Teaching My Baby To Read

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This is exactly why we will be continuing with All About Spelling this summer. (Full disclaimer, I’m an affiliate for All About Learning.)

If a full on spelling program isn’t your thing, All About Learning has some great FREE ideas to keep kids busy this summer. I think I’m going to try the snacks.


4th of July Ice Pops

4th of July Popsicles

4th of July Popsicles

Rose from Light for Life just had a great blog post about popsicles.  (See Lemon Lime Pops for a Hot Summer Day.)  I too, recently treated myself to a popsicle mold set.

This summer my goal is to have “Never Have to Ask” popsicles in the freezer at all times.  That means, there will be healthy treats at the ready that my kids can eat whenever they want.

Here’s what I’m freezing for Fourth of July:

  • blueberries, and a tiny bit of maple syrup on the bottom
  • a little bit of whole milk
  • strawberry and coconut water puree on top


Kindergarten to First Grade Summer Bridge


Summer should be fun, full of lots of free time, and enriched with the opportunity to experience boredom. But you can also use summer as a way to give your child the one-on-one targeted academic attention she might be missing out on during the regular school year.

Here is what I would do for a neurotypical 6 year old:

Morning Message

  • I sound like a broken record on this one, but writing a daily Morning Message on a little white board while your kids eat breakfast is a great way to teach phonics, reading, writing and punctuation. Use your own intuition to level this activity according to your child’s individual needs.

Homemade books

  • Go to the store and buy a whole bunch of paper and special art supplies. Put them in a big box or bag, but don’t let your child use any of it. When he is asleep, staple together a whole bunch of homemade blank books. The next day, tell him that he can each make one book every day all summer using the special art supplies.
  • The trick will be that you need to heavily facilitate the writing of the books. The child is the author and illustrator, but you are the secretary. (This is like the grown up version of the homemade books I’m making with Jenna.)
  • Make sure you are writing sentences that your child will be able to read 95% himself. At the end of the summer you should have a big box of 50 or 60 books that your child has authored, and is proud to read independentely, or to Grandma and Grandpa.

Structured Math Lessons

  • If you can afford it, I would use summer as a way to teach structured, hands-on math lessons to your child every day all summer. I think that Right Start, is a great way to go. (Oh, how I wish they were paying me money to say that!) There is a really good online placement test to help you pick out which kit to get.
  • Right Start is a bit of an investment, because you’ll need all of the math manipulatives, but you can use those tools later on to help your child understand their public school homework all the way up to at least fourth grade. Right Start would be a substantial improvement than any regular “workbook” you could buy at Costco.

Computer Time

  • I can’t say it enough, but those darn Reader Rabbit programs really helped Bruce learn math. I like them a lot better than the Jump Start series. For entering first graders, I’d recommend “Reader Rabbit 2nd grade math”, which has a good range on it, even though it has 2nd grade in the title.
  • It would also be worth checking out, at least for the first 2 week free trial, Dreambox math. Bruce has really enjoyed Dreambox in the past.
  • There’s also Houghton Mifflin’s free online Eduplace math games.
  • Here’s an extra sneaky trick we use in our house. Bruce has to do 2 pages of math to earn screen time. Then the computer things he plays are all educational. What a racket!

TV Time

  • Television? Yes, because you’ve got to be able to make dinner sometime! If you haven’t already seen it, set your DVR to tape PBS’s The Electric Company. It’s a big step up from “Super Why” in terms of plot line, but still teaches a ton of phonics. It really helped solidify Bruce’s reading skills when he was four and five.
  • If you still sense a weakness in your child’s phonics skills, check out “Leap Frog Talking Words Factory #2” from the library. It goes over lots of serious phonics rules in a fun way.
  • Once again, in our house Bruce has to do 2 pages of math to earn screen time! But you could modify this to 30 minutes of independent reading time, or whatever you need.

DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read)

  • Studies have shown that the more words on a page your child is exposed to and tries to read himself, the better his reading level abilities will be. High word count and practice is a better predictor of reading success than even teaching phonics or reading aloud to a child. So if you have an emergent or reluctant reader, it’s imperative that your make sure your child does Independent Reading every day, even if you have to resort to bribery!
  • Set up a cozy reading corner somewhere in your house, and stock it with a box of books you know are at an easy reading level for your child. You could even let your child munch on crackers or something, while she reads. Set the timer at 10 minutes, and slowly build up to 30 minutes by the end of summer.

Read Aloud

  • If I could recommend just one read aloud book for the summer before first grade, I’d suggest reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. You could read it together at bedtime, or check out the audio book on CD and take it with you to listen to in the car on your next camping trip. I’d choose this book for so many reasons, but mainly because it’s an American classic, and also because I think boys especially should be hooked on to this series before they think it’s too “girly” and refuse to read it.

Those are all of my main ideas, but I’m sure there are lots of other good ones out there. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, and to forward along the link to this page to anyone you think might be interested. Have a fun summer!

Afterschooling Over Christmas Break

Do I want Bruce(6.5) to have fun over Christmas break? YES! Do I want him to have time to chill-out and relax? OF COURSE! But do I also want to keep him occupied so he doesn’t tear the house apart and drive me crazy YOU BET!

I’ve taken a possibly contentious issue between the two of us; screen time, and have attempted to make it a non-issue. Everything Bruce has to do to earn screen time is already up on this board, nicely taped to the wall. With any lucky, he will be able to manage it all himself. He can have as much screen time as he wants over the next two weeks, so long as he earns it. If he completes the whole chart, I’ll make a new one.

What is not on this chart is playing outside. But that is a given in my household, and not something that I felt the need to include.

This next idea I ripped off from Bruce’s elementary school! The great thing is that I can use it for both Bruce and Jenna(2.5). The idea is to “catch” my children exhibiting one of the five PRIDE traits: politeness, responsibility, integrity, diligence, or empathy. The positive reinforcement is that they get a “hoof print” for the chart. 10 hoof prints will win a night out alone with my husband or me. (Regrettably, not a night out for me and my husband. 🙂 ) I used brown paper grocery bags to cut out the hoof prints.

Here are the charts side by side on our family room wall. With a little advanced planning, I have hopefully set us up for success this winter break. But if things get too crazy, I can always blow up the bouncy house.

Afterschooling Update

It’s the middle of August and we have been having long, lazy summer days around the house.  Jenna (25m) has been reading books, playing in her playhouse, building with bricks and “playing letters” with her Word Whammer.  We continue to write a Morning Message each day, and have been reading and making Homemade Books.  She is not impressed with the new Consonant Vowel Consonant books at all!

Bruce (6) has been building with Legos, reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well as lots of Calvin and Hobbes, playing with the hose in the backyard, and trying to convince my husband to take him on a climb of Mt. St. Helens so that Bruce can collect volcanic ash and make concrete like the ancient Romans.  (ie. we’ve been listening to Story of the World a lot too!) 

I’ve also been letting Bruce play Clue Finders Third Grade Adventures, which is pure edutainment and not nearly in the same category as Reader Rabbit 2nd grade math.

When we can get Jenna to miraculously take a nap, Bruce and I are working on All About Spelling Level 2, which I will be blogging about soon.  We are also just starting into the Greek section of my SLE Inspired Reading List.  Bruce has slowed down a bit with Right Start Level D.  He has done about 34 pages this summer, but now is pretty bored with it.  Life of Fred Cats and Life of Fred Dogs have arrived in the mail today, and so I’m going to switch him over to those for fun.  The math concepts will all be review for him, but I want him to enjoy math.