Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ruminations on Reading

I remember clearly the afternoon last summer when Henry quietly tiptoed into my bedroom and whispered, “Mom, can you read to me?” We were on vacation, Dad and Sam were already sacked out on the couch for some afternoon zzz’s, and I was in the process of tucking the girls in for their naps when Henry tried to unobtrusively catch my attention.

“I can’t right now, honey. Can you read to yourself while you wait for me?”

Whisper-sob. “But I don’t know how to read!”

After I finished with his sisters and we were able to cuddle on the couch with the books of his choice, I remember asking him if he wanted to learn how to read and promising him that I’d teach him how as soon as we got home.

And literally a week after we returned home, Henry held me to my promise. So I dug in my closet and came up with the Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics kit I had purchased on sale at some earlier date.

It looked simple enough. An intro to a word ending page, a review page, and then a story or book to reinforce the ending just learned. A sticker chart to mark his progress. A CD to guide him through it if he didn’t feel like being coached by Mom.

I had complete confidence in the program. We were making great progress. Henry started to balk a little at the longer review pages, but we’d try to make games out of them to keep things fun. Then he started to balk at reading time during school time. We were SO CLOSE to finishing that I pushed and bribed a little to get those last few stickers on the chart before we’d take a negotiated break.

He was really doing well, so I was surprised at his vehement “I hate reading and I’m never going to read again!” reaction a week following the completion of Kindergarten reading, when I suggested starting the next level. So I backed off a little. Kind of confused. Not sure where to go from here. But definitely not about to push it while he had such strong feelings.

That was early December.

Since then, I’ve been grateful that we’re educating at home. Very grateful. If we were in the public system, regardless of how he felt about it, he would be expected to keep up with his peers and the lesson plans. He would be set up to develop a major dislike of reading, perhaps one that he’d never get over.

I’ve also been grateful that we can try different things until the spark is ignited again. I’m grateful that we can take our time with it. If he’s not ready to read for another year, it’ll be okay. If he’s not ready to read for another four years, it’ll still be okay.

The funny thing is, it’s just the act of sitting down with a book and asking him to read that makes him park his heels. He doesn’t have any qualms about other reading-type activities. He still loves to have us read to him. He likes it when I give him words to spell while I’m cooking dinner and he can figure out how to spell them with the letter magnets on the fridge. He still likes his handwriting workbook and learning how to form the letters correctly.

So I have confidence that the reading will come–in his time, and on his terms, maybe, but it will come.

I just want him to enjoy reading.

I found a book at the library this week called “I Don’t Like to Read” by Nancy Carlson. A little mouse named Henry doesn’t like to read. The first half of the book was almost an exact mirror to our Henry. In fact, he kept saying, “I say that!” or nodding as we read. The book ends happily, just as I know our story will end, too.

I’m so glad this journey is happening at home.

A Valentine’s Day Tradition

Wasn’t one of the best parts of elementary school the Valentine’s Day party and valentine exchange with your classmates? There are so many little nuances of this ritual lodged in my brain. For example, it was completely acceptable to sign a valentine “Like, Mindy” instead of “Love, Mindy” if you didn’t particularly like someone. When preparing the valentines, it was necessary to dump the bag of candy conversation hearts on the table and pick out exactly the right ones to put in the envelopes going to your closest friends. And the boxes we’d decorate took weeks of planning and decorating. There were always a few kids who had the coolest boxes–the box decorated like an actual mailbox, or the box decorated with a paper fringe. The box beautifully decorated with doilies and hearts. The box that looked like a robot.

Alongside the sadness I’ve felt that the old tradition of delivering valentines via the “Knock and Run” method has died, was the horror with which I discovered that the sacred valentine’s boxes of yesteryear have been downsized in importance and are now found in the $1 bin at Target.

I dunno. Was it just me? Were valentine’s boxes a big deal only at my elementary school?

Needless to say, it was with great happiness that I received an email from one of my go-to gals, inviting us to join in a Valentine’s Day homeschooler’s party. There would be crafts, cookies to decorate, and valentines boxes to fill with valentines that had been painstakingly prepared in advance.

Who says that homeschooled kids miss out on all the fun?

I combed through the closet for empty shoe boxes and sat down with the boys to help them catch the vision of the “art project” we were about to embark on. They were on board quickly, and we spent a delightful afternoon cutting, constructing, taping, and Exacto-blading. Here are our finished products.

I know the kids had fun, but I doubt they had as much fun as I did. I had a blast brainstorming ideas with them until we were able to come up with just the right thing for their boxes, each of which is representative of things they are passionate about now. There was a lot of excitement as we created, and I loved watching their faces as their boxes started to come together. And I LOVED watching their faces as they carefully carried their boxes into the party. They were so pumped.

We may not ever deliver cards to our neighbors by knocking and running, but as long as we can find people willing to come to a party, we’ll have a chance to build some memories while we decorate our shoe and cereal boxes in preparation for it.