Mr.9’s reading skills have been a common topic on Unschool Day since this blog’s inception. If you are a new reader, this is the bottom line: the kid has loved books since he was a tiny toddler, he loves listening to long complex audiobooks, he has a huge vocabulary, his syntactical structure is phenomenal, he is an expert on literary elements and story structure . . . but the multi-faceted skill of actual reading didn’t come naturally to him. At all. In fact, it has been a long and frustrating road to reading fluency for my biggest little buddy.
Even though I’ve always been quite freewheeling (and quite disdainful) about learning skills “on time”, there were several occasions when I pushed him to further develop his reading skills and true to his nature, he pulled back 10 times harder. About a year ago, I gave it all up. The ball was in his court and he knew it. For years I said he would read when the internal motivation presented itself and I was finally at peace with letting that happen on his time frame and not mine. And guess what? I now have a reader who is very proud of his hard-earned reading skills and excited to think about what the future will bring as he develops into an official independent reader.
Pokemon, thank you for encouraging my child to read! He became desperate to play the actual card game with his massive card collection but to play the game requires reading and it just isn’t cool to have your mama read every card in your hand when she is also your opponent. The seeds of motivation were planted. He spent a lot of time reading the cards, independently and with my help. He asked about words he didn’t know and I often found him creating lists of those words so he could practice them later. Of course, Pokemon cards have a limited vocabulary so with just a bit of effort, his mission to read the cards were accomplished. But he still wasn’t confident enough to play the game and trust himself to properly read the information.
About 6 weeks ago, Mr.9 requested we make a deal. An arrangement. An agreement. Not a bribe. He proposed he earn a pack of Dollar Tree Pokemon cards per 30 minute reading lesson. I agreed “YES!” a million times over. He now reads aloud at least 30 minutes a day and many days, he reads aloud for 1.5 hours. He would prefer to do lessons with even higher frequency but you know, mama has to cook and mother these other children too. 6 weeks ago, he struggled with every word. Confidence was as much an issue as his ability to decode. But with time, it became glaringly obvious that his fluency was improving as he read more and more books during the 30 minute span.
Two days ago, he decided he was ready for a chapter book, a visible sign of his increasing reading confidence! He still needs support for fluent reading — a post on what our “lessons” look like will be featured in an upcoming post — but he is really doing it!! He is currently on chapter 7 of a Magic Tree House book and he is so very very proud of himself.
Y’all, this is how an unschooler learns to read — on his own time, in his own way and independent of any external pressures and expectations. No rule or law exists that children must learn to read at the same pace and on the same schedule . . . regardless of the criticisms alternative schoolers often feel regarding their choice to let their children learn to read on their own terms. Yes, he needed a lot of parental support to get here but unschooling doesn’t mean “no schooling”, it simply implies that we allow our children to develop in their own unique way and in their own unique timeframe. Once I pulled an Elsa and let it go, my son could finally find his own path to reading confidence and success. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been fast but that’s okay. Our unschool days are limitless, just like the possibilities held within my children. And thankfully, we have 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to support those possibilities.