I've heard dozens of success stories from people teaching their three-year olds to read, and the reviews on Amazon are raving and encouraging. So I bought the book. I wasn't quite ready the teach the boys to read, but they'd been asking to learn. About three lessons into it, I was thinking "This is amazing! My kids will be reading by Halloween!" About fifteen lessons into it and they were begging to stop.
"I don't want to do it today," they would moan. "I don't remember the letter-sounds."
I'm a very, very firm believer in not teaching children to read until they're ready. I think it's like potty-training. You can start at 18 months and work your butt off with sticker charts and accidents at the mall for the next year- or you can wait another year and a half and let them teach themselves over the weekend.
So we stopped. I figured we'd work on their reading comprehension instead, so we have been reading (and discussing) lots of books together that are far above their abilities. And yet- they love and understand these books. They beg for one more chapter. They have a love of books, stories, even reading per say- though not a love of de-coding letters, yet.
But the boys want to learn to read. They'll be five in a little over a month, and they constantly ask me what words say.
They recite picture-books from memory to August, and run their fingers along the text as they do- as though they're actually following the words. When I read, they'll point at words on the page and say "G-U-Y. What does that spell? Does that mean something?"
Then they'll scan the page looking for other instances of the same word.
Lately, they've been asking me to "do reading," but it's often at inopportune times for me (like while I'm frying eggs or showering), but if I say to them "Okay, I'm ready. Let's do reading now," they've moved on and aren't interested.
So this week, I made a reading log and I made some promises. "If you read and do writing practice [their least favorite task] every day this week, on Saturday I we will get a treat."
Immediately, Micah supplied me with "And that treat will be Icees at Target."
I mean, if they want to go to Target- I'm not going to stop them.
So this week, we started lessons and I am blown away. Every single day since Sunday, the boys have gotten up and begged to do reading lessons. They are attentive and excited. We started at Lesson Twelve (since we'd worked up to Lesson Fifteen a few months ago), and now on Lesson Seventeen- they're reading! They can't read everything, obviously. But they read bits of sentences. See me eat. Mad at me? Read it. Sit. Rat. Meet. Am.
They sit down and just absorb all of their new information like adorable little sponges. One thing that I -admittedly- did not expect, though, is how differently Grey and Micah learn.
I know that they're different people, their brains work differently, and thus- it makes sense- that they would learn differently. But its still a surprise.
For Micah, things seem to have immediately clicked. He isn't as passionate in his desire to read as Grey, but he can sit down and stare at a sentence in silence for a few seconds, and then say (without any "sounding out" or stumbling "This is my seat."
Half the time I find myself thinking, "Did he cheat? How did he know that's what it said?" but if I point to the same sentence a minute later and ask, "What did this say?" he'll flounder. "Uh, I sit there?"
"No. Read it, please. What does it say?"
Grey is much more interested in learning to read, I think. Last week he dictated a letter to me (he has me write letters and journal entries for him regularly), and he said "I want to learn how to read so that I can have fun being quiet by myself."
I couldn't stop laughing! But I think that's very accurate. I've been surprised that what I really notice while teaching Grey is what a difference it makes him being an introvert.
If he is sounding out the sentence "See me eat" for example, he'll whisper "Ssss-eeee?" to me so Micah can't hear him, and only then will he stumble through it. He has to sound out each word two or even three times, before he can finally say "See!" By the time he gets to the end of a short sentence, he has no comprehension left. I'll say, "That's so great! You read each word! So what did this sentence say?" and he freezes. He has to start over at the beginning and painfully sound out each word again to remember what he read.
While I know that he isn't grasping quite as quickly as Micah- I think a big part of the problem is that he is embarrassed by struggling through it in front of his brother. Even if Micah screws up- he brushes it aside and relishes in my praise when he finally succeeds, but if Grey stumbles at all- he's too embarrassed to read anymore at all.
I think I'm going to have to find time to teach them separately. But, after all, isn't that what Home Schooling is all about? Teaching your children in the way that works best for them?
Just teaching them this is making me feel much more secure in my decision to home school. Even as their mother, I struggle to find ways to teach them individually and help them succeed- how could a teacher with 30+ students give them the attention that I want them to have? (Note: nothing against schools- I too was schooled in public. I'm just saying- I think that this is what's best for our family.)
I am also having a hard time praising them- if any mothers of twins have any tips, I could use them! If I say "Great reading, Micah!" Grey will immediately whimper, "And I'm doing bad reading?"
What!? NO. You're also amazing.
Micah does the same thing, but slightly more competitive. If I say, "Good sounding out, Grey!" Micah will ask "Who's better at sounding out? Me or Grey? Is Grey sounding out better than me?"
So it's official. We have readers over here. Still hesitant, still stumbling, but reading! And they want to teach themselves!
But in the meantime, we'll just keep reading Robin Hood.
I love reading about your boys because I have 1 year old twin boys (fraternal). Your post reminded me of a chapter in a book I read (link below). I loved this book because it gave me such a new way to look at things. It might help to focus praise on the effort the boys are putting into reading. Anyway, I don't want to insult you or anything, but I just thought of it when you wrote that Grey thought he was doing "bad" reading.
I found your blog through your Stitch Fix post when I was searching for pictures of a dress I just got from the Golden Tote. I am so glad I did! Finding fellow twin-boy-mamas who are also crafty is always a happy thing! ;) Looking forward to following your posts. :)
I also love reading your blog! I don't have twins, but my boys are 4 and 2 so we often run into the same problem. I've read similar advice on praising effort. I still tell my boys they're good at things because I think it's important for kids to feel successful, but I think when they get self conscious or competitive, it helps to praise them both in the same way or to focus on how hard they're both working, etc. It's definitely a hard balance to strike.
Also, I love your decision to home school! Some days I really want to, but I'm so afraid of screwing it up! But I really like the way you're going about it. So thanks for the inspiration :)
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