I have three sons.
Cuties, right?? That’s so not the point of this article but they are good lookin’ kids, yes?
These boys have the same parents, they are being raised with the same values, they love the same God, all three live in the same house, they share the same bedroom, sit together in the same classroom and eat meals at the same table. For all their sameness of circumstance, as most of you parents of more than one child can attest, there have never been three more contrasting personalities.
They each see, feel, learn, experience, and process life differently. Understanding that I have been blessed with three very different children, I’ll admit I had a very difficult time processing the fact that my youngest son was not picking up reading skills with any measure of the relative ease of his brothers before him.
My Andrew turned 6 this last December. An always educationally homeschool-skeptical and hawk-eyed family member of mine can barely hide her concern over his late-blooming reading skills. I have friends with 4 year old children that can read stories to my 6 year old. Is that not humbling and a tad bit embarrassing??
We’ve been a homeschooling family for 5+ years so I’ve heard and participated in the conversations we all have at co-ops and homeschool gatherings with regards to reading; boys take longer than girls, try (X,Y,Z) curriculum, it works wonders, they’ll learn when they’re ready, etc. On the flip side of the coin is the rest of the world that seems to believe earlier is better, more is best, organized preschool is a must and not knowing how to read sight words and decipher easy readers the first day of kindergarten is an unacceptable travesty.
The reality is that every child is different, and no two paths to reading will look the same. When he was 4 1/2, we tried a formal reading program; it was a disaster. That summer at age 5 we tried another. He had almost no interest and had to be dragged through lessons kicking and screaming. From 5 1/2 to 6, I backed off. He played word games on iDevices, gained command of his ABCs, worked slowly through a fun pre-reading skills program, practiced his handwriting, and spent lots of time being read to by Mom, Dad, and the brothers. Last week I pulled out the same program we used when he was 5, and you know what? He likes it! He’s learning; he’s connecting the dots between letters and pictures and written words; he’s learning to read! Granted, his kindergarten year is quickly coming to a close and he’s only just beginning to show real progress, but it IS progress and I’m thrilled to see it.
Because of the conflicting messages out there in the realm of elementary reading skills and timelines, I sat down to write this article believing my boy was pretty far behind the curve. Whether I believed this because of my super-educated family member’s disappointment, my own embarrassment, or the experiences I had with the two older guys that seemingly exited the womb reading, I was wrong. WebMD published a very helpful article about when kids should learn to read, write and do math that helped confirm my guy was learning at the right rate for HIM.
Andrew probably could be reading by now had I continued to force the issue when he was younger, but I would have created a whole heap of unnecessary stress and family strife in the process. He might be able to work through simple books right now, but would I have fostered the love of reading I want my boys to have? Probably not. I absolutely would have missed the moment we had last week when he realized he knew what the three little letters on the page meant, and his face lit up with genuine excitement. So, my son can’t read, but he loves to learn, and I have absolute confidence the rest will follow!