It has been a journey. I’m feeling the struggle in the process of letting go of labels. Most of us intrenched in the school mentality have formed ideals that can be extremely hard to remove from our minds and life. It is not as if these attitudes just disappear when you decide its time to give it up. They sneak in unsuspecting, in conversations with strangers and family, in deciding learning skills, when making goals. Even when your children play with other schoolers.
This year the idea of grade level learning keeps popping up, especially as we are entering the start of a new “school year”. Blake and Maeve are continually asked what grade they are entering, which has ensued a few awkward conversations. Here’s why, technically if he would have continued on track with public schooling he would be in 3rd grade. However, Blake’s learning is asynchronous meaning he is many grades all at once. After reading clicked with him, he improved rapidly (which is usually the case) and is reading fluently in most any capacity. I could say he reads at a 5th grade level or a 3rd grade level or even a 9th grade level, but that is exactly what I am trying to rid myself of. This idea that he is ahead or below grade level, opens the mind to comparisons between children, creates unneeded goals and places unwanted stigma on our children. These insipid labels have little meaning, you and your child are reading at a pace and comprehension that is at level for you, at the time. Once these labels are gone, real progress can occur unimpeded by expectation. (However I have to make it clear that I believe if at anytime you have concerns with your child’s development a serious talk with your physician is appropriate, they should help you weed out if your child’s emotional and intellectual development is within an appropriate range. )
The hurdle to learning to read was an emotional struggle for Blake, one that broke my and his heart. So for awhile we backed off, however, I began reading aloud to him more and more. We read 17 chapter books within a 6 week span. Books that he chose for me to read, and when he wasn’t interested in the story we just picked another. Somewhere along the way he asked me to track my finger along as I read. (He picked books by Bruce Coville, Rhoald Dahl, and even J.K Rowling) Then one day he picked up “The BFG” and said “I’ll read a chapter, then you read a chapter.” I was so excited I nearly jumped outta my pants, but I reared it in and said “ok.” He read beautifully, and when he didn’t know a word he would pause look at me. I would supply it to him, no questions asked. Soon after this I realized that Blake could not learn to read through phonics instruction and was strictly a learn by sight type. It became apparent that after seeing a word and hearing it from me once or twice within a text he was able to internalize that information. It didn’t take long after that for him to start burning the midnight oil, so he could read “just one more chapter.”
Since then it has become apparent to him how much information he can gain by reading. He has become a lover of instruction manuals, and the internet has become a treasure trove of information he can now “access”.
And so as we begin a new school year not only with Blake but Maeve as well, I am continually throwing away the labels, and fostering my children’s growth at a pace that is comfortable to them.