Pre-Reading Skills

shooting-star-147722_1280by Becky Ross Redwater, Alberta, Canada

There are many things that preschoolers could be learning to assist them in becoming ready for reading. Here are some easy things to try!

1. Hear and Identify Rhyming Words

  • Recite and memorize nursery rhymes and songs. Favorites are: Humpty Dumpty, Baa-Baa Black Sheep, Hickory Dickory Dock, Jack and Jill, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
  • Make them aware of the rhythm by clapping out the words or the syllables in the words to the song or rhyme (Twin­-kle, twin-kle lit–tle star . . .).
  • Repeat rhymes or songs having the child clap only on the rhyming words.
  • Continue to familiarize the child with rhyming by reading rhyming stories such as Dr. Seuss Books, The Teeny Tiny Woman, etc. . . .
  • More challenging songs to try at this point would be:

The Ants Go Marching
The ants go marching one by one, Hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one, Hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck his thumb,
And they all go marching down
Into ground to get out of the rain,
Boom! Boom! Boom!

Continue with more verses:
One by one – suck his thumb
Two by two – tie his shoe
Three by three – climb a tree
Four by four – shut the door
Five by five – take a dive
Six by six – pick up sticks
Seven by seven – pray to heaven
Eight by eight – shut the gate
Nine by nine – stand in line
Ten by ten – say “The End”

This Old Man
This old man,
He played one,
He played knick-knack on his thumb
With a knick-knack
Give the dog a bone.
This old man went rolling home!

Continue with verses:
One – on his thumb Two – on his shoe
Three – on his knee Four – on the door
Five – on his hive Six – on his sticks
Seven – up in heaven Eight – on his gate
Nine – on my spine Ten – on his hen

2. Rhyme Recognition

  • Match rhyming words by saying two words and have the child identify whether or not they rhyme. Does tree rhyme with sea?
  • Play “I Spy, With My Little Eye, Something That Rhymes With______________.” Gather pictures from magazines and set them out a few at a time asking the child to identify which one rhymes with the word you give.
  • Give the child a list of words and ask her to identify which one does not belong, such as: sat/mat/bat/sun, feet/cat/meet.

3. Complete Rhymes

  • Sing songs saying the first word and let the child supply the missing rhyming word. Try this one:

A Hunting We Will Go

A-hunting we will go,
a-hunting we will go.
We’ll catch a (mouse)
and put him in a (house),
and then we’ll let him go.

Other rhymes to use on this song could be: dragon-wagon; armadillo-pillow; bat-hat; bear-chair; butterfly-pie; cat-hat; crocodile-pile; crab-lab; deer-here; dolphin-muffin; frog-log; dragonfly-pie; duck-truck; kangaroo-zoo; pig-wig; porcupine-mine; raccoon-balloon; rat-vat; skunk-trunk; seal-meal; snail-pail; snake-cake; sheep-jeep; cow-plow; goat-boat.

Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss/Mr. Muffet
Sat on her tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
And sat down beside her
and frightened Miss/Mr. Muffet away.

Substitute other animals for the word “spider”, such as:
Along came a pig and took off her­­­___(wig)
Along came a sheep riding in a ___(jeep)
Along came a bunny licking some___(honey)
Along came a snake eating some ___(cake)
Along came a bee and sat in a ___(tree)
Along came a goat wearing a ___(coat)
Along came a dragon riding in a ___(wagon)
Along came a parrot eating a ___(carrot)

Five Little Monkeys
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and broke his (head).
Four little monkeys jumping on a boulder.
One fell off and broke his (shoulder).
Three little monkeys jumping on hose.
One fell off and broke his (nose).
Two little monkeys jumping on a tree.
One fell off and broke his (knee).
One little monkey jumping on a couch.
Broke his toe and yelled out (“Ouch”).

Hickory, Dickory Dock

Hickory, dickory, dock, the mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one, and missed the (fun).
The clock struck two, and I lost a (shoe).
The clock struck three, and I landed on a (tree).
The clock struck four, and I opened a (door).
The clock struck five, and I fell on a (hive).
The clock struck six, and I dropped the (sticks).
The clock struck seven, and I went to (heaven).
The clock struck eight, and I opened the (gate).
The clock struck nine, and I climbed a (vine).
The clock struck ten, and it woke up the (hen).
The clock struck eleven, and I said hello to (Kevin).
The clock struck twelve, and I decided to (delve).

