August 02, 2005

Living with the Word Man

Words and sounds continue to explode out of four-and-a-half Davy, who is a) naturally curious, b) eager to catch up with his newly-reading six-year-old brother, and c) the lucky and osmotic recipient of two older siblings' experiences not to mention a resident in what educrat types call a "language-rich environment" (which is a nice way to describe all the talking around here as well as the piles of books on the floor, because though we have more than the usual number of bookshelves apparently allotted to Albertans, we still don't have enough shelves for all of our books, which seem to reproduce in the night; those boxes from Bookcloseouts smuggled in through the basement entrance, under Tom's radar, have nothing to do with it, at least I don't think so).

"Lunch is ready!" I call, and Davy strolls into the kitchen, "L-l-l-lunch starts with lllllllllll." And playing on the kitchen floor with our tub of plastic word tiles (Tub O' Word Blocks, I believe), he can be heard singing softly, "I'm the word man, I'm the word man." The word man isn't reading yet, but he loves to spell, so he's basically tackling reading from the ground up and without waiting for anything as silly as formal lessons from me.

"What does 'b-u-g' spell? What does 'r-u-g' spell?"

"How do you spell 'furnace'?"

"'Fox' ends with 'x'!"

"What does 'a-a-s-u-v-d-z-e' spell?"

"How do you spell 'macaroni and cheese'? Is it like 'maximum'?"

"Spell 'floor' for me, Mom. Mom? Mom!"

"Cow is c-o-w! Dad is d-a-d!"

M-o-m is having trouble keeping up with the word man, even with our handy dandy blackboard in the kitchen, which nowadays is very, very full. I can only wonder what my in-laws and the proselytizing Jehovah's Witnesses think when they stop by and see all of the above spelled out in different colored chalk, only to learn that all have exploded out of Davy over the course of one day.

I also don't remember the other two kids doing as much of this (or, in Laura's case, much of this at all) -- taking words "apart" to hear the individual sounds, associating the letters with the sounds. I don't know if this is normal, because six-year-old Daniel does this though not as much and certainly not a year and a half ago, and Laura didn't do much of this at all just before she started reading two years ago at around five-and-a-half. Of course, Laura was rather a special case, buffeted about by several teachers (and bookended by me) and several different schools of thought when it came to learning to read -- a couple of different phonics books and one whole language/guessing method (one reason why we started homeschooling) -- and the fact that she survived us all and learned to read anyway and enjoy it says much about the kid's stamina. But she was so interested in being able to read that she didn't have too much patience for the mechanics of reading. At least that's how it seems to me, though I may be too close to the whole thing. And Tom's just not interested in dissecting such things with me.

I'm more than a little surprised by the boys' effectiveness at being able to sound out words so far, spurred on more by interest than anything else -- because Daniel hasn't progressed too far in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and because Davy has only half-heartedly sat in on Daniel's lessons. I've been wondering how usual this tinkering with words and all this spelling is, and if it's more usual for boys than girls, and if it's more usual for boys who like to build things and take them apart, whether it's a toy truck or a word, because Davy the Lego- and Tinkertoy- contraption-maker does seem to be building words and taking them apart to see how they're made or put together. I also wonder if this ability/facility early on plays any role in whether one is a naturally good speller. Is the ability retained, or is it just a natural part of the learning to read process for some that gets left behind as reading develops? I threw out some of these questions to some homeschooling friends, and got some interesting thoughts back, including information on visual-spatial learning I hadn't even considered. It looks as if Davy is doing his darndest to spice up the new school year, about a month away, for us both -- just when I thought I had Kindergarten down pat!

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