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getting stared with a 4 yr old

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
First of all this is my first post, and I am not familiar with all the abbreviations yet, so please bear with me.

I stay at home with my 4 yr old step daughter. I am trying to get her started learning her letters and numbers, etc. We are hoping to homeschool her.

She says she wants to learn to read, and she loves being read to. However, she can't seem to learn letters and numbers. She has learned some of the sounds and can count. The problem is with the symbols themselves. She only recognizes the letter B and her numbers 1-3. She does not grasp the difference between letters and numbers. Getting her to try and write them is impossible, and tracing is almost as difficult.

I am taking a break from trying to teach her (letters and numbers) untill I can get some advice. I do not want to turn her off to learning these things. She is totally uncooperative when trying flashcards. She will not take instruction of any kind and therefore cannot play any kind of game such as board or card games. She does play computer games.

She does great in other areas, mainly being read to on any subject. She loves music and playing many instruments. She is very perceptive of things going on around her.

Her father has suggested that the problem may be my approach. I believe that is entirely possible! Does anyone have any sugesstions?

post #2 of 13
I'm an elementary school teacher myself so I hope I can be of some help here. I would say that, at this young age, the best thing to do would be to put away the flashcards and let her go at her own pace. If she is not ready to learn letters yet, there's no amount of teaching that will work. If she feels somehow pressured, that will make it even worse.

If you don't really want to give up, I have some ideas. The best way for her to learn letters and numbers right now would be through play. Try alphabet books, fun ones. Offhand, I can think of a few:

Animalia by Graeme Base
A to Z by Sandra Boynton (board book)
City Seen From A to Z (can't recall author)

Refrigerator magnet letters are great. Or you can try tactile learning (some kids just aren't visual learners) - cut letters out of sandpaper and let her trace them with her fingers and feel them. Sing letter songs - my dd and I used to do variations on Cookie Monster's "C is for Cookie."

She's got years of academics ahead of her - why push? Have fun and she'll learn when she's ready.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your advice!
Since my post I have observed her recognizing some letters and numbers that we have worked with.
I think I will put away the flashcards, as you suggested, and try things that are more fun.
post #4 of 13
My kids are 3 and 5 and my 5 year old just recently grasped the difference between letters and numbers, even though she could recognize most of them. This was a pretty hard concept for her, so I wouldn't worry about it all. Also, she just started writing a bit, mostly tracing. This, too, may bit just be a little too hard for your DD for now.

A similar activity that both my kids like is writing the numbers in cornmeal. I put cornmeal in a pie pan and then they practice making the letter or number there. It is much easier than trying to hold a pencil. Between uses, I keep the cornmeal in a specially marked bag so it doesn't get mixed up and baked!

Having lots of different experiences is really more important for kids this age than learning accademics. Some of the things we do:

cooking -- helps kids learn real math, following directions, cause and effects, language skills, etc. My kids love to cook.

hands on science -- besides learning how the world works, it help language develeopment, fine motor skills, cooperation

art -- fine motor skills (will help with writing later, when the child is old enough), imagination. letting the child experiement with materials is wonderful, sometimes my kids like to do crafts where we follow directions in a book to make something specific.

music -- sounds like you already do a lot with music!

playing -- play is soooo important for kids. they learn so much from just building with blocks, riding their bike (or trike) climbing at the park, nurturing their dolls!!!!!

field trips -- we try to go some place cool once a week -- the zoo, children's museum, puppet show, etc.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
This makes me feel better!

She loves to help me cook. So much, in fact, we got her an easy- bake-oven for her birthday in November.

She also loves to draw, paint, and color.

Thanks again!
post #6 of 13
have you checked out the homeschooling board? There are several of us who hang out there who have young children.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'll do that! Thanks!
post #8 of 13
I just wanted to add that at 4 my DS was not in a "board game/card game" state of mind either. He wanted to make up the rules and always win.

I decided that since he was playing these games mainly with me or his father, it didn't matter how he played.

When he played Chess with his dad he moved the pieces any way he liked and didn't lose his "guys." (He actually knows the correct move for each piece, it just didn't suit him to play that way.)

When I played Go Fish with him, we put all of our matches into one stack because otherwise he couldn't bear to give up a card. It also kept from having a winner and a loser.

He seemed to like telling us how to play. (He's actually kind of an analytical person--maybe he'd rather figure out his own thing than be told what to do?)

I just figured his personality at that time wasn't suited to playing board games/card games in traditional ways and so I let him lead. I did ask that he take turns the "right" way, explaining that otherwise it's not much fun for the other players.

I worried a little bit at the time because his 3.5 year old cousin was playing Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land with all the rules and not seeming to mind losing. But my DS has sorted it out and is able to handle things now. Mostly
post #9 of 13
I have found these things really help.

1) Don't ever use the names of the letters, only the sounds. Avoid the "names" like the plague.

2) Only do 3-4 at a time, until they stick.

