on reading

It's funny. I can share an embarrassing moment, my own shortcomings and other seemingly personal tidbits here on this space. But the school thing? The homeschool thing. It's a tricky thing to portray in a virtual setting. And though I am finally at a point where I am happy with what we're doing….. I sort of keep it to myself.


serious stuff


I guess it's partially because we have this eclectic-Waldorf-unschooling-smorgasbord learning going on. Yes we do math workbooks and (loosely) keep main lesson books, but we play with plastic legos while we wait for the whole wheat bread to rise and everyone uses computers. Phonics? Spelling? Well, uhm. So how's the weather in your neck of the woods? 

When my oldest girl was in public kindergarten, she was learning to read. She didn't want to. But we pushed her. Her teacher pushed her, and we had this "reading at grade level" kid. Good right? She comprehended well. Did her schoolwork well. But here's the sad part. Reading was work. It wasn't fun. She didn't read for fun. Ever. A million caldecott paperbacks wouldn't budge her. It seriously broke my bookworm heart. In fact she didn't begin reading for fun until last year

When we began homeschooling, I vowed to not push my younger girl. I taught her letters in the Waldorf style. Answered her questions about letters, words, pronunciation, rules to be followed and when to break them. Our language isn't completely phonetic, the rules are broken often and eventually we all get to point that we mostly sight read. So I mostly skipped phonics, held onto a whole lot of John Holt reading and waited, read tons of books to her, and waited.

Kindergarten passed, first grade passed, we got a little nervous, second grade started and our nearly 8 year old girl began reading Dr. Suess, on her own. She painstakingly sounded things out, asked for help when she got stuck. We neither ignored nor celebrated the fact that she was beginning to read on her own……


owl lover's book


And then it just took off. Frog & Toad, Little Bear, Magic Treehouse and now Guardian's of Ga'hoole. From October to February we went from a beginning reader to a voracious chapter book reader. We've eaten dinner with a few books that were just too good to put down. I'm still sort of standing here with my mouth hanging wide open. 

I'm not saying this is the way to do it. Nor am I taking credit for anything, she gets every bit of that. But something just clicked for her. Reading became extraordinarily important to her life at this moment…. and somehow along with that the basic grammar began to make sense too. Punctuation and spelling and all of that. There it was. Her handwriting got better, she started writing tons of letters to everyone she knows and even helps with pantry organization. Yes, I do think all those count as writing lessons. Again, I'm just sort of in awe.


life writing lessons


And while I think there is a lot of good in every type of learning, be it homeschool or public style, I feel strongly that each child has their own path. We know that average is a mathematical term, not an actual child. A whole lot of real children on different levels make up this average. And non of them is better or worse with where they're at. As the Buddha would say "they just are".

I once read somewhere "teaching to the middle, is like teaching to no one." A good teacher may plant their feet in the middle but they've got a fishing net and a watchful eye to catch anyone that might, that will slip away. I know this, I've met these teachers. And by teachers I mean all of us, every one of us that has children in our lives. Embracing children for who they are and having the patience to let them bloom just when they need to, when they're ready. Even if we silently hold our breath out of worry for them. It's a beautiful thing to watch them evolve and grow and I'm feeling awfully grateful, and even more humbled, to do so.


25 thoughts on “on reading

  1. Oh! That phrase about the teacher with the net brought tears to my eyes. I love being a kindergarten teacher because it is all so flexible, and reflective of each child’s developmental abilities…there’s room to grow and to stretch one’s wings, in an environment where we can move from centre to centre according to interest and learning needs. After years of teaching the older grades, I’ve found the place that feels right…it’s done wonders for my ability to trust that indeed, each child can and does learn…at their own pace. Have you ever read “Leo the Late Bloomer”? It’s my guiding principle as a teacher, and as a mother of a child who just was NOT interested…now he asks me how to spell “Plop! Whoa! Yeeha! and Yikes” as he puts his imagination to paper. Thrilling, indeed!


  2. “Embracing children for who they are and having the patience to let them bloom just when they need to, when they’re ready. Even if we silently hold our breath out of worry for them. It’s a beautiful thing to watch them evolve and grow and I’m feeling awfully grateful, and even more humbled, to do so.”
    Yep. They are the best of teachers. Constant reminders to me of faith and trust.
    Beautiful post!


  3. I love this post too! Yay to following your Soph’s rhythm!
    While we search for a better place to raise our boy, knowing that staying in the South would automatically mean an alternative schooling feels much better than going to a state which values education (their version, that is) and thinking that a public school will be the option. Or the new source of contention!


  4. This such a wonderful post. I so relate to everything you said as we went (are going) through the same process with my son. He read at four, painfully, and since unschooling, we stopped pushing, he stopped reading. But it really is never cut and dry like that. I see him processing, I see him learning, and I see him thriving. He will surprise me with reading things off the computer, or while we are out and about. Being a bookworm myself, I often have to snuff out my ideas of what a reader should look like, and just trust that he will find what he needs, when he needs it.


