Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: The Three R's

The Three R'sThe Three R's by Ruch Beechick

This little book is a reprint of three smaller books, grouped together: A Home Start in Reading (Grades K-3), Strong Start in Language: Grades K-3 and Easy Start in Arithmetic: Grades K-3

I wish I'd read this book a few years ago when I was first contemplating homeschooling our children. Ms. Beechick reveals how very easy the first few years are, despite the importance of these years in the educational formation of a child. In each of the three sections, she outlines the goals we should have for our children and gives concrete plans to meet those goals. Though most useful for the homeschooling parent, I think there's much any parent could find here to augment what children are learning in school, wherever that is.

A Home Start in Reading - You could follow the plan here to teach your child to read without any other resources (other than some good early reader books, of course), but I think most people would be uncomfortable with that approach. It would require quite a bit of effort. Personally, as I read it, I was mentally evaluating the book we used to teach First Son to read (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) and was pleased to see how well it fit with her outline. I think the small cost involved in the book easily outweighs the preparation time that would be required to follow Ms. Beechick's method. It does seem convincing that we don't need big fancy phonics programs to teach our children to read.

One of the most useful tools Ms. Beechick provides is a method for determining how challenging a book is as a child is reading.
To determine whether a book is too hard, count off a section of 100 words and ask the child to read it to you. If he is unable to read more than five of the words, the book is on his frustration level. he can be taught a form of this test, himself, as a useful means of selecting library books. he simply reads a page and counts on his fingers the words he does not know. If he runs out of fingers on one hand, including his thumb, the book is likely to be harder than he wants. This system assumes that the page will have from 100 to 200 words on it.
She defines three reading levels: independent (reading alone), instructional (reading with help) and frustration level (missing over 5% of the words).

A Strong Start in Language - This was my favorite of the three sections. I think we're going to follow Ms. Beechick's method almost exactly in our dictation and copywork next year.
If people as you how children learn to write, here is the short, short definition to give them: Children learn to write by writing.
In a few short steps, she outlines how to introduce your child to quality writing (at the appropriate skill level) and introduce concepts of grammar, punctuation and spelling as they are encountered within real sentences and paragraphs. Eventually, we will introduce formal grammar (probably after we've had some in Latin), but I have great confidence in this method. Even now, Kansas Dad will say he can tell which of his students read anything besides newspapers and text messages because they are the students who can write complete sentences and coherent thesis statements.

An Easy Start in Arithmetic - Here Ms. Beechick again provides a simple straightforward plan for teaching your child the basics of math, including lists of what those basics entail. She gives examples of everyday life that lend themselves naturally to math problem-solving. I've read lots of  books that talk about things like how many plates we should put on the table for dinner, but Ms. Beechick goes a little farther, encouraging creating problems using real-life situations like receipts or bills. She emphasizes how much more a child can do mentally before he or she is ready for the "symbols" of math (3 + 4 = 7).

A homeschooling parent with little money or limited access to resources could assuredly teach a child reading, writing and math with just this book and a few other supplies like pen and paper. I think most parents, however, will be more comfortable purchasing more developed curricula or supplies. Reading this book will help parents evaluate those programs and provide opportunities throughout the day to enrich a child's learning.

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