Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who Will Teach My Children to Read

Reminds me of The Little Red Hen....who will help her? She did it herself.

So often people wonder how will a child learn to read if he/she has no teacher to teach them? I can only share how MY children learned to read. Each of them differently...

For Katie, if we were writing a book,  the title would be "K is for Katie and KMart. " She wasn't that chatty in the car (and we seemed to be in the car alot) We read street signs. And store signs. And signs around displays in grocery stores. All signs, really. And, when they were little, they liked to look for signs that started with same letter their name started with. Like K is for Katie and KMart! We modified it into games, thinking of rhyming words that "go with" the word on the sign. Then you have to look around to find it. Later, they'd quiz me too!

Alyssa, as the 3rd child, was easily frustrated that she couldn't do a lot of things the others could do. She was the latest reader at our house. I guess she probably learned to read fluently by 9-10. She would frequently wander away when I read to them in the evenings. In retrospect, something about all that value on reading made her uncomfortable. She knew she couldn't do it. And she knew that other kids her age, in Girl Scouts, or the homeschool group, could read and she couldn't. So, just like with Katie, I tried to sit down with her to do BOB books or Sing-Spell-Read-&-Write books. She had trouble remembering words because her head was so clouded with frustration with herself. The most heartbreaking moment was when she said with tear-filled eyes, "It's because I'm blonde - really blonde. And I'm really dumb - just like they all say in the jokes." Heartbreaking for any mother to hear. Of course I reassured her that that was NOT so, and she'd be able to read whenever she wanted to learn. We talked about how when you're really frustrated with something, you can't hear or think or... anything!

Knowing that she was having this inner struggle, we became incredibly watchful. We never told blonde jokes - but we were VERY vocal about disagreeing with them being said whenever we were around. We weren't in a lot of situations where she'd be asked to read, but when we were, we usually removed her before she even knew what was happening. And so at home, she & I would quietly look at different words and start to decode this reading thing. We started with words that were common for her to say. Then we moved to words that she'd need to read for Girl Scouts or 4H or her animal magazines. No big lesson plans. No "routine". Just real life. And it turned out to be a much calmer less judgemental kind of life. Not that I was judging her, but that she felt judged. Once all that anxiety melted away, she was able to gracefully step over the obstacles.

Now, her reading is primarily online - and her typing skills were incredible! She's a little hesitant to read in front of a group. While that might be a little leftover from being so self-conscious about her reading, I think it's just her personality.

I was on an email list and someone asked how to get their child interested in reading. I think everyone should check out the easy reader section at the library. You might be surprised at what they choose. Mine often chose books that I would have considered a little insulting. But their desire to demonstrate they could "conquer" that book won out... for them. One of my biggest regrets is all the easy reader books I've accumulated over the years. They would read them once and then they were done with it. Since the goal was always "successful reading" because nobody really *enjoys* laboring over a book, we have an enormous number of books collected. The library route would have been MUCH cheaper, taken up WAY less space, and it would have been just as productive.

But the bottom line is find books that interest your child. We had an entire Calvin and Hobbes phase for a while. Don't push books that they're not interested in. It will just make them hate reading and their confidence will drop even further.

Read with them. Find books they love. This will give them a reason to WANT to read!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sleep Schedules

One thing seems interesting to me from an unschooling perspective. For years, I've let my children sleep however late, and go to bed at whatever hour. Homeschoolers (and schoolers - as the kids used to call them) would ask me, "How will they be able to hold down a job - follow a schedule - adhere to expectations -- if I never impose any on them as children?" Well, it's a non-issue. It's like practicing the act of waiting in line. Or working on eating. Honestly, when they were younger, I'd think, "well, they just won't choose a job that conflicts with their natural rhythm."

But that's not what happened.

They found a job they wanted, and they made their own rhythm cooperate. They are not late to work. I sometimes don't even get up with them! They have alarm clocks. They shower. They manage just fine thank-you-very- much (I don't mean that snappy tone for you all - just my long ago naysayers!) Katie proved this to me a year and half ago when she went to stay with her grandma in Dallas so she could attend a month-long intensive drama program. She got herself up at 5 a.m., checked her email, fixed her breakfast, showered, dressed, and caught the city bus to go downtown. She was 15.

And now they both have jobs at Barnes and Noble. Alyssa goes on cheerleading competition weekends. We frequently stay in hotels and have to get up to be at the competion by 7 a.m. That means she usually needs to start getting ready around 5:45. She jumps right up and gets to it.

So, that's my real life experience with kids and sleep schedules. No one needed to rehearse getting up early. They did/do it when they need to.

Just an interesting little fact... at least to me.