The beauty of home-ed is that a dyslexic lad like Finn can find his own way to reading, on his own terms, without being stigmatized or mocked or punished for it, without being endlessly tested in that medium, as if all his intelligence were tied up in that one skill. He has found it hard enough that Herbie, his younger brother by 18 months just suddenly took to reading over two years ago, and didn't have the least bit of trouble with it.
It has been harder and harder to hold our nerve as Finn got older. Being our firstborn, it feels a little like he has been the litmus paper of our home educating 'success' or 'failure' in the eyes of family and friends, and not everyone perhaps has shared our laissez-faire acceptance that our boy is doing just great as a non-reader. It's pretty unconventional to allow a boy to reach the age of 10 and not get into hysterics about his reading 'levels'. It's taken some guts, I can tell you.
One thing that we ditched some time ago was conventional literacy workbooks, when we realised that whilst he could complete books (a very frustrating process all-round), we would find soon afterwards none of it had really gone in or been truly understood. As we researched autonomous learning and gained confidence from other families' stories, we relaxed and decided that if we were going to be just like school, then our boys may as well go to school!!! So we've become less and less school-like - much to the raised eyebrows of some people I'm sure!
Anyway - I have written on this topic of reading before, in my article Life is not a race.... for EOS magazine. For those who are interested I'd also love to point you towards this wonderful collection of reflections posted on Lord Lucas' blog, from parents describing how their children came to reading outside of the school system - many of them rather later than the school age for learning to read. It makes for a really fascinating read.
So....... what do we do around here if we don't do workbooks, to encourage reading in the house?
which is a big hit in our household since we've heard the Giggler treatment so many times I reckon the disc will wear out at some point!
So how else do they read, besides books? Well they play a whole variety of games on their PC, and have had to read instructions and complete quests, enter, read, decipher and decode to be advance through different levels. Sometimes they play alone but oftentimes it's a really collaborative process, working together as a team. They play literacy games, maths games, logic games, adventure games, science games, role playing games, comic-making games where they insert their own photos, beat-em-ups (we are talking pretty tame ones here, like Ruthless Romans gladiatorial battles on the wii, definitely not graphic military style war games) - pretty much every type of game you can think of that's not really graphic or violent.
The boys have watched Magic Key DVD endless times, plus all manner of different BBC literacy programmes over the years. We are crazy about audiobooks, and just recently the How to Train your Dragon series has been on repeat play - the wonderful voices of David Tennant in glorious scottish technicolour, all music to our ears! Roddy Doyle, Atticus the Story Teller, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - all that vocab and warmth and passion in the telling. It all soaks in.
Trading cards have sped up all the boys reading skills and particularly Pokemon. I have been quite amazed at the rate at which Herbie in particular has learnt to spell some really tricky words just recently through his love of Pokemon. It has spawned a whole bunch of Pokemon related activity - inventing their own cards, drawing and copying characters on paper (refining their drawing skills), making posters and games and all sorts of other written and hand-drawn work. I say work, because they have treated these activities as important work, their inner drive to do it has been un-stoppable! Indie proudly tells me how something is spelt, and runs off again, delighted with himself. Alfie follows the boys around, wanting to be just like them, singing "P-O-K-E-M-O-N woooahhh..."
Herbie started a craze for comic-making, and ran his own comic-making workshop at our local home ed group last week, teaching other kids what he knows, and learning from them too. I forgot to take my camera that day so have no photos of it sadly. Anyway. To support this I invested in boxes of clickable pencils, drew up and photocopied templates of different cartoon-strip sized boxes, bought a couple of dozen technical-drawing pens in black ink (the ones that don't smudge, and flow beautifully), a box of artists rubbers, and two dozen coloured technical drawing pens, oh how they love them - they are drawing, drawing, drawing, and writing all sorts!
I have sometimes had moments of doubt that Finn never 'get there' as he has grown well past the school timings for reading - felt a little pink-faced when grilled by kindly but befuddled friends and family, wondered if our faith was misguided....
But here we are.....
They always get there in the end!!!