Saturday, November 12, 2005

School would have ruined that kid!

Children are unique individuals. They do not advance at the same rate or in the same way. Schools usually have an assembly line attitude. All 1st graders should be able to do the same set of skills. All 2nd graders should have the same set of skills and so forth.

My kids are average bright. They have also been late readers. I should add at this point that my husband was a late reader too. It was very difficult as a homeschooler to have a kid who couldn't read well in 1st and 2nd grade. Most of their school friends were in very rigorous programs that expected reading fluency in kindergarten. I myself was an early reader, so when my kids didn't read it was very stressful for me. We did phonics regularly. I called it my "empty little ritual." The books said to repeat each page until the child can do it easily. If we had done that, we would have never gotten off of page 1. To keep my oldest daughter from getting too frustrated, we would limit it to 5 minutes and did other simple reading activities (like Bob Books). We made very little progress.

We did standardized testing when my daughter turned 8. She was starting to improve more rapidly, but was still barely on a second grade reading level. However, we listened to many books on tape, so her language skills were quite advanced. About the time the second Harry Potter book came out, my daughter decided she was tired of waiting for her dad to read it with her. Soon she was reading 60 chapter books a month. I hadn't realized just how much she was reading until I made her keep a reading log for a few months. When we retested at the end of 4th grade, her reading level was 12+.

I think school would have ruined that kid. She would have learned to hate reading. When the next sister started to officially "homeschool", I was much more relaxed. We did phonics for 5 minutes a day and I told her don't worry about reading. You will read when you are 8.

Actually, that daughter's reading didn't kick in until she was 9. However, even though she didn't read well then, she could write beautifully sounding paragraphs. I know this sounds odd. Almost every word on her paper was misspelled. I corrected the spelling and had her recopy her work but didn't change the content. She can string together words better than some adults I know. I suspect this was helped by being a late reader. She has literally spent years listening to books on tape which honed her language skills.

Again, I think that school would have ruined that kid too.


Angela said...

I have been with you on the "guilt rollercoaster" of a late reader as well, following my son who read fluently at 4 yrs. It is terribly sad the stress put on by artificial parameters lumping all kids achievement levels. The worst would have been the generalizations surrounding those who are late vs. early-and the peer stress of being labeled as "slow" or worse, "Stupid." School would have really ruined your kids, and my daughter , and how many others as well.

I am enjoying your is wonderfully to be reminded of all those reasons to homeschool. As a parent of a 13 yr old boy, I have to say the reasons just keep growing when I start examining teen social dynamics at schools. And then dating pressures? Don't get me started!

Andrea R said...

"The books said "

In both parenting and homeschooling, it took me a long time to get over what "the book said" we should do, and just do what we felt we should do. :)

Excellent entry.

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the feed back. Too many late readers are tortured at school.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I know this was written some time ago, but I just found it when browsing the web. I have a son who is now 16 and loves to read. He has some learning disabilities, was adopted at age 4 so also has some emotional difficulties, and was labeled and relabeled in school. I took him out when he was in 3rd grade and started a very relaxed homeschooling. He has thrived. He refused to read for a long time but when he discovered Dungeons and Dragons at age 12, he began not only to read, but to write and create adventures. He is now devouring Tolkien and who knows what is next.

I have a 9 year old daughter now who is reading on a 1st grade level. In spite of my son's experience, I have worried and worried. But then I saw your post! She also writes beautiful sentences and stories. She taught herself cursive writing by looking at a placemat! The words are all spelled incorrectly but she doesn't care. I just told her we would buy a fancy journal at the store and after I correct her spelling, she could rewrite the story in the book. She is so excited! She is a very bright kid who loves math and science but just hates reading baby books. I have this feeling that one day, she will want to do something and need to read...and suddenly will read.


Janine Cate said...

Laura, thanks for the comments. We love to hear about the experiences of other homeschoolers.

Anonymous said...

