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How do unschooled children learn to read? Can we trust them to learn to read in their own time? What if a child is still not reading after a 'reasonable' amount of time?

I've gathered a few blog posts from around the Internet on unschooling and learning to read. I hope you enjoy them!

1. How Late is a Late Reader?

by Luminara King from Living the Education Revolution

Our daughter, did not learn to read until just before her twelfth birthday. It took a lot of trust and there were days I had my doubts.

2. Children Read When They Are Ready 

by Lehla Eldridge-Rogers from Unschooling the Kids

I read to our daughters till they were eleven. I sat up at night, read books, tantalized them with stories. There was always that nagging feeling, that school-like gremlin of mine that would tap me on the shoulder and say ‘Ha, they are a little old for you to be reading to them don’t you think?’ I would push it away. Like the fear witch this gremlin knows me well…

3. My 6 year old isn't reading yet

by Joyce Fetteroll from Joyfully Rejoycing

Q: He is 8 and a half and can barely read at a 1st grade level. Schooling him is very difficult because he has no desire to learn how to read.

4. Natural Learning Has No Age Limit

by Sara from Happiness is Here 

There is this idea that ‘natural learning’ is all well and good for young children but at some point you’re going to have to teach them the all important curriculum! They absolutely can not teach themselves to read and write. Not possible! 
This is a myth.

5. Children Teach Themselves to Read

By Peter Gray Ph.D. from Psychology Today
The general assumption in our culture is that children must be taught to read.,,

6. A Slow Learner 

This is one of my posts:
Could I be learning? Could I have actually trusted her to go at her own pace? Could I have finally got it right on my very last child? Sometimes it is me who is the slow learner.

"What are you going to do this week, Mum?"

"I'm going to make a couple of videos."

And I did!

So what are they about? The first one is about encouraging kids' ideas. Sometimes, to us, children's ideas sound impractical or even silly. Is it better to tell them their ideas aren't likely to succeed or should we encourage them to try them out?

The second video is about life-long learning. I used to think education was just for kids. I'd done my time at school, now it was my kids' turn to learn. Sometimes, it was a battle to get them to work. Things turned around when, at last, I realised learning is a natural part of life for everyone, and not something just for kids.

Do these topics sound familiar? They might do if you listened to this week's podcast, Getting Older, Unschooling and Moving On.

Each video contains an excerpt from that podcast episode. I added slideshows of photos, some graphics plus a bit of music. Before I knew it, one podcast had turned into two videos! Each is just under 5 minutes long.

Not everyone has time to listen to 30 minutes or more of podcast. I understand that. But 5 minutes? Perhaps that's more appealing? I hope so!

If you'd like to watch my latest video creations, here they are:

(You can find more of my videos on my Youtube Channel: Sue Elvis)

Didn't I have a productive week? I hope you did too!

This morning, my husband Andy watched as our girls and I got ready to go for a run. As we laced up our shoes, he grinned and said: "What a mean mother you are making everyone run before breakfast!"

Although Andy was joking, I'm sure many people might take his words seriously. Perhaps they would indeed think I am a mean mother because what other explanation is there? Surely four girls wouldn't choose to get up early, pull on their running gear and head out the door when they could stay in bed?

A few days ago, after I'd finished my morning run, I watched my daughters as they finished theirs. Despite having run about 6 km, they suddenly picked up speed. With determined looks on their faces, they sprinted towards me side-by-side.

A few moments later, as they eagerly upturned their bottles and gulped down water, I asked: "Why do you do it? Why do you always come running with me? You could choose to stay in bed."

"Well, I have to admit that sometimes the thought of running doesn't appeal. So I refuse to think. I just roll out of bed and get dressed. And then by the time I'm fully awake, I'm here. And that's good."

"Running is hard work. When I'm only halfway up a steep hill, and my legs are aching, I wonder why I do it. But the feeling afterwards? It's so good. It's worth all the effort."

"Running is a challenge. I get a huge sense of achievement from doing it."

"I like being part of the Team. If I stayed in bed and you all went without me, I'd be missing something. I'd be the only one who hadn't worked hard."

"I love being out here in the bush at this time of morning when everyone else is still in bed. We're doing something no one else is doing!"

Once the girls' breathing had returned to normal, we gathered our hoodies and water bottles, and plodded home. It was time to eat.

Listening to my girls, it seems to me that kids love challenges. They choose to work very hard without any prodding from us. Perhaps they even have an inner need to get their teeth (or feet!) into something difficult.

