Saturday, February 19, 2011

Waiting on Your Late Bloomer

So many of you had questions and similar stories when you read about Felix this week. So, more thoughts on letting children take their time with the important tasks of reading and writing.

• Every six months or so, I would pull out the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to see if Felix was ready for phonics. This was never successful, not once.

• I misspoke in my earlier post. I think he actually started reading at age eight. Interestingly, this is also when he lost his two front teeth. Same week as Clara, who is two years younger.

• He started reading by perusing book after book of Garfield comics. That's right. He taught himself at that point.

• How to do school in the meantime, while you wait for neurological readiness? We did math every day. He was very good at decoding numbers and operation signs, but did not write his answers--I did that for him, which was natural as we were sitting together talking about the problems anyway. He always sailed through math.

• In the years when he could read but not really write, he dictated almost everything that needed to be in written form. If he struggled to write it down himself, he simply could not hold on to his thoughts. If he were speaking to an amanuensis, they flowed smoothly and fluently, always.

• Forget spelling.

• For a couple of years, we did a once-a-week session with a learning disability specialist through the public school. She had all kinds of exercises--visually plotting your ideas, spelling tricks, finding rhymes, etc. This was sort of fun and not too stressful, but did not seem to help at all.

• Now for the important stuff. Keep reading to your child. Keep taking them to the library. Talk about your day. Tell stories to each other. Draw. Color. Help them get set up to do the projects they want to do (not the ones you think will be educational). Write down the thoughts they want to record. And above all else, do not allow them to spend their day in front of a screen, any screen. No educational TV. No spelling video games. No phonics drills on the computer.

• For myself, I would not choose to keep trying to teach a child something they were not ready to learn. I know others might do differently, but I value a happy life, a relaxed child, a family atmosphere of mutual respect, and a love of learning more than a deadline for mastery.

• It is well to remember that we are not in control of our children's development. We can wait and maybe they will succeed brilliantly. Or maybe they will never be stellar students. Maybe there will be another path for them, with other gifts.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

"• It is well to remember that we are not in control of our children's development. We can wait and maybe they will succeed brilliantly. Or maybe they will never be stellar students. Maybe there will be another path for them, with other gifts."

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Jo

Christine said...

Bravo!
I echo your words to parents and high school students all the time.

Lisa said...

You left out one thing, Anna. How did you know to not be even gently pushing him? Is it something so good inside you, that told you to let him be? I don't know anyone else who would write things down for their child like that - I'm sure everyone thinks that they shouldn't - they should "encourage" the child to push himself.

What a wonderful thing this is! I'm amazed. And you say you're not patient - hah!

Cheryl said...

What a wise parent you are! Beautiful post filled with encouraging, sensible ideas!

Paula said...

I did the same for my youngest daughter. She didn't read until 8. I would pull out the reading every six months, to no avail. Then the day came and she was ready. And with in six months she was reading at a 6th grade level. I am so thankful that I just waited on her. She went to high school last year and had a 4.0 for the whole year. She is back home this year, she perfers home. She can focus on her acting lessons, with out all the homework. She is wanting to take a few college course in the fall.
A this to say... Don't rush your child. :)
Blessings
Palua

Margo said...

You are so wise. Thank you for your insights. Helpful as I think of my young children and school.

As an English teacher, I say AMEN to forget spelling. I taught my students where to find the resources (dictionary!) to correct their spelling, not memorizing the spelling of the words.

Anna said...

Well, Lisa, I'm really not that patient, but I do like my kids, and I try to be nice to them, and Felix's thoughts were especially charming and worth saving :)

annamaria said...

Thank you Anna, great stuff!

Cindy Marquis said...

I agree with you completely about letting your kids set their own pace. And having a calm, loving home for them to pursue their interests. We homeschooled our three boys, and are so glad we did. We now have a 29 year old finishing his PHD thesis in philosophy, a married (and expectant father) 26 year old working on his PHD in neurobiology, and a 20 year old sophomore in chemistry. We are so proud of the men they have become. They may have done as well if they had been in public school, but we like to think we gave them the right start!

