Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trouble with Words

Trouble With Words

Reading and the Dyslexic Student

By Bob Georgeff, M.A.

Reading and the Dyslexic Student
Why do some children struggle to learn to read despite excellent instruction by a diligent parent? Why, when they seem to be trying, do these children become frustrated, making what appear to be careless errors? Frequently the reason is a weakness in their processing of speech sounds. The name which has been loosely used to describe this auditory processing weakness is dyslexia. The word dyslexia comes from the prefix dys, roughly translated “trouble with,” and the root lex, “words.”

Which is the best way, then, to teach the dyslexic student to read?  Look-Say?  Whole Language?  Phonics?  Good readers use elements of all three. So should you teach all three? The Look-Say method must be used with sight words, which of course can't be sounded out.  Whole-Language instruction involves the building of a student's oral vocabulary so that he may recognize a greater number of words in context. That makes good sense. The teaching of phonics should certainly play a dominant role in any approach to reading.

For a dyslexic, however, the problem goes beyond sight-word recognition, vocabulary development, and phonics knowledge. There is a foundation which must first be laid. That foundation is the training of the brain to process phonemes (speech sounds) efficiently.  This training takes place at a pre-phonics level of instruction. Later, the student will be able to put his knowledge of phonics to work in decoding. 

It has been the contention of a few veteran homeschoolers that the wide-spread use of phonics would cause reading problems to disappear. Some have held that remedial reading classes would be empty if phonics instruction prevailed. Taking this to heart, many parents have tried two or three phonics programs only to meet with limited success. Later they feel guilty that their instruction was somehow inferior since phonics was presented as the cure for reading difficulties. A possible explanation, however, is that their child did not apply his knowledge of phonics to the task of reading because he is unable to do so.  He is not mentally slow; instead his capacity to mentally process and accurately discern the sequence of phonemes within words is weak.

Reading and the Dyslexic Student

Because a child with dyslexia is able to pronounce words correctly, it is often felt that he is just plain lazy when it comes to decoding printed words. After all, the very words he uses in everyday speech go unrecognized when he begins to read. And sometimes he reads a word correctly, yet when it occurs again on the same page, he misses it! Parents who have strong auditory processing abilities themselves cannot explain such behavior. If a child can say a word correctly, it stands to reason that he should be able to read that same word correctly. So phonics then appears to be the only solution. If a student is taught the "parts" (phonic symbols), he should be able to decode the "whole" (a word).

John is drilled in phonics and memorizes all of the various spellings of the 44 English speech sounds. Then one day he reads the word "tack" as "track." His mom seeks to solve the problem by working from the "parts" to the "whole." Mom: "John, give me the sounds for all of the letters in that word." John: "t-a-ck." Mom: "Good, now try reading the word." John: "track."  Why did he still say "track"? Now Mom is perplexed.  The only recourse is to conclude that John wasn't being careful. Or maybe he rushed ... or he wasn't thinking ... or ...

The real problem is that John is not able to tell if he makes an error! He does not know if what he says with his mouth matches what he sees with his eyes. He cannot accurately tell which speech sounds are contained in a word, how many sounds that word has, the order of those sounds, and which sounds are alike and different. To him a word is a sound "blurb," a unit by itself. Now place a page of blurbs in front of him. He knows all of the parts that make up the blurbs and can read those parts in isolation. For instance, show him "ch" on a flash card, and he'll give you the correct sound. But put that same "ch" together with some other consonants and vowels, and he has to guess. Sure, he can use phonics for clues, but he'll still make errors without realizing it. 

That an understanding of phonics does not automatically unlock reading for the dyslexic is regularly made clear to me. As a special-needs consultant, I speak with homeschooling parents every week who ask why, after three phonics programs, tutoring, vision therapy, special glasses, etc., their child is not an independent reader. It is wonderful to relieve their guilt. They have not failed their child. The cause is often found to be an inheritable, physiological brain dysfunction which makes it very difficult for their child to become a self-correcting reader. 

Imagine a colorblind electrician who must go to work each day and match wires of different colors. He is intelligent, but he can't discern clear differences in color. He sees various shades of gray, yet it is difficult to tell which two are an exact match. He is forced to guess while splicing wires. Let's say he doesn't know he is color blind. He tries hard every day. He concentrates. He is diligent. He hopes to improve. Then he turns on the juice and shorts out another wiring project. This happens every week! Now the questions come. Why doesn't this happen to the other crew members? What is wrong with me? The boss told me I was being careless, but if I slow down I still make mistakes ...

