PROTECTING THE UNTEACHABLE MOMENTS The benefits of freeing your child from being “on track” at Sudbury schools My daughter is 9 and ½ and does not read yet. Words here and there, yes; painstakingly sounded out and struggled with until recognition. Words she could probably read if she had a smidgen more confidence in her ability to do so, but she doesn’t like to guess unless she knows she’ll be correct. I don’t have stacks of her stories with endearingly cute misspelled words; everything has to be right. “Mom. How do you spell ‘about?’” “Get it started.” “A?” “Yes.” “Buh buh buh...B?” “Yes.” (Long pause.) “A?” “That would be abat.” “Ummmm….U?” If she went to a last century school, we would’ve already been past the point of needing to make a plan of action. I would need to “move quickly’ and “ask for a meeting with his or her teacher, and if that's not effective, ask for a meeting with the reading specialist at the school.” I would be urged not to “wait until its too late;” for goodness knows, that would mean she would be off track and presumably, the train would have left the station, leaving her forever stuck. The thing about the track is that it passes through fields and towns and by rivers and across mountains. That’s how my daughter manages to not be stuck; she has the freedom and time to explore and benefit from the terrain surrounding the track, and I believe she’s discovering the short cuts that will take her just where she needs to go. By not forcing my daughter on track, she is able to learn the skills and strategies that cannot be taught. Not reading by 9? Not a tragedy. Protecting the unteachable moments? Priceless. My daughter’s terrain, what she is passionate about, is song lyrics. She memorizes them; makes them up; studies them; sings them all day long. When she was 4, before she could even write or recognize all of the letters, spent hours and hours painstakingly writing down all the words to the song Unwritten. Whoever was helping her, for we had to take turns it was such a long process, went through it letter by letter; answering, “What’s a K look like?” over and over; page after page. That perseverance, that focus--unteachable moment. Now at 9, she is writing an original play, writing a fanfiction with her bestie, based on The Penderwicks series, and writing down original lyrics to songs she’s created. She’s relying less on asking someone to help her through it. She’s created a system using her ipod, of taking screen shots of her favorite song lyrics on youtube. She zooms into words she wants and copies them on paper from the screen, creating whole new songs. Innovation, stress-free productivity, self-management--unteachable moments. As a parent, I want my children to not be foiled by the obstacles they will inevitably face; clueless and powerless on how to design their lives to get where they want to go. If we got hung up on her not being on grade level, we would dull her true education. Less and less, I understand the worry and anxiety from parents about their child not being at grade level, and I want to ask, “Why slow down their development?”
Why am I not worried that my daughter wonâ€™t learn to read? First, because she really wants to. Her motivation and drive are unstoppable. When she occasionally expresses frustration that she canâ€™t yet, I tell her, I know she will; I have faith in her. And most importantly, I recognized the value of her journey and her own timeline.