Learning to Read

I don’t have much of my own to add at the moment, so I’ll pass along a short article about learning to read from “Teacher Tom”. My sons learned to read in their own time and without pressure from us. We read to them. We answered their questions. There were things to read around us. And eventually, all our children read. My husband’s daughter read around 4 years old, our oldest son around 5 years old, and our youngest son around 7 years old. They read and write as well as anyone I know that went through years of schooling. In a world filled with the printed word, it’s kinda hard NOT to learn to read! The simplest and cheapest reading program around is to pick up any book and read it to your child, point to the words on the page now and again, and answer them when they point to letters themselves.

Sentence Structure?

I don’t think anyone invented language. I pretty sure that it naturally evolved. No one had an “ah-ha” moment about putting the noun before the predicate. “Mr. Norton walks.” So why do we torture children with diagramming sentences and picking out verbs, nouns, and adjectives? Someone at sometime (probably a word-nerd, someone fascinated with semantics or linguistics) heard all these words and sentences we naturally use, noticed a pattern of some kind, that most people used them in certain way, and decided to write down all these “rules”. Anyone that hears people speak regularly can pick this kind of stuff up naturally without ever knowing what a interjection is. But now we feel we need to sit young children down and explain these rules whether they are interested or not, as if they wouldn’t know how to speak or write if they didn’t know them in an academic form.

If you are fascinated by the rules of language, by all means study them! But you really don’t need to harass people of any age about it. If your children hear people speak in the dialect and form you desire, they will learn that language naturally. You can hear language in multiple ways. You can listen to conversation, watch TV or movies, play online role playing games, or read books. Just like learning to walk, your children learned to talk. They don’t speak like Native Americans in a old Western movie, do they? So why would they write that way?

Here are a couple links to get the juices flowing in your mind!

Sandra Dodd’s page about “Language Arts”

Unschool Rules!


Comic Books or Graphic Novels?

I never gave much thought to the genre of graphic novels until recently. I put them aside as childish. After all, I read classic literature. I don’t have time for silliness like that. But my mind has been opened!

Our family really likes to watch “Walking Dead”. We watch, we pause, we argue, we discuss, we watch again. The show gives us loads of great philosophical material to go over. And we do the same with millions of other viewers online. Last year I found a book called “Philosophy and the Walking Dead” and I HAD to have it. It turned out to be an amazing book and confirmed or backed up a lot of the conversations we had about the show. But that book kept comparing the show to the graphic novel and I had never read it, so I had to get one and see what they were talking about. And I couldn’t just buy one, I went ahead and bought the compendium of the first group of books.

I started reading it one afternoon and was quickly sucked in. Totally different than anything I’ve ever read. No, the language is not the most difficult or challenging at all, but the pictures share so much more than I thought they would. Your eyes scan over the pages, picking up the dialogue while being pulled into the artwork. Soon it starts to come alive. The world disappears around you and you’re in the story. It was that good!

So I’ve changed my mind about the genre completely. It just goes to show you that there is more art out there to see, no matter how hard you’ve been looking or searching for more. It is there. Sometimes we close our minds to new things even before we know we’re doing it.

I wouldn’t suggest Walking Dead for young readers. It’s pretty graphic and horrible. But I’m sure there are others out there. Today I came across this blog post about comics for early readers that might lead you in the right direction. And I’d highly recommend parents find some that might peak their interest and give it a try. I was amazed and can’t wait to get more!

John Locke had Thoughts on Education?

Last year I made a contract with myself to read through the Harvard Classic reading list for young people. I find it disturbing that it was written for “young people ages 12 to 17” and it’s a bit difficult for me at times. I don’t read everything, but I do “taste it” each morning. Some books I just don’t find interesting at all and don’t finish the selection of the day. Some I find fascinating and end up reading a lot more. That’s what real self-education is!

My reading today was from John Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”. I didn’t read the whole book, just the excerpt that the reading list suggests, but I’m definitely putting this on my “to-read” list!

The part I did read was about teaching children to read. I’m always amazed when I find bits of the ideas behind “unschooing” or “life learning” in old books. Here are a few quotes.

“When he can talk, ’tis time he should begin to learn to read. But as to this, give me leave here to inculcate again, what is very apt to be forgotten, viz. That great care is to be taken, that it be never made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task.”

He goes on to talk of games to be be played, setting an example of how important and fun reading is, and how good it is for mothers to read to their children. All things we’ve done as our children have grown. There were never “lessons” or coercion. Some of his ideas are a bit contrived but I think it’s because there wasn’t as much print in his day as there is now. There are so many natural instances to point out letters and sounds today that you really can’t avoid learning to read.

“Children are much less apt to be idle than men;” Now there is something you don’t see much outside the radical unschooler message boards. They really are. You always hear about kids and their abounding energy. They really want to be busy doing a million things. Keep finding things for them to interest their minds and bodies about!

“’Tis better it be a year later before he can read, than that he should this way get an aversion to learning. If you have any contest with him, let it be in matters of moment, of truth, and good nature; but lay no task on him about ABC.” That’s something I’ve been telling people as long as I’ve had kids. It’s something people can’t get their brains around. I always hear, “But he’ll be behind!” We’re homeschooling. Who will he be behind? No one is behind. You are exactly where you need to be. Harassing a child to learn something faster than he is willing or able to learn, only creates tension and aversion to learning anything.

“And if those about him will talk to him often about the stories he has read, and hear him tell them, it will, besides other advantages, add encouragement and delight to his reading, when he finds there is some use and pleasure in it.” We learn so much from conversation. Young people love to talk and so few adults will take the time to listen to what they have to say. You may not really be interested in the book, movie, or game they love, but take the time to really listen. Ask questions about it. Find out what it is that they love about it. It’s so important to their education, more than any lesson.

And one more. Seriously, I could just quote the whole book! “the right way of teaching that language (French), which is by talking it into children in constant conversation, and not by grammatical rules.” Isn’t that the way we learn our own language? We don’t need grammatical rules for our own language, yet we speak fluently and correctly. Why would we not to that in a classroom? Can you imagine a class that you went to for an hour or so a day, where everyone spoke the language you were learning? Instead of meeting in a classroom you met at the park, the grocery store, the post office, and the museum each day and just walked and talked, over lunch or tea. Wow. I want that!

I love finding treasures like this! I can’t wait to read more.