Waiting to Teach Skills Until Kids are Ready

I have often felt that one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is allowing students to learn at their own pace.  This includes waiting to teach children skills until they are ready to learn and absorb them; something I think is more important than ever with our schools insisting on teaching skills at younger and younger ages.

I pulled my kids out of public school mainly because my middle son was bored and not being challenged enough.  I knew allowing him to work at home meant he could work at a more advanced pace and he wouldn't be unintentionally held back waiting for the other students to catch up with him.

I knew that homeschooling allowed kids who were struggling with an area of school to stop, slow down and focus on skills they wanted to develop until they were at a level where they were comfortable moving forward.

I knew all that but somehow I didn't really GET that!

It wasn't until this past year that I am finally seeing just how beneficial it has been to allow my children to learn a their own pace.

Evan is 8, and it is just within the last few months that I can say with confidence (and relief!) that he is reading.

He had no desire to learn anything about letters, words, or reading when he was 5 or 6 and while I kept trying and cajoling and playing fun games with him, nothing I was teaching was sticking.

He finally started showing some effort and a lot of frustration when he turned 7 but another year went by where I felt like I was seeing minimal results. Everyone kept telling me not to worry; he would get it.

But I worried.

And I worried.

And I worried.

I kept reminding myself that while he was behind by school standards, his inability to read was not hampering his learning.  He had amazing comprehension and LOVED listening to stories.

He would listen to anything I was willing to read aloud and he listened to chapter books so far above his grade level.  He learned so much vocabulary and made wonderful predictions about everything and anything we were reading or listening to.  His love of reading and of books was still intact and he showed no signs of any learning disabilities but I kept wondering when it was all going to click like everyone assured me it would.

And then it did!

I swear we went from one day of stumbling through an easy reader to him reading simple chapter books with little to no errors and a great flowing story voice.  He reads with expression and delight.

By allowing him to learn at his own pace he was able to pick up skills all along the way (without my noticing!) and piece them altogether into one huge comprehensive jump.

He's not reading quite on grade level yet but he's close.  It felt like overnight he took one huge leap and just about caught up to where he "should" be.

He loves books and is delighted to pick up new books, giggle over them, and read them aloud to me.

And I can't say this is the only lesson I received this year about allowing children to set their own pace in learning either!

Ian had been struggling with fractions a year or so ago (maybe even two years).  Struggling so much he was crying during math and we were both miserable.  Math was turning into a daily struggle.  No matter how many ways I tried to teach about reducing fractions or making equivalent fractions he just could not get it.

I always assumed that when my kids were stuck on a concept we'd devote MORE time to it until they understood it so I was apprehensive when he wanted to take a break entirely from them.

We continued to do math everyday for a year but skipped over anything having to do with fractions-- for a whole year.

 He still cooked and baked (while using fractions in real life), he did a whole unit on measurement (writing fractions found on rulers and tape measures), he did a lot of designing and drawing up plans for making a birdhouse and a toy garage (converting fractions to decimals in real life).  We knew all of this was working on building fraction fluency but he didn't realize it and fractions in these contexts did not stress him out.

So I'll say that we didn't consciously work on fractions and we certainly didn't do anything on a day to day basis.  In the contexts of measurement and cooking fractions were no big deal; he could read them, he could measure them, and he wasn't being asked to add them, multiply them, simplify them or make them equivalent.  Mostly we focused on other areas of math and just worked on building up what he did know and understand.

A year later he picked up his discarded fractions book and worked through the first few pages like they were nothing. 

 It all suddenly clicked and he knew what he was doing.  He understood and fractions were no longer a source of stress, worry, and frustration for him.

He remarked to me that he could not believe how easy the book seemed now.  He finished it up in just a few weeks and we moved on.

I've learned that when waiting to teach kids skills until they are ready they pick up on skills so much faster!

Learning is not nearly as frustrating!

Their natural inclination to want to learn remains intact.

They gain confidence and encounter less stress.

I am so glad I waited for my boys to show me they were ready to learn instead of pressing on ahead, pushing them to learn just because someone, somewhere along the way decided there was a magic age in which all kids need to learn certain skills. We had a much happier homeschool year and I now have two kids brimming with confidence.

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  1. Congrats to your son on *finally* reading! I've learned this the hard way, too - my daughter wasn't interested in anything letters and learning...until one day it was like a light switched on and now she's reading stories to me. :)

    1. It was such a relief to know there was nothing really wrong with him; I worried about reading disorders of all kinds but pretty much thought it was just that he was disinterested. I'm just so glad I didn't push it and make him miserable; then he would have wound up hating to read.

  2. I agree some need to wait But some need to start at 2.

    1. Definitely; my middle son was reading chapter books by the time he was 5 and small picture books all on his own by 3 and a half.

  3. I think teaching kids to read at age 4 is a great time because at least for my kids they were like sponges at that time. They wanted to learn anything I created into a game to teach them. Usually, a kid not being interested in something is based on the way the topic is being delivered. For my kids I made reading and phonics a game. However, I had 2 readers that were better learning sight words because they had an awesome memory and tended to get bored learning phonetically. Each kid was different but at age 4 all seemed eager to absorb. Reading for them and me became our special time together and acting out of stories.

    1. Mine were all games; for three years we played sight word game after sight word game and while he would get them after awhile he id not put them together with the words in a book. He just had it in his head that he did not need to read and did not want to read and was just not ready. My oldest son was not either and was pushed by the school to learn it anyway; he's in 7th grade and insists to this day that he hates to read. My middle son taught himself at 2/3 and was reading chapter books by 5. I think it's kind of a "to each his own" thing.

  4. Very encouraging! My almost six year old is still struggling through letter recognition amd sounds. His speech problems have a lot to do with it, but it's still nice to know that ALL kids don't read at age five!

    1. I was so worried there were delays and problems. It was like pulling teeth and it seemed like he was not retaining anything. I have been told multiple times by different people that boys in particular tend to be late readers and that, for whatever reason, many are not ready to read until they have lost all their baby teeth. Again I have no idea what baby teeth have to do with it... but it sure seemed like it.

  5. I know, we're paranoid parents, we think if it's not happening now it'll never happen! pfsst!

  6. My son was the same with reading! I admit I worried, and worried, and worried! But, like you said...this year I'm seeing vast improvements and I shouldn't have worried.

    1. It's so hard not to worry! I wish I ha trusted more and worried less but that's just not in my nature.

  7. What a blessing homeschooling is, and being able to see your children learn at their own pace. You are doing an awesome job! Thanks so much for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week :)

  8. It is so wonderful that we get to find this wonderful balance for our children!

    Thanks for linking up @LiveLifeWell!



  9. It's easy as a parent to have an underlying fear that you're messing your kids up. This could be in raising them or in educating them. It's is hard not to worry when they're not where they "should be." I love your heart and your encouragement to keep working at it but using things they enjoy instead. Thank you for sharing with us at #LiveLifeWell.

    1. Thanks so much for hosting! I look forward to your party so much each week.


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