Month 3 of Learning at Home – Maths vs. Language Arts/Literacy and reading ability anxiety or lack of it

FOREWORD: If you’re new to homeschoolingmiddleeast, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!

Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster  – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! Now for today’s post…

One reason why I say “Time for Life of Fred, Edward” at least 5 days a week whilst being much more relaxed about everything else Edward learns is because the Maths resources I have are pretty fun – ‘Life of Fred’ and Dorling Kindersley’s Carol Vorderman’s ‘Maths Made Easy’ workbooks (I’m waiting for the next age group of these though). Don’t get me wrong, Edward would much rather be playing but he’ll do it, especially if I sit with him. However, all language arts/literacy workbooks or schemes leave me cold – and I am personally much better at language arts than Maths so this does surprise me. I thought I would be able to tolerant dull looking language arts resources much better than dull looking Maths resources, considering I’m so passionate about reading and writing. I used to love doing book reports and dissecting books to the nth degree but, funny as this is to say as a parent who home educates, this was much more fun in a classroom of interesting kids and a good teacher. The thought of asking my son to do a book report, for the two of us, seems absolutely joyless. And he is not an extremely voracious, although perfectly capable reader, so I definitely don’t want to put him off reading. But every grammar, spelling or comprehension book I’ve picked up just looks deathly in comparison to the Maths resources. I find this fascinating. So, despite my passion for reading and writing, I am not going to press my son to do either and although his spelling gives me a heartattack on the rare occasions he writes anything, I am going to leave this be and hope the unschooling approach works – that in due course he’ll find his own reasons to read and write and hopefully become good at it, even if this takes a couple of years. I’ll just have to sweat it.

I was hugely reassured, I can’t tell you how much, by a comment on a previous post by a reader who said that if my son was a very good oral communicator then there’s no way he won’t eventually become a good writer because he’ll eventually want to communicate this way too. I am clinging on to this. I can cope just fine with him not being a voracious reader if he’s a prolific or at least a talented writer (although I have a feeling he might read more and more, given the amount of reading he’s choosing to do now compared to when he left school a couple of months ago – zero).

And anyway, it is hard to write without reading – I would be a poor blogger if I didn’t read other people’s ideas. All good communicators are engaged in a two-way process. And everyone has way more access to other people’s ideas, from all over the world, by reading them, at one’s leisure, in the middle of their night, than speaking to them! So, I’ll sit on my hands and wait and see and just continue to read and read to him and model writing for chunks of the day, as I do. And ‘strew’ lots of interesting books around and keep watching for what he does read and try and buy more of that. He will often read several ‘picture’ books a day, like a ‘Henry and Mudge’ story and a ‘Time Traveller’ Biff and Chip story and a ‘Clarice Bean’ picture book; quite a nice variety of books – all with reasonable amounts of text but although he’s read a couple of chapter books including C.S. Lewis’s ‘Prince Caspian’, so I know he can, it may be a few more months before I can find more that help him overcome some kind of reading  inertia to do so again without the stimulus of pictures – and he is a very visual learner so I do understand this.

And then an hour later, after I’d written this, we have a reading breakthrough. We had gone to an excellent, but bank-account-threatening, local bookshop (for anyone else in the Gulf wishing to risk bankruptcy, it’s called Words Café and Bookshop on Budaiya Highway, I can’t highly recommend it enough and that includes the beetroot chocolate cupcakes!!) for a read-aloud. I had warned Edward that this would mainly be for Petra’s benefit but that we do sometimes have to do things for other members of the family, even if we don’t particularly enjoy them. I suggested that whilst Petra was having 3 year old books read to her that we could sit and look at and chat about the books there in the meantime.

