on reading & writing

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you know, dasher & dancer...

Mahal is really into designing cryptic word puzzles right now.  He loves taking themes & choosing words, then creating pages & pages of crosswords, word searches, word scrambles & picture clues.  For Christmas he designed a lovely book for our family & friends.  This is something he's taken on of his own initiative.  Two years ago he asked me to order the Highlight's Magazine series, "Top Secret Adventure," a monthly geography kit that came with real puzzles, a small country guidebook & a workbook.  He fell in love & asked for the "State-to-State" series, too.  There are country & state maps & workbooks all over our house & car.  Lake has a kit of his own &  loves drawing on his Texas map.  In an ironic Waldorf phase I tried to hide these workbooks because I thought the drawings were unattractive & therefore "un-nourishing," & also wanted to keep their minds as young & dreamy as possible.  Luckily Mahal was more committed than I was.

I'm not sure if he can read or not.  He seems to be able to - at the co-op yesterday he said, "Mom, please park your carts here, thank you!"  Just like the sign.  But he's guessing a lot, too.  I can tell because he'll read, "bread bread," on the "banana bread."  In the Waldorf schools they don't teach kids to read until they're 7.  I know many unschoolers let children begin when they're ready, sometimes at the age of ten, even. 

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Sometimes I'm anxious to get him reading chapter books as soon as possible, because some 7 year-olds do.  I've always taken pride in getting my first novel, Anne of Green Gables at the age of 6.  I've now read it, & all the other L.M. Montgomery books many times over.  Looking back I realize that I was given the book, but it was my mom reading it, not me.  I was so hooked on the story that it didn't matter if I read it or not.  I truly "got" my first novel at the age of six.  

Recently I was reading out loud to the boys & my brother said, "You read just like mom."  I never thought of that before.  Of course! And...weird! I sound like Mom!  It never occurred to me that in my head, apparently, everything I read sounds like my mother's voice.

When I try to have Mahal work with me on reading out loud, he adamantly refuses to participate.  And we usually get into it a bit.  As a grown-up unschooler I know that really quality learning happens when we do things we love.  I know that any subject can be presented in an exciting & engaging way.  Yet I was in public schools long enough (until 13) that I still find myself trying to force him to learn uninteresting things in uninteresting ways.  More than that I know how easy it is to make a child hate a subject they love.

So I'm really going to follow his lead on this one.  An hour doesn't pass that he doesn't ask me how to spell something because he's making a store sign or putting "Keep Out, there's a crocodile in the freezer" on our refrigerator door.  So I've supplied him with masking tape & he's proceeded to label the house.   He works on his workbooks day & night, literally.  So we just keep them coming.  He spends 2 hours a day conducting Music Together classes for his brother, following along in the music book.  There aren't many pictures in there, & he keeps telling me who wrote the songs & which ones are traditional, so he's deciphering something.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's also teaching himself to read music.  So again, we keep the instruments & music books available & allow him to go all day long.    He loves his magazines - Click, Spider, Big Backyard, & Ask.  On weekends we bike together to the newsstand & everyone gets a magazine.  Then we all read in front of the fire.

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rockin' out with homemade mikes

He does adore bookmaking, & will include text with his drawings. So we'll be implementing a lot more of that.  And he'll read one book out loud - Little Bear.  So I've got to go dig that out, too.

But the stories he prefers to hear me read.  And so I will.  In the Waldorf schools they read in a sing-songy but slightly monotonous voice without dramatizing anything.  They believe this lets the child put their own images into the story & also lets their own integrity relate with every character.  They suggest reading the same story over & over for weeks, creating a richly layered world of voice & imagery for the child. They build on this with wax sculpting, puppet shows & costumes of each story.  

I love it all.  It's reading!  And snuggle time with a big boy in his own room who just keeps getting bigger & bigger.