Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Well Trained Mind

Yesterday I finally finished reading the Well Trained Mind by Susan and Jessie Wise and the first set of nervous flutters of homeschooling choice began to kick in. In all honesty this classical education style was not really what I had in mind for Ameera when I first decided to homeschool, but it did appeal to me....especially to the part of me that is in constant need for organization, schedules, goals and deadlines. But I knew that this attitude of mine defied why I decided to homeschool in the first place, and I would have to ease up if I was going to be successful. Slowly but surely I have been preparing myself for the inevitable, and while I keep giving myself a deadline for starting formal homeschooling I know that in reality I have actually started from the day Ameera was born.

Since she was a baby we had daily story-time sessions, arts and crafts activities, painting, play dough, nature walks, collage projects, music and dancing, audio book listening cooking, etc. I am beginning now to realize that I am already a homeschoolers at heart, but now imam putting a label on it, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I am an educator. I just enjoy the satisfaction of teaching my child things and having her learn from me.

The book is intimidating and academically rigorous, and while I do see the benefits of the classical method it seems to go against a lot of research done on the way kids learn:especially that of teaching kids reading and writing before they are developmentally ready, which this book suggests should begin at age 4 and 5. Most of my other readings suggest not beginning any formal instruction until the age of 7. And it hasn been found that more and more parents are waiting until their children are 6yrs old to enroll their kids in kindergarten. So far, in almost every book I have read over the past 2 months gives mention to Finland as being the number one country in the world to have the highest achievements on international testing, reading and writing skills. Why? Because they do not begin formal education until the age of 7.

I am in the process right now of teaching my daughter to read, and everyday I ask myself "why am I doing this? Is it because I believe she is ready? Or because I think she should be ready? What is my rush? I often observe her mannerisms and mood while we are doing our reading lessons and notice more often than not that she has difficulty sitting still for the 10-15mins of instruction time it takes to complete the lesson. She becomes distracted easily and doesn't take it very seriously and I usually have to bribe her to get it done. However, she takes to the material extremely well, and in just 13 short lessons is able to read 2,3,and 4 letter words. She gets the material and the concepts and can usually bypass quickly the tasks of the lesson. So again I come back to my questions. She seems ready (and by that I mean has the mental capacity to understand and apply the material), but physically she doesn't seem ready (not ready to actually sit still and focus). Herein lies the dilemma, whatnis the right thing to do? Discontinue teaching her until she is physically ready or continue and train her to sit and focus since she is mentally capable?

The Well Trained Mind suggests to go with a child's mental capability and to train the physical side to adapt. But the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax(other books I highly recommend, suggest the opposite, to discontinue teaching until she is physically and mentally ready. Lately I have begun asking first whether my daughter would like to do a reading lesson, if she says no, then we don't do it, but she has increasingly been giving me the same answer which is why I have been bribing her. I will continue to feel this process out with her, if I continue to find her very reluctant, then I will wait a few more months and see if she isn't more enthusiastic then.

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