4. Production of Rhyme

  • Make up lists of rhyming words

“Tell me a word that rhymes with hop.” (pop, top)

“What rhymes with blue?” (Shoe)

  • Rhyming Riddles
    “This word rhymes with pop and bunnies do it, they ____.”
    “A fish named Jim, was learning to _____.”

Try some of these easy word games. You’ll find your little ones developing skills that will help in the deciphering of our language, preparing them to learn to read.


May I recommend:

Practice for Preschoolers

Is it a “b” or a “d”?

6220 Early Learning Workbooks

Would you like to share this?

Be Patriotic!

My daughters, Louisa and Emily 

My daughters, Louisa and Emily

Independence Day is one of my favorites holidays, because of the wonderful feelings of patriotism we get thinking about our country’s miraculous founding, the courage of our founding fathers, and the freedoms we enjoy every day! It is up to us to keep that love of freedom burning bright in the next generation.

Here’s just a few things a parent can do:

Kids need to know our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”, plus other stirring, patriotic songs like “This is My Country” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. Sing with your kids and they’ll pick them up amazingly fast. Here’s a fun website I discovered that lets you listen to the song, and provides lyrics as well.

*Read stories of the founders’ courage
One of my favorite is the story of Paul Revere. We all know about the man who rode frantically to warn the colonists of the coming British. What is little known is that once that night ride was over, he was a wanted man and was continually having to dodge the British and had little peace. Here’s another inspiring story to read to your kids about how George Washington couldn’t be shot off his horse in battle.

*Pledge allegiance to the flag
I don’t think kids get this opportunity much anymore and I think they really need to “pledge” what they have allegiance to, including God, family and country. We pledge our flag every day in homeschool and it gives us a chance to stop and think. I often mention to my children to make sure the flag is reverenced and never touches the ground when they are handling it for our pledge, because people gave their lives for our freedom and to ensure that our flag still waves.

God bless America!

patrioticfeetP.S. My daughter Emily has a 5th of July birthday. (I went into labor with her during the fireworks on the 4th!) Emily always manages to think of a creative way to celebrate the birthday she shares with our nation. Your daughters might have fun decorating their toes too!




May I recommend:

Loving American History!

Take Your Hat Off When the Flag Goes By

I Love America

Would you like to share this?

What Do Preschoolers Need?

Rebekah loves to puzzle, just like her Daddy

What do preschoolers need?

That’s an easy answer: #1 they need YOU!

Yep: they need Mom, in all her constantly loving glory, with lots of hugs, snuggles, toe-kissing, hand-holding, hair-tousling, kisses, pats, holding-on-her-lap and listening. That’s the #1 need. And in your moment-by-moment interaction, be sure to lead them to the one who loves them most of all: God. In this, you will be doing the best thing you could for your young child.

#2 Routine
Little ones thrive on routine. Can you imagine living your life without a watch or a clock? Preschoolers can’t read the time (or figure out what significance it has) quite yet. They gear their daily living off of routines such as bath-time, meal-time, nap-time, a daily walk, bedtime and other regular activities. That is why vacation or Sunday can be so disruptive to them. If you want them to be content, set into stone some daily routine that they can depend on.

#3 An Enriched Environment
Preschoolers are trying to make sense of the world, and learning rapidly. You can help by providing sensory experiences for them, including taking walks outside in nature, reading them endless amounts of stories, setting up water play, teaching them grooming, cooking with them, enjoying animals, helping them remember good manners, playing puzzles, smelling flowers, interacting with other people (not necessarily children), and providing real toys and tools. Toys are fun, but real stuff is what learning is all about! My preschoolers always preferred playing with my wooden spoons and pots and pans to playing with toy pans. Little snatches of learning are great too, such as a 10 minute phonics game, but don’t tire them with much traditional academic work.

#4 Physical care
Good nutritious food, plenty of sleep, daily run-and-play exercise outside, and some small chores to work on will help them be healthy and happy.