Anonymous said...

Very well said!

Barb in Nebraska

Ithilien Fields said...

I am only a couple months younger than you, but I wish you were my mother.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this. This is the route I have been taking with my almost-seven-year-old and it is hard sometimes, especially when we have moments in public where everyone knows he is "behind." His sister (older) and brother (younger) are more "typical" for their age, but I am trusting my mommy instincts on my middle son and not pushing anything. I want him to love what he does and to excel in the ways his mind takes him. So for now, it is a few tries with reading and lots and lots of drawing, coloring, Lego building, and his amazing and totally creative inventions and creations. I know the reading and writing will come in time and then it won't forever be something that he thinks of as "so hard" and "so tiring." Thanks for the encouragement!

Anna said...

Thank you Anna. This encouraged my heart and gave me confidence.....my number 3 sounds much like your son, and after having my first two read so early, I have had great insecurities about her progress. This was very reassuring that I am not ruining her for life :) and that she CAN learn at her own pace. Many blessings.....

Saminda said...

Brilliant, Anna. I love when you do these sorts of posts - they are always gold to me. :) xx

moved said...

It is great to read that you have/had the same approach as we have. Sometimes it takes time, every child develops in a different way and at a different pace.

My eldest daughter is now 9 and she can read now but doesn't like writing. She does a bit of capital letters writing and she writes as she thinks (in terms of spelling); but I can also see progress. :-)

She, too, does a lot of things in her head - like maths, creating stories, etc. She is great at learning the piano and 'composes' her own songs (she only started to play last October). She loves sewing and drawing - and I am not worried at all about the writing. She will master that, too, whenever she is ready. :-)

Jen's Busy Days said...

My eldest started off with Hagar the Horrible cartoons and Footrot Flats (a NZ comic) and also loves lasagne loving Garfield. He didn't read until he was 8.5 or 9 years old. I used to do the same, pull out the phonics books every couple of months but he certainly didn't learn to read from anything I did. Very humbling as a "teacher" to have your student learn without you!

On the writing front I used to do as you did, write his maths answers for him. I also got him to use card making stamps with numbers to fill in his answers in his Singapore Maths workbooks.

Time seems to be the best teacher if everything in the environment is the best encouragement towards learning what is needed.

Best wishes
Jen in Oz

Nadja said...

This sounds almost exactly like my oldest son. It was all about waiting for the right moment. He's 10 now, and still not a voracious reader like his older sister, but he will pick up a book and read it without my begging and bribing him!

Kris said...

Oh I have had children like that. It is hard to wait, but there is no point if they are not ready. One son learnt to read at 11, a daughter and another son at 13, and my last son is ten and close, but not quite there yet. Of course, I have also had the child who learnt to read on her own at 4. They are all so different.

Oh. And the books that helped my kids learn were comics too. Tintin and Naruto.

Christina said...

This is so helpful, as I think I have a little Felix on my hands here. He is 5, smart as a whip, loves math, but just not ready to read. He even looks quite a bit like Felix. It is good to hear from like-minded people.

Beverly said...

1. I really appreciate your pedagogical posts.
2. What is it about the two front teeth? I thought that was kind of funny when I read that, in the Waldorf method, they believe reading and the front teeth are connected. I thought that was a little goofy, but it was _certainly_ true for my son.
3. Each one of us is a unique creation. Hopefully we allow ourselves to celebrate that in homeschooling.

Thank you, Anna.

Beverly said...

Also, what math did Felix sail through? Was it Miquon?

Lisa said...

Reading this, plus everybody's comments - it's very edifying. I nominate Anna for president of the NEA - but of course, they wouldn't want her.

The pressure from folks you know who have never heard of this approach must be very great and un-nerving - but anybody who's doing it this is doing society a big favor, among other things.

Lisateresa

kath said...

