Originally Posted by moominmamma
Nowadays when I see people forming opinions about the positive value of unschooling based on the precocious achievement of one of my kids, I like to tell them about my eldest and her best childhood friend. My dd was an early reader, and was reading proper novels like Harry Potter by age 5. Her friend did not read at all until she was almost 10. In school the friend would have been considered hopelessly delayed, and her education would have been held hostage to her lack of literacy skills. And yet as an unschooler she spent those last five pre-literate years learning like crazy: violin, piano, animal husbandry, weaving, knitting, market gardening, environmental sustainability, politics, home management, veterinary medicine, doing dance, gymnastics, memorizing hours and hours of Norse and Greek mythology tales almost word for word, composing poetry, learning French, drawing and painting with great passion, becoming a competent cook, helping run an off-grid home electrical system, and on and on. Then at age 10, she learned to read and within weeks she and my dd were sharing novels back and forth with great enthusiasm. And a few years later she graduated high school with top marks in AP English among other things. She's now thriving with a full-ride scholarship at a private university. And yet when she was 8 she was so different from my dd in her academic skills, and someone like your friend would likely have pronounced her unschooled education as tragically lacking in the realm of basic learning.
Thanks for sharing this, Miranda.
I remember being horrified at the fact that my 7- and 9yo nieces weren't reading AT ALL. I harboured all kinds of very dark and critical thoughts about the way that my sister was failing to nurture their intellect in any meaningful way.
Once they started reading (at about 9 and 11 respectively), I was still critical, albeit relieved. I remember thinking, "About frigging TIME!"
Did I ever take an inventory, or even take note, of the things they were mastering while not reading independently? Fiddle, dance, friendships, gardening, creative play, piano, singing, interests in ancient Egypt, animals, fairies, archeology, musical theatre, and so on and so on.
Sadly, their mom passed away before I could sit down and apologize for being so critical of her approach when it came to reading.
Her third daughter (who was 11 when her mom died) started reading earlier, so she could connect with an online Minecraft community as a way to cope with her mom's illness and decline.
All this to say, all three girls came to reading at different ages, for different reasons. All three read for pleasure. All three are totally different in terms of personality and interests.
And here is my 5yo, reading early and easily, in a homeschooling community where the average age of independent reading is closer to 8yo. We're definitely the odd one out, in this regard.
Now I can see the benefits of reading later, and I wish I'd been able to apologize to my sister.
I try to share this with mamas who ask me how I taught E to read (I didn't), and ask my why their kid isn't reading yet, or defend their firmly held 'delayed academics' approach (I agree!).
There seems to be the sense that families whose children are reading and achieving in an apparently 'more academic' way (as judged by non-unschoolers) are somehow poster families for unschooling.
I wish there was more appreciation and acknowledgement for those kids who are learning in all the other awesome ways too. We know kids who are well on their way to being experts in their chosen fields already (parkour, fiddling, beekeeping, leadership, social justice, cooking, gardening, gaming, etc).