I am all about simplifying home education, and one of my favorite resources for this is the McGuffey readers. My youngest is currently working her way through the McGuffey’s Pictorial Eclectic Primer. It’s a feast for the eyes, being so old-fashioned, but it also provides a wealth of language arts instruction and practice. I thought you might like to know how we accomplish some easy schooling with the McGuffey Primer.
When my students have begun to read words and sentences, they are ready to practice reading with the Primer. With my five kids, I’ve used two different reading curricula: A Beka reading program and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
Almost every lesson introduces a list of words to practice, followed by a short story that integrates those words. I usually have my daughter read through the list twice. The first time is for introduction and practice, and the second time is for fluency and speed. By the time she reads the short story, she is unlikely to be hampered by seeing these new words.
In the short stories (typically one to three paragraphs), I find that my daughter is able to read aloud pretty smoothly. The word practice preparation is very helpful. Most stories are also accompanied by an illustration. I have noticed that she studies the picture before reading the story.
The fun part is that there are sometimes some quaint little phrases, because it’s an old-fashioned book. So besides reading practice, a student will learn a few “new” things.
I do not use a formal spelling program for any of my kids. In my 20 years of homeschooling, I have learned that constant reading and writing, with a bit of correction here and there, are the best foundation for spelling. With the McGuffey Eclectic Primer, I use the word lists as spelling copywork for my daughter.
After she reads the list and the story, I give her a blank piece of notebook paper and call the list words to her aloud, just like a spelling test. Since these are words that that she has just read three or four times, it’s a great way to review.
Once a child has learned to write, I have learned that they need practice with speed and neatness. Practicing this word list allows for both. Now she has seen them, thought about them, and written them.
I love the use of copywork for all Language Arts skills, and the earlier they learn, the better. In the case of the Eclectic Primer, not only do I use the word list for spelling copywork, but I will dictate one or two sentences from the story to my daughter for her to write. This gives her a chance to write neatly, spell correctly, and form a proper sentence with the correct capitalization and punctuation. You can read all about how we use copywork for Lanague Arts here.
Besides the three main aspects of Language Arts, there are other small benefits in the McGuffey Primer. New words allow for discussion of their definitions (vocabulary) and the sweet moral stories used for reading practice are reminiscent of schooling a century ago.
Can you see how much can be accomplished in this one little book? I believe in helping parents homeschool simply, and the McGuffey Primer is a wonderful way to accomplish this.
The McGuffey readers were one of two series of textbooks used in educating children in those first days of America. The other was the New England Primer. Keep in mind, grades K-12 had not been invented; when a student completed all of the readers, they were finished with school. It typically took about half the time to educate the children that it does in modern times.
Yet, some great minds were born in the schools that used these books.
“McGuffey Readers played an important role in American history. Most prominent post-Civil War and turn-of-the-Century American figures credited their initial success in learning to the Readers, which provided a guide to what was occurring in the public school movement and in American culture during the 19th century.” (source)
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.