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s/o - did you teach (or help) your kids learn to read?

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 

On another thread, fillyjonk said:

 

"I had a strong unschooling-based belief that all kids can teach themselves to read."

 

...and I started wondering if this is true.

 

Can all kids teach themselves to read?  Most?

 

Secondly, did you teach your kids/help your kids learn to read?

 

For myself, I have no idea if most kids can teach themselves to read. I haven't really been willing to find out.  Once they reached an age where they expressed interest in learning to read, I helped facilitate the process.  Maybe I lack patience or trust in "they can learn to read on their own" (having never seen it) but in any event, I was not risking it.  

 

My oldest needed a little help, my middle needed almost none (full disclosure - she is very bright) and my youngest has needed a lot of help.  She does read fluently and on her own, but it has been a 2 year process, where I have done a dance between knowing when to push and when not to. 

 

 

post #2 of 64

My eight-year-old taught himself to read at age 5 with no instruction.  I did the same as a child.  My six-year-old is just now starting to read, using a combination of phonics (sounding words out) and memorizing sight words.  I am helping her as requested--and she does ask for my help with this every few days--but if it takes two or three years for it to come together, I'm fine with that.  Dh was a later reader, and seemed to benefit from phonics instruction.  He now reads constantly--history, political science, philosophy, etc.  He's also an attorney, which I mention only as evidence that kids who read later can still do very well in vocations that require strong reading skils.  Also, I think it's important to remember that reading is more than decoding words.  Reading is comprehension, critical thinking, analysis.  Both my dh and six-year-old seem to have really exceptional analysis and comprehension skills, which I find interesting.

post #3 of 64

Define "teach themselves." wink1.gif

 

I believe that the vast majority of children require no direct instruction to learn to read. That's not to say they aren't "taught" things, for instance, when they ask "What's the E on the end of ICE for?" or "How do you spell 'birthday'?" or "Why does 'Philip' start with a P?" That's not to say that a small proportion won't need direct instruction. That's not to say that some children won't request direct instruction.

 

All four of my kids learned to read without direct instruction. Three learned very early (well before age 5), one learned early-ish (at 5). Many children would probably accomplish the same learning perhaps on a later schedule if they were given the freedom and trust to do so, and if they were in environments well insulated from the assumption that "normal" kids can read by the age of 6 or 7, an assumption which can whittle away at their self-confidence. That last one is a big "if," though.

 

Miranda

post #4 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

Many children would probably accomplish the same learning perhaps on a later schedule if they were given the freedom and trust to do so, and if they were in environments well insulated from the assumption that "normal" kids can read by the age of 6 or 7, an assumption which can whittle away at their self-confidence. That last one is a big "if," though.

 

Miranda



Yes.  If we assume there's a problem because a child isn't reading at six, and start pushing direct instruction when it's not welcome, then how will we know he or she would never learn to read?  There's a growing trend, and not just in reading, to bring in "expertise" as soon as the child gets close to the "deadline" someone decided upon.  One of my children didn't walk until he was seventeen months old, and another walked at ten months.  You cannot tell from observing them today which one walked first. I understand worrying, and how scary it can be to have a child at the extreme end of some "normal" range.  But early intervention can sometimes do harm.  Scores of two-year-olds are now recommended for speech therapy, under the argument that it's better to be on the safe side.  But what might be the harmful effects of sitting a two-year-old down and correcting his/her speech?  Might the child not lose confidence?

 

 

 


Edited by Luckiestgirl - 10/7/11 at 1:27pm
post #5 of 64

I helped my dd learn to read at 6 by answering her questions and reading to her a lot.  But she didn't have any sort of formal lessons.   I don't believe children need formal lessons to read but everyone needs a little help sometimes. :)  

 

 

post #6 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

Define "teach themselves." wink1.gif

 

 

Miranda



That is why I put "help" in brackets in the title, lol.

 

I like your use of the words "direct instruction".  I have no idea if many or most kids require direct instruction - I think a good chunk do not require direct instruction but do require a word rich environment and support.  Support might mean saying  - "oh, yeah that word is telephone.  The ph makes a "f" sound." I do wonder if this method of helping kids learn to read takes longer overall, which is fine as long as the kids and children involved are fine with it. 

 

 

 

post #7 of 64

I taught both of my kids to read. DS1 needed a lot less help than DS2. Maybe they both would have learned to read with no instruction, but I don't really see the point in that. They learned when they were ready, with my help. DS1 was 5yo and DS2 was 7yo. I don't understand why teaching them would be seen as an undesirable thing.