And what don’t preschoolers need?
Television, running too many errands, lack of supervision, staying up too late, computer games, too many toys, listening to mom talk on the phone, getting their way all the time, video games, scolding, junk food, too much shopping, movies, lack of discipline . . .


Two of my grandbabies, Abigail and Rebekah, with me!


May I recommend:

Practice for Preschoolers

It’s Mom…Not Fisher Price

Toddler Music Band

Would you like to share this?

Quirky English


Emily, Louisa and Ammon at the Old Hundred Gold Mine in Silverton, Colorado

No wonder English is so difficult to learn!


We must polish the Polish furniture.

He could lead if he would get the lead out.

The farm used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.

This was a good time to present the present.

(And this last could mean “gift” or “era of time “)

A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

I did not object to the object.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

They were too close to the door to close it.

The buck does funny things when the does are present.

They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.

I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friends?


. . . and we wonder why our children can’t spell!


May I recommend:

Pronunciation Poem

Spelling Those Tricky Words

Teach Any Child to Spell

Would you like to share this?

Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

homeschooling-phonicsCan there be anything more exciting than having those phonics lessons finally “click” with your little one and hearing him read his first words? I doubt it! Listening to my children learn to read is a thrill for me. I enjoy teaching them to read and I delight in hearing them read aloud.

imageRight away it seems that children want to “read a book” which, of course, is not quite yet possible. Just because they can blend a few phonics sounds doesn’t mean they are ready to read Huck Finn. Children just learning to read want to feel the accomplishment of reading a book, turning the pages and finishing with “The End”. I’ve used beginning phonics readers, such as Bob Books, Now I’m Reading or Decodable Little Books to fill that need. Here’s how to make your own!

In my homeschool, I wanted to customize reading for my children and so I started making my own little beginner readers. It is easy, it saves you money, and it can become a childhood memory especially if your little child illustrates his own books. Our homemade books have been used over and over again and loved by each child that I teach to read. Their older brothers and sisters remember those books with excitement and that makes it all the more motivational for little ones to be able to image-1learn to read them. I use my children’s names in the book to personalize the story. Since every child can read his own name and most of the names of his family members, you have more words to work with than just those that can be easily decoded.

To make your own little readers, you will need cardstock weight paper to make a little book. I have used paper trimmings from the printer, old file folders cut-up, 4 x 6″ index cards, etc. Use whatever you can find: this is supposed to be a save-you-money project, so be creative. I  fold the paper in half, and then staple or machine sew 3 pages down the center fold to create a finished book of 6 pages. If I am using index cards, I staple 6 index cards along the left side so they open to a wide horizontal format. The first and last page can be fancier paper or a colored page decorated with stickers as it will be the cover.

Plan out 7 simple sentences, one for each page. The last inside page will say “The End”.  To fill my book, I choose words that wilimage-2l reinforce a phonic sound that my child is learning. For example, when I taught the phonic unit “ee”, I made a little book called “Weeds and Beets”. It was spring gardening time, so the subject was a natural. Since my daughter Emily (4 years old then) already knew the short vowels and consonants along with the words “a” and “the”, I focused on having her learn to decode that “ee” sound. Here is the little story page by page:

Outside front cover-Weeds and Beets
Inside front cover- blank
page 1- Weeds, weeds!
page 2- Emily has a beet seed.
page 3- A beet seed in the weeds.
page 4- Big weeds and a red beet
page 5- Emily gets a big weed.
page 6- A bee sees a beet.
page 7- Emily gets the beet!
page 8- The End
Inside back cover-blank
outside back cover-blank

With young ones, I draw simple illustrations and let them color them. Children that are a little older will be able to draw their own pictures to go with the story. Books that turn out to be a wonderful treasure can be unstapled, laminated, and re-stapled to make a sturdy book that will last many years. I have one of these that has lasted 22 years so far! The colors are still bright and the pages clean.