3) leave letters like k, q, z, w, x, v, to the very last.

4) stick ridgedly to small letters, NOT capitals.

5) avoid combos such as ch and sh till later.

6) At this age, writing is meaningless, unless they choose to.

7) a contact moment (where you are teaching) should not last more than, say, 5 minuits, unless she askes for longer.

8) Make everything a game.

9) The letterland magazine series from the UK is briliant, and will give you lots of ideas.

10) Don't hurry.

Hope this helps

post #10 of 13
I agree that the sounds are all that are important to read. the names are just confusing to a 4 yo. I also think that as much exposure to the letters -when not "teaching" can help. Make a poster to put on her wall, magnets on the fridge, alphabet blocks, sandpaper letters-- things she can just play with and absorb. I takes alot of repition before she sees the difference between o and c or i and j. Make pictures with the magnets towers with the blocks her little brain is gettting lots of info and soon she will start to straighten it out.
I also think picking her name out of a list is fun for most 4 yo. start with a list of pictures
then use sort words -it, an, the
and work up to words that start with the same letter as her name.
I think its importatnt that not too much guessing happpens too. make things easier if she is struggling.
post #11 of 13
Hi. I was wondering if you had ever checked out the Waldorf method. Oak Meadow has a wonderful program that includes preschool and Kindergarten homeschool curriculum? The emphasis is really on the whole child, not just the acadmics. Waldorf has a fantastic way of introducing the letters, through fairy tales that are beautifully written-- just captivating for anyone's imagination, really. Also, LLL has a terrific book about the home preschool co-op idea. This is full of fantastic ideas for letters, numbers, art projects, etc. I love this for many reasons. For one thing, it has all of the playdough and clay recipes right there. Still, I think the thing that has helped me the most with having a 4 year old and two year old, is when I step back and realize how very much they are learning each and every day. They will do things when they are ready. I hope that this was helpful!
post #12 of 13
There's some great advice here already. I just wanted to reiterate that at four she is still very young. Many children are simply not ready to recognise letters and numbers at that age. Try to keep things playful, and resist the temptation to 'teach' her.

Read, read read to her. Then read more. Choose books with repetition and rhyme, that she can learn 'by heart' and join in. Point out letters, words, sounds as you read, but don't slow down to make it a chore. Play games 'the first to see a letter O on each page" if she is receptive. If not, just read.

Soon she will know the book 'by heart'. She will use pictures and the context to work out what is coming next, probably before she uses phonics to work it out - which is a sign of an intelligent reader. If you read one book twenty or thirty times a day because she likes it, that's great (if a bit boring for you!)

Someone mentioned Letterland from the UK. It works well for many children, but the emphasis is on the characters who 'are' the letters, eg Hairy Hat Man, Wicked Water witch, etc. Many children, however, stick on the characters and can need a lot of help to make the connection that hairy hat man is in fact 'h' who says 'hhhhuh'.

When you make the sounds, be careful to think about what letters really say. Eg s says 'ssssssss' not 'suh' - soften the sound if in doubt.

I know a lot of people emphasis just teaching sounds wihtout the letter names. I think that most children can learn both side by side, as long as you are clear - the letter is 'called' 's' and it says 'ssss'. This clarity can avoid confusion later.

The problem with letter magnets etc is that they are usually capitals. Again, I work with both lower case and capitals, but tell children what they are and the purpose of capitals - they are used for names and to start sentences. But always write correctly - you can point out things like full stops (periods) etc, and capitals, just dont make a big thing of 'teaching' them.

sorry, now dd has to type you some w, o and 'b's, so I'll finish, hope this rushed answer is of some help!

Oh yes, Jolly Phonics from the UK is brilliant, and i think better than Letterland - it has phsyical actions to go with each letter and sound. I've seen a lot of success with it, and it's play based.
post #13 of 13
We are in a similar situation in our house. My 4yo ds is also learning the alphabet. I have no experience teaching a child to read, but we are having fun exploring what works best for us. We have had an alphabet playmat for the last couple of years. Have you seen them? There are 26 spongy squares which fit together like puzzle pieces, in any order, and the individual letters can be taken out of the center of each one. Until now we've only used them to cushion the wood floors or to build with. Today we had fun learning the names of the letters as he matched each letter with its square. Next we sang the ABC song (a lot!) and arranged the letters in order. As we did this he asked for the sound the each letter made and what animal started with that letter. (Which he would then imitate with his own sounds.) Then he had a blast hopping to the letter that I called out. I realized he was more responsive when he could choose what letter he wanted to stand, sit, or hop onto rather than me directing him. He definately learned quite a few during the session and had lots of laughs trying. We were at it for over an hour and I eventually had to take a break! He wanted more. Before he went to bed he asked if we could play the alphabet game again tomorrow. He is quite a physical child and I think this was a good way for us to start. Afterwards he even tried tracing the letters on to paper. I think the key is to let your child guide you and have fun! Good luck!
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