Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kids and Letters

Yesterday evening was a quiet one. Well, relatively. Once the game of hide and seek was over; once Leo had finally taken his shower and shaved (the once a month removal of very dark if minimal mustache); once Jonas had brushed his teeth, calm again reigned in the house. And to my bed crept a little boy, eager to work on his 'homework' with me. Can we call it homework when they're only 8?

Proudly, attentively, insistently, we read through (he read through!) sounds and syllables and simple phrases. He knows his French letters, and most of the combined sounds now -- ou, on, en, an... -- but we had some difficulty with 'ai' and 'au' and all those annoying silent letters. However, there he was pronouncing with the most lovely gutteral 'r's the most precise whistled 'u's. My little French boy. I resisted (and corrected myself as needed) from stating the alphabet in English... I kept wanting to say a and i with the English pronunciation, and then would repeat them a and i with the French. Some lapses just need to be accepted...

When Leo was little my mother and I worked on his reading in English alongside his reading in French. I don't know if this contributed to his current confusion when it comes to writing both languages, but it might have.

Jonas is another boy, growing up in a different time. I'm not in the kitchen teaching classes and cooking with clients. I'm in bed with him night after night open to whatever he brings to me. And, he's brought his joy at doing his school work. He's getting bigger and proud to be so, and I've convinced him he's not going to have half the difficulty his brother did. (positive mental reinforcement much?). Though this seems to be true from the get-go.

Gra gri gro gru grou groi gron; pla pli plo plu plou ploi plon; dra dri dro dru drou droi dron...

and on and on. We had about 30 lines, each one more difficult than the last, each presenting a similar rhythm and direction.

One of the scary aspects of the Waldorf education for many a driven parent (like myself) is that reading and writing are taught later than in the public school. The reasoning goes that until the physical body is ready (this moment of being ready is signaled by the loss of the first baby teeth) all the life forces in a child are needed to build himself, and it would be detrimental to occupy them in intellectual pursuits. This is not to say that creativity, play and many sorts of lessons aren't encouraged and done before this age, but, purely intellectual activities like reading and writing are put off till the first and second grade.

So, when you've a child like Leo who came to reading very very late and who still has horrid problems with spelling, you wonder if you made the right choice. When you've a child like Jonas who seems to jump at the chance to learn and who is delighted to share all his accomplishments and school projects with you, all seems right with the world.

By the way, while Jonas and I were working on letters and pronunciation, Leo was devouring the third in the series of Percy Johnson and the Olympiads. So, at least on this note, we can end my years of worry with delight and pride. Not bad to be 12 and reading as easily in one language as the other, n'est-ce pas? We'll see if the orthophoniste (speech and writing therapist) can help with his catastrophic grasp of basic verb conjugations, spellings, etc., One problem solved at a time.

2 comments:

Nathalie said...

Your very different experiences with your two children make me think that their difficulties or non-difficulties would have been the same had they started to read earlier, but who knows?

Madeleine Vedel said...

Yes, they are very different little boys - and I adore the differences. Often, the squeaky wheel gets the grease... so time alone with Jonas is quite precious. He doesn't ask unless you are available. And it is amazing having a child who wants to learn, rather than questioning the value of learning. Though both are stimulating...