Update on L and her reading

I’ve written here and here about trying to teach L to read. We’ve been on again off again with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we picked it up again about a month ago and have been really consistent since. I think things are clicking. I’ve included a little recording of her sounding out the story from the end of lessons 31 (or maybe it was 32) in the book. Here is the text:

A man sat in the sand. A little ant can see the man. The ant is mad.

I’m super excited about this whole thing. She’s doing great with reading, and now that she’s got a feel for how the lessons go, we can get them done quickly and easily. I’m betting that she’ll be able to read a short book to herself in the next month or two. (It will be even better when she can read a short book to her brother).

At this point I am solidly in favor of the book. I think it’s been helpful and effective at teaching L to read. The major things I’ve seen are that you can’t push your kid into something before they’re ready. Consistency is important, but sometimes there is virtue in quitting something and coming back later. Also, the book is very scripted, which is useful initially, but once your kid knows what to do with an exercise, just get out of the way and let them do it.

P.S. You might notice that I use L’s full name in the recording, while I don’t on the blog. In truth I’m not that concerned with privacy/stalkers/whatever. I actually just use L and R for the kids as a courtesy for when they get older. At some point, someone will google them, and I’d hate for the top results to be pictures and stories of them from their Dad’s blog. That would look great for a future employer.

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and chores

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” is one of my favorite primary songs. In the back of my mind I have this thought that my mom doesn’t like it, but I don’t remember why. Regardless, I love the simple way that it teaches important principles, in particular the idea that you should make your surroundings better.

I’ve been thinking about it because it connects to a conversation I had with Bonnie a few days ago about chores. Philosophically I’m having some issues with chores the way I usually see them implemented. Frequently people give their child a responsibility which they have to take care of at a specified time (i.e. clean the kitchen on Saturdays).

Here’s my issue: I worry that it might encourage a sense that once you’ve done your chores then you’re done with helping out around the house. Or more broadly, once you take care of yourself then your job is done. I can remember lots of times as a kid when one sibling or another was still working on their Saturday job while the others were already done. There was never any inclination (at least on my part) to help that person out with their job. I’m admittedly not the most compassionate person, but even my siblings who are nicer than me (all of them) didn’t usually help that I can remember.

I’d rather that my kids develop a habit of always helping out with everything. If there are dirty dishes, then we all do them, since we’re all part of the family and we all try to contribute. When we’re cleaning the house, I rather that we all just clean until it’s done. Like in the song, I think the kids should adopt an attitude of “wherever I go the grass grows greener still.”

On the other hand, I also want them to learn to take care of their own responsibilities and not be a burden on others. I think traditional chores actually do a decent job of giving kids a sense of responsibility and a sense of taking care of a job. The two ideas compete with each other a little bit. Is it better to teach a kid about their independence or their interdependence? I’m leaning toward the latter, but most people I know seem to (most likely unconsciously) choose the former.

Bonnie suggested that instead of specific responsibilities we just have everyone work for a certain amount of time. I think that’s moving in the right direction, but I worry that it just substitutes one problem for another. Instead of feeling “done” when you finish your room, you’ll just feel “done” when the timer runs out.

Clearly I don’t have any right answers, but I’m really interested in developing this habit in my kids (and myself to be honest–I could probably walk into the house and step over a dead body and not notice or think twice if I didn’t put it there). How do you teach someone to just be aware of their surroundings and to act to improve them without being asked? That habit has a much broader application than just simple chores, and I’d really love for my kids to learn it. Any suggestions, O wise internet people?

Homeschooling Fail

megalodon

This is a picture from a trip to the aquarium that we took with my parents. My expression is stupid, it’s a little blurry, but L has an awesome expression on her face. Also, you’re welcome for the free publicity Stonehaven Dental.

Failure might be too strong of a word, but it’s at least a setback. A few weeks ago I mentioned how much I was enjoying reading lessons with L. It was going really well, but then she hit a wall with some of the concepts and decided that she didn’t want to do reading lessons anymore. I’m interpreting that as “let’s take a break from this for a while” rather than “let’s never do this again.”

I think there are some things I can learn from this bump in the road:

  • I can’t push too hard with L. She gets frustrated and tense, and just shuts down if she feels pressured.
  • Nobody is going to learn anything they don’t want to learn. We had several days where the lessons were just frustrating for both of us, and I don’t think anything sank in for her.
  • There has to be some motivating principle besides just carrot/stick (any suggestions on what that should be are welcome). She focuses way too much on the punishment/reward and not on the lessons. If she’s just doing it for reward (m&m’s in this case) then she doesn’t pay attention. If she’s worried about a punishment she stresses out and doesn’t perform well.

So we’re taking a little break from the reading lessons and just doing more reading of simple books (i.e. Dr. Seuss Books). It appears that the homeschooling will not be as easy as it first seemed, but I’m still feeling really good about it. This is actually a great example of why I’m excited about it. In traditional school, you’re basically locked into a subject until the unit or class is done. I know a ton of people who currently have or have had terrible anxiety about school. They get behind and don’t get the time to catch up because the class has already moved on.

With homeschooling, we can go fast if the kids want to go fast, slow if they want or need to go slow, and we can even take a break and come back to concepts that they missed the first time around. It reminds me of learning chemistry. The first time I took it (in high school), I was basically lost the whole time. The second time I took it (freshman year before my mission), I was still totally lost. But the third time I took it (after my mission) something clicked and it became one of my favorite subjects. I think the ability to account for that development process is one of homeschooling’s greatest strengths.

Exciting Developments in Homeschooling

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda's wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda’s wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Bonnie and I have been planning on homeschooling our kids for a while. We’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to look, but Bonnie has been wanting to teach L to read for a while. She found an awesome book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we’ve started working our way through it.

We finished lesson 9 this morning, and L sounded out the words “mat” and “sat.” After getting the words right, she ran through the house screaming, “I can read! I can read! I can read two whole words!” It was a great experience for everyone. I’m sure home schooling isn’t all sunshine and roses, but if I can get more moments like that with my kids, I think it will be totally worth it.

This could easily be a Thankful Thursday post, since I missed it yesterday. It’s one in spirit at least. Anyway, I’m excited to keep going in the book with L. I’ll keep you all updated as we get further through it.

 

Bonus Cute Kid Story: I made pizza with the kids for lunch today, and as I was rolling the crust out, L said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m rolling the crust out.”

“Are you rolling it out thin like a good wife.”

“What?”

“Like a good wife, are you rolling it thin?”

“Uhhhhh…sure.”

“Okay.”

I’m still not sure if she was saying that a good wife would roll thin pizza crusts or that a good wife would be really thin…