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Archive for December, 2008

Good old-fashioned parenting wins again!

Although we are technically several days behind schedule in the reading lessons, I think we are doing swimmingly. Since the last post, wherein Nora was resisting her lessons, getting discouraged, and discouraging us, her lesson tonight was decidedly wonderful. For the last few days, we did just a couple of tasks a day, but tonight we did all eight tasks in the lesson!

Parenting skills involved:

  1. Do not be a pushover. We refused to stop the lessons completely. This is also known as giving up.
  2. Negotiate. This encourages the child by giving a sense of control. The deal was that we would make the lessons shorter if she would sit still for them.
  3. Re-evaluate expectations. How long do you think a 3-year-old will sit still when the lesson fails to be fun and there’s no reward? We are already pushing things with trying to teach her to read at such an early age.
  4. Follow through. The single-most important thing a parent can do. Keep your word. We really made the lessons shorter. We really didn’t let her skip.
  5. Reward. After a good lesson, however brief, she was rewarded with either praise or chocolate, and specific reasons such as, “because you kept going even when it was tough.”
  6. Emotional awareness. We sometimes let her change the timing of the lesson or give her ten minutes notice when it’s about to happen.
  7. Encouragement. Have an underlying attitude that of course she can do it, it’s ok to make mistakes, and it will take lots of practice. Iterate these often.

I’m sure this is just a partial list, but these are the things that come to mind. Again, I think the most important is #4, that you do what you say you will. I’m thinking about writing a book about it. Almost everything can be tied back to that one imperative. For one thing, it teaches your child that you are honest and you can be trusted. I’d better stop there and start a whole other post.

[J here: I think a big part of it is she can tell that I simply expect her to both do it and do it well. That’s just a basic assumption on my part and it comes across in my tone and attitude during the lesson. She understands that, no, I won’t let her skip out on the lesson and yes, I do expect her to get it right (but it’s OK if it takes a try or two to get there).

And she’s learned 6 words in Latin, too: Pater, Mater, Frater, Soror, Avus, and Avia. =) ]

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Reading Lesson Analyzed

After calming down and thinking about how things went with the bad lesson, I don’t actually think it was a mistake to try it at all.

There must be some merit in consistently doing a lesson every day, even if the time is different, because it gets easier and easier to excuse oneself, and then things are forgotten, etc. I think the mistake was in trying to do too much. We knew she was tired, uninterested, and going to resist. The plan was to just quickly review a few sounds, for about 5 minutes, to help retention.

Unfortunately, the saying “stop while you’re ahead” is easier said than done. Sure you’re ahead, but could you be more ahead? Like the stock market, it’s hard to sell when you’re up, because optimism makes us continually hope it will go up more.

After 2 tasks (out of 8 for the lesson), I said “ix nay!” but J said, “She’s doing fine, let’s do a little more.” Within a minute, she was squirming and got in trouble for it. (We decided she had to learn not to interrupt the lesson.) So then she was crying, of course, but since J didn’t want to teach her that misbehavior earns a free pass from reading, he explained that she had to finish the lesson, meaning the task. Anyway, it was just a power struggle from there on, and when released, Nora was all tears just from the relief of it.

I thought things went well right at first, and that it was the stress of being in trouble, not anything about reading, that made her upset. So, as the mom, I consoled her, told her she was doing a good job with the reading part, explained why Daddy got mad, listened to her side, and all that. She said she didn’t want to learn to read. (eek!) But who would, if that’s how it went every time? So I made a deal with her; I’ll make the lessons shorter if she will sit still the whole time. She quickly agreed and cheered up.

I really think this will work. My plan is to do the lessons in 2 or 3 shorter pieces throughout the day, or maybe even together, with breaks and run-around time in between. The lessons are already divided into several tasks, so this should not be a problem. The book does warn against breaks and interruptions, but I think my only alternative is to give it up altogether and wait 6 months for her to mature. If this plan doesn’t work, I don’t think it precludes the give up and wait plan, so that’s still there as backup.

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Teaching Nora to Read

[G. will eventually type something here that will be waaaay better than this dross . . . . ;-) – J]

I don’t know about waaaay better…I never would have used a big word like dross. Anyway;

Teaching Nora to read hasn’t been quite as ideal as one might have hoped. As I had hoped, in fact. We got the book highly recommended by our friend (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), and read all the instructions at the beginning. It said it was appropriate for bright 3 ½ year olds through 5 years old or so. Well, she’s a bright 3 ½ year old, so let’s go.

The first four lessons were great; we even did a little more than one lesson a day, so the first four were done in 3 days. But each time it seemed she was having a little less fun and providing a little more resistance. For lesson 5 we were packing, traveling, visiting with family, and her sleep schedule was off. It took four days to get lesson 5 done to my satisfaction.

Besides the compounding factors above, I think the real problem was that lesson 5 introduced a new letter that she got confused with an old one. This was the first challenge she had come across, and did not have the patience to be corrected. Also, the lessons are supposed to take about 15 minutes. I knew this would be the maximum attention span I could get out of a 3-year-old. But then, with corrections, repetitions, and the writing section that triggers even more squirming, the lessons were taking 20, 25 minutes, or more.

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(A note from J here: I finally got a chance to sit down and do one of these lessons with her and, while she did fight it, we were able to finish it up. I think that part of the issue here is simply her resisting something she is being required to do. As we continue and make it clear to her that this is simply something that will happen regardless of her desire to go play, I think she’ll figure it out and accept it as just part of her day. Just a matter of being gentle but firm, I think. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled blog post from G . . . .)

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(Another note from J: Well, G’s been busy and hasn’t been able to get back to this post so I am going to make an attempt at finishing it up . . . . Tonight was rough. We forgot to do her reading lesson until late in the evening and boy was she in the wrong mood for learning (tired and cranky!). We almost skipped it but started anyway. The idea was to keep her used to doing daily lessons. This was a mistake. We should have just skipped today and she never would have noticed. Unfortunately, I was in a bad mood too and should not have tried to give her the lesson . . . . Put together, she was in no mood to do the lesson and I was in no mood to let her slide with half-assed efforts. We butted heads. I overreacted. She overreacted (as all 3.5 year olds will).

I hope I haven’t hurt our efforts to get her to read too much. =(

Maybe we can make it fun again and she won’t decide she hates her reading lessons. Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe we’ll let it lie fallow for a day or two. We’ll see.)

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