 

There's nothing wrong with teaching something to a child who is ready and willing.

 

 

post #8 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Attila the Honey View Post

   I don't believe children need formal lessons to read but everyone needs a little help sometimes. :)  

 

 


 

I am not picking on you  smile.gif, just using this as a launching pad for an idea I have played with....

 

Do you ever think we are kidding ourselves - and that really we do teach our kids things, we just do not use the word?  Or do you think there is a qualitative difference between USing "help" and direct instruction "teach"  (lets assume that in both cases the kid wants to learn the task at hand)

post #9 of 64

hahaha, ok. I should say, I don't know if its a correct belief or not, that kids don't need to be taught reading. Its interesting to hear the opinions of others. I have absolutely no data or evidence to back it up and to be fair I have also known unschooled teenagers who literally do not know their alphabets, who reached 18 completely unable to read or spell. Dunno if this is a problem or not really.

 

This is just the assumption that I had when my kids were little, and this was based not just on extensive reading-Holt, alison mckee, etc-but also on having known several homeschooled and unschooled kids while growing up (round here, unschooling is really not such a big deal, we don't really have many highly structured homeschoolers at all and back when I was growing up I think even more British homeschoolers were unschoolers/autonomous than now).

 

What I meant by "teach themself" was really being in charge of learning to read. Learning to read without anyone else sitting down and saying "you need to learn to read". For some kids, this might mean asking parents to research and buy a reading program. Others might learn to read off the back of cornflakes packets or by asking what the odd word meant, like my middle child.

 

I do still believe most children-most people even-can and will, at some point, take charge and decide to learn to read, and be sucessful in doing so. I've seen it with my older daughter, and I'm seeing it begin with my younger daughter. I've seen it with any number of my kids friends. I also believe that there is a normal range of learning to read which spans something like 3 to 10, but also that reading outside those years is even then not a huge concern. Bascially, reading, once you are fluent, is not something that you get much better at, and so IMO there isn't much advantage in reading at 4 over reading at 13. A lot of reading ability is actually maturity, growing familiarity with language, etc, and these aren't skills you gain by doing a lot of reading. IMHO. Reading is a composite of skills, which is why, IMO, it is SO incredibly common to see late reading kids catch and and surpass their peers who have been reading for ages-late readers have been working on other skills that ultimately serve them as well or better as readers than simply perfecting phonic knowledge.

 

However, I also believe that some children do struggle disproportionately with learning to read, and can be helped by systematic intervention. Based on my experience with my son, I think that these children can also sometimes benefit from having an adult step in and take the lead, because by the time they'd tried and failed to teach themselves, all the while often watching other kids learn quite easily, they really can have lost confidence in their ability to learn to read. My feeling with my son was that the best route out of a really vicious cycle was to teach him, as swiftly and effectively as possible. Of course it would have been even better if either he had taught himself (he would then have had the confidence and knowlege that he could teach himself), or if it stopped being such an issue for him, but neither were happening any time soon. I should point out that he has never been to school, he has never ever been told that he is a failure, or MUST learn to read by a specific time. We only stepped in after it became an issue for him, in response to the face that it was an issue for him. His difficulties were also unsual and marked enough by this time that we could be pretty sure that the problem was not that he wasn't ready to read. He was ready, but there were blocks in his way.

 

I think there is a specific issue with kids who have certain reading difficulties. Because of the nature of these difficulties, for some kids it can be much harder for them to pick words out of their environement. It can be harder to remember words, or sequences. I think if kids are struggling in this way, it is possible that they will need systematic teaching at some point. For my son this was making sure he had strong phonics knowledge, because he needs to be able to compensate for other problems he has when reading.

 

I also think that the psychological effect of having struggled is really great in some kids, including those who have never been to school, like my son-some kids are perfectionists, and this is a big deal for them. Its easy for a child like this to give up and write themselves off as not a reader, when actually all they might need is a bit (lot) of encouragement and time set aside every day to do the work, whether they feel like it or not . If my son really didn't want to do it, of course I would explore why, I never forced him to learn, but I found it so important to make sure that he knew I'd set aside time for this, I saw it as important enough to schedule in every single day.

