learning all the time* (me, that is)

After our initial missteps trying to teach Jake to read, we began to understand the inherent problems with directed and coerced learning: people tend not to retain what they learn when they're not developmentally ready, when it's not of interest to them, when it has no relevance to their life, and when they have no choice in the matter. These things also make it more difficult for them and put them at risk for resenting and resisting learning. Naturally we wanted to avoid that, so we made a conscious decision to let him decide when and how it would be best for him to learn. It was not the easiest thing to sit by patiently while he went one year, two years, three years beyond the age it's commonly thought children ought to be reading at. Looking back, though, the perfection of his unique personal process is apparent. So with Noah we haven't had a second thought about it; we haven't broached the subject with him at all. He's eight, and will be nine in three months. Occasionally I notice that he's picked up a word, but aside from that haven't paid much attention to where he is in the process. It's so funny to me that it was at this same age with Jake that I can remember myself feeling some anxiety over how "long" it was taking.

Well, this morning Noah came running up to me and said excitedly, Linda, look what I just read! 'Links to Metroid Fusion For Gameboy Advance'! I was happy for him and replied, That's great sweetie, that's really wonderful!, meaning, it's great that he was able to read it. He bubbled on about it for a while before I really started listening and realizing that what he was excited about wasn't the fact that he was reading, but that the game links to his gameboy. Just to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding, I asked him. He looked at me a little funny like I was being dense, and affirmed what I'd thought I was hearing. He was taking the reading itself for granted. It looks as if it's been so gradual and natural a process that the dichotomy of not-reading/reading isn't even meaningful to him.

Wow. I'm kind of blown away. (And feeling a little sheepish about my unthinking assumption.) It's true that we haven't made learning to read an issue for him, so... it's not. Could it really be that simple? It seems so.

*alludes to the classic John Holt book, Learning All the Time

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