Lord Lucas asked: Reading begins at 6? What have home educators to say?
A predictable government response to the Cambridge Primary Review prompts me to ask: what are home educators’ experiences on when a child is ready to read?
Simply put–a child is ready to read when the child is ready.
This is not dependent on anything other than the child. It is not age based. It is not intelligence based. It is based on when it becomes something they want to do. As you will find with many things throughout your life, when you have a need or a desire to learn something-you will stop at nothing to do it.
This is also the beauty of home education: the children are facilitated in their learning by people who wait till they are ready for the next stage. There is no point what so ever in forcing anyone to learn something if they are not ready-this current report and countless teachers around the world, if honest, will say it is best to wait till they are ready. Unfortunately, they can’t let each child in a class of 20-30 children work at their own pace. And considering doctors and scientist around the world are learning more and more about a child’s physical development-why shouldn’t we wait till their brains are ready? It was proven a long time ago, that in the 1st five years of your life you will learn more than the rest of your life combined.
Yes, as you get older you will learn new facts and skills-but nothing as challenging as learning to engage with others, to sit, to crawl, to walk, to clap hands, to learn about taste and texture, to eat, to feed one’s self, to learn to talk, to sing, to learn to go to the toilet and to bathe yourself, to dress yourself and the list will go on and on. This, and so much more, is almost accomplished by the time most children are five, though not for all of them. And if anyone thinks these aren’t worth talking about and that they just ‘come’ to everyone: ask anyone who has ever recovered from a stroke just how hard it was to reach these milestones. It will take most stroke patients years to get back to the independent level they were at five.
But we must all remember, when there is a desire to learn there will be a positive outcome. And no one will be left feeling like a miserable failure.
We followed our children’s leads. Neither child has any learning complications and started to make out words at about 4 ½ and were both reading independently by about 5 ½. When I say ‘reading’ I do not mean a reading scheme type of book. We never used any. They were just reading anything and everything, practically all the time.
Is this the same for all children? Of course not-or else we’d all be clones. There are children who are willing and desire this knowledge, but for some reason or another they can’t process the ‘technique’ used to teach them to read. As any good teacher will tell you-not all systems work for all children. This is another beauty of home education: the parents can try many methods. They are not pigeonholed by the system saying they can only use a certain method. I’m not saying this makes it a simpler process for the parent, as they need to explore so many avenues-but generally through the home ed networks and the research available on different reading techniques-the method will be found.
But during this time, the children are progressing at their own pace, and aren’t made to feel inferior to others, and most importantly, they are not left behind. They will continue to thrive in all sorts of areas, and one day it will click. And this can be done without undermining their confidence, and without destroying their desire to learn.
Does all this mean not to prepare them for reading? Of course not-this is exactly what we should be doing from birth. From birth? Yes. It is never too early to prepare them for the world of reading. From birth we should be talking to them, singing to them and reading to them. By engaging verbally with our children we expose them to the wonderful world of words, and enhance their innate desire to learn.
(Hazel 10 months)