Monday, May 18, 2009

Gratituesday: Unschooling Reading

After four months of avoiding our late fees at the library, we finally headed back to the land of abundant knowledge two weeks ago. I love, love, love that I can check out our library system's offerings online, request the books I want, and have them waiting for me at the front desk.

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(.)
--Psalm 37:5
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.


Lift Up Your Hearts said...

I think we are probably equally passionate about reading, so I understand the joy that comes with seeing one's children love to read!

It Feels Like Chaos said...

It is such a precious, beautiful moment to witness when your child realizes they can read! Or beams with joy when they read their first whole page or book! I love being able to share milestones like that with my kids!

Anna said...

Oh, the Foot Book and Richard Scarry's word book are favorites around here too! The little mouse who lost it's balloon at the zoo is an object of perpetual concern with the 2-year-old. :-)
I especially love these older books--so many of the newer ones seem to be gender specific or attached to a major marketing campaign.

Anna said...

Um, its balloon, not it's. Yikes, I make my living as an editor!

steadymom said...

I appreciate this vignette b/c I'm trying to do the same here. I feel it's the right approach, but sometimes have a little panic attack that they aren't doing "more."

So thanks for the encouragement.


Toni said...

sound s you got the right idea, I love the library to and have more books then room in our house:-)

We love the Foot Book BTw, I just had that in my hand a few minutes ago.

darlene said...

My 5 sons all learned to read in their own good time. One was 4, one was 10, and everything in between. They are all excellent readers, and because they were all unschooled, no one knew, or cared, how old they were when they mastered reading. No labels ever given. That was a blessing for my 10 year old, especially. He always viewed himself as smart and competent, and so did everybody else. He just finished his first year of college. Straight A's, no problem. I loved letting my kids take the acedemic lead! It worked great for us!

mandi said...

we are currently doing 100 easy lessons with dylin. she loves it. her learning style is very different than my 'teaching' style. i love hands on. and she does too, but she loves workbooks. so this works for her and she feels confident after a 15 minute lesson. i can't wait to see how different levi will be. he is so much more kinetic and only wants to sit still to be read to or put together train tracks.

it's so funny with homeschooling- i wanted to be so outside of the box, truly embracing the 'slow and steady get me ready' concept. but what i'm continually learning is that it's not about me! so maybe i would rather play a card game to get a math concept across, dylin wants a workbook, darn it! so we do both. that way we're both appeased!

btw- so glad you're feeling better! side note: yesterday levi was sharing food with the cat and dylin told him to stop or he'd get 'cat flu'. haha!!!

Anonymous said...

You're such an awesome mom, you even make the library seem exciting!

My son used to eat paper... so books were out of the question, now... well, my son doodles on the pages when I am not looking. I definitely need to read to him more often that's for sure, thanks for sharing this cute story!

tie-dyed doula said...

THank you for these words. I am feeling down some days, this is my first year and baby boy (age 6) isn't interested in reading and I feel inadequate some days. I think maybe if I back off, he will do it on his own time. What you think? Thank you again for your blog and I will book mark this for future reference/encouragement.
Shine on!

tie-dyed doula said...

THank you for these words. I am feeling down some days, this is my first year and baby boy (age 6) isn't interested in reading and I feel inadequate some days. I think maybe if I back off, he will do it on his own time. What you think? Thank you again for your blog and I will book mark this for future reference/encouragement.
Shine on!

Liz said...

I was so excited when my kids started to read! I love, love, love to read (and, like you, am quite pleased with Internet holds!). Sadly, one of my kids hates reading. Rarely picks up a book. It's taken me years to get that that is just her. She's different from her sister, she'll always be different and I finally get that. Boy it's taken me a while, though... One thing that's helped me understand my kids better is a book, "The Missing Link," by Drs. Arno. It's helped me to understand how they're motivated, what that God-given temperaments (and gifts) are, and how I can work with these strengths and weaknesses that He provided. It's pretty amazing, and a good read.

Surround your kids with books and love and you can't go wrong!

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