For the past two days, L. (and whoever else has been swept up into her wake) has been writing reports. Or, more accurately, I should probably spell that 'wprt'. All of a sudden, as if a switch flipped, several little girls are deep in the inventive spelling phase. I love this phase. I love seeing how a child processes sound inside their head. I love seeing a child feel confident enough with their knowledge of reading and writing to know that they can write things down and communicate their ideas to other people. I love watching the transition from little child to older child.
It is a phase that lasts an extremely short period of time as well, and it is far better just to enjoy it rather than stress about how crazy muddled the letters and sounds must be inside a child's head. (I will admit to doing this at first. This is a prime example of being an experienced parent... I can enjoy the different phases of a child's life and not worry about what comes next.) These girls are actually doing exactly what I would expect at exactly the point at which I would expect it. I find creative spelling to come after a knowledge of phonics and beginning reading is achieved, yet before true fluency arrives. K. went through this phase last fall. It fills some sort of need to help the child really figure out how letters and sounds work together to make written words. I can see a huge improvement in L.'s spelling in just the 24 hour period she has been busy at it. It is like a giant feedback loop of sounding something out, spelling it, and then having to reread what was written that somehow makes clear what is going on.
Are you ready for the report? (You may have to click on the photo to be able to see it better.)
Other than wprt, which I've already clued you in about, there is a good chance that seaweed and ocean (which I helped with) are the only two words you'll be able to read. Here's the translation, which I could only manage with L's help.
"L's seaweed report
Seaweed lives in the
ocean so do
other fish some
sharks live in
salt water other fish
(and then this line got a little fuzzy even for L., the is at the beginning and salt is at the end)
The pictures are labelled 'seaweed' then 'microscopic plants' with a nice little blow-up inset picture, and then 'other seaweed'.
Now, having shared that, I feel as though I need to talk a moment about delayed academics. As many of you know, G. and L. are turning 8 in June and are in second grade. If you have a child in more traditional school, then most public and private schools expect a child to be reading by the end of kindergarten. This is a full two years ahead of where my two girls are right now. I'm sure that there are some of you out there either hyperventilating on my behalf that my girls are so 'behind', just as I am sure there are others of you out there who are wondering not so vaguely if this constitutes educational neglect. I assure that I neither need your sympathy nor a visit from DCFS, if that was where your thinking was going. For our own unique school schedule, these girls (as well as Y.), are right on track. One cannot expect a child to learn to read by the end of a school year if that is the school year in which you just began teaching letters and sounds. And this is what we do. Kindergarten is pretty much an extension of preschool around here... lots of naps and snacks and play and exploring and listening to stories, with just the smallest amount of actual, so-called academic work. First grade builds on this, with more academic-type work coming in second grade.
Why would we do this? I have more than a few reasons, here are some of the biggest ones. 1. Why rush? There is nothing that proves that early academics help a child succeed as an adult, and there are actually more than a few studies to say that it is perhaps more harmful than anything. 2. I hate to waste time. Why would I spend a lot of time and frustration teaching something to a child that the child is not ready for, when I can wait and do it so much faster and easier? 3. Delaying allows a child's brain to mature enough so that highly academic skills can be sorted and stored in a more efficient (and usable) way than trying to ask a brain that is not yet truly ready to do these sort of tasks. It creates inefficient brain function in the long run. 5. It is kinder and less frustrating to everyone. That doesn't really need to be explained, does it? The only down side I can think of, is when parents play the comparison game. A child who reads early is somehow a better reflection of that child's parents it seems. (No, I don't quite get it, either.)
I also have the luxury of this not being my first rodeo. Most of my older children did not read fluently until the age or 8 or so. Once they did start to read, though, they took off at lightening speed and in a matter of months were reading books far above their grade level. They read when they were ready, and once there, the reading switch flipped fairly quickly. They were able to experience high levels of success immediately. I personally feel that there would be significantly fewer reading issues among children today if we were to wait until a later age to teach them to read.
And now, while I have writing this, L. has been composing another story and she wants an audience to share it with.