Friday, August 13, 2010

Is reading THAT important?

You probably think I am going to say yes, but I'm not.


Yes, it is important. Yes, it is the foundation for learning. Yes, it is a magnificent tool. BUT, I am increasingly discouraged and saddened when parents think it is the ONLY thing. They think that reading trumps physical activity, trumps chores, trumps interpersonal relationships; they think that it is the measure of successful homeschooling and parenting.

And, on some level I totally understand. I mean, it is easy to quantify so it makes us feel good about ourselves if our 7 year old is reading at a 5th grade level, and makes us feel bad about ourselves if our 10 year old is reading at a 2nd grade level. It is easy to measure-- so we measure our kids against the "norm." We can't easily quantify and measure helping or relational skills so that I can 't say that my 7 year old is interacting relationally at a 5th grade level or that my 10 year old is doing chores at a 2nd grade level. The most we can say is they "are mature or immature for their age."

But, honestly, I talk to parents all the time who think their four year old should be in first grade because they can read at that level. Or, I have had people tell me their two year old is reading and thus should be in a kindergarten [or higher] grade level.
I want to scream...

  • Can they jump on one foot?
  • Can they tie their shoes?
  • Can they fold towels?
  • Are they kind to others?
  • Can they throw a ball?
  • Can they use inside voices in the house?
  • Do they whine?
  • Do they mind you?
People are so much more than reading. Children are so much more than reading. I know kids who could read at 2 or 3 and their parents encouraged it a lot--to the exclusion of many good activities. After all, their child could read so they had it made. Years later I seen that many of these kids have very little interpersonal skills or are extremely lacking in coordination. Now they may have been that way even if they hadn't spent their toddlerhood reading, but I am not so sure.

I have also seen preschoolers who are physically active who are not encouraged to learn to read. They are not prohibited from learning letters and sounds if they want to, but even if they are, the parents encourage lots of outdoor play and they do a lot of working along side Mommy and Daddy. These children seem better adjusted when they get older.

Yes, they learn to read somewhere between K and 2nd grade, but they seem to be more active, more interactive with others, more helpful and imaginative. They are not caught reading a book when everyone else is eating ice cream and playing tag. I am not saying that is always bad, but is reading everything? Is it more important than relationships? And, they usually are at the same level in reading [according to numerous studies] by the time they are in 3rd grade as the early readers.

As for 3 year olds that can read at first grade level. They are still 3 years old. They still need lots of play and exercise to complement their reading time. They need fresh air and sunshine. They need to help parents with chores and to learn to share with other children and to mind.

There are LOTS of lessons they need to learn before they are ready for first grade curriculum.

I know that many of you might not agree, but even if you don't, if your child is an early reader, please remember what age they are and don't rush them into mature material just because they can read. Please help them develop in areas they don't excel at so they can become well-rounded individuals.

Reading is not everything.

Take care,

Another post you might be interested in. Three Things Preschoolers Need.

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When Your Oven is on Fire...

Let me start by saying, this is a tribute to my son Cris--the calm, even tempered one of the family. Kids are funny aren't they? They each come pre-programmed with certain traits that you can work around and bend a bit, but they are there. There is not a lot you can do with the pre-programming.

I am not going to debate, nurture vs. nature, but I think there is a lot to be said for both. I love Proverb 22:6 that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." Although more literal translation is a bit different, " Give instruction to a youth about his way, Even when he is old he turneth not from it. from it." [Young's Literal Translation]

I think this means that you need to raise child according to his bent, or his nature. If you have a sensitive child, or an artistic child, or a defiant child, or a happy-go-lucky type, or a visual learner, or an auditory one, etc., then you should adjust your parenting so that you can speak to that child's bent or nature.

Cris and daughter Elinor.
And this is where Cris comes in. He is the oldest of our five children and extremely calm and requires very little sleep. As a baby he slept about 20 minutes at a time during the day and at night woke up many times until he was over two. He stayed up late, got up early and could outlast Bob and I both. He is still, at 32, exactly this same way. He can survive for weeks on end on 5 hours or so of sleep a day--I need 8-9.

At any rate, Cris called me up over a year ago and said very calmly, "Mom? What do you do when your oven is on fire?"


Cris :Not now, but when you have a fire in your oven what do you do?

Me: I have never had a fire in my oven.

Cris [surprised and calm]: Really? Well, yesterday I was doing wings and I had a fire in my oven. Flames were shooting out and so I had Scotty hold the door while I shot it with a fire extinguisher. I think my oven might be ruined. How do I clean it?

