Hi, I’m Karien, mum to two boys aged 5 and 2.

This is short piece about my son’s new interest in writing. I’m writing this because lately I’ve seen so many posts on Unschooling groups asking ‘How will my child learn to read?’ and ‘What can I use to help my child learn to read?’. So many in fact that I started doubting myself thinking that I misunderstood something about Unschooling and that my child needs more input from me to learn to read.

I know that every child will learn differently and ask for help in a different way to learn to read. This is just our story and how it’s started with my one child and what he is doing right now. This interest may last a day or a week or he may really be on his way to reading. I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter – he will read when he’s ready.

It happened so suddenly: One day Keagan wasn’t interested in numbers or counting and the next day he was. And he kept asking me what does this and this number together mean. It’s been weeks now and everywhere we go he asks about numbers. He can now read most numbers under 100 while I’m still getting over the surprise that he can recognize and write the numbers 1-9. I’m really not sure how he learned it.

And then, after learning to write numbers, Keagan surprised me again by knowing how to write his name. He recently learned to type it to get into a game and could then write it down from memory. And he’s been practicing his writing all day today, continuing to surprising me with what he knows. At one stage he asked me which part of his name makes ‘Keag’ so I showed him and he wrote it down and then he said, “And now I just add a ‘s’ at the end to make it Keags.”

So, you’ve probably noticed that my surprise has been mentioned a few times and that’s because I really don’t know how he’s learned most of these things. Honestly, I’ve been a bit reluctant to have anything remotely ‘schooly’ around the house, including literacy apps and games. I’m not entirely sure why.

Perhaps partly because I don’t trust that I’ve deschooled enough – I’m scared to place too much importance on these ‘educational’ things when there are other much more fun things to do and so I just avoid them completely. Keagan has also never been interested in any of the educational things I did have and so I’ve stopped buying them.

I’ve also never put any focus on letter or number recognition. We read a lot of books but I don’t follow under the words with my finger and I don’t expect him to recognize any words. The idea of writing with pen and paper probably came from his best friend who’s in Grade 1 and who often asks me for help spelling and writing words.

I truly believe that the only thing children need to learn to read is exposure to written words – any written words that are meaningful to them, whether it’s books, in games, comic books or chat groups. We are brought up to believe that a lot of time and money need to be invested to first prepare a child to learn to read and then to teach a child to read and it’s simply not true. Invest your time and money in what brings your child joy right now.

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