This is going to be a bunch of rambling but I promise I’ll get to the point soon enough: The most exciting thing to date on this unschooling journey of ours happened last night! I’ve been here before with the whole reading and unschooling topic. It’s been a concern of mine. I know my kids will thrive and learn without school and a curriculum. I know it’s in their nature – it’s in all of us. But reading… it’s been harder for me to wrap my head around; how will they learn to read? Specifically, my concern has been with Cas, since Siri learned to read last year in Kindergarten and he’s “next”. I’ve gone back and forth with whether I’m doing the “right thing” and just knowing that people are silently watching and waiting for us to fail. They are. I’m aware of it, whether or not they would ever admit it and they never would, of course. I don’t mean to be negative – I know we have some supporters too or at least some who are neutral – and really, I am confident in the choices we make for our family. We are doing something that people just feel really uncomfortable about. I’m not sure they realize that says more about them then us. But I digress – most days I really don’t let anyone else’s thoughts deter me but when I’m doubting myself, which we all do as parents from time to time, whether or children go to school or stay home, those thoughts easily mix in with my own.
With a first grader and kindergartener we’re obviously just beginning this journey. More importantly, I’m still learning to trust the process. When I have doubts or wonder how certain things might be handled in this world of unschooling, I take comfort in reading words of others who have take this path. It helps tremendously. Sandra Dodd’s Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch, has been on repeat in my mind. I need to breathe. I need to let the process happen and not try to make it anything that stems from my expectations of what it should be. When my thoughts of what my kids “should” be learning emerge all they do is get in the way. I’m learning to quickly see those thoughts for what they are but then let them pass on by.
Yesterday Cas brought me his ipad and asked me to type something into the YouTube search bar. I think it was “People building stuff in Mine Craft” and he was sure to tell me, “Not just people building in Mine Craft, people building stuff.” I said to him (it sounds so ridiculous to me now, because this is so not me and I don’t do this kind of thing because it’s not our style) “OK, Cas what is the first letter we need to type? People – puh-puh-people what letter does that start with?” And of course he got all annoyed with me because he just wanted me to type it for him like he’d asked; he didn’t want to do a spelling exercise with me. I quickly came to my senses and realized I was being ridiculous and typed it up for him. He ran off to watch the stuff being built. I had a passing thought as to whether or not he was learning enough.
Then last night I was putting the baby to bed. Cas has been sleeping in the girls room most nights, but when I put the baby to bed, Cas goes in the boys’ room so that he can talk with me. I love this time with him. Any time that I have one-on-one with my kids is treasured. So last night we were talking about a movie I’d put on for him yesterday. I didn’t get to sit and watch it with him but he brought it up and asked if he could watch it again in the morning. I said sure and then something along the lines of why I assumed it was called Bunks “they must have been camping, right?” He said, “Yeah, and they were in the woods and then they went to this place and there was a sign that said no…” and he said some other stuff and I pretended that it didn’t phase me that he just made it clear to me that he READ A WORD! I didn’t want to make a big deal of it and I played it totally cool. We went on talking and moved to other subjects. But this is what I’ve been reading about when I’ve had my doubts: kids who unschool will learn to read without instruction. Just like babies learn to walk and talk. I haven’t taught Cas the alphabet or what sounds put together mean. Several months ago I tried to start a book with him on teaching your kids to read in 100 lessons – I think we got to lesson 10 or so and he hated it so we stopped and I thought at the time we’d go back to it later. I think he learned the word am, that was about it and I don’t think it stuck with him. All this to say, I didn’t tell him that N-O spells no. We don’t practice writing, reading or any of that. I read to them every night and have since they were babies. Also, I read all sorts of books, so they see me doing that, but that’s it.
After a few moments had passed and he was on his way to sleep and holding my hand we were saying how we loved each other. I told him how he’s growing up so fast. I asked him, “How did you know that sign said no?” He said, “I don’t know, I just did.” I said, “That’s reading, buddy! You’re reading now.” He said, “Mom, that’s not reading, I just knew that it said no. That’s not reading. I just knew it.” I said, “Yes, that’s what reading is. Knowing what a word is is reading. You’re reading!” In the dark I could see a faint smile on his lips before he drifted off to sleep.
I say this is the most exciting thing that has happened on our unschooling journey to date and to many this may seem like no big deal. But I am thrilled! I had to run down to tell Eric as soon as the boys were asleep. This is one more piece of that foundation we’re building. A reminder that what I’ve read about reading and unschooling is true – it will come. He will read. They all will. There’s no point in rushing this process. I need to remember to Read a little, try a little, wait a little and watch. Most important of all we need to keep going; we’ve only just begun.