by Marian, Guest Author
A child only pours herself into a little funnel or into a little box when she's afraid of the world when she's been defeated. But when a child is doing something she's passionately interested in, she grows like a tree in all directions. This is how children learn, how children grow. They send down a taproot like a tree in dry soil. The tree may be stunted, but it sends out these roots, and suddenly one of these little taproots goes down and strikes a source of water. And the whole tree grows. ~ John Holt
My son is what I call a 'square-peg child'. He has a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder that makes him uniquely sensitive to outside stimulus such as noise, light and quick transitions. You can imagine that school was a nightmare.
I came to homeschooling through my experience with my son. I realized that he was an unusual child quite early on and started reading about homeschooling then, but always thought it was a pie-in-the-sky notion of mine. When I realized just how damaging school was to my son's fragile ego, it happily had to become a reality.
One of the most troubling things to come out of the school experience was the fact that my son, the son of two avid readers, hated books. He hated not only books but anything to do with reading.
Well, no wonder. The readers that were sent home from school were published in England. They were incredibly dull books with no meat to them. And then, there was the whole concept of 'levelled readers'. While the teacher never made mention of levels, the children, of course, knew exactly what they meant and knew who was reading at which level and were not shy about comparing their successes with their peers.
What was more disturbing was that the second a child succeeded in reading a level with only a few mistakes, they were given a harder book. There was never any ease or comfort in reading. It was always a hard, boring chore. Children were not allowed to linger in a level to acheive fluency, to enjoy the reading, they were always being forced to struggle through to the next stage to try to keep up with provincial requirements. My son was giving a D in reading on his first grade one report card. Imagine giving a small child a D.......how is anyone supposed to pick themselves up from a blow like that?
Once we started homeschooling, I quickly realized that unschooling was where we needed to be. I completely back away from the whole concept of teaching my son to read. I stopped asking him to read to me. I continued to surround both of my children with good books and created a comfy space for reading. I read to them frequently. Occassionaly, I'd find my son poring over book and muttering to himself. He mentioned casually, that he could read some of the Dr. Seuss easy readers, but had no desire to read them to me. Suddenly, he started reading signs and posters on the streets.
Then one morning he read a two page comic to me. He proudly announced that he had learned to read in secret.
Self-directed, reading for enjoyment.....all that reading of John Holt suddenly rang so true for me.
Marian is an ex-teacher, software trainer to "special needs" children and a home-schooling mom to two fabulous children.