Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Final Reading Adventure

By L.A. Kohl
February 5, 2007
(published in the Feb. 7, 2007 edition of the "Bullseye")

As our homeschool year began this past fall, my husband suggested that perhaps I should try teaching kindergarten to the five-year-old and the three-year-old (our only boy) at the same time, and see how it went. I was all for it. As much as I appreciate being able to homeschool our children, I’m not relishing the idea of doing it for another fifteen years. If I could get the three year old up to speed, perhaps my job could be finished in only thirteen years.

Don’t get me wrong; we don’t want the little boy to be forced to grow up too soon. In our homeschool, kindergarten takes a sum total of maybe an hour a day tops; so it’s not like he still doesn’t have plenty of time to be a child and play to his heart’s content. In fact, on days when mom really doesn’t want to be a kindergarten teacher and would like to let him play all day, he rarely stands for it.

“Mom, what letter are we going to learn today?” or “When are we going to do some school?” he asks, making me feel guilty for wanting to slack off a little.

We spent most of our first semester trying to get the alphabet down pat. It went well…but I was putting off what came next; teaching them to read. I love it once they figure out the reading process and I relish watching their excitement as they sound out words and read their first sentences. But getting them to that point has always been something I dread, for more often than not it is an extreme test of my patience.

Thus, I let most of January slip by before I pulled out the book; the book that is supposed to help me through this difficult task. The current one I’m using is entitled “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”. (I would not have chosen the word “Easy” if I were writing the title; an adjective more akin to “Hairpulling” seems more fitting.)

Lesson one teaches them two consonants sounds, how to get them to “read” those sounds, and then a word game to help them learn to listen and blend sounds together. We got past the consonants, and were starting the game part, which I thought would be simple.

“We’re going to play ‘Say-it-fast,'" I began. “I’ll say two words slowly, and then you will say them all together, quickly. Say ‘motor’ (pause) ‘boat'" I said, very long and drawn out. “Now, say it fast!”

They looked at each other and said, “Motor (pause) boat," very long and drawn out, but much louder, as if that helped.

“No, say it all together quickly!” I tried to explain. I really didn’t want to say it for them, or it would defeat the purpose of trying to get them to put sounds all together; but eventually I had to, just to show them how the game was supposed to work. Thus, we kept working on “motor boat” over and over; me saying it very slowly, and then trying to get them to say it quickly. When it looked like perhaps they were finally catching onto the game, I went on to the next two words.

“Okay, here’s a new one,” I began. “Say, ‘ice’ (pause) ‘cream’…now, say it fast!”

The boy was all full of enthusiasm now, as he was sure he knew exactly what he was supposed to do…
“MOTOR (pause) CREAM!” he articulated, as loudly and slowly as he could.

Okay, so maybe I should resign myself to the fact that I may be doing this for another fifteen years…

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