It turns out, they’ve cancelled ‘read aloud’ on Mondays and so we decided to browse instead. Whilst doing so, I saw the owners working away in their office, adjacent to the superbly well stocked children’s department and said ‘Good morning’. They jumped up to say ‘hello’ and we got chatting. Rana so kindly stopped what she was in the midst of and read, seriously countless numbers of books to both children. Just as her voice was going hoarse, Edward decided to take over reading the book of his choice, a Lego Ninjago book (oh, the choice of books we parents have to suffer to encourage reading enthusiasm!). He read, despite being squashed up on the floor, beautifully; despite at one point a bunch of customers walking into the middle of the story. She claimed to be very impressed with this level of reading and I sighed with relief to hear him read so well. I really shouldn’t care but until I manage to deschool myself, I can’t help worrying! Although at least I’ve managed to not have any such expectations for Petra, since she’s never been to school and so I’ve never had to suffer other parents comparisons or teacher comments and if she doesn’t properly read until 9 years old or whatever, I’m relaxed as long as her love of books continues. And anyway, since she can read ‘regular’ words already, I shouldn’t think it will be much longer before she starts on irregular ones but I’m totally relaxed about when.

I’ve been meeting a few other homeschoolers in the last couple of weeks! We are finding each other! They are mainly American, many associated with the US military base here in Bahrain, which would suggest we might have some very different values, but not all. It’s lovely. They are so warm and welcoming and what’s so interesting is hearing why they choose to homeschool. I will post about this separately but suffice it to say that they all love being around their kids which I think it such a wonderful, wonderful thing. They are all genuinely besotted mothers trying to do the absolute best for their kids – themselves.

AFTERWORD: If you would like to make life easier (who doesn’t?!) scroll down the right hand side of the page and click the ‘Follow’ button. Posts will be delivered to your email inbox until such time you may not want them anymore.

Don’t feel shy! Please always feel free to email me ( or ideally post comments* on any of the days you read, however old they are. Commenting helps others who may well like to have more ideas or suggestions about the topic concerned or you can ask me a question that you think others might also like answers to.

If you’re too busy to comment that day, but enjoyed what you read, please do press the ‘Like’ button at the end of the post. Again, you have to have clicked on the title of the post to get the ‘Like’ button option at the end of the post. Commenting, ‘Liking’ and Following is much appreciated as it encourages more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! Any comments about Maths teaching is still especially appreciated and suggestions about resources warmly welcome, as per the plea in my post: Take care. Have a great day and thank you for visiting.

*How to make a comment – If you are reading posts on the homepage, you will see at the bottom of the post, in tiny grey writing either e.g. ‘7 comments’ or ‘Leave a comment’. Click on this to add yours. If you’ve clicked on the title of the post, you can see any comments that have been left already, and space for your own, right at the bottom of the page. Your views are valuable and it’s always good to have debate.


About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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5 Responses to Month 3 of Learning at Home – Maths vs. Language Arts/Literacy and reading ability anxiety or lack of it

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Penny,
    Has E found any graphic novels he likes? Might encourage him to read even more!
    Jade 🙂

  2. Hi Jade, Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for the suggestion. He’s read a few ‘Star Wars’ ones but he hasn’t particularly asked for more. I think it will just take time… :_)

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Penny! Thanks … Happy Mother’s Day to you as well … not Sunday here yet 🙂 Maybe E might like Bone or Amulet better. They are more grown up and have a lot more text (which should make mum’s happy!). The Star Wars ones are more just like picture books with words … but hey, whatever gets them reading. I’ve also come across some classics: Tom Sawyer etc. in graphic novel form. Eyewitness books are great too if he likes non-fiction.

  3. Thanks for honestly posting your thoughts about your son’s reading. My daughter loves to read but balks at the book selections and the reports our cyber school requires. I wish I could allow her to avoid this task, but she has to do it. My son reads if it’s highly interesting. I encourage him to read in small doses–5 or 10 minutes a day–so that he isn’t turned off it completely. Anyway, thanks for encouraging me to keep plugging away and to look for ways to engage my kids with interesting books! Happy reading!!

    • Hiya, I don’t know about encouraging you to keep plugging away! From everything I’ve read, we parents should go easy on our kids and reading and not push them but just try to find the most interesting books possible. But if they aren’t keen to read them, tend to leave it. And as everyone says, the key to kids reading is…to read TO them, to read TO them, to read TO them – not to make THEM read! It is frustrating when I buy books for him and then he wants me to read them to him. Most books I’ll do this, some I say I’ll leave for him to read himself when he’s ready. Good, good luck!

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