The Joy of being with an Unschooler when they are Learning to Read

reading pic outside

‘I will read when I can read’ were my sons words. At aged ten he is on the edge of flying in to the world of words. The ‘not being able’ to read bit will soon be a sweet memory. I sit with him as he speaks the words out, I see a big complex word on the page and part of me hopes he will stumble, which is a funny thing to admit as it is counter to how I was a few years ago around reading. You see the tipping point is coming, he is on the edge of it and it is a delicious honour to witness a child learning to read at their own pace. Like that moment when they learn to walk, or swim it feels magical to me.

There was a point where words and I were like a team, we would corner the kids and attack. ‘You see that word?’ I would say ‘What does it say?’ The kids would sometimes buy in to my trying to teach them or they would ignore me. I was doing my best to speed up the process. I felt that they needed to read. Until one day my daughter quite clearly said to me ‘Mum, can you just leave me alone around reading because I don’t think you are helping me’. ‘Oh’ I said. And inside I thought but aren’t I meant to teach them? This is crazy how on earth can they learn if I don’t teach them?

O reading


She, in that moment was my greatest teacher. I saw her then go on to flourish, without me. Over time she cracked it. She didn’t want my help. So my son got the benefits of me stepping away around reading. Both our twin daughters are now avid readers, it is hard to get their noses out of books

I never thought there would be a time when I would kind of nostalgically deep down want my son to slow down with his learning. For us within this process our kids have learnt to read at their own pace as we have trusted them to do so. For sure over time they have continuously asked what words mean and when they have spoken the letters of the words out we have answered. For our son it has always been him that has lead the process, not me and that is the same for spelling. He is learning it, as he wants to and I am not making him.

reading in the trees


I think in a school situation reading and my son would have had a hard time together, when he was in school he simply was not interested in reading, especially when everybody told him he had to.  I am not sure that words would have been his friends. But in this way the door to reading is now opening and  he is calmly walking through it at his own pace, leaving his mother outside. His reading is tipping and he is stepping into a world in which he holds the key.