Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reading and Daniel

When Daniel finished Kindergarten, I was on cloud 9 telling the world of all his accomplishments. His teacher had tested his reading level past what the principal allowed (the principal only wanted students tested to one grade level above their current grade and no further...weird, right). His teacher knew I wanted to know where he was at. She had to do this while doing her other many duties, and I am not sure she tested him as far as he could go or as far as time allowed, but he landed at reading at a starting 3rd grader. My chest was puffed and I made sure everyone knew where my son was at.

Pride cometh before the fall, though. I began homeschooling Daniel at the beginning of 1st grade after he begged to come home because he was not challenged enough (I explained to his teacher that he was smart and needed to be challenged...she had obviously heard the "my child is special" speech before and promptly ignored it). So, it became my job to begin to challenge my son. With reading, it proved to be difficult.

I started out the year with having him read Magic Treehouse books, something that seemed to make sense to incorporates some history and some fun reading. Daniel did enjoy reading the books and I was pretty content, but halfway through the year I started doubting myself.

You see, it's hard to know what to have your kid read when he is only 6/7 years old but can read at a much higher level. Just because he has the mechanics, does he have the comprehension. Am I dumbing him down with these books and would I be expecting too much if I went to a higher level? I had a feeling I was dumbing him down...holding him back.

Lucky me, I am part of a great homeschool support group and at a park day I aired my concerns about him reading the Magic Treehouse books. I explained how Daniel could read really well, but how I was not sure what to have him read. For example, I tried reading aloud to him "The Hobbit", which went right over his head....he got the general idea, but with a book like this, you want him to get more than the general idea.

One of the moms, very animatedly, said, "stop reading him that Magic Treehouse garbage right now". I was taken aback for a second or two, but then leaned in to soak in her advice...and was it grand. She told me to look on the websites of some of the more literature based curriculum and see what books they recommend for his grade. Another mom (whose son is a lot like Daniel...can read above level and struggles with WHAT to have him read) had gotten advice to not have her kids read anything written after 1960. I chuckled at this, but found most of the books on the sites I visited were, indeed, written before 1960.

I went to Charlotte Mason (Simply Charlotte Mason) and got the book list from there, Sonlight Curriculum, Heart of Dakota, etc. It was amazing to see what they recommended for his grade and comparing it to Magic Treehouse. Night and Day. So, we started working on these books.

I decided we would do two books at a time...he would read one to himself and I would read one aloud.

His first book was "Cricket in Times Square". He read this one to himself. He is almost finished with it and I was so nervous about how he would like it. It fit all the qualifications of those who advised me. It showed up on multiple literature reading lists for his age group. It just met the "only books written before 1960" rule. I was very nervous. It was definitely not the norm for reading for him...definitely not like Magic Treehouse. It is a cute story of a cricket who accidentally takes a ride in a picnic basket from his home in Connecticut to the train station in NYC. He becomes a pet to a boy whose family owns a newsstand and he becomes friends with a mouse and a cat. Most importantly, Daniel has really loved it. After each chapter, he giggles and tells me about some crazy situation the cricket finds himself in.

The book I chose to do as a read aloud, mainly because I thought the language may go a bit over his head was "How To Train Your Dragon". The language is very viking-like. This book is a book I had heard great things about and thought it would be exciting to read though it did not meet ANY of the qualifications. It was written a short time ago and was not on ANY of the lists. We own the movie that was made from this book and, in my opinion, the movie was tons better. Daniel likes the excitement in the book, but as a whole I am not much of a fan of it. It makes me wonder about those rules I had been advised on.

We are nearing the end of both these books and I am looking forward to moving on to two new books. I can breathe easier now that I have a better guide on what I should be having him read. There is a curriculum set I want to buy to go with this new found reading we are is called "Drawn Into the Heart of Reading". I am excited about it...just need to get the money together to buy it. The best part about it is you can use whatever book you are reading for this.

Our next two books we will be reading are Stuart Little (read aloud) and Mr. Popper's Penguins (him to himself). I feel as though we have a good grasp on reading now and I am confident that he is getting what he needs. Now, for free-time reading, I let him read what he wants. He LOVES Calvin and Hobbes and reads and re-reads these books. They really spark his imagination. In the car, he will spend all his time reading and NO TIME playing video games or anything (it is very quiet in the car when it is just him and I).

Here are some examples of what is on our "to read" list:

Charlotte's Web
Chronicles of Narnia
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Peter Pan
The Littles

And much, much more. It is rather exciting to me!!


Anonymous said...

So great that he's such a reader. Stuart Little is one of my all-time favorites, along with Charlotte's Web. Excellent choices. I would avoid Trumpet of the Swan, though, I think it's E.B. White's weakest book.