Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Letting Go

As homeschoolers, especially first time homeschoolers, it's easy to fall into the trap of following what school would do. PLEASE STOP. The beauty of homeschooling is that you don't have to follow what school does. You determine curriculum. YOU determine what your child will learn that year. What school is doing is irrelevant. I know, easier said than done.

I started homeschooling over 5 years ago because I felt that schools are developmentally inappropriate. I've felt that for my entire 20 years as an Early childhood special ed teacher. I quit public school teaching over 15 years ago because of this. So I am definitely NOT going to force my young children to do what they would have to do in school.

Knowing a little about child development helps. For instance, some children do not have the eye muscles fully developed in order to track. Tracking is a necessary component to reading. So how can you expect your 5, 6 or 7 year old to read if his/her muscles aren't ready for that movement? It is also developmentally appropriate for a child to NOT pick a hand dominance until age 5. Sure many do it before this, but it's within normal developmental ranges to go as late as 5. So if a child has just established hand dominance, how do you expect them to write?

I know that public school kindergartens have children reading, writing and doing basic computation. And I know it's hard to watch your child's peers do this stuff and your child is not. But understand forcing children to do this is actually developmentally inappropriate. It is also inappropriate to have young children sitting at a table or desk for extended periods of time. Children's bodies are built to move. They learn best through doing, exploring, and actively participating. Not memorizing, tracing, or repeating over and over. That's rote memorization, NOT learning.

I know it's hard to trust, but when your child is ready they will learn to read and write. I had one daughter who taught herself how to read at 4. My other daughter didn't read until 8. I never taught either of them to read. They were offered a literature rich environment, read to a lot, had access to books, and were allowed to develop their interest in their time. My then 8 year old decided she didn't want us reading subtitles to her anymore (Star Wars). So within 2 weeks she went from reading beginner books with CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words (cat, bot, gum) to reading chapter books like Junie. B Jones and Magic Treehouse. 2 WEEKS. Because she was ready and she was interested. Sure I could've pushed her to do it sooner, but WHY? Unless they are in school, there is no real reason an 8 year old NEEDS to read.

Now I may be an extreme exception, but as far as my kids teaching themselves how to read, that is not. Trust that when your child is ready, he/she will learn. Don't push them to do things that their bodies are not ready for. Let them be children. Take them out into the world, give them experiences, teach them through play and exploration. Their understanding, language and knowledge will be so much richer and deeper if you do this. If you don't believe me, look at some of the top producing countries in the world like Finland. They don't start school until age 7. There are also plenty of studies that show forcing reading on young children can actually be detrimental in the long run.

So LET GO. Let go of expectations. Let go of societal pressures. Wait until YOUR child is ready. I promise you, it will lead to happier and a more fulfilled life. And they will be fine.