Long have I longed for this day: my child joyfully reading entire books, entirely unprovoked.
Oh what a blessing, what a relief. All those hours of wondering, worrying – will he ever read? No amount of anecdotes or testimonies or re-assurance from education experts – “a child growing up in a literate society/household will read” – could quite convince me. After all, there are no watertight guarantees.
Home education is a bit of a roller-coaster ride, if we’re honest. In the business, these moments of self-doubt are known as a wobble. And reading has been the #1 cause of wobbles in this home-ed home.
Our firstborn has never had trouble blending phonics, or detecting language patterns. But he has had an overdose of reluctance to read anything, always preferring to guess from the pictures, or better still just watch a video. So it’s not hard for you to picture my delight to see him with his head buried in a book. And then, a couple of days later, to see his head buried in the next book. From Roald Dahl to Narnia to Just William. Aren’t we blessed to have these modern classics?
(Take a listen to William’s take on education in this excerpt from a Just William book. I dare you not to chortle!)
The mini-library he was gifted for his 10th birthday has ignited a spark. Perhaps, you might say, he viewed his father’s present as some sort of manly challenge. A throwing-down-of-a-gauntlet, even a rite of passage as he approaches his teen years. Whatever the psychology, the supplies are dwindling fast, and the small local library’s reserves are uninspiring!
Never one to do things by halves, this boy has spent whole days with his latest novel. This has sorely tested my patience. I began to wonder whether I had wished for the wrong thing. On these bookish days he will not appear for breakfast until it’s nearly lunch. He can’t tear himself away for chores, or any other kind of study. He doesn’t want to play outside, or go out for trips. He ignores visits from Great Aunts who only visit once a year (and who have been quite motivational when it comes to reading).
But at the end of the day, the joy of seeing him devouring literature is worth all the testing in the world, I reckon.
Our second oldest is progressing well and on track to be reading novels by her 10th birthday too, if not before. Her brother’s example has ignited her own little spark. 🙂 But neither of these dear children received any orderly instruction in the basics of reading. Haphazard has been the operative word (unschoolers eat your hearts out), and these two have really proved the anecdotes and encouragements I mentioned earlier. We’ve done little more than encourage an interest, answer questions freely, have a bit of fun with phonics here and there (we love the Alphablocks). Once the basics were there, we attempted various McGuffey primers and readers (and continue to use them), with success.
But, as a sort of experiment, with child #3 I am taking a different approach. This is to try and teach the phonics in a more orderly fashion, and then to use a tried-and-tested method called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. By all accounts most children are well able to read by lesson 50 or so – you can’t say this method is not thorough. It may not work, or it may be too early for him, in which case it will go back on the shelf. I will be very much playing it by ear, and in no way intend to damage his natural love of learning. But if he could gain sooner, by our assistance, that love of reading which his brother has gained, then surely we would be wrong to withhold it?