The dyslexic child is intelligent, but he can't discern clear differences in speech sounds within words. He recognizes various sounds in isolation, yet it is difficult to tell them apart inside of a word. He is forced to guess while reading. Let's say he doesn't know he is dyslexic. He tries hard every day.  He concentrates. He is diligent. He hopes to improve. Then it's his turn to read out loud, and he trips over the words. This happens every week! Now the questions come. Why doesn't this happen to the other kids? What is wrong with me? My mom told me I was being careless, but if I slow down I still make mistakes...

For some students the weakness is severe, and they struggle with two-, three-, four-, and five-letter words, making the following types of errors:
  • substitutions—now instead of how; in instead of on
  • omissions—stay instead of stray; back instead of black
  • additions—stream instead of steam; where instead of were
  • repetitions—start instead of star
  • shifts—who instead of how; felt for left

For others this weakness does not create difficulty until they read two-, three-, or four-syllable words.  Examples of multisyllable word errors are:
  • scared instead of sacred
  • concentration instead of consternation
  • sufficiently instead of significantly
  • interpreted instead of interrupted
  • administered instead of administrated

Is there an amazing, easy-to-apply solution for the dyslexic reader? Is there an amazing, easy-to-apply solution for the person who has lost the use of one side of his body after a stroke? Because mental processing is the issue, the answer to both questions is that gains only come in small steps with intensive, repetitive stimulation . . . but they do come. The brain begins to compensate for the deficiency by rerouting electrical signals and forging new pathways within its structure.

Weakness in auditory processing cannot be remedied by mere phonics instruction. Poor phonological processing is the inability to process information about the quality of phonemes within the context of printed words.  Researchers have also termed the problem “weak phonemic segmentation.”  It is remedied by drill in the very types of reading and spelling errors made by dyslexics.

Reading and the Dyslexic StudentIn any discussion about the plight of dyslexia, it is important to remember 
that the dyslexic child does have abilities which the excellent reader may not possess. These children often have marked strengths in one or more of the following areas: mechanics, visual arts, computers, public speaking, music, social skills, athletics, inventiveness, creativity, intuitiveness, visual-spatial skills, etc.  It is as though God has wired the brains of these individuals for a different purpose. Does this mean that we do not work to re-mediate their weaknesses? Certainly not. It does mean that we need to recognize their strengths and let them shine in these areas! If we continually compare them with those who are successful in academics with normal effort, they will become discouraged. We need these students to become our future salespersons, inventors, mechanics, programmers, artists, managers, architects, builders, and business leaders.

Writing the Right Book Report

Writing the Right Book Report

by Elizabeth Kamath

Example Book Report Format
Book reports prove to be one of the biggest problems for many students, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to give you a better idea of why we ask for the types of book reports that we do.

Most students enter ninth grade expecting to do book reports like they've always done them, which means giving a summary of the plot.  Summarizing the plot of a book can be a good idea for younger students when a more basic level of comprehension is still being refined.  However, by the time most students enter ninth grade, we feel that basic comprehension (like basic grammar) should be pretty well mastered.  We assume that a ninth grader will be able to state the who, what, where, when, and even why of most books.  Therefore, we’re looking for something more.

Sample Book Report StyleThere are really two prongs behind this approach.  The first is refining thinking skills.  To simply retell the plot of a book takes the most basic level of understanding.  However, to analyze some idea or aspect of a book requires both an understanding of the plot and a deeper level of thought about the book.  To make an example of a commonly read story, let’s take The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  If you simply write about the adventures of Aslan, the witch, and the children, you are showing a basic understanding.  However, if you can write about Aslan as symbolic of Christ, the Witch as symbolic of Satan, etc., then you demonstrate that you have thought about and understood this book on a deeper level.  If you can give reasonable theories as to why Lewis might have chosen a Lion to represent Christ and a witch to represent Satan, you have gone even deeper in your analysis.  As you begin to analyze literature, you develop your thinking skills and your appreciation of literature.  You can begin to see more aspects and depth to the books you are reading.  It will become easier to analyze future books.  For example, if you can see the methods Lewis used to symbolize the battle between good and evil, you will be better prepared to see the methods Tolkien used to show the same idea in Lord of the Rings.  However, this level of thinking doesn’t stop with reading fiction.  As you become more adept at analysis of literature, you exercise your mind to become more adept at analysis of argument, facts, opinion, and other information that you encounter every day.

