Monday, 24 October 2011

Reading: The crapness of knowing 'the buck stops here'.

Ok, I need someone to tell me it is ok to have an 8 year old who can't read.

I am tired of people with children who taught themselves to read age 4 telling me that my child will get there in the end. Hey, oh parent of genius, what do YOU know?

I am tired of people who say 'Oh, I know how you feel. My daughter is only just reading too.' I look at their child who is a good two years younger than mine and think If you speak to me again I will impale your eyeballs on the ends of my fingernails.

I am also tired of the smug looks from home edders who structure their child's every moment and have rigorously taught (or perhaps forced?) their child to read every day since they were an infant and now have a gloating air every time their small child has their nose in the literary equivalent of war and peace. I so hope it costs you a fortune in therapy sessions years later when your child realises their life was ruined by a control freak.

I am tired of surprised looks from people when my daughter tells them she can't read. You don't believe her so you want to ask me as well? Or are you just hard of hearing? Perhaps you'd like me to shout it so EVERYONE can hear?

And I am really fed up with the way such people raise their eyebrows at me as if to say 'Really? Can't you EVEN teach your child to read?' If a monkey like you has managed to learn to speak then obviously I'm not hooked in to the right miracles.

And today I was tired of a small sprat of a boy who was laughing at my daughter when I was encouraging her to read a couple of words from a book in the library
'That is soooo easy!' I heard him snigger to his sister as they walked off.
Be thankful small evil one that I am self-controlled. Smacking a kid in the face may not be appropriate behaviour for an adult, but I am not known for my appropriate behaviour.

And I was cross with myself that his response then triggered me sit next to my 8 year old at home and make - yes make - her read a few words from a book that she simply wanted to enjoy listening to me read. Like this is going to help. Yeah. Go on mother, take a leaf out of the BAD book. You know you want to.

Ok. So most of the time I am alright about my daughter not being able to read and with my daughter not wanting to learn to read. And I'm even more alright about it if I'm careful about the company I keep (geniuses and prospective geniuses, hot-housing parents, and smug bastards, not invited to tea).

But today I am not ok with any of it and it makes me feel crap that it matters.

Yes, I can tell myself it is not unusual for home ed children to read at their own pace. I have heard many stories of home ed children not reading until they are 11 years old. But their child is not MY child and I am not that parent. Sure, dd can read a few words (at a push) when persuaded/bribed/skewered and roasted over a spit on a slow-turn. But that's not reading. At least not the sort of reading I want to encourage in my family. I don't want to be the sort of parent who makes their child read.

Yes, I can tell myself this is a momentary loss of HE confidence and that, as usual, it will pass.

Yes, I can tell myself she will get there in the end. But truth is, nobody knows whether any child will get there in the end. I have a 12-year-old who today was struggling to orientate himself around the automated library machine, because even after all my support over the years he still has problems processing text. A 12-yr-old who struggled to read out loud a short geography question today (and who because of the difficulty in processing what he was reading, hadn't got a clue what the question was, even after reading it three times).

Truth is, I know school would not have solved the problem. I know school most likely would have made the problem worse, or caused other problems. But being a home educator, sadly THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

And it aint pleasant.


Ella said...

I generally like to keep a brief diary of how the day has gone for us all to help keep myself focuses, but every now and then I have to stop writing for weeks at a time because I realise that actually all I'm using it for is to beat myself up over what I'm not doing or what I've done badly. Which is not the point at all.
I get it. My eldest of almost 8 can read about 200 single words,but the minute they are arranged in a sentance, forget it! Like you say, he can struggle through them but by the time he reaches the full stop he hasn't got a clue what the meaning was because all his focus has been on just getting through the sentance. I know the ol' national curriculum tells me that by now he should be counting in 2's and 5's and, and, and... But the truth is he just doesn't 'get' numbers, it's like a foreign language to him. Sometimes I realise I've spent half an hour doing nothing but upsetting both of us by trying to push the issue. I find it really difficult to stay cool and remind myself that the whole reason for deciding to home educate was so that he could go at his own pace. I'm still fairly new to this (almost 9 months - eee!)and have to constantly remind myself to focus on what we are doing right rather than worrying about somebody else's perception of 'normal'. Your blog has been a huge inspiration over this last 9 months and I really appreciate your honestly ^_^

z barras said...

