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December 04, 2009

I thought this was a story, Dad

Cover_circle_dogs "I thought this was a story, Dad." That is what my son said last night as I read him his bed time story, "Circle Dogs" by Kevin Henkes. The tale is simpler than Henkes' usual books that focus preschoolers' emotional development ("Chrysanthemum," "Owen".) This one just talks about the daily lives of two dachshunds. My son balked at the way I was reading because I was just so excited about his emerging reading skills that I tried to get him to read the word "up". Just this year he started to sound out words, even though he knew all the letter sounds last year.

But he could tell I was trying to teach and he wasn't having it. Neither of my children have allowed me to teach them in the topic I consider my specialty: early literacy. Well, actually I have taught them, but not while they were paying attention. I taught them when I used big words and explained the meanings to them, pointed out environmental print, and sang alphabet songs when they were younger. What they wouldn't let me do is "direct teach" them anything.

So last night, when I wanted my son to sound out one of the easiest words in the English language after he had already read "dog", he wasn't having it. This brings me to my point, how we teach out own children - and our students - affects how they approach learning. My son considers the job of learning to read a "school" job right now. He wants to love reading and keep our stories about us and so, he rejects my trying to turn a moment of emotional connection into an academic lesson. At school though, he is making huge strides. He doesn't like the homework he has to do very much, but he likes the responsibility of having to do it. It is teaching him a little about having to do things we don't want to do efficiently and with integrity. Knowing when as well as how to push out kids is almost as important as knowing when not to. How do you teach without teaching, and when do you put it aside.


Brilliant! Contemplating when it is best to make a learning experience a teaching experience are two separate concepts and should not be confused. Although I pride myself with my education, my son won't hear of it. He will argue till blue in the face when I tell him how to spell a word. Wait, I think to myself, tell him I might be wrong and he may as well just look it up. His answer, well yeah mom, you don't know how to spell everything. He looks words up, writes them down and we never mention who had the correct spelling. Also, my son, now in second grade, still needs two stories every night read to him. This is bonding time, not a teaching moment. I do the reading, he lays there and listens, absorbed in the story for the night. He may not be practicing words (although I think he does silently) but he is learning how special reading can be, but I'll try hard not point this out to him.

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