I have read through all the previous posts almost tearfully! I have an eight year old 3rd grader who has gone from an exemplary student to a struggling one in nine short weeks of school. Her teachers say she is creative, expressive, caring, inquisitive and insists on excellence in her schoolwork -- oh, yes, and dyslexic, failing spelling, failing math and now somehow below grade level in reading.
My husband and I have been to meeting after meeting. She goes to tutoring twice a week, and an assisted reading class daily. We spend an hour each night doing homework and essentially re-teaching her what she supposedly learned during the school day. She spends more hours doing school related work than I did in four years of college. Third grade is sucking the life out of her childhood.
We have been grappling with the decision to pull her out and homeschool her -- a decision we never imagined we would have to make. As I read along today, I am beginning to think that we can only do better for our daughter than the assembly line education she is getting now. Thank you for the honesty and encouragement of the previous posts.

Janine Cate said...

>We have been grappling with the decision to pull her out and homeschool her -- a decision we never imagined we would have to make. As I read along today, I am beginning to think that we can only do better for our daughter than the assembly line education she is getting now.

Good luck. If you pull her out of school, give her time to decompress. She will need some time to recover from the stress level of that much homework/tutoring.

I'm glad the blog has been helpful to you.

Cassie - Homeschooling Four said...

I was homeschooled through elementary and middle school. I now homeschool my children and I am so glad I do. I have one child who has dyslexia and I think she would have seriously struggled in school. My mom has tried to find a book for me before regarding this topic that she read when I was a homeschooler. It is called, "Better late than early" or something like that. As far as we can tell it is out of print. Every heard of it or know where to find?

Henry Cate said...

Cassie it sounds like you are looking for "Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education" by the Moores.

One of the basic points of the book is that children can be harmed if they are pushed academically before their brains have developed.

You can read my review of the book, which I posted at Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I think I can compete with the best of you on late reading. My oldest who started reading at 8 was my earliest reader. He was at adult level by age 10. My daughter did nto read until she was 10, by 12 she was stealing my Wall Street Journal and this last week the community college tested her and said she is ready for their college English class. She is 14. My 12 year old also did not read until he was 10.

I got no end of grief when my kids were little for keeping them out of school and because they were "behind". My family is full of late bloomers. My boys start talking around age 4. Those who were pushed did not do well later and my sister reads well, but does not read for pleasure.

I have mostly unschooled my kids with some explicit phonics, math and grammar thrown in. Sometimes I wish I had not moved so much so my critics could see the wonderful results I have gotten.


Miguel Botran said...

I homeschool 3: a 12 y/o voracious reader (I pulled him from third grade--was in a rigorous IB magnet program, in gifted, and VERY bored); he was a "late" reader according to his first and second grade teachers--he tested low in reading in first grade and caught up by 2nd--he scored 12+ on the IOWA in at age 10 years ("4th grade) after hsing for 2 years. He is a very avid reader/comuter geek/film maker. He is now 12 almost 13. My husband I are avid readers, but we were both late bloomers academically and both didnt thrive in school until grad school. We don't have a TV (so what--we have youtube!) My 10 y/o boy began to hs in 2nd grade. When I pulled him after 1st he was a non reader. he is now reading 2.0 books (he is in "fifth grade") He spends all is time taking things apart and making a big mess in the garage; he loves to create circuits; he just created a taser gun out of old toys. He is very artistic. he loves books on tape. he is an avid golfer (with his dad). My daughter, who only went to preschool, began to hs in Kindergarten (which was spent playing a lot in her room, in the bath or in our pool. She has an AMAZING imagination and can dictate beautiful stories, with a large vocabulary. She is reading beginning books 91.0) She is now in "third) She just turned 8. I worry mostly about my middle boy, because he really doesn't like reading. Lately, though, we have switched from Nate the Great books, which he tired of, to books for kids on electricity and magnetism. He likes looking at them. In my heart, I am not worried, and i can't wait until he is 14 or 16 and write one of those "now he is a great reader" articles!

Henry Cate said...

I am sure your middle son will love reading some day. Best of luck with your readers.

Carol said...

I'm sorry you had that experience! Our public school does a great job of teaching kids at their level, and the teachers are very relaxed about not looking for a level of fluency until somewhere around end of second grade.

I'd only caution that sometimes kids so *want* to read at an earlier age and be independent that it becomes a frustration altogether with reading, or even a bit of a self-esteem squasher. Our public school has amazing teacher aides and reading specialists who get kids to where *they* want to be as soon as they want to be there.