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.