Tag Archives: reading

National Standards

Did you know that there are already some national education standards in the United States? They are those proposed, for the most part, by the subject area teachers’ organizations. As we consider the concept of national standards in the light of students with special needs, they are worth considering. We have referred to them extensively in our articles on Homeschool Subjects, but here is a linked list of the major players. Some standards are available for free viewing and/or download, while others are available for purchase (indicated by $)

Social Studies (summary free; $ for whole)


English/Language Arts (includes Reading)



Physical Education

Health and Nutrition (summary free; $ for whole)

The Arts—Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Arts

• Foreign Language (exec. summary free; $ for whole)

Other Subjects

Technology and the Brain

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal (“Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” by Nicholas Carr) and the New York Times (“Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price” by Matt Richtel) both ran articles on people whose mental agility was suffering from too much information all the time from the Internet. Both articles could leave the impression that technology is a real problem for people and has primarily negative consequences.

But people use their technology in very different ways, so it’s very important to carefully sort out exactly what these articles are saying . . . and what they’re not saying.

The Wall Street Journal article focuses on the results of constant distraction and interruption: an increase in “visual literacy skills” at the cost of less rigorous thought.

One story is told of a class at Cornell University in which some students could use Internet-connected laptops during a lecture, while other students had to shut their computers. Carr notes that the students who browsed the Web had less retention. But the article doesn’t address what happened if students took notes on their laptops vs. taking notes by hand. Notes taken with a laptop could potentially be more detailed (if one is a fast typist) and more legible – and therefore lead to greater and deeper understanding. This, however, is not addressed.

Carr contrasts the Internet and books, saying, “Reading a long sequence of pages helps us develop a rare kind of mental discipline.” Some of the use to which people put the Internet is reading long pages of journal articles and in-depth email communications. The Internet and “scattered” do not have to coincide. It’s perhaps a bit ironic that Carr doesn’t acknowledge that people are using the Internet to read the very article in which he is saying that using the Internet is making us lose our mental discipline!

Richtel’s article—which, being quite a bit longer than Carr’s, invites the reader to an even more in-depth and thoughtful experience—reports the tale of a man who overlooked the most important communication of his life in an overflowing email inbox. It broadens out to discuss his family and the effects that technology is having on their individual lives and family life.

Richtel discusses the stimulation provided by multitasking and an ongoing flow of information and the lasting effects becoming inured to being barraged can have on the brain and on the person’s extra-Internet life, with disconnected thoughts and inability to focus. Because the family Richtel focuses on is struggling with gadget over-use (addiction?) the article has a negative tone overall.

Both articles make the point that it is possible to use technology in ways that affect our brains, our work, and our family lives for the worse. What they don’t aim to do is show the other side of the picture. And that is why it’s very important for the reader to approach these articles with thought and care—to see what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Once that’s clear, then considering whether one wants to make a change in the way one is using technology is a good thing to consider.

Speed Reading

Speed reading is a method of reading that takes some training on the part of the reader. For the most part you could sum this method up by saying that the reader has to avoid falling into sub-vocalization of the words. This is to say that mentally you don’t sound out every word phonetically, you strictly worry about the meaning, not the letters and sounds.

The term “speed reading” was born because of Evelyn Wood in the 1950’s. Evelyn Wood was a teacher who was very inquisitive as to why some of her students were very fast readers while others were slower. She happened to be doing something where her hand slid across a page and she noticed how her eyes wanted to follow. This is how the “Wood Method” was brought about. Evelyn Wood used her hand as a guide or pacer.
There are pros and cons to speed reading. While you may get through reading something faster and possibly cover more information there is a concern that reading comprehension in speed reading is not as high.
Another method of speed reading is “skimming”. We have all probably done this from time to time. You glance through paragraphs just looking for keywords or to just get a glimpse of the gist of the information.
There are several commercial speed reading programs or curriculum on the market today. There is not data to be found as to whether or not one method is better than another. It would be wise to do your own research and figure out what program may work best with your learning style and better fit the needs you have as far as what you are trying to accomplish with speed reading. Different methods or programs may have different areas of focus.

Homeschool English

There are national standards that you have to meet when setting up your homeschool curriculum. These standards are set for each individual subject. For homeschool English you are required to meet certain curriculum requirements in reading, spelling, and writing. If you are not familiar with these standards or are not sure where to get information on home school English curriculum, check out our new article that provides information on the first steps you need to take in setting up your homeschool English curriculum and tips on moving beyond the standards in your homeschool English.

Learning Styles

Have you ever noticed that people learn or comprehend things in different ways, methods, or styles? What learning style do you feel you are better able to understand? Do you learn better from reading information in a text book, hands-on experience, or having someone explain it to you? Or have you ever even thought about it? Have you ever considered the learning style of your child, how his/her teacher chooses to teach, does your child’s school curriculum allow them to be educated in the same style?

Perhaps these are questions you have never stopped to consider. But when it comes to your education or your child’s education, learning styles are something to consider. Whether your education comes from a private school or public school, if you are able to identify your best learning style and understand that it is easier for you, or your child, to learn by a specific method these things you can help you work with your teachers to make sure you get the most out of what is being taught.

We are starting a new series on learning styles and methods that are interesting and have a lot of useful information.

Reading Programs

Teaching a child to read is one of the greatest you can give a child. By reading to them when they are young and then teaching them how to read before they start school, or in their early years of school, will help them succeed not only in education but in life. Without literacy they will have a continuous uphill battle as an adult to be successful, possibly even functional.
There has been many years of debate over whether it is better to teach with “phonics“(sounding out words) or “sight reading” (visualizing words). Sight reading is often referred to as “whole language”. No matter which you believe to be the “right method”, the important thing is that children are learning to read. Another option is to combine the two reading programs.
In our recent article, Reading Programs, we provide information and pros and cons of both reading programs.

Teaching Children to Read

I recently read an article about a San Francisco clothing company called Miss Do Gooder who designs clothing to help charitable causes. Their latest effort is teaming up with First Book, a company dedicated to providing new books to children across America and Canada. The t-shirts have a Miss Do-Gooder cartoon character promoting literacy. They will give First Book $2.50, which equates to one new book for a child, for every t-shirt they sell. This article prompted me to check into the well known Hooked on Phonics program and have an article featuring this product on our educationbug.org website.

If we do not prepare our children for school by teaching them how to read we are doing them a terrible disservice as once they do start school they will be at a disadvantage to those whose parents chose to help their child learn how to read. With the student teacher ratios increasing all the time we cannot expect teachers to be the only source of educating our children about reading. Teaching our children to read does not always have to be a chore or a mundane routine of a set time period to sit down and read a book, although this is a great idea to implement as well to get children into the habit of reading. There are great ways to have fun teaching our children to read. There are a ton of learning games you can play with your children and they will not even realize they are being educated in the process.