You're very lucky that you live in a place where you could let your son progress at his own pace. In NY, homeschooled children are tested periodically by the public school system and are required to meet certain criteria by certain points. They probably would have forced your son back into the public school system for not meeting the reading criteria, even though he excelled at math.
Congratulations to Felix on his accomplishment, and to you for allowing him to develop at his own pace.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for this post! I haven't commented on your blog before, but I wanted to jump in because this type of story always moves my heart. My younger brother was also a very, very late reader - I think he didn't start until around age 12. This was in comparison to my sister, who started reading around 5 and was going through chapter books around age 9; and me, who pushed myself really hard to compete with my older sister. ;)

We were homeschooled, and my parents decided not to push my brother because he clearly wasn't ready. They did lots of reading aloud to all of us. They allowed us to explore the Internet to research things that interested us (this was back in the early years when most of what was available was message boards and email anyway). We didn't grow up with TV. So basically we had a nurturing environment to help us learn when we were ready.

Like your son, my brother got some of his first exposure to reading through comic books (he loved Calvin and Hobbes). Then, when he did start reading, he skipped the see-spot-run stuff and dived into reading meteorological textbooks, which fed his interest in science and which my dad had been reading aloud to him when he struggled with reading. Now, my brother is a senior in college and one of the most well-read, well-written, and well-spoken individuals I know.

Whether your children are in school or homeschooled, my family's experience has taught me that it is almost always best to respect a child's own developmental journey. Forcing things usually won't help and often will hinder. Late bloomers often turn into some of the most successful people in the very areas their parents worried about.

Finally, I'd like to add that I firmly believe this approach applies to all subjects, not just reading and writing. My parents took a similar approach with me as I struggled with math long into my high school years. I now love physics and algebra, am studying calculus on my own just for the fun of it, and can certainly balance a check book. Don't sweat it - kids will learn when they're ready to learn.

csmith said...

I just came across your blog and found it so interesting. All of my kids learned to read at vastly different ages. My daughter didn't read well until 9 but I have one son who taught himself to read at 4. Reading age doesn't seem to have much to do with overall intelligence or even success in later schoolwork so I've learned not to worry about it.
I have a question for you about the t-shirt skirts, do you make the elastic waist at the bottom of the shirt or where you cut it? Does it matter?

Amanda said...

I enjoyed your post. I'm studying to be an early childhood teacher, and I am always interested to read about different approaches to teaching. Having been interning in the public school system, I see children being pushed outside of their developmental limits all the time.

Amanda said...

Leo the Late Bloomer is a nice children's book on the topic.

Baleboosteh said...

Words can't express how grateful I am that you have posted this. I am mummy to an eight year old 'Felix'. Enough said. Bless you.

Erin said...

Such great advice, and this shows one of the deep benefits of homeschooling--the ability to go at the pace needed for the child.

Bridgette said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! Although I am presently unmarried, I hope to be blessed with a husband and children in the future. I want to home school and these tips are very helpful.

Polly said...

What a truly useful, wise post.

I love the respect you show for individual development. My son will be 4 in June. He did not walk until he was 18 months, didn't talk until he was more than 2. The doctors were worried about autism. But he communicated in his own way, and I had a feeling (instinct, I think) that he would be fine. And he was! Within months of saying 'mama' he was using a couple hundred words. Now he's extremely verbal with a great vocabulary.

I have a hunch he might be like Felix as well. I taught myself to read at 3, but I'm not sure my son will be ready even in a year or so. But he is amazing at building complex, interesting train tracks and Lego structures (which is not my forte!). Thank you for reassuring me, as we embark on schooling at home, that we're not in a race!

Aimee said...

your educational posts are always so brilliant and breathe life and trust and respect for children and learning. Seasoned voices like yours are so affirming and encouraging to those of us who are a few steps younger...thank you, Anna!!

Melinda said...

Thank you, Anna. We all need to hear this, including those whose children are not "late bloomers". It is good to see the other side, so to speak. I have had two, rather late bloomers and your advice is so very important. Keep these types of posts coming, please!

