Late last night while looking up lesson plan ideas, I ran across a rambling online comment by a parent who effused that her child “wouldn’t have learned to read” in “any environment other than a classroom with a teacher and peers.” That’s all well and good. However, the writer went on to describe the tears and fits that followed when she tried to force the poor kid to read in Kindergarten. She then took a swipe at homeschooling as being clearly inferior because she’d failed to teach her kid to read before age 7.
Oh, boy. This kind of stuff really gets me. And it’s not the slight to homeschooling because, let’s face it, they ain’t all created equal. (Neither are public or private schools, but I digress.)
When I read the post, I quickly cobbled together a comment addressing when a typical child will learn to read. (In other words, we’re assuming that the child in question doesn’t have a learning disability.) After I drafted it, I had second thoughts and decided to post my remarks here. Why? Because I’ve been wanting to say something about the race-to-the-finish approach that pops up in the minds of otherwise sensible parents.
My thoughts on the topic:
Until a child completes the “5-to-7 shift“–and the attending improved capacity for memory, teaching strategies and success vary for individual children, peers or no. Motivation is great, but better still is having a child that is “ready” in body and brain.
Once the shift occurs–and it won’t happen all at once in all subject areas (“asynchronosity”), it can blossom rapidly into mastery. For other kids, reading may always be a challenge. And that’s okay.
Upshot: they’ll learn to read on their own time. Some will be introverted and like to do it alone. Others in a peer group. Parents would do well to remember that fact, especially when tossing about phrases like “he felt stupid because he couldn’t read” and “clearly he was suffering” in reference to early reading lessons. It isn’t a competition. It’s LEARNING. It’s a process that deserves respect, not a shove.
I’ll add, too, that the most successful people I’ve encountered in my life are products of homes and schools where the whole child is nurtured, not just her academic prowess. Would that such an attitude were to take deeper root…
Anyhoo, if you’re interested in nurturing–not pushing–your kid’s efforts to read, check out this page from the University of Michigan Health System. No magic wands, no fairy dust, no tears.
Follow-Up Post: Don’t Believe Me? Ask a Doctor
Pamela Price is an award-winning blogger, writer, editor, and homeschooler in San Antonio, Texas. She learned to read in 1st grade and is still addicted to it. Pamela can be found on Twitter at @redwhiteandgrew. More of education-related writings can be found here.