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Archive for February, 2009

Hitting our stride

We are technically very behind with Nora’s reading lessons. I’m not sure how much, because I stopped keeping track of it, but I know that we were supposed to be nearly done with the 100 lessons now that we are approaching her 4th birthday. We are currently on lesson 30. Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased with our progress.

I was as ambitious as anyone when we started the lessons; I thought we would do two a day, follow the rules to the letter (no pun intended), and have her reading in no time. I gradually learned that while that might have been possible, it would only have been at too high a cost of family relationships, play time, and general happiness. After all, she’s just a kid, and doing a lesson half an hour past bedtime while out of town is not doing anyone any favors. So, we did fractions of a lesson at a time, did lessons at random times of the day, often just before bedtime, skipped lessons completely many times, and habitually left out some tasks of lessons that we didn’t feel were so useful.

This could have backfired. None of the above solutions were recommended; in fact, most were explicitly discouraged.

But it worked splendidly.

Tailoring the lessons to the child is one of the benefits of homeschooling, and we’ve had our first taste of it. By skipping past some bits and repeating other troublesome ones, Nora has become more comfortable with her lessons. For the past couple of weeks, we have done whole lessons in a sitting, and she has started looking forward to the stories. She can “sight read” (as opposed to sounding out) some words such as cat, is, a, and in. She has also learned the virtue of persistence, even when something is difficult. I no longer feel stressed about convincing her to start or continue a lesson, because I know that she is excited about learning to read, and has enough confidence to learn a new sound or word.

As a side note, something that was not mentioned at the start of the book, but would have been helpful to know: The most difficult lessons have been those introducing new sounds that Nora can’t pronounce. Like most 3-year-olds, she speaks with a few of those endearing speech impediments, like w for l and d for th. (When she says love, it sounds like wuv, and when she says that, it sounds like dat. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that that might be a problem when teaching a phonics system. This problem first presented itself with the letter r. She couldn’t seem to say rrr but would say urr. Admittedly, this is difficult even for an adult. Sometimes we have let the discrepancies slide, other times we have coached her on pronunciation. Sometimes it’s a problem, sometimes it’s not. I don’t know what would be the recommended way to overcome these bumps, but in the end, I think I would prefer the way we’ve done it: repeat and coach when you can, and let it go when it’s only building frustration. Waiting for her to grow out of the speech problems would have been more of an excuse than a solution. How long would that take? How does it improve if not with help?

Anyway, besides the lengthy side note, the bottom line is that I’m so excited! My almost 4-year-old can almost read!

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