Lauren 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…
It 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.
Last night at Brownies one of the mum’s asked me a few questions about home schooling and what support we get – do the Ministry of Education give you a curriculum? (no) Do they tell you how to teach reading and writing? (no) Do we do regular school hours/terms/take summer holidays? (no). The girls in the group I was helping heard, and curiosities piqued, pitched in with their own questions – do they get to play lots? (yes) what do they learn about? (whatever interests them!) do they bake? (yes) Can I come and live with you? (sorry…).
It’s the first time in a quite a long time that I’ve been asked about our decision and what we do, and it was really nice to be in a casual situation where the questions were genuinely curious without having overtones of judgement. Even the mother who had asked – who was a secondary teacher – was simply curious and wanting to know more because she didn’t know. I really appreciate people just asking about it, judgement free, and I totally understand why it makes people curious. Not everyone knows a home schooling family 😉
I always find it amusing when one of the aspects of home schooling that I love – writing our own ‘curriculum’ – is the thing that seems to make many parents shudder. I remember feeling overwhelmed about it back when Ivy was still at school and I was researching whether home schooling could work for us. There was just so much to take in, and so many options. But just over a year in I feel like I’m good with this. More relaxed about our approach, more trusting that the kids will learn things and that following their interests is the right way to go. They are so alive, so vibrant, so filled with curiosity and joy that I can’t imagine ever wanting to send them back to school.
I’m pleased that someone asked me those questions again, because it gave me an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last year. How much more confident I am in what we’re doing, and how I no longer fear judgement or feel like I have to give the answers they want to hear. I can just be honest, and that’s nice 🙂