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.
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