Thursday, January 29, 2015

Time for Reading

When new parents think about homeschooling, most of the time our minds go immediately to “Can I teach someone how to read?” We don’t typically think, how do I teach my child to add or how do I teach my child about how to tie their shoes?

Teaching a child to read is for sure an overwhelming thought. The process seems a bit strange and abstract. So we start by teaching our child the alphabet, generally around the age of three. We sing songs and play games and buy videos and apps for our kids to watch and play to encourage reading.

When the child officially starts kindergarten, we jump right into whatever book we have chosen to help propel our child into literacy. Then it happens. The child only offers a blank stare at the proposition that letters are more than songs and things on a fun app. A stands for more than apple.

They don’t get it.

So we search the internet about teaching a child to read, ask all our homeschooling friends, and all the teachers we know about the process of teaching a child to read. Then we gather those suggestions, our own research and we form our own theory about how it should work and why it isn’t.  The next step is finding a curriculum that closely resembles the theory we have come up with and the method that addresses whatever we believe the problem is.

We eagerly, with new hope and a bright shiny attitude, offer the proposed curriculum to the child. The child sees more of what confuses him in the first place. A stands for more than Apple. All the letters look different from each other. They all make sounds and are not consistent in their sounds. The instructions have a lot of words that look like a foreign language. The child is being called upon to deal with more than just one letter, one sound at a time and is now being told those sounds go together to form words. The problem is there are so many sounds and they all have to be memorized and then sounded out in a particular order and his parent is looking at him with a wistful longingness that is shadowed by a hint of desperation. He is confused and his self esteem takes a hit.

The parent sees that the child is struggling and apparently not comprehending. The parent’s self esteem takes a hit. Maybe they are not cut out for homeschooling. Maybe they were silly to think they could homeschool to begin with. Maybe someone else could do it better.  Maybe it is the curriculum.  So, they buy another curriculum (maybe there is something different about this one) or hire a tutor or put the child in a brick and mortar school. Maybe the parent will have the child tested.

The real problem?  A always stands for more than Apple, folks. The process of blending is essentially the same and there will always be sight words. The real issue is typically the child and their readiness to read.

The Common Core State Standards are not the only things that have decided a child should read by first grade. So have a lot of parents.  

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that children can truly learn at their own pace. If they are not ready to read or are really struggling, we can set it aside or back up to a place where the child is mostly comfortable. Instead I find we as parents tend to judge our ability to homeschool and sometimes our ability to parent based on our child’s ability to read. And then the parent continues to push the child towards something they are not ready to do. This is not okay. Your child’s value and success as a student is not based on his or her reading ability. Your capability as a parent is not measured by your child’s reading ability.

I encourage you to take a breather. If your child is struggling, take a break. Skip reading lessons for a while. Read with your child or listen to audio books together. Skip school and play. Give your child time to mature a bit.

I have taught four children to read. My three older children all struggled. Their lack of ability made me question my own worth as a mother. But we persisted and worked in spurts. If they struggled and if there were tears and/attitude, we simply stopped. Eventually, there was enough starting and stopping that one day we started again and we did not have to stop. They were all around 9 when this happened for them. My youngest learned to read at lightening speed. She was reading at age 4! I am not even sure I taught her, it seemed to have just happened!  

So, parents, give yourselves and your kids time. Remember childhood is about learning and play and figuring out the world and how it works.

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