Getting there. 

A little less than a year ago, S picked up a Dr Suess book and…just read it. Yes, she needed a bit of help, but she read all sixty pages of Hop on Pop like a mofo. Was I relieved? That was the understatement of the century.

Sure, all the unschoolers who came before me said to just relax and trust things. But, you know, literacy is a bit more complicated than potty learning. I was relaxed about that, I did no ‘training.’ (Though I had potties everywhere, explained what they were for, and made myself available if needed. Much like books and reading!) At age 2, S decided one day she was through with nappies. Three weeks later, M followed suit. I think each had one accident in the two days following getting rid of nappies, and never again. They were ready.

So I clutched our urine free carpet memories to my chest, I held tight to the words of those with older children and teenagers. I read the blogs of adults that had been unschooled. And I held tight.

What does unschooling look like when you are learning to read? We’ve never done lessons or anything formal. And that, my friend, takes courage.

Did I go nuts and order like four different sets of beginning books? Sure. Did I download Teach Your Monster to Read (WHICH IS AWESOME!)? Of course. But did I ever make the kids do any of those things? No.

S learning to read was a quiet event, right before my birthday bonfire. She read a book; we went outside and made s’mores. I wasn’t too surprised as she’d been writing for ages, had begun to sound out searches for youtube videos, etc. But still. Relief.

She’s read signs and various things over the past year with this sort of prideful glee, but not cared too much about books. But in the last three weeks? She’s bringing books to read in the car. I’m finding her in various corners of the house, reading. She’s showing me books for older children in bookstores and double checking she’s reading the sentences right. BOOM.

So we were 50% there. I relaxed quite a bit – now I had proof I could see and touch, it was easier to believe. But M is very different to S. He doesn’t do a lot of fine motor things, he doesn’t care about writing things down, he rarely draws. We recently read The Neverending Story to the kids and it totally captured his imagination. He’s always liked advanced books; his bedtime book for a good few weeks was a history of WWII book written for adults.

So how was he to ever match his intellectual brightness with the stupidity of most beginning reading schemes? I kind of thought he’d be one of those unschooling kids who doesn’t read until ten, but then is suddenly reading Ulysses in a single gulp.

Then I heard about another set of books recommended by another home edder. And because I hoard books and love getting stuff in the mail, I ordered them. He picked up the first one AND HE JUST READ IT.

What?!

What the actual?!

No stumbling, no hesitation. Then he read the next one.

Today in the car, S offered him one of her books. And he read that puppy, too!

MY GOD I CAN FINALLY EXHALE. Thank you, gods and goddesses of literacy, thank you books illustrated with stick figures sitting on each other while a freaky deaky sun looks on in horror.

It’s easy to retrospectively trust in the process, now that we are there. But getting there? I’m here to say it’s okay to worry, it’s normal to doubt – but my god, is it worth it to hang on. Because it’ll happen. And when it does, it’s truly at the right time for your child. They can do it.

But you know, YOU CAN TOO. Stay strong. *love to you all*

Now I’m off – probably to worry about when they’ll start reading more and more and more…at higher levels…with greater ease…It’s not easy to step of the merry go round of parental worry and guilt, but each little joy and success makes it easier.

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Storing up belief for the times when your immediate source momentarily dries up!

While rereading the post I wrote about the process of finding lost toys, my thoughts became more clear about one thing: remembering the successes of the past can really help us get through the uncertainties of the present.

When M lost his Lego piece and I almost lost my mind, remembering all the times I did get so angry about missing Angry Birds in the past calmed me down. I remembered that we (usually) did find what was missing. I realised that as his collection of something grows, the whole (usually) becomes more important than its parts, so one missing piece isn’t such a catastrophe.

I remembered that we got through these small multiple crises in the past, and I knew we would manage it today.

It’s like that with a lot of things.

I remember worrying that the kids would be in nappies forever. You see, I was that crazy parent who didn’t bother with ‘potty training.’ I held the belief that kids do things when they are ready. But no matter how strongly we hold a belief, even when it is borne out by our own personal past experience and that of our friends/family, it is normal and natural to have wobbles.

We had potties scattered around the house. The kids knew what they were for. There was no pressure, no agenda. Just lots of f’ing potties littering our scenic vistas.

And one day, it happened. S said, ‘No more nappies! I’ll use the potty from now on.’ Even at two, she sounded very sure of herself. And she was right to trust herself. That very first day she had one or two accidents on the floor, until she managed to figure out about timing things right.

Three weeks later, he did the same thing.

Neither one ever had an accident beyond the first day, we never had months of fighting and bribes over bodily functions, they learned to trust their own bodies in their own time. I was the one who had to catch up, carrying spare under garments everywhere we went for months, despite the fact that I never needed them.

Now when I worry about things like reading, thinking, will it ever happen? I remember those two smaller versions of themselves, who even when so young managed to figure out something so complex. They waited until they were exactly ready, and then it just happened. No muss, no fuss.

So much of their learning has happened like this. When they have a need, when they are truly ready, when they are joyfully at play, it just happens. Using scissors like a pro, tracing, writing a name.

I store up each little victory like a squirrel storing nuts for harder, colder times. A sort of protection, a fallback, a way to bolster myself when I wonder and wobble and wonder some more.

My collections of acorns is growing.

How they are developing…

S and M are different people with different focuses.

S is into a lot of ‘academic’ stuff. Today, for instance, she spent hours playing maths apps and has mastered symmetry, furthered her understanding of fractions, and continued working towards consistently knowing the difference between right and left. She’s been able to do oral maths problems (that she creates, and that people around her do) since age two, and these are gradually gaining in complexity and her speed in solving them.

