Monday, March 22, 2010

Read Rage.

The seven year old is learning to read.
This may seem late to some of you.
We chose Waldorf education, so for that model she's right on schedule.

She is thrilled. It's exciting.
"I can read Mama!"
She wants to show me.

We go to the library and get some first readers.
We chose Bob's Books.
They are black and white with line drawings.
Cute little stories about cats on mats and jigging pigs.

I remember learning to read. It was stressful.
I compared myself to other 'better' readers in my class.
I could feel my parents frustration as I stumbled over words.
I wanted to read so badly but it was hard, so I guessed from the pictures.

I want so desperately for that not to be the seven year olds experience.
It's one of the reasons she's in a Waldorf school.
So I embrace a very casual attitude.

"Sure, I'd love to have you read to me, whenever you're ready."
"You pick out the books you like sweetie."

I am the model of uncompetitive enthusiasm.
Until we sit down.

The first page goes well.
'Jig is a pig.'
"Oooh you're reading! Nice job."
(OK maybe a little too enthusiastic but remember I'm overcompensating so it's required.)

'Jig likes to dig.'
"A digging pig - how interesting!" I say.
Neutral comment - very encouraging but with no pressure attached - I have this down.

'Dig, Jig, dig.'
She can read the first dig and then she gets stuck.
"Sound it out lovey"

She starts to fidget.
"I can't do it" she declares.
"We'll do it together" I soothe.

My adult brain can't see the problem. She has already read both these words. The first and the last word are the same.
The middle word is only one letter different and the name of the pig we're reading about.
It's easy, she can do this.

Wait a minute. Is that frustration pulsing through my veins? Is that a judgemental tone?

Once again, I'm having a full circle moment.
It's the SAME word.
Did I really just blurt, "Don't guess, just read it."
In this moment I am the child feeling my parents frustration and the frustrated parent.

I close the book.
"That was great and you worked so hard but let's have a snack before we do more."

Better. I talk to her classmates mom's. Their kids are doing the exact same thing.
I think I might leave this learning to read stuff to her teacher for a few more weeks...


  1. Thank you for this!
    I am right there with you, we had a frustrating time with it last year... same age (no Waldorf sadly) just the sneaking suspicion that hearing a very adept older brother reader was intimidating and a poor introduction to school and social factors. If I could take back the stressed tone in my voice, I might have had nothing to say for days at a time. Hopefully both good tones and bad tones give us food for thought and opportunities to grow right along with the kids. My daughter turned 8 a few weeks ago and for the first time ever is asking me to “let her read it”. Patience or rather biting my tongue must be paying off? (Along with some positive experiences at school finally) Whatever it is I’ll take it. As my son just a year and half older polishes off multiple books a week for pleasure or information, we are working our way slowly through the beginning readers… and I’m trying really hard to watch my tone… and remember that there is no “right” schedule for this. There is just a moment between parent and child and an opportunity for me to learn right along with her. My expectations occasionally still get in the way, but to cut us some slack as mothers, this is their firsts and our firsts as well. As they learn we are working through both sets of feelings for the first time as parents. It’s a lot to learn for all involved!

  2. I struggle with this too, my friend - staying out of the way and letting them figure it out without pressure from us. Sweetpea is VERY independent right now and asks me frequently to just let her do it, whether it's reading or some other task.

    Sounds like you're on the right track.

  3. I don't have kids and haven't taught any to read, but I've tutored French for a couple of years and I have a very similar experience with adults. "You JUST pronounced that word right! Why can't you do it again??"

    Stopping by from SITS. Hope you have a lovely day!

  4. I think there is just something about a parent teaching "academic" things to our kids. We all get so frustrated with each other. We have been in the same boat, with two of our kids. We finally had to hire a tutor to work with them. The sad thing is, she doesn't do anything we couldn't do, but the good thing is, no one is frustrated at the end of the task and the kids actually enjoy the attention from some one other than their parents.


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