As your child masters phonics skills, it can still be fun to put together little books whenever a memorable event occurs in your family. When Nathan was 18-years-old, he was driving our little car home when a pickup truck hit him, totaling the car. After going to the emergency room to retrieve our son who was very fortunately not hurt, we visited the towing yard to see the damage to our car. Looking at that squashed-flat car made us amazed that Nathan had not been killed. This experience made a profound impression on my little ones, and Emily (then 7 years) wrote and illustrated a little book entitled Nathan’s Big Crash. She knew her phonics sounds well enough to be able to write it with very little help.





To create little books for a new beginning reader, use the consonants that he has learned along with one short vowel. For example, you could use the short vowel “a”, along with the consonants “c”, “s”, “b”, “m”, “n” to make these words: cat, sat, bat, at, Matt, cab, man, can, etc. From these you can make up a short story with just a few words per page. Don’t forget to include your child’s name as a character in the story too!

It will amaze you how well your child will learn, and will love reading these books too! Have fun!



May I recommend:

Remembering Phonics

Now I’m Reading! Phonics Readers

Beginning Steps to Reading

Would you like to share this?

Writing in My Homeschool


Emily with the journals she wrote growing up!

Come take a peek inside my homeschool. Here’s how I teach writing! And it works—one of my sons got a perfect score on the English portion of the ACT test for college.

Journal Writing

Each day I expect my students to write a journal entry. I use the number of their grade in school as a number of paragraphs they must write in their journal. So a 4th grader must write 4 paragraphs, and Louisa who is 8th grade is writing 8 paragraphs. They can write about anything under the sun, anything they are interested in! One of my sons actually spent about a whole school year of journal writing on the subjects of knights and castles and medieval weaponry! He sure had enthusiasm for the subject! And as long as he was writing, I believe he was learning. He mastered the spelling of such words as chivalry and catapult when he was 10 years old, because it was a necessary daily word in his writing!

homeschooling-journalEach journal entry is illustrated—in any medium: stickers, crayons, paint, colored pencils, etc. . . . another opportunity for fun! My children look back now at their childhood school journals as precious treasures, and are so glad they have them! I told my little children to do their very best writing work because their own children would want to read them someday, plus they themselves could get to know the little child that they were—through reading their own childhood journals.

Yesterday, Emily (20) nostalgically showed me a little chart she discovered that she had created years ago in her childish scrawl that showed her “rools”. Now Emily is a very organized gal who likes rules to be kept, and we can see that it started early! Here is her chart:


Childhood writing helps you catch a glimpse into the heart and nature of a child, and keeps a chronicle of what was important to them. Why not use your writing time with your children to create a meaningful journal? I walk you through the steps in my Journal and Language Arts Program.


image-2The sooner a child can learn to type this journal, the better! Why? Don’t I want them to practice handwriting? I do think neat penmanship is important, but we live in a changing world in which keyboarding is at least as important as handwriting. The biggest reason for learning to type is to unleash the stories in your child’s mind. Have you ever told your child you would type or write out his story as he told it to you? And did he keep going and going and going? Until you begged him to finish up? Now, why doesn’t that happen when your child sits down to write? Because the mind is full of imagination, but it is hampered by the inability to write quickly. Teaching your child to type will make writing so much easier for him! And eventually teaching him to use a word processing program and the spelling and thesaurus tools will make him into a better speller and writer!

How early should you teach typing? I don’t think 5 years is too young. The sooner his fingers can master typing, the free-er his writing can become. Of all the products on the market, I prefer Typing Instructor because of its good educational content, and fun games and exercises.


image-3“My child writes and writes, but she is an atrocious speller!” I hear that a lot from homeschoolers, and here is how I handle it in my homeschool. As I correct my child’s writing, I choose the most important misspelled words each day to put on his spelling list. Even if there are many errors, the limit is 8-10 spelling words a week per child. (This is explained in depth in my Journal and Language Arts Program.) So, suppose today’s journal writing has 15 errors. I help my child correct those errors, but I only choose the 2 most common misspelled words for him to record on his spelling list that day, and work on learning that week. As the week progresses each day, his spelling list builds to 8-10 words only. More than that can be overwhelming to a child and feel discouraging. We want them to write their ideas but not get bogged down in the mechanics of our language. Spelling is a skill that is built day-by-day, slowly and surely. For more spelling help, see Teach Any Child to Spell.