 

What I do not think is that, because a small percentage of kids do have difficulties with reading, all kids should be systematically taught at an early age. TBH, when a child has reading problems, and yet wants to read, this is a pretty obvious situation to an attentive parent. There should be no need to teach every child lest a few go unnoticed.

 

 

ETA: I don't think there is anything wrong with teaching a child who has asked to be taught, so long as we remain attentive and stop if we are "overteaching". There are a couple of reasons why I, personally, would rather a child took control of the process of learning to read, even aside from the moral questions of whether people get to decide what they are taught. First, they are going to do it most effectively themselves. Its such an individual thing, building on such diverse skills, that I think its much better if it comes from the person learning. Second, more importantly, I'm in favour generally of giving kids as many positive experiences of taking control of their own learning as possible. If there is one thing I want my kids to be able to do, its to know how to learn.


Edited by Fillyjonk - 10/7/11 at 1:17pm
post #10 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

hahaha, ok. 



Hope you do not mind the spin-off.  I had heard the USing idea that kids can  teach themselves to read, but as someone who did help my children learn to read (help included small amounts of direct instruction), I find the idea intriguing.  

post #11 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

hahaha, ok. I should say, I don't know if its a correct belief or not, that kids don't need to be taught reading. Its interesting to hear the opinions of others. I have absolutely no data or evidence to back it up and to be fair I have also known unschooled teenagers who literally do not know their alphabets, who reached 18 completely unable to read or spell. Dunno if this is a problem or not really.

 

 

Fillyjonk, I'm really interested in this.  I personally don't know any people like this, and I'm curious if you have any thoughts as to why these 18-year-olds were unable to read.  Do you attribute this to lack of interest, to the fact that their parents didn't value reading, to unrecognized learning problems, or what?  In fact, I'm interested in anyone who knows illiterate 18-year-olds whose parents considered themselves unschoolers, and what kind of take you have on that.

post #12 of 64

My experience is that some kids need little or no formal instruction to read, and others do need instruction.  My oldest and youngest children taught themselves to read after having received some fun basic phonics instruction from me, mostly through games that we played primarily for fun-- they liked the games because they were interested in reading, I believe in retrospect. Reading is harder for my middle child, and the same kind of basic phonics instruction was not enough to help her make the leap to reading. First I assumed she was just a later bloomer in this regard, and then I did some research on reading related learning disabilities, and none of them fit.  When it became clear that "I can't read" was solidifying as a part of her self-identity, I started looking for formal reading programs and we began working together on a regular basis (we used Progressive Phonics-- I love it, and its free).  Within a few months she was reading.  Now she reads above grade level.  I think she needed regular practice with a grownup to make the leap to really reading, and she didn't know she needed that, so she didn't ask.  The whole experience has taught me that I need to pay careful attention to where my kids are with important skills, because some kids work doggedly or ask for help if they have trouble learning something that would be useful for them, and other kids find a work-around or avoid anything that needs the skill, without any idea that with just a little help they could master this thing that seems impossible.

 

I apologize if I'm not expressing myself clearly.  

 

FWIW, I do think that my middle child was something of a later bloomer for reading, and I don't regret holding off on formal reading instruction, but I'm glad we did it when we did.

post #13 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by onatightrope View Post

 

 

FWIW, I do think that my middle child was something of a later bloomer for reading, and I don't regret holding off on formal reading instruction, but I'm glad we did it when we did.


Ditto.  

 

My youngest, age 8, needed practice to become fluent (or it may simply be late blooming).

 

Long story short, I was starting to stress a little over her lack of progress so I did prioritise reading.  I did not want my stress carrying over to her and leaving her feeling that she could not read - nor did I want reading to develop into a power struggle.  I felt grabbing the bull by the horns in the gentlest way possible was the best course.

 

 

 


Edited by purslaine - 10/7/11 at 5:55pm
post #14 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

That is why I put "help" in brackets in the title, lol.


Okay, define "help," lol! ROTFLMAO.gif

 

Seriously, though. If your kids asks "How do you spell 'birthday'?" there are two very different types of help you could offer.

 

You could say "Sound it out. What does it start with? ... Yes, B. Then the 'er' sound, that's I-R in this case. Now, what about the TH sound? Do you remember what combination of letters makes that sound? 'Th' like in 'tooth,' you wrote that last week to the tooth fairy. Do you remember what letters go together? ... Ah, close, but it's not s-h, it's actually T-h. Okay, so that's the BIRTH part. Now you need to think about DAY. What sound starts that?  .... Right, D, and then? ... Yes! A is next. And now you just need a Y to finish. Great job!"