Example Book Report Structure
The second prong of this approach is to improve your writing.  Most writing (except perhaps private writings like journals) should have two things:  a point and an audience.  This approach encourages you to think about the book, then have something interesting to say (a point) about it.  Summarizing the plot is not really saying anything; it’s simply restating what someone else said.  What you want to do when you write is communicate your own ideas—in this case an idea you have about the book.  The second thing to consider when writing is that every paper has an audience.  In this case your audience can confidently be broken into two groups:  those who have read the book you’re reporting on and those who haven’t.  Those who have read the book certainly don’t want to read a summary of the plot (Would you want someone to describe a movie to you that you’ve already seen?) and those who haven’t are probably not going to be inspired to read the book after hearing the whole story in detail.  What will interest someone who has read the book is to read a thought on it that they may not have had.  Perhaps the reader (of your paper) has read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe but completely missed the analogy to Christ.  Your paper now introduces a whole new dimension of the story to them.  Alternatively, if your reader has not read the book, he might find an analogy of the Christ story an intriguing idea. In short, read a good book, think of something interesting to write, then write it.  That’s all we’re asking.

Sample Book Report Style
Find out more about The Hewitt School High School Diploma Program
  • Full Year / Half Year / Single Course Options
  • Junior High School Program also offered
The Lightning Lit & Comp Senior High series teaches the book report writing framework while enjoying the reading of the classics of literature! 

Take a look at all the books in this series > Hewitt Senior High Lightning Lit

The Hewitt School - English Requirements

The Hewitt School

English Requirements

By The Hewitt Staff

We’re often asked at The Hewitt School how we use the Lightning Lit program with our students.  Our syllabi – three different tracks: college-prep, honors, and basic (remedial) – outline the quarterly and yearly requirements.  Some things are the same for all students:

  • Comprehension questions are answered either verbally or in writing.
  • Vocabulary work is required (their own vocabulary notebook from the reading or a vocabulary curriculum).
  • Papers are 1-2 pages long; two are written on each full-length book and one for short pieces.
  • A year-long research paper is required in Grades 10-12.

Students following the Basic Track work through one Lightning Lit guide per year (but also work on grammar from a program of their choice).  Students in the College-Prep or Honors program finish two Lightning Lit Guides per year (no outside grammar required).  Honors students do one extra book report per quarter from the corresponding time period.

We've created a document that shows you what’s required of English students in the Hewitt School by track and by year.  You can follow our example, or make your own choices (e.g. you might choose to do only one paper per book). The Lightning Lit Teacher Guides not only provide the answers to the comprehension questions, but also grading tips and forms.   

Unfortunately we can’t send you a teacher in a box, but our English enrollment is the next best thing.  Our teachers grade each paper as it is submitted (if you select the email option) or at the end of the quarter.  It is this expertise that takes the bulk of the workload off the parent.  And while you can certainly use Lightning Lit on your own, doesn't it sound nice to have someone grading those papers for you?

Take a look at the entire Hewitt Lightning Lit series.

Learn more about the programs of  The Hewitt School:

The Hewitt School

English Requirements

English Requirements for The Hewitt School

Lightning Lit Scope & Sequence

Lightning Literature Series

Scope & Sequence

By The Hewitt Staff

In the past ten years, Lightning Lit has become our flagship series, providing an accessible introduction to students of great writers like Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Emily Dickinson; Charles Dickens, William Blake, and Jane Austen; C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, and Flannery O’Connor; Chinua Achebe, H. K. Narayan, and Kazuo Ishiguro; and even such daunting giants as Chaucer and Shakespeare.  When read with intelligence and understanding, the great minds of the past can transform us, helping us to think more critically and write more powerfully.

But with so many choices, sometimes it can be hard knowing where your student should start. The two-page chart, below, can help you make that decision.  Students in junior high should use either the 7th or 8th grade level as appropriate.  If you have an eighth-grader just starting Lightning Lit, and they are average or above in language arts, 8th grade should be fine for them.  If they struggle in language arts, consider starting them in the 7th grade program. 

Most freshmen will start by doing the two Nineteenth-Century American guides.  This is normally followed by the two Nineteenth-Century British guides in 10th grade.  (If you are considering enrolling with us, look at the English Requirements table to help you decide which Track you’ll use.  If you choose to start on the Basic Track, you’ll use only one guide for each year.  If you’re not enrolling with us, we recommend one guide per semester for students average or above in language arts and one guide per year for students who struggle with reading or writing.)   

