Back when Iona started school, I was so excited for her. I couldn’t wait for her to experience the whole school thing, something I didn’t do until I was eight years old, having been home educated until then. I remember that feeling of disappointment watching all my friends confidently disappear inside a big yellow bus when I was just five years old. I longed to be with them instead of turning around and heading back inside my house.
When my mother heard Iona was going to school, I remember her words, “Well, you will miss out on one of greatest joys, that of teaching your child how to read”. I could see she had a point, but it was a privilege I was willing to forgo, confident I would still get a lot of joy from helping with the process. However as the school year unfolded, instead of joy, I found myself frustrated with the unfamiliar system, trying to “help” her read, and not getting a whole lot of joy from the experience, instead, the feeling of slowly dying inside waiting for her to sound out words while being distracted by the inane illustrations.
Sweetening the experience was your classic “colour band” system, complete with mothers in the playground pretending that they are not desperately curious as to which band everyone else’s child is on. *cue my disengagement*
Of course I wanted Iona to learn to read. I wanted her to LOVE reading, and to be amazing at it! I looked forward to the day when she’d be “stuck in a book”, and all the pleasure she would get from the wild and wonderful world of fiction, but I just. could. not. marry that desire up with my own lack of enthusiasm when it came to “doing her reading books” after a long hard day at school, or at the end of a busy weekend. Maybe I should just admit right here that I am probably just lazy, *cue guilt*, or just that I have no patience whatsoever. To quote Jen Hatmaker “Children should not be allowed to learn to read until they are already good at it” *cue apathy* , *cue mortal fear of failing my child* ,*cue renewed effort to ‘read with them’*, *cue humiliation of other children being “way ahead”* and all these in any order at any one time contributing to a vicious cycle of defeat.
Anyway she’s eight years old now and she can basically read. I’d love it if she read a bit more confidently out loud, but come bedtime she is “stuck in a book” (yay!!) and various other bits of creative chaos in her room, (I often find her asleep in a pile of books, pens, and bits of paper). For the moment I’m at peace with it. (mostly…on my good days)
Except now it’s round 2, Judah’s turn. It’s been the same thing, only this time I’m even less than motivated. I’m busier, I’m more tired, and I’m older, and I feel like doing the reading thing even less. *cue vicious cycle outlined above*
The truth is, both children have shelves full of books. My reading to them at bedtime is something that ebbs and flows. I simply cannot swear blind (as many parents seem to be able to) that “We read to them every night!” but we’ve certainly done our fair share over the years.
Judah has one of these magical reception teachers who is making the whole classroom experience for the most part a real joy and adventure. Love the woman. She’s gold.
However despite all that, we still have the inevitable “reading diary” and reading books that end up in his school bag. That I forget are there.
Last week I had a full on melt down about it all. I will spare you the details except to say it was in public, and may have even been in my son’s classroom, in front of him *wince*. I was suddenly overwhelmed with that hugely frustrating combination of feelings. the “heistooyoungforschoolbutiwishhewasstillperformingbecauseeveryoneelseseemstobebutiamunwillingtopushhimjustbecauseeveryothertigermominherispushingtheirkidishouldn’thaveto”
So after ranting, shouting at a fellow parent, (thankfully a good friend) and then another fellow parent grabbing me and hugging me, (or perhaps stopping me before I totally lost it) I finally cried.
After I calmed down, I started to try and reflect and work out just why I felt the way I did about all this.
I started to remember.
What was it like to learn to read and write? as in….what was it like for me?
I remember having this deep sense inside my little five year old soul….that I was on the verge of doing something big.
I was older than my kids were when they started. I had been five for five months.
I remember my phonograms…they were what we had before “phonics”.
They were these large rectangular flashcards, black and white
no cute pictures, no kangaroo K or purple P.
I can see them all spread out on our living room floor. I can picture my mom sat there holding them up. A (as it cat) A (as in ate) and ahhhhh (as in sofa)
Her First Nurse Works Early
I remember my first three reading books, “In the Tent” , “A mule on a kite” and I can’t actually remember the name of that first one, I think it had a green cover…oh wait *googles* ah ha! it was called “A big big man!” (that’s really funny)
I can see myself sat on my mom’s unmade bed, in her messy room, with those 80’s mirrored wardrobes, powder blue carpets, probably in my pj’s (no uniform and tie) and I can remember picking that little reader up, and sounding out every word. (probably painstakingly slow) “a b b b i i i ggggg b b b i i i ggggg mmmmm a a a nn.”
No one told me it was “time to read” no one told me I was ready to read. I just picked it up and started to read. My mom wasn’t “sat with me” She was doing something, probably folding laundry, and walking in and out of the room, grabbing coffee from the kitchen, while I painstakingly sounded out every single letter. I remember thinking to myself “I’m reading!!”
I remember that moment so clearly, like it was yesterday.
I also remember those first penmanship books. They were these totally old school books where we wrote the same letter over and over again. I mean, if you were to try and imagine the sort of writing exercise book that would put a child off for life….those may be it. However I enjoyed writing! I loved them! they made me feel like I was stepping back in time (which I sort of was) and I love writing to this day.
I hated spelling. If I ever threw a proper strop as a home educated child it would have involved a red pen and a spelling test of some sort, and usually my one home educated friend Laura getting 100%.
It wasn’t all magical
But I do remember learning to read, in my pjs, on my mom’s unmade bed. I will never forget how I felt I’d really made it when I’d advanced to the 3rd book in my first set of readers.
So I suppose this is when it’s time to say thank you.
Thank you to my mom, who taught me to read.
She researched methods and curriculum, and had the faith in herself that she could teach me, and just…. went for it, despite home education not even being legal where we lived at the time. Who knows what she gave up so that her daughter could learn to read at her own pace, in her own time, with no stress or anxiety?
Maybe my mom remembers more tears than I do. Maybe she had to make me do my phonograms when I didn’t feel like it. Maybe I’m remembering it all wrong and through rose tinted windows of fuzzy childhood memories….maybe.
This isn’t a post to say “home schooling is so much better” because it’s never as simple as that. It just isn’t my friends.
This is just a post to say….Thank you mom for teaching me to read. I have only good memories that I am so thankful for, and you were right…I am missing out a bit. I’m not the one driving the experience for my kids, I’m having to follow along, and it feels a lot harder for me than I remember it being for you. I always had the sense you were having so much fun teaching me.
Happy Mother’s Day! To my mother, and my first teacher…