Archive for March, 2011

Awhile ago, a lovely reader asked me a question, “How do we transition to self reading when the level of listening exceeds the level of reading?” Great question and one that I have struggled with myself in the past.

My first child learned to read at age 5 and was reading very well, independently at age 6.  “This is GREAT!” I thought to myself.  There was really very little transition.  Way back then, I had loads of time for read-alouds anyway, so there was no problem.

Things were similar with my next child.  He took longer to become an avid reader, though competency came quickly.

Our third also learned to read at about age 5, but she seemed to need more time to be able to tackle more challenging material. This was when my own struggle started.  With five children now (two younger than her), it was more difficult to read-aloud.  In fact, it was almost impossible.  What was I to do then if I couldn’t hand her the Ambleside books and await precise narrations?

I struggled over this for a long time. My husband, who works in the public-school system, said to me, “If she isn’t reading really well, yet, I think that should be your primary focus since all other skills really hinge on reading well.”  Huh.  Very true.

I decided then that I would do several things. Until a child was reading challenging material quite well, I would:

  • pare down her Ambleside year until it was manageable for all of us (without guilt, which was the hardest part)
  • read-aloud only one selection each day from her Ambleside year
  • have older children also help with additional read-alouds, if possible (but if this was not possible, I would stick with just one, guilt-free)
  • provide her with an opportunity to build her own reading skills with two things:  short selections of material that was somewhat challenging for her and material that was well within her grasp

Finding simple reading material that is not too dumbed-down can be tricky. For our youngest children, I like Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers.  While the difficulty level is nowhere near something like Madam How and Lady Why, they meet a need that is different from the needs met by challenging literature.  The need for mastery.

I find that my children take off with reading not by conquering especially difficult books, but by not struggling for every sentence, by feeling competent and being able to read through something fairly quickly.

When I teach our little ones to read sometimes it is so slow going that by the time they finish reading “Mac sat on Sam,” they have forgotten what they have read. Yesterday, my five year old wanted to know why I kept getting her to practice reading ‘the fast way’.  I demonstrated to her what happens if we have to dig for every single word by reading a sentence one word at at time very slowly.  Neither of us could follow what it said.  Then, I repeated the sentence ‘the fast way’ and it was easy to comprehend.  She understood exactly what I was getting at.

So, while beautiful, challenging literature is extremely important, the content will be lost on children who are still emerging readers if they have to do too much digging. For me, getting through those transitional years involves paring down my expectations, and combining challenging read-alouds (or having the child listen to good recordings) with easier material.

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I know it has been much longer than the week I promised! My apologies.  I love blogging, but my life with 7 children just doesn’t allow me to do it nearly as much as I would like.  We have had some sickies/health stuff to deal with lately.  Our kids are super-healthy for the mostpart, so I am very spoiled.  One thing I am dealing with is trying to track down the cause of A.’s eczema.  It seems few people have any really good answers for us.  Right now, I am on an extremely restrictive diet which should give us an answer as to whether or not I will be able to do anything diet-wise to help him.

Anyway, onto gentle sleep teaching!

While I think the Lull-A-Baby sleep plan was good in theory, it didn’t seem to be working that well, so we moved to the stages of settling in this post. I like these stages because I felt like in the learning stage, A. needed some more hands-on help.  Having him howling for 45 minutes while I tried to sweet talk him, I thought, reinforced that this was unpleasant.  I prefer to help him enjoy going to sleep, so I worked hard to walk the fine line between minimizing crying and unpleasantness and offering too much help.  I was very pleased to see that I was able to back off a little bit at a time.  It was not a linear progression.  Sometimes, he needed no help and sometimes he needed more, but overall, he was moving toward more independence.

I have been so happy with our progress. I can’t say that I just plunk A. into bed and walk away and he happily babbles himself into sleep-bliss in a few minutes, but it isn’t too far from that most days.  I have continued to make the getting-to-sleep-part my focus and haven’t worried too much about the middle of the night.  A. is not sleeping right through the night, but at his age (nearly 5 months), I think that nursing 1-2 times a night is age-appropriate and he mostly just wakes once.

I am continuing to do our little routine which is outlined in this post with the addition that I say, “Nighty-night” as I lay A. down.  (This is just an extra step in re-enforcing that it is time to go off to sleep.)  I like our routine because it is nice and short and do-able.  It also doesn’t include reading a story, which I would feel very silly doing with a 5 month old or giving a bath, which I would never keep up every night.  I also like our routine because I can do the same thing for naps and nighttime.  I am at the stage where he really doesn’t seem to need me most of the time as he falls asleep.  I always stay in the room out of sight, just for my own comfort, but I rarely need to attend to him anymore.  Sometimes, I need to repeat, “Nighty-night”, our special cue words for time to sleep, from across the room, but otherwise he doesn’t usually need much of anything.  One thing that I find helps to keep me from jumping in too early to offer help (robbing him of the ability to fall asleep independently) is that I bring a book to read into the room.  This allows me to be there if he needs me, but to be slightly distracted.  I find that no matter how quiet and how well he goes down that it normally takes him about 8-10 minutes from the start of the routine until he is asleep.

On a typical night, A. goes down somewhere between 6:30-7:30pm. I don’t have a set bedtime for him at this point because I am working with the 90-minute sleep cycle.  He seems to be transitioning to a longer awake period in the evening as some nights he lengthens his awake time from 90 minutes to 3 hours, so I just go with how he is acting on a particular night.

A. continues to sometimes struggle around 11-12pm. I think our coming to bed disturbs him a little.  This seems to be when he has a cold or is getting a tooth (he just got his first one!).  Most of the time, he resettles himself quite well, but if I am needed, I don’t nurse at this point and he always goes back to sleep for a few hours.  Often however he sleeps through.

Most of the time, he wakes for the first time somewhere around 2am. I haul him into bed and nurse.  Feeling wide awake at the start of the nursing, I think I’ll just nurse him for 10 minutes and then put him back in the co-sleeper, but this never happens.  I fall asleep everytime and then put him back in his bed two hours later.  This is usually it for the night, but if he does wake at 5am, I nurse him again because I just want to sleep!  This hasn’t seemed to be habit-forming at all, so I’m not worried at this point.

I just love sleep.

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