We unschool. We’ve always unschooled; I have been unschooling without realizing that’s what it was since my early 20s when I started to enjoy learning and began to actively pursue what interested me, becoming obsessed with some things and getting my fill, moving on, or keeping that passion for a long time.
I am not following a Waldorf philosophy, but when my older daughter was 2-3 1/2, we loved doing parent tot classes at a local Waldorf school and I did learn some things about it. One thing that really resonated with me is delaying reading on purpose.
As reading is one of those things that proves to the world that a child is learning, it was definitely bugging my husband that our 5, then 6, then 7 year old old could not read. For some reasons, adults like to put kids on the spot. Well, maybe they just do it to homeschooled kids to save the world or something. My gentle little soul came away from these quizzings shattered and in tears because she could not perform to their standard. I worked with her on suitable responses around the concept that she did not want to be quizzed. And I worked on her confidence that she’s eventually find reading a breeze. No, more; she’d clearly be an advanced reader.
It was important to me that she love reading, as I do. My husband doesn’t love reading. In fact, the first time he ever read a book purely for pleasure was when we were in our honeymoon phase. He’d never been around someone who read for fun. For a while, we frequented a local alternative/spiritual bookstore and he read quite a few books about some of his spiritual guides. But since becoming a dad, he’s given that up. Sadly, he gets most of his information from video and youtube nowadays. I have no patience to sit through a video; I’d much rather skim online but I guess this is one of those mars/venus things.
Perhaps since reading is not a joy for him, he was still of the mainstream philosophy about it; that a child should be reading by age 6. And yes, he definitely gets embarrassed when our kids can’t perform like trained monkeys in public. I’m the sensitive one but I don’t care about that.
Somewhere about a year ago, give or take, my daughter and I started to make progress. We had had some false starts with the stupid book we were using, Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Lessons. I say stupid because the authors of this book feel it’s important to include discipline (in the negative sense of the word) as an integral part of the teaching method. I don’t actually know much at all about teaching reading. But I do know a thing or two about discipline and the word means guidance, not bullying, demeaning, demoralizing, insulting, controlling. The books has specific artificial dialog that you are not to deviate from. Heck, it’s all those things I just mentioned towards the parents as well as the kids. I’m a rule follower so it took me a bit to find my own stride and use the basic method without all the nastiness. Other than the book being full of typos where it’s inconsistent with its own style, I also find it utterly foolish that each reading lesson concludes with a writing lesson. Again, I’m not a trained teacher, but my daughter had all sorts of issues learning to write and why on earth would you force a skill too early? The authors of the book think it’s suitable for 3 and 4 year olds and while I won’t deny that some children that age show proficiency for reading, the majority do not. And they do not seem to appreciate that bullying a child into struggling with a skill before it’s time will lead to a hatred of that skill. Some skills didn’t come to me until I was an adult and new ones come all the time. It’s a wonder I can manage to do anything with my body after the way I was meant to feel in school gym and yet I grew up to be an accomplished athlete as an adult.
We ignored the instructions and zipped through as many lessons each day as my daughter wanted. We did not make the lessons non-negotiable and at a certain time of day as the book suggested. I rarely brought it up but rather let my daughter ask for a lesson. If she wanted to do 5 lessons in a row and I was up for it, we did. Contrary to what the authors would have you believe, it is possible to learn to read on the child’s terms. We never finished that stupid book. Now I’m using the term stupid because of the irritating spelling methods. The book had some plan of using more phonetic spelling and then later, through some magic, the child would come to understand how English is actually spelled. Whatever. What’s happened for us is my daughter kept picking up books of different levels until one day, she was able to finish a book. Since that day, we’ve never done another lesson. She now reads a few books a week and is increasing in skills all the time.
Yes, I will use the foolish book to teach my younger daughter, but only because it’s already on my shelf.
Oh and my point when I started this post is that my husband has never once “helpfully” suggested sending my kids to school since he saw progress with reading. When he saw her sounding out words and making progress, he was cool and has been ever since. He used to say, if I had any issue at all or the kids acted “naughty”, just send them to school. I felt so unsupported when he said that; he’s my partner in parenting and it was awful to not have him fully on the same page about homeschooling. The irony is that the teensy issues we were having would be nothing compared to me and him trying to get our kids to bed early and up, dressed and out of the house on time. I seriously think that would be the end of us if we had that school deadline as the only motivation.