 

Or alternatively you could say "B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y." Just answer the question.

 

Both are help. One type of help includes a lot of context-based teaching, while the other is simply face-value answering of the child's question. Some kids prefer one sort. Some parents naturally gravitate to one style. It's a spectrum, isn't it? Everything lies along a spectrum.

 

Miranda

 

post #15 of 64

I have assisted my budding readers when they ask for help.  Referring to the quote below, I am more the parent that answers the question outright.  When my daughter is reading to me if there is a question about how to sound out a word I will say, "Read along while I say the word" and will follow the word with my finger (something I usually don't do).  Only rarely will I attempt to follow the first example, but it happens.  I tend to find that approach annoying, and I assume that others will be put off by it as much as I was.  My 6.5yo is reading with some confidence, while my 5yo can sound out words very nicely.  It just happened in the normal course of story time.  So, not formal instruction but informal instruction?  Casual?  Relaxed?  Whatever....

 

I was a precocious child verbally and had two big sisters who loved playing school so I learned to read by the time I was 4.  I have no idea how it happened, I just remember not reading then I remember reading.  
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

Okay, define "help," lol! ROTFLMAO.gif

 

Seriously, though. If your kids asks "How do you spell 'birthday'?" there are two very different types of help you could offer.

 

You could say "Sound it out. What does it start with? ... Yes, B. Then the 'er' sound, that's I-R in this case. Now, what about the TH sound? Do you remember what combination of letters makes that sound? 'Th' like in 'tooth,' you wrote that last week to the tooth fairy. Do you remember what letters go together? ... Ah, close, but it's not s-h, it's actually T-h. Okay, so that's the BIRTH part. Now you need to think about DAY. What sound starts that?  .... Right, D, and then? ... Yes! A is next. And now you just need a Y to finish. Great job!"

 

Or alternatively you could say "B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y." Just answer the question.

 

Both are help. One type of help includes a lot of context-based teaching, while the other is simply face-value answering of the child's question. Some kids prefer one sort. Some parents naturally gravitate to one style. It's a spectrum, isn't it? Everything lies along a spectrum.

 

Miranda

 



 

post #16 of 64

Funny, we unschool because we are mostly people who don't do well with tons of structure, and the idea of sitting down with my kids everyday at 9 and going through desk work sounds awkward and forced.  We sort of fell into unschooling organically.  And our son demands it.  He will not be taught anything until he is ready, and even then it can be touchy.  That having been said, I have been nervous about him learning to read and math and writing.  But he is learning it, and enjoying it, and self directed.  he has just started reading sentences.  His favorite thing is when I write him notes.  Now, there are things he has picked up along the way, rules, like silent E etc. lots of these he has learned from Electric Company, honestly, and other things just from practice.  SO I never set out to teach, but I can't say that I haven't taught him at all.

 

An aside, the other night a family member decided to try a little reverse psychology on him.  I said to my ds while reading a book to my dd " hey, I bet you can read this."  he was looking over my shoulder at the words, silently sounding them out, doing his thing, when said family member said to him.  "Can you read that?  I bet you can't, let me see if you can."  He rolled his eyes and walked away from the book.  Her response to him was "See I knew you couldn't read that!"  That interaction could now keep him from reading for weeks.  :(  grrrr.

post #17 of 64

When I think of "teach" I imagine sitting down with a phonics book or "100 Easy Lessons..." or a workbook.  I am sure "helping" is also "teaching" but all I can think is that I "teach" my dd in a very different manner than my MIL "teaches" things. (for example - she would sit down with dd and make her sound out "Dick and Jane" books whether dd wanted to or not. Theoretically!  She never was given the chance to do that.)  OTOH I would just answer her questions like Moominmama alluded to. It was always a pet peeve of mine to make kids figure out the answers to their own questions so if dd asked how to spell something I didn't make her sound it out (and still don't) but rather I just tell her. So I make the distinction.  I don't really have anything against the term or idea that I teach my child or that she learns from me - not at all!  I am taught so many things in so many ways and so is she.  Formal lessons are only one of the ways that we use and only rarely.  I don't even really have anything against formal lessons - for some people they work wonderfully.  We just don't like them much.

