Better Late Than Early – Superior Education
For younger children, the emphasis is usually on building a solid foundation in reading, writing, and basic math. Where schools believe in starting formal learning as early as possible, most homeschoolers believe in delaying formal studies until the child is seven or older. This allows the child to mature physically and emotionally before she is asked to sit down and study.
Dr. Raymond Moore and his late wife, Dorothy Moore are probably the best-known advocates of the later-is-better approach. The Moores’ 1975 book Better Late Than Early summarizes research supporting their contention that children are not psychologically ready for formal learning until age eight to ten. They suggest that waiting allows children to gain the maturity and logical skills necessary for formal work and prevents them from becoming frustrated and discouraged by attempts to handle material they are simply not yet ready to understand.
It is quite common for homeschooled children, especially those using a flexible homeschooling approach, to learn to read as young as three or to delay until age eight or nine. This may seem like a shocking idea, but boys in particular are often not ready to read until they are seven or older, and they quickly catch up to the early readers.
Because of the individualized nature of homeschooling, late reading is not a handicap as it might be in a conventional school setting. Schools rely on text-based instruction, but “late” readers at home simply learn through other means, like watching educational TV and videos, asking questions, and observing the world around them. Also, since the child is not labeled as “slow” or put into the slow reading group, their self-confidence and self-esteem does not suffer. The child will grow into an enthusiastic reader, and thus view reading not only as a tool for obtaining knowledge or keeping up with others but as an enjoyable activity.
Raising a lifelong reader is very different from just teaching a child to read. Approximately twenty million people in the United States can’t read. Another estimated 40 million read at a fourth-grade level. While these are unacceptable numbers, there is another reading epidemic in this country. We’re a nation of “alliterates’”, which means we know how to read but we don’t read. A 1999 survey showed that only 45 percent of citizens read more than a half-hour every day—that would include all reading from fiction to newspapers to work-related materials. While the two hours of television the average American watches each day factors in here, could our nation’s lack of interest in reading have something to do with the way we are taught to read in school? Is it because we assign reading (instead of letting the child choose) and require book reports? Book reports in the second grade? Record numbers of children are forced to read before they are developmentally ready. Thus, reading continues to be an unpleasant experience for most of their school career. Unless a reading problem is involved children learn to read when they are ready. It is developmental and not synchronized to meet an educator’s timetable.
The best advice is to teach your child to read when they are ready, regardless of how young or old they may be. Reading specialists have observed that children display certain behaviors when they are ready to read. Specifically, the child:
- Knows the alphabet
- Likes to look through books and magazines
- Knows the parts of the body
- Knows his own first and last name and can pronounce it clearly
- Can express herself verbally
- Can repeat a sentence of six to eight words
- Knows that writing carries a message
- Pretends to read
- Understands that reading goes from left to right
- Comprehends and can answer questions about a short story
- Can look at a picture and tell you a story about it
- Can write his own first name
Reading experts say that there are certain things parents can do to encourage their child to become a lifelong reader:
- Read to your children—often! Even teens enjoy hearing a good book.
- Be a good role model and let your children see you reading.
- Let your children read books that are easy for them. This will make reading more fun for them and less of a chore.
- Avoid assigning or asking kids to do book reports. Instead, casually talk about the books they have read. How many books would you read if you had to write a book report after reading them.
- Keep books out around your house, in your car, and in your bathroom.
- Give books as gifts and rewards.
Allow your children to select the books they check out at the library and let them check out as many as they can carry (within library limits). Don’t weed through their choices unless they are very young.
Imagine the joy of being with your child when he first learns to read. Cuddled up on your lap, your child will feel secure and loved while taking this big step. When veteran homeschoolers look back, their fondest memories are of reading to their children in front of the fireplace, reading while snuggled under the covers on a rainy day and reading late into the night because the book was just too good to put down. Often parents believe that once their child can read on their own, they don’t have to read to them anymore. Keep reading. When you read to a child, you are teaching her much more than the material covered in the book. Reading and cuddling together are the moments that connect families forever and lay the foundation for children to become lifelong readers.