Do you ever have those days when you feel like a total homeschooling noob? (In case you are not as up-to-date as me on all the latest slang, a “Noob” is a “Newbie” or someone who is new at something. At least, I think that’s what it means. And I’ve either completely dated myself right now or shown you how cool I am (do people still say “cool”?). I’m betting it’s the latter.) Days when you do something that if someone else had come to you for advice you would have told them to do the exact opposite of what you actually did? I’ve just had one of those moments.
I love reading. I believe that a love of reading is vital to learning to write and spell and think. Encouraging your children to read is one of the best things you can do for their education. If a child can read and understand what they are reading, they can learn anything. (Quick product placement ad: This is why I love Learning Language Arts Through Literature. It focuses on learning to love reading and less on learning to fill in the correct word on a test.) I want my kids to love reading. I try to give them books that will capture their interest.
Now, if you were to come to me and ask, “Erin, how should I get my 2nd grader son to want to read?” I would have told you the following:
“Great advice, Erin!” I’m sure you’re saying right now. None of it is earth-shattering or shocking, it's just plain commonsense (that’s another product placement pun!). So why, when it was my son, did I do the exact opposite?
My 2nd grader is struggling with reading. I’d worry about it, except his older brother did the same thing in 2nd grade. 2nd grade, he couldn’t spell to save his life and reading was painful. 3rd grade, I can’t pry a book out of his hands and his spelling is a grade level ahead. (Ok, who am I kidding? I still worry. It’s what I do best.) I decided, after the New Year, that we would add in an extra reading assignment and I asked him to pick a book from the shelf that looked interesting to him.
He picked The Sign of the Beaver. He thought the picture on the front of a little boy with an Indian looked interesting. He also wanted to find out what sign the beaver was going to hold. Now, if I hadn’t been such a noob, I would have realized that you can’t judge a book by its cover. No matter how cool Indians and bows and arrows are, they do not make a 5-6th grade level book easier to read for a 2nd grader.
Second noob mistake. I was too rushed during the first weeks of school to actually sit with him and I assumed that he would be able to read a chapter a day by himself like his older brother. Three weeks in, I find out that he has no idea what he is reading, can’t understand one word out of five, and is basically completely lost.
No problem, right? Just switch to an easier book! That was what I would have told someone else. But me? No. I jump to the conclusion that since he picked the book he should have to finish it. Thus begins another painful two weeks of sitting with him while he drags through a chapter a day, still not really understanding any of it since by the time he’s finished a sentence he’s forgotten how it started.
After beating my head against the wall like this for a while, I go to my mother. She tells me exactly what I already knew but was ignoring. Switch books. Find one that is just under his reading level. Find one that interests him.
So, the next week I tell him that we are going to give Sign of the Beaver a rest and I pull out a Magic Treehouse book. He loved it. He begged to read more than one chapter a day. He read it easily and laughed at the funny parts. He finished it in a week and wanted to read the next book in the series. Reading is suddenly fun.
Why did I make such a noob mistake? I don’t know. I guess I got so caught up in teaching how to read that I forgot to teach him to love to read. Not my first homeschooling mistake and it definitely won’t be my last. I wish I’d asked for advice right away, but I’m glad I asked for it at all. Sometimes we get so caught up in being independent teachers that we forget the wealth of knowledge that is out there. And sometimes the advice we get is something we already know but have forgotten to do.
I hope all of you either have an experienced homeschooler in your life that you can go to for help, or that you are that person for someone else! We may be alone while we’re teaching each day, but we’re not alone in this journey!
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!