When I was in college, I changed my major, like most college students. I only changed mine once, though. I knew I wanted to teach. I started out as a German major. I loved my German teacher in high school. She was of good German stock & was even named Heidi! About a year into college, I realized I really didn't want to teach high school students, and they don't offer German classes in elementary school, so I changed to an Elementary Ed major. At that time at Southwest Texas State (when it was SWT), they offered a variety of minors to El. Ed. majors. I chose a double minor of Reading & then a Math/Science combo, which really hit all the main areas for elementary school. My greatest desire was to teach kids how to read, and my reason for that was twofold. First, my brother Steve, who died in 1978 in a car accident (he was 17), had learning disabilities. They didn't have the same names for them back in the days when he was in elementary school, but I remember he did a lot of letter reversals in spelling, and I'm sure reading was a challenge for him. It made me sad as I got older & thought of how hard his short life must have been in school & trying to do okay in classes without the ability. So, I was determined to help kids learn to read. Then, it was in my freshman year of college that I understood for the first time what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I'd been in church all my life, but I didn't quite "get" that part til I was in college. My second reason to teach people to read was to enable them to read the Bible. Obviously, teaching in a public school setting I could not teach the Bible to them, but I could give them the knowledge they needed so one day they could do this. Those were my lofty goals 20 years ago when I graduated from college.
Now, I am teaching my own children. Bethany has never learned like any student I've ever had. She has caused me to toss out the window anything I learned about teaching in college. She processes things for the longest time, and gives no indication of understanding. Then one day, BOOM, she is doing whatever the lesson was, flawlessly. With reading, I thought we had a genius on our hands when, at 2 years old, she was reading letters and numbers off of license plates. She knew the entire alphabet. She could count, but she did often leave out a number, I think 4, which was just so cute! We hadn't done much, but had watched many episodes of Sesame Street and had toys that said the letters and numbers when she pressed the buttons. When she was about 4, I decided to start teaching her to really read. We started with the ABeka homeschool K-4 books. A lady once told me, "Everyone starts with ABeka!" Homeschoolers might get a grin out of that! Actually, we'd gone through a preschool book that just reinforced the letters & introduced the sounds of the letters, but nothing serious. At 4, we were serious. LOL! We got through the vowels & the vowel sounds. She could say, "a, e, i, o, u" (short sounds) quick as a whip. Then we started adding consonants to the front. Blank stare. Shut down. autism 101. I thought NOTHING was sinking in. Then, one day she could say, "Ba, be, bi, bo, bu." Then we tried adding sounds to the end of the words. HA! We eventually gave up on convention & tried several things til she was reading simple words & beginning to put sounds together.
Today, Bethany picked up a book to read in the car and at church (yes, I know, she should be listening not reading, but you do what you have to do). By the time we got home, she had read 5 or 6 chapters. They aren't long chapters, but the fact that she will pick up a book & read on her own is just so wonderful!
Then there is Natalie. Nat's a struggling reader, but she has made HUGE strides. The difference is that she TRIES to read. Even more, she enjoys books. I've been reading chapter books to her since she was in pre-K. We are working through the Millie Keith series of Life of Faith books. She can read some easy chapter books on her own, but she loves a good snuggle and to listen to more involved stories.
Friday I met my mom & she watched the girls as I went to a Scholastic Warehouse sale. The girls were just giddy with excitement when I got back. They know I bought them BOOKS. They know there are no toys or clothes in the box in the trunk (that they so cleverly have tried to peek into!). AND, they both wrote a wish list for Christmas that night & included books on it.
This mom is just tickled pink that my girls are excited about books! They may not be up to speed in math, or know all the presidents yet, but I have now imparted the greatest tool for a good learner: the ability to learn on their own. Praise God that my kids can READ and LOVE BOOKS!
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