Sunday, 14 June 2015

Learning to Read, Home Ed Style

So, y'know, screw this system: Too Much Too Young


You have no idea what an utterly shambolic waste of time it is trying to teach some 4 year old kids how to read and write. 

I'm not kidding. I just spent nearly 4 years attempting it. Do you know what worked in the end? 

Waiting until she was ready.

Sure, there were times like this when I thought I had it all worked out. I have the whole lot of Jolly Phonics; songs, workbooks, teacher guide, A4 exercise book to stick each lovingly coloured worksheet in...

My grand phonics plan worked for about a week or two at a time. But she eventually thought it was a pile of crap and threw a strop when I tried to do it, so it sat in the cupboard. 

Next came The Reading Lesson (not an affiliate link, what do you think I am? A proper blogger?)
Sometimes this worked. Most of the time it didn't. I think we did chapter 1 about 5 times.

But, gradually she learned letters and sounds. She learned some words even. She played xbox games and learned what was useful to her. She saw an episode of Pokemon (thanks Netflix) and got hooked. Someone bought her a Pokemon game. I think reading might have become useful and relevant to her around the start of 2014, age 6. Through osmotic repetition and much (*much*) pestering asking-of-adults she learned some words.

I put up a 100 common words poster. I took a chance and bought some *really* old Pokemon readers for 1p off Amazon for her 7th birthday. Taking it in turns, we worked through the pages. This was something she could do - the stories and many of the words were familiar and she was memorising more as she went along. We borrowed audio books from the library. So. Many. Audio. Books.  We played Reading Eggs.

She still wasn't confident. She still told people she couldn't read. She still panicked when pressured to learn by anyone. I learned to let it go, mostly. And to stand up for her.

This year I decided to clear out my cupboards. I found the wipe-clean alphabet books and stacked them away for future offspring. I chucked away the Jolly Phonics workbooks. I looked at The Reading Lesson and remarked to Mr Onions I was putting it into storage. He had other ideas. He set her a challenge. Do some reading lessons every day for a week and I'll buy you a toy.

I'm not a bribery sort of person. I was all about the intrinsic motivation, star charts were the devil. But I was (skeptically) willing to give it a chance. And she did it. By Jove, she did! And after the first challenge was over, she carried on. It became part of our evening routine, she was learning and trying and finding she could do it, no reward required. She was 7 years old and she learned to read in less than 6 months. Now she proudly tells people she can read. 

She's nearly 8 and we're still working on it. We're getting early readers from the library and working on them every week. She has a huge love of stories and we've got into a habit of hanging out at the library for an hour each week reading to each other, coming away with more and more books every time (last time we went in the assistant gave me a bit of a look and reminded me we had 22 books out already but they're at risk of closing so I say they should lap up the issue numbers.)

Those 4 years were a bloody hard slog. It was draining, it was frustrating, it was pointless. She didn't have a reading related disability, she wasn't naughty, she just wasn't ready. But it took 4 years of getting it wrong, learning for myself, trying a bit of autonomous education and then building up her confidence, (something that had been taken away from her by all sorts of pressures, not least the diabolical time she spent in nursery school, aged 3) in order to achieve this. 

People, look to your child. Listen to her. Know him. They'll get there. Some earlier, some later, some in a completely novel way. It'll happen. Some even do it completely on their own, like our friends who learned to read without being taught. And if school doesn't appreciate your child is an individual, who will learn at their own pace, know that it's not your fault. It's their shoddy, broken system.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Supermarket blues

I find it really hard to understand people who can't hear what you are telling them. There's this woman in our local supermarket who has, to date, said 'no school today' on three separate occasions and been completely unable to conceive that NP doesn't go.  How many times do I have to field the same question and get bullshit in return? It's like she's reading a script and can't deviate. The interaction generally goes like this:

"No school today?"
"No, she doesn't go"
"Is she poorly?"
"No, she doesn't go to school"
"Are you poorly?"

