Context and Correction

While I wait for a build to finish, I have time to share a story about something I learned yesterday.  First, I have to gloat: our girls are reading!  It's been incredible to watch them suddenly get it, and become ravenous readers ("Dad, what does it say on the bottom of your socks?  I thought I saw some letters").  We've been reading books together, especially at night in bed, and it's one of the most enjoyable times of the day as a result.

I have to take a lot of credit for their learning to read--I married the right woman!  My wife has spent countless hours with them slowly teaching them how to read.  Homeschooling is amazing for many reasons (I need to talk about them sometime), but one of them sticks out above the rest: when things happen, you're there to experience it with them.  Learning doesn't just happen during the "school day;" it's always happening, and the eureka! moments are strewn amongst otherwise mundane activities.

Much like parenting in general, homeschooling is an invisible career: no one notices that you're doing all that work, and when things happen people say things like, "Wow, aren't they smart."  The truth is that this stuff just takes a ton of work, and my wife has done an amazing job getting them to this point.

So last night before bed, I was reading with our oldest daughter.  It was a story about a horse, and each page had two sentences.  As she moved through the first sentence, she got a word wrong, swapping the tense as she guessed vs. read it.  For some reason I didn't correct her right away as I had been.  Probably I was getting tired.  As she read the next sentence, she inevitably came to a point where the word she'd read earlier didn't make sense, at which point she went back and corrected herself.

My problem is that I assume that since she's learning to read, she's thinking in terms of individual words.  That's sort of true, since she's sounding things out, and going letter-by-letter and word-by-word.  But, for years she's been steeped in language, and gets its subtlties.  She understands the context already, and reading is more a mapping into a system she already has, than something totally new and undiscovered.

As my daughters learn to read, I learn a lot about how to learn, and how not to teach.  We're both making incredible progress.

Show Comments