IMG_20141008_063428295Lauren beckoned me over to her the other night and made me lean in close, a glimmer in her eyes and a grin playing on her lips. She cupped her hands around my ear and whispered, “I can read some words now”. It was a beautiful moment. She was so proud of herself, so pleased at her progress – and totally justified in those things.

This morning, she set about showing me her wonderful new skills. She got out the silver box containing all the early readers, and selected one. She ran her fingers along the words, glancing at me for encouragement. We went over some of the basic skills of learning to read again and off she went. It was awesome. I love that she’s decided she is ready, that she is excited by the prospects – even if after reading through every single book she decided that those ones were boring (this was the same issue we encountered last time). I agree, they are boring. The extra words she added to the stories made them all better. It’s not just a whale, but a humpback whale – she wanted to know why they just said whale? And that shark is a great white, why do they only say shark? And the fish in this book aren’t just laughing together, they are pulling funny faces…

IMG_20141008_063440690It was an interesting contrast to me. I remember when Ivy learned to read at school and how she didn’t ask questions, never pushed past the story on the page or embellished, adding her own details that made it more interesting to her, and I wonder if this is a reflection of the way I’ve changed, more than anything else.

After she read the stories the ‘right’ way she went back and made up her own, adding things to her hearts content, and then passed the books on to Natalie who mimicked her big sister – I can see that they will be learning to read fairly close together if this continues, an unexpected benefit of having kids less than two years apart. Natalie never likes to be left out of anything, and Lauren is kind enough to want to help teach her little sister.


On Reading

I have just finished reading an article – a very timely one I might add. It seems like every time I get that itch to force my kid to sit down and start focusing on reading, something like this crops up. It’s so very hard at times, to be doing what we do, and to know that it goes against everything that the majority of people believe. To give your kids the space to learn when they are ready to learn, and not buy into the pressure of rushing them. To fight back that clawing panic that you’re doing them a disservice.

And yet, I know that when you do relax and let things unfold at a natural pace, great things happen.

Ivy enjoyed learning to read in her first year at school, but it quickly got too hard for her and she hated it. Loathed it. Rejected it wholly with force. She wouldn’t even let me read chapter books to her, because it reminded her that she couldn’t do it yet.

If you press a child hard to do something when she is really developmentally unable to do it — I made that mistake more than once, and our schools make it every day — the psychological shutdown that occurs is catastrophic. Simply catastrophic. Let me repeat this: when you push a child to do something she simply developmentally can not do, you create a profound belief that (a) I hate this; (b) I can’t do this; (c) I will never be able to do this, and (d) There’s something wrong with me. – from A Thousand Suns

So we read a lot of picture books. We made up stories of our own. We took ALL the pressure off and never mentioned reading to her. I got graphic novels out of the library thinking that perhaps that might be a gateway, she thrived on those for a little bit. And then, Lauren told her that I had cried at the end of one of the books we’d read together, and Ivy desperately wanted to know WHY. What had happened in the book that had driven me to tears?

She asked Lauren if she could read the book, she took herself off, and she read the whole thing and then we talked about the ending, how it was sweet and lovely, and we were so pleased that all the puppies found a home. And then she read another book, and another, and even though she isn’t taking her meds now, she hasn’t stopped reading since. She sometimes reads four chapter books a week, and I KNOW that it’s because I let her take that breather, forget about her reading experiences at school and come to it again on her own terms.

Coupled with the research which shows the following, I think I just need to step back and let my kids be kids. They are starting to read, words here and there, words that have meanings to them. I want my kids to LOVE reading, to love story the same way that I do, so I’ll do anything to foster that love.

By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later – Article link here.

Time, symmetry, and maths

Setting up

Setting up

In the weekend Ivy and I ran a Girl Guide Biscuit stand at one of the supermarkets in town – a 2 hour stint is usually enough to put a good dent in our allocated boxes, but it’s a very hard task for her to stand in one small space for a couple of hours.

It was a very slow start, after getting our first sale before we’d even set up the table, and it wasn’t long before Ivy chimed in with the age old ‘how long to go now?’ She has only had a passing interest in time so far. She doesn’t want to know how to read a clock, and the concept of time can be parceled out into ‘now’, ‘soon’ and ‘AGGGGGGGEEEEEES away’, so I thought this afforded a perfect opportunity to talk a little more about time.

We started by talking about how many minutes there are in an hour (she knew there was 60). I told her we had an hour and three quarters to go, which meant we could divide 60 by 2 to find half an hour, and then 4, to figure out what a quarter was. Given a practical purpose for telling time, she picked up the concepts of quarter and half hours pretty quickly, and every now and then I’d say there was a certain amount of time to go, and she’d work out how many minutes that was, or I’d tell her how many minutes and she would work out what that was in hours/quarters/halves. Win!

One of the things I noted throughout the time was that Ivy has a love of symmetry. She changed the display several times, but always had even numbers of each type of biscuit on each side of the table. We related this back to the art course that she has been doing, as we’ve been learning a bit about balance and symmetry there. She is struggling a little with the idea of creating balance through asymmetry, but couldn’t bring herself to let me change her symmetry to try and create an asymmetrical balance in her display.

After spending the first hour watching me make the sales, Ivy finally decided that she was ready to try it for herself. I think she needed to see how it worked first before taking the task on. I was really impressed that she was able to mostly make the right change, and asked me to check when she wasn’t sure about it. People were thankfully willing to wait a little bit, and I think it gave her a nice confidence boost.

We didn’t sell as many biscuits as we’d have liked, but it was a really good experience, and she coped very well with having to be in one spot.

