Homeschool Wednesday

From time to time I've talked about 'A's approach to learning how to read and write. A while ago I decided to give up on actively teaching her how to read. It seemed that no matter what approach I took, it ended with tears and frustration. She's not open to overt instruction when it comes to reading. She:

* will only do something if she can do it perfectly the first time (this is a painful way to go through life, and I am on the lookout for gentle ways to show her that it's okay to try and not be perfect, over and over again)

* blames others when she feels frustrated. Example: she wants to read a book, and picks one out. She sits next to me to try to read it but is frustrated with the process. She starts to yell at me because she "can't do it".

On the bright side, she also:

* is the most highly motivated child I have ever met. She does things because she wants to do them, not because other people want her to. She appreciates praise but is not motivated by it (the way 'H' is - what different personalities they have!)

* loves to write, draw, hear stories, act out stories and make up her own stories. I'm not a childhood education expert by any means, but I think those things are important ingredients in the Learning How to Read recipe.

Also on the bright side, I've learned:

* when she reads and gets stuck on a word, I help her out by telling her if the vowel is a short or long sound.

* as soon as I sense her frustration mounting, I ask her if she would like to stop reading.

* I ask her once a day if she would like to do a little reading, but it's a quick question and if she says "no," I don't say anything else.

Lately she's been writing note after note after note and giving it to anyone who is interested. They're all written phonetically, so it sometimes takes me a few minutes to figure it out what she's trying to say. The funny thing is that even though many of her words are misspelled, she honestly believes that they are correct. That's why she can write them and still feel as though she's doing it perfectly the first time.

Now that I have some experience working with 'A' as she learns to read and write, and I understand her approach, I appreciate the effort she puts into her phonetic notes. Everything about them is self-motivated: deciding when to write and what to write are her decisions. I think this is a significant step for her and she is now finding herself further along on her journey toward literacy.

As much as I think this is a good thing for 'A', I have a real problem with learning how to read phonetically. Both Jeff and I learned to read in the 70's, when learning phonetically was all the rage in our classrooms. But the English language, with all the exceptions to the rules, isn't designed to be learned phonetically. Perhaps our brains learn better by sounding things out, and we just have the wrong language to learn? Take simple words that 'A' has tried to sound out this week: Of, One, Where. When she follows The Rules I teach her about short and long vowel sounds, those words sound like this:
Of = Ah-f
One = Oh-n
Where = Weer

And when she's busy writing her phonetic notes, she always sounds out "of" and writes "av". Yes, "of" does sound like it should be written "av," at least the way we pronounce it in our home.

When she's open to it, I show her how to spell a word or two and have her write it out 10 times, with the hope that it will "stick". There are some things that simply must be learned by memorization and drill. I guess the puzzle is figuring out when she's ready to learn them. My thoughts now are that she'll continue to write her phonetic notes and at some point she'll incorporate the correct spellings as they start to make sense to her and she remembers them.

As I write all of this, she's sitting down to read a few pages of "Biscuit Meets the Class Pet." I took a quick photo. She's reading beautifully. Clearly she's memorized some of the words and some she's sounding out. What I really like is how she reads with emotion, as if she's telling the story to someone and wants it to sound interesting. I dared to tell her that. I added something about how not everyone reads aloud like that and she responded with, "I don't care how other people do it."

A journey, folks. This is a journey and she and I are both on it.


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About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!