THE COMMENTARY PART:
I tried potty training Baz at the age of three. That is when all the books/people/websites said to start – the ‘normal’ time. So, one morning, we took off the diaper. Underpants. Thats it. He liked sitting on the potty. He knew when he had to go, what it felt like to go. These are signs. So we gave him a sticker chart and some underpants – and started cleaning up puddles. In short, we were defeated by noon. There were like 10 puddles in 3 hours. 10! Everywhere! So many urine soaked clothes, floors, rugs. It was horrid. We put away the underpants. Our sanity, and continued love of children, was worth more than potty training. We tried again a few months later, and while it took a little longer this time, we were still defeated. We were, again, happy to change more diapers if it meant not being paranoid and ridiculously anxious every time we left the house. So, finally, at the age of four, Baz became potty trained. You know how it happened? He decided to start going on the toilet. Huh. He still pooped in his pants, which is infinitely worse than pee, because underwear just doesn’t hold the excrement the way a diaper does, but we managed. But, after a couple of months he stopped that too.
When Elwyn turned three, we said ‘screw normal’ and kept the diapers coming. Then, one day when he was around three and a half, he became interested in the toilet. And there it was. A few days later, he was wearing underpants. An accident here and there, but not many. And he was POOPING ON THE POTTY TOO! This was magical. We didn’t train a damn thing. He was ready, and he did it. A couple weeks later, he declared he would no longer wear swim diapers or pull ups to bed. And he never needed to. This rocked.
The point here, as I see it, is that kids are ready for certain things at certain times. That time is different for every child, and if you try to force it, there will be a lot of puddles, tears, incredibly loud cursing, and pulling out of hair. So, as I move forward into homeschooling, I constantly retell myself this story. Don’t push. Don’t worry. Just support. Provide opportunity and example. It will come when he is ready. It will be easy and second nature when he is ready. Just be patient!
THE HOMESCHOOLING PART:
I just read this post on reading readiness in homeschooling, and thought this was a good time to post on it- both because of the reference, and to keep myself calm and reassured.
The facts: Baz is 5, turning 6 next month. Generally following the trivium outlined in The Well-Trained Mind, we are focusing our formal learning on reading, writing, and math concepts. He also gets a heavy dose of music through Suzuki piano lessons and daily practice (including playing and reading music). Each day (usually) consists of 3 small piano practices, a half hour or so of phonics and ‘workbooks’ (math, kindergarten skills workbooks, reading, etc.),and then several books read aloud. We have outside time every day, and have Art several times a week.
So, when I write that all down, it sounds great. My intentions are great. The reality of it is that, of course, things don’t always go according to plan. Baz’s reading progress has been slower than I would have hoped for; but as Amida says in the article, it takes patience and a confidence in the ‘natural flow’. I keep having this notion that, ‘He is smart. We are smart! We are homeschooling! He should be ahead of the game!’ And I have to remind myself that we are homeschooling not because we want him ahead of the game, but because we want him immersed and engaged in the game. The ability to go at his pace is a perk of homeschooling, and to get worked up about our speed would be counter-productive.
Theoretically, children don’t leave a public school Kindergarten without knowing how to read. Kindergartens teach reading because that is the average appropriate general time for a single teacher to teach a large group of various children such a skill. That is what works best in public schools. Many kids are even reading before they enter Kindergarten, taught by parents or preschools. There are some elite and private kindergartens where, if a child can’t already read, they can’t even enroll. Between these sorts of standards, bars, and videos claiming to teach our babies reading by age two, our society hardly encourages children to take their time learning to read. I’m not saying reading isn’t important, or a great thing to learn as early as possible. But, a standard, bar, or social influence is not what my boys have teaching them. It is not with what I want my boys to learn. And it is not by what I want their success measured. Pushing my son, through tears and frustration, to do something he is not ready for, is not why I homeschool.
We work on reading every day, and while he is getting better, certain things are not clicking just yet. And that is okay. He is 5. He will likely hit a point in the next year or two and breeze through reading. And it will be no big deal. Whether it is at the age of 3, 5, or 7, there is no way that in this household, with this support system, my kids will not learn to read. It will come. When they are ready. We will support them. And they are going to be awesome. To hell with normal. My kids are Baz and Elwyn. To treat them like anyone, or everyone, else would be a shame.
A VARIETY OF PHOTOS, ALL OF WHICH I CONSIDER PART OF HOMESCHOOL:
Elwyn celebrating his completion by drawing a slide in the middle of the parking lot.