Me: I have no idea. Maybe try some hot water and baking soda? [For those of you who don't know me, I think that hot water and baking soda, or hot water and vinegar can pretty much clean anything.]

We chatted a bit more and hung up. It took Cris hours to clean his oven and yes, it did work. No harm done. But, those words stayed with me, "What do you do when your oven is on fire?"

What do you do?
Toss baking soda on it
Shoot it with a fire extinguisher while you little brother holds the door
Call 911?

What do you do? What would your kids do?

And this is where I get back to learning styles and bents. Only Cris would non-nonchalantly call for a helper from the living room telling them he has a kitchen fire and then calmly put it out with a fire extinguisher [I might mention that one of his sisters in law promptly jumped up and dashed out the front door! She's no fool!]. That is his bent, his nature. To take things calmly, analyze the problem and quickly administer the solution. Then face the clean up later.

What about your kids? Does each have a different bent? Do the learn differently? Perhaps if you struggle with raising or teaching your child[ren] you need to discover their learning style. It is fascinating to see how just understanding a bit about how your child is wired can help you relate to them better.

I suggest "The Way They Learn," by Cynthia Tobias or listening to some of the Sonlight Podcasts. You can find podcasts about learning styles her: Take care,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How can I teach two children together who are not the same age or grade?

I get asked this question a lot. It usually sounds something like this "How can my children who are 2-3 years apart in age actually both learn from the same books?" Usually the older student is brighter, more studious, etc. and they don't want to hold back the older, yet they don't want to teach two totally different levels of each subject to their children.

It comes down to skill-based vs topic-based learning.

 Still based are things like math and learning to read. You have to learn the sound of the letters before you can blend them into words. You have to be able to blend easy words before you can read multi-syllable words, you have to know how to multiply before you can divide. You have to understand arithmetic before you can do Algebra.

Skill based subjects have to be built on, precept upon precept on a regular basis to gain mastery. It takes time and you can't teach a child who cannot subtract  with one who divides with ease at the same time with the same materials. They need to develop certain skills before they can go on to the next level.

But, then there are topic based subjects. I can be 8 or 10 or 15, but if I have never learned about whales I can learn from and enjoy a book about whales or a documentary about whales. A 15 year old might understand more about the anatomy and ecosystems of the whale when the book is done, but the 8 year old will have learned a lot too--and they can discuss it and reinforce what they learned through discussion.

A parent can read Charlotte's Web to the whole family and while the youngest member will be enchanted with  Wilbur and Charlotte,  and an older child will see it is a story about friendship, an even older member will appreciate how love hurts and what true self-sacrifice is. Everyone will take away something different, but all will be enriched.  

This is why you can teach varying ages together with Sonlight [or any literature based curriculum] together for topic based subjects like history, science, geography, Bible and cultural literacy. It is also why you will want to teach them separately for math and adapt their writing assignments to their abilities. You will not be holding back the older by teaching them together for topic based studies. The older child can dig deeper and tell the younger child(ren) what they have discovered. They can go deeper in the subject by themselves if they want to, but even if they don't they will have learned something they didn't know and will benefit from it.

And, when siblings learn together it strengthens family culture and bonds. It gives them a commonality, inside expressions, jokes and sayings and is just plain fun. If you have children up to 3 years or so apart, try teaching them at least one subject together and see how it goes. I think you will love it!

Take care,


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Library in a Box...

I live in a small town. The last census said around 6,000 and that included all the students in the local college and seminary. So, when school is not in session, the town is considerably smaller. 
In fact, we have only two towns in our whole county-so I guess you could say I kind of live in Podunk. We have a county library in the other town but up until about a year or so ago, it was a pain to go to the library and ever since my kids learned to drive, I just didn't bother. 

But now? Now it is different. Now we have the "Library in a Box" and it is fabulous. Basically what I do is go online, reserve any books I want and when they are available the library van comes over to our town, and puts my book in one of the doors on this locker system. Then they call me and tell me my book is in.

I go up to the last drive through lane of our local bank and there is our "Library in a Box system." You can see that there are two boxes for returns and then this big "locker." I type my PIN into the key pad and a door opens. I grab my books and go. That is all there is to it.

There are three of these "boxes" around the county so now even the most rural patrons can have this convenient service. I think at its inception it was one of only a couple of these types of systems in the whole US. 
I want to thank our library for investing in this program and I want to encourage you, if you live in a rural area, to show your library this great set up. Maybe other libraries will see the value and bring "Library in a Box" to your area.

Take care,