Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Essential Skill #2

Three of the most crucial skills children ever learn, they learn at home, by age five, with amateur teachers. We mentioned one a couple of posts ago: walking.

Today we'll take up another: talking. Walking and talking happen so naturally that we take them for granted. We wouldn't think of calling in "experts" unless some radical problem appears. Just because they happen naturally doesn't mean these are simple or easy skills. Quite the contrary.

How many adults enjoy learning a foreign language? Compared to the task of learning to speak, learning to read is, well, child's play.

Think about it. Children must learn that sounds make up words, and words are symbols which stand for other things, some concrete, like a table or a chair; some abstract. One of the first things a child learns to say is, "Mommy, I love you." Love is not a thing like a table or a chair, it is-- well, poets and philosophers have spent centuries trying to define this abstraction. Yet children quickly learn to associate the sound of the word "love," with that intangible quality.

It's amazing, really. Yet the vast majority of children learn it without significant difficulty. Why then, do so many children in America have difficulty learning to read? After all, in learning to speak they've already mastered the concept of sounds/words as symbols. That's the big conceptual leap. With reading, all they have to do is add one more layer-- recognizing marks (letters) as representing the sounds which make up words.

One of the keys to understanding why this is so will be revealed when we examine the third crucial-- and also quite complex-- skill that children learn early on. It's the only one that parents regularly struggle with-- and for the same reasons they struggle teaching children to read, to do math, and other supposedly "advanced" (but really simpler) academic skills.

If you're in a hurry to get started understanding your child better, I recommend Thomas Armstrong's "In Their Own Way"

It's one of the very best books ever on this topic!


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