Friday, March 22, 2013

More than One Way to ABC

I've not taught either of my children their ABCs. This isn't because of negligence, quite the contrary in fact. They taught themselves. Or more realistically, picked them up on their own. But the way they each did it and when are as different as night and day.

The Professor

Zak absolutely loved every avenue of learning possible from a very young age. He attentively watched Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, and any other teaching media, and absolutely loved for us to read to him. He was two months shy of five when we started Kindergarten at home, but he already knew how to count to twenty, his shapes, colors, and most of the letters. He knew the ABC song very well, and thus the order of the letters.

I don't remember learning how to read. Or learning the ABCs. So when it came time to teach my son how to read, I was intimidated, to say the least. It was during that first semester of our educational journey that I became aware of how deteriorated, redundant, and purely irritating the English language is!

Half of learning to read and write in this language is entirely based on memorization. While the roots and origins of certain words understandably influence their spelling and pronunciation, this is an infuriating concept to try to explain to a logical thinker.

Zak follows lines of logic and often comes to black and white conclusions. Things have to make sense for him to really understand and remember them. So concepts like silent letters, homophones, and odd spellings (basically any word with a <gh> combo), are very irritating to him. He often acted as though it was a personal assault that the English language wanted him to spell city with a 'c' instead of an 's'. 

These concepts typically must be memorized, and while he has an outstanding memory, it's very selective. He has entire movies committed to memory, but still regularly gets mixed up which kind of dear/deer begins a letter to his pen-pals. Nevertheless, reading has always been a strong subject for him, he just has trouble writing in his native tongue.

The Rebel

Then we have Grace. This girl flat out refused to have anything to do with the alphabet, the song, or the letters themselves. She would get furious if I started singing the song, covering her ears until I stopped. While she too, loved to be read to, she would slam shut a book if I showed her a letter and said it's name or the sound it made, even if that was part of the story! Nor would she allow anyone else, including her beloved older brother, to educate her in any literary form. Yet when we weren't looking, she would copy letters and words into her notebooks. She would copy entire sentences, but if she caught me looking, she'd stop and close the book.

She was happy to talk about the color pink, but would tell me that she didn't want to say the names of the others because they were not pink. And we didn't "learn" shapes. We just used the names in passing, for example: "please bring me the square box for the tea set?", or "can you put all these shoes in the circle basket?"

If ever she suspected we were trying to "teach" her something, she withdrew faster than a clam into it's shell. It was confusing to see her react so dramatically different than her brother. She still learned so much, just so differently than him.

I was again nervous about Kindergarten, but this time in a new way. Would she let me teach her anything? Would she cooperate? I really wasn't sure.

We choose a different program for hers, one that was looser and brighter, more playful than scholastic. And when she was 5 1/4, she was excited to be joining her brother at the table for school. That was a good sign.

She still wouldn't let me teach her to say or sing the letters though. When we attempted to learn the sounds of the letters in her reading book, we rarely could get past half an exercise before she was clearly tuning out and sometimes crying.

We just put it away. Every few months we would pull it back out and try again. Same results. Meanwhile she was excelling in math, she loved her science work, she had no problem copying the letters, though she went through a phase where she felt she was "too old to color". Thankfully that's passed.

Sideways, Backward, Whatever Works

Then one day, we pulled out the reading book again. We started to talk about the sounds of a few letters. No whining. No heaving and sighing. No tears. She completed nearly a whole lesson! It was suddenly working!

Ever since then she has been making excellent progress. For the first few months of real progress, she still didn't know all of the letters by name, but she knew almost every one by it's sound. Almost the complete opposite of her brother, who knew every name, but struggled with the sounds if they differed from the name.

Sometimes I was scared that someone would ask her what a certain letter was, or ask her to sing the ABCs. I thought they would blame me and homeschooling her for her lack of knowing her letters by rote. That they would judge me and my little girl who was working very hard to learn to read. No one ever did. If they did ask, she usually told them the sound it made, and they would praise her. She would just shake her head when asked to sing the ABCs, and most people just attributed it to her shy ways.

Fast forward a few more months. We are now deep into first grade, and she is reading very well. Silent letters are no biggie for her, she asks for help periodically because she forgets sometimes which ones are supposed to be silent. She isn't phased by new consonant blends, even if she just has to memorize the new sound. She is like a whole different girl.

The other night, she read the book Chika Chika Boom Boom to me. I helped her in a few places, but she really read it. Then when she was done she said:

"I can say all my letters. Want me to say them to you?"

"Of course!"

She pointed to each letter as she said it out loud, by name! And aside from calling both G and J the same name, "G", she said them all perfectly.

It was a great moment. I had only taught her sounds. She picked up all the names herself. And guess what I over heard her singing today?

"A, B, C, D....."

And now, after knowing Kitty Kat for 18 months, I have come to be sure with no doubt that she will shock and awe us just like the others, but certainly with her own vibrant flare! She already does every day. Bring it on Baby, I'm ready for anything now!

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh she's gonna bring it NOW! :-)