A while ago on Atypical Life, Andrea listed her favorite homeschooling books. Among those was Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. I can see why it was on her list! Here is one of my favorite points:
Real-life hands-on experience may be all well and good, but shouldn’t the child be encouraged to learn to read and write as early as possible? Isn’t this at least as important as visiting a museum or planting a garden? Perhaps not. The notion that children are given a leg-up on life if they learn to read when very young was for many years one of the key assumptions underlying perhaps the most universally-approved of the federal poverty programs, Head Start, and is reflected in much of children’s educational television broadcasting. But in fact, there is no evidence that the acquisition of reading skills at an early age is directly related to later intellectual attainment. Rather, the evidence is that reading “head-starts” tend to fade as other social and psychological factors come into play as children mature. Indeed, there is evidence that elementary schoolteachers’ preoccupation with teaching reading and writing to five- and six-year-olds may do more harm than good, as many children simply are not “reading ready” at this age.
Parents would do better, it appears, not to concern themselves with the acquisition of reading skills, but to endeavor to provide their children with an appreciation for reading. The child who is exposed to books at an early age, who sees his or her parents reading, who is read to, and who is encouraged to spend time with picture books, will all but but certainly become a reader in due course. How and when this occurs will vary from child to child and from family to family. Some children, sometimes to the distress of their parents, will be happy to be read to and to look at picture books well past the point at which they would “normally” be reading.
This is something I have been talking to my friend Heidi about recently. Her son Daniel turned six in November. She has been “doing school” with him since he was four and now he doesn’t want to read. He loves math — finished his kindergarten math program with no problem. She’s frustrated because he’s only reading short vowel consonant-vowel-consonant words. After many, many conversations on the topic, I think she’s finally relaxing a little bit. It doesn’t help that her parents and her in-laws are not exactly thrilled with the idea that their grandchildren are being homeschooled. I’ve been encouraging her to take some time off from phonics/reading for a while. If he’s resisting it and hating it, nothing is being accomplished by forcing him to sit there until he reads through the next assignment. So far, my two oldest have learned to read. For Natalie, it clicked very quickly. For Noah, it took much longer. I have a feeling when I start kindergarten with Jonathan in the fall, it will take even longer. He’s a much more hands-on, mechanical learner and hasn’t been interested in even learning his letters until very recently. But I don’t believe anything can be gained by forcing him to sit and learn. He either won’t learn or will see reading and learning as a chore to be tolerated, or worse, hated.
This book is definitely worth reading, even if you’ve already been homeschooling a while. I plan on posting an essay from Appendix 7 of this book that shows how much a middle school-aged boy is learning in spite of his teachers at the public school. Should be up later today or tomorrow.
Have a great weekend, everyone!