The Tortoise or the Hare? Does Slow and Steady Always Win the Race?

As a child I enjoyed reading Aesop's fables. What I always liked best about fables was that they used animals and they always taught a lesson. Jesus used parables when He taught, often using farm life or some other part of daily life that His hearers would recognize and relate to.

Probably my favorite Aesop's fable is "The Tortoise and the Hare." One day a Hare came across a Tortoise and began making fun of him because he was so slow. Tired of being teased once again, the Tortoise challenged the Hare to a race. His victory assured, the Hare took the old Tortoise up on his offer. After the fox had set the course, the race was on! The Hare was ahead in no time and decided that he had plenty of time to take a nap. Upon waking he looked toward the finish line only to see that the Tortoise was crossing it and he had lost the race! Lesson: "Slow and steady wins the race."

Slow and steady—does that always win the race in every circumstance? Well, let's put that in homeschool terms. What about reading?

When a homeschool family begins their journey from day one of their child's schooling, reading is one of those scary subjects on the list. Can you remember how you learned how to read? I couldn't. With such a huge variety of reading programs out there, some guaranteeing fast results and some out for the long-term, scope-shaping journey, how do parents pick and choose what will work for their children? I'll show you two tried and true favorites, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (the Hare) and Hooked On Phonics (the Tortoise). Both of these methods are fine phonics-based methods, and I have used both with great success.

Why phonics? Simply because it works! Several years ago, at a Christian Home Educators of Ohio convention, I listened to Samuel Bloomenfeld discuss the utter failure of the "look-say/whole-word" method that so many public schools have been using. This method attempts to teach reading by causing children to "memorize" what certain often-used words "look" like. Basically, once these key words are memorized by sight—not sounding out, but what they look like—the rest of their reading instruction ends up just being a guessing game. This looksay/whole-word method was originally created to teach deaf people how to read. The program was such a failure that it is no longer used with them—but it is still used in three out of four government schools! Sounds like one more reason to teach them at home.

Enter: The Hare
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (TYC) is a product of DISTAR, published by Science Research Associates (SRA). Remember those fun and teachable SRAs we used to do in third grade? (If not, don't worry—I'll get to them later.) These are the same folks! I always enjoyed doing those little SRAs and I was thrilled to find out that this was the same company.

In the Introduction, they take what Samuel Bloomenfeld told us at CHEO by quoting Robert Benjamin from his book Making Schools Work: "Many schools continue to employ instructional methods that have been proven ineffective. The staying power of the look-say or whole-word method of teaching beginning reading is perhaps the most flagrant example of this failure to instruct effectively." As we all know, if a child is a good reader, the whole world opens up to him. TYC has proven to be very effective with young readers, especially preschoolers.

As the title implies, the book consists of 100 lessons that last roughly one-half hour each day. My advice is to not skip any lessons, as they build upon each other. By the time your child finishes the book she will be reading at a whopping second-grade level! And your child will not be the only one who benefits. As the book says, "After you complete the program, you'll know more about teaching reading than most public school teachers, because you will have carefully observed and participated in the step-by-step development of your child's reading skills." As we all know, parents learn, or re-learn, right along with their children.