Saturday, July 5, 2008

Read, read, read to your children!

Our 5 year old son, Christopher, read an entire book out loud almost exclusively by himself today! This is a huge milestone in any child's life, I think. Granted, the book was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss and not Moby Dick or even Charlotte's Webb, for that matter, but I am amazed that he could make out nearly all of the sentences without having yet begun a formal reading program. The thing that probably amazes me the most is that he had the patience to work through the entire book, sounding out each word and then repeating the sentence after he figured out all of the words. He is NOT my most patient child, so this was quite an accomplishment. Then again, the kid really enjoys learning and mastering newly acquired skills, so I can see why he was bound and determined to finish the book. He's been able to read 3-5 letter words that follow simple phonics rules for a while now, but it's only recently that he's been able to read sentences with complex words. You may already know that Christopher's latest obsession is dinosaurs (when we were traveling home from PA he would ask perfect strangers, "Did you know that Tyrannosaurus Rex was the largest and fiercest carnivore of the Cretaceous period?...and did you know that Dimetrodon was a Pelicosaur that lived even before the dinosaurs?") We have understandably indulged his love of dinosaur-learning by getting him books on the subject. Yesterday as he was flipping through one of these books, he was starring at and slowly trying to sound out a dinosaur name that he was not familiar with and finally said, "Mommy, is this dinosaur 'Albertosaurus'?" I looked down and sure enough, it was! So for those of you out there who think phonics is a waste of time, I point you to my child who was able to figure out the pronunciation of Albertosaurus from simply knowing his letters and sounds.

This is a huge relief to me as we embark on homeschooling this Fall. Not that there won't be challenges, but teaching my children how to read and write seemed a daunting task to one who has only had experience teaching children who already knew how to read and take notes. I just ordered the math and language arts curricula for the Fall and am eager to familiarize myself with them and get started. I'm currently reading Susan Wise-Bauer's & Jessie Bauer's book, The Well-Trained Mind and highly recommend it for anyone who is considering homeschooling. Not only is it a great reference book for classical home education, but it's also great at encouraging and relieving the stress from worries like, 'Am I doing enough?', 'Am I qualified to do this?', 'Which is the best curriculum out there?', 'How much time should ___ subject take each day/week?', etc. One of the things I remember reading in the chapter devoted to teaching your child to read is, "Remember, reading is easy. Reading is easy. Reading is easy." So far I'm finding that to be true. Plus, so much of reading preparedness is simply turning off the TV and reading to your kids as much as possible.

All of my kids, including Hannah, enjoy having books read to them and flipping through them on their own. Part of the reason is that we have shelves and shelves and SHELVES of children's books within their reach and we always walk out with way more books from the library than we can reasonably carry. Any time I am sitting cross-legged on the floor, Hannah will grab one of her board books, hand it to me while saying, "Ree ree reee!", then climb into my lap and plop down. Sarah will patiently sit through as many books as I will read to her and will bring me more if I in any way indicate that this might be the last one. I actually think Sarah will be reading at an earlier age than Christopher since she always wants to be where he is, do what he's doing, she's the 2nd child, AND she's a girl.

I still am a bit overwhelmed at the task, especially with a new baby arriving in the early Fall, but I am more excited and eager to get started than I am worried about it. Sure, it will be crazy with the little ones running about the house and I'm sure it will test my patience as tackle more challenging subjects and tasks, but I still think that it will be a lot of fun and that the benefits will far outweigh the stress of it. At least I hope so! I'll write another entry about this after we've been at it for a year or two and see if my song has changed, but so far I've thoroughly enjoyed home-educating my preschoolers and can't wait to get started on Kindergarten and beyond.


Mama Sweetie said...

Two pieces of advice from someone who was homeschooled from 3rd grade through 12th.

1) Get John involved as much as possible. Dads need to be involved in their children's education every bit as moms.

2) Make sure that you are taken care of. You can't add things to you plate, like home schooling or another child, without having something else taken off, or you risk early and serious burnout. I've seen it happen many times.

I wish you well as you embark on this adventure. Christopher is in extremely capable hands!
Lots of love,

John McCracken said...

Becky, I remember the conversation that we had at Adrian's PhD graduation dinner in Philly. You shared with me your experiences and it was very helpful. Thank you for the encouragement! (Does this mean I need to take over doing the dishes from now on?) :)

Mama Sweetie said...

You'll have to refresh my memory at some point on that conversation. I remember talking but not about homeschooling. Regardless, I'm sure you guys will do a great job as you clearly already have been! Hey, and real men do dishes, right? :)