Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My very favorite thing in the entire world is seeing things - anything, tomatoes or children or cakes or a prayer life - grow.

But it almost never happens the way you think it will.

Take learning to walk, for example. You see babies toddling about and you stare at your own baby, cruising around furniture, and you think, okay - some day you're going to do that. And it's true. Some day he will. First, though, he's going to let go by accident one day, take a step or two without realizing it, fall, and crawl the rest of the way to you. An hour or so later he might do it again. Maybe. In a day or two, he's going to let go on purpose, walk three or four steps, then fall hard and cry. Depending on his temperament, he may stubbornly crawl back over to the couch and do it again - only to fall and hit his head in the same spot ten minutes later - or he may refuse to let go for a few days.

It goes on this way for weeks.

Then one day, a month or two later, you realize - my baby is walking down the hallway. He's not crawling anymore. And suddenly, you have a toddler.

It's the same with first words. Let's not kid ourselves - a first word is nothing more or less than a baby attaching meaning to sound. A first word is almost never recognizable outside of context. In some ways Emmy is already doing this. Anytime she sees her dad or her dog she bounces and says, "a-da! a-da! a-da!" with such fervor that surely, SURELY she's saying their names. Sometimes, though, she grabs her little foot in her carseat, swings it impatiently, and says, "a-da, a-da, a-da," while staring at the ceiling. It's the context that gives the sound meaning, though surely it does mean something in that context. It's not as simple as saying, "My baby talks," or "My baby doesn't talk." It never is.

And now I am learning that reading is the same way.

Asher can sound out words. He also guesses at words, memorizes books and pretends to read them, and makes up words when he can't sound them out. He half-read, half-quoted "Hop on Pop" to me yesterday. He can quote with endearing accuracy our four Spiderman books. He can also recognize a sign by its label, so that at times I don't know what he's reading and what he's remembering.

But you know what? It doesn't matter. My little boy is learning to read.

This fact has completely snuck up on me.

Reading is a big deal, right? I have several homeschooling friends applying considerable effort into teaching their children to read. While I, on the other hand, have not cracked a single curriculum since Asher was three. I have two different preschool curriculums sitting, untouched, in bedroom closets. I really cannot take credit for it; he's taught himself.

It started last year, when he liked to play word games in a car. He would see a sign and say, "Hey Mom that was a sign. Sign has the sss sound. It starts with 's.'" To which I would reply, "Yeah it does. Silas, put your seatbelt back on." And he would start to think of other words that start with "S." Sometimes I played along, sometimes I did not. He learned his letters and sounds from me and from his teacher and from PBS and from wherever else, and the rest he's just sort of ... figured out.

Now, we do read books. But I don't have the type of kids who will just sit in the middle of the morning curled up next to me while I nurse a baby and read a book. Everyone talks about reading and nursing. Ha - I spend my time nursing saying, "We don't jump off the furniture," or, "Don't throw that toy at your brother," but whatever. My kids love to read in the quiet corners of our day, as they are waking up or settling down to sleep. And as long as I am coherent enough to recognize the moment, I try to take advantage of every opportunity to read.

I also offered nuggets of spelling rules, as they came up. Like sometimes the "e" is silent, and some letters combine to make a different sound. We've practiced, loosely (and again, mostly in the car) recognizing "sh" words or "th" words, when it has come up.

That's it. That's how it happened. I went from reading while I drink my morning coffee, and finding "ch" words, to listening to my little boy read a book. Suddenly, I have a reader.

Who knew.


Madame Rubies said...

"Teaching Moments" are my favorite part of homeschooling, though I have to make a concerted effort to watch for them. Often, the time they are most teachable is when I am most exhausted. I have to really work to change my focus and teach them something new. But, it is so worth it.

Thank you for reminding me to ask fro Grace. It has been a waterfall of blessings kind of day, and I thank you for being a good enough friend to nudge me when I need it.

Lisa said...

It's funny how learning creeps up on you like that. I think some kids need more formal education to learn such things, but other kids (like Asher, and Olivia) just seem to absorb things. And before you know it, they are reading or comprehending things you didn't think possible. It's amazing what their minds soak up.