This leaves eight guides from which to choose for the junior and senior year.  Speech is particularly appropriate for students interested in public speaking or who might prefer to read many short pieces rather than full-length books for a semester.  Many students are interested in medieval history; the British Medieval Guide lets them go beyond just knights and castles to the heart and spirit of the times.  Shakespeare is the core of the Western Canon, and students find he’s much more fun and much less frightening than they might have supposed.  The Christian guides give many great topics for dinner-table discussions, much like Martin Luther’s.  The World guides, written by a missionary, give your students a chance to broaden their world view.

Grades 1 and 2 are not just for grades 1 and 2 – we've heard from many moms that they work very well for older students with learning challenges.

We’re always glad to speak with you if you have more questions about any of our products. 

You can see samples of each guide on our website.

Junior / Senior High School Lightning Lit

Part 1 of 2

Junior / Senior High Lightning Lit

Junior / Senior High School Lightning Lit

Part 2 of 2

Junior / Senior High Lightning Lit

Grade 1 Lightning Lit

Lightning Lit and Comp - Grade 1

Grade 2 Lightning Lit 

(Available Early July 2014)

Grade 2 Lightning Lit

See all the information about our Lightning Lit guides on our website

Balancing Academics with Work & Service

Balancing Academics with Work & Service

By The Hewitt Staff

Work needs to be part and parcel of your child’s education.  If you balance academic studies with work, your child will grow up to be a more mature, responsible Christian, spouse, parent, and citizen than if she spends the majority of her time tied to a desk. 

Work education lays the foundation for important character traits in both the academic and work worlds.  Neatness, orderliness, industriousness, dependability, thorough work habits, sequencing, finishing a task, reasoning from cause to effect, and creativity are a few of the important concepts that can be learned. 

Balancing Academics with Work & Service

Students can learn practical application of language skills and practice good communication (oral and written);  they can apply math skills while doing business on a small scale in a home business or cottage industry.  You and your family can use your talents, skills, or hobbies to make a successful business.

By making a profit, students learn money management, another important skill that is best taught by a practical method.  This includes banking, saving, spending wisely, giving, budgeting, and much more.

Another benefit of operating a part-time home business is that most parents who homeschool have only one income and are therefore limited in financial resources.  When children and parents work together to supplement that income they are able to purchase enrichment books and educational equipment that would otherwise be too much of a strain on the family budget.  When students contribute to the family resources, they feel a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and self-worth.

Take a look at our list of cottage industries that your family may want to start.

Here are character traits for which bosses are looking:

Character Traits that a Boss is Looking For

Service projects are important not only as a means to bless others but also to teach your children valuable character traits of unselfishness, thoughtfulness, compassion, empathy, consideration, and responsibility for using their own God-given talents and abilities.  Families that work together in service create a strong bond and united purpose.  Parents should be role models in developing consistent service and devotion to helping others.

Balancing Academics with Work & ServiceSchedule service activities so that you will be organized and consistent in following through on your good intentions.  Depending on your chosen project, schedule it daily, weekly, or monthly.  In addition, teach your children to develop an awareness for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness and service.  By teaching your children to be “God’s Spies”—to Stop, Look, and Listen for needs that your family or church can meet—you will be preparing them to be the good Samaritans of their generation.  The following are suggestions you could adapt for your own situation: a list of service opportunities.

Learn more about the Hewitt Philosophy ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hewitt PASS Achievement Test

Why is the PASS® Test the right test for my student?

By The Hewitt Staff

Hewitt PASS  Achievement Test

The PASS® Test was developed specifically for homeschoolers. It has certain similarities to other achievement tests in that it measures student achievement in the subjects of reading, language, and mathematics. But it has important differences:

It was designed for parents to administer at home. This can greatly reduce the stress level of testing. We do not require that a certified teacher administer it.
  • It is untimed, which helps students relax. 
  • It consists of many test levels instead of one per grade. As a result, students take a shorter test and find most questions challenging but not frustrating. By contrast, tests for an entire grade must cover a broad range of abilities, and therefore many items are either too hard or too easy. A brief placement test is included with the PASS® Test 
  • While the PASS® results show personal achievement and national percentile comparisons like other tests, they also include home school percentiles and improvement suggestions for each subject. 
  • Because of the inherent stress of testing and our informal approach to teaching lower elementary grades, the PASS® test is available for grades three through eight.

