Monday, December 8, 2008

The New Reading Method

I've been reading John Holt's book "Teach Your Own". He quotes from the Chicago Tribune (1977) a story about the new reading program that has been 10 years in the making. "A program that may be the pacesetter for the nation...". It involved 500 elements or skills that children needed to learn in order to learn to read. They whittled that down to 273. John Holt was incredulous about this new method, and describes his own learning to read process:
 "When I taught myself to read, I didn't learn 500 skills, or even 273; I looked at printed words, on signs, in books, wherever I might see them, and puzzled them out, because I wanted to know what they said.  Each one I learned made it easier for me to figure out the next." (page 17, Teach Your Own)

This was essentially how my first son taught himself to read before the age of 3. He asked questions about letters, asked me what sounds they made, read signs at the grocery store, made me read the same books over and over as he puzzled out the words. 

Further in John's book he talks about other reading programs and classroom situations where children were not allowed to read certain books because they weren't at that level yet. He further describes a substitute teacher's success at implementing a silent reading program to a class and having children suddenly interested in reading....because they were allowed to read a book! What a concept!! 

Can you imagine a class situation where a child enters a class and is told "No Johnny, I'm sorry you can't read that book. It's on the 3rd grade reading list and you are only in 1st grade." In a sense this is what happened to my son. He entered Kindergarten already reading and writing these wonderful stories. His spelling and penmanship were atrocious, but I figured that was what school could teach him. His teachers had other ideas. The poor boy was bored to death being forced to stay with the class, do phonics worksheets, and read simple sentences like "the cat sat on the mat". When I asked for him to be moved up a grade I was told he was "socially immature" and therefore not ready for the 1st grade. Because he was a loner and chose not to interact with a classroom of "babies" as he put it. Thank goodness I learned about homeschooling. Today that socially immature child has just been promoted to Senior Airman in the US Air Force, a full 6 months ahead of the normal schedule for such promotions. 

here is a description of what that entails:
Senior Airmen (SrA) wear a chevron of three stripes with a silver star in the center. Pay grade is E-4. Personnel serving as SrA are in a transition period from journeyman/worker to NCO. They must develop supervisory and leadership skills through PME (Professional Military Education) and individual study. All SrA should conduct themselves in a manner commensurate with established standards, thereby asserting a positive influence on other airmen. The SrA must, at all times, present the image of competence, integrity, and pride. The official term of address is “senior airman” or “airman.”

I'm thinking he rose above that kindergarten label. 

Over the years I have encountered many new reading programs. Currently on Guam there is much debate over D.I. - Direct Instruction - which is a reading method that was originally developed for underprivileged communities. It was brought to Guam several years ago and has been forced upon the public schools as THE learning to read method that will improve test scores for the children of Guam. All that I have seen it do is take away a child's love of reading by making reading a rote exercise. Other subjects like art, music, science, and social studies have been set aside as the DI takes up too many hours of the instructional time in school. So at the cost of the arts and sciences, Guam's children are forced to endure the most boring teaching method around.

In John Holt's book he predicted that in 10 years there would be a new reading program. That was back in 1981 in Chicago. Twenty-seven years later I'm sure there has been more than one new program. What will the next new one be?

 As a homeschooler, I never need to know. I will continue to teach my children to read successfully using the method that works. Reading books, books, and more books. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Swapping

'Tis the season to start getting rid of STUFF. I have too much of it as it is. As the children get older I need to start letting go and cleaning out. Each year they accumulate more and more items via gifts or just acquiring. And with Christmas coming more stuff is going to appear.

Some is much needed like new clothes, or to replace broken items. And some is just for fun because we can. It is nice to be able to give your children something they really want. Why not? As parents shouldn't we desire to give good gifts to our children?

With those two thoughts in mind, here is my brilliant solution to the too much stuff syndrome. I have good quality used baby toys, mostly from Discovery Toys that I acquired as demo toys for my business, and of course they were well used by my own kids. The great thing about Discovery Toys is they are good quality and therefore, even after being well used, they clean up great and look almost brand new. Lots of play life still left in them. Now I could probably sell them at a garage sale for $1.00 a toy. Or I could do a trade with a family that has a new baby in the house, but whose 10 year old son has outgrown his bike. A perfectly good bike that my son could use. What is one man's junk is another man's treasure, right? (or woman's).

So here is my challenge to all you who read this post. This Christmas start up a toy swap with your friends, or a dish swap, or linen swap or whatever kind of swap you can think of. The bartering system is a viable option. You can clean out your cupboards at the same time as helping someone else clean out theirs. Happy Swapping!