Switching It On

Since the beginning of this blog, most of the posts have been theoretical and philosophical discussions. Owing mainly to the young age of my children, I have had few unschooling stories to share. Well, that’s all starting to change.

W is nearing four. He has, of course, been learning his whole life, but examples of him starting to walk, talk, throw, cut with scissors, etc, are not viewed by the traditional world as being instances of unschooling (though, they are exactly that). Oh, no, we need academic examples to prove our theory. So, here’s one for you.

He has been very interested in letters for the past few months, and at this point recognizes upper case letters about 90% of the time. He will often muse, “Pool starts with P” just out of the blue. Just because he was thinking about it and realized that the “puh” sound was at the beginning of the word “pool.”

Then, today he was playing around with the light switch and said, “Now it’s off. Why is there a zero here?” I looked and realized he was talking about the word “off” written on the light switch. I said, “It’s not a zero, it’s an O. It says O-F-F, that spells off.” Then he switched the light on, looked at the switch and said, “It says O-N, that spells ‘on.'”

Was he using didactic reasoning to figure out what the word said? Yes, he was. Was he reading the word? Yep, he was doing that too. This is how the process works. I have many people who will nod  along with me when I talk about life-learning, but will say, “But at some point, you will have to sit down and teach them to read.” It’s hard to wrap our schooled brains around the idea that, actually, words are everywhere and reading can and does happen naturally.

Do you have a story about learning to read? Share it in the comments!

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4 Comments on "Switching It On"

  1. Linni
    07/02/2013 at 7:41 pm Permalink

    Not reading as such, as my 2 year old is too little. But she has already learned to identify a number of letters from watching endless alphabet YouTube videos when she was very little. I didn’t even realise she was learning. I just thought she liked the tunes. Then one day I found this magnetic letter board in a charity shop and got it got her to play with when she’s a bit older. She started picking letters up and identifying them. I was amazed. It’s fascinating what they learn just by doing what they want to.

  2. Jacqui
    24/02/2013 at 6:34 pm Permalink

    I’ve been fascinated by how children have a drive to learn. Of course part of it is that natural desire to emulate the adults around them! My daughter, also four, has been getting more into math than reading, which is fine. We discovered it because she bought my husband a “greater than/less than/equals” chart for Christmas, which he explained to her, and she completed effortlessly. So impressed were we that we went to the dollar store and bought her a few math workbooks. She LOVES them! She spends many hours now sitting down with them, counting, writing numerals, etc. And then, like magic, the other day she said to me, “Mommy, can you teach me how to read?” and just like that now she’s interested in letters and words. I love watching her cut out the word “baby” from a box to keep for future reference. People are so naturally inquisitive! Who thought up this silly idea that people need to be schooled to learn!

  3. Tasha
    02/03/2013 at 4:35 pm Permalink

    An un-schooling veteran, with my oldest in College now, I loved that this post was more about reasoning than reading…very intelligent. I was skeptical when I began reading about a 4 year old “reading” as all kids are different, but please do not be upset if your boys (can’t help noting a gender difference here) do not show real interest in reading as an activity until they are about 11 (if you truly un-school). That’s what my three did. (My youngest, a girl, was different.) I would sometimes loose faith in the “wait until they are interested” philosophy….and I would try to sit down my oldest son at age 8 or so to do some sort of sounding-out-the-words reading lesson. He was (and is) a very focused learner, but his interest would wane…and luckily, I would take a clue and not try again until a few months later when something would make me panicky again. He used Writing creatively when he made signs for block villages and drawings, and he would ask how things were spelled. But he was 11 before he really put it together and started reading Tintin on his own. Only two or three years later when he was 13 and 14, he was reading Dave Egger’s What is the What and then on to Crime and Punishment a year after that. Check out my blog at http://tashadepp.blogspot.com/ for more about the adventures of unschooling my four kids (and being an artist)….and keep un-schooling everybody! It really works!!!!

  4. R
    05/05/2013 at 1:56 am Permalink

    I am not from the US and unfortunatly unschooling/homeschooling is not allowed in my country. But my son also learned himself how to read at the age of 3. He learned the letters of the alphabet at 2 years old when he started asking about numberplates on cars. He was very much into cars at that age and when we were walking the sidewalk, cars were parked alongside and numberplates were exactly at eye-height. So letters were ‘in his face’ all the time 🙂

    When he was 3 he could read little words like mom by pasting the letters together m-o-m mom. When he was almost 4 he was very interested in dinosaurs and wanted me to read to him all day long from his dinosaur books. I couldn’t read to him ALL day long (dinner had to be made and cleaning had to be done 😉 so I explained to him that he could also paste letters of longer words together, and he started reading! At age 6 he read informationbooks for grownups about all sorts of subjects. Reading was his ‘tool’ to dig for information about everything he wanted to know.

    My son could read at a young age (according to ‘the books’), but learned to ride a bike at the age of 7 (this is quite late according to ‘the books’). We practiced riding a bike with at him at 5 but it didn’t work, he just didn’t wanted to learn yet. We told him that when he was up to it, he should let us know and that we would help him. When he was 7 he said he wanted to learn how to ride a bike and he did!

    Both were beautiful things to experience and confirmed to me that every child has its own pace, children are ‘wired’ to learn and learning should be child initiated!

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