I realized after we got home that I was a bit self-centered in my book collecting. Where are all the books for the kids?! Maybe it's because I'm still getting used to the idea that my boys are turning into readers!
I was a pretty confident unschooler when we started this homeschooling journey. It helped that UberDad and I were both early readers. We figured it out before starting school, so why couldn't our kids learn to read without school?
At the same time, I didn't expect that they'd be early readers just because we were. For one thing, my parents didn't have money for a lot of toys, but we went to the library frequently. And my mother was fond of flashcards. We didn't have a television until I'd already read the "Little House" series.
I didn't want television around here either, but that turned out to be hopeless. Let's just say I'm still working on my boundary issues -- and my mother's incredibly generous. Plus Eldest is a visual/auditory learner who soaks up everything he can learn from cable. Despite my own love for learning via text on a page, I don't believe it's the only way to learn.
And despite the fact that our tv sees plenty of use, our kids are also surrounded by books at home, and have spent a fair amount of time in bookstores and the library, and of course, being read to.
I knew it was only a matter of time before they'd begin reading on their own. If I'd been worried or in a hurry, we would have spent less time on field trips and at the park, and more time on the couch. But I wasn't -- and my boys like to get out and DO.
Not that I never wondered if I should be doing more. I know people who swear by using 100 Easy Lessons. (I borrowed it once, and got through two lessons before we were all bored.) And ZooPhonics sounds so fun and creative! (But you can buy a lot of books for $400.)
But when I prayed about it, I always got the same answer:
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this(.)So I stuck with just answering their questions, and reading to them as often as our schedule allowed. I buy plenty of books, but no programs.
It has been a fascinating journey to watch. Eldest has been blessed with an incredible memory, and he prefers to memorize what words look like, using context, phonics (or just asking me) to figure them out first. He reads with beautiful inflection, but he's not crazy about sounding out longer words himself. He remembers faster from hearing me say it.
Middlest uses mostly phonics, and isn't intimidated by larger words. He reads more slowly because he's not sight-reading as much -- and because he wants to read harder books, not the "easy-to-read" stuff.
After reading a couple Dr. Suess books with help in March, he decided he wanted to read "The Tale of Despereaux." A friend gave him a copy for Christmas, and he wanted to read it himself.
So, we started reading it together, one paragraph at a time because that was enough for him. He needed a lot of help, but in just TWO PAGES — over the span of a week, his reading improved significantly. All that exposure to bigger words built up his phonics skills and gave him great confidence. It’s not the only thing we’re reading, so I can see how much better he’s getting at the easy stuff.
Last week, while I was horizontal on the couch, the boys took turns reading aloud to me and to each other. Eldest was so excited to be able to read his favorite Captain Underpants books himself.
"Reading is my new very favorite thing to do!" he said to me one afternoon.
And my heart leapt.
It works! It really works! I haven't messed up my children's chance to learn to read! I haven't missed any "window of opportunity."
They've also escaped being labeled "learning disabled" because they preferred to play outside than sit still and listen to lessons at age five. They've learned without pressure, in their own way, and in their own time.
And they can still be bibliophiles like their parents! For this, I am truly grateful.