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(Over the last few days, I’ve been having this immense pang to get back to blogging but somehow have been lazy to put my thoughts to words. Today, when I saw RS and R’s Mom (Yay! She’s back!) put up posts on kids getting adjusted to new education systems, I thought I should at least cross-post my experience which I wrote for IMC here. I promise (more to myself) that I’ll get back to full-time blogging in some time!)

Background

First some background. A year ago, when the kids were six, we moved from India to the US. I know a lot of Indian kids who’ve moved and are doing really well at school here. But, I was super worried. Because we just didn’t move countries; we were moving from alternate education system to a mainstream one. We were moving from Waldorf education system to IB. Waldorf emphasizes on physical fitness and rhythm over the first six years. There are no ‘books’ until first grade except for free drawing and painting. They begin reading, writing only capital letters and a bit of math only in the first grade. (Well.. How much I miss Waldorf is for a separate post altogether!) So, that’s what we moved with into the first grade – no reading; no writing; no math. Well.. Let me focus on reading in this post. Basically, how we learnt to read.

How we began

The first month into grade one was intimidating; no not for the kids, but for me. We sat everyday for an hour or so after school learning the phonics. Being a technologically averse parent that I am, I wasn’t too comfortable dealing with apps for reading. So, we learnt phonics the old-fashioned way. There was always a doubt in my mind about whether I was teaching them the right things and in the right way. That’s when serendipity intervened.

I met someone at a local temple here. We got talking about reading and kids. Bob books are great, she said, but didn’t quite work with her kids because they read a word just based on the first few letters and more often than not, they guessed the word; sometimes wrongly. She suggested a book called ‘Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons’. That book is my savior. That book is my reading bible.

What the books says

The book says that parents need to sit with the child 20 minutes every day but probably because we started way late (at age six, the biggest advantage the kids have over say kids of age three, is that their comprehension levels are much much higher), we were able to do two lessons in half an hour. That is, for the first few lessons at least which were pretty short.

That book introduces phonics in a step by step manner letting the kids absorb what’s being taught. The rules for groups of letters are given clearly and emphasised over two or three lessons. We took about seventy odd days to complete the entire book. Before I began with the book, I was really worried if their basics would go for a toss because they had no formal beginnings to reading. By the end of the book, the kids had progressed a lot from where we began. They were really comfortable with the basic phonics sounds.

What I learnt!

We are at the end of grade one now and both the kids are now almost on par with their peers. There are few things I learnt from this entire process of teaching the kids to read –

– Different kids have different comprehension and learning speeds. I’ve realized that I truly believe in what the Waldorf system of education emphasizes. That, each child will learn at their own pace and what we need is patience. The initial 4 months saw the daughter go up only 3 reading levels. Subconsciously, I started worrying a lot about her not catching up with the standards set. But, over the next two months, she jumped 5 reading levels stunning both us and her teachers. Teaching them read taught me patience.

– There’s a mistake I committed which I did correct in some time; but still I regret making it. I made the daughter read books which was a couple of levels higher than her reading level. I thought that would help her learn to read faster. But all that it resulted was in her getting frustrated. I learnt it was best to make her read books she could comfortably read and boost her confidence.

– Flash cards helped a little. But my problem with flash cards was that as soon as they saw the first or the first two letters, they assumed a word in mind and blurted it out, sometimes wrongly. But then, one way in which the flash cards helped was it gave us a fair idea on where the kids stood.

– Libraries. Every weekend along with groceries, we would invariably visit the library too. The kids got to pick and choose the books they wanted. Somehow, choosing their own books made them want to read them. They labored with a lot of books they chose even though they were difficult to read.

– Reading. Reading to them. Reading myself. Letting the house be filled with books. When they kept seeing books and people who kept reading, the probability of the kids wanting to read increased.

My Yay Moment

Last week, when we were on our regular trip to the grocers, the daughter who usually cribs, grabbed a book from home and sat herself on the cart. She was reading aloud in the store and asking us for help in deciphering difficult words. We did receive a few stares but I fended off those with a proud grin. My daughter was enjoying her book!

Yes, there are days when we don’t want to touch a book, but I live for days like the one at the store. And I keep hoping that one day all our days will turn out like this!

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