Our oldest son is 11 years old. And, telling the end before the beginning, he is now a reading champ; but it wasn’t always this way. The hardest part for me was seeing other children around him reading, even our younger son (who read at three), and yet he wasn’t.
To say that I was concerned is an understatement. By the time he was six I felt the weight of “expert” family members who wanted to diagnose him with various labels. Their words felt like white-hot judgment on my neck. After all, the implication was that if my son was in public school, he’d be reading already. And if he wasn’t, they have programs for “children like him.”
Our first year of homeschooling was less than ideal. I had a succession of serious blunders attempting to turn our home into a classroom–the only form of education I knew. My bright and creative son just wanted to play, explore, and create. In my ignorance I tied him down with worksheets and workbooks. I drilled him constantly on facts and figures; I didn’t understand why he fidgeted in his seat. There was no doubt why we were both in tears by the end of our “school days”.
In exhaustion after our bewildering school day, we’d snuggle and read. We’d reconnect over art projects, nature walks, and long discussions about the exoskeleton of a grasshopper. But he wasn’t reading, and he had no interest in reading for that matter. When the phonics program came out he’d literally run in the other direction. It took coaxing, whining, and bribing to attempt to complete our lessons.
When it came to our son and his reading, my husband was not concerned. He encouraged me that our boy would read when he was good and ready; he also reassured me that we all don’t learn to read on the same time table. My man is smart. Being able to learn at our son’s natural speed was part of the gift of homeschooling.
Our son wasn’t ready.
We slowly made progress. Ever so gently the Lord led me to drop all of my homeschool plans and put Methods of Holy Spirit-led Homeschooling on my heart. This included yanking the workbooks, worksheets, and lesson plans from my fingers. The scope and sequence went out the window too. I began to see so much of what my son naturally enjoyed as learning.
We didn’t go completely off the grid, but we did lighten up a lot. Those art projects, nature walks, and investigative conversations took over our days. And the pressure for my son to read: I stopped that too. I let the wonder-must-have reading program gather dust. I let my son’s interest and gifts lead our learning.
Through this journey I was continually encouraged by the stories of other homeschooling families who had children who struggled with reading and were delayed readers. One great encourager is Diana Waring. I remember reading her story in her book Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling. She tells a story of their 10-year-old son who had yet to start reading. They faced mounting family pressure. Tests were scheduled to determine the reasons for his reading delay.
But she just couldn’t shake the feeling in her gut that her son would read in his own God-appointed time frame.
Diana had confidence that God was building strong muscles for reading–and muscles to trust Him–in her son. I clung to quotes like this: “He was 10 years old, and this was the very first time he had, of his own accord, tried to read a book” (p 50).
Another dynamic in our family during those early years of homeschooling was our second son. He was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Zion craved words. By age three he had taught himself to read–devouring everything we gave him. Believe me, I had nothing to do with his early reading.
It was the Lord showing me that yet again, He is in control. At age four Zion requested his own dictionary, which we promptly obliged. He carried his treasure everywhere with him and referred to it as his “dictionarian”. As parents of two distinctly creative boys, we sought to encourage their unique development.
By age eight, Jadin was reading Cat in the Hat-type books. At 9 years old I clearly heard the Lord tell me to stop all the early reader books and immerse our son in the Word. His daily reading became Bible reading. First, he would read a single verse on his own. Then a few verses. Next it was a chapter, and then entire books. He was no longer straining at each word. By age 10, light years away from what the experts would have deemed appropriate, our son was confidently reading on his own.
He was finally good and ready.
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