Monday, December 10, 2012

Volume 1: Home Education: Reading Lessons

Today I would like to head back to our book study of Miss Mason's Volume 1 by taking some time to consider her thoughts about learning to read. There are some wonderful insights here that are just perfect for those of us just beginning to homeschool with little ones in the early years of reading.

In section VI of this chapter on lessons, Miss Mason discusses reading by sight and by sound, and begins by reminding mothers that "learning to read is hard work." It is easy, of course, to forget that, once you've been reading for 30 years and can do it without a second thought. But to begin with letters, sounds, and small words is laborious for a small child. But "it is quite necessary he should know how to read; and not only so-the discipline of the task is altogether wholesome for the little man." And so, on we go to help our littles begin to read. How to do it?

Miss Mason reminds us that " there are absolutely no right and necessary steps to reading, each of which leads to the next; there is no true beginning, middle, or end." Rather, sound and letters are so "loosely wedded" in English that to insist that "A says a" is to set the child up for much confusion when they encounter one of the many exceptions in English. The exceptions should rather be taught as they are, the whole word. The child will pick them up in reading and learn them with ease. With no step one, step two, and step three to follow, we are set free to use wonderful books, look at real words, and make reading a joy.

Anecdotally, I have found this to be the case with my daughter. She began reading fairly easily about a year ago, and we didn't do very much formal work with her at all. We simply read a lot of books, worked with some approachable, good-quality readers (Frog and Toad, Little Bear), and she took off. Now that we are about halfway through Kinder, she is progressing quite well in her reading simply by absorption in a world of excellent books.

Miss Mason continues by insisting that the child should not be taught to read with disembodied word parts, but rather with whole words in context. If the words themselves are interesting, their length or "difficulty" doesn't matter. The child will eagerly pick them up. Also, we can help this process along by creating word lists of similar words from which the child can make sentences. For example:


Miss Mason calls her plan for teaching reading "practical and commonsense" and I have to agree. I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed learning to read with lots of drill and words with no context. Children, like adults are hungry for stories, meaning, and to feel capable, and with some simple work in real books, they will soon be reading all on their own! That feeling of perfect accomplishment is so satisfying for a new reader, and a happy moment for a mother to be a part of.


  1. Thanks for sharing; Charlotte Mason styled Reading Lessons are the most difficult for me to get my mind wrapped around, for some reason! Can't hear it too often!

    Karen in Kansas City

  2. Thanks for sharing. I've been trying to implement Charlotte's ideas with my two eldest, and it's clearly much more fun for them than word drills, like you say.

  3. You may not see this comment as this article was written so long ago, but I'm wondering if you have any additional online resources that you could recommend that are more in-depth on the CM method of learning to read? I'm trying to wrap my brain around understanding this before we delve to far into the 'sounds that each letter makes' philosophy with our 4 year old. Thanks much!

    1. Hi, Kristen! I would highly recommend Joyful Shepherdess' document on reading lessons the CM way:

      She basically just takes CM's advice and arranges it in a more direct format. The AO forums also has lots of learning-to-read advice in the Language Arts area.

      This post was actually written by my co-blogger, Angela, but my #1 and #2 learned to read pretty much the same way as her daughter did--taught themselves, for the most part. I'm currently teaching #3 and #4 to read right now, so I've been reviewing this info myself. ;)

      Thanks for stopping by!