Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Believing in Unschooling, Part 2

Continuing with the discussion on reading from Part 1, I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had known more about unschooling and had let the process develop organically. Everything was going fine in the beginning. I took my cues from Beezy, answering her questions about what letter a word started with. I would tell her both the sound and letter name. We had Leap Frog alphabet refrigerator magnets, and we used Montessori sandpaper letters and shaving cream tracing for learning the sounds with lower case letters. I disagree with those who advocate starting with capitals, because most of the text we read is in lower case. Making words with letter tiles and blending letters together to sound words out was fun.

Then I hit a road block with the beginning readers I could find, because they used so many sight words which could not be sounded out. A friend suggested BOB books from Scholastic, which use small, phonetic words (3 or 4 letters), and only gradually add a few sight words. This is the part where I feel guilty. Things started out promising with these books, but then there were issues. Beezy struggled so much with sounding words out. She did progress, though slowly and painstakingly, and I became frustrated. I made her read for too long at first, but eventually I realized, thanks to Charlotte Mason, that lessons should be short; so Beezy only had to read half a book at a time. Even so, reading became not so fun for either of us.

However, I did not continue what was clearly not working. The BOB books were not only uninteresting, but the pictures were horrible, and Beezy's artistic sensibilities were terribly insulted. As I have written before, I finally pulled out our 12 book set of Dick and Jane readers, and she loved them! Allelujah!! I don't care what anyone says about Dick and Jane being dumbed down and repetitive. The repetition worked for Beezy, and finally her reading skills took off. The pictures are great, and somehow, inexplicably, the stories were engaging. Never question God's grace--just go with it. From there I found the Ginn readers from the same era on Ebay, so we have been able to continue along with books that are similar in style to Dick and Jane, with increasing levels of difficulty. For a long time I still required phonetic words to be sounded out and would simply tell Beezy what sight words said. Once I was bitten by the unschooling bug, I understood the rationale for not forcing the painful experience of making her sound out the words. But like I said, I began to doubt the process.

I think that since Beezy can sound out words well enough, I should have her do more reading to herself. She can come to me if she doesn't know a word. If I'm not sitting right beside her, she will likely figure most words out on her own. Too much hovering is a bad thing. A couple of weeks ago Beezy told me that her piano teacher got a phone call during her lesson, and Beezy said she played so much better without her teacher watching her! She told me the same thing during practice yesterday at home. I will try just getting her started and then leave the room to let her practice. More and more I see the wisdom in not interfering too much in the child's learning process.

Unschooled children learn to read when they are ready. They may ask to learn to read or do it spontaneously at any age--4, 8, or 10--and suffer no ill effects from either learning early or late. They end up being avid, proficient readers. I proceeded with teaching reading when I did, because Beezy showed readiness in learning letter sounds. She was asking for help, so I don't think we started the basics too soon. But what if, when the BOB books were not working, I had simply backed off reading lessons and waited to see if Beezy would figure it out on her own? Or if I had just left reading alone for a few months and then come back to it? At least as a homeschooling mother, I had the time and the interest to try different things until I found something that worked. I trusted my intuition.

I still worry. That's a mom's job to a certain extent. We need to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, though, and rest with confidence under Mary's mantle. She holds our children there too.

Our Lady of Guadalupe with Child

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