I’m happy to report that Tim is doing extremely well in Kindergarten.
I showed some of his most recent homework to Mark last night after Tim was in bed, and we both marveled over the marked improvement in Tim’s handwriting, and his ability to spell out words by sound. While there are still improvements to be made, of course, Tim is starting to really look out at the world and read.
I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.
Reading is something that has saturated my life since I can remember. I fondly remember summer breaks, curled up on the couch or in a nest of pillows on my bed, reading one book after another after another. Every night, still, almost without fail, I read before going to sleep. I read sometimes while Tim is at school, or playing with his friends, and almost every day during lunch.
Luckily, Tim came into my life with an established love of being read to. Eventually we moved from purely picture books to the chapter books that we now read to him every night before bed. We’ve read through almost the entirety of the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books, and are currently half way through “The Long Winter”. With some help from a very informative librarian, we also have several other chapter books that he is beginning to know and love. One of the simpler series, “Frog and Toad”, Tim immediately came to love.
With this love of being read to, it seemed to me that it would be an easy step to reading, but Tim was at first extremely frustrated by his inability to properly sound out a word, and how long it took for him to do so. Reading is a slow process for him still, but he’s learning the “sight words”, which started in the classroom and we are reinforcing at home. Words like: the, is, me, he, it, was, up, no, to, am, like, my, so, in, can, you, and we. He can now read most of these words as their title infers, by sight—which is to say, immediately, without the need to sound them out.
Every other day at Kindergarten his class has “Journals”. This is an assignment where the children write and draw something, usually a subject given by the teacher, but sometimes things from their imagination. Tim has told me about some of his journal writings—he’s written about trips to Lake Tahoe, blasting off into space on a rocket ship, going on walks, our cats, special dinners that he likes, and playing with friends. The teacher does not go around making sure everything is spelled correctly, instead she asks them to spell out the words how they think they would be spelled. Mostly, I believe it to be a practice in handwriting and critical thinking, and it certainly has paid off. After a few months of this, Tim has become much more confident in his ability to spell, read, and write.
We’re still working on reading short “I can read” books. Tim continues get lightly frustrated, especially after more than ten or fifteen minutes of reading with our help. He wants to hear the story, and he does not like how long it takes him to read it. This frustration is getting less pronounced, however, and his enjoyment is starting to rise. He has even offered people that visit to read to them from the books he makes at school.
While Tim is learning the very basics of reading and writing, I struggle with a growing desire to go back to college. I realize that it is impractical if not impossible at this current juncture, and the desire has nothing to do with obtaining a degree. It has to do with educating myself, and finding that reading a load of fiction books is only barely filling this need I have to further educate myself.
I am subscribed to several education channels on YouTube, and I do occasionally venture over to Ted** and watch some of their lectures, but it was not satisfying me amply. One of the things I loved about college was writing papers. Getting words on a page always seemed to drive the lesson home. I could read the textbook, attend the lectures, and I would come away with some knowledge, but not enough. Writing it down has always made it stick. So, I decided to prod once more at Coursera.
(**I linked to an excellent lecture on desertification and how to combat it. It’s worth a watch for anyone concerned with climate change or likes holistic land management topics, or even people that are not. It’s worth watching. Watch it!)
I have to say, I really like the look of this. Currently I’m signed up for one class that begins in late May, but I enrolled in a class almost a year ago (while I was taking more than twenty units at college) that has all their lectures and assignments archived. I know I cannot receive a “certification” from Coursera for completing the class now, since it’s over, but I’m not looking for certification or acknowledgement. I want to learn because I love to learn. I’m already through most of the first weeks lectures and working on one of my papers with every intention on completing the course in my own time, for my own benefit.
I hope that, in the future, Tim feels much the same way about education as I do. I feel like I know he will be. Already, and for so long as I’ve known him, he has wondered at the world and wanted to know more. He asks why, how, where, when? So far as I am able, I answer him.
Just the other day, in fact, we saw four military helicopters fly overhead. He asked what kind they were, and I wasn’t sure, so we looked them up on the computer, and then read about when they were made and when they were first used. We both learned things, and we both enjoyed the experience. YouTube, Google, and a wide range of websites are an incredible asset to the education of young folks today. I feel incredibly gifted to have these tools to offer Tim, and incredibly grateful that he wants to use them.