Wednesday, February 13, 2008

approximation is everything

I am feeling frustrated.

We got lots of snow last night, the local school kids got half of yesterday and all of today off, and there really should be a sledding or a skiing opportunity for us today. But the kids have been out in it all morning, and it is wet, heavy, and melting. They've come back in now, sopping wet. Too sticky for sliding around in any way. This is the kind of snow we've been getting lately.

If it's going to be cold and gray, we should at least get something out of it. This is NOT the kind of winter we had when I was a kid, and I think the scientists have now caught up with the anecdotal evidence on this one. I think everyone (except maybe the Bush administration; I try not to pay attention) now agrees that we are experiencing global warming.

These are daffodils, coming up through the snow. Let me just remind you that we live in upstate New York, and it is February. This is not normal, and it happened last year too. This freaks me out so much that I can't even think about it. I'm going to pull my binoculars off and take a look at a frustration much closer in. Unfortunately, I seem to be just as powerless to do anything about it.

When Big was little, back when he was an only child, we supported his every attempt, validated his every approximation. If he tried to say something and it didn't sound quite right, we responded (as do most parents of babies and toddlers) as if he'd spoken correctly. Same thing with reading, although I wouldn't have known to do this if I hadn't been working on an elementary education degree at the time. When he was looking through books, we called it reading. When he was able to guess at a word because of its context or its first letter, we called it reading. This meant that there was never a time when he didn't think he was a reader, and there was no resistance when the pieces started to fall together for him and he began to be able to decode unfamiliar words.

Fast forward five years.

That's the stage Little is at now. He looks at books, he recognizes a few words, he likes to do pretend writing (called 'driting' in the trade, for a cross between drawing and writing) and I would very much love to be able to tell you that he, too, sees himself as a reader.

Except that he doesn't. His big brother is oh so quick to point out to me that Little isn't really reading, and he's not a bit careful about doing this at a time when Little can't hear him. He's so quick to pin Little down with questions that make clear to Little that he can't really read yet. And as as result, Little is Resistant. When I try to sit him down and actually teach him a little bit about how words go together, he runs in the other direction.

Today was a rare and welcome exception. Little has decided that he prefers Vanilla soy milk to Original. I pointed out to him the word on the Original package, and asked him to go to the pantry and see if he could find one that said Vanilla in the same place. He did it! I was delighted. I asked him how he knew, and he said he knew because he found the one that begins with a V. Yippee skipppee yahoo!

But triumphs like these are few. I am a little over-eager for him to start reading, I think, because in my experience, life gets easier for Mama when kids start reading. I might even be eager enough to try to push him to do it a little early (horrors!) but the aformentioned Resistance makes this an unattractive option.

Grumble grumble. Grumble grumble grumble.


Granna Judy said...

Interesting dilemma. I wonder if it would help if you had Big read this blog. He's rather perceptive and might just "get" what is happening in a way that would put him on your side.

How about rhyming words on the fridge -- like CAT HAT BAT etc, with the magnetic letters? Might you be able to tempt Little into figuring them out?

However, just so you know, I remember reading with Big when he was about Little's age, and he carefully informed me that he couldn't read yet, no way no how.

JustFrank said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.
My daughter also learned to read from the soy milk carton and cereal boxes.
And, global warming or not, I am jealous of your daffodils. You may want to check out a tree here in Chicago that was blooming in the middle of November this past fall (

elsie deluxe said...

Yep, Big read it, and then we had a long discussion about it. He thinks that I'm exaggerating, and he's probably right. He pointed out to me a number of occasions when Little O entered into literacy sorts of activities happily.

And thanks for the reminder about Big's reading trajectory. I know I'm impatient...