Congratulations to Felix.

Happy Hatter said...

I just took my almost 8 yr old, 2nd grader out of public school and am working with him at home. He is very very bright (school tested and his IQ came back at 123, even with a very low reading/writing score) but struggles with reading and writing. He has an amazing memory though (he memorizes his class lessons), and can do 3 digit math problems in his head. I am calling the next 3 mos "remedial" as we work on his reading/writing, and then this fall I will be homeschooling him and his sister (14 mos younger than him). I will be following the basic 2nd grade curriculum for our district but allowing them to go at their own pace, I know we'll end up going far beyond the basics. My daughter is the youngest in her 1st grade class but scoring double the class average on reading tests, so I'm very interested in seeing how they both do when allowed to go at their own natural pace.

Carlie said...

What lovely encouragement to those of us mamas just starting out in the homeschool world. It is great to hear that some mothers aren't pushing or stressing but instead just working what is ready and waiting for the rest.

Mac an Rothaich said...

Thank you for sharing this.

I had a tough week last week. My oldest daughter is in the public system and the school is convinced there is something wrong with her because she isn't picking up math. She is an excellent reader in English and French for grade three but not a math kinda girl... the pressure they are putting on me to push her has been hard. I value my relationship with my daughter and don't want to be scared into stressing her into performing at their rate. I am praying I will know what to do for her... I greatly desire to do what is best for her and not just force her to fit into the way things are done in her school.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post on this. I need to be reminded some days that the world's expectations and schedules for my children are not necessarily the same as God's plans for them.

In His time, in His time.

Laura Leigh said...

Reading and writing does not magically happen at 6! The body is a wonderful complex creation. Each child develops at their/God's pace. There are not only mental developments that need to be in place to read and writing, but also muscle. If the eye is not able to track and/or focus on the small print, then reading will not happen. If the small muscles are not strong enough of able to create a muscle memory, then writing is difficult. I have taught special education for 20 yrs and I have seen too many kids labeled that only need time for everything to fall into place. Felix and the rest of your children are blessed to have such a wise mother.
In Him,
Laura Leigh

Rebecca said...

I am not a mother (yet) but, Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Sleepless Stitch said...

Thank you so much! I needed to hear that!

The Vosslers said...

Thank you so very much. Very encouraging. I write what my 9 year old son says, as well. Because he is dyslexic, they highly recommend it. I do have him recopy some of it for himself. It's a good mix of him "writing"/me not overburdening him and him doing a little of the work himself to cement certain things. He listens to stories on CD a lot and I read and do all his work with him at this point. He needs to get to a certain level of reading in his reading lessons before he can successfully read without reinforcing a certain hallmark of dyslexia ... the guessing.

But we can't wait on the reading for him. :( Since he is dyslexic, he has to have a certain approach in order to learn to read and spell. And it should have begun sooner for him.

Can you speak at all to how to know the approach for your children? I work very hard to make sure reading/math lessons are gentle and enjoyable, even though they are work. I do the same with my 6 year old since I suspect dyslexia with him. The only stress is if he doesn't want to do something a certain way. We don't push anything else and proceed at his own pace. (he hasn't lost his front teeth yet! But my older has) ... anyway, I just know that I suspected a learning difference with my 9yo and ended up being right. So, for him ... we would have been waiting until he failed.

So I get nervous when people feel really confident in waiting because sometimes it's not the best approach. And it's so hard to know which to do!

Trudy said...

Very wise! thank you

Anonymous said...

Love it. Thank You! Sigh....(of relief that is)

Anonymous said...

Would love your take on how your finally taught him spelling and writing. I have a struggling boy here.

Alice from Singapore

me said...

I just loved this post. So insightful and so many great things to think about for parents. Thanks for the wisdom.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

What a wonderful post!!! I have worked in Special Ed. for many years--in a respected Christian school which was excellent in many ways and in public school (currently).
Public school has it's place, despite it's many faults and weaknesses. The home for many kids now is a terrible, unstable place, and the public school (imperfect as it is) is a place of refuge for some. Still, I would not choose it for my child if at all possible.