Well, please don't impale my eyeballs on your fingernails, I'm having a crappy day too and would just like to add my son, who is 8 in a mere 5 weeks cannot read fluently yet. He knows some words but forgets lots of them every day/other day so I'm not sure when we can say he can actually read.I do the force-them-to-read when I get concerned to and it always end in tears, usually mine. And I am so fed up with everyone else's opinions on it! Nothing to do with the reading but a similar thing happened today: Son, who is 7 wanted to take out The Littlest Pet Shop mini house thingy, but its bright pink, and my grandparents are v old fashioned and not 100% for HE. A huge part of me didn't want him to be embarrassed, but realised it was ME being judgemental! So what if he wants to play with Littlest Pet Shop, and who, who, who?? decided only girls can have pets exactly?? If he wants to stand in awe of a glittery bat in toys r us, on the girls aisle, with parents/boys sniggering, then sod it. Why, on, earth, not!! Sorry for my ramble, should I delete? Not sure, feel a bit better for sharing that. Just wanted you to now that your not alone. I too am feeling the crapness of knowing the buck stops here for lots of things including the dreaded "not reading yet". Feel free to delete Big Mamma Frog

Pip said...

ok..... Breath in ... breath out.....
and R E L A X!!!

I am not home edding... yet. this is likely to start in just over 18 months when my eldest leaves his lovely small village school and should start secondary. But he has not really read anything till this year. he is nearly 10. His teacher told me he "Will not read to her" so she had no idea where his reading levels are. I believe that. He has AS and he will not do anything unless he wants to. This has really opened my eyes to a new form of parenting and i Love him so much for that!
I now hear him read things that he wants to know about. i stopped making him read the silly "chip and floppy" books that his school used to send home and realised he wanted books that taught him something or Beanos.
I went to a wonderful lecture by the guy who invented story sacks and he was soooo inspiring! He said "reading is reading is reading!"
Let her pick a magazine she likes the look of... cartoons, ponies, tractors, buses! what ever floats her boat! Notice the small things she reads. Recognising the Asda sign when you go shopping or reading the cereal box in the morning. Make reading LOOK exciting!! be seen to really be enjoying a good book, magazine or newspaper. be expressive, share books together.
He really opened my eyes. and don't feel bad about making her read tonight. we have all done it, and at times i still do ask my youngest to read a page and i read a page. making bargains with him to coax him in to it. so i will join you in the bad mummy spot :-(
Huge hugs and i hope something i have said has been of some help :-(
Chin up!

pixieminx said...

Yep, I have a 7 year old the same (OK, no bashing, I know I've a whole other year to go to catch up ;) ) She's managed to retain the majority of letters sounds (been doing Jolly Phonics since she was four and I swear the next time she 'forgets' the letter 't' - which is the first set....I'll....I'll agh!) and she can sound out a few basic words (she managed to almost spell out the 'c word' when she saw if graffit'd at the play park the other day lol!). She mostly remembers which numbers are which but mostly still counts across the keyboard or fingers to get the right number. It's hard, really hard. I have a now 11 year old who did 1.5 years at school and was reading at 5 so I am directly comparing the 2 of them and boy it's hard. My 7 year old does Reading Eggs - she enjoys it (after much finger wagging and arm-twisting from me), it's slow getting there but I think she is making progress. Me rambling on... my point is all that previous crap aside, she is a happy little soul most of the time, she loves to be read to, by me, dad, or her big sister. She knows life would be so much easier and probably more fun if she could just read those game instructions on the Wii & DS, it's still a very slow progress, obviously not much incentive to 'get on and read properly'.

I don't think she's gonna be an 18 year old who can't read though. It's just gonna take some time.

Try not to get too down about it, It's such a downer when others around make it harder - the only reason kids at school read so young is to make the teachers life easier!

If you have any tips for potty training a 3.5 year old..... I don't think he's gonna be in nappies at 18 though.

Please feel free to ignore me ;)

Mummy chef said...

There is a lot of stress coming from that post! Books (should) = fun. No coercion, no MUST read, no struggling. The only time I would say go ahead with teaching to read is if the child has asked for it. I have one who did ask and loves to read whatever she gets her hands on (please don't hurt me, there is a point to this) and one who is just starting out and I have no doubt will do it HIS way in HIS time under HIS TERMS. See I have learnt not to be smug about #1 because #2 is teaching me very well.
The most important thing IMHO is to read to them as much as you can and have books available all the time. In whatever play space they have and whenever they want, in the back of the car so they can just look at them on journeys, in your bag so when you are sat waiting and have nothing to do they are there, in or near the bed so they can have pressure free time to just 'be' with books, in every room. Something else that can work wonders is leaving notes for each other around the house. If you are feeling extra sneaky and it would suit them you could make the note a question so they can write an answer. We had a notebook for this very purpose.
Don't beat yourself up, don't stress over it and just trust that you know your children best so if you decide to go with a method and it's not working you will know and you can change it.

Anne B said...

The buck doesn't stop with you, BMF. Knowing you over on Structure and from this blog and postings on EO it couldn't be clearer that you put your heart and soul into facilitating your children's education.