First strokes of the pen

Not long after deciding that she wanted to be able to read, Lauren decided that it was time to get writing as well. I came into the kitchen one day to find that she’d pulled out a roll of ‘christmas’ themed paper towels, and found a black vivid in the cupboard, and she was merrily writing away. She very proudly showed me her i’s and o’s, and asked if it was a word. She’d written ‘oi oi’ lol so I guess it is kind of a word 😉

WP_20140124_002I asked her if she’d like to move to regular paper and a pen/pencil, but she really wanted to write on the pretty paper towels, so my next suggestion was that she tell me a few words that she wanted to write so that I could write them down and she could copy them. The words she selected were: dog, cat, love, mummy, and daddy.

You might be starting to see the theme of things when it comes to Lauren – she often starts things off on her own steam, without asking for any assistance, and she’d be quite happy to potter away and figure it out as she goes. She has very firm opinions about what she wants to do, and how she wants to do it, and will often not be swayed unless I can come up with a satisfactory compromise.

I’m pretty good at those 😉 thank goodness. I am now on the look out for some pretty stationary for her to write on so that the paper towels can stay in the kitchen, and a sparkly pen convinced her to move away from writing with a vivid.

As much as she wants to do things now and learn words whole, she’s coming to see that learning her individual letters could be a beneficial thing, and just yesterday she asked if she could work on her letter recognition, and learning the sounds that each letter makes. I’m really pleased that I didn’t push her into doing it before she was ready because I don’t think it would have been effective – she’s much easier to teach, and learns far quicker, when she’s doing it under her own steam. As you can see, despite not having written a whole lot before now, she’s actually forming her letters fairly well.


An interest in reading

As seems to be Lauren’s nature, she has now decided that she wants to be able to read. She doesn’t really want to learn to write though, and isn’t interested in learning the letters and the sounds they make. She just wants to be able to read. Preferably yesterday.

WP_20140119_005This came on night two of our reading sessions – she always has a cuddle before bed, but after spending a few weeks reading Harry Potter with Ivy at bedtime, Lauren decided she wanted a book instead of a long ‘talk time’ so, we brought that in. The second night, she took the book off me and declared that she was going to read it, and then gave it back, admitting she didn’t know how.

I’m learning to think outside the box a little when it comes to Lauren. She needs to make instant progress, and so I grabbed the tablet from beside my bed and flicked onto the Eggy Sight Words app. She’s not been overly interested in this until now, in fact, I think Natalie has played it more than anyone, but I figured she could learn a couple of words, and then read those ones for me when we reached them in the book. On her first night, she learned ‘the’, ‘and’, and ‘to’. Thankfully, there were a lot of those words in the book, and she had fun practicing reading them. She was full of smiles, and a beautiful sense of achievement, knowing that she could ‘read’ some words.

Eggy sight words is a pretty cool app, though it’s a little slow in some regards. You have a word to recognise, and it flies across the screen in eggs. There are other words flying around too, and items like potatoes, pans, regular eggs, and pigs. If you touch something that isn’t the word, you lose a life, and if you miss an egg with the right word, you also lose a life. Sometimes the eggs move so fast that even I can barely tell what’s on them, and other times you can sit there for a full minute without the word coming up. There are smiley face eggs that give you life back, and also puzzle piece eggs, and I think they also count as a word.

WP_20140119_009Lauren doesn’t need to get to 25 words (which is what it takes to win a level) before she can recognise them, and she is more interested in putting her new knowledge to the test than finishing a game, so typically I will tap away while she grabs the book we’re reading to find the words she has learned.

The main down fall of the game is that the flying pigs are just SO much fun to squish! lol she can’t seem to resist them. It becomes a game in itself, of her trying to catch the pigs and then counting her lives and making sure she has enough not to lose (and winning some back when she gets a smiley face egg).

Lauren’s first book

WP_20140111_001A couple of days ago Lauren came to me and told me she wanted to make a book. She wanted to write a story for her little sister Natalie, and could I please write it down for her. Being that she turned 5 not long ago, this was a reasonable request, so I took the paper and felt pen she offered me, and sat down to write.

WP_20140111_002All of my children like to tell stories, but this was the first time that she’d asked me to write one down for her, and I loved that she wanted to give it as a gift – for the record, Natalie loves the story, and has been showing her book off to everyone who comes into the house. I’ve read it so many times that I know it by heart now.

For the record, we’re a family of geeks. All of the kids have watched episodes of Doctor Who. They play ‘Weeping Angels’ instead of ‘whats the time Mr Wolf’.
They love to talk about zombies, ghosts and unicorns, werewolves, vampires, fairies and dragons, other worlds, mermaids. You name it, they have probably heard about it and played imaginary games involving it.

WP_20140111_003So it really shouldn’t have been any surprise that Lauren’s story involved a whole lot of those things, though initially it seemed a bit brutal for a 5yr olds tale! lol I loved it though 🙂 She’s tapped into her fear of werewolves (stemming from one of her nanas showing her the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video when she was three), and a game Natalie plays where she dies, then comes back as a zombie, dies, and then comes back as a ghost. I was really struck by Lauren’s take on good and evil as well, and how the waterfall, while not seemingly a big part of the story at the beginning, was central in the ‘Lauren’ characters change from regular girl, to something bad, and how when the waterfall flooded the worlds, it triggered Lauren into turning good again and saving everyone.

WP_20140111_004Naturally, of course, in a house with 2 siblings, and being the middle child, it’s not surprising that she wants to rule the world 😉

We glued together the pages to make a proper book, and she’s dreaming up her next story, and ready to make another copy of this for a friends son who read it and loved it too. She has really been encouraged by the positive feedback to write more stories, and being a writer myself, I love that she has found the joy in story. Hopefully this will help motivate her to learn her letters in the near future, so that she can make a whole book all by herself. So proud!