Nov 152011

TGIF? Not around here! The combination of my exhaustion and the kids’ Friday-induced-ADD was volatile. I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere between the word “much” (spelled mutch) and the word “does” (spelled boes) I lost my cool. For the three thousandth time I had to correct the “b” and “d” thing. I just snapped. I might have behaved a bit like a toddler who hadn’t had a snack, a nap, or a hug: steady decline from crabby to temper tantrum to tears. I probably wouldn’t have lost my cool on a Wednesday morning. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

I have a couple young ones who struggle with spelling. Really struggle. They also struggled (yes, I said struggled – past tense – YIPEE!) with reading fluently. We’ve had the “official diagnosis” and expensive therapy. (Waste. of. money.) The bottom line, however, is that it’s tough to struggle with reading and spelling. It spills over into every area of learning and life. They watch siblings waltz though spelling and reading lessons without seeming to work at it. It doesn’t help AT ALL that some of the waltzing siblings are YOUNGER.

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” - Victor Hugo

It’s tough to be the kid. It’s also tough to be the teacher, who also happens to be the mom.

I want to make something clear. I LOVE homeschooling. My frustration stems from the desire to see them succeed and overcome hurdles not from my desire to stop homeschooling. Not for a minute. For me homeschooling is just an extension of mothering. But just like mothering, sometimes it’s difficult and slow going. It’s tough to watch someone you love struggle. It’s tough to know they probably inherited the struggle from you.

Yup. I struggled. I hated to read. I struggled, but no one knew. I can remember watching my mom read for pleasure and I just didn’t get it. I don’t remember many books from my childhood. We lived overseas, so we didn’t have access to a lot of books. I didn’t ask for books. I didn’t get books. It was okay with me.

We were back in the states for seventh grade. Once a week we would have an SRA reading comprehension session where the teacher would flash a story on the wall for the whole class to read. The slides were timed, so if you didn’t read quickly you immediately fell behind with no hope of catching up. The story would flash on the wall for several slides, and then students were given a series of comprehension questions. I was never able to read the whole story. Ever. I guessed. I got very good at guessing.

In my expensive college-preparatory high school English classes I never read the books cover to cover. I don’t know how, but I managed to graduate with all A’s and B’s. I wasn’t stupid, I just didn’t read well. I read very slowly, I didn’t comprehend what I read, I didn’t read to learn, I didn’t read for pleasure, and heaven forbid if I was asked to read out loud.

I knew I was missing something great. Both my best friends in high school loved to read. I felt like I was never going to “get it.” I’d watch them read and I’d be left with a mixture of awe and jealousy. Heck, I worked in a book store all through high school. For twenty hours a week I’d watch people get excited about buying new books.

In college, once I got serious about getting a degree, I worked very hard to compensate. I managed to graduate with a great GPA. I still didn’t like to read.

Then I had a kids.

I read to the kids ALL THE TIME. I didn’t want them to hate to read. I bought tons and tons of books. We were on a pretty tight budget, but we always had money for books. Library books were okay, but I wanted books in the house. I wanted them handled, read, spit-up on, and loved. I rewarded the kids with books. Books scattered all over the house made me the happiest mother. I was determined that my kids would LOVE to read. I read to them, and read to them, and read to them. I read easy books over and over. I read harder books. I read all the books I’d missed out on. I read Tiki Tiki Tembo. I read Mrs. Katz and Tush. I read Charlotte’s Web. I read Where the Red Fern Grows. I read Bridge to Terabithia. I laughed and cried with the kids. Often I cried, and they watched me cry. “Mommy, why do you ALWAYS cry at the end? You’ve read Pink and Say fifty times; you know how it ends!”

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” C.S. Lewis

Guess what? I started to like reading. And I started to get better at it. I started reading faster and faster and comprehending everything I read. I got books just for me, and read, and read, and read. I discovered authors whose journeys across faith, culture, and time were similar to mine. I discovered Philip Yancey, C.S. Lewis, and Corrie ten Boom. I laughed out loud with Becky Freeman and Firoozeh Dumas. I was inspired by Charlotte Mason and David and Micki Colfax. I learned from Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman, Shirin Ebadi, Azar Nafisi, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. I got to know the characters in Mitford, and grew to love them all! I met Khaled Hosseini’s Amir, and fell in love with him too! It’s hard for me to believe I didn’t like to read, because – now – I love to read. I usually have three or four books going at a time. I never leave home without a book in my purse. I can’t fall asleep without first reading. I wake 45 minutes before the rest of the family to read in peace before the day gets going.

Reading is the reason we began to homeschool. But that’s a another story.

Back to Friday.

I lost my temper. I was tired, frustrated, and angry that the spelling review list had gotten lost, and therefore didn’t get studied. I felt overwhelmed with the task at hand. It doesn’t help that our language is CRAZY! In the same lesson where the kids learn the rule that “tch” follows a short vowel, there is a dictated sentence with the word “much.” So, you can see why a child might spell it “mutch?”

I apologized for my short temper. I reminded the kids how much I love them. I reminded them how smart they are. I reminded them that they WILL get this. If it kills me. I reminded myself that, yes indeed, they WILL get it, maybe not all at the age of five, or ten. It took me until I was twenty-something. They aren’t rushed, they don’t fall between the cracks, or get passed to the next grade and miss whole chunks of learning, they don’t hide, they don’t lie about what they’ve read. They are read to, and they read! They know they are smart. They are already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at their age. Each one of them! Even the ones who struggle.

So if you’re part of this club of folks who struggle, don’t fret! You’re in good company. Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Hans Christian Andersen, Alexander Graham Bell, Patricia Polacco, and Albert Einstein all felt your pain. I feel your pain, whether you’re struggling to read and spell, or you’re struggling to teach young ones to read and spell. Don’t lose heart!

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.” - Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” - Frederick Douglass

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