Lately Liam and I have had some really rough days at homeschool. Mostly its about reading.
No, it's all about reading.
What began as an exciting, rewarding, fun has morphed into something apparently tortuous. During read-aloud time he writhes on the sofa like a fish on a hook, gasping for mercy, begging for release.
How did we get from there to here?
Liam, a 6.5 year-old first grader, loves books and just began learning to read this August. Even at the worst of times if asked he'll affirm, "I want to learn to read". Blending is easy for him. He knows his individual letter sounds and short vowels. We're working on "sound teams" like "ch", "th", "ing", etc. I'm thrilled with his progress and give him plenty of well-deserved praise. So what's going wrong here?
Short answer - the System with a capital "S". Somewhere along the way he got lost. Where once he made spontaneous verbal connections between school tasks and his growing ability to read, now he doesn't seem to see any benefit to our work together. It's not even "our" work, it's my work, my system and he's on the verge of checking out. On Thursday it occurred to me, "I can't make him read aloud" and I wonder if he saw that bit of reality flash across my face as he sat half-upside-down in protest on the sofa. When the student checks out, learning is over folks, OVER. This is not my work, it's his. I think I need to give it back.
It reminds me, actually, that fall of Aria's first grade year, she too began dreading reading aloud. I decided to give her a break for a few months. When we returned to it in February, she had made such amazing progress! Which just goes to show there are so many ways to become literate. Gosh so many ways! And, just for the record, I do integrate a lot of different practices like copying from a favorite book, team reading, fun workbooks, flip cards, etc. Reading aloud is not the only way we practice, but it is the epicenter of his resistance. And it may have started when we tried to read a book (Fox in Socks) that was beyond his level. Sigh. But I won't beat myself up about that because it could have just as easily (more easily in fact!) have happened if he was enrolled in a traditional school.
This month I plan to shake things up in our homeschool by giving my kids a great deal more freedom in how they spend their "school" time at home. True learning is fueled by genuine interest. And it endures, providing great satisfaction and leading to more and more growth. Personal desire to learn is the most precious commodity in the scheme of education. I've long been influenced by these and other philosophies of child-led learning, but felt unable to imagine how they could work in our home. I'm going to take a shot at marrying those ideas with the expectations of society, our parenting style and the needs of my children. More on that later, if I'm brave.
At the very least, letting Liam hold the reigns for learning to read will ease tension between us. Best case scenario he's re-energized and reconnected with his desire to take hold of this very special milestone. Worst case scenario, he doesn't make any progress for awhile. I can live with that.
In this house, in our family culture, learning-to-read is inevitable. Loving-to-read may not be. That's why this is a risk worth taking.