Monday 13 June 2011

Factors influencing learning to read (Part 1 of 5)

This 5 day series of posts has been born out of a friends Facebook status expressing her concerns for her son who was struggling to learn his phonics rules. This in turn brought forth a cascade of memories from years ago when I first started homeschooling and was wrestling with my children learning to read.

I remember we had been homeschooling for around six months and my beautiful bed of roses was very quickly turning into a handful of thorns!

I was sitting at the table with Mr T and had both him and I in a flood of tears when the phone rang. It was Mrs O (a homeschool mom who had been home educating for around eight years) who asked me what was going on?  After listening politely to my woeful day, told me that if I was crying and he was crying I need to put away the reading / phonics books as he was not ready. After this I was to do some enjoyable learning together.  Gratefully I put the phone down, made some morning tea, snuggled up on the couch and read some great books together. We were in the middle of Core K from Sonlight. (As of 2011 it has been renamed: Core A)

While all this was most pleasant it did not remove this nagging feeling that somehow I was failing my son, who after all was already six years old and not reading.  It's one thing to have homeschool mom's saying: "It's alright it will happen when they are ready." but quite another to daily walk that road when it feels like your child is the only child not reading.

1001 Questions

Questions constantly plagued me:

  • What was I doing wrong ?  
  • Should I do this or should I be doing that ?
  • Should I have started earlier?
  • Do I need to be waiting and starting later ? 
  • Maybe I need a different phonics program? 
  • Which is the best phonics program? 
  • Do I need to do phonics ?
  • Why do I need to do this phonics ?
  • Do I need a more intensive / less intensive program ?

Adding to the the burden were well meaning friends who were asking me how the reading was progressing ? Every where I went I found mother's (yes school Moms and home school Moms!) comparing their children's abilities to read.  All this did was add to my anxiety. I did not want to be exposing my failures to all these people, let alone expose my children to prying eyes. I was beginning to feel like I needed to go into hiding till my children could read.

Why is it that...
  • When we are young and at school we compare ourselves to our peers and their ability to read.  
  • When we become young people it never even crosses our minds to wonder how old the person in front of us was when they learned to read. 
  • When we go for a job interview we are never asked how old we were when we learned to read ?
  • When we are parents we start comparing our child's progress in learning to read with other parents.
It occurred to me that no one has ever asked me how old I was when I started reading, so why am I allowing every one to judge me now on my child's ability to read ? This was the question that helped me take firm hold of the fact that we had chosen to home educate to allow for the time it took for each of my children to learn any new skill with out the pressure to preform or measure up to someone else's expectations.

Now I do realize we need to have some 'standards' which come from comparison, otherwise how would we know when something is seriously wrong? Please note that I am not advocating never comparing, that is swinging the pendulum too far the other way. However I am talking about the comparisons we use which make us anxious and weary.

I have learned that the first factor starts with me and the attitude I have. This encompasses the motives I have for wanting my student to do a certain thing or do a certain thing within a certain time frame.

This process considerably eased my anxiety but not all of it.  I continued to search for answers to understand where we were on our journey.

I leave you with this question:

Why do we as home educators / parents compare our child against this unspoken rule that by the age of six our children should be reading ?

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  1. Hi Chareen, I've just discovered your blog through Erin's.
    So far, I've taught 6 of my children to read and they were all different. Some were early readers and one was 8 or 9, when it all came together. The lesson I learnt from that child is that it's useless to persist when they're not ready, and it's not helpful for the relationship, either. When he was ready, it just seemed to click - almost overnight. If it happens again with another child, I would concentrate on reading aloud, and allowing them to play and explore more freely.
    I know what you mean about other people's expectations - even now, after 17 years of homeschooling, I have to stop myself from trying to impress or live up to other people's standards.
    I look forward to reading more about your learning:)
    God bless you, Chareen.

    Oh, I forgot to say that the late reading made no difference in the long term. My late reader is no different to the others in his abilities, now - though, my pushing did affect his confidence for a while:)

  2. Chareen

    Speaking as a parent who has had children learn to read from the ages of 5 through to 9 I found myself nodding all the way through your post:) So related.
    mm your question; I think one hard thing 'at times of doubt' as hsers is we lack a hardstick. This can be a very good thing, but at times you feel a bit blind. So I guess in times of doubt 6yrs is our yardstick.
    In times of confidence I know all 6 yr olds in school are not reading either. The diff is, in school they have lots of reading help until 2nd grade then they fall through the cracks (I have a sib who did and can't read, he is now 21)At home our later readers still have lots of extra support.

  3. Hello Vicky welcome(love your paintings) I agree with you. Pushing too hard definitely affects relationship and does hurt confidence.

    I agree with you Erin about the yardstick. The problem I had is I wasn't using it to measure progress I was using it to beat myself up :)

    Blessings to you


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