A good vocabulary is developed by listening to others speak well, and use new words. Children can figure out a lot by context, and will try those words out in their own conversation. Reading, once again, is imperative to developing vocabulary. When we are ready for formal acquisition of new words, around age 10 or 11, I always turn to Vocabulary Cartoons, the most fun and sticks-with-you program I’ve ever found for learning important words!


My attitude towards grammar is that it is a fine tuning of English, and kids need to learn English first, befimage-5ore grammar! Learn to form your letters correctly, write sentences that start with a capital, end with ending punctuation and make sense. That is the challenge. Advance to paragraphs, and now at about 3rd grade, I think it is time for a little bit of grammar, but not overkill. I love Winston Grammar because it can be played like a game, and that’s how I do it in my homeschool. A good writer naturally copies the language he hears about him, and if the grammar is good, he will write with good grammar.


Reading is a big, big part of being a good writer. The more a child sees words in correct sentence structure and well punctuated, the better he can copy them in his own writing. That’s why “copy work” (writing passages of good literature or quotes) is so valuable. A correct model is being followed and will make its impressions.

Enjoy writing in your homeschool!


May I recommend:

A Way to Grade

Teaching Children to Write the Natural Way

All About Me

Would you like to share this?

Project: Twig Furniture

I shared with you the cozy country cottage that Louisa made. Come with us to build some charming twig furniture to go inside!


Here’s how:

1) Just gather twigs. (These are cherry and peach branches recently pruned from our orchard.)

2) Plug in a the low-heat glue gun and get your garden clippers.

3) Use the garden clippers (or kitchen scissors) to clip the twigs into short lengths.


To make a little chair, cut and lay out the pieces you need. Just estimate! Cut one twig and then use it to measure against to cut others the same size.

Just to give you an idea, here is the size I used, but I didn’t measure them when I made it:

2 long twigs (about 2.5″ high) for the back legs
2 short twigs (about 1″ high) for the chair front chair legs
8 twigs for cross bars (about 1.5″ long)
about 10 (2″) twigs for the chair seat


4) Glue gun the chair frame together. Add crossbars to make it stable.


5) Glue twigs across . . .


. . . to make a sturdy seat! I added a little “V” shaped piece of twig to the chair back to make it fancy!


Aw, that feels good to sit down and relax a while! To put our feet up, we’d need a footstool. That shouldn’t be too hard!



It would really feel good to lie down on a bed!


Make a bed just like a chair, except make the “seat” bigger, and closer to the floor. And spread out the twigs going across so they just hold up the mattress. This little bed measures 4″ long. The head bedpost twigs are 2.5″ high.


This bed just needed somebody to lay in it, so I quickly drew a little gal to nap there while I fold some cloth into a tiny mattress and pillow.

Now we are dreaming of making a little doll to live in this cottage.


May I recommend:

Feed Creativity!

Build a Cozy Country Cottage

Home Made

Would you like to share this?

Build a Cozy Country Cottage


Louisa had a great time building a cozy country cottage in miniature! All you need is cardboard, glue, acrylic craft paint and some tissue paper for flowers to bloom around your door! This doesn’t have to be a female craft. Boys can make a fire station (complete with second floor fire-pole) or a space station . . .whatever you can imagine . . .


Want to make one? Here’s how:


Cut a little front shape out with doors and windows. Our door measured about 3″ tall.


Bend a piece of construction paper, cardstock or thin cardboard over the house front to make a roof. Attach with glue or tape. Paint it. Blossoms can be made by squishing up little squares of tissue paper and attaching with glue stick.


Paint a cheery color in the inside (like yellow walls and ceiling). Louisa painted a wooden plank floor too. Glue it down onto a piece of cardboard which you can paint if you like. Louisa made daisies in the grass and a cute stepping stone pathway to the front door.

Next, we’ll build the furniture!

Ahhhhh. . . . it is very satisfying building a house!


May I recommend:

Project: Twig Furniture

Art: What to Teach?

Easy Breezy Kids’ Gifts

Would you like to share this?

Please subscribe and I will email you a copy of my ebook: The Only School Chart that Survived 25 Years of Homeschooling!

  • Facebook
  • Google+">
  • Twitter
  • YouTube