This is the first installment in a series of articles about homeschooling preschool and early elementary school – sometimes referred to as the early years.
I tried and failed to teach Matthew to read using three very well respected, systematic programs. Eventually I simply stopped trying to teach him to read.
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I did not give up on him learning to read. In fact, two years later he is strong reader and has started to pick up chapter books to read on his own. I oftentimes have to ask him to put down a book that he is reading so that another task can be completed.
What I mean is that I simply stopped forcing a systematic phonics program on my sweet, creative and curious 6 year old. He wasn’t ready to read yet. And he was definitely not interested in a methodical curriculum teaching him the ins and outs of reading. He already knew everything that he needed to know about reading: he loved books.
So many of our interactions surrounding the reading curriculum ended in his (and my) tears. I needed to stop putting the reading program ahead of my child’s happiness and our relationship. I knew there had to be a better way!
Here is what I understood: Matthew loved books. From an early age, his favorite pastimes were paging through picture books and being read to – second only to playing with LEGO and assembling puzzles. This kid loved stories. If he wasn’t engulfed in a book he was creating worlds and storylines in his play – figuring out puzzles, solving them and narrating to me along the way.
I knew that he would learn to read and I tried not to be concerned about teaching him to read. I instinctively knew that it would happen out of his own desire to dive deeply into stories unassisted. However, this hunch was incredibly challenging to actually listen to – hence the aforementioned three failed phonics programs all by the age of 6.
I stopped using a reading curriculum. He didn’t like them and I found them uninspiring.
I had many hesitations about making this decision, but around that same time I started listening to and reading a lot of Sarah Mackenzie and Julie Bogart’s work. I especially found solace in this post by Sarah and this post by Julie. I heard them both reference research that all of an elementary education could be taught to a 12-13 year old in a short matter of months because their brains were better equipped to hold on to the information. Their light was on.
Sarah Mackenzie interviewed a guest on her podcast who referenced research that early reading had no impact on later reading proficiency and frequency. Sarah mentions this research in her book and so does Julie in her book. Let me say that again, early reading and reading proficiency are not correlated.
I read about Scandinavian schools and the Finnish philosophy of education. I dove deeply into researching alternate education systems like Reggio Emelia, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, TJEd and Waldorf. They all pointed to the hunch that I had experienced to be true: most kids just aren’t ready for academics before the age of 7.
This information helped me feel comfortable teaching reading indirectly while focusing on having wonderful experiences with my boys and reading aloud to them a lot.
Next, we will talk about what I actually did to encourage Matthew’s interest in reading as well as build the skills necessary to read fluently.
Enjoying this series? Click here to read all of the articles.