writing will come

One of our kid’s biggest issues is what’s called, these days, gifted asynchrony. In public school, he was immensely frustrated at the pressure to keep up in areas in which he struggled — specifically reading and writing — while being bored to literal tears in areas in which he excelled — specifically science and math. The teacher, like many mainstream teachers of gifted children who aren’t evenly gifted across the board, was puzzled by this obviously bright child who hated classwork and sometimes melted down in class.

He actually wasn’t behind in reading and writing. He was just very average, especially relative to his science and math skills. He shines in areas that aren’t testable in school such as analysis of information, integrating new ideas into his existing database. He combines ideas and comes up with new ones to a degree that astonishes me, and I love conversing with him. But while learning phonics and basic kindergarten writing instruction “worked” for him — he was learning — he fussed and resisted and hated his way through it. His 20 minutes of homework every night was misery, took more than an hour, and I stopped asking him to do it.

The biggest effect of homeschool on his learning so far has been how quickly his reading has taken off. At the end of the school year in June he was combining consonant-vowel-consonant sounds to make words, and usually remembering that the silent E makes a vowel say its name. He learned all the sight words required for kindergarten. But he didn’t enjoy reading, and he wasn’t at all fluent. Some of his classmates were already reading chapter books, he was wrestling with simple Dr. Seuss.

Now, though he says he can’t read, he’s off like a reading rocket.

For homeschool now, we intended to start the “school day” with three practice sentences of writing, which he hates, do some Khan Academy math and some work in a workbook that matches his learning style, and then we’re much more casual about what we do, and when: We might do some science experiments, go on a “field trip,” watch a video series like Liberty’s Kids, or count money to plan a purchase. I decided before we started specifically not to work on the reading, but just to leave interesting books available.

Just now I went looking for him to start writing work and found him sitting on his bed reading a fascinating book about (the science of) poop, written at maybe fifth or sixth grade level, out loud to himself. He was getting every word, and getting every word right. He was reading relatively fluently. And I know he was extracting information.

Almost 3 months ago, he was reading at absolutely an average kindergarten level. Now he is reading at approximately (to my eye) fifth grade level, with some fluency.  I have not “taught” this. He is doing it on his own.

(He’s not choosing to read chapter books, I read those to him. He likes pictures. That’s fine.)

This absolutely reminds me that homeschool is a good idea for our family. Our kid seems to learn best when he is supported and scaffolded for whatever he would like to learn, with the understanding that he does need some basics, but without pressure.

So now I’m thinking of backing off a little bit on the writing practice. Yesterday writing with him was much more fun. We designed a science experiment and I asked him to write down the steps, rather than ask him to, say, write three sentences on something we learned yesterday. I do want him to learn to write fluidly and legibly, but the pressure has never helped. (I have a disability that makes handwriting hard, so taking his dictation is also tough for me.)

So I went to tell my husband about catching my child happily reading a wordy science book. And my husband looked at me and said calmly, “Writing will come.”

Writing will come. I’m not going to worry about it right now.

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