  5. Great post! I understand completely where you are coming from. All of my children learned to read differently. My eldest just picked up a book at age 6,and started reading with zero phonics prep. The book was “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” My second, followed the “wrools” and my third had no interest in reading at all. “No” he would say, it’s alright, you can read to me. And so we did until the age of 8 and now, he reads more than anyone in the family.


  6. Where were you when my children were learning to read? The first one was and still is a total bookworm. Wonderful.
    The second one began reading on his own at 3-1/2. No, really. Reading his own story books. So of course he was tested and went into the gifted class beginning in Kindergarten. He was pushed to read so many years above his grade level that he lost interest completely by 4th grade. There is a reason books are written for age levels. What interests a 18 year old, bores a 9 year old to death. He still does not enjoy reading as an adult.
    The third one learned to read in kindergarten and did very well. Then in second grade there is this program to read 100 books in 100 days. Ok, no problem there except this kid is very competitive and he read his 100 books in 15 days. Fastest on school record. Problem – no one checked into his comprehension. He had learned to skim through and we didn’t catch it until he began 3rd grade. His teacher then discovered it the second week of school. So, we literally had to teach him to ‘comprehend’ what he read all over again. It took several months of special time every evening having him read a bit, then have a discussion about what he read. This one doesn’t read very often for pleasure now either.
    I hope both my younger sons do learn the joys of getting lost in a good book some day. I wish you had taught my kids to read!


  7. Leo the Late Bloomer… fantastic! I am so happy that you've found the right teaching spot for your life… there is nothing better than loving your job, you know? And I know just the thrill you are stating to experience with the reading… it is absolutely amazing to watch it unfold!


  8. There should have been a disclaimer in there mentioning that this was child number three…. poor number one has always been my learning curve. He jokes that he is an experimental child and his younger siblings reap the rewards for it. (all in jest of course) I am glad you enjoyed our "reading" story… it's been a fun couple of months watching it all take place πŸ™‚


  9. Yes! So much processing goes on that sometimes you really have to stop and observe to really see it. It's like a caterpillar in a cocoon. One day it's hanging from a branch and the next this butterfly is flying around and you almost wonder how the heck it all happened. Totally amazing! On another note, I think one of the most powerful lessons as a mother (and person) is embracing things for the here and now. Which seems to be just what you are doing with your own sweet boy. Fabulous πŸ˜‰


  10. Looks like our #3 kiddos are two peas in a pod πŸ™‚ "Just read it to me." I have felt so grateful for the space my girl has had to do things on her own timeline. It is always amazing to see children in the same family be so very different.


  11. Oh goodness, I am totally flattered…. but maybe a better teacher would be Sophia? I swear she seemed to do it all on her own. I think living in a "reading house" will always help a kid learn to love to read. I loved reading about how different each your own readers are… so amazing how each one of us is pre wired in our own special way. And I totally agree that reading "more" of easy to read age appropriate stuff is far better than reading advanced level stuff. We have struggled to keep the eldest in good literature in this aspect. If it isn't over their head, than it is just too harsh for their young souls to comprehend! The trials of parenthood…. always keeps us on our toes huh?


  12. you continue to inspire me stephinie! we’re already in hot debate over schooling and our kids aren’t even of school age! i love the idea of combining a waldorfy-unschooling sort of feel. and i love the idea of homeschooling, but we shall see. thanks for sharing about what you do!!!


  13. So so well written, so beautifully put and I thank you so much for this reminder. This year has been an amazing and transforming journey for us and it all vaguely got roller coastered for us in early autumn (mine is just 6 and in first grade) “Well she needs to be reading by the end of the year.” That was in response to how “how is she doing now.”
    Great post!


  14. Oh my. 6 is a young first grader, and I have no doubt she is a very bright girl and will do beautifully just when she is ready. I do hop this at least puts your mind at ease with just where she is at…. and perhaps a little ammo (if necessary) at the next teacher conference! 


  15. We are on a very similar journey. I found it so amazing too that my daughter at 9 1/2 went from beginner books to close to “grade level” books in 6 months…amazing if we just give them that chance. And about spelling. I totally get all the mispellings my oldest does. Our language doesn’t make a whole lot of sense sometimes. Time will teach that I think, but for now…the weathers just fine over here! I’m just glad we can shrug it off without labels like “bad speller” and that sort of non sense.


  16. Yes, I totally agree about the joy of ditching the labels. My own girl had no idea that she was "behind" in anything. I truly think this kind of learning environment is so great for kid's confidence. I am feeling very happy to have waited it out. Even though it was tough sometimes. And with that behind us I will worry far less about the next one reading, of course I am sure to find something completely new to worry about with number four, because you know each of these kids has their very own curve ball to throw πŸ™‚


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