As servants

We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master.”

~Maria Montessori

Last winter, I wrote a braggy post about how Si was learning to read.  He had grasped the concept of blending letter sounds & could sound out two & three letter words.  I was so proud that I could bust.  Having always been a reader myself, I believe that learning to read represents a huge milestone in one’s life.  It really opens up a whole new beautiful world.

After that breakthrough, I assumed that Si could & would soon be reading everything he was given.  I certainly assumed that, today, Si would be a fluent reader.  Wrong.

Si clearly understood the concept, he knew what to do.  But he resisted the method I offered him.  He preferred to try & memorize the words.  His logic was that a memorized book was a far easier & more enjoyable read than the awkward, halting, often tedious work of sounding out words one by one.  I explained to him that a way to read a new word is to sound it out.  He explained to me that he could simply ask me what the new word said & then remember it.  So there we were.

And there we stayed thru the spring.  We continued our phonics lessons, as Si has never resisted the lessons.  He enjoys the methodical nature of any lesson.  But he never took it & ran with it.  Si continued to simply memorize his favorite books.  Over the summer, we dropped ‘school’ but would occasionally visit our early readers & practice phonics.

Our Kindergarten began in August, with reviewing letter sounds.  We hadn’t even starting ‘reading’ so much, but our copywork often consisted of those small words that Si can read (Sam has a rag hat).  But something was different.  He was determined to read the sentence himself, instead of asking me what it said (Shhhh Mom, don’t tell me!!)

Suddenly, he is bringing the readers to me.  New readers, new stories.  A memorized book is just that, nothing new to be discovered there.  But the joy of unlocking the code of a new book now seems to be worth the effort.  He wants to read.  It’s that simple, really.  And he is looking around now & seeing that there is an entire world of words.  As I am driving, I hear him behind me in the car, sounding out the street signs under his breath.  He his trying to read words on the tv, on his juice box, on clothing, words are everywhere to him now.

He came up with this game.  I say a word & he tries to spell it.  Love it.

So, has this turned into another braggy post about Si learning to read?  Well, yes it kinda has.  Let’s call it a judicious brag.  I did not & could not compel Silas to read.  I could only offer the tools & provide assistance & encouragement.  I am the servant.

I have placed significance on reading as some sort of marker to determine my success as ‘teacher’.  Therefore, in my enthusiasm, I may have started the phonics program too early.  Maybe I could have skipped the whole thing last year & arrived at the same place at the same time this year.  There is much debate on the pros & cons of early reading.  Honestly, I would rather err on the side of too early in introducing new concepts to my kids.  If it doesn’t take, no harm done, we can revisit.  Our reading lessons have always been light & fun, never forced.  I recognize the need to achieve a balance of challenging my kids while preventing the frustration that comes from over-reaching.

Also, some might argue that a ‘whole to parts’ method might have worked better for Si, considering his affinity for memorizing words.  Again, that is a whole debate in itself.  I suppose both methods arrive at the same place, but I believe strongly in phonics.  Building a house from the ground up.

I have written before about taking the summers off from school, feeling uncertain that it would be best for us.  Actually, I feel more confident now that taking that time off is beneficial to my kids.  Down time, free time.  Step sway & let ideas & information settle & simmer.  Return fresh in the fall.

I am humbled to learn that, much like parenting them, educating my children is not always subject to my plans, my timelines & goals.  As we journey up our mountain together, as much as I might like to forge a path straight up, the very best path often meanders gently round & round.  As always, I must remember to enjoy the journey.  With my eyes set solely upon our goal at the top, I risk missing the amazing views along the way.


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