The states of Alaska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Hawaii, and Washington have officially approved the PASS® Test for purposes of state reporting. In these states and others which require testing, you should check with your local school district to make sure it meets its requirements.

Hewitt PASS Achievement Test
The most accurate measure of academic growth is achieved by testing both at the beginning of your school year, and then again at the end. PASS® Tests can be ordered at any time during the year, but they must be at least six months apart. We request you administer the test and return it within four weeks. Once the test has been returned, we will score it and send you a detailed analysis of the student’s performance typically within two weeks.

Learn more about the PASS® Test on our website.

To order student tests for a single family, please click here. For student tests for groups, please call us at 800-348-1750.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cottage Industries

List of Possible Cottage Industries

By The Hewitt Staff

Often we get calls requesting lists of cottage industries.  Some businesses listed may be operated by the children in the family with the parents acting as advisers and quality-control inspectors.  Others may be parent-operated businesses with the children as helpers.  The determining factors are the type of business, the age and ability of each child, and safety issues.

Cottage Industry jobs in Agriculture

Animal breeding and selling
Christmas trees
Dried fruits packaging and selling
Flowers grown for sale
Fruit, nuts, vegetable picking
Garden produce
Greenhouse plants
House plants
Nursery stock/shrubs, trees, bedding plants
Wild berry picking
Worm farming

Cottage Industry jobs in Food Service


Food preparation in most states requires special equipment and separate facilities from the home kitchen. Check with your health department before developing a home bakery or other food preparation. This may not apply to your child’s lemonade stand.

Cottage Industry Home-manufactured Jobs


Baby quilts
Balloon bouquets
Christmas cards
Crocheted items (afghans, potholders, clothing, etc.)
Doll clothing
Door mats
Dried flower arrangements
Filled gift baskets
Fishing flies
Gift wrapping paper/bags
Greeting cards
Handmade holiday items
Handmade Egg craft (painting, appliqué)
Holiday decorations
Items manufactured on a loom
Items made from wood: shelves, toys, other
Knitted items (mittens, scarves, sweaters, etc.)
Leather items
Miniatures (e.g., furniture)
Napkin rings
Paintings (e.g., oils, watercolors)
Planter boxes/window boxes
Rock painting
Rubber stamps
Shell crafts
Stuffed animals


Various Cottage Industry Jobs
Aluminum collecting and recycling
Antique business
Assembly jobs
Bed & breakfast
China painting
Exercise classes
Firewood/kindling business
Furniture sanding
Health care services
Mail order selling
Newspaper collecting and recycling
Packaging business
Public speaking
Travel agency
Used clothing sales
Walking young children to school


Answering service
Art lessons
Artist/illustrator services
Car washing and detail
Carpet cleaning
Childcare in your home
Chimney servicing
Chores and errands
Classes (cooking, sewing, etc.)
Computer services/word processing
Fence painting
Furniture moving
Garage cleaning
Garage/yard sales or helping
Garbage can mover (to curb)
Garden work
Gift basket service
Gift shopping service
Gift wrapping
Hair and beauty services
Home decorating or consulting
Homework helping
House-cleaning service
House painting
House plant service for offices, 
                              vacations, etc.
House sitting
Janitorial service
Language tutoring
Laundry or ironing service
Lawn mowing
Letter writing
Mother’s assistant
Music lessons
Music services
Newspaper delivering
Paint scraping
Party organizer, clown, or assistant
Personalized holiday or breakfast/lunches
Cottage Industry Paid Services Jobs

Pet sitting/walking/grooming/training
Picture framing
Pool service
Reading service
Roto-tilling service
Senior citizen services shopping, 
                       transportation, etc.
Shoe polishing
Sign painting
Silver polishing
Snow shoveling
Travel service
Tutoring, general
Window washing
Yard care

Cottage Industry Repair Service Jobs


Small engine repair
Auto body repair
Shoe repair
Small appliance repair
Clothing, alterations and mending
Bicycle repair
Furniture repair


Children’s books by children
Church/club newsletter
Community newspaper
Children’s books by children
Church/club newsletter
Magazine articles
Cottage Industry Jobs in Writing
See Service Opportunities your children may perform ...

Go to the start of this Blog on Balancing Academics with Work & Service