My daughter is currently homeschooling three children and it is going very well. School is a stressful environment and there is no real accomodation of learning differences. From my experience, boys are often not ready to learn until much later. My own son suffered greatly in 1st grade, calling himself a "stupid reader". In second grade he became an excellent reader and was enjoying the Frontier Dan books which I am certain were a motivating factor in his learning to read. By Junior High he tested in the 99th percentile for reading comprehension nationwide. Still he struggled with a learning disability in math and never enjoyed school -- except for the social part which he did like. He went to college for a while but decided it was not for him. He wanted to work with his hands, to not be tied to a desk job which he found boring. For several years now he has been working for a company that installs window tinting (commercial) and bomb film. I desperately wanted him to go to college, but I knew I had to let him follow the gifts the Lord endowed him with.

Cheryl said...

Thank you so much for this post, and especially for your emphasis (in bold, no less) on the need to keep reading and to minimize screen time. We have had zero screen time in our home until recently, when we've added 20 minutes of family movie time. I believe it makes a huge difference. The children with minimal screen time are in the minority, unfortunately. "But how will the kids socialize if they don't know Sponge Bob?" I get asked. They do just fine without Sponge Bob.

Hopewell said...

Excellent advice. I too have a late bloomer and it has also been well worth the wait to see him devour books, write songs and poetry, draw beautifully...oh yes and finally do math!!

Anonymous said...

I have a son, now 15, who struggled learning how to read. He was reading at 8, but definitely not fluently. He still will not willing pick up a book to "enjoy," but he is always picking up his guitar...and he has lovely, long fingers and strong finger nails perfect for that instrument. He also has the most imporant quality regarding any instrument, a passion for it. (As his mother, I always hoped he would have a passion for devouring books! But that isn't who he is, and I am thankful he has a passion for guitar because I love to listen to him play...he's even begun to write music.)

Also, I would say that he does not write well, that is until after we have discussed whatever it is he is writng about. It helps him to turn things over in his mind and on his tongue before he puts it down on paper.

I think the most challenging aspect of homeschooling, from my perspective, is to know when to keep my hands off!

Anonymous said...

Hello Anna, nice to meet you! Mine is 6 with an autumn birthday. I really needed these words right now, today, this moment. I know this is truely saving grace for my son and myself...to move in this way. Thank you for the encouragement and positive direction. I need to keep focused! He was diagnosised with PDD-NOS two yrs ago but God is at work here not this diagnosis and the fears are not truth. with Hope, Angelia in TX

Christine said...

I'm so glad that you posted on this. I was also a late reader at eight years old, but I was reading novels within three months of beginning to read. When other mothers come to my mother to ask about their child's school problems, she always tells them about how I was the last reader in my grade and went on to attend what is probably the most competitive undergraduate program in Canada. Parents love to hear that!
It's all about being ready and having an interest in the subject matter, no matter what the topic may be.
Thanks so much for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

My oldest son is similar in many ways, but different enough that I didn't recognize that I needed use your approach until a few years ago. He started reading well and prolifically at 4 years old. He was a creative and fun storyteller, until we put a pencil in his hand at 6 years old. That shut down everything. He struggles with spelling, neat handwriting, and writing.
He's now 12 and about to enter 9th grade. This year it has been like a series of switches have gone off. He's starting to write. We still struggle with spelling and handwriting, but I've taught him to type.

Thank you for your story. It's very encouraging. If I ever have a child who has similar struggles, I'm going to use your approach more faithfully.

Whoz Your Doula said...

I needed that so much! Thank you..

Will said...

I am going to model my parenting after yours.

Beth Covalt said...

I have to say that I love you for writing this post. Too often far too many bloggers praise their child's (children's) successes to the point of creating an impossible illusion. Thank you for your honestly and the tremendous encouragement and wisdom here.

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