I’ve felt like an education failure recently.
My eight year old daughter, who still isn’t reading fluently, said she “hates reading” and “hates words.”
It all stems from frustration at not being able to read as I fearfully push her more and more because I worry about my levels of embarrassment at her late entry into reading (after all, my background is in writing and English). I also worry about her being embarrassed or made fun of by her friends who started reading a year or two earlier.
We’ve tried phonics. We’ve tried whole language. We’ve tried pushing hard. We’ve tried backing off. (She carries a few markers for dyslexia, so I was so sure the phonics approach would work.) We’ve tried a little bit of everything, and now she hates phonics and reading.
So, I thought I’d write a post with a few thoughts about what to do when your child hates a school subject.
The first thing to know is that no child hates a school subject unless it’s been taught badly. Children are born with a natural desire to learn and grow. If you don’t believe me, watch your child interact with something that they haven’t been taught to think of as school. (Also, if you don’t believe me about the taught badly thing, listen to this Andrew Pudewa lecture on teaching grammar. He goes on at length as to why grammar is such a difficult subject to teach and why so many people hate it.)
So, here are the list of steps I’m taking to try and help my daughter rediscover her love of learning.
1. Acknowledge My Mistakes
The first thing I have to do is to acknowledge that I’ve made some mistakes in teaching grammar. My fears and my embarrassment have stood in the way of me actually helping her navigate reading as I’ve pushed her too quickly and too far beyond the performance she is capable of giving.
I have to acknowledge that I’ve messed up with some of the strategies I have tried because I’ve thrown a little bit of everything at her, hoping that something would catch.
2. Put Away What Didn’t Work
In my example of reading, I’ve tried several programs that have just failed her. Some of them include Horizons, Logic of English, Essential Skills Advantage, The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, Starfall, Progressive Phonics, and Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. There’s no need to keep trying them because they’re just causing frustration for Rose. None of them have done anything but cause my little girl severe frustration in learning to read.
3. Acknowledge What’s Working
Despite the fact that none of the programs above worked, as Rose has grown and matured, she has learned many new words. She can read lots of words that are familiar to her, especially one syllable short vowel words.
Also, so far, we’ve found exactly one program that she’s making progress with in English. She’s somehow able to learn and grow very well using Spelling You See. Who knew? I certainly didn’t when I spent $65 to take a stab in the dark with their program.
I’ve also found that a she doesn’t mind a little mini worksheet targeting one of her weak areas (like digraphs). I’ve found Super Teacher Worksheets to be a great source for these phonics practice sheets.
4. Back Way Off
My child has reached a point with reading and phonics that she doesn’t even like “suggesting” something with reading. She’ll do her Spelling You See and her practice worksheet because they’re quick and pretty easy. She’ll even occasionally sit with me and practice reading too me, as long as I don’t make a big deal over it and as long as I don’t go into “lecture mode.”
I don’t know if I’m ever going to reach a point with this child where she loves reading. I may have messed up too badly for that. However, I’m going to try and invest some time in trying to reverse some of the hatred that she’s feeling towards reading. I’ll keep you guys updated on how it goes.