Friday, June 26, 2009

Teaching *Oneself* to Read

I have a little bit to add about Ezra teaching himself to read this winter, through Tintin comics and Captain Underpants books. Some things I have observed are that he has hardly ever struggled to sound out a word and has asked few questions as he has gone along. This got me to thinking as I was chatting with a friend about it, that maybe with no pressure, no shame, and no degrading reading materials (as in "see Dick run"!) kids can just smoothly glide into reading, which means that all reading programs, curriculums, etc. are a bunch of "hooey" as some of my elders like to say.

What is the point of "see Dick run" anyway, except to convince you you can't read anything *real*?

My sister listened to Ezra reading Captain Underpants aloud to his cousin at a family reunion two weeks ago, and she came by and said, "He reads as well as *you*!" This was obviously a slight exaggeration, but it made me realize that he hasn't struggled at all. He just devours these cartoon books. He can figure out the "hard" words because of the context. Also, I read some of the books to him before he reread them on his own. I have heard of many, many unschooler kids starting to read voraciously through comic-book reading (mostly boys) and sometimes they don't start until they are teenagers, but when they do start they learn extremely quickly, usually without anyone realizing it, as Ezra did.

It all gets me to wondering about "learning disabilities" with reading. I am "lucky" by most people's standards, in that Ezra is an "early reader." (My husband and I were also reading before kindergarten, and we spend much of the day reading as adults, too, so I think it is hardwired into him). However, I was totally prepared for him to start reading at 11 (as Joseph Chilton Pearce recommends) or even later. (I suppose Ottar could be a late reader, though I am guessing he will read early, too, as everyone in our families has always seemed to.) In any case, I wonder if "learning disabilities" are not only just a result of trying to force all kids to read by age 8 (as many unschoolers/homeschoolers have asserted) but are also a result of pressuring kids to the point that they believe they are stupid, which makes reading seem harder than it really is. I can definitely see how this could happen, because I developed the belief that I was "stupid" about math when I was in eighth grade. I'd always been an "advanced" math student, but that year I had an uninspirational teacher, and was introduced to algebraic concepts that I could not connect with real life. I lost interest, and after that I never cared about, or was good at, math again. In high school I dropped out of precalculus after getting a "D" (even though I was a B+/A- student). Even now when people discuss most kinds of math, or algebraic concepts, my entire brain shuts down. I literally can *not* do the work.

So, my unsolicited advice to all unschooler/homeschooler parents is to never try to teach your kids to read, period. Just read things to them and leave all the books available to them, and eventually they will latch onto something that interests them enough that they will "have" to read in order to know more. For more inspiration on this subject, I often refer people to the book The Call to Brilliance, which is a book about an unschooler family with three kids all in their twenties at the time of the book's publication. All the kids are "successful" by U.S. standards, and none learned to read until 11 or 12 at the earliest. They were all in college by the time they were 15, if I remember correctly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Very Short Post about Pirates

Ezra and Ottar go through pirate phases. I regret that I do not have photos of the three-day phase Ezra was in last week, where he drew bloody bullet holes all over his and his brother's body.

But here's a photo of several weeks ago when they were out playing in the hall of our apartment building.

Indoor Gym

I think I mentioned a long time ago that my kids spend a lot of time doing gymnasium and circus activities in our loft apartment. This winter they did this for hours a day. As you can see from the photos, we have plenty of space! Unfortunately the fast-action setting on my film camera did not work, but I guess now at least you can see how *fast* they go. Ezra's favorite thing is to jump off the couch and swing across the apartment to the wall. Ottar here is pictured with one leg each through a ring. Then I push him really high, like he's on a swing at the playground, except his feet almost touch the ceiling lamp. Fun!!

By the way, that strange thing lying on the futon underneath the kids is a shark. Oh, and the rope ladder and rings are from IKEA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A YouTube Education

Okay, I admit it - somewhere along the line, to keep myself from going insane, I introduced Ezra to YouTube. Or actually, maybe my husband did it? Anyway, it was probably about a year ago and we were just discovering it ourselves. How much fun we all had looking up our favorite segments of Sesame Street and The Muppets!

Anyway, that's how Ezra got into rockets and space shuttles - one of us decided to show him a launch. I think it was me, and that I did it to keep him quiet while I tried to get his brother down for a nap.

Let me please explain that I am pretty much against children using computers. Oops! Well, never mind my values. . .

So, Ezra is a YouTube junkie, sort of. He got a little carried away, in our opinion, so we went down to one day a week (he chose Sundays) where he can watch YouTube on his own. It is of course tricky because there is some creepy stuff on there - porn mixed with children's content, swearing and incest inserted into Ezra's favorite Christmas video, etc. etc. But for the most part it's been a huge learning tool.

The cool thing is, when he is interested in something, he can obsess over it via youtube for months! Watching the same launch over and over again, for example. Or more recently, watching everything about The Wizard of Oz that is on there - his recent favorite was a school play from the 90's. The songs were unbearable to listen to from the kitchen, but he and his brother couldn't get enough. Yes, that's right, I admit that, too - sometimes Ottar sits around watching YouTube also. Because he usually doesn't nap! And we live in a huge open loft apartment. Oh well.

But the cool thing is, when he was asking me about kilns, I found him some footage. Then we watched a video about welding, and one about blacksmithing. Now he is really interested in all those things (FIRE).

When people tell me their kids aren't interested in anything specific, I wonder if it's just because they aren't let loose on YouTube.

Raising Hikers

Ottar loves to do everything without pants!

I am a little bit obsessed with making sure my kids bond with their Earth Matrix*, I will admit. And I am proud to say that in the past month they have often spent up to nine hours straight running around the Minneapolis or St. Paul parks or nature areas. Usually it's more like 5 or 6, but still - that's pretty crazy, I think.

Anyway, we also went up north over Memorial Day weekend - to Naniboujou Lodge where we have been going since I was about 14 years old. My dad planned a couple of hikes - one to Devil's Kettle, which is kind of like a waterfall but is maybe officially a gorge?? Hmmm. . . need to find that out. Anyway, the next day we did one of my favorite hikes, which is to Eagle Mountain, south of Grand Marais. All in all the kids (and their same-aged cousins) hiked seven miles over two days. I say, that is pretty impressive! I actually had to talk Ottar out of taking a fork in the path that would have led him another 12 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail (but oh, we do have big plans to hike that someday!).

Both of my kids are very at home in the woods or on a beach, etc., but especially Ottar, either because of his age or his temperament (or his proximity to the ground?) loves to stop and observe various things along the trail before moving on.

I guess maybe all that running around the parks during the day, and all the crazy, crazy biking they've also been doing (soon to be the subject of another post) has paid off because I think they now both have Legs of Steel.


*Bonding with the Earth Matrix is a concept I learned about in Joseph Chilton Pearce's Magical Child, one of my favorite books. He says first the child must bond with the Mother Matrix in the first year of life - or else! The second year is for bonding with the Earth Matrix - or else again! Very compelling, but too much to explain here. Interestingly he says it is often traditionally the father's job to help the child bond with the earth in the second year of life. :)