Sunday, June 10, 2012

She's Reading!

Tonight, after putting the girls to bed, I sat knitting (or rather, pulling out all my stitches for the umpteenth time) on the couch when Nourit tiptoed down the hall and plopped herself next to me with a pile of books in her arms.  "Daddy said I could stay up and look at books if I was quiet."  I kissed her and went on with my knitting, enjoying her silent company.  She didn't stay silent for long, though.  She started to read.  All by herself.  Without any prompting (or coercion, or bribery) from me.

This may not seem very significant to most people because, after all, there was really no doubt she'd learn to read at some point.  She has spent her entire life surrounded by a community of people who do nothing else but consume books.  She will sit for hours listening to stories that are complicated and nuanced, and then she'll beg for more.  Up until recently, though, she only wanted to listen to stories, and with first grade coming up in Chicago Public Schools, (where they expect children to be reading Tolstoy by the time they are four years old), I was beginning to panic.  See, it is my job to teach her and I'm still not certain I'm the most qualified.  I didn't want to send her off to the land of standardized testing ill-equipped, unable to even read the directions.

And I still really don't want to send her off to the land of standardized testing, but she really wants to go.  So we have the summer to consider our options.  Thankfully, she did pass one of those multiple choice tests and got into a top ranked classical school.  It's our only school option unless the ranking of 60 on the lottery is the magic number and she can go to a school less than 25 minutes away.  The other choice is to continue our experiment in homeschooling.  It's been a year full of really wonderful and really difficult moments.  I could not have asked for better friends to ease our transition from a private school to a really private school this past Fall.  Our Monday adventures with Joanna, Hilary, and the 6 little blondies were unforgettably fun, and also gave me trusted resources from whom to bounce ideas off, and to find encouragement as I trekked through the new territory of homeschooling philosophies, child development and curricula.  We landed in an apartment complex with the perfect companions for the girls, who now have a built-in social network right out our back door starting with breakfast salutations from across the courtyard at 8a.m.  We've renewed friendships around the neighborhood, and joined teams and classes and the girls are doing just fine socially (for all those people who thought they might turn strange or introverted the moment we kept them home from school.)

The harder part was the academics.  And yes, I have a master's degree and Mike almost has a Ph.D., so it's not like we don't know how to read, or count to 100, or the order of the planets from the sun.  (Okay, I confess, I will have to look that one up.  But I know where to find the answer if it were a matter of life and death.)  The difficult part was - IS - knowing how much is too much and how much is too little.  I can read all the research out there that says kids learn to read anywhere between 4 and 7 years of age, and to rush that could be fatal to their love of learning, but it doesn't stop me from worrying that my bright 6 year old has no inclination to read.  In fact, she resisted it until recently, and that's why I'm celebrating every time she picks up her daddy's old Mr. Mugs books from 1980's Canada, and tells me she's ready to read, and that it's easy, and that it's FUN.

And that I can finally sit and quietly knit while she begins to entertain herself.

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