Unless, of course, we keep them busy doing things we think are important. Then there will be no reason for them to challenge themselves because we'll be doing it for them.

"So what are we having for breakfast?" Sophie asked as we approached our house.

"That reminds me," said Imogen. "Breakfast tastes so good after we've had a long run. I'd do it just for that!"

Of course, your kids might not run, but I bet they do like to be challenged. Perhaps we all have an inner need to do something that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. What do you think?

Image: Walking home from a run. Even Nora, our dog likes to work hard which is just as well, because she doesn't have a choice!

My unschooling blog has a limited life. One day, in the not too distant future, I will no longer have anything to write about. My youngest child will have grown up and moved onto a new stage of her life. I'll no longer be sharing her unschooling learning, and so it will be time for me to move onto a new stage in my life too.

What will happen to me when I no longer have children at home to share my life with? Will I miss the unschooling days I now enjoy? Will life seem empty? As I think of the future, perhaps I should be  worried.

I remember how I used to worry about moving on from my baby days. For many years, I enjoyed having babies and toddlers in our family. Life was busy. Life was good. I used to wonder how I'd cope when I no longer had little people dependant upon me.

But I needn't have worried. My post-baby life has been amazing. I haven't sat around yearning for those former, younger days. No, I've been far too busy to do that. I've been learning and sharing and contributing in ways I never could have imagined.

It seems to me that if we are willing to move onto each new stage of  our lives, we will discover new adventures and purpose. Yes, we have to let go of the old before God can give us the new.

So why am I mulling over stages of life and moving on? Well, my daughter Imogen turned 21 last week. That seems remarkable. Where has time gone? Part of me wants time to stand still so I can hold on to my children and keep them as they are. But most of me is perfectly happy. Yes, my children are growing up and I'm getting older, but that's okay. I love my kids whatever age they are, (they only seem to get better and better!) and I don't really mind not being so young anymore. Life is good.

I share a few 'getting older and moving on' thoughts in this week's podcast. I also talk about a lot of other things. (I had lots to say this week!)

In episode 52, I talk about the following topics:
  • Why I'm not strewing at the moment
  • Real life Christmas maths
  • Encouraging children's ideas even when they don't seem practical 
  • Whether it a parent's duty to make sure her child learns what she thinks is essential for future success
  • What unschooling has done for me
  • How my own learning has had an impact on my children
  • Getting older and
  • How I will cope when I have to move on from sharing unschooling with my children to the next stage of my life
Will you listen? I hope so!

Podcast Notes

Blog posts

How to Get Kids to Do Their 'School Work'
The Changing Seasons of the Unschooling Year


The photos were taken on my daughter Imogen's 21st birthday.

During my podcast, I ask the question: What is your 'thing'? It'll be something that's very important to you, something you can't help but get excited about. If you'd like to share your thing, (or any other thoughts!) please stop by!

Thank you for listening to my podcast!

My head is always overflowing with creative ideas, and there's nothing I like better than turning them into reality. And so I spend lots of time making things. But they're things no one can hold. You see, I'm a virtual creator. I make things while tapping on my computer keyboard.

But during Advent it's different. At this time of year, I make real 3-dimensional things. And so do my girls. You might find us at the kitchen table kneading a huge lump of salt dough. Or we could be glueing bits of scrap paper to 1L milk cartons. We enjoy getting our hands sticky and our faces covered with flour as we make inexpensive Christmas gifts and tree decorations.

There are some Christmas things we don't need to make. (We made them years ago.) They only need to be unpacked from the Christmas box in the garage, and placed around our home. We hang our Jesse Tree on the wall, place our wreath on the kitchen table and arrange our nativity set on our family altar. Despite being made out of inexpensive materials such as felt and salt dough and cornflake box cardboard, they are all family treasures.

It's Monday and I'm writing about Christmas. Have you guessed this is the topic for this week's podcast? In this episode...
  • I share ideas for gifts, home-made and to buy, that are inexpensive and don't add to the pile of 'stuff' we all have
  • I talk about some of our Advent traditions which bind our family together
  • I also tell you a little bit about my son Thomas' birthday and a grief idea I am excited about
Christmas is a fabulous time of year. Is my podcast fabulous too? I hope you'll listen to find out!

Podcast Notes

Blog posts

Things to Make

A Home-Made Christmas (Part 1): printing and framing pictures
A Home-Made Christmas (Part 3): Christmas card bookmarks
A Home-Made Christmas (Part 4): salt dough angels
A Home-Made Christmas (Part 5): milk carton vases
Grief and an Advent Wreath: salt dough recipe and wreath
Salt Dough: tree ornaments


Grief and Christmas


The Angels of Abbey Creek

Paper dolls

Advent Book

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean


Thank you for listening!

