Our boys weren't yet reading when they were 8 and 9 years old respectively, and we didn't decide how and when to teach them, or to teach them at all. Educational theory of the past several decades says that children must be taught to read, at a specific time and in a specific way, and that when they don't learn according to these dictates, it is evidence of a disorder, and that when they aren't taught according to those dictates, it is neglect. It is taken for granted that this is just the way it is. Considering our situation through that lens, what we allowed to happen looks like pretty severe neglect. But to the contrary, it was a carefully considered decision based on reason and a desire to protect their sense of competency and love of reading. Here are some of the facts that went into our decision:

- People learn most powerfully and most efficiently when they're developmentally ready, and people aren't all ready at the same time.
- Expecting and pressuring them to learn before they're developmentally ready is stressful and creates a feeling in the learner that something is wrong with them.
- The written word is a major form of communication in our culture, and inherent to humanity is the desire to communicate, resulting in a natural drive to master the culture's dominant forms of communication; therefore we trusted that the interest and desire would manifest when able.
- There is no evidence that the "window of opportunity" of optimal learning, if not driven by external means to meet it, could be out of sync with the person's actual needs and desires in a free, rich, supportive environment.
- John Holt wrote that in his experience (as a teacher involved for many years in educational reform) that when children learn without pressure and at their own instigation, the average age of learning to read is nine years old, and that under these conditions it happens relatively quickly and easily. Anecdotes I've found about "late" readers have been in line with this.
- Trying to teach our firstborn phonics at age six was frustrating and made him angry and distrustful of us, and questioning of his own intelligence.
- Unschoolers somehow all manage to escape the "dyslexia" label, though it is common in schools where the root assumption is that if you don't meet or exceed arbitrary expectations for age-based production, that there is something wrong with you.

Put all this together, and clearly the smartest thing for us to do was to be patient and aware of our kids' needs and at the ready to help when needed. Through that lens, what we were doing was the opposite of neglect, it was conscientious and responsible.

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