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Five year-old No. 2 Wants to Learn to Read (Unschooling in Action)

We unschool.  This blog talks all about what our unschooling family does on a day to day basis, but rarely, (at least recently), mentions unschooling.  But, a really cool thing happened last week, so here goes.  Five year-old No. 2 said he wanted to learn to read!

Before I get into 2 and his desire to learn to read, I should perhaps point out what unschooling is, as well as what it is to us.  Unschooling is a schooling methodology wherein the curriculum is based on what the learner wants to learn.  The general idea is that kid’s live life, and as they express an interest in a subject, they’re assisted, (if they need assistance), in finding material with which to learn, and perhaps encouraged, (it depends on the particular interpretation of unschooling), and perhaps taught when and if they ask for help.

While it might sound as if unschooling kids are dropped into an educational void, and told to swim, that’s not the case.  Parents ‘strew’ educational material they think might interest the kids.  In our family, strewing amounts to the fact that as we read books and funny-books, and not being a naturally tidy bunch of people, we tend to leave them laying around the house.  We also ‘strew the city’, meaning we send the kids out to see various ‘educational’ events, as well as to run errands, explore, and meet people.  All of these activities, we hope, might generate interest in different subjects.

To me, the most important part of the methodology is the kid expressing an interest in what they want to learn.  As a kid, and even today as an adult, I learn best the things I have a motivation to learn.

So, I lit up like a Christmas tree, when I heard that 2 had expressed an interest in learning to read!  We’d already figured out that 2 was built a lot like me, and that frankly he wasn’t going to learn to read until he was darned good and ready.  Knowing this, and even knowing where his attitudes came from, we still couldn’t help worrying a little bit about exactly when he would in fact get ready.

2 is a pragmatist.  Months ago he figured out that reading is cool.  He also figured out that seven year-old No. 1 would be happy to read to him; all he had to do was ask.  He had a need to read, he found a solution, problem fixed.

We strewed and strewed.  “2, would you like to sing the alphabet song?”  At first the answer was no, then over weeks, 2 decided that yeah, that could be fun.  I cheated the unschooling methodology, and proposed that 2, 3 year-old No. 3, and I work specifically on the letters A-G one week.  As I mentioned, I’m built a lot like 2, so that didn’t last.  I didn’t need to do it, and so subsequently, I forgot to do it.  When 1 was working on her Chinese character sheets we also made sheets for 2, but with the letters of his name instead of Chinese characters.  2 appreciated having worksheets of his own, but wasn’t particularly jazzed.

Then, at the start of last week it happened.  2 found his mom, and then me, and asked where his letter worksheets were.  A few days later, he announced that he wanted to learn to read!  Now, he’s up and running, bringing books to us to read to him and sound out words.  Reading, here we come!


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