Unschooling the Basics: Reading

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In, "How Unschoolers Learn to Read," I mentioned that "late reading" often comes up in critiques of unschooling.

My three daughters have all proceeded on the reading journey in remarkably different ways: Eldest was reading startlingly well at 5 years old.

Second daughter was just getting going at nearly 8. She methodically taught herself to read using Scribblenauts and word-by-word study of Alice and Wonderland. The Hooked on Phonics and Teach Your Child to Read stuff that her big sister used, just didn't work for her.

At 5 yrs, Youngest continues to experiment with sounding out words, but is not yet "reading fluently." She loves to page through her personal books.

Honestly, I'm not at all worried about when my children begin solo reading. I want them to enjoy stories. That's why we read aloud together, whether the kids could read on their own or not.

Here are some good book resources for homeschoolers

And some learn-to-read websites

Learn to read websites - Combine audio, visual, and written media for all types of learners to 1) Learn alphabet and letter recognition, 2) Listen to stories, 3) Begin to read.

When someone huffs and sputters, suggesting that a child is in serious danger of never learning to read if she's not reading fluently by 6, I could laugh, except that would be rude, right?

I'll concede that a child in the competitive school setting may be in danger of being "left behind" if he or she isn't reading by first grade. However, this is not a concern for kids who are not part of the system. Unschoolers can approach reading at a more natural and easy pace in whatever way makes sense to each individual child.

The Four Little Birds blogger made some great arguments, as well as some great explanations, for how and why, etc., unschoolers learn the academic basics. I wish you could read them, too, but her blog seems to have disappeared. I did, luckily, save this quote.
"What if they never want to learn algebra, and trig, and calculus????" Okay, what if? Honestly, let's just be rational about this. Life is short; we have little enough time to focus on our strengths. Why waste time being made to learn something one has little aptitude and interest for? For what possible purpose? "To get a job that involves doing higher math." But why on earth would someone want such a job, if they didn't like math?" -- from "unschooling basics" -- Four Little Birds.
My typical response to most of these types of "How will they learn...?" questions is: "Is that a serious question?" What makes the learning of math or reading or whatever else seem so complicated to the masses? Ask my kids, they'll tell you it's just letters and numbers. You play with them and figure them out. Anyone can do it.


  1. could you invite me so I can read you blog? I am very interested in unschooling. Thanks so much,Tammy tammmywild@gmail.com

  2. I do agree. And.... when my son became upset that he couldn't read at 8 years old (because he wanted to read so badly), he asked me for something other than the life learning we were enjoying together because he felt something was "different" about him. Anyhow, point being that some kids with some 'disabilities' are not able to make the connections through what's usually referred to as life learning. We played and I spent years trying to "figure it out" but we never did until we turned to more formal supports (which we've discovered is life learning... because my son wanted to choose from all options, and I supported that). It was definitely not natural or easy for him, no matter our pace. All this to remind my unschooling friends that some children do not come into the kinds of learning neurotypical children do in the ways usually encouraged in the unschooling world. And... that leaves us feeling quite excluded.

  3. Mother Bearth, I'm sorry to hear that you felt excluded. I know that some unschooling families think that "schooly" materials don't have a place in unschooling, but I totally disagree. I've never limited my children's options. Personally, I like educational materials. We have tons of such things in my house. We just don't necessarily follow the rules. We play with phonics and whole word games and websites and read-along stories, etc....

  4. Mother Bearth - would love to hear what worked and didn't work for you. My son reads fluently but doesn't retain what he reads well. He needs to hear it and see it (he's 7 and has Aspergers & ADHD). We are just getting started with homeschooling and it's a nightmare trying to find something that he'll do. He wants to do nothing but watch TV and play video games (we limit his access because he literally is unable to stop himself, he get hyperfocused and would go without food or sleep because the world has disappeared when he plays). He is very interested in science, but doesn't seem to have the attention span to spend any time on it.

  5. I'm sitting next to my "late reader". He's 9 years old. I'm not an unschooler by definition. I sit somewhere in the middle in my education approach with my kids.

    While there was no pressure from home to move any faster than he is ready for, there was a lot of pressure from outside. Some people have expressed surprise when they find that he can't read on his own yet. Family members have said they are concerned that he might have a learning disability. He has taken some teasing from other kids he plays with. Sometimes it eats away at his confidence.

    So even in the safe confines of the homeschool world there is some pressure to be "on track".

  6. My "late reader" has received some pressure from concerned people, too. She may not be part of the school system, but she's still part of this culture with its performance expectations and state-required testing.

    Unfortunately, my girl doesn't respond to all this pressure with focused efforts to "catch up." Instead, she feels inadequate and less intelligent.

    I do my best to let her know that it's perfectly fine to learn in her own way at her own pace. It's not a race or a competition.

  7. Shared this on my FB page. I panic every so often, are my kids learning?! But this helps ease the anxiety so I can continue to let them learn at a natural pace. Thank you!

  8. Well post and its great helped him in math solving thanks for tell me english spelling checker software .


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