 

So basically what I am trying to say is that dd learned to read by being read to and observing how I read.  Was that teaching her?  Yes I think so.  She also learned by trial and error using a video game that required written answers.  She would write "vampyr" and the program would ask "Did you mean 'vampire'?".  Eventually she learned to spell this way and now - between "cracking the code" and that game she is an excellent speller.  She's in 2nd grade and according to a reading and spelling test she took she's doing both at a 4th grade level.

 

Did it take longer to learn this way?  Yes and no.  From the time she first showed interest in "cracking the code" and reading and then reading EZ chapter books on her own took a couple of months.  OTOH - she had been being read to and asking questions about letters and sounds for years.  

post #18 of 64

I think that the difficulty we're having in this thread deciding what "teaching" means stems from something really fundamental and wonderful about human beings: just as learning is natural and occurs everywhere, not just in school-like situations, so teaching is natural and occurs everywhere and not just in school-like situations. Human beings are hard-wired to learn, and to teach.

 

Miranda

post #19 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Luckiestgirl View Post

 I understand worrying, and how scary it can be to have a child at the extreme end of some "normal" range.  But early intervention can sometimes do harm.  Scores of two-year-olds are now recommended for speech therapy, under the argument that it's better to be on the safe side.  But what might be the harmful effects of sitting a two-year-old down and correcting his/her speech?  Might the child not lose confidence?

 

 

 



I started my daughter in speech therapy at a year. She LOVES her therapist. Speech therapy at this age is about playing and making sounds and having fun. Right now we randomly introduce the "F" sound. She is so pleased with herself when she can say FFFFFFennel. If she resists, we back down. She sounds like an 18 month old even though she's 3. And we're quite pleased with how far she's come. Is it because of therapy or would she have gotten here on her own? Who knows. But given how excited she is when I tell her that her therapist is coming over to play, I'm not worried about any negative effects because I have seen none.

 

And I think it's bad parenting to do nothing when there are red flags that a child might need help. It is a parents job to watch, guide, support, and HELP. Allowing a child to flounder is so not okay. Especially when you know little to nothing about the problem or the interventions. I'm not saying that every child has to be on the same timeframe, but sometimes a child of 16 months isn't walking because they're not ready to walk and other times they're not walking because they have a neuromuscular disorder that hasn't been diagnosed yet.

 

 

ETA: And I do know unschooled high school aged kids that can't read. I just don't understand what the parents are thinking. It's one thing to wait until a 6 or 7 year old expresses interest towards reading. It's another thing to allow your child to practically reach adulthood without the ability to read a job application, read the forms for opening a checking account, read the ingredients on foods or recipes in cookbooks. These kids are pretty much unemployable. How has this helped these near-adults?

post #20 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post

I started my daughter in speech therapy at a year. She LOVES her therapist. Speech therapy at this age is about playing and making sounds and having fun. Right now we randomly introduce the "F" sound. She is so pleased with herself when she can say FFFFFFennel. If she resists, we back down. She sounds like an 18 month old even though she's 3. And we're quite pleased with how far she's come. Is it because of therapy or would she have gotten here on her own? Who knows. But given how excited she is when I tell her that her therapist is coming over to play, I'm not worried about any negative effects because I have seen none.

 

And I think it's bad parenting to do nothing when there are red flags that a child might need help. It is a parents job to watch, guide, support, and HELP. Allowing a child to flounder is so not okay. Especially when you know little to nothing about the problem or the interventions. I'm not saying that every child has to be on the same timeframe, but sometimes a child of 16 months isn't walking because they're not ready to walk and other times they're not walking because they have a neuromuscular disorder that hasn't been diagnosed yet.

 

 

ETA: And I do know unschooled high school aged kids that can't read. I just don't understand what the parents are thinking. It's one thing to wait until a 6 or 7 year old expresses interest towards reading. It's another thing to allow your child to practically reach adulthood without the ability to read a job application, read the forms for opening a checking account, read the ingredients on foods or recipes in cookbooks. These kids are pretty much unemployable. How has this helped these near-adults?



I agree with your line of thinking......I'm just curious as to what sorts of "red flags" lead someone to seek speech therapy for a 12-month old...? My DS1 wasn't speaking at 12 months and nobody seemed to think anything of it. At age two, when he only said about 5 words, they sent him for a hearing test, which was normal. At 2.5 he started speaking in paragraphs.

 

I don't know any unschooled teens who can't read, but I personally know few unschooled teens.

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