Hazel Davis and her fella are home-educating their kids. This week, she admits she might have been being a dick and learns to trust a bit more in time.
I’ve written before that our five-year-old is perfectly capable and competent at reading and writing but simply can’t be arsed most of the time.
We’d sit and read with her and she’d do it right most of the time but, though she adored having stories read to her, she’d always read herself under sufferance, preferring instead to draw a picture or sing a song (I know, both totally valid occupations but, the way the academic system is going, both unlikely to get you a GCSE).
We were torn between the disappointment that the stork had somehow brought us a non-reader and the home-ed-friendly ethos that things happen at their own pace.
I may have mentioned that her sister (who’s three, for the next few days) walks around the world trying to read everything she sees, including inexplicable trade names on the sides of vans and foreign words. It’s quite stressful. And the wrong way round!
And then in the last couple of weeks, suddenly, just like everyone said it would, it happened. The eldest is all of a sudden keen on reading! Apparently, according to other friends of mine, it’s a five thing. Another friend says that for her children it coincided with losing teeth; I’ve not seen evidence of this yet but I’m poised, ready to tell my eldest there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy.
It’s happened so dramatically that it must be biological. Maybe it’s just her time. We’d trained ourselves not to be disappointed and instead focused on what she could do well while plugging away at the reading and writing.
Last week, for example, she was in a violin competition (don’t judge me, it’s well cute); the week before that a choir concert; this weekend she’s in Oliver. It’s not like she’s sitting at home eating her toes and watching Horrible Histories (that’s me).
“We were looking awkwardly at each other wondering how we were going to support her when she was 30 and couldn’t fill in forms for herself. ‘She’s five!’ everybody said, ‘It’s a timing thing.'”
But still – and I’m not proud of this – I couldn’t quite shake the disappointment that she wasn’t writing her first novel or already reading War and Peace so that when the LEA visit happens we could smugly present that as evidence of learning instead of pages and pages of completely age-appropriate childish writing.
Suddenly my vague worry seems utterly ridiculous. She’s reading and writing all the time. Now there are little notes left for her sister and pictures are labelled with something other than her or our names. Sometimes mummy’s lovely shiny Moleskines have carefully crafted messages in them when she opens them at important interviews. It’s delightful.
The Anne of Green Gables book she’s been carrying around with her for the last few months (really) has been fooling grown-ups into thinking she was some sort of small child genius, when really we were looking awkwardly at each other wondering how we were going to support her when she was 30 and couldn’t fill in forms for herself. “She’s five!” everybody said, “It’s a timing thing. One day she’ll suddenly read everything.”
And they were right. She is, she really is. Over the intercom right now I can hear her carefully sounding out the words at the start of Anne of Green Gables. Running before she can walk, of course (I have NO idea where she gets that from).
The thing is, if she’d been in school and the teacher had expressed concerns that she wasn’t reading fluently yet, we’d have probably grumbled and said all sorts of bad things about pushing children too soon and something unsubstantiated about Finland and reading ages.
But when it was us being the dicks, we were all too happy to listen to us. What I’m saying is that, as long as the foundations are there, it happens when it happens.
So that gets me off the hook with the science thing, right?
Read all of Hazel’s adventures in home-edding here.
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".