November 15th, 2o05

OK, now it’s confession time. But, first things first…I am a promoter of unschooling. I want my child to learn naturally and be guided by his interests and passions. I want him to have unlimited time to play, imagine, make, do, create and dream. There is no set curriculum nor any whiff of a program hidden in these house walls. I am confident that my beautiful boy will learn all that he needs to learn for a fulfilling and self-motivating life. I know it’s the best way for us and I know I won’t have many regrets.

But….I am soooooo relieved to say that Lewi is really and truly READING!! I am so excited by this. Although he has been ‘reading’ for sometime now it hasn’t really been at a level where I could confidently feel he was definitely heading towards a ‘functioning in society’level. He is only five!I can say now, that he is. Now he wants to fully read for himself and attacks anything and everything with the printed word on it to decode and make meaning from. He has a wealth of basic words in his little head and can get through the words he’s unsure of with many reading tools (meaning making, phonics, looking at the picture, reading on and coming back to it etc). And I’m so excited by this!

It came to a reality the other day when he was pouring over a book catalogue and ticking books that he’d like to add to his little (well, quite big) wish list for Christmas. Instead of asking me what a title said (as he often would do) he came over to me and said: This says; The Very Lazy Lion. And this says: The Very Silly Shark. And this says: My Best Dad.” A huge grin smothered his face – proud as punch. Then he wanted to show me all the adult titles he could decipher. Lots and lots of them.I jumped for joy with woops of excited screaming and yelled: “you can really read now”. I ran for the phone to call someone, anyone, to tell them. After years of me telling people Lewi could read (pre-emergent stuff and developing), finally, now he REALLY could!

So, you might ask where’s the problem with all this? Why am I so relieved? What’s the big deal about being honest about my child’s reading ability? Where’s the confession time?

For a long time now I have been preaching the unschooled way. I’ve regurgitated all the theories on natural learning, and for the most part, have adopted this environment for learning in our home. Whenever anyone questions it, I am always quick to jump on the bandwagon. Whenever any converts have doubts I am quick to say ‘you’re on the right track. It’ll be OK. They will learn to read, write, do maths (bla bla) when they’re ready.’ However…The simple fact is that I have secretly doubted the natural learning approach when it came to reading. I worried that it wouldn’t happen. And, if it didn’t happen then what would I do? And at what age would I do it?For goodness sakes, the little man is only five years of age. This mantra has been in my head for quite awhile – even still, the teacher in me could not be pacified.The pressures though are upon us and I think it’s only natural to doubt and feel the heat when we choose to be in a minority. Homeschooling is a big enough choice to make. Then the pressures build from feeling like we constantly have to justify our decisions by having children who are so far above the ‘schooled’ lot. As if that’s going to show them all! As if that’s good for our children!

So, now that he really is going to be literate after all, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief and be sure that natural learning does encompass literacy afterall! Why could I not fully have faith in the first place? Why be such a hypocrite? Why join the masses and doubt the unschooling choice? It doesn’t end there though, this confession of truth. Although I mentioned, in the beginning of this entry that we don’t do curriculum and programs I have, for fun, been going through a basic word list with Lewi. It is sort of a program. Cringe. Whispers of ‘liar’ surround me now (I’m sure!) But…we’ve only been doing it because it was a fun thing to do (although initially I offered it as relief for my over-worrying about illiteracy). It’s really just a list of the basic sight words and all we do is go through a few at a time (usually 3 or 4) and then make funny sentences with them (from all the ones we’ve looked at so far). Unfortunately one of the first words Lewi learnt to spell was ‘poo’ so every sentence must have ‘poo’ in it. Hence, it’s reading fun we just do together, without others! Lewi has definitely not learned to read by doing these words. Sure, he’s learnt some extra words that are tricky ones to work out otherwise but I believe the main reason he’s reading is that since being in the womb, he’s been read to everyday. He’s had good models of readers surrounding him. He’s had ample access to good literature from a number of sources – home, bookstores, the library, the newsagents, other peoples’ homes, catalogues, environmental print and the list goes on. He’s always been immersed in books. He’s seen the fun of reading and the purpose of the printed word and he loves it and wants it for himself.

Phew, thank goodness! Now I can get on with it all, with much less doubt, very little worry and armed with some ‘proof’s in the pudding’ type experiences to back up my regurgitated theories. Yah for natural learning! (said as I wipe my brow and exhale).