She has been desperate to learn to read and started begging me to teach her about six months ago. I’ve gone along with her, but also tried to emphasise all the stuff she’s doing already is helping her learn. She started with a fascination for road signs and recognising a handful of basic words. She somehow learned every letter of the alphabet, and three days ago discovered that each letter makes a sound. At dinner yesterday she pointed to most letters on her alphabet placemat and made the correct sound.

She’s done all this herself – obviously I’ve strewed interesting things in her path and explored them with her when she wanted, we read books of all shapes and sizes together, etc – but there have been no school like sessions of memorising sight words or formally doing phonics.

S also delights in medical things – skeletons both human and animal, organs, the senses. She has said she wants to be a vet and adores animals; she has a knack of making them like her very quickly. She’s very musical and into horns; she makes up tuneful songs all day long and narrates what we are doing through them. S loves doing ‘shows’, both with her as the key performer, and making shows with her toys for us to watch. She also insists on being called Baby Kitten about 98% of the time, and acts accordingly. She spends a lot of time upside down, trying to fully master headstands, and taught herself the perfect forward roll at age one. She loves her Bunny above all other things (and recently has discovered a love for soft toy animals), and Bunny now wears pyjamas just like S (think of pyjamas as her uniform). S knows her mind and is not afraid to be very clear in expressing her opinion…sometimes quite fiercely.

I often think of M as a creative engineer or film director. He likes making things, and delights in watching YouTube videos relating to Angry Birds and Minecraft, then replicating things he’s seen in physical form in our house. This often takes the form of directing us to do his bidding. He adores YouTube in general, and calls a kid on there who does product reviews his friend.

As a toddler, he saw a bike rack on a car for the first time. He came home, found some sticks, and put them on the roof of his Little Tykes cozy coupe. Ditto windshield wipers. This has not changed; his basic, shining belief that we can make whatever we wish. The recent project has been making Minecraft guys and worlds from Lego, though he also makes fantastical creations from pipe cleaners…and…well, anything he can get his hands on.

He is a collector and wants all of whatever it is he is interested in. His current joy lies in Angry Birds Star Wars telepods and mystery packs. Often he is satisfied if we make whatever it is – a superhero house of out cardboard boxes, a Frank combine from Cars out of yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls, an Angry Birds Death Star out of tinfoil. He is a visionary thinker, and his confidence in relation to his creativity astounds me.

We have collaborated on making a CD of Minecraft song parodies, and he has learned all the words. He begged us to let him get chilli pepper seeds when he loved the chilli pepper on Plants vs Zombies (and we ended up with a HUGE crop that none of us really ate!). He has two stuffed dogs and one stuffed cat he really likes, though only as good friends. He loves babies and will often zero in on the baby or toddler left alone at soft play, remaining by their side as protector and guardian until their parent returns. He is tender hearted, loving, and the first to rush over and ‘blow’ on someone’s body if they get hurt. He doesn’t like the cinema, and in fact often doesn’t want to watch new DVDs at home as he gets too upset when characters are in peril. Yet he stages grand battles between piggies and birds, creepers and Steve. He is now deeply into road signs and often hangs around when S and I are discussing reading related things. M is very, very outgoing and will happily to speak to anyone of any age. He delights in roughousing and recently made two friends who do, also. He loves Christmas decorations with a grand passion. He dances frantically and while laughing.

Both love playing together and independently. Likewise, they love their friends (including the grown up ones, and children of all ages), but also love just hanging out at home, too. Each can play for hours in created worlds using small figures. S often ropes me into hide and seek, while M wants me to sit with him and play Minecraft.

I’m interested in who they are, what they enjoy, how they learn. I wonder what their adult lives hold in store. Whatever the case, I hope the things they are learning now always hold true – it is worthwhile to discover your passion and pursue it, it is okay to try something different or stop doing something you no longer enjoy, the world is full of possibility and adventure.

Fingers crossed.

M’s letter to Santa.

wrfgyyhuuhhhbbvvvggfxssrrrdreertyhyyuyuuiiikkkjhhhnnnnnnmmfvffccccddfdff6hmmmm  nnnnnnnnnnvvxxzzz\sdsdffggggggggggffddfddeeweeerrfsddffghgggvbbbbb    b nnnhjubb78999kknnbnnnnnnnnnnnnbbbbcccvvccdcvvcffcgghghgbbnnnnnnmjjnjioiiuuu 7jjkkkkkkummmm,m,,,,jhbhbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbffffgvgggggggggg n6789sxxcccxfvxxg bnmmmmnnbbhggggfdffvcvvvvbbbn  nnnn vvvvcccxzzxcxcxxxxxxcccvvbb bbnnnnmjjhhgggffdsawwrrtgyhuiio444567789900000ggbbbbbbb ggvgtfffffgggggggggjj ujkjjjjj jhnhhhhjjjjjjjjjjjuhhhuuu uuyuyytyyhhhhjhgvcxdxdsz\srftuuiiii9 8054se1dxzvbn nmm

Points to screen. This means Boba Fett? And Frank.

Then I need to write about all the telepods playsets. I need them. Special Angry Birds telepods. I’m going to put a lot of ‘m’s.

Then some numbers, the ones that say which telepod playsets they are.

Tippy tappy.

I need to make sure I write all the playsets down. Here’s a ‘v’. And a ‘b.’ I need lots of ‘b’s.

No, wait! I not brush my teeth yet! I’m working on my letter! Let me just write down a few more playsets.

One, two, three….etc…..SEVENTEEN!

There, okay. I’m done. I wrote it all down for Santa.