Profiling home educators:
Describe yourself, your family or one of your children. What is it like to be home educated in your family? What is “normal” for you?
Hmmm. I will describe my boy, my firstborn, as he is my greater homeschooling challenge and thus my greater homeschooling joy. (For now. I have my suspicions that my girl will become the greater challenge around age 12. Just a guess.) He is one of those all-boy boys.
When did we figure out that his brain worked a little differently from what we expected? Was it the morning the first words out of his mouth were "Dad, how long is the USS Nimitz?" Or was it when we realized that we could give him harder and harder jigsaw puzzles to work on, but he would still finish them in a flash, picking up pieces and placing them so easily.
This is the boy whose first comfort object was a book, not a blankie. Usually a book about trucks or heavy construction equipment, when he was a little guy. He always had books in his bed and we read for hours every day. At almost 11, he still likes being read to the best, and assures me he will want me to read to him forever. I believe him.
So when he struggled with reading on his own I was surprised, and dismayed. How can it be so hard to teach this book-loving boy to read? Math facts were hard too, even though he could have intelligent conversations with Daddy about math concepts I can't even describe here. He couldn't remember 5 + 7 but he could recite long answers from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In 16th Century English! Somewhere we ran into a book, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, and saw some lights coming on. We changed our homeschooling methods, including doing the unthinkable: I gave up on phonics and let him sight-read. By the age of 8 he was reading pretty well; now he is a strong reader, leaning toward nonfiction, specifically military history and weaponry.
But because he didn't learn phonics, he can't spell at all. He hates writing: a few sentences tax his patience. But a few months ago he stunned me by saying, "Mom, can we re-do phonics? Because I never got that and I need to know how to spell." So we found some middle-grade phonics workbooks and he works on them, not quite joyfully, but eagerly because, of course, he has decided he needs to learn this thing. And that's really what I always wanted: a child who would be motivated to learn the things he needs to know.
So, what is normal? Reading aloud, a lot. Answering lots of questions. Biting my tongue, sometimes, when I get frustrated over my boy's trouble with those basic skills that ought to be simple. Listening to him rattle off facts about an airplane, a battle, a submarine, and knowing it's right because he's always right on this stuff. Calming myself down when I want to get nervous about skills. Feeling euphoric when he makes connections and I see his learning.
See more posts on this topic at Principled Discovery.