on reading & writing


you know, dasher & dancer...

Mahal is really into designing cryptic word puzzles right now.  He loves taking themes & choosing words, then creating pages & pages of crosswords, word searches, word scrambles & picture clues.  For Christmas he designed a lovely book for our family & friends.  This is something he's taken on of his own initiative.  Two years ago he asked me to order the Highlight's Magazine series, "Top Secret Adventure," a monthly geography kit that came with real puzzles, a small country guidebook & a workbook.  He fell in love & asked for the "State-to-State" series, too.  There are country & state maps & workbooks all over our house & car.  Lake has a kit of his own &  loves drawing on his Texas map.  In an ironic Waldorf phase I tried to hide these workbooks because I thought the drawings were unattractive & therefore "un-nourishing," & also wanted to keep their minds as young & dreamy as possible.  Luckily Mahal was more committed than I was.

I'm not sure if he can read or not.  He seems to be able to - at the co-op yesterday he said, "Mom, please park your carts here, thank you!"  Just like the sign.  But he's guessing a lot, too.  I can tell because he'll read, "bread bread," on the "banana bread."  In the Waldorf schools they don't teach kids to read until they're 7.  I know many unschoolers let children begin when they're ready, sometimes at the age of ten, even. 


Sometimes I'm anxious to get him reading chapter books as soon as possible, because some 7 year-olds do.  I've always taken pride in getting my first novel, Anne of Green Gables at the age of 6.  I've now read it, & all the other L.M. Montgomery books many times over.  Looking back I realize that I was given the book, but it was my mom reading it, not me.  I was so hooked on the story that it didn't matter if I read it or not.  I truly "got" my first novel at the age of six.  

Recently I was reading out loud to the boys & my brother said, "You read just like mom."  I never thought of that before.  Of course! And...weird! I sound like Mom!  It never occurred to me that in my head, apparently, everything I read sounds like my mother's voice.

When I try to have Mahal work with me on reading out loud, he adamantly refuses to participate.  And we usually get into it a bit.  As a grown-up unschooler I know that really quality learning happens when we do things we love.  I know that any subject can be presented in an exciting & engaging way.  Yet I was in public schools long enough (until 13) that I still find myself trying to force him to learn uninteresting things in uninteresting ways.  More than that I know how easy it is to make a child hate a subject they love.

So I'm really going to follow his lead on this one.  An hour doesn't pass that he doesn't ask me how to spell something because he's making a store sign or putting "Keep Out, there's a crocodile in the freezer" on our refrigerator door.  So I've supplied him with masking tape & he's proceeded to label the house.   He works on his workbooks day & night, literally.  So we just keep them coming.  He spends 2 hours a day conducting Music Together classes for his brother, following along in the music book.  There aren't many pictures in there, & he keeps telling me who wrote the songs & which ones are traditional, so he's deciphering something.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's also teaching himself to read music.  So again, we keep the instruments & music books available & allow him to go all day long.    He loves his magazines - Click, Spider, Big Backyard, & Ask.  On weekends we bike together to the newsstand & everyone gets a magazine.  Then we all read in front of the fire.


rockin' out with homemade mikes

He does adore bookmaking, & will include text with his drawings. So we'll be implementing a lot more of that.  And he'll read one book out loud - Little Bear.  So I've got to go dig that out, too.

But the stories he prefers to hear me read.  And so I will.  In the Waldorf schools they read in a sing-songy but slightly monotonous voice without dramatizing anything.  They believe this lets the child put their own images into the story & also lets their own integrity relate with every character.  They suggest reading the same story over & over for weeks, creating a richly layered world of voice & imagery for the child. They build on this with wax sculpting, puppet shows & costumes of each story.  

I love it all.  It's reading!  And snuggle time with a big boy in his own room who just keeps getting bigger & bigger.