Q & A on Homeschooling (4): Help! My Child Cannot Read

This is a response to a mother who is concerned about the fact that her 5 year old child could write well but not read and wondered if reading comes before writing or writing comes before reading.  This mother also wanted to know what curriculum should be used and if she should prepare a lesson plan on a daily basis, how much to teach in a day and how much to accomplish in a day, a week, a month?


Well, I’m 44 this year, I have 3 kids, Amrita (12), Samanta (11) and Arian (4). I was a music teacher before the kids arrived, after which I decided to be a full-time mom to my kids, which led to me being their homeschooling mom. We decided to homeschool because we felt that our free and easy way of learning ought to be extended throughout their growing years and not have to stop abruptly on reaching school-going age. The schooling here is much too restrictive on personal expressions and creativity, and we do not like the one-size-fits-all approach to educating children. I’ve written a book “Learning Beyond Schooling” to let Malaysian parents know that there are options other than the normal paths to learning. Some of the pioneer writers on homeschooling that you should read are John Holt (How Children Learn & How Children Fail, Teaching Your Own) and Linda Dobson (The Art of Education, Homeschooling Book of Answers). These will give you a whole new perspective of the true spirit of homeschooling, which is, to help children discover and bring out their true potentials, and NOT to merely accelerate their learning to keep up with the Joneses!

 

Go according to your child’s interests and learning rate, not according to someone else’s. Learn about how children learn (do read John Holt!) by observing them rather than “teaching” them, and you will find that most of the time, children learn by observation, imitation (at first) and eventually innovation (given the space and freedom to do so). We need to trust children to find things out for themselves, to explore and to experiment, to make mistakes, falling down and picking themselves up again (do they really need us to teach them how to walk?). Many things are inborn (that includes learning how to talk) and they really do not need us very much other than making sure they are not in danger of hurting themselves or others! 

If we have that trust in them to learn, we will understand that different child learns at different rates, and thus we need not worry whether they start to read at 4 or 5 or 8 or 9. Barring any learning disabilities, children will eventually learn to read if we are supportive of the reading habit. I do not subscribe to the trend that “the earlier the better” because sometimes it is better to be a little late 🙂 My first child started to read before 2 and by 5 she is reading chapter books! My second one did not read until she was 10 and my son has not shown any indication that he will be starting to read any time soon except for a few unusual abilities like being able to spell AUSTRALIA at age three, and knowing the countries of the world at age 4! He does not enjoy writing and coloring as much as his two sisters did when they were his age. All he wants to do is to be Spiderman! So we can also see from here that boys do learn differently from girls and we cannot expect them to learn the same way.

We are not curriculum people! If you check the internet on unschooling, we probably fit into that bill. It is a way of learning and living that is natural and self-paced, that does not follow the mainstream schooling nor the popular methods of learning. That does not mean our children do not learn without a curriculum, but that we do not let that take the lead. Our children takes the lead in learning and if the academics is not what they want, or they are not ready yet, that is okay by us. My 1st child prefers more structured learning, so she is okay with going to school. For that reason, we followed her wish to go to school when she was 10 years old. After 1 year plus, she felt that schooling here is too exam-oriented and decided to come back to homeschooling. She now takes evening classes in Math, Science and English and recently started a course on Robotics, besides her ballet and swimming. My number 2 did quite a number of activities together with her sister like piano, violin, ballet and art and swimming. Other than art and swimming (competitive), the rest have been dropped as her interest in them waned. She wants to be a designer and anime artist, and she also sings very well (she wants to be a singer 🙂 We support her in pursuing her interests. She plans to take up CAD (Computer Aided Design) next month at the Aerospace Centre where her sister is taking robotics[classes]. As for my son, he does not like water at all, so we will probably enroll him for golf next year (he showed keen interest in it at age 2). He enjoys being read to (which we do on a daily basis) and loves dinosaurs (he knows the names of a whole lot of them, their eating habits, their sizes and movements, etc mainly from the many books that we bought him and from the BBC series “Walking With Dinosaurs” which is an excellent program. 

Do relax and enjoy your children’s growing up years. As they grow, they will change and we will need to adapt to the changes. Schooling is the opposite – it is fixed (curriculum) and hardly changes and children have to fit into the system whether they like it or not. So which one would you choose for your children?

Best wishes,
waileng

If you like to email us, write to us beyond.schooling@gmail.com


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