"Are you off work today"

One time I *thought* she had understood, because she said:

"Oh, what's wrong with her then?"

But perhaps this was along the "off school ill" track rather than the "you must have a problem child" track like I assumed.

I find it so difficult when people do this to me. I like to be honest, I also like to meet social nicety-requirements. I don't think I can do both of these with this person. My brain diverts to 'unknown response' when people refuse to acknowledge what they hear, and want to carry on with the narrative they have in their minds. It's so uncomfortable having to correct someone, but equally uncomfortable to deny our reality. I am at the point of dreading the moment we reach the checkout and she is the only one available.

We shop at 8.30am, getting in at the least busy time which benefits us both emotionally. I am not willing to shop at other times for the benefit of stopping other people from feeling uncomfortable about our Home Educating weirdness.

So what's my conclusion to this situation? I'm not going to stop taking my daughter to the supermarket with me; there are so many *educational opportunities* there. 

Like seeing the difficulties people have in interpreting information from their own eyes and ears.

Reason 231 for Home Educating: learning that people are different to you.


There might be a few bits of blogging popping up soon. It might continue. We'll see :)

Friday, 16 November 2012

Life of luxury

Snack time topic: the Big Issue and homelessness 
Anyone who dares suggest my life as a home-ed parent is easy should try getting up and doing their 'full time' job from the moment they wake, then spend every 'break' still working, their lunch time working, their commute working and cooking their evening meal (still) working. Oh and then there's the evenings where you are thinking about working, planning and preparing (and sometimes stressing about) work.

My life and work are synchronous, Mr Onions takes a very similar approach to his paid employment. This is how our life is and we (mostly) like it; I will not, however, take any crap off people who think it's 'easy'! ;-)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

My comfort zone

I'm trying out Superbetter after watching Jane McGonigal's TED talk. The concept is cute - a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy game to 'level up' your life. I'm working on 'Being Awesome' because we all have times when we need a reminder how great we are, right?

picture cred:  Jessica Hagy via Superbetter
My task for today is to write down how I feel about my comfort zone, and I must say I am firmly enmeshed in it at the moment. When the right (or should that be wrong?) mood strikes I usually like to spend a few days avoiding everything and watching too much TV. I think it happens when I spend too long operating at a certain level of intensity, I forget to regulate my introverted need for space and end up fatigued by the world. 

My comfort zone also pops up when there's something that I want to do, but achieving it seems insurmountable. Leaving it takes a special kind of resolve, usually involving a period of absolute solitude (to achieve the thing I need to do but have been avoiding) followed by loud music from my happy list, some sort of exercise and a good natter with family or friends.

Perhaps articulating it will make it easier to see my way out in the future? 

(Whoop - +2 Mental Resiliance, +1 Emotional Resiliance!)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Assessing home educators

Many questions home educators receive have hidden agendas. For example;

"Does anyone have to inspect you?" hides the questions: 

"How can you educate without someone telling you what to do?" 
"How can you be good enough?"

To which my reply ought to be:

"I have a brain, I can figure out the stuff my kid should know. I can read at least as well as an average teacher, I can access the same resources. Most people can do these things. Even if I can't buy books I can request them through my library. I can beg and borrow. You may be surprised to hear that many home educators spend plenty of time considering educational philosophies and honing their approach.

"I continue to educate myself. I have family and friends to whom I am accountable and I trust myself to make choices for my family. I work damn hard to achieve the best for her and no-one has a right to judge my ability or define us by arbitrary numbers made for a system we reject."

...but instead I will continue to smile and shake my head, "no, it's not like school." Because some arguments are still too frighteningly radical to get into out loud.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Resources Page

I've added a page up the top to put my home-made resources in!

These are here in good faith for personal use, please let me know if you've used them and credit me where possible, I'll try to do the same if I happen to borrow anything.

The first thing I have for you is a set of dinosaur silhouettes that you can cut up, laminate and use for anything you like :) 

Print two and play matching games or use them on a large timeline or map.