What you are describing is foul, and if I have in any way added to it, then, please, believe me, it wasn't deliberate. In fact, you are one of the people at whom I have been known to gnash my teeth because you have an ability to step back and give things time to grow organically and a faith in the future that I don't have the luxury of having so seeing this was a shock for me because it hadn't occurred to me that you would be feeling the way I so often do.

My children have a form of autism that means that if they are to learn, it has to be in tiny, structured steps because the way their brains are wired does not allow them to learn any other way. If they are to feel safe enough not to make their own lives and everyone around them's lives a living hell they have to have the security of a routine. And yes, they read early, and read a lot, but that's because they have compulsive personalities, and forget it costing me a fortune in therapy later, it's costing me a fortune in resources NOW!!! And I get it in the neck from people too, because they don't understand that it's how and who they are and think that if I just 'made' them socialise they'd miraculously become normal.

Personally, I avoid libraries during school holidays after 10 am because they are infested with children who have a strong herd instinct and a need to be top of every pecking order. So, sadly, are parks and for any child who is different in any way, these are not good times to be out and about, so I thank Heaven on a daily basis that my 2 aren't IN that system.

But... some kids walk early. Some kids talk early. Some kids, like yours, are far better with people than that little charmer you describe or either or mine will ever be. That means that some do all those things late. One in five, to be precise, do those things late and I would suspect that a fair few of those end up in the HE community because their parents are not prepared to see their kids labelled and made to feel inferior so the last thing you are is alone.

Mine have never done anything on schedule in their lives. They are either hopelessly early or hopelessly late and it HURTS when they can't do something that everyone else takes for granted. It hurts a lot, especially when you know that the chances are that they will never, ever do it, so reading this post struck a massive chord with me even though our underlying problems are different.

I can't tell you if it's going to be all right, any more than you can tell me the same thing in reverse. What I can tell you is that your kids are VERY lucky because they have you as a mum. You haven't given up on them the way the school system seems to. You are trying everything you can think of and tearing yourself apart because it doesn't work.

My Dad used to teach remedial English and had a high, but very unorthodox success rate with what he called 'late' readers (as in late teens early twenties, because he taught in the Army). If you want to chat about that side, then I'd love to (especially if I can pick your brains in return about craft and a couple of other issues where you leave me standing.)

Anonymous said...

I SO felt for you when I read this. My child did not read at 8 either, or 9 or 10. I could go on.
She only ever first read a book by the time she was 13. Talk about relief! Reading is not for her. But has it stopped her? No. She still struggles with reading, being dyslexic, but is in her final year at FE college and is confident and applying to Uni right now!
And I went through the same anguish, up and down like a toilet flush!! And it's likely that you will, but never mind - know that it's NOT a reflection of HE or your teaching - you just need to KEEP FAITH.
Every child has a different approach to reading, a different time scale. And they begin to learn different strategies to cope with whatever skills they have - or not! If your child was in school, not only would they still not be able to read, they would also be made to feel terrible about it. The best thing you can do is to continue to boost their self confidence; confidence will help them achieve even by other means, and help them see that reading is not the only skill a person needs and there are lots of readers in the world who are downright thick and not achieving! Reading ability is NOT a sign of intelligence. (Look at the book Proust And The Squid - it's on my blog - and it will help you see how it's a miracle that anyone reads at all!)
The post about dyslexia on my blog initiated hundreds of stories about kids and adults being made to feel wretched in school because they couldn't read - click the dyslexia tag and you'll find them. They're inspiring.
Dyslexia or not, labels doesn't matter. Encouragement and non-judgement does. Just know that your child will succeed I'm sure because they have you as a parent to encourage and boost them up whatever challenges they face. So here's me boosting you up in return and reminding you you're doing the greatest job! - sorry if it's a bit long.Hope it helps!

Big mamma frog said...

Ok, I am a little more sane this morning. I am taking deep breaths and things will be fine. They WILL be fine.

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment here.

MadameSmokinGun said...

Joining in late (as per) - my 10 year old still ain't interested. Due to family life getting more busy the older they all get (instead of easier) I know don't even read to him at night like I used to - I just don't seem to find the time. Neither do I read to him at all at any other time so I'm totally with you on the beating yourself up front but then I think about John Holt and whilst in danger of being a pick-and-choose-what-you-like-from-the Bible type of god-basher - I'm sure the thing I remember most from J Holt's books is the theory that kids would learn to read so much better if noone kept on teaching them.... Well.... we shall see won't we - cos I haven't sat down with my uninterested bod for weeks - at least I'm not worried about him going backwards - cos I've got no idea!!! Just wish my mother would stop asking!!!!!!