As an excited young homeschooling mother years ago I wondered about reading, more specifically, when to begin reading instruction. So I ordered the big box of school that came in the mail and when kindergarten arrived we began to learn reading on day 1. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that we had been learning to read all along. Pre-reading is something most parents do as we sing silly rhyming songs and play games and read bedtime stories and show our children how write their names, and even when they draw pictures. All of those skills are pre-reading skills. My son hated school out of the big box of school because he’s more of a hands on, doing fun things kind of person. I’m being silly here as all kids like doing fun things. The point is we didn’t know about all of the wonderful ways children learn. I only knew about the way I learned to read in kindergarten. So I went through the scripted and a little stiff curriculum and Big Bird started to read, but he hated it. Six months into kindergarten we backed off and moved to KONOS. All of the boys thrived and Big Bird continued to move on in his reading and understanding that was soaking in so naturally. It was beautiful.
There have been seasons in which I have had to be homeschool mom less and just regular mom more because life is unpredictable. When my grandmother died, I took time to grieve. When I have been real sick and when the kids got sick earlier this year we had to take time off. I noticed learning happening even when I didn’t have prepared homeschool for them. For a little while we were unschoolers out of need and while they learned quite a bit, it’s not something I’m totally comfortable with at this point in our homeschool. We’ve been strict. We’ve been relaxed. And generally between these two extremes is where we land. In walking between the extremes, I lean a little more toward relaxed; “more towards ‘late’ than ‘early’ not because there’s anything especially wrong with the early system, but because we’ve seen more damage done to the early children.” -Ruth Beechick
When my second son began showing signs of mild retardation, which were quickly ruled out, we knew he wouldn’t learn to read on the same schedule as Big Bird. He is, in fact, on the autism spectrum and the term aspergers is being done away with, but if it weren’t, that’s what he would have. The pediatrition told us that the medical field is rearranging how they are categorizing children on the spectrum and so we don’t know what label he would be given, but we don’t really care about labels at this point. We don’t need to for any reason. I know that my son needs extra time in order to do certain things and so we move at his pace. I know he needs consistency and he needs order and if he doens’t get to explain how he feels he becomes frustrated. I am so blessed to be with him as he learns to read, write, and figure out how create math files in his brain. I have the luxury of taking that time with him and rearranging what we do to make his life easier at any point. He will have enough hardship as he gets older, but he’s 6 and he’s fantastic and I am so happy to be with him and watch him grow. A year ago he couldn’t control his temper and didn’t have the large personality he has now. In the last year he has learned to contain his temper (sometimes) and I see a sense of humor developing that is so cute and unique. He makes me laugh every day. He doesn’t know that he has a label slapped on his back by the world. He doesn’t care that his younger brother is beginning to read and will soon surpass him in that subject. He is so loved and confident in who he is. He knows his value as a person and as a member of this family. He knows it has nothing to do with how fast he reads compared to others.
We have family members who are chomping at the bit to rush him through reading. He reads and he is learning progressively, albeit slowly compared to Big Bird, but more quickly than others. He’s right where he should be. If he were in the special needs class in an institution I might not get any slack for where he’s at, but because I’m working with him it seems to be a problem for some. I reminded them that most public school children his age are not as advanced in reading, or all-around and in general as my child who technically has autism is. It would short circuit their brains to try to understand that homeschooling is not school at home. I have shelves full of books which explain what we do and why we do it. Should a stranger have a problem, I would chalk it up to ignorance and laugh at how little they understand about homeschooling. My children will grow up to be successful, do what they love, and instead of simply testing well, they will actually know their stuff. They will be masters of their field, instead of knowing a little bit about a lot of things. They will be skilled and invested in their interests and know only what they need to in all other areas. It’s a little surprising to me that family members who love my children dearly are so pro-public school when the statistics favor homeschooling in every single area. A public school district set up an experiment to test a theory about reading.* One set of kindergarteners received extensive instruction in reading, while another group spent the same amount of time learning science. The science group melted ice, observed thermometers in hot and cold places, played with magnets, grew plants, learned about animals, etc. Books and pictures were available to these children but no formal reading instruction was offered. And what did the school district learn? By third grade the “science” children were far ahead of the “reading” children in their reading scores.
We use Explode the Code and Sonlight and Language Lessons for Little Ones and The Reading Lesson in addition to all the playing around with science and we do. If I notice my child getting bored or frustrated we change what we do. I have become very familiar with the curriculum we use for reading and know where to look when my child needs extra help in an area. I was tempted to hand over my curriculum to the family members so they could see how rich and excellent our program is. After thinking about it I have decided not to because it would be more for my benefit, so they would accept me and my homeschooling abilities. I don’t owe anyone an explanation, as our family answers to the Lord. Our homeschool is unto Him and I am caring for His precious children the way He intended for me to do. I have to admit though, I am getting tired of constantly having to reject, then explain why I don’t want my son learning to read with public school methods or on a public school time-table. Hence the blog. I can see it makes them angry and uncomfortable, but this is my child I’m talking about, not a piece of furniture. I care too much about his education, his love for reading and the progress we are making to hand him over and have any of that undone.
I have said that we are happy and comfortable with what we do. I don’t know what else to say. I have asked my husband to help me in this area as he is my partner and the principal of our homeschool. And sometimes he can explain things better than I can. I hope the hounding to take him and teach him the institutional way stops. I hope that they can appreciate my son for who he is and the way he is designed to learn. Once they can accept him, they’ll see the funny, excited about life little boy that I see and not the labeled child or the “student who doesn’t read chapter books yet”.
Anyway, time to sign off. I hope you all have a good week. I am going to work hard to put this behind me and move on without unforgiveness in my heart. The Lord sure does have a work cut out for me. I am thankful His mercies are new every day.
Thanks for reading!
* The Three R’s Ruth Beechick, chapter 1, p.6