When my first two children were very small I had a best friend called Mellie. We got on extremely well despite being very different.

I was an always-in-control type person. As well as liking an organised and spotless house, I liked my children clean and tidy and always presentable. Hair ribbons were good too. I encouraged my children to sleep and eat at regular times and I loved empty plates.

In contrast, Mellie was a very relaxed and comfortable-with-herself type person. Her children ate what they liked when they liked. They wore whatever they liked too. Mellie never shouted, “Where’s your jumper? It’s too cold to run around in just a T-shirt.” She trusted her children were the best judges of their own needs. Mellie’s house was never organised. It was a children’s adventure playground from one end to the other. Her children didn’t need to worry about damaging the carpets or making a mess. They could spread their games from one room to another. They had fun.

Fun? Yes, sometimes I wondered what Mellie thought of me. Did she think I was too restrictive, too bound up in unnecessary rules and regulations? Did she think I wasn’t a very fun mother at all? Now Mellie didn’t say anything. I just looked at her ways and compared them to mine, and I wondered.

Several times a week, Mellie would drop her small son Jack off at our house. I would look after him while she worked. One day, Jack arrived with a bag of toys. Soon he was sharing the contents with my daughter Felicity. Both children were 3 or 4 at the time. Out came a toy car, a big stone, a pencil, a bear and … a lipstick.

My first thought was, “Oh no! Lipstick! That’ll make a lot of mess.” I was just about to demand Jack hand that pink stick over when I stopped. I thought, “If Mellie thinks it’s okay for children to play with lipstick then perhaps I should let them keep it. I shall be a fun mum for once. We can clean off the mess later.”

So I sat back and watched. Jack drew all over Felicity’s face and she drew over his. “It’ll wash off,” I reminded myself as I itched to grab the stick. They giggled as they drew patterns on their arms and legs. I suggested some paper and they filled a pile of sheets with swirls and crosses. Both children’s eyes were bright with enjoyment. They had huge grins on their faces. They were having a fantastic time. I was absolutely certain I was a really fun mum.

When Mellie arrived to pick up Jack she looked at her lipstick-decorated son, but she didn’t say a word. I ignored the mess too. “See you on Thursday!” she called out as she left. The lipstick was never ever mentioned.

We moved house and Mellie and I drifted apart. Every now and then we’d exchange a letter, but it was years before we had the opportunity to meet up in person. Then a couple of years ago, Mellie and her husband Mark came to visit.

Soon Mellie and I were sharing memories. “Do you remember this…” and “Do you remember that…”

“Do you remember how I liked to be in control of everything?” I asked Mellie, laughing but also wincing a bit at the memory. “I always wondered what you thought of me. We were so different. I always admired your relaxed mothering style and wished I could be like you.”

Mellie laughed. “Oh I think I was too relaxed at times,” she admitted.

“But you were fun. Do you remember when you let Jack bring that lipstick to our house? I wanted to take it off him, but I decided I was going to be a fun mum like you.”

Mellie opened her eyes wide, was silent for a moment, and then a huge laugh spilled from deep within her. “I didn’t let Jack bring along that lipstick. I didn’t even know he had it.”

“You didn’t?”

“When I saw Jack covered with lipstick, I was horrified. I wondered why you hadn’t confiscated it. I thought you were a really irresponsible mother… but I didn’t want to tell you.”

So I hadn’t been a fun mother after all. I’d been irresponsible. Twenty years later, it didn’t matter. I laughed too.

A fun mum? What makes someone fun? Is it letting everyone do as they like, or is it just letting go of the things that aren't really important?

I ask my children – my children who no longer have to empty their plates or wear matching clothes (though I still like ribbons!) - “Do you think I’m a fun mum?”

“Oh yes!’ they all say.

I think back to the day of the lipstick disaster all those years ago. I remember Felicity’s and Jack’s bright eyes and the sound of their giggles. Irresponsible? No. Despite Mellie’s opinion, I am still absolutely certain, on that particular day, I was a really fun mum. I think Felicity and Jack would agree.

PS: I have come a long way since those early parenting days. Who would have thought I'd end up as an unschooler?!

This story was first published on my Out of My Catholic Mind blog (formerly Sue Elvis Writes). I'm doing a bit of reorganising, moving some of my parenting stories over to this blog.

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