Nov./Dec. '98)
How To Teach Math
In order to teach math effectively and efficiently, we must balance the different components of instruction:
1. Present Math Concepts. When possible, present concepts in the context of everyday life, using real objects and situations to show the need for math and how it works.
2. Practice Math Mechanics. Have your child memorize math facts by reading, writing, and repeating them regularly as soon as he is able; do not wait for his comprehension to be complete.
Practice the mechanics of math operations and procedures intensively until automatic and thoroughly mastered.
Each procedure (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals) should be drilled until it is completely perfected before another skill is built upon it.
All math skills must be maintained by daily review (one problem of each type).
3. Apply Math Skills. Apply skills in real-life situations or story problems. This step brings your teaching full circle back to where you started--the need for math in everyday life.
Because application is a primary goal of math instruction, it is important to spend ample time and effort making sure your student can use his skills in practical ways. (Back Issues: Jan./Feb. '96; Jan./Feb. '99).
Teaching Higher Math
There are several options available for teaching your child higher math, whether or not you have learned it yourself.
1. Learn It Yourself First. As a mature and motivated adult, you may find it quite possible and enjoyable to learn algebra, geometry, etc., in a fraction of the time it takes in high school.
2. Team Learning. You and your student can help each other learn as a team.
3. Independent Learning. Your student can study independently, using texts that present concepts clearly. Answer keys that show all the steps to complete each problem are helpful.
4. Correspondence Courses. Correspondence courses add accountability and feedback to independent study.
5. Coach. For immediate help when needed, your student can call on you, a friend, a tutor, or even another student who can explain whatever he is stuck on.
6. Learn by Teaching. Have your student teach you what he is learning.
7. Textbooks and Workbooks. In addition to a good, solid textbook, consider using one or more workbooks or texts from another source for reference.
8. Video or Computer Programs.Math video courses that show a teacher presenting concepts to a class can help an inexperienced teaching parent. Computer programs may also be valuable.
How To Teach Literature
The teaching of literature begins when you start reading to your child. This oral reading as a family, accompanied by discussion, is the simplest and most natural way to teach the different types of literature and literary elements or techniques (e.g., metaphor, characterization).
You can use a literature textbook or a checklist of your own as a guide to make sure you are teaching your children all they should know about literature. Keep lists and reviews of books you have read and those you wish to read.
From the time of your children's first exposure to books, you will want to use wisdom and discretion in your selection of reading materials and teach your children to do the same for themselves.
If we set standards of quality and excellence in literature early, we will help our children to consistently choose what is best, most helpful, and most uplifting throughout their lives. In this way they will truly reap the rewards of reading.
(Back Issue: Sept./Oct. '95; Upcoming Issue: Sept./Oct. '01)