Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wow, was I ever wrong!

Before I even had children, I dreamed of homeschooling them. I pictured lessons, lovingly taught and lovingly accepted. I pictured days spent engrossed in exciting projects, with my children learning in sheer joy. (hahaha - I also thought my baby would sleep when I wanted it to - clueless!).

When my first was born, I started researching homeschooling. Really, up until that point, I assumed that homeschooling meant "schooling at home" complete with everything but standing in line for the bathroom. My research led me to all of the many home education philosophies and I waded through them one by one. The two that appealed the most to me were Montessori and Unschooling.

Most people base their judgment of our homeschooling on our children's ability to read. Its just a fact, so reading was something I felt pressure to get Nicholas to do a.s.a.p. To this end, I tried to expose Nicholas to as much literature as possible. Experts tell us that children will learn to read if exposed to words, books, letters and such. In our home, we did all of that. We played with words, read poetry, read books for hours at a time, looked at letters, talked about letters, played games with letters, read alphabet books, colored letters, well, you get the idea. In addition, dh & I are avid readers, so the kids had many opportunities to see us reading for enjoyment and to learn as well.

Dh didn't do any of this research with me (or even really listen when I talked about it - lol) and has really concrete ideas about what learning should look like (hint: nothing like unschooling). So, to prevent many arguments, I set up a Montessori style cabinet in my home when my oldest was 2. It contained lots of practical life activities, sensorial activities and even a few language trays. We had fun and Nicholas learned alot, but it got to where he was working through the material faster than I could make it (buying it was out of the question - have you ever priced Montessori materials?). Even so, he wasn't really interested in learning about reading (more stress!). At that time I also had a new baby who took up much of my time. We needed a new approach.

It was time to try something closer to Unschooling. I ordered Five in A Row and we spent several months (close to a year) just rowing the books. We loved it! We read aloud for hours every day. We did many of the go-along activities and even went on some field trips (like sushi when we read "Grandfather's Journey). It was lots of fun. I also introduced "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons" at this point. Dh and the some of the grandparents were starting to put real pressure on us, asking Nicholas to read this or count that, and asking when we were going to put him in school. By the way, he was only 4-5 at the time (no pressure, huh?). So, more research.

Next I discovered The Well Trained Mind. I love this book and this educational philosophy, although the work load is, I believe, a little much. We began applying many of the ideas in this book with much success. We really like the history and science ideas in this book, especially the go along fiction reading that corresponds to the history study. Still though, there was stillsome resistance by my littles to "doing school". One of the things I did not like about The Well Trained Mind was the recommendation of drills for Math and Reading. My research before TWTM had convinced me that my children would be bored or feel too pressured with flashcards, math drills and word lists. So, I left out those parts of the program and just kept doing what we were doing already. For the most part, this went well, but Nicholas still was not reading. As a matter of fact, he hated reading aloud to me, even the little readers or Dr. Seuss. He would panic if I suggested he read something like a living book about Robots (his favorite subject). School was becoming very unpleasant, with me insisting he read or do worksheets and him resisting, and dragging his feet. Again, change was in order.

Where was I wrong? Well, it turns out I was completely wrong about flashcards and word lists for Nicholas! This time, our change came without my prompting. I had checked out "Why Johnny Can't Read and What you can do About it" (again). While reading it, my youngest called me out of the room, so I placed the book down on the coffee table. When I returned to the book, Nicholas had it and was reading the word lists to himself. I watch, as he read pages of these lists. He was stumbling over lots of the words as he was still sounding out most letters in the words he read, but I was thrilled! He was reading unprompted, and with joy and enthusiasm. When he finally noticed me watching, he positively beamed and said, "This is fun, Mom.". What?

Yes, I was wrong about drilling (he loves to race the clock with flashcards - who knew?), flashcards and word lists. We learn so much from our kids! I wonder what my next one will have to teach :o)

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