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14 years ago, I was a veterinarian in a busy practice outside of a metropolitan city. My days were long and demanding, sometimes exciting, sometimes heart-wrenching, and I seldom sat down, even for lunch. Then my husband and I were blessed with our first pregnancy. WOW, were there some surprises! Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, a condition causing high blood pressure for the mom, helped bring our first baby in the world just a little earlier than expected. Once we all adjusted and recovered, I settled in to being a stay-at-home mom, and guess what?!?! I was bored. BORED! I know, I know, how selfish of me. I mean, this beautiful blessing from God, the chance to stay home with my baby, and I was bored? Seriously? Sigh.
But God….. Have you ever had the Holy Spirit put something in your heart? Light a fire under you to do a certain thing and you just gotta go? As I was sitting around, b-o-r-e-d, I remembered a TV show from my childhood about children in Japan who were learning to read as babies. So I did an internet search, ordered some books, did some more research, bought some dvds and video tapes (remember those?), gleaned and organized what I hoped would work, talked it over with my husband, and jumped in! It didn’t really take but a few minutes a day, and our baby LOVED it because I was happy and laughing and showering her with love and attention. I figured, surely anything this fun and wholesome can’t hurt, right?
I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THE RESULTS.
I started with Miss C at 3 months of age. I suspected she was reading for a while, but she began signing back words to us really well at about 16 months. Her little sister, Miss J, maybe because I was prepared, could show us that she was reading at 9 months. I don’t think the grandparents really understood that the girls, as toddlers, were not memorizing until we got the grandparents to scramble word cards on the floor to make new fun sentences, like:
Please point to the blue ball.
Please bring Mama the red square.
Please pick up your purple bear.
And they could read the sentences and do the actions every single time. The grandparents were….speechless.
The first sign Miss C read spontaneously in public was on the cart return at Wal-Mart, “Please return carts here”. She read her first chapter book at age 3 and understood it easily. She has read thousands of books now and at 12, shows no signs of slowing down. She’s easily completing a high school Latin class online this school year that she LOVES (she’s begging to take the accelerated summer class for the next level so she can move ahead), studies classical piano with a retired college professor and conductor, and studies classical and bluegrass guitar and mandolin. As for Miss J, she loves science and story-telling and sculpture and art. She has also read thousands of books, including most (edit – she says ALL!) of my veterinary books. A couple of summers ago, they built their own computers, with a little help from their dad!
I have NO regrets in teaching them to read. NONE. Teaching them was pure JOY – FUN and easy! I have never spent any school time teaching them to read. We reviewed phonics rules for the first 2 or 3 years just to make sure, but we mostly spent our time on really good books and textbooks that they WANTED to read, lots of special projects, interest-led learning, and play. I did and do use a standard curriculum for math and other subjects on and off. Both girls test at a college level in everything except math, where they are at grade level.
My regret is that I did NOT teach their 2 younger siblings. We had 4 babies in 5 years so, yes, I was busy, we were moving, it was a really stressful time, blah blah blah, and I believed that surely the 2 younger would pick up a lot from hearing us read out loud and the great learning toys and dvds we had around. They ARE smart. They are great kids. But they KNOW, at 7 and 8, that they are still not reading well and they are missing out on what their sisters enjoy. Learning to read at their age is a constant struggle. It’s our main focus in school for the youngest two. I spend hours working with them just on reading. We missed that wonderful window of opportunity when babies are naturally acquiring languages.
And *I KNOW* it shouldn’t have been that way.
A few weeks ago while struggling with reading, my 8 yo son asked me through tears, why did I not teach him as a baby? Why? I have no legitimate excuse. I knew better. And I had the knowledge and tools to do better, and I didn’t.
The older girls had asked me to write down what I did with them as babies so they could use that system with their own babies one day, and with little brother’s comments…..a blog was born.
I hope you’ll join me as I share what we did, what I recommend, and the lessons we learned along the way. If God has called you here, please let me encourage you to have an open mind, filtered through God’s Word, and to pray for direction. Teaching our oldest babies was SO. MUCH. FUN. I want you to have the same experience with your blessings!
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And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:7 (KJV)