When I was a very small child, I was read to. A lot. My mother signed up for book clubs and we had several sets of books on the shelves. The Entire Dr. Suess collection,the Sweet Pickles books, the Berenstein Bears. Everyone read to me, from my mom to my grandparents, aunts and uncles, older cousins. Basically whoever I could get to read to me, did. I had a very solid vocabulary at an early age and soaked up everything that had to do with language; spoken word, written word, double entendre, innuendo, jokes.. everything. Often, if I couldn't get someone to read to me, I'd pull out a book and "read" it to myself, having heard the story a zillion times and memorized it fully.
When I was four, during Christmas break at preschool, my grandmother heard me "reading" in the next room. After a few minutes of listening it was apparent I was not just reciting from memory, but actually reading the story. She came into the room, pointed to a word and said, "What's that word?" "The." I told her. "That one?" "About." She did this for several minutes before picking a book off the shelf that wasn't read to me often. And I read it. Front to back. I had learned to read simply by seeing the words as I heard them. Throughout my early school years, my love of language gave me an advantage in spelling as well. Most of the spelling words assigned were words I'd read and written a thousand times already. I can't say that I enjoyed a literature, composition or language class until high school. Before then I was just bored.
When Chad was born, I was determined to immerse him in language. I knew the fact that I was spoken to like a person instead of a baby, and read to so frequently, was the reason I could read and speak with such fluency at an early age. I intended to repeat the process with my kids. I bought gobs of books. I read to Chad every day, even before he was old enough to ask me to. We sang the ABC's and practiced letter sounds wherever we went. "Look at the sign for the fruit. See? 'F' says 'ffff' for 'fffruit'. I was happy when Chad entered preschool and the teacher expressed her amazement at his knowledge of letters, shapes and colors. He did not learn to read at home, but learned in kindergarten and 1st grade with a program called ReadWell in the public school. Unfortunately, by the time we started homeschooling halfway through second grade, Chad was not reading with much fluency. He was phonics-focused and it was impossible for him to read words like "friend" that can't be sounded out easily. So I began a whole-language word recognition exercise every day. It went something like this:
Me- This word is "boathouse." "th" usually says "thhh" but this is a compound word. Boat-house. Boathouse. Say it.
Me- This word is "would." You don't hear the "L" in this word, but that's how it's spelled. Say it.
Me- What's this word again?
Me- And this one?
We did this every day. For reading, it really helped. He now reads books one or two grades ahead of his grade level. But it was an exhausting process that left us both feeling like crap. I was pushing his reading like a drill instructor, and he was hating reading everything I gave him. He refused to read on his own, just for fun. It wasn't fun at all. He's finally found some books he actually enjoys and I think he'll turn into a reader after all, but the process sucked. I wouldn't have pushed him at all, but was positive that his reading and writing ability would be greatly damaged unless he learned to do it properly.
He still cannot spell at anything better than 1st or 2nd grade level some days. He can read, but he can't spell. He can read all the words he misspells. His spelling is also phonetic, regardless of how many times he's read the word to know it's not spelled like it sounds. I've tried daily spelling practice. I've tried spelling rules. I've tried spelling aloud. Nothing has worked for him.
I don't know what else to do. Through all the struggle with Chad's spelling and now Cadence learning to read and write (on her own initiative, thankfully), I've realized I don't have the slightest idea how to teach it. I just learned. I just knew. Explain how to breathe. Teach someone how to sneeze. I don't have a clue how to explain the thinking behind learning a new word because it's something I just do. I see the word, I pronounce it, I know it. I spell as if by instinct. I typed "entendre" in the first paragraph having never seen the word in print before, double-checked and found it correct. I'm not saying I'm perfect by any means, but the way I see spelling and reading, the way I think about them, is getting in the way of teaching them.
For now, I almost have no choice but to cycle through reading and spelling programs. This one didn't work. Nope, that one didn't either. I'm just shooting for fluent readers and spellers sometime before they're 30.