Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading and Relevance

I had a dream about unschooling last night.  Well, it wasn't so much a dream, with pictures or things happening, as it was my mind processing some thoughts.

Something that comes up frequently in unschooling discussions is the idea that with natural learning, people will learn what they need to know when they need to know it That things will click in their minds when those things are relevant to their lives. 

This is a really basic unschooling concept that I've believed for a long time.  I've seen many examples of it, not only with my unschooled kids, but also with schooled kids and adults.  You can tell someone something a hundred times, but it's not going to mean a thing to them until it needs to mean something to them.  Sure, we all pick up random facts (that's how we make connections later when they have relevance to our lives) and people can master rote memorization, but truly involved, enthusiastic learning happens when we have a personal, intrinsic need to know the information or how to do the skill.

So, my dream last night was about that, but more specifically about how it applies to E.  This year of unschooling was trying for me.  I wrote about Freaking Out and how my confidence returned after that.  But it wasn't the same level of confidence as I've had in the past.

Mostly because she's still not reading fluently.  She's reading better than she was a year ago.  She sounds out words when she writes notes to people or makes lists.  She writes in her diary.  She tells me words she sees on street signs.  Sometimes, she sees a word and makes a comment indicating she has read it, even though she didn't even realize she was reading!  And occasionally, she reads books.  She slowly and painfully makes her way through one word at a time, until she's read a page or two.

So she can do it, but it's slow, occasional, sporadic, frustrating, and never in front of anyone outside our family.

In my dream, I put two and two together.

She's not reading fluently or frequently yet, because it's not relevant to her yet.

And there are a TON of other things that ARE relevant to her.  Every moment I spend concerned about her reading ability, I am missing out on sharing those things with her instead.

It's the school system that says reading "should" be relevant to her at this age, and that survival skills (her latest interest) "should" be relevant to her at age.... well.... actually that never comes up in a public school curriculum.   

The other part of my dream was my mind reminding me that I always have choices.

I could put her in school, and she could be shamed and teased, or tested and found to be a failure or have some sort of problem, because of her reading ability.  And maybe she'd start reading better.... or not.   

I could go buy a curriculum and have her sit down every day and try to read through tears of frustration.   And maybe she'd start reading better.... or not.

Those are legitimate options that many parents choose to make.

They are not ones I can seriously consider.

Every moment that she spent in school or crying over a reading lesson at home, would be time she could be spending learning survival skills that would never even be touched on in school.  She'd be missing out on bonding with her grandpa over emergency bags, and learning money management while comparing pocket knife prices with me on Amazon.  She'd be missing out on learning real skills that could save her life.

She'd even be missing out on writing lists of survival gear which she did last week.
E with her BoB and camping knife/fork/spoon

Yep, tears over reading lessons could cause her to not have the time or desire to spend actually writing and reading for reasons that are truly, intrinsically her own.  How ironic.

Update:  I wrote this several days ago, but hadn't posted it yet, and right after that, we got E and L a phone.  They started using their dad's old phone, which is a better phone than my bottom-of-the-line flip phone.  That doesn't bother me one bit, because I had a feeling they'd want to text, and that is much easier with a keyboard.  Sure enough, reading and writing have much more relevance to her on a daily basis for the last few days.




  1. I've had moments like this with my daughter - both the worry that her reading is not developing as quickly as I though it would, and the realisation that her skills will develop when she's ready, like they have with everything else. I had one moment (the first one ever) this week when I thought about my son, now 8, and wondered when he would start to read, and then I was able to let it go and trust that it will happen when its ready. I think its more work on our part to have that trust with the eldest child, because it is all new to us!

  2. It is so much easier with the younger kids!