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Topic: HELP!

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Subject: HELP!
Date Posted: 10/2/2008 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 7/30/2008
Posts: 7
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I am not a homeschooler & hope it is okay to post my question.  If not, please accept my apologies. 

If it is okey, I thought you folks who do homeschool have the expertise to help me out. I have a 14 yr old son who is quite bright and interested in math/science.  His standard test scores are always way above average in these areas and pretty good in reading/writing.  BUT he hates to read anything but an instruction or technical type manual/book.  He admits and is a little concerned that he seems to read slowly.  His writing indicates he gets the basic main idea and does not go very deep in his comprehension.

I cannot afford tutoring.  Even if I could I might not use it - I think I can do as good if not better than a tutor.  I'm looking for some guidance on the best approach to try to help him improve his reading comprehension and writing skills.  I found a good used copy of the Wiener Reading Skills Handbook and have bribed him to set out a plan to work thru it with me this coming year.  It seems comprehensive but I still feel like I'm missing something.   Even if he never becomes a book lover, I'd like to see his skills, or at least his confidence, improve.  Right now I think part of the reason he 'hates' to read is his own insecurity about his ability.

I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you might have to offer.


Date Posted: 10/2/2008 10:19 AM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2005
Posts: 4,699
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I would suggest foa\stering a "love of reading" with him. I would get a bunch of books like How it;s made. or the story of everything, heck even technical manuals if that is what he likes and let him read them.  It sounds to me like he may not have an visual learning style. that he is more into spatial or hands on stuff.  If he is into math and science let him read that . It sounds to me like you are on the right track.

hope I was a little helpful.


Date Posted: 10/2/2008 2:29 PM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2008
Posts: 662
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You could try setting up your own incentive program with him.  For example, after he reads ten books, he gets $5.  Make sure the incentive is something small, but something he wants.  Be careful also that the incentive is achievable.  If you want some brief comprehension questions for books that he's reading to make sure he's "getting it," you can try www.bookadventure.com.  They have a lot of books in their database, and can pop up a quick ten-question multiple choice test for each book in their database. 

I also agree with Margaret that you should look for "techie" books for him.  Make sure he knows that his ability to read and understand scientific and technical stuff is a skill that many "reader-types" don't have.  You may want to look into magazine subscriptions to magazines that match his areas of interest (Scientific American, PC World, etc.).  Would he be interested in biographies of individuals in his favorite fields?

The reading skills handbook you have is a good idea, too.  That will expose him to his less-favorite genres so that they'll at least look familiar on a test.

Date Posted: 10/2/2008 11:41 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2008
Posts: 118
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I would go back and work on the comprehension by spending time reading to him. Try something you liked as a kid and share it. Spend some time just discussing things you like about the book as you get to them. Show him how to get deeper into a book (that is why you want to pick something that you loved). Be willing to start a few books that don't work out but be willing to talk about why you do not like them. Old Hard Science Fiction or fantasy might be a good place to start. Heinlein juvenile's like Citizen of the Galazy or Space Cadet or Jules Verne. Mysteries (Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout) might also be good. Hunt for Red October might also work. Another suggestion would be the Mad Scientist Club. PM if you need more ideas and I will ask my boys when they are up.
Date Posted: 10/3/2008 1:06 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2007
Posts: 4,588
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You said your son is 14 so he is in 8th grade?

As far as the writing skills go, there are things online that you can use.

Scott Foresman has an online grammar and writing course. http://www.sfreading.com/resources/ghb.html It covers grades 1-6 but your son could do the 6th grade level as a "review" and it would still be good practice.

www.bestessaytips.com is crammed full of tips and help for writing different types of essays.

If he is really ambitious here's a link to 10 universities that offer free online writing courses: http://education-portal.com/articles/10_Universities_Offering_Free_Writing_Courses_Online.html

My oldest is a sophomore in college and the SATs are so heavy on the writing portion now that you can't afford not to bone up on your writing skills. I think you're doing the right thing with the extra help and practice.

Best wishes to you & your son!

Date Posted: 10/3/2008 9:07 AM ET
Member Since: 3/20/2007
Posts: 931
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It sounds like you just need to find some books for him, possibly a series, that he could really sink his teeth into.  I would ask your local librarian for ideas.  If he likes Greek mythology at all, the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, by Rick Riordan, is good.  My son is loving them.  He's also getting ready to read the Alex Rider adventures, by Anthony Horowitz.  Alex is a "junior" James Bond.  There's also a movie tie-in.

That's another idea.  Have him read novels that have been made into movies.  Have him read the novel, then watch the movie.

Also, I agree with letting him read non-fiction also.  Up until a few years ago, that's mostly what my DS wanted to read.

Try getting the "Spark Notes" books to go along with some classic literature.

Someone mentioned Book Adventure.  That's a good option, but the books only go up to around 6th grade reading level.

Perhaps get some of the literature lesson plans and have him read a book, then go through a workbook, such as the "A Guide for Using...." workbooks by Teacher Created Resources.  There are few available here at PBS.  They're around $9 new, but much cheaper than a tutor!  You can purchase them new from:


Also, many books have online lesson plans to go with them.  The Percy Jackson books have a huge number of pages/plans on the author's site.  Just do a 'net search for any book he reads like "Title + lesson plans".




Date Posted: 10/7/2008 4:36 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 181
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A great guide that will teach you how to teach your son reading comp. stuff and how to analyze writing is "Critical Conditioning" by Kathryn Stout. It teaches how to analyze and think about what is being read. You will work with your son to analyze readings that he does. It is not a curriculum. It is not a workbook. It teaches a method then you apply it to whatever you choose for him to read.

The book probably can't be found here on PBS. I belive it is just $12 new so it is pretty cheap. It covers grades K-12 so it will apply for your son.

If you cannot or do not want to pay a tutor the other choice is just to do the work yourself, you be his tutor. I understnad that will take time and energy on your part. You have a choice, pay someone or do the work yourself. I don't see any shortcuts between those two options.

I recently finished reading this great book  by Stout, and wish I had read it sooner. I can't recommend it highly enough.

We are working with reading comprehension workbooks right now and it didn't take me long to see their shortcomings. After reading Stout's book I realize how much deeper and more effective teaching can be if you have discussions and talk to your kids about the readings instead of using workbooks. A goal of mine is for my kids to correctly understand the written word. I also want them to be able to think about it and to question things they read. I want my kids to be thinkers. I am confident the way Stout approaches this will accomplish that.

Also it would be good to review test-taking skills with your son. See if he is making mistakes such as picking the first right answer instead of 'the best answer' as they usually instruct. Teach him the trickery in testing if he doesn't know it already.


Stout sells her books on her website called Design a Study.


Stout also has a book on writing composition but I have not read it yet so I can't comment on it.

I have not worked with high schoolers on writing composition so I won't answer that question with opinion.

I'll just say that a high school level is available for the writing curriculum I use with my kids called institutes for excellence in writing. It is not cheap but they do have a DVD study that the student can watch and teach themselves from and then practice the writing. There are teacher DVDs too that teach you how to teach their writing method. THis method is said to work especially well with boys who don't like a lot of creative writing such as is done in public schools. While the program is not cheap buying it is a better bargain than the $75 per hour